Visible Networking with Tony Karrer – Los Angeles Social Media Starters

Tom Humbarger, Social Media and Marketing Expert

Tom Humbarger, Social Media and Marketing Expert

Tony Karrer reached out to me this week as he was seeking “Social Media Starters” in the Los Angeles area.  Tony is the CEO/CTO of TechEmpower, a software, web and eLearning development firm based in Los Angeles, and is considered one of the top technologists in e-Learning.  He frequently speaks at various venues about how he uses social media and particularly blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter as part of his services business.  Invariably, people are always asking him to follow up with how to get started or for help with maintaining their social media presence.

While Tony likes to be helpful, social media consulting is not part of his company’s core business.  So, Tony is developing a network of social media consultants who can help companies ramp up their efforts.

As part of his outreach effort to provide exposure to social media consultants in his network, Tony asked a series of questions to learn more about me and so he could share this post with professionals and businesses who have requested his help.  (and please see Tony’s blog post on Visible Networking for more information on his networking approach)

How did you get into social media?

When I look back on my career, I have actually been using social media since 1996 when I was working in product strategy for Oracle – except it wasn’t called social media at the time.  Much of my work had to do with evangelizing about our solutions, developing marketing collateral, and networking with other Oracle employees, the press and analysts.  My life would have been much easier in some ways if I had access to the social media tools that we have today such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

My recent foray into social media started in 2006 when I was working in the Strategic Projects function at a small-sized software company.  I was assigned a project to launch an external B2B professional community for users and prospects.  Over the next 18 months, I was fully responsible for community strategy, day-to-day community management, content creation, marketing, business development and operations.  The community was called Catalyze and focused on usability experts and business analysts.  After coming out of beta, I was instrumental in growing the community to over 4,000 members in less than 15 months.  As part of my duties, I experimented with many different social media tools and techniques and got hooked on the possibilities of social media.

For the last year, I have been consulting with several different companies on social media strategy and implementation, marketing and community strategy.  For one of my companies, I am their outsourced marketing department.  I write blog posts, create marketing collateral, write call scripts and help maximize their use of Salesforce.com.  On a more detailed level, I updated their website, created and monitered Google Ads, standardized their company’s LinkedIn profiles, set up a LinkedIn and Facebook groups and created a profile on Yelp.  I also worked on the social media strategy for one of the clients of an interactive media company.  For another entrepreneur, I updated his LinkedIn profile and developed a mock up for his new website.  Finally, I spent the majority of my time in the last year working on the community strategy and management for a start-up professional networking community.

What are you working on now?

During the last year, most of my projects have been of a long term nature.  But I am now starting to focus on social media consulting for small-to-medium businesses as I see a need for these companies to do a better job with social media.  Many of these companies are lost about where to start, have trouble prioritizing social media against other competing projects or do not have the bandwidth to adequately maintain their social media presence.  In most cases, these companies cannot afford a full-time social media resource and do not really need someone to devote 100% of their time to the effort.

Social media lends itself nicely to a project-based focus – and with my experience and background, I can easily help companies get started and maximize their exposure via the key social media channels of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

What are your thoughts on helping people get started with social media?

Social media is here to stay and customers are now in control of the message.  Companies must adapt to this new reality and begin the process of doing a better job of reaching out and interacting with their customers through social media channels.  However, social media is still relatively new and there are many ways to approach it and different starting points to apply social media in a business setting.   The best way to start is to have a conversation with the CEO or executive team about their business and develop an implementation plan and priorities.  The typical questions would cover topics such as: status of current strategy, analysis of social media readiness, results of marketing programs, overview of brand and company awareness, future growth plans, customer service issues, etc.

Even if a company does not have much time or budget, there are many simple things that they can do that have some pretty huge pay-offs.  LinkedIn is one example where companies can spend some upfront time, but which does not have much ongoing maintenance or management.  Blogging or using Twitter is a different story as these social media tools require a consistent commitment to delivering strong content.

What kinds of social media services do you provide?

My social media consulting services cover all aspects of social media, including developing strategy, training, implementation and outsourced maintenance services:

Strategy – on how to apply social media tools and techniques to increase brand awareness or connect better with customers

Training – on how to use LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, blogging and other social media tools

Implementation – and setting up of various social media tools or sites

Maintenance services – this is a retainer based service that essentially provides comprehensive maintenance of a social media presence, including blogging, Twitter and other tools/techniques that require consistent updates to be effective

Small, one-time projects could be probably be completed in as little as 8 to 10 hours.  Conducting training and implementation on social media tools could take anywhere from 15 to 40 hours.  And outsourced services could range anywhere from 5 to 15 hours of dedicated time per week.  At a minimum, I think most companies would benefit from several months of hand-holding under a maintenance program as using social media is not natural or easy for many people and you want to make sure you get it right.

You’ve been blogging for a while, what are five good posts that I should check out?

I have been blogging since March 2007 and here are what I consider my top five social media blog posts:

5 Ways to Maximize Your LinkedIn Profile

Best Practices for Corporate Twittering

Simple Advice for Brands on Twitter

Community Managers and Quarterbacks

Adding A LinkedIn Group To Your Community

What networking events in Los Angeles or Southern California do you go to?  What was the best one you’ve been to recently?

I have started attending the Social Media Club-Los Angeles events this year.  One of my friends, Geoff Brown, is the coordinator of the group and he has been encouraging me to get more involved and I have started writing blog posts for SMC website.  I have also attended two one-day community un-conferences put on by Forum One in Sonoma in the past year.  I love the format of these conferences and the content you gather in one day is amazing.  The primary focus of these conferences was community strategy and management, but they also include a great deal of general social media content.

Who are some of your go to people in Los Angeles ?

Most of my social media network is virtual and stems from connections I have made through Twitter and through my connections at Boston-based Mzinga.  Mzinga is the white-label community and social networking software company that I used for two communities that I used to manage.  The key social media people in my circle include:  Aaron Strout, Jim Storer, Rachel Happe, Derek Showerman, Mark Wallace, Jeremiah Owyang, Bryan Person and Barry Libert.  In the LA area, I keep up with Geoff Brown from SMC-LA, Mark Sylvester from introNetworks, Kevin Lucier from AccessDNA and Shara Karasic from Business.com.  I also have a fairly extensive blog roll on my website with the key bloggers I follow.  Finally, I use Twitter as my primary filter to keep current on the latest trends in social media.

How can people find you?

I am an active blogger and an avid user of Twitter and LinkedIn.  You can find me at:

Tom Humbarger blog

Tom Humbarger on Twitter

Tom Humbarger on LinkedIn

Thank you Tony for including me in your Social Media Starters network – and for helping me formalize my thoughts on social media.

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