Recently, Melanie Spring (from Sisarina) was in San Francisco on her #brandtour. We met up one night and chatted- I am working on “rebooting” these interviews I’ve done over the years into something I could compile later. She graciously agreed to talk to me and share some of her wisdom.
Joe: How did you business get started? What made you get into marketing and branding?
Melanie: I’m an accidental entrepreneur from a family of entrepreneurs. I knew how to do websites in a time there weren’t many web designers. In 2001, I started my first company and ended up doing it for a few years. When I restarted in 2009, I had lost my job from a similar firm and was excited to work for myself again. I have a degree in Organizational Communication and being able to help businesses find their voice is my passion.
Joe: When did you realize web marketing was going to be big? What did you do to adapt?
Melanie: Sisarina started as website company and as the web changed, we had to also. Now we’re more focused on the marketing side of websites and how all the materials attached to a website have to be branded. I don’t know that I ever expected it to be big, I just knew it was something I enjoyed.
J:How did you get into web design? Any notable stories?
M: I started coding on Angelfire.com when I was 15 and played with GIFs and backgrounds. I remember looking at the sky one day thinking it would make a beautiful website background. In college, they realized I knew how to design, so they asked me to do the college website.
J: Is your office Windows or Mac OS? Do you see an advantage of one or the other?(mixed)
M: I used to be a hardcore PC girl… then 3 years ago my PC gave me the death screen so I walked over to the Apple store and have been in love with my MBP since. Not one problem in over 3 years. Now the whole office is on Mac Minis. It’s incredible for web but we still have to have some PC’s around for testing.
J: Toughest part running your own business?
M: Being a boss. I have an incredible self-starting team of superheros, but when something goes wrong, I have to be the gal who takes the fall. You have to back up your team no matter what happens, along with find ways to inspire them and help them grow in their own jobs. It’s a tiring job but my team is super grateful for having a boss who isn’t jumping on them all the time.
J: What was the tipping point for you to get into Social Media marketing?
M: Before I lost my job, Twitter delighted me with its simple interface. I didn’t know what I’d do with it, but I knew it would be something. Once I started working for myself, I noticed most people were on it but weren’t meeting in real life. As soon as I started #DCTweetup, I saw the advantage of SMM and how much it could help us grow. Now we show others how to use it.
J: What area of social media do you find the hardest to get an accurate ROI around?
M: We stopped using Facebook. http://sisarina.com/blog/sisarina-quits-facebook We realized Facebook was more focused B2C and we’re B2B. There are a lot of B2C businesses we recommend to use it but you have to have a solid plan.
J: Did you choose a specific SM/platform service first? If so, what service?
M: TweetDeck. I’ve tried other ones but TweetDeck is still superior for having as many accounts as I do.
J: Do you find a particular service/platform easier to use than others?
M: see last question
J: What services do your clients typically ask for?
M: Websites. We’re definitely more focused on the branding portion of it but it’s our bread and butter and we’re really good at it. We developed www.pico-cms.com for our clients to keep their websites up easily and it’s a huge selling point.
J: What drawbacks are clients usually worried about regarding viral marketing?
M: We honestly don’t get a lot of clients who are worried about viral marketing.
J: Any notable takeways from your #brandtour so far?
M: It’s all about the people. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you have, if your people have heart and drive, you’re gold.
J: What is your best advice on forming a branding/ social media strategy?
M: Be focused. Know exactly what you hope to accomplish and stick to your branded voice.
J: How did your inhouse CMS (picoCMS) come about?
M: Joomla and Drupal were made for developers, WordPress was made for blogging. We didn’t find any good CMS that fit for business owners who wanted full control without learning how to be a developer, so we made one!
J: What metrics do you see as important to track?
M: Mostly what engages people. If you find people are reading a specific type of blog post, or RTing a tweet, or even responding to a FB post, keep that up.
J: How did your tweetups come about? Where do you see them going?
M: I wanted to meet the people I tweeted with AND build my connections through a non-networking event. We’re planning on making them more business focused this year, attracting more like-minded people.
J: Favorite experience enabled through SM so far would be_________?
M: getting to meet @unmarketing
J: Biggest challenge you face?
M: We have a big, hairy goal for this year – to become one of the 2% of businesses run by women that make $1M a year.
J: Advice for someone right out of college in one sentence:
M: Shut your mouth and listen.