Along with Brennan White, Matt Peters is the co-founder of Pandemic Labs, a social media marketing agency based in Boston, MA. Their agency helps businesses to navigate their brands through the gantlet of social media and use this powerful tool to successfully promote their brand. Matt and Brennan (and their whole team) get that social media marketing is more about conversations and engagement than simply pushing a message out, and that philosophy has led to considerable success in the SMM space.
Matt shares some valuable insights in the following interview that any entrepreneur can learn from. Read the interview, and then feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.
For those of our readers who aren't familiar with Pandemic Labs, let's start with a quickÂ overview. What does your company do, and who is your target audience?
Pandemic Labs helps brands leverage social media for business gains. We are a dedicated social media marketing agency, so we have a very specific focus all day, every day. From strategy to execution to measurement to company policy, we tackle the whole social media world for our clients. In terms of a target audience, we deal mostly with large national and international brands like The Ritz-Carlton, Au Bon Pain, and DIRECTV. But, we also have a thriving and exciting set of services aimed at small businesses and startups.
How would you describe your social media marketing philosophy (in a nutshell)?
Social media marketing must be approached as a conceptual change in marketing philosophy before it can be discussed at a strategic and tactical level. ManyÂ companiesÂ approach social from the bottom up; they build a presence on Facebook, Twitter, andÂ FoursquareÂ because they are “cool” and only then do they try to figure out why they are on those platforms. We don’t do it that way. We come from the top down, taking your target customers and our desired actions into account, then building a campaign that achieves your marketing objectives and aligns with your other efforts. In a nutshell: social media marketing is a means to an end, not an end itself.
You've launched a business in a pretty competitive space. What were your primaryÂ concerns before launching, and how have you differentiated from other social media firms?
I think the space was slightly lessÂ competitiveÂ when we launched in 2007, but we certainly knew it was going to turn into a frenzy of competition. And it certainly has. It seems like everyone is a “social media expert” these days, even though most don’t appear to have any inkling of why social media is such a powerful platform. They use old thinking on a new medium. We’ve consistently differentiated ourselves from other firms because we can answer the most important question: Why?Â Many people can manage a community or develop a blogger outreach plan, but if youÂ can’tÂ explain why you are doing those things using the specific business needs of the client, then you are just drinking the Kool-Aid. We answer the “why” before we every start a campaign. That’s why our campaigns are so successful and cost-effective.
What has been the single biggest business challenge you've had to face, and how did youÂ overcome it?
Since we are in a new industry, we have often faced that challenge of “selling social media” before we ever get to “selling Pandemic Labs.” Especially in the earlier years, we had to spend more time showing people why social media was valuable than we spent showing them why we were the right company for the job. Having to win two battles for every one new client was very hard. Though, as social media marketing has matured a bit, this is becoming less of a challenge.
What three pieces of advice do you have for young entrepreneurs interested in starting theirÂ first business?
- Listen to all advice given, but then make your own decision. If you can’t explain to a stranger why you are doing a certain thing, then don’t do it. “Because a smart person told me to,” is not a valid reason to make a choice early in your business. Listen, digest, formulate, act.
- It will not seem like it at the time, but the social dynamic of your office is absolutely crucial to how well your business can run. Especially when you’re starting out and there are only 4-15 people in the office, a bad group dynamic can sink you.
- Unplug. The human brain is not meant to deal with the overwhelming volume of data streaming into it all the time these days. I have three computers, an iPhone, an iPad, and an blackberry for international travel. At least one day every two weeks, I have to unplug. Leave the phone off…leave everything off. It will feel terrible the first time you do it because you will assume the worst and think you are missing something crucial. But it can wait, and you will be more productive when you plug back in.
How do you personally define success?
I’ll tell you when I see it. For me, success is a moving target. As soon as I reach a certain level, the line at which I personally define success has already moved. I can never catch it. Perhaps this is why I keep working so hard.