If you want to meet one no-nonsense social media pro, you’ve found your person! I met Brooke Ballard through the now-disbanded Social Solutions Collective. I knew from the start she was going to be awesome because we are very similar. I love her snark and her tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Brooke is based out of the NYC area. Her work is top-notch and I highly respect her. Read my interview with Brooke below…

Name: Brooke Ballard

Title: Chief Digital Strategist

Company: B Squared Media, LLC

Website/Blog: b2onlinemedia.com & b2onlinemedia.com/blog

Twitter handle: @madSMscientist (personal) or @B2MediaLLC (biz)

Question 1: Why did you choose to work in this industry?

My love for social started when I worked for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. My first task on the job was creating awareness and brand loyalty among young professionals — no easy task considering cystic fibrosis is a rare, genetic disease only affecting 33,000 Americans (and my sister happens to be one of them).

Through social media – Facebook specifically- we were able to come up with an entirely new event specifically for young professionals. We got 1750 (yes, you read that right!) people to sign up for the event in only 6 months, and grossed over $60,000 (first-time events usually take 12 months of planning and raise about $5k). Needless to say, I was hooked.

Question 2: How do you keep continuing your education and staying up on all the latest trends and changes?

I read. A lot. I test. A lot. I consult with industry cohorts. A lot. I attend at least one of the “big” conferences each year (sometimes two or three). I also love to attend NEW webinars (some “experts” just put out the same, tired webinar over and over and try to repackage it as something new – annoying!).

I have a lot of conversations; with myself, with clients, with business partners. Some peeps call this networking, but I just call it “thinking conversation, not campaign.” ;-)

Question 3: What do you love the most about working in your industry? What bothers you the most?

LOVE(S): Solving problems. Constant change. Challenges. Data/Facts/Stats. The opportunity to reinvent something again and again. Being a learner (and constantly having something new to learn).

DISLIKE(S): Constant change (mostly on Facebook). Lack of education and/or knowledge (of clients, other marketers, and even some “experts”). The popularity contest; I love getting recognized for what I do, but not if I’m actually only getting mentioned because of my name.

Question 4: What is the hardest situation you’ve encountered in your business and how did you handle it?

I think the hardest thing I’ve had to endure was having our very first client leave us. They were ready to “go social” on their own. We had been setting them up to do this, but it was still hard to let go. In some ways I felt proud of them for going out there and doing it themselves, and in other ways I wanted to scold them each time they posted a “no-no” or didn’t post for days on end.

Ultimately I think the hardest part of what we, as social consultants, do is to LET GO. When you really care about a team of people and their brand, and you’ve poured your brains, soul, heart, and guts into shaping that brand, it hurts to see them fail or stop trying because it’s too much. Conversely, it feels amazing to watch them succeed and take the blueprints and tools you gave them and grow.

I’m not a parent, but I’m guessing that’s kind of what it’s like. You have to be hands off and let your babies walk their own path.

Question 5: What is the best business advice you’ve been given and why has it stayed with you?

I got my best business advice by watching previous employers make mistakes. There are probably three, steadfast rules I watched past leaders struggle with (and where I think I succeed):

  • I know I’m not the smartest person in the room, and I’m not afraid to admit that (or fess up when I mess up).
  • Your people are EVERYTHING to your business. Treat them badly, and you will always struggle to differentiate your brand from the next. People decide who/what brands are, and people working for you personify your brand. Think about that.
  • Under promise and over deliver. Every. Single. Time. with Every. Single. Person. involved in your business (be it a vendor, customer, employee, or otherwise).
  • BONUS: Know your boundaries. Just because I’m a crazy pants entrepreneur who never sleeps and emails you at 3AM, does not mean I should expect a reply from you, or expect an immediate text, or expect you to read my mind, or expect you to do MY work for me (and so on and so forth).

One for the road…

Bonus: If you could come back to life as any person from the history, who would it be?

I would love to come back as a prolific writer, like Robert Frost (he’s my fave!). People who have a way with words have always found their way to my heart. Being a tortured soul would be worth it if you could bring so many emotions to the masses.