Interview with Eric Hamilton

Eric Hamilton
Eric Hamilton

“Optimizing social media is not an exact science. It’s about using web analytics data to make informed immediate decisions and to formulate long-term strategies”.  This is a quote from the book “Social Media Branding in the Age of Obama” by Eric Hamilton.

Eric Hamilton is a social media, internet, web and search marketing veteran with over 20 years of technology work experience. Currently, Eric works for Yahoo! as an Engagement Manager supporting Yahoo! Web Analytics which is Yahoo’s enterprise level analytics solution. Eric is the Executive Director of The Web Academy, a 501c3 non profit organization designed to provide free web design classes to the community and free web services to churches and other non profit organizations. Eric is from Detroit, MI, has a BS in Computer Science from Michigan State University, is active in the community with local high school science fairs as a Computer Science judge, he runs his own technology blog and he has been a proud member of Alpha Phi Alpha for 20 years.

I was fortunate enough to connect with Eric after hearing his interview with Andrew T. Carr who had also interviewed me for his Extra Effort Forum show back in October and then again months later.  Eric was immediately warm, charming and welcoming and I was lucky to be granted the opportunity to pin him down for a short while for this interview.  Here’s what he has to say.

Your website states, “Never has a presidential candidate used the internet and social media so effectively. President Barack Obama used social media web sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Blogger, BlogTalk Radio, YouTube and other web sites as a cohesive, collective social juggernaut.”  We’ve all witnessed this most surprising and unique use of social media and the results it reaped for our President.  Do you believe his success was related to who he is or how masterfully he used these services?

I believe that our President’s success should be attributed to both who he is and how masterfully he used technology.  President Obama used “high tech” and “high touch“.  High tech is the modern social media communication tools.  High touch is the ability to charismatically communicate his message.  One without the other would have not have reaped the positive results that we’ve witnessed.

“Optimizing social media is not an exact science. It’s about using web analytics data to make informed immediate decisions and to formulate long term strategies”. This is a quote from your book Social Media Branding in the Age of Obama.  For those less experienced with social media and the analytics behind it, can you explain just what that means and what it entails?

I would like to give you an example.  Let’s say you are using Twitter, Myspace and Facebook to drive people to your web site to buy your product.  You have 10,000 Twitter followers, 2,000 MySpace friends and 300 Facebook fans.  After promoting on Twitter, Myspace and Facebook, you notice that your online sales are doing great.  Your social media promotions are paying off.  Now, between Twitter, MySpace and Facebook, which site is driving the most traffic?  Which site is driving the most engaged visitors?  Which site is making you the most money.  Analytics may tell you that the 10,000 Twitter followers are driving the most traffic but when they arrive at your site they aren’t purchasing anything.  Analytics will also tell you that your 300 Facebook fans are the ones who are making 90% of the purchases and that they mostly live in Brooklyn.

Regarding networking in general, I find especially on LinkedIn that many connect seemingly only for the sake of numbers whereas I interview every single person who wishes to connect with me so that I understand their intentions and decide whether it would be beneficial for both of us to be connected and how we can collaborate.  I’m not in it for the numbers.  Do you consider it a plus or a negative having large social networks when there is little or no real dialogue between the members?

High numbers are always good.  Most people don’t have the time or patience to inquire on each request.  I used to inquire on every Facebook and often reject requests because of the lack of time to conduct interviews.  One day I got a request from an unknown person that I was about to reject.  I had time that day so I interviewed him and accepted.  Turns out that this person was/is one of the top African Americans to know on Wall Street.  I’ve connected with this person several times in real life and recently spoke for him twice on 2 well attended panel discussions that he hosted.  Since then, I accept all requests without prejudice.

I became familiar with and connected to you through a very influential member of my own network, Andrew T. Carr.  I find I am more receptive to connections when they are affiliated with those I already trust and respect.  How does that influence your willingness to connect to people you do not already know?

The individual that I mentioned in my previous response was Andrew Carr.  I did not know Andrew before his random friend request on Facebook.

In all my circles, especially for the younger generation either fresh out of college or high school, a question that recurs is, if there is no business, product or service to promote yet, is there any reason to be using social media?  Is it only for those who already have established a platform or item to promote?

I was asked that question recently while speaking to a group of senior citizens about social networking.  The question was “Why should I (at age 70) be on Facebook?”.  I asked that woman about her church.  I asked her if she listened to the Sunday church announcements and she said she did.  I told her that her church (like my church) is probably on Facebook.  Then I asked her “Why should you have to wait until Sunday to find out about things that are happening about the church you love?”  Then I said “Perhaps there is a church member who needs your prayers on Tuesday.  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to be able to help that member?”.  Then I explained to the seniors that social networking isn’t all about high school gossip.   Social networking  like the telephone can be used for gossip but it can also be used to help people and save lives.

Today, everyone wants to be everywhere.  I regularly come across websites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook pages that aren’t updated regularly and often look abandoned which, truthfully, often causes me to abandon them, too.  Apparently, many are biting off more than they can chew.  How do we determine which social media outlets we will use most effectively as opposed to overwhelmingly trying to tackle them all at once?

I would recommend starting with one and sticking with one until you have the time and energy to move to a 2nd or 3rd social networking site.  In regards to which one, it depends on your goals.  Your goal could be to find love, get a date, find a new job, promote a book, find friends with like interests or start a business.  There would potentially be a different strategy for each of these goals.

Lastly, you are obviously one to watch.  Between your speaking engagements, promotion of your book and websites, how do you keep up with it all?  Do you carve out specific lots of time explicitly for communicating with and updating your followers or do you simply juggle it as it comes?

Great question, as you know I was very slow in responding to your emails as I had 302 new email messages in the last 24 hours.  My strategy to stay on top of things is not very complicated or high tech.   I write down everything that I need to do (pen and paper) in a master checklist and simply do it.  My weekly checklist consists of about 100 to 200 things to accomplish during a typical week.

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You can purchase Social Media Branding in the Age of Obama at Lulu.  You can also learn more about Eric Hamilton at Social Media Branding in the Age of Obama.


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