Pop Quiz, Monday with Jami Beaton Eidsvold, Founder & CEO at Smarty Social Media

Photo credit: Jami Beaton Eidsvold
The Pop Quiz, Monday is a fun little exam that we love to give to savvy business owners. The examination is not a surprise after all since the interviewee already knew about the questions in advance. However, we can always pretend and have fun with the scenario of a young entrepreneur sitting in class nervously biting on their pencil. They are ready to take a pop quiz on a chapter that they were supposed to read the night before. Instead, they played Metroid all night on their SNES (Oops, this was me in high school). The real purpose of the pop quiz is that this is a fun way to introduce business tips from real-world experiences that you can not learn in a classroom. We want to thank our entrepreneur for being a good sport and volunteering their time to answer a few questions to help our community grow from their knowledge.

I want to introduce you to our guest today who will be taking our Pop Quiz Monday.

Can you please tell everyone your name?

Jami Beaton Eidsvold

What is your job role?

Founder & CEO at Smarty Social Media

Tell us about your company?

In 2013, I walked away from my professional consulting career in public relations to explore what I saw as the future: social media and influencer marketing. I launched Smarty Social Media to fill a gap in the market and built a small strategic team of consultants with social-first skills and specialties. So many agencies at the time claimed to do social, but very few had social as a core, in-house competency from strategy to execution. Five years and countless client engagements and campaigns later, Smarty has grown to include more than 30 full-time employees and consultants across the globe and is one of the leading social agencies in Orange County, California. We pride ourselves on delivering smart, social solutions to our clients via a service offering that spans social strategy & planning, content creation, video production, community management, social customer service, influencer marketing, social advertising campaigns, and analytics.

What do you love most about your job?

That I am learning something new every single day. Social media is forever changing: platforms change, algorithms change, rules change, and what might have worked well even a week ago might not work now, so we have to learn, re-learn, and optimize along the way constantly. No client gets the same old cookie-cutter plan; we stay focused on the business objectives at all times and are willing to change and evolve quickly to prove that what we are doing continues to push the needle. I never know what challenge I am going to wake up to on any given day and I love that.

What motivates you to get up every day and go to work?

The people I work with! Our team comprises some of the most passionate and smart people who work hard because they believe strongly in our mission. The culture we have sought to create puts the team at the heart of everything we do and, as the leader, my job is to protect and nurture the team. I start almost every day at 4:30 am, and it’s never a struggle to pull myself out of bed because I know that if I don’t get everyone what they need before their day starts, then it impacts their ability to do their job and feel empowered to move things forward. So I use that time to respond to emails, review plans and creative, help a manager solve a problem, look at campaign metrics, and push the team to think through optimizations. I learn so much from each person on the team, and no matter how big or small their role, they are the reason why our agency has been successful over the years. I wake up each day and give it my all for them.

How do your co-workers inspire you?

We produce and deliver an incredible amount of work every week. We don’t have downtime because we are always operating at 110 percent, and what amazes me is that each person on this team is continually wondering, “What else could we do?” They’ll call me late at night with a crazy idea that popped into their head or about something that one of our clients should try, and they offer up help to one another even though they have deadlines of their own. Each person brings passion and commitment when it comes to even the smallest tasks. No one wants to do the bare minimum; we all strive for excellence. And when you watch your co-workers do that, day in and day out, it’s inspiring.

How do you have fun at work (team building, pranks, etc..)?

Our philosophy is definitely to work hard, play hard. If you spent one day in our office, you most definitely would hear quite a bit of laughter at any given time, especially when we’re strategizing or problem-solving on the whiteboard. The work we do is not easy; we are always solving problems, and one way to make sure we don’t take ourselves or our jobs too seriously is to find the humor in the situation, no matter how tough, so we laugh — and laugh hard. Our Slack channels almost always have some funny meme or thought of the day. We aren’t afraid to make fun of ourselves to get a good laugh. Also, face-to-face team-building time is super important since some of our team works virtual, so getting the team together to have some fun on a regular basis can help everyone unwind.

What are some of the challenges of your job?

I think the two most challenging parts of my job are managing people and managing client expectations. When I started this agency, I never imagined all the details involved in managing people. There are different personalities to manage on a big, diverse team. People are motivated; differently, they communicate differently, and feedback is vital in keeping employees happy and engaged. I am a workhorse — I love to roll up my sleeves and dig in, so my most significant learning over the last five years is that a team, most importantly, needs a leader first. So I make the time to manage and protect the people on this team to help them succeed. Sometimes that means letting go and trusting in them, sometimes it means letting them take a risk and find their success, sometimes it means letting them make mistakes and then helping them learn and grow from it, and that is hard to do!

The second challenge is managing client expectations. We always want our clients to be happy, so we regularly go above and beyond what is in our “scope” to do. We think of ourselves as extensions of our client teams and view our relationships as true partnerships. This can be challenging when you set these kinds of expectations with your clients because, to protect the team, you may have to push back, and that is not the easiest thing. Expectations in this industry are high as well; some clients believe that social is a magic thing you turn on and it runs. It takes a lot of education to help them understand all the pieces that are needed to succeed, and sometimes that means allowing enough time and energy to set up for success. We are continually looking for ways to prove ROI and demonstrate the value of this channel, so it’s often easy to give more than what we should. Part of our role as agency partners is to remember to take the time to educate our clients about the process, to push back when we know better, and to ensure we are set up to do our best work.

What are some lessons learned from a past project that you can share with us?

I think the key to running any good project is twofold — it requires both process and communication. Whenever something goes wrong, you can almost always bet that there was either a break in the process or a break in communication. Over the years, we have been continuously evolving our project management process and looking for ways to improve communication. It’s still a work in progress, and we are not afraid to change something the second it no longer works, which helps us be more agile.

The first lesson in the process is to ensure that you take the time to map out where you are going. The biggest mistakes occurred when we weren’t able to first look at the big picture and map everything out. Drafting overview documents for a project is a great way to be sure you have thought it all through and can communicate the purpose of the project to anyone working on it and what their role will be. Mapping out timelines and tasks for team members is also essential; for that, we use a project management tool called Asana so that all the relevant documents and communications can travel along with the project, and at any given time, we can determine how the project is tracking. What I have learned is that taking more time up front can save a ton of time on the back end. No matter how tight the deadline, make sure to take the time to map out the process.

The second lesson is the importance of good communication. First, with the client, we set up the project and work out expectations. Having a housed document for status updates is vital for accountability on both sides. Our team uses Google Docs for almost everything we do so that documents can be accessed online at any time, and it also allows for easy collaboration. If the client has any questions, the status doc is at their fingertips, and this saves a call or email. And when delivering work to the client, clearly communicating what actions need to be taken on their part is key for successfully moving a project forward.

Internal team communication is next. One thing that can sideline a project is when the team members touching it are unclear about the project’s purpose or what their role is. Setting up clear and complete briefs is integral, as well as communicating timelines and deliverables early so that people can plan their workload. For us, all client notes and feedback are shared in Asana, and daily communication is handled on Slack. Although our team runs virtual, we are always connected via Slack and can quickly get input, ask questions, or give team members a heads-up. It’s a vital tool for us, but when things get tough or complicated, there sometimes is nothing better than a phone call.

What advice would you give to someone who is starting in your industry?

Learn as much as you can about the industry in the most unconventional ways. Because social changes so rapidly, having a traditional education and even certifications on your resumé may be perceived as secondary compared to having hands-on experience. The best way to learn it is to do it. Set up dummy social media platforms and test and learn or offer to do it for a friend or family member’s small business for a while. Then make a case study to share what you learned. Listen to podcasts, participate in webinars, and absorb as much as you can from people who are doing it well, and then figure out how to do it better. While it’s highly competitive out there, it is still really hard to find true social media professionals who live and breathe the channels. Become an expert in a specific platform or specialty because agencies and companies are continually looking for people like that to fill a hole on a team or a project. Social media managers or strategists can be a dime a dozen, but someone who has mastered specific skills is priceless.

Thank you for taking our pop quiz today. You get an A+ for effort. You can learn more about our interviewee and their business by visiting them on the web:

http://www.smartysocialmedia.com
https://www.instagram.com/smartysocialmedia/
https://www.facebook.com/smartysocialmedia 
https://twitter.com/Smarty_SM
https://www.linkedin.com/company/smarty-social-media/