Amanda O’Brien on social media, business, and the camaraderie of Mainers

This is the fourth in my series of interviews with folks who will be speaking at the BDN What’s Next Conference. Last week I spoke with Spose and Anthony Ronzio, and the week before that I chatted with Patrick Roche of Think Tank.

Amanda manages Hall Internet Marketing‘s marketing department and is responsible for marketing services, including marketing strategy, implementation, fulfillment, training, and validation for corporate clients. Amanda is also the organizer of Social Media Breakfast Maine, which is the context in which I know her. When the event started a handful of people were gathering monthly to share their experiences using social media in conjunction with their projects or businesses. Over the course of the past couple of years Amanda and her team have turned the event into an event that features big name speakers and draws over 100 attendees every month. 

Amanda and I discussed what she is most excited about with regard to what is happening in Maine right now, and how pictures of sunsets can unexpectedly trump hours of planning and strategy.

You are on the Social media, marketing, personal branding, and crowd-sourcing panel with Spose, who I interviewed last week. In our interview he had suggested that the million dollar question is about how to get anything more than a handful of minutes of attention on the age of social media. This is such a weird and difficult dragon to chase, this opportunity to become more than a small blip on a massive radar.

A lot of people are doing things like creating content calendars, where they commit to posting 3 – 7 times a week and are posting things just to post things. I had a conversation with someone this week and we were talking about how you build all this content for a client or for your own project and then it is just a spur of the moment thing that will take off. That’s what social media is supposed to be about, but how do you plan for that?

I was recently talking with Nathan O’Leary, who does the Downtown Portland Facebook page. He has all this content mapped out but the other night there was this really nice sunset and he took a picture of it from his office and he posted that. Hundreds of people shared it and thousands of people saw it. You know, we spend hours every week trying to come up with content and the one thing that wasn’t even thought much about turned out to be one of the biggest things they have ever done.

Right, it is important to remember that this isn’t always an exact science, and that it is sometimes simply about being in a particular moment.

We have taken these tools and tried to make a formula, but it is really about how you can take content that evokes an emotional response so that they pass it along for you, not because you asked them to. That sunset over the Portland Old Port is an emotional thing. It is beautiful and they want to share it. We have taken these cool tools and over-commercialized them.

What are you most excited about regarding what’s happening in your arena right now?

I always default to my love for the power behind these tools for any size of business. Small businesses can keep up with bigger businesses, sometimes even a little bit more because they can be agile and responsive versus larger businesses, which have to plan out their content and get it approved by all of these layers of people or something like that. I have always liked that about the relationship between social media and small businesses, which is primarily what we are dealing with in Maine.

I talked with [BDN Director of News and New Media] Anthony Ronzio about journalism and the conference itself. He said that Maine isn’t necessarily always the best at convening people to discuss where the state in particular is going. He said, though, that one of the groups at the forefront of doing this is Social Media Breakfast. You have been at the helm of the Portland, Maine Social Media Breakfast pretty much from the beginning. From putting those together, what have you learned to be unique about what is going on in Maine as opposed to outside of the state?

The bond of Mainers is unique. Thin about how if you are outside of the state and see someone with a Maine t-shirt, don’t you attack that person and ask, “Who do you know? Where have you been?” I think there is that sort of camaraderie about living in this state. I will have great speakers come to these events from all over the country, sometimes all the way from the West Coast, and the biggest feedback I get comes in about other local businesses. It was great that we had Chris Brogan and speakers of that size and knowledge are great, but people are excited to hear from other people doing business in Maine are doing.

The September breakfast will be our 50th event. We have done one every single month and so that is a lot of content and people. What was happening at the beginning is that people were so nervous about these tools and technologies that they thought they needed someone fancy to come in and do them. What was a breaking point for me was hearing that someone had told them that they could come in and set up their company Facebook page for $5,000 and at the time people thought that they needed this sort of thing but they were getting taken advantage of. So I wanted to work on this thing that brought neighbors together who could share with each other what they were trying and what was and was not working. These are the events that people have really gravitated towards. Our community has really responded to hearing about what Don Kleiner from Maine Professional Guides Association is doing, what Rich Brooks is doing, or when Julie Bernier of Dances With Dogs came in and said that she didn’t know how to use Twitter. That was so comforting to everyone in the room because they are there to work through these things and to learn too. As something new comes  up, we will try to work it into the mix.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I am excited but I am nervous because our session is the last one in the day. We will be standing between people and the happy hour networking thing.

You should bring nips to hand out to people in the interim.

It should be a lot of fun.

Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.