Confessions of an Aspiring Social Media Superhero, Part One

Rare is the day that I’m not approached by friends, colleagues or even complete strangers with questions about social media. Joe Kyle was the latter.

Introduced to me last September by a mutual friend, Joe was between jobs and determined to learn everything he could about Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the like. I was more than happy to oblige his request to pick my brain. I enjoy meeting new people and being asked to provide assistance. I’m always glad to help.

Over lunch at Panera Bread in Waltham, MA, Joe and I hit it off from the get-go, going on and on about his career goals, the business world and our shared passion for the latest online communications and marketing tools, technologies and tactics.

Among other things, what impressed me about Joe is his strong background as a traditional marketer coupled with his unbridled determination to be, in his words, a “social media superhero.” Yes, the headline for this post was his idea. And that’s just the thing. Joe’s as clever as he is smart, as hip as he is experienced, as easygoing as he is ambitious. And he’s a really nice guy, too.

All that said, I asked Joe recently if he’d be willing to answer a few questions for me, which I would turn into a story about him on my blog. He said yes. And yes, this is that story…

Bob: What is your background and what are you doing now?
I have a background in classic, or maybe we should call it “old school” marketing. I’ve put in my share of late nights and weekends working on things like one-page marketing slick sheets, graphics for tradeshow booths, and all kinds of things that used to be state-of-the-art marketing collateral. I’ve also done corporate communications, business development, and graphic design for architectural firms, database marketing companies, medical device giants, and a few start-ups. And I happen to have an ancient and once-prized document known as an MBA in marketing.

These days I’m getting used to my new marketing skin. I’ve spent the last two years reinventing myself as an inbound or social media marketer. Simply put, I’ve given myself over to the Social (Media) Revolution.

Joe Kyle, Aspiring Social Media Superhero

Bob: How did you get started in social media?
 In a word, HubSpot. I lost my job in 2010 as part of the great economic meltdown. I met the HubSpot folks at a Boston Business Journal event in May of 2011 (BBJ’s Boston’s Top 100 Places to Work.) I walked up to Brian Halligan (HubSpot CEO), and said, “I don’t know what you folks do, but I think we should work together.” Ha! I still have his business card next to my computer at home. I was clueless about inbound and social media marketing at that point. But I was hooked, and since then I’ve continued on this incredible journey where I’ve discovered people like Chris BroganAvinash KaushikDanny SullivanLaura “Pistachio” Fitton and a score of other great teachers.

Bob: What is your favorite social media channel? Where are you most active online?
 I love Twitter. (I know people who would be shocked to hear me say that.) Honestly, the marketing and social media community on Twitter is an absolute marvel; it’s where I get the latest news on what’s happening in social media. But to be clear, it’s not so much the platform as it is the community I’m lucky enough to be part of. Brilliant folks who continuously point me in the right direction social media-wise.

I’m also on LinkedIn quite a bit. The community there is different from Twitter, more reserved and I find they need to be poked a bit if I want a response. However, the LinkedIn groups are fantastic! If you’re not participating in LinkedIn groups, you are listening to the concert from the parking lot.

I joined Pinterest in March and am still sorting that one out. So far I’m using it to post my rejection letters. We’ll see what kind of trouble this gets me into.

Bob: Who do you follow in social media and what have you learned from them?
Oh my, do you have a minute? OK, first, I love web analytics so there’s my hero Avinash Kaushik (follow him, buy his books!). Dusty Trice is a Democratic political consultant who, politics aside, really, really gets this social media thing right. David Meerman ScottSteve FarnsworthAnn HandleyRamon RayKipp Bodnar and Magdalena Georgieva (of HubSpot) are great, too. I also follow all the biggies — Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, etc. But in the last year I’ve also found people like Hana Phan who works for SlideRocket; she’s been a big help to me and I wish more folks knew about her, and SlideRocket. Oh, and Bob Cargill, of course.

I always invite people to swing by my Twitter account and harvest some of the folks I follow. This community has taught me most of what I know about social media.

Bob: Who do you think is using social media particularly well these days?
Joe: Well, I won’t get too political here, but I do think the business community is a step or two behind the world at large. Business needs to stop trying to “figure it out” or put a fence around it, or hire the “right” person to do social media for their “organization.” That’s a waste of time. (Watch ROI of Social Media, very funny!)

Social media is a huge and uncontrollable river washing away the way we used to do business. Now you have two options; stay on the banks and let the river pass you by, or just jump in. And once you’re in, you can expect a certain amount of unpredictability, sudden change, and well, you can’t be afraid of getting wet. In fact, the real question is what’s worse, committing to social media or going out of business? Now is not the time to wait and see if this whole online thing is just a fad.

I won’t say that the best users are of a certain generation, either, because that’s simply not true. Rather, the best users are of a certain mindset. And that mindset has this fearlessness that does not allow it to get caught up in “What are people going to think?” or “I should really run this past someone first” or “What if it doesn’t work?”. This is a revolution — and with any revolution comes mess and mistakes and confusion and chaos. You just gotta get in, pick up the flag and run up the hill with it. You will fall, but that’s part of it; just get back up and keep going. We’re all learning together here.

That said, we all know who’s getting it right in the business world — Amazon, Zappos, etc. So I’ll put in a plug for a little known favorite, Upton Tea, a great small tea distributor in Holliston, MA, who really makes a point of interacting with the online community. Good people there.

By the way, thanks for not asking who I think is getting it wrong. I’m continually amazed by who is not on board yet. Wow.

You’ve just read “Confessions of an Aspiring Social Media Superhero, Part One.” The second and final installment of my Q & A with Joe will be published within the next few days. Stay tuned.

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