An Interview with Tamar Weinberg of Mashable and Techipedia.com
Posted on January 19, 2010 by Tim Schroeder
Tamar and I recently touched base in NYC during AdTech. She is one of the best resources on social media and blogger outreach, and in 2009 released The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web; a great book on positioning your business in the social media space. Tamar is also Mashable’s community and marketing manager.
An Interview With Tamar Weinberg
How did you get started in the industry?
Good question. I’ve been involved in the “social media” space since computers were able to go online. I was involved in the most niche communities on online services such as AOL and my local library-owned BBS. On the BBS, I met an environmental activist who I became friendly with and even had him talk to my Earth Club in 10th grade (I loved the intersection between online and offline back then and I still do now).
When I graduated, I didn’t go into programming (I didn’t really learn how to code!), so I continued along the path of system administration. I ended up finding my way to a search engine marketing shop as a sysadmin, and I realized I found what I had wanted to do all along. During downtime, I learned the nuances of SEO but really stuck to my core roots as a social media enthusiast, and it showed — after my sysadmin duties were complete, I often handled social media initiatives for clients. Now I’m doing that full time.
What is your favorite social network?
It’s easy to say that I love Twitter for a few reasons:
– Community: there are some really awesome people that I’ve met on Twitter. I follow a small subset of them directly, but I follow so many more via RSS. There’s always something happening, and you can find out newsworthy material immediately. I also love learning what other people share as well.
– API: Twitter was smart when they opted to have an API available quickly. That has given people countless opportunities to build applications that really rock. Twitter is the foundation, but these applications themselves are super powerful. It’s probably the biggest thing that has ever happened in the way of API development ever.
– Ubiquity: you can get to Twitter from anywhere, as long as you’re connected. I have 40404 on speed dial.
Is social media your main business, or just an extension of your main online efforts?
Based on my history, you can see that I have some different hats that I wear. Fortunately, I can still solve web hosting issues every so often. But yes, I do live in the social media space. I do consulting for clients and also work for Mashable as its Community Director. I also dabble in other projects as well.
When did you get started in social media?
Are we talking about the social media that started in the last 10 years or the social media that started in the age of forums and BBSes? Let’s just say that I was an early adopter of both. I had dialup and would connect to my local BBS that was offered by my county library in South Florida, and I’d meet people despite being probably 30-40 years younger than most. I was active on forums when forums were brand new.
When we talk to the social media of today, I was on Facebook when it was open to only 2-3 schools. I was on Twitter in December 2006. I was a Digg top user 3 years ago. I still live and breathe in this world of social media, but I can’t consider a “starting point” because I feel like I was always there.
Why do you think people consider you an expert in the field?
Hopefully it had something to do with my new book, The New Community Rules (http://www.newcommunityrules.com), which talks about social media marketing and how to leverage the current technologies of today to initiate successful marketing campaigns.
But I think that my passion speaks loud enough as well; I love what I do. I think it is great that companies are interacting with people. I like being part of the equation: to help them get visibility and exposure, and to help foster genuine relationships that will bring them great success.
Who do you consider a social media expert, and why?
There are a few people who I admire:
– Chris Brogan (chrisbrogan.com), because he really shows that he cares. He exudes confidence in his talks and understands what it is to be human online.
– Brian Solis (briansolis.com) is one of the most brilliant writers in this area. He gives true analytical thought to everything he comes across in the space. His blog posts are insightful collegiate essays.
– Jeremiah Owyang (web-strategist.com) also gives high level insights to social media based on his observations as an analyst. He has access to some incredible data and can predict the future better than most other social media experts that I’ve known.
– Jason Falls (socialmediaexplorer.com) is also brilliant. He shares wonderful insights that make you sit down and reflect upon your engagement in the space.
– Samir Balwani (samirbalwani.com) is an up-and-comer who I have to mention here. He works as a online marketing strategist at Morpheus Media right now, but like me, his work doesn’t end when he leaves the office. His blog posts are choc full of great observations, and he just came out with a social media marketing training program (trainingsocial.com). He’s also only one year out of college, but I’ll be keeping my eye on him for a long time.
Do you think sponsored conversations have their place in the industry (Paid posts, SponsoredTweets)?
I think that yes, they do. Adam Singer had a great blog post (http://thefuturebuzz.com/2009/11/30/sponsored-conversations/) that attacks those who spread marketing messaging, claiming that those are for the uninspired marketer but also attacking those partaking in it as shills. He’s right about the lack of inspiration. However, I don’t think it’s fair to say that these bloggers are shills. Some are very careful about what they choose and will only blog about that which is relevant to their readership, because targeted messaging is incredibly important to them. I’ve learned about new products I’d actually want to try through the sponsored posts venue, which is great for both the advertiser and for me as someone who might be a potential new subscriber/buyer. If the advertiser cherry picks you because you’re a suitable candidate to spread that messaging, they should be able to without fear of attack. It just so happens to be paid. If I discovered these products after the fact, I might tweet about them organically. I just found them sooner since they discovered me first.
Do you make money directly from your social media efforts?
If client work counts, then yes, I do.
What services do you use to manage the social media stream?
I use a number of tools, and it depends on the work I’m doing and for who. I’ve used Radian6 and Socialradar but both are quite costly and are not for the sole consultant. But I use a number of tools that are free too, including BackType, YackTrack (which is new and awesome and should definitely be considered), and Google Alerts.
How do you balance personal v. professional?
For me, my Twitter account is a mix of both, but I keep personal out of it as much as I can (though I just had a baby so I’ll occasionally share some baby-related tweets). I put a much heavier emphasis on community and social media in my Twitter stream.
I do use my accounts differently, though. I wrote a blog post about this in 2007 (http://www.techipedia.com/2007/networking-on-different-social-sites/) which predates Twitter since it just wasn’t so big then. 🙂 I mostly still use Facebook as a personal account (I have nearly 700 pending friend requests, but I’d like to meet people before I actually accept!) and I use LinkedIn for professional purposes. My other accounts online are usually a mix.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role as you?
Can I play myself?
OK, now who would really play you?
Is where you are now where you thought you’d be…10 years ago? A month ago? Why/ Why not?
I just missed my 10-year high school reunion over Thanksgiving weekend. Ten years ago, I had no idea what I was going to do. I knew, though, back then, that I loved this kind of thing. And I’m glad I’m doing it.
One month ago, I figured I’d be growing and learning more, but I knew that we wouldn’t be doing a huge amount of new work since 2009 is waning and people are slacking for the holidays. 😉
Is it about quality or quantity? Do I want more followers or more RTs? Lots of connections on LinkedIn or a few excellent recommendations?
Definitely quality. I’d prefer to have people who actually have an interest in what I do over people who are following me to stroke my ego. I think it’s best to find people who will engage with you than people who don’t do anything at all. And yes, less connections on LinkedIn with excellent recommendations looks much better than having 500+ connections and no recommendations.
If you reached a certain level of success, would you ever have someone manage your social media accounts for you? Why/why not (ie: Barack Obama)?
Even if I become the queen of the world, I’d want to be connected to the people who helped me get there. So no, I wouldn’t want to have someone manage my accounts. I may not be tuned in then as much as I am now, but I wouldn’t disappear from my social streams.
Explain social media so a child would understand it. *Note- Please don’t just say ‘I make friends who make money online. Assume the follow up would be ‘how?’
Social media or social media marketing? Hopefully the child knows it already; those kids today are smarter than we are.
I try to explain social media marketing like this: social media is about leveraging the “social” (the community) through its “media” (the actual communities and destinations on the ‘net that where you can find them) to “market” your products.
Do you think celebrities belong on Twitter?
I think everyone belongs on Twitter. And I think that celebrity presence on Twitter merely means that there are famous people who want to be like US.
Provide the best social media tip you can think of in 40 characters or less.
40 now? I thought Twitter had a 140 character limitation. Is this a new mobile standard that I’m not yet privy to? 🙂
I think I’d say the following:
be yourself, have fun, and be committed
Social media marketing should not be a chore. If you’re not being real, you’re not having fun, and you’re not committed to the task, you won’t be successful.
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