Inbound Now #8 - Connecting with community & influencers online with Tamar Weinberg

This week’s show features Tamar Weinberg! Tamar is a big blogger contributing to sites like Lifehacker, Mashable, Search Engine Round table and of course her own blog at

She is also the author of The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web, she manages Community Support & Advertising at Mashable and is a social media consultant.

Click here for just the audio

In the show we talk about:

  • We will be diving into all things social media
  • Talking about some absolute truths about social media that some people overlook
  • and answering some questions submitted by fans!


David: Okay, everybody, welcome to Episode Number 8 of Inbound Now. I’m joined here with a very special guest, Tamar Weinberg. Tamar is a big blogger. She writes over at her own blog, She manages the community support and advertising over at She’s the author of “New Community:  Rules and Marketing on the Social Web” and she’s also a social media consultant. Thanks for coming on the show, Tamar.

Tamar: Thanks for having me.

David: I wanted to get you on the show to talk, you know, I want to dive really deep into some social media stuff that you write about on your blog. Then we have some fan questions that have been submitted through our Facebook fan page. I kind of want to shot those at you and see what your thoughts are.

Tamar: Sure.

David: If we have time, maybe see what’s looking, you know, some trends moving on into the future with social media, but we’ll see. All right, cool. Sound good?

Tamar: Sounds great.

David: All right. In the interviews on your blog, you explain that you’ve been practicing social media since the early ’90s. How did you get involved so soon and what social media are you talking about in the early ’90s?

Tamar: The interesting thing was when I was 12 years, I was offered either a party for my Bat Mitzvah or a computer. I kind of said I wanted a party and my parents said, “Well, you’re getting the computer.” I said okay. The first thing I did was just get it hooked up, and I discovered this whole called a modem. Online there were a number of different ways to communicate with individuals from chat rooms in AOL to bulletin board systems that were local to my library. When you call social media, the term has really been, it’s a relatively new term. But if you think about the fact that online engagement, in general, which for me was 1992, online engagement really started as soon as Internet, as computers were able to connect to each other through modems and other types of telecommunications, network, whatever, technology.

Back then, I mean, that was the first thing I did. I knew that when I was 12 years old when I started learning about AOL. I remember the first time I was ever in a chat room was like at 6:00 in the morning. I was getting ready for school. I was in the chat room with two people being 12 years old. One guy’s, like, I’m 50 and the other guy was in his 30s. I remember responding, 50, you’re so old! Like I didn’t know because I didn’t know how to interact with people that were different, like, you know, not different. They were not much different than my parents or whatever. The fact was that they were people that I don’t interact with regularly. I realized there was something really cool about that.

But the second guy, who was in his 30s, was the coolest thing ever because we were in this chat room, the three of us, at like 6:00 in the morning. This is when AOL had how many members, a couple a hundred thousand, a couple of thousand, if even that. The guy actually went to the same high school as me. We had the same teachers. I was like, whoa, this is cool. This is the way to communicate with people online. This is a way to communicate with people in a very different way.

From then on, I was pretty much hooked. I found like these online niche communities. I was a community manager in some of the communities there. Now, I’m here. I pretty much wanted to major in something IT or computer related based on the fact that I’ve had such a really powerful experience online back in the beginning of the ’90s.

David: Right. That’s cool how you made that connection with someone that you didn’t really have a connection with, and then with the 30 year old, it kind of ties back into the real world where you connect with people offline as well. Right?

Tamar: Yeah, it was really cool.

David: That’s pretty cool. That’s a neat little story. You started using social media there. What would you recommend to others kind of dipping their toe in the social media right now? Where should they start?

Tamar: Well, I think that it really depends on the communities that your service or product targets. So, for example, if you’re interested in a number of, like if you’re doing finance, for example, there are a number of niche financial websites out there. For example, like,, which is a social bookmarking site, but there’s also and it seems that, the Inc. 500 are actually finding that the best targets out there of their social media efforts are actually niche forums.

So you’re not just talking about social bookmarking. You’re not talking about Twitter and Facebook, which happen to be very powerful, and blogging as well. You’re talking about these really small forums that you can uncover that really, really help you hone down nichely and deeply into your subject matter. I think that it kind of depends on what you’re doing. Of course, you can think about the Twitter, the Facebooks, even Quora, but not so much because you don’t want to just go there and self-promote so regularly, but if you have that area of expertise, you can.

Just think about those areas where you can really target and narrow down to the service offerings, to the needs of people who are looking for your service. That’s definitely what I would definitely go there. I can’t really give a one size fits all answer because there just isn’t for any type of business.

David: That’s actually one of the questions I had later in the interview. In a post, you wrote “The Truths about Social Media.” You say that social media is more than just Facebook and Twitter, and you talk about how there are all of these niche communities out there where there are people that are really engaged in these smaller micro-communities and your company may want to be targeting instead of just blasting stuff out to Facebook and Twitter.

Tamar: Right, absolutely.

David: Cool, cool. Let’s see. Fan question number one comes from Mark Masson. He asks, “What social media tool do you view as a necessity for every marketer?”

Tamar: Well, I think that, it seems that the tools that have the critical mass, if you will, are the tools that people already know about. I would say for using social media and actually engaging regularly, I am a big fan of HootSuite. I am using a paid plan, but I do think that it’s just a great way to put all of my social media activities into one single dashboard or at least the main social media activities of Twitter and Facebook, that is in one social media dashboards where I can do the engagement, monitor the engagement, and perhaps the click-throughs, and really just have an opportunity of just putting so many accounts there.

But I would also add, and I’m a huge fan of this and it’s relatively new, it’s actually, I meant to answer this in one of these questions that I think you’re going to ask later, but I’m not using Outlook. I’m using Gmail, and Rapportive is, I think, one of these indispensable tools to really get to know the people that you’re dealing with through e-mail communication.

A lot of the work that I do is in e-mail. Just the regular, whether it’s just customer service or just relationship building with customers, whatever it possibly is, ad sales on the Mashable side, I want to know who I’m talking to. Rapportive is a really cool tool that gives you this sidebar view on your Gmail pane where usually some of the ads are, like the individual’s avatar, their location, city/state, their job descriptions. They pull it from Linkedin. They get their Facebook status updates, their Twitter status updates, and a variety of other social media network links; like schedule and their calendar, and so many other tools. I think it’s just so cool to be able to know a little bit more about people and what they’re passionate about because you can see their Twitter feed.

It’s also, and I got to say that it’s such a minor detail but I just would have never known, I’ve been e-mailing someone for about two or three years. I always thought this person was a guy. But when I installed Rapportive and I saw that the avatar was of a female, I was like holy, you know, whatever. That’s the kind of thing that Rapportive really helps you with. You think that you’re not going to advantage of this stuff, but you really are. I mean when you deal in a global capacity, where people have names that you would assume, oh, it sounds like it’s a female name but it’s totally not, that’s the kind of thing that Rapportive can really help you with especially because there’s just that geographic border/barrier dropping. It just makes it easier to connect with them.

David: Right.

Tamar: So I love that.

David: Cool. It sounds like it puts a lot of context around, it’s kind like a mini CRM, if you will, inside your e-mail.

Tamar: Yeah, it is. It absolutely is. That’s what they really are doing. It’s totally about customer relationship management.

David: That’s awesome. And is that free tool, or is it paid right now?

Tamar: It’s free. It’s absolutely free for now. I don’t know what they’re planning on doing, but they’re doing a great job of what they’ve got there. It’s cool.

David: I’m going to check that out for sure. Another question I had for you, you wrote another blog post, “Why Most People Fail at Social Media.” You mention that without an understanding of your community and an understanding of the influencers, you’re destined to fail. What exactly did you mean by this?

Tamar: I think that it’s really, really important not to just go out there and broadcast. A lot of people, I think, go to social media without a plan. They just say, oh, you know what, I’m going to go on Twitter right now and I’m just going to either start broadcasting, just sending messages, check my site out here at URL and not care about anything. Then when they realize that that doesn’t work, they’re like, well, you know what, I can use this @ sign, and I can go, oh, Tamar check this site out now and the URL. For me, I have no idea of who the heck they are, I’m just like, okay, not interested. That’s the kind of thing; they’re just going out there. They don’t understand who they’re trying to target. They don’t have any goals or targeting plan. They’re just kind of broadcasting.

But I think that for social media to really be effective, it’s about understanding who the types of people are that would actually be interested in your product and then building relationships around these communications. There’s a great example. A colleague of mine, Marty Winetrout, had made a blog post about how he had visited Florida once, the Keys in Florida. Then all of a sudden, somebody who was specializing in renting electric cars just started talking to him in south Florida. She’s, like, “I hope you’re having a great trip.” She just started talking to him regularly and trying to realize that because he said that he’s in the Keys in Florida and because she happens to specialize in products that are specific to south Florida, she really got out there. He was so enamored by her approach and how genuinely she was interested in him. Obviously, she had a goal here, because it was the marketing of her product, but it was a very powerful … they went out for dinner. They took it a lot more beyond just the, oh, let me just broadcast and go out there. You’re not going to.

No one’s going to click on that link. No one’s going to care if you’re going to start promoting like that. I’m not just talking about Twitter. I’m talking about forums. If you go to a forum and you just start doing, oh, check out this site. It’s like the equivalent of spam in your inbox. You’re not going to click on it. You’re going to report it as spam and maybe you’re going to ban the user from that social network if you’re an administrator. It’s really, really about going in there, giving of yourself, and then taking of others, I guess, if that’s the only way to put. [swspullquoteright] Come bearing gifts [/swspullquoteright] Come bearing gifts, and then, obviously, we’re all here for marketing purposes or I guess most of us. That just comes later.

David: Right. So it’s about building that relationship first and not just saying, “Hey, I’ve got something you can buy.” It’s actually helping them with something or giving them some useful information. Then further down on the line, “Hey, by the way, I have this for sale that you might be interested in. If not, that’s cool.” Right?

Tamar: Yeah, it’s really about trying to find the people who are interested in it. It’s really about understanding the people that you’re going to reach out to beforehand. When you have that relationship, typically you have that understanding. It really goes out. You can start promoting to all 180 million people on Twitter, but they’re not are interested. When you’re doing something like that, you really need to search for people who are looking for things that you’re interested in or maybe even your competitors, and saying, “Hey, you hate my competitor. Hey, I’m here too.” I mean take that, seize the day because you can.

David: Right. So what about on the influencer side of things? You wrote another post basically how to gain influencers attention. You reached out to a bunch of marketing influencers and got their opinions on it. What would be some tips to build that relationship and maybe get them on your side moving forward?

Tamar: I would say it’s a couple of things. First of all, go where they are in real life. Seriously, I’m going to say South by Southwest in blog world and maybe even CS. Those are the places where they’re always at. Find out where they are, if bloggers are having a blogger meet-up and those influencers that you want to reach out. Come to them and talk to them and don’t just come and kiss up to them, but just like build a relationship with them. Again, social media isn’t any different than relationship building. The in-person relationships are so extremely, extremely powerful. All of this stuff does take time to cultivate. It’s also about doing that as well as online.

When you’re talking about somebody who has millions of followers, it’s not just about … there's a lot of attention to them and from so many people. I mean, it’s dispersed. So how do they see you? Well, it’s about interacting. We’re talking about commenting on blog posts for example, maybe sending e-mail pictures that are really, really tied into their interests, maybe perhaps, either Twitter or Facebook. I mean, you have the opportunity to follow them so you can see. There are a lot of ways to do that, but it’s really something to be very careful of because you don’t want to just send somebody … an influencer like five months might say, “I absolutely hate chicken.” Then like six months later or five months later, you have this chicken special at your, I don’t know, this is completely made up. You’re just saying, “Oh, I have this chicken special. Come out.” It’s just like, “Wait a minute, you didn’t read that I hate …"

You’ve got to really, really read into them, and you’ve got to show that you know them beyond just the last blog post that they had. I think this a big problem when it comes to public relations where a lot of people just send out pictures. They say, because you’ve written about bingo, you might be interested in this online casino. But the site is like a social media site, because I’ve seen that happen. Actually a story that comes close to home, there’s a blog that had just talked about an online meme that had bingo in it. Some bingo site is like, well, you can blog on my site too. But no, it’s not about that. It’s about really, really reading and understanding what these blogs, what the site is about, who the influencer is and what they can promote, and how you can kind of inject yourself in there by also being sensitive to their wants and needs.

David: Right. So it’s aligning mutual interests together and actually doing your homework before sending out a form pitch or whatever.

Tamar: Yeah, absolutely, homework.

David: I thought it was interesting that you said meeting these influencers in person kind of solidifies that relationship you have been maybe trying to build online. I think you’re right. When you meet these people in person, it kind of just puts a body to an avatar and you can kind of connect in a deeper way in person.

Tamar: Absolutely.

David: Cool. So another social media truth that you mentioned, social media is a continuous effort and not something that’s only campaigned based. So you mean I can’t just do a Twitter contest for an iPad and be all set with my social media?

Tamar: Yeah, for the most part. I think that a lot of people do these contests, and then they’re just like follow us on Twitter and here’s a contest. Then their Twitter account is dead for like the next six months until they need to have another Twitter contest for brand awareness. That’s definitely not what you want to do. You want to actually have something where it’s ongoing. You might have that Twitter contest in the interim, but throughout you’re going promote perhaps your products and services. You’re also going, perhaps, offer customer service and show the people who are following you, because they are and that’s earned placement, that you deserve to be followed.

When I thought about that, I wasn’t really thinking necessarily about just the Twitter campaigns, but I’m talking about like the YouTube campaigns where, and I have a really, really interesting story where I worked with a client, a big retail chain. They had a video, a viral video that they wanted to promote and it was a YouTube video. Part of what I was tasked with doing was with blogger outreach. I went to a number of bloggers and I said, “Hey, guys check this out.” A lot of people were like, “Oh, this is really cool. Let me share it.” Some of them were like, “Oh, I don’t care,” whatever.

Then a few other people were like, “This is really, really cool. Where’s their Twitter feed? Where’s their Facebook feed? I would like to point to other online properties.” I was like, “Hmm, I don’t really know.” After that video campaign was over, that was it. I found one Twitter account. It was supposed to be for internal use. It was talking about how the trucks were leaving the facility. That’s not something you would want to send to a consumer. I think that’s really, really important to understand that social media is not something that, you know, it stops after people stop watching the video because this brand awareness thing is supposed to continue forever. I think companies are really starting to understand that, but some of them just don’t get it yet.

David: Right. I would totally agree. I just see one-off campaigns and then their [inaudible 18:25] is dead forever. It’s like, okay, good try, but you’ve got to be in there all the time. It’s really a full-time position at a lot of these companies, and they’re starting to realize that but we’ll see. Cool.

In another one you say social media is social. This seems, oh, yeah, of course it is, but a lot of people just use Twitter and Facebook to broadcast their blog and what have you, right? Speaking of your blog, it’s pretty popular. You get a lot of retweets and a lot of comments. You say that writing a blog post doesn’t end after you hit publish, but you actually have to market that blog. How do you go about doing that?

Tamar: Well, it’s sort of the same thing about new influencer outreach. It’s all about not just going and hitting publish. It’s about talking to the people who would be interested in your blog, in your niche. Whether or not it’s specifically about reaching out to those influencers by commenting on their blog and saying, well, you know what, I really appreciate linking to your name, doing stuff like that. Or saying, you know, I wrote about it here, but not doing that obsessively where every single blog post you have is a response. I think it’s really, really important to … right now there’s so much content out there that there’s just no way for everybody to discover everything at all. It’s not just about the publishing process but the marketing process.

Again, it’s about broadcasting it, but also networking, not just broadcast but building those networks with the right people who would be interested in promoting your content. I mean, this could be not just dealing with the people directly and going out to every single blogger that you’re interested in commenting. But it’s also about submitting it to those social sites that would be of interest or finding, using like Yahoo Answers to have to say, “I have an answer right here.” You know, the types of things that you could do where it’s not just about direct one-on-one, because that’s a very arduous process but that’s something that you kind of need to do when you have an industry with so many people kind of vying for the same type of visibility. Yeah, just trying to think about the places where people are already seeking out your answers and promoting that there as well.

David: Okay, cool. Have you seen this being down in Quora at all? You mentioned the ambiance is kind of similar.

Tamar: I’m thinking about it, and you know, there was something I wanted to say. I haven’t seen it so much because I see that, you know, the answers on Quora are essentially like blog posts in themselves. I feel like the questions on Quora are so specific that you end up … I mean, people could say, well, I’m taking my comments in my blog. But eventually it’s really about keeping the conversation on Quora. I don’t see many people bringing that conversation to Quora or taking it away. I think that the conversation still seems to happen on that site.

David: True. I’m still on the fence about it. We’ll see where it goes. But, yeah, I definitely agree with you. It’s about building those relationships with other bloggers and commenting and subscribing to their blog and sharing their stuff. That’s ultimately going to get you more inbound links visibility and comments on your own blog. It’s not just about publishing it and they will come, because, like you said, there’s a lot of content out there.

Cool. Another fan question from Alexa Hudson, she asks, What is your fave blogging site – I guess that’s favorite – and what do you consider to be the absolute thing you need to know before you start blogging? I guess this is a two part question.

Tamar: Yeah, sure. I love WordPress. I mean, I have it. I have like 13 installations and probably more, like a couple of dozen installations of WordPress across a variety of other sites that I own. I think that it’s just such versatile tool with so many plug-ins. It’s much easier to manage than Movable Type, in my experience because Movable Type requires you to install stuff into different directories and sometimes they don’t work. But I digress. WordPress is really, really cool. There’s so much customization there, plug-ins, and just the themes that are available and I’m really, really a fan of that.

As far as blogging, what you need to think about before you start, it’s all about bringing all of what I said together that once you publish content that’s not the end of the day. You’ve got to promote it. Search engines aren’t even going to find you unless there are links coming to your site. They’ll probably eventually find you, but you’ve really got to do some inbound linking. It’s all about understanding, when you’re blogging, that this is something that … I say that the most successful bloggers are committed to it from the start.

I see a lot of people who say, “I started my blog six months ago and I gave up because nobody’s giving me traffic and nothing’s happening.” It’s not an overnight process, and it’s a difficult process. It’s something that, I mean, if you can commit to one a post week for a long time and you can also commit to marketing your content, you would do well. But I see so many people, like, they’re so excited. They come out with like five posts in one day, and then they come out with four the next day. For the first week, they have like 20 posts. Then they’re like, “Wait a minute. I don’t have anymore content to write.”

Set yourself up with an editorial calendar. Set yourself up with a way to market yourself. Really kind of give yourself the knowledge, arm yourself with the understanding that this is something that you’re going to need to do for success for the long haul. If you’re a one-man shop, that might be very difficult. If you’re not, you can enlist in some staff members. You can get some out. Even if you’re a one-man shop, you can bring in people from the outside to promote you and to write for you. There are totally things that you can do there. I really would say that that’s the way I would go for that.

David: Right. You can pull in bloggers and what have you there. But, yeah, I think you’re dead on. It’s about keeping up with that content. I see a lot of blogs just die after they have that sprint of ten posts and then like, wow, this is hard. I had Chris Brogan on two shows ago, and he said that it took him eight years to get more than 100 subscribers to his blog. What about you with your blog? How long did it kind of take you to build that up?

Tamar: You know, it’s funny because I remember meeting Chris Brogan, and this is a story I told my friend who reminded me of it because I completely forget. You Chris Brogan was starting to get kind of big in the end of 2008. No one really knew about him then, and I don’t want to insult my friend, so I’m not saying anything. I was at South by Southwest in, was it in 2008 or 2009, yeah, it was South by Southwest, I think, 2009. I remember seeing him in the blogger lounge and I’m like, “Oh, my god, that’s Chris Brogan.” The guy I was with who’s relatively known and now knows Chris Brogan pretty well, he’s like, “Who?”

It’s the kind of thing that people aren’t going to know you in the beginning, but it’s all about really dedicating yourself to doing that. As for me, I don’t really know where … I wasn’t really focused on subscriber numbers at all in the beginning. It was just kind of building on my passion. I remember, though, it might have taken about a year or so to hit. It wasn’t eight years because I was kind of just blogging religiously and going to those networking events.

For me, my background was in research and marketing, so I went to, like, you know, the SMX and SEX and PubCon and all those conferences and really building up the relationships there. I think that that helped a ton. There wasn’t really, Twitter and Facebook weren’t around when I was kind of doing that. Yeah, it was really kind of … it took some time. I think that it might have been one or two years to hit 2,000 subscribers, and now I’m like in my sixth year or so. It takes some time.

Right now, I’m not, like I’m not blogging as regularly as I used to. I’ve contributed to a lot of the sites like Lifehacker and Search Engine Roundtable. Those are sites that I had previously contributed to, which I think also helped. Having visibility on those major blog sites helps drive subscribers to your site, which is actually something I would recommend you doing if you do have the know-how to expand outside your niche or even just expand your knowledge beyond your site. It did take some time, and it’s a long grueling process. Right now, I have like 12,000 subscribers, which, if you think about it, in five years, I’ve made like 10,000. Again, it’s the dedication you need. If I was blogging twice a week, I would have more than double, but I just don’t. So it’s something to think about.

David: Right. And I think what you touched on just there, if your blog isn’t that established, reaching out and guest hosting for sites that are established in your industry or niche or whatever, it’s a great way to kind of gain instant credibility if you will and drive traffic to your own blog. I think that’s a key point there. What are some of your favorite blogs for keeping up with the social media space?

Tamar: I think that there are a lot of sites that’s just for the Internet marketing space all together. I can’t really be … this is not going to be a comprehensive list, and I’m probably going to leave people out unintentionally. I would say that I like Search Engine Land, which is more, it’s cohesive of social media but it’s also like the SEO, pay-per-click. I like their sister bookmarking site, Yes, that is a play on words. It’s sort of like submissions from a variety of social media sites or social, whatever, not social media sites but search engine marketing sites including social media. You can get a lot of like the highly voted upon content on the front page. That’s good stuff. So I could find content that I might not have previously discovered.

I am a fan of Social Media Explorer, Jason Falls’ website. We’re also colleagues. We are currently working together also with DJ Waldow and Nick Huhn. We’re building up a one-on-one social media class called “Exploring Social Media,” powered by Bloomfire. So it’s We’re doing that and providing really good social media content. I would say that that’s one of those favorite sites for social media beginner type of work.

Let me think. PR-Squared, I think it’s more public relations than social media, but Todd Defren writes some really good stuff. Brian Solis writes really good stuff. Chris Brogan I would definitely say. Seth Godin. Seth Godin is one of those marketer guys who just has a gem of good thoughts all the time.

David: I don’t know. He comes out with like a new post every day. It’s not long. It’s like  a paragraph, but it’s just like so succinct and it’s just like, wow.

Tamar: Yeah, and you’re like wait a minute, I didn’t think about that or maybe you just reiterated something that I really needed to know. I like that those little snippets can really change your outlook on things, which is nice. The Future Buzz, Adam Singer writes some good stuff as well. He considers himself not a social media guy but a digital marketing guy, so I need to make that clear. Brass Tack Thinking, Amber and Tamsen, they have some really good stuff as well.

David: I’m trying to get Amber on the show. She just launched her new book, so I’m trying to get her on.

Tamar: Yeah, she’s pretty busy, but that’s perfect for her. I would be remiss without mentioning Mashable, having been with Mashable since 2007, I would say that … I remember we’re just promoting so many amazing little toolbox posts. A hundred tools for doing audio online. We gone from really providing these little snippets of data to like really, really deep analysis posts, some amazing stuff. We’ve got a staff of over 30 people working for us full-time. I would say that just seeing how we’ve grown, it’s been really, really crazy and an amazing experience. I’m really proud of how we’ve done that at Mashable.

David: Yeah. I’m a big fan of Mashable. I’ve been reading it for a long time. I actually met Pete at South by Southwest last year and that was pretty cool.

Tamar: Are you headed there this year?

David: I’m not. Unfortunately, I’m not. I wish I was. I did not get my ticket in time.

Tamar: Oh, man, well, you totally … I don’t think it’s too late. I think people are still booking, so if you’re there, look for me.

David: Totally. Where can people find you online?

Tamar: You can find me online at Tamar on Twitter. Facebook you can, there I have a pull-up page,, that’s my main site. You can find some stuff but not so much from Mashable, and there’s also my Facebook page for the New Community Rules, so just I guess that’s pretty much it.

David: Cool. Well, Tamar, thanks for coming on the show. I appreciate all the insights about social media. I thought it was really good. We hope to get you back sometime.

Tamar: Yeah, thank you for having me, again.

David: Thank you.