This week Giraffe had a bit of chit chat with Renee Blodgett, the founder of Magic Sauce Media, a social media, branding, marketing & PR consultancy focused on small businesses from around the world. As one of the first bloggers in the industry, she has been writing for over 15 years and is currently [September 2012] ranked #12 social media influencer by Forbes Magazine. She is also the founder of We Blog the World, an online culture & travel magazine for the discerning traveller and Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings thought leaders, writers and social media experts to emerging markets to cross pollinate ideas.
Renee, tell us a little about what it is you do?
I run a social media, branding, marketing and PR consultancy called Magic Sauce Media, based in San Francisco. I work with companies around the globe on their social media and branding strategies from around the world. I take a very integrated approach to marketing: finessing and fine tuning as things develop and change is always part of the mix for clients. We also do a lot of events, which can range from ideas and execution to strategy and messaging. I’ve been blogging for about 15 years. I write on my personal blog, Down the Avenue, which has been ranked as a top marketing and PR blog by several sources. I also write for Huffington Post, BlogHer and We Blog the World, which I founded in 2008. I am also the Editor and run the site which was recently relaunched as an online culture and travel magazine for the savvy, discerning traveller.
Tell us about the journey you undertook to get you where you are now? Where did you start?!
I started my career in advertising in London many “moons” ago, at a time when Saatchi & Saatchi was at its peak. I moved from above-the-line advertising to direct mail and promotional agencies in London, Amsterdam and Johannesburg. From there and in between, I was into sales for awhile and the art world.
It wasn’t until I returned to the states that I fully dove into PR, initially at a healthcare crisis communications agency in Boston. Technology started to take off and as opportunities opened up in the tech world and retail and consumer marketing was on the decline, I jumped into the enterprise world. I worked at a couple of small boutique agencies and then a large renowned agency where I represented both small and large publicly traded companies in both the B2B and B2C space, including publishing and events. I have always gravitated to events and ended up taking more on in Switzerland when I worked in the telecom space and later in Johannesburg when I returned to South Africa for a second stint in the nineties.
I then went in-house to Dragon Systems, a leading speech recognition player, where I headed up global corporate communications until the company was sold to a competitor. Post Dragon was a pivotal point where I could have taken a few VP offers at a time when I was exploring the start-up scene or heading to a stint at large company like AOL. I started consulting which migrated into starting my own business on the East Coast in Boston until I moved out to the San Francisco Bay Area.
How important would you say having a social media presence is for businesses these days?
If you want to market your product or service in any way shape or form, social media is an essential integral ingredient. It’s the first time we’ve been given a megaphone to tell our story to our customers, partners, prospects and other influencers and can do so with a simple button click.
Bear in mind that social media may be more successful and instrumental for some industries over others. Businesses will need to create the right mix depending on what will best serve their customers and while it appears the whole world is turning digital, having a team tweet about the efforts of a cement company based in South Dakota may not be the best marketing move.
As I mentioned in a recent interview, I attended a business seminar in Las Vegas last year with over 3,000 people and only 30% of the people in the room had primarily online businesses. That said, clearly if you’re not using social media and capitalizing on it, you may just be too behind the curve when more of your customers than not want to engage with you there.
My point about the cement company is we need to not lose sight of our business objectives and where our customers spend most of their time. If social media is the best way to reach them, then by all means, implement a major campaign that integrates social media.
What three bits of advice would you give a business that is taking their first steps into the world of social media?
It’s the same piece of advice I’d give to a company before the world ever heard of the two frequently misunderstood words: social media. Know Thy Customer. In other words, spend time getting to know your customer, where they spend their time, the things they care about and how they like to receive updates and information. Once you have a better understanding of your customer and prospective customers, you can more effectively create a plan that will work.
The other thing that businesses probably don’t realize is just how time consuming it can be to do it right. Often, I hear companies who have an intern or an entry level person handle their social media efforts and complain that “social media” isn’t effective and doesn’t move the needle. Social media is our new megaphone to the outside world so it should be managed by someone who fully understands your brand’s voice and has seasoned experience so they can also handle negative or neutral situations that arise on any of your social media platforms.
What do you think the future holds for social media?
Social media is a way of thinking and looking at the world. While we used to communicate with important influencers and customers at events and send them updates via email, we now have many more ways to reach them. That said, it doesn’t mean other more traditional marketing vehicles don’t still work, such as newsletters for example.
What’s key is integrating social media into the mix in the ‘right’ places where it will be most useful to engage with your customers...and at the right time. Through trial and error, I am learning what times of day to get the most attention from my Pacific and Asian readers for our blog, and what kinds of things get traction on our Pinterest and YouTube pages and what doesn’t. Like everything else, social media is one piece of the marketing puzzle.
I think we’ll increasingly need tools to turn so many of our silo-ed social media apps and solutions into an integrated platform that is easier to manage and scale.
What is the coolest fact about Giraffes you know?
I think it’s great that you have the name giraffe in your business name. I LOVE giraffes. Having lived in Africa twice, I’ve spent hours looking at giraffes in the wild and shooting them on my trusty Canon 7D. I never grow tired of watching two giraffes sway back and forth as their necks overlap with each other as if they’re flirting with the wind. One fact I know that while not be that unknown or original, it is “cool:” giraffes can run up to 35 miles an hour.
Want more Renee? Well you're lucky because she writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, We Blog the World, Huffington Post and BlogHer. Some of her photography can be found on Magic Sauce Photography. If that isn't enough, you can also follow her on Twitter @magicsaucemedia and @weblogtheworld.