Social media might not be a necessity for your business. This is not something one would expect in the age of “The Social Network,” but that’s what Maisha Walker, a top Internet strategist, is saying.
Walker, founder and president of Message Medium, a website design and Internet marketing firm based in New York City, says it’s more important to create an Internet strategy that suits each business than to hop onto the next big trend.
Walker’s firm provides strategic, design, marketing, and technical guidance for editorial, political campaigns, government agencies, retail, non-profit, artisans and craftspeople, real estate, construction, bridal, healthcare, import/export, public relations, and travel/tourism.
Walker will discuss “Using Social, Mobile, and Local Marketing to Drive Customers and Profit” on Thursday, October 6, from 6 to 8 p.m., at D&R Greenway, 1 Preservation Place. Cost: $35. Visit www.njcama.org.
Walker grew up in Uniondale, New York, where her father was a metal lather and her mother worked in the mailroom at Doubleday. Walker attended Princeton University, where she earned her bachelor’s in French and Italian in 1994. Her mother, who died when Walker was 16, placed an emphasis education and insisted that Walker attend a great school.
“Neither of my parents had the chance to go to college,” Walker says. “Back then, government funding and financial aid didn’t exist. I was the first in my immediate family to go to college. But my parents were both entrepreneurs at heart and encouraged me to learn the things they didn’t learn and to find my own path.”
Walker began her Internet career with the founder of Cybergrrl, which built the first website for companies like Avon. It also was one of the first editorial websites that catered to the online women’s sector. In 1997 Walker founded one of the first e-zines, e.vent, which shared her insight about events that shape society and the New York experience. She then worked as a direct marketer for New York Magazine and then for an internal consulting team at Morgan Stanley.
She founded Message Medium in 2005. In 2007 she published “Web Site Fundamentals for Entrepreneurs,” a book that helps small business owners unravel the world of online business without needing a marketing or computer science degree. In 2008 Inc. magazine approached Walker to write an online column, “The Internet Strategist.”
In the column, Walker uses her 14 years of Internet industry experience to help separate key strategies from hype. This includes all kinds of Internet marketing from social tools, such as Facebook, to more “traditional” tools, such as E-mail marketing and search engine optimization. She has worked with hundreds of small businesses and major corporations, such as Unilever, Save the Children, Delia*s, AOL/Time Warner, and the NY City Department of Education. “The Internet Strategist” became the highest-trafficked blog on Inc.com in less than a year.
In September Walker was a featured panelist at the Inc. 5000 conference, where she did live Q&A and gave advice on improving the social media campaigns of the country’s fastest-growing businesses. While there is a big push to get businesses on social media, Walker says it is not necessarily important for everyone. She says the key is to understand what makes the most sense for the business and the business’ skill set.
Walker says what’s best will be different for every business. There are many different ways to use Twitter. So there’s no one answer to why people should use it. They can use it to simply read content or to broadcast their messages, she says. They can use it to stay tuned in to the conversations that people might be having about their business and to find people who post about a problem they’re having with a product or service and be able to respond directly to them.
So what about Facebook? “Comparing Facebook and Twitter is sort of like saying, ‘Why should I buy a couch when I can sit on my kitchen chair?’” Walker says. “Yes, they both will allow you to sit, and technically, you don’t need both, but they are used very differently.”
If Walker had to choose one social network for most businesses it would be LinkedIn, which is designed for professional networking. She also wouldn’t try to convince a business owner to utilize social media if he were adamantly against it.
“I have found it’s never a good idea to convince people to dive into these areas,” she says. “The best thing I can do for clients or students is educate them and give them the time and freedom to make the decision that is best for them.”
So what about Google+? “Right now the options for using Google for business are very limited. I would encourage those who are already using Facebook and LinkedIn to set up an account but I wouldn’t obsess over this new tool,” she says. “If you’re not yet using Facebook or LinkedIn, Google+ probably won’t be right for you either.”