Written by Corinne Garcia Wednesday, October 12 2011
Snapshot: Laura Roeder
As a web designer, entrepreneur Laura Roeder, 27, found herself coaching her clients in social media to help them promote their websites. For her it was nothing more than a fun hobby, and one that was clearly helping them generate business. Today, her Los Angeles-based business focuses solely on social media marketing, with online training videos designed for businesses to create an effective social media presence.
Womenetics: How did you become a social media expert?
Laura Roeder: I started a business in web design, making websites for local companies. With an advertising and marketing background from school, I would often talk to clients about how to drive traffic to their sites, and the marketing was always interesting to me. As it evolved, social media started becoming a business. People kept telling me I could make money doing this, and it sounded like so much fun to get paid for helping people with their social media marketing.
Womenetics: What inspired you to open an online training company as opposed to a brick-and-mortar business?
Roeder: When I was doing web design, I found there was a clear ceiling to my business. I could only charge so much, and it was clear to me that I didn’t want to build an agency. I could either charge more or do more sites, but I could only do so many. I knew that in building the next business, I was going to figure out how to build it without a cap. Building it online was the answer.
In any sort of service business, people call it trading hours for dollars. At the end of the day, each of us only has so many hours. Meeting people locally, I’m going to get a full schedule pretty fast. My model now is scalable consulting. I make a video once, and people are able to buy it and watch it over and over. And instead of saying it over and over, I’m saying it once and getting it out to help the most people.
Womenetics: There are quite a few social media experts out there these days. What sets you and your company apart?
Roeder: We don’t have a specific vertical. The businesses that tend to do well are very small one-man operations or up to five people. Most clients are very small businesses and businesses that are based on relationships. That should be all business really, but it means companies who recognize that relationships are the core of marketing. Social media is a way to talk and communicate with people, and your business is built on that.
Womenetics: Why does this benefit the smaller businesses so much?
Roeder: Smaller businesses don’t have a big marketing budget. They usually have a very small amount to spend on advertising. So with this, they can learn how to jump into marketing their business for free and communicate with their customers. It’s really valuable to a small business with a low budget.
Womenetics: How do people access your training?
Roeder: It’s all online. We don’t ship DVDs; they’d be of date once they shipped. It’s just like buying online books; you buy Facebook or Twitter training and have lifetime access.
Womenetics: What are your plans for expansion to stay current in the social media marketplace?
Roeder: The next plan is to make sure we have training available on all major social media platforms. Google + is the one that people ask about constantly. I don’t think people should stress out about that one because you can’t even sign up for it yet without an invitation. But the next step for us is to build out easy-to-understand training about all platforms.
We do update our training all the time, and surprisingly a lot of people don’t. That alone is a constant battle, to keep everything updated with websites consistently changing their interface.
Womenetics: What social media platforms should businesses definitely be on?
Roeder: I always start with a disclaimer that I don’t think you have to be on any social networks if your customers aren’t on social media. For instance, if your customers are senior citizens, they’re probably not on Facebook. But Facebook is the biggest one, with the most mass-market use. Twitter is big. Linked In and YouTube are big ones.
Small businesses don’t have to keep up on every new social media platform. When they start talking about it on local news, it’s probably mainstream. But you don’t need to be super cutting edge; you need to be where your clients are.
People laugh about MySpace, but still a lot of musicians and very young people use it, so if those are you demographics, then, yes, you want to be talking to people there.
Womenetics: How do you keep up personally on all that’s out there?
Roeder: It’s just my life; I’m so active on social media. Everything I teach has been field tested in my own company. I just got back from a camping trip with people from Yelp, Pandora, and Twitter. I’m very plugged into that world with friends and connections.
Womenetics: How has social media changed marketing?
Roeder: The biggest way it’s changed the marketing world is giving you a leveraged channel to communicate with your customers in a way that’s easy and convenient to them. Facebook is a place where people are naturally hanging out online. Depending on your customers, people of all ages spend a lot of time there. As a business, it’s a game change to put your bus where people are going, instead of asking them to approach you. You’re going to where they are instead of them talking time out of their day to come you.
Womenetics: Your team is all virtual. Does that work well for you?
Roeder: We have five people, and I love having a virtual team. It allows all of us to work how we’re most productive. If some want to blast music they can; if some want total silence, they can have that. It sounds like silly little things, but it allows everyone to carve out their perfect work environment. They can be even more productive. But you have to hire people who want to work from home.
I’ve had great success in building a team. I think you have to be extra communicative though. It can be hard to read tone over the internet, so we also really like to do video Skype.
Womenetics: What does that life look like for you?
Roeder: For me that means not feeling stressed out. Nothing is urgent; we’re training people on how to use Twitter! That’s how I thrive. I don’t thrive on stress or chaos; I never want to wake up stressed out about the day ahead.
Womenetics: What advice do you have for other women who are looking to start their own venture?
Roeder: My biggest advice is to just jump in and start making money. So many people get so stalled on making a website, naming their business, or setting up a marketing plan. You don’t have a business until money changes hands, and people will pay you before you even have a name or marketing presence. That’s the only way to figure out how to make successful, real interactions with real clients.
Womenetics: What do you do for fun in your free time?
Roeder: I do Pilates and work out. I love to be outside, I go to the beach all the time and love hiking. LA is beautiful. I love that nature is close by.
Corinne Garcia is a freelance writer and editor living with her husband and two young boys in Bozeman, Mont. She has also written for Women’s Adventure, Christian Science Monitor, Northwest Travel, Pregnancy, Fit Pregnancy, and Fit Parent.