Today I had a chat with Marian Schembari who is a fantastic writer, famous blogger and outspoken online personality from New York, currently living in London and en route to travel the world. Marian shared her pearls of wisdom on blogging, social media and how she helps her clients achieve better results online.
She just so happens to be speaking at the Personal Branding Club gathering on October 6th by the way.
What is your day job Marian?
I’m a social media consultant specializing in creatives – authors, photographers, artists, etc. I also offer services that help websites generate more engagement and traffic by using the top social media tools.
How did you get into social media consulting?
Long story short, I used social media to get a job as a book publicist. I spent a few months working in traditional publicity – newspapers, magazines, television and radio – and found that it wasn’t as effective as social media. Since my very public job search resulted in press itself I was getting more and more freelance offers. Those offers paid better than my 9-to-5 so I quit and took off on my own! The freelancing led to the business I run now and have been doing it for about a year.
Is your job location-independent?
Yes it is! Right now I’m living in London though I started freelancing in New York. In December I’ll be moving to New Zealand for a while and hope to keep travelling after that. The great thing about my job is that I don’t need to be anywhere. All I need is my laptop, an Internet connection and I’m good to go. It’s probably my favourite part of the job.
Some people ask if the time difference has any effect, and it does, but in a good way. Because of the time difference my American clients aren’t active until midday London time – meaning I can take my time in the morning.
Tell us about Marian Librarian
Marian Librarian is my blog that’s part personal experiences, part social media advice. I realize there are tons of social media sites out there, but I brand mine as a Bullshit-Free Zone. I “tell it like it is”. There’s so much noise on the Internet and so many people telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, so I like to cut through that noise with straight advice people can actually use along with being completely open about my own experiences/struggles as a new entrepreneur.
The name “Marian Librarian” was chosen on a whim. Because I started in publishing I wanted a book-related name. I did theatre in high school and Marian the Librarian is a character in The Music Man. Even though I don’t work strictly with authors anymore I’ve kept the name because “Schembari” is hard to spell and people now know me as Marian Librarian. Finally, people often pronounce my first name wrong and rhyming it with Librarian helps!
How do you manage to get 420 comments on a post?!
That’s a great question! That particular post, 8 Reasons No One’s Following You On Twitter, was the first thing I wrote that generated so many retweets. It’s still the most popular post on my blog. Since then I’ve been able to generate engagement because:
- I’m opinionated. Meaning people are bound to disagree with me and that starts some serious discussion. And those that do agree with me are also very vocal.
- I always respond to comments. Meaning people know I read what they have to say and will respond so they’re more likely to comment in the first place.
- I ask questions. Meaning people have something to think about once they’re done reading. They like to contribute and it’s a little reminder that I want them to contribute.
- I reward those who comment. Meaning they’re more likely to do so – my top five commentators get links back to their own site. Since Marian Librarian has a page rank of 6 it gives them some good Google juice back to their blog.
What are your best blogging tips for beginners and intermediates?
The best tip I can give anyone – beginner or intermediate – is to go at your own pace. Like I said before, there is so much noise online and so many tips, things to learn and do that any beginning blogger will feel like they couldn’t possibly start a blog because there’s too much to do. And an intermediate blogger will always feel inadequate. And that shouldn’t be the case!
Sure, it’s awesome to have a YouTube channel and Twitter account and all the best plugins, but do all that at your own pace. If you can only manage to post once per week, then by all means, post once per week until you’re comfortable enough to do more than that. If you stress too much about the million things a blogger should do then you’ll never get anything done.
How do you use personal branding to promote yourself?
It’s funny, I used to make a huge effort to promote myself on Twitter, get press by subscribing to HARO, but now I rarely do anything. I just make sure my blog gets consistent traffic, post 2-3 times per week, engage regularly online and people generally come to me.
My personal brand is an opinionated wise-ass and certain people like that take on social media. It’s definitely not for everyone but for the people that do like that kind of attitude, they want to learn that way and interview/feature me for various things.
I’d also like to think that my personal brand is authentic and engaging – two overused buzzwords that are clichéd for a reason. If someone @replies me on Twitter or comments on my blog or emails I always reply. I think people like to return the favour by featuring me on their own sites and because I’m always engaging back it means I’m visible and being everywhere is the best way to promote yourself.
What social media tools do you use and why?
Besides my blog, my favourite tool is Twitter, hands down. I like how it’s only 140 characters and it’s very easy and fast to talk to someone that way. I like how easy it is to find relevant links and information and advice by using Twitter.
I’m a big fan of Facebook but I don’t “friend” anyone I don’t know personally. I think because of how my generation was the initial target audience for Facebook I have a hard time letting go of it as a personal tool and don’t like using it for business. I don’t have a Facebook page but I do see the value in having one if your site or business is big enough. I do, however, post all links to my blog posts on my Facebook profile to keep my friends up-to-date.
You use ‘adult’ language online, do people ever take offence?
Definitely. I said “fuck” in a blog post and a woman commented to say that swearing undercuts my credibility. While I appreciate her point of view, I have no desire to be a cookie-cutter consultant – there are already too many of them out there.
I realize my choice of language isn't for everyone, but it's how I am in real life and clients, friends and readers all know this. My credibility has nothing to do with my language. So while I'm sorry if I offended her and any other readers I'd rather have a smaller audience who is okay with my language than a broader audience who is uptight. My liberal use of the word "fuck" doesn't change the fact that I know exactly what I'm talking about.
Who are your favourite bloggers and social media buddies?
Then of course there are a readers that constantly contribute on my blog and I guess would be considered my “Twitter BFFs” – Melissa Breau, Alexis Grant, Diane Shipley, Kemari Howell. Then there are the awesome people I’ve bartered with: Desirai Labrada, Jeffrey Pia and Antonina Mamzenko.
To be honest, there are just too many awesome people to count! Some of my favourite blogs are listed on my Blogroll (though that’s by no means an exhaustive list).
What’s the Lovely Mac Fund?
Ha! The Lovely Mac Fund is a widget I set up so readers and fans could contribute to the cost of a new computer. My current computer is almost 6 years old and since my entire business is based on my computer, having a dysfunctional laptop hinders how much my business can grow. I wrote a blog post explaining why I needed a new computer (including a video presentation comparing a Mac to a PC) and mentioning that if people liked my blog and the advice I give they should consider donating. Because I’m moving to New Zealand, a $1,000 computer isn’t in the budget at the moment, but because of my awesome fans I’ve raised close to $600 to fund a Mac purchase!
What has Marian got in the pipeline at the moment?
Right now I’m in the process of nailing down my services. I hate the term “consult” because everyone and their grandma is a social media consultant. It’s also not very specific. So I’ve been honing in on what it is I do, narrowing it down to three main services. The most basic service is what I call Personalized Twitter Strategy and it includes a video critique and written report of your Twitter profile. It’s a way for anyone to get a little consulting in, even if they can’t afford a full-fledged social media campaign. The Strategy service has been doing so well that I’m broadening it to include Facebook, LinkedIn and blog critiques.
The second service is a social media report which includes critiques of all your social media profiles, a list of people to follow in your niche, case studies, day-to-day strategy and content ideas. It’s a step above the critiques and as of right now is what I offer to my authors.
The third service has yet to fully launch, but I’ll be taking on select clients for 3-month coaching contracts. This service is more high-end and will be for people who not only need personalized strategy, but also need help implementing it. So while some people can take direction well, others need a consultant to hold their hand and evaluate their progress at every stage. This service comes with the report and includes unlimited phone and email consults.
Finally, I’m working on an eBook for advanced Twitter users and am in the process of creating an event with fellow social media consultant, Alison Norrington. While the date and venue isn’t set in stone yet, we’re creating a workshop for authors, teaching them how to harness the ready-made social media market for their readers.
What’s the one thing people can do to help you?
Spread the word! Retweet this interview, tell a friend about my services. I can do social media in my sleep but my ideal clients aren’t on Twitter or LinkedIn – that’s why they’re my ideal clients! I need people on the outside of social media referring me to friends and co-workers. That’s THE best way you can help!
Final words of wisdom?
I get a lot of scepticism from people who aren’t on social media. They say it won’t work for them or no one they know is on it or they don’t care “what you had for breakfast”. That’s all well and good but you can’t argue with the power of networking and that’s all social media is.