Image above: Oakland Mayor Jean Quan proclaiming July 17th as Oakland Social Media Day. Left to right: James Fong (ODALC) Board Secretary, Shaun Tai (ODALC) Executive Director, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Karen Rice, Linda Poeng (ODALC) Vice President & Treasurer.

Writer’s Note: This interview is part of a new series that will feature insights from Constant Contact’s team of local educators. Each month, we’ll feature a short interview focused on their experiences and timely topics.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Karen Rice, Constant Contact’s Regional Development Director for Northern California and Nevada. As one of the company’s RDDs, Karen is charged with teaching small businesses and nonprofits across her territory online marketing best practices. She has educated more than 10,000 small businesses on behalf of the company since joining the team in 2011.

During our conversation, we discussed what a day in the life is like as one of Constant Contact’s local educators. We also talked about some tips and insights she wanted to share with small businesses, based on her experience in the field. The transcript of our interview follows.

What does a day in the life look like for you as one of Constant Contact’s RDDs?

RDDs wear many hats and our days vary widely. When I have an event, I make sure to have my presentation tailored to the audience and my guest information prepared for the start of the event. I often travel to events, so I need to plan in advance. I leave extra time allowing for traffic and/or unexpected happenings because one time, my new car wouldn’t start (faulty battery), and the auto club couldn’t get to me for at least an hour. I had to quickly call a rental agency that would pick me up. Luckily, I made it just in time for the event. I usually arrive an hour before the start of every event to properly set up and test AV. Then, the fun part — the presentation! I always stay afterward to meet attendees and answer questions, which is always interesting (when we get customer feedback) and enjoyable.

On non-event days, I focus on connecting with partners or potential partners to foster relationships. I also work with my team of Authorized Local Educators to help them do the same in their local areas. I plan my event calendar for the next quarter or two quarters out and coordinate efforts with my team so that we don’t overlap or miss areas. We always want to offer a variety of presentation topics for our attendees. I also organize all of my event promotions and social media posts, answer to any comments, and respond to feedback.”

What is your favorite part of the job?

There are so many things, but the best part is when someone in the audience at one of my events lights up with an “ah ha” moment. That’s when you know you’ve imparted great information, resources, or inspiration. It’s the most rewarding, inspiring, and motivating part of the job!”

You participated in a major social media event earlier this week, hosted by the City of Oakland. Any insights that you’d like to share, based on your experience at that event?

In general, especially for new businesses, social media is overwhelming and scary. Marketing is not in their wheelhouse and online marketing is “new” and rapidly changing, especially social media. Figuring out how to start is a huge barrier, which is why avoidance is popular. So many people want help. Our local educational program helps guide them along the path to marketing success. Other people might be looking for a bit more help to get off the ground and may ultimately decide to bring in someone to do their marketing for them. The common denominator is that while online marketing may be a mystery, they are committed to figuring it out and using it effectively to market and grow their business.”

What advice would you offer a small business looking to get started with social media?

Start small. You don’t have to jump in and do it all at one time. Be sure to take “ownership of your domain and name” on all the major social media sites. That way you’ll own it and have it ready when you want to add a new platform into the mix. Also, remember that social media works best when used in tandem with email. Email is truly “gold” for a small business. Your email contacts have expressed interest in staying in touch with your business and that is very powerful. People want to do business with those that they have relationships with. Growing your list = business growth. Pair email with one or two social platforms — the channels that work for you — and you will expand your reach and your business one step at a time.”

Any other marketing tips that you’d offer small businesses looking to build their business over the summer in preparation for the fall busy season?

Many small businesses are only planning as far ahead as their next marketing campaign, but businesses need to be more strategic than that. For example, now is the time to start planning for holiday promotions and messaging. In a perfect world, it’s best to create a marketing plan for the entire year, but if that is too overwhelming, planning for the quarter ahead is a good start. You should try to think further ahead for known business cycle events like holidays. Calendar your email and promotions so that you have a well-timed series of campaigns, and when it comes time to execute the plan, you’re already prepared.”

Check out more photos of Oakland’s Social Media Day.

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