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“I never learned the right way to do things so I figured out my own way instead.”

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LKR Social Media offers an online classroom & community for entrepreneurs to learn about social media marketing. They close the gap between books and blog posts with no personalized advice and expensive agencies and consultants that are out of reach for solopreneurs. LKR Social Media specializes in helping very small businesses that are new to social media get up to speed with social media and online marketing in general.

Founded by social media leading expert Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media Marketer has earned its reputation as one of the top sources for social media information and advice on the web. (That’s why they’ve been featured in publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, Bloomberg News and the LA Times.)

MO: You started your first business back in 2007 and then switched over to your current business in 2009 by firing all of your clients. Firing all of your clients is an unusual business move. Can you talk about that decision and how it was the beginning of LKR?

Laura:  After two years of building my web design business I saw a harsh reality – my business couldn’t scale. My big dream at the time was to get to six figures in revenue, but it wasn’t physically possible for me to hustle twice as hard as I was, or take on twice as many projects which is what I would need to do to get to that next level of income. I knew I didn’t want to build a design agency, so I had to find a new model.

I wanted to get out of web design and into social media/online marketing consulting. But web design had become a crutch for me – I had one client who paid me the equivalent of yearly salary at my last job! I knew that I wouldn’t be able to get myself out unless I made a fresh start. So I fired every last one of my clients so that I would be forced to make my new business work – and I did!

MO: How has your background and experience contributed to the development and success of LKR Social Media so far?

Laura:  My background is really being an entrepreneur! I quit my job and started working for myself full-time when I was just 22. I think the only way to get great at running a business is to practice, practice, practice so I’ve been able to get in a few years of that early. I actually feel that I’m lucky to never have learned bad habits from the corporate world. A lot of my clients are leery of the social web because of it’s informality – something they were taught was a big no-no in the business world. But as a small business I find that people want friendliness, they’re looking for likability.

I never learned the right way to do things so I figured out my own way instead. I had never had anyone under me at a job when I hired my first employee. But that’s really allowed me to innovate in my business, to forget about the rules and make my own.

MO: With the social media landscape changing daily, how does an entrepreneur decide how or where to start without becoming overwhelmed?

Laura:  Always start with your own website! So many entrepreneurs are so caught up worrying about the latest social media fads when they haven’t taken care of home base. If you have a website that you aren’t proud of, you NEED to fix it. That is priority number one. I don’t care how much money you spent on the one you have now! Prospects are coming to your site every single day and unfairly ruling you out before you even get a shot. So that’s definitely the place to start.

MO: What are the first things an entrepreneur should do or consider when putting together their social media strategy?

Laura: One important thing to think about is how can you leverage everything – your time, your content, your connections. Social media is a challenge for the small business owner because it can be a big time suck – but only if you don’t know the strategies to streamline it. For example, using HootSuite you can schedule out all of your status updates days, weeks or even months ahead of time. And you can post your new blog posts to all of your social networks automatically.

If you have a leveraged strategy from day one you’ll save yourself a lot of time. You should never create a piece of content without thinking about how you can re-use it, and keep drawing attention back to it.

MO: What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of being part of a completely virtual team?

Laura:  I LOVE working virtually! Everyone on my 6-person team works from their own home. Right now we have 3 on the US west coast, 2 on the US east coast, and I’m currently in the UK. We’ve also had people in the Philippines and Hawaii, and our designer’s in Rome so it can definitely be time zone madness!

The best part is definitely the freedom for everyone who works with me. They can be traveling, at Starbucks, in the car waiting for dance class to be over, and still able to get their work done. My company is very family-oriented and we believe that work should be just one enjoyable part of a bigger life. Working virtually really makes that happen.

I would say the biggest disadvantage is just not having the relationships that come from face-to-face time. We all meet up in person once a year, but it’s just a very different dynamic than being in an office together every day. I think you have to work a little harder at the social connections, although Facebook helps!

MO: What are some suggestions for ways that businesses can harness social media to attract, engage and retain customers?

Laura:  Blogging is a great place to start. A business blog is very different from a publication like this one. For a small business your blog exists to promote your business and connect with prospects – it does not need to be update every single day. There are so many local businesses that could be leveraging images – every hair salon out there should be posting images of their clients, and almost no one does! Just taking a snapshot with your cell phone of what’s going on at your business “counts” as a blog post, and is surprisingly effective. And then you can leverage it by posting it on your twitter account, and in a gallery on your business’s Facebook page.

Start at your own site/blog and build outwards. Create a regular schedule for blog posts (which again can be as simple as one image) then let people know about it! Send out email newsletters, tweet, Facebook, use whatever social networks your customers are using. Let people know what to look forward to, let them know how often you’ll be blogging and what your customers can expect to find.

Lastly, I think it’s really important to let your customers know YOU. We’re all craving that human connection, we want to know the person behind the business. Think of how it feels when you’re at a local restaurant and the chef comes over to say hi. That guy’s not a celebrity, but he sure feels like one to you! It’s so fun to meet the chef and it really makes you feel special. That’s how your customers feel about getting to know you. So let them get to know you.

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