will-russellAs part of the #SMPro Social Media Spotlight Blog Series, this interview highlights Will Russell: San Francisco resident, soccer fanatic, and founder of online marketing consultancy Will Russell Marketing.

Founded in 2012, Will Russell Marketing assists brands in the safety and security industry by elevating their online presence and integrating online initiatives into their business strategy to drive increased business success.

Below, Will discusses his background, offers a handful of golden marketing tips, and provides his opinions on the overall landscape of the social media industry.

1. Where did your interest in social media marketing originate, how has it developed and what role does it play in your professional life now?

My first foray into social media marketing was back in 2009, when I was provided a lot of freedom to explore new initiatives and growth opportunities for the company I was working for.

What I loved most about social media was that everyone, whatever their age and business experience, was basically on a level playing field. It was so new that there were no paths forged and very few universal best practices – I could be creative, test my own theories and create my own path.

Now, social media marketing is just one of the ways I assist clients through my consultancy. I primarily try to teach clients how to integrate social media into their business plans, as well as assisting with campaign implementation when necessary.

2. Who do you read, follow or pay attention to in order to stay ahead of the curve in social media?

Jay Baer, Darren Rowse, and Jeremiah Owyang are three individuals in the industry who I really admire and follow closely. They offer fresh ideas, truly valuable information, and fantastic insight.

3. What do you believe to be the biggest misconception some businesses still have with social media?

That it’s a “plug and play” situation. Even now, I see a lot of business owners watching other, big brands attain success and think all they need to do is set up a Facebook Fan page and they will see the same results.

The reality is that it takes time, it takes an approach unique to your business, and it takes a lot of hard work.

4. A lot of businesses steer clear of social media due to the potential ramifications of making a mistake in such a public environment. What would your response be to that concern?

Everyone makes mistakes. I do, you do, we all do. And social media channels can be unforgiving places. But remember: today’s front page news is tomorrow’s garbage, and mistakes will be forgotten.

Don’t be afraid of making a mistake, just make sure you’re prepared for it and ensure that, when you eventually do make that mistake (and I promise you, you will), you learn from it.

5. With the rapid evolution of Internet marketing, are offline marketing channels now a waste of time? Or is it all still valuable?

It is absolutely all still valuable, if the channel suits your specific needs. The Internet may mean that offline marketing is no longer a necessity for all businesses, but it can be a fantastic tool in your tool kit. Many would suggest nothing can replace the face-to-face networking achievable at trade shows, conferences, or offline events.

6. How have you integrated social media effectively into your (or your clients’) business strategies? How are you proving a return on investment?

This answer could be an essay in itself, so let’s just get very basic: I try not to think as social media as any different to the other marketing opportunities available to me.

I have a list of goals to achieve and I set out a plan to reach those goals. If I think that social media can be used to help get there, then it is included in the strategy. Over time, if you have the right strategy in place you should be in a position where it’s relatively easy to show ROI. The tricky part is persuading business owners that it’s not an overnight process.

7. What sort of marketing advice would you give to a person who said that their business simply does not fit with social media?

I would ask them to break social media down into its individual components, and evaluate each one individually. While I agree that not every business needs to be on Facebook, Twitter etc., I think that at a base level, some form of social media can help everyone. Businesses just need to work out which piece of the puzzle fits for them.

8. If you had to give up all but one social network, which one would you keep and why?

From a personal standpoint, I think I would probably keep Twitter, purely because what I get from it is irreplaceable. I find it such a valuable platform for discussion, learning from others, and keeping on top of trends.

From a business perspective, I’ve seen the most success from Facebook, so it would be really tough to lose that. A lot of people are very critical of Facebook and its use as a business tool, but I’m a faithful supporter.

9. How do you deal with the 24/7 aspect of social media marketing? Do you ever step away from it all and recharge?

I try! I’m a firm believer in maintaining a balance in life, and there is certainly more to life than social media, the internet and work. If I decide I want to switch off for a weekend, then I have no qualms in doing just that. It may mean I have a longer to-do list when I return, but that’s something I’m fine with.

Having said that, I will rarely go more than 48 hours without logging in on social platforms to at least check on and talk with close friends and family. I’m trying to recall the last time I went for longer than that…and I can’t.

10. One of the most exciting aspects of social media is that it’s always changing, evolving and progressing. What changes do you expect to see in social media over the next 12 months?

I think the biggest developments we’ll see go well beyond its use by businesses, and instead relate to how we as a society adapt to these new communication tools. You only need to look at SOPA, the Aaron Swartz tragedy or the number of young people suffering at the hands of cyber-bullies to see that we don’t yet understand how to manage the opportunity and implications that exist through the rapid development of these new mediums.

Governments need to understand and societal frameworks need to adapt. That is what I think will be the next big evolution in this space.

About Will Russell

Check out Will’s social media blog and connect with Will Russell Marketing on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

What is #SMPro?

#SMPro, in affiliation with My Social Game Plan, is a group of professional social media and digital marketers who have made a simple agreement to support, assist and promote each other via social media. With member backgrounds spanning the marketing industry and beyond, #SMPro has become a vibrant, engaging environment where questions are answered, hot topics are discussed, and everyone is always learning and helping each other reach that next level.

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