Last month we kicked off our interview series with Pamela Lund. This time around I got a chance to speak with Akvile Harlow of Third Door Media (TDM). I wanted to talk with Akvile for several reasons:
- After chatting with her at SMX Advanced last year about what she was doing with a pet insurance company she worked for, I knew she was going to be an interesting person to get to know.
- She not only manages all of the social media accounts for TDM, which in itself is a daunting task, but she keeps everyone monitoring the SMX conferences from afar up to speed which only enhances the dauntingness.
- Her last name rhymes with Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor’s rival (okay not really).
I could keep going on, but I think I’ll let Akvile take it from here:
1. Hey Akvile, thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to answer some questions. First off, can you tell us who you are and what you do?
Hi there! The pleasure is all mine and thank YOU. I’m Akvile Harlow (pronounced Ahk-vee-lah/rhymes with tequila and Bob Villa, the Sears Guy) and I work at Third Door Media (TDM) as our Internet Marketing and Advertising Operations Manager. I’m responsible for structuring, optimizing, and managing all of our paid search campaigns and social media marketing efforts for our conference, Search Marketing Expo (SMX). For the Advertising Operations portion of my responsibilities, I work with clients and manage their creatives on Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, and Search Engine Roundtable.
2. When I first met you at SMX Advanced last year, you were managing PPC for a pet health insurance company and now you seem to be more involved with the social media aspect of things. What had your experience been in social media before taking the job you’re at now? What’s been the biggest thing you’ve learned since working for Third Door Media?
The pet insurance industry was a great place to get started for me personally in the whole PPC realm. Super competitive arena but also a growing industry that helped propel me to where I am today, which I’m extremely grateful for. I had dipped my hands occasionally into our social media accounts; however, we had someone else designated to that role. Our team was quite small but we were close, making it a great learning environment for us all. I’ve always been an avid fan of social media and jumped in to every new network that had arisen since my early days of high school.
Before joining the TDM family, I fell into a side project opportunity with a Foursquare badge website where they provided me with an opportunity to help out with their social media efforts. I did it on my own time for fun, for over a year, learning and experimenting with best practices. At TDM, I really enjoy being able to wear multiple hats each day where I can juggle analytical and social tasks. Hands down, the biggest thing I have learned since working at TDM is how to manage advertising operations. I’ve always worked on the B2C side of things, however now I was given the opportunity to learn B2B and it has been really exciting.
3. What brands do you manage for TDM and what do the daily tasks look like for each of them?
I manage all SMX related social media accounts, such as Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Foursquare, Pinterest, and others. When it comes to the ad ops portion of my daily tasks, I work with a variety of wonderful clients such as Adobe, Covario, Acquisio, aimClear, and SearchMetrics to name a few. Poke around our TDM sites and check them out! My other daily tasks include a lot of analyzing, monitoring, posting, responding, and sharing on our social sites. I dig into our paid search campaigns, make sure everything is running how we need it to and I make adjustments based on performance. Since SMX has a lot of different ticket price points, we need to create, change out, and optimize banners every few weeks. For ad ops, I run reports daily to make sure that clients are meeting their impressions goals and that ads are serving properly. I tend to multi task a lot of those things all while answering emails, hopping on conference calls, and tweeting with our incredible SEM community.
For ad ops, I run reports daily to make sure that clients are meeting their impressions goals and those ads are serving properly. I tend to multi task a lot of those things all while answering emails, hopping on conference calls, and tweeting with our incredible SEM community.
4. What are your preferred tools for managing them? What do you use to track and collect data?
I like to use a variety of tools; however I refer to Google Analytics to get an overall picture of what is going on with every channel. I use AdWords and several manual third party services for our paid campaigns. When it comes to tweeting, I am a huge fan of Cotweet and Tweetdeck. With ad ops, I generate reports and manage all of our client and house creatives using Google’s Double Click for Publishers.
5. How would you explain the value of social media to clients who have tried and failed with it in the past?
It’s never a good feeling to fail, but we try, we learn, and then we try something different. Marketing is all about testing. Social media networks are constantly growing and no matter what kind of business you have, I would recommend trying out some new methods to make it work. Facebook for instance, is a gold mine for marketers. With 800 million users and counting, someone is bound to be interested in your services/products. I would recommend setting up a fan page and utilizing any “free” methods you possibly can within your page. If you have a budget to do paid ads, Facebook ads is a great way to brand and acquire potential customers.
6. How do you explain your job to your family and friends?
Ah, this question, lol. It never gets old! My family members and friends who don’t work in close proximity to anything Internet related constantly ask me to explain what I do. It’s easier to explain the advertising operations side of things but I have to show them our websites and where the ads go, and that seems to be more understandable.
The social media side of things is surprisingly a bit more complex. Most people say, “you get paid to tweet and play on Facebook?” I giggle every time. Yes, that is true, but it’s not just that. Measuring how well you engage your followers, expand your fan base, and increase conversions coming through those channels is the challenging portion of a social media campaign’s equation. I do enjoy being a part of this analytical and social love triangle though!
7. How should businesses approach new social hubs that come out?
Check them out and evaluate if they are useful to you and your target audience. Save the custom URL if you feel like you can come back to it at a different point, but if it’s not relevant to your business model or has no means of obtaining conversions, don’t waste your time. If you think it’ll be useful to engage potential customers with, and then by all means, jump on it!
8. Some social networks like LinkedIn allow other social networks like Twitter to be integrated into the updates. How cautious, if at all, should businesses be about integrating multiple social profiles into multiple locations?
I personally wouldn’t recommend synching all posts on all channels together because each network may have a different audience. Sure, there may be the same people following you on different platforms, but sometimes messages need to vary from one place to another. Just assess your audience on each platform and how you communicate with them. You also don’t want to overload people with the exact same message because they may then choose to unfollow you. Change it up, don’t oversaturate, and make it fun!
9. You’ve been a Yelp Elitist for three years in a row now, congratulations by the way. Do you feel that a “Yelp Elitist” or another type of social influencer is given preferential treatment over other patrons by owners? Why or why not?
Thank you so much! I can’t speak for all social influencers and all businesses, however it’s totally possible that some may get preferential treatment. As a Yelp Elite member, I don’t talk about it when I’m going in to an establishment and I try to be respectful, funny, and honest with my reviews. I have given some businesses a low review and some have been really kind to respond and ask for suggestions on how they could improve their service/food/etc. I also have had some that would try to bribe me with free food so I would change my review, but I turn them down.
I’m not a fan of dishonesty and messing with the system. People rely on review sites to get honest opinions and I know I would be upset if someone put up false reviews just to get a free burger. Be honest, treat your customers and staff well, and most likely, you’ll end up running a successful business.
10. When it comes to participating on Yelp and other review sites, what are some things businesses have done well and not so well to garner a good review?
I’ve had some businesses respond to my reviews if they aren’t a 4 or 5 star and apologize for the subpar experience, ask how they can improve, and I generally thank them for making the effort to reach out to me. I’ve never taken up a business owner on getting free food/drinks/etc. to increase my review, although I have had some offers. If they seem genuine and make the effort to reach out to me, I just tell them that because of that, I will come in on my own time and give them a second try. I have had some businesses contact me and straight up try to bribe me into changing my review and that just makes the taste in my mouth for that place go from bad to worse. Also, if someone a customer isn’t interested I your bribe, don’t try 6 more times. True story.
Excellent post from Todd! I think if you have enough customers who believe in your business, have a good experience, and leave a review; it will drown out the fake and negative reviews within time. I would just recommend that as a business owner, keep an eye out online to see what people are saying about your business and flag them if they are inappropriate. If you have a physical location, put some Yelp, Google, Foursquare window decals or mention somewhere that people can leave a review. It’s a great way for people to know you have an online presence as well and it may help generate more genuine reviews.
12. When businesses ask a client to leave a good review they often write something quick just because they were asked to. How can businesses encourage better quality reviews? Are one liner reviews better in some cases?
Engage with your customers. If you work at an ice cream shop for instance, begin a conversation with a customer trying out a new flavor. Ask them what they like about it, ask them how their day is, and before they leave, try asking them to describe what they liked about their ice cream or experience on a review site. It’ll be more than just, “hey, could you please review us?” it’ll be more personal.
One-liners can be ok at times; it just depends on how descriptive it is. It’s nice to have a medley of short and long reviews because some people might be interested in short ones for a general feel of the business while other people may want more in depth ones.
13. Being a self-proclaimed sauce fiend, you’ve been given limitless supplies to create any sauce you want. What ingredients would you put into a sauce to describe the search industry and what would you call it?
Oh my. What a question! Since it involves two of my favorite things, I would have to call it “Search-Tacular Sauce Boss”. In order to get started, get yourself some good analytics tools so you can begin measuring the proper ingredients. To whip up a batch of this awesome search sauce concoction, add a cup of KPIs, a dash of social media, a pinch of SEO, and a sprinkle of PPC. This sauce will be tactic rich but don’t let that scare you away; it has a heck of a good ROI! It’ll be really awesome, so don’t be shy by trying only a little because you’ll only get retargeted to come back and have seconds!