Shama Kabani is a Web and TV personality, bestselling author, international speaker, and award winning CEO of The Marketing Zen Group, which is a global, full-service digital marketing agency. Earlier this evening, she spoke to my Social Media for Business class at the University of Nevada, Reno with Dr. Bret Simmons via Skype. In her talk with our MBA class, Shama discussed what’s new in the social sphere, some of the trends in social media she is observing, why personal branding has become vitally important, and a few tips for success.
According to Shama, upon graduation from the University of Texas at Austin with her Masters in Organizational Communication—having completed her thesis on the topic of Social Networking—she was turned down by 18 companies after being told that social media was a “fad.” So she started her own company. Today The Marketing Zen Group is 28 employees strong and serves clients globally. Their business is driven 100% by inbound marketing. Ironically (or not so ironically), she estimates having never met 90% of her employees and clients. With employees from San Francisco to D.C., her company is truly a modern-day, globally connected organization … and she is thriving.
In 2009, Business Week honored Kabani as one of the “Top 25 Under 25” entrepreneurs in North America. In 2010, Kabani won the prestigious “Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO” award. Her first book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, was released in April, 2010 and has since continued to be an Amazon Best Seller. In 2011, Entrepreneur Magazine featured her in this article entitled, “From Grad Student to Social Media Millionare.” Below is a video interview with Shama discussing social media and the changing business landscape:
According to Shama, there are a handful of trends unfolding before our very eyes. The first trend includes the fact that we’re engaged in an identity-based ecosystem. For example, when a person chooses to identify themselves with a brand (such as through liking a particular brand on Facebook), that makes a statement about who they are. People want the opportunity to be an individual and to have personalized experiences. She gave the example of the first social series known as “Aim High” (Warner Bros), which encourages viewers to engage by allowing for Facebook to feed profile information (such as photos or personal information) directly into the series. You can read more about this in a MediaPost article here.
The second trend Shama pointed out was that content curation and aggregation is gaining speed and influence. Pinterest, for example, is in part so popular because it’s the first social media site to aggregate images.
Finally, the third trend she shared was that video is not only growing in the traditional sense, but in how it ties in with the web, TV, and mobile spheres. More information on that trend is available from this Nielsen article entitled, “Cross Platform Report: Americans Watching More TV, Mobile and Web Video.”
Branding is no longer limited to the sphere of companies. Because your digital footprint (content that can be traced back to an individual) can begin from the moment your mother first posts your sonogram picture to Facebook, it is important that individuals in the digital age take ownership and control of their personal brands. Some of the ways one can build a proactive digital footprint include creating and maintaining a personal web site, creating and managing social media accounts through Google +, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or by aggregating content about yourself on the web through such resources as Google Alerts or http://www.socialmention.com.
Tips for Success
Social Media can be a major time suck, as noted in this recent article from Social Media Explorer. However, if utilized properly, it can be used to one’s advantage. According to Shama, there are many services such as postling.com, ping.fm, timely.is, and crowdbooster.com to help you manage your use of time with social media should you find this to be a problem.
In terms of keeping up on industry trends and news, Shama prides herself on being an avid learner. “I used to read a book a day, but now I read probably 2-3 per week,” she said. In addition to reading books she reads academic papers as well as the top blogs in her field including Mashable.com, attends a variety of conferences, follows Nielsen data, and (as a media contact) receives a lot of targeted information in terms of press releases to keep up-to-date on news in general. In summary, she says much of the information she obtains is about “making your own observations and reaching your own conclusions.”