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December 06, 2009


olivier blanchard

My answer is simple: At gunpoint.

I was kidnapped by social media revolutionaries during a trip to buzznet.com (a small e-nation state that emerged out of the fall of the Y2K wall). After a few weeks of indoctrination, I was dragged into their guerrilla war against traditional command-and-control internet practices. They introduced me to the revolutionary teachings of Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell, Peter Drucker, Tom Asacker and Tom Peters. Next thing I know, I was reading Fast Company, launching blogs left and right, having conversations with fellow revolutionaries around the world... building clandestine marketing ideology networks with fellow Australian, New Zealander, European, South American and Asian comrades.

I never completely abandoned my corporate roots - All of those years of management training and experience developing products, managing marketing projects, doing market research, growing businesses, working with everyone from CEOs to the greenest salespeople and customer service reps, but in spite of all that "traditional" experience, I couldn't help but incorporate the use of Social Media in just about everything I did, from growing communities and helping employers and clients better connect with customers to connecting with more revolutionaries.

That's how it all started, for me.


aliza sherman

Olivier - you are hilarious! I actually thought you were at first teasing me about my story of why I started my first internet company in Jan '95.

I was held up at gunpoint and kidnapped. No, seriously. By 3 gunmen. I was with my boyfriend at the time, and they approached us at his apartment building doorstep brandishing guns. They took us against our will to an ATM machine - this all happening at 1 a.m. on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

We managed to escape unharmed (later learning they had shot a young man a few blocks away before holding us up). I fled NYC for a month. It was then that I took a 1 hour course on HTML for $10.

Armed with new knowledge about building on the Internet (prior to that I was just marketing and communicating w/o skills to technically build), I started my first company - an Internet company Cybergrrl, Inc.

I half-joke that after staring down the barrel of a 9mm gun, starting a business was a piece of cake!

Diane Brooks

Hi Aliza, I appreciate your perspective. I am a Realtor who is integrating Social Media into all of the corners of my business. I am enjoying the opportunity to talk with people about real estate around the world and to more importantly be a whole person, not just a Realtor.

It is gratifying to express who I really am rather than revealing just a professional side.

Social Media has re-energized me. It is wonderful to have so many new avenues to learn and grow!

Olivier Blanchard


I can't beat that.

Tery Spataro

Aliza - I'm so glad you wrote this post. To add you actually helped pave the road to social media by the work you've done in the early days. The tools we had back then were limited. You built trust and credibility with you clients and your community. That should be the outcome of social strategy. Trust is usually built by doing.

Social media merely provides the tools for communicating, but you are the living proof of social strategy.


Hi Aliza, thanks for this post which I found after reading through the ISMA post which is still going fast and furiously over on Olivier's blog.

I think it's so true that all of us will have taken quite different paths to get to the point of being consultants on social media and I'm fascinated to read everyone's stories.

For me, I got a couple of art history degrees, taught marketing to Fine Art students in London (best job ever, worst pay ever), then worked in mar/com for a big financial services company. When they went through a demutualisation and merger that lasted two years +, I was part of the PR/communications team in charge of setting up an intranet forum specifically for helping them communicate internally about what was happening. From there I worked for a small professional membership association for several years as COO, started blogging about association management, technology, social media, and strategy.

I met my now business partner online, Lindy Dreyer, a fellow association industry blogger on association marketing and social media, and we were asked to help provide social media strategy to associations. We looked at each other and said, "could we make a living doing this thing that we love?" and SocialFish was born.

We've always written from the very beginning about how social media touches everything, every part of business management and business intelligence, and we're quite happy in our little association niche to be able to prove that we know how this very quirky industry works and the very real challenges they face in terms of the economy, in terms of being slow to innovate for fear of disrespecting "history", in terms of having a membership base but not necessarily knowing how best to help them engage with the organization (or with each other) online, in terms of bridging the digital divide...

So our focus is very much on mission-driven social media for building community. I find it really fascinating now that as the social media sphere is starting to mature (a little bit) there are really different ways of analyzing it all. Can't wait to see how others got into it and what their focus areas are.

Jason Baer

Fun post, and it points out an important factor, which is that NOBODY is social media pure. Everyone came to it from somewhere else, which is why there's so many different ideas and tentacles floating around.

For me:

PR Professional - 1 year
Political Campaign Consultant - 1 year
Fortune 30 Corporate Marketer - 2 years
Spokesman for Government Agency - 1 year
Partner in early Web development/hosting co - 1 year
VP at venture-funded VOIP startup - 1 year
Owner of online marketing agencies - 9 years
Co-manager of integrated marketing agency - 2 years
Owner of social media strategy firm - 2 years

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