How One Little Conversation Led To Being Named One Of 70 Rising Social Media Stars

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Yesterday Mark Schaefer posted a list of 70 future social media gurus on his {grow} blog. To my complete surprise, I was one of them.

But if you think getting on this prestigious list of up-and-comers came easy, think again. It was over a year and a half process to get on this list.

And it all started with a little conversation on Facebook.

Stalking Mark (I Kid, I Kid!)

Some peeps may say I was stalking Mark. I REALLY wasn’t.

I happened to hear him speak during Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Success Summit in October of 2013. On a whim, I went to Facebook and stalked him  looked him up. His presentation had spoken to me so much more than the normal social media fodder that I HAD to connect with him.

I took a deep breath and sent him a message along with a friend request. It said something like,

“I just heard you speak on the SMSS. I really connected with everything you said. I swear I’m not stalking you … please be my friend.”

Then I sent him a similar LinkedIn message.

Okay, so maybe it seems like stalking – but my intentions were pure! And somehow Mark decided that I wasn’t some crazy internet weirdo and accepted both of my invitations.

Missing The Boat

Fast forward to February 2013 and Mark pinged me to let me know he was in NYC. He was at the W Hotel, no less, which is like 5 minutes from my apartment!

I was planning on meeting him when a client pulled the emergency stop for some reports.

Looking back, I should have let the reports wait until the next day. But I didn’t. I missed the boat.

And I kicked myself for about year. YEAH. ONE WHOLE YEAR went by before I got the chance to connect with Mark in person again.

Meeting Of The Minds


This past January Mark pinged me again to let me know he’d be in the city. A 2nd chance!!

Of course, this time I did the SMART thing and cleared my schedule to make it happen.

We were nearly thwarted again by Snowmageden – but we managed to meet at Sarabeth’s in Tribeca for a meal and lots of banter.

Let me say … Mark truly is the real deal. He’s just like his online personality. Real. Down to earth. Whip smart.

He truly wants to help companies understand the shift that’s taking place with consumerism.

Anyhow, after meeting and figuring out we had similar views he invited me to write a blog post for {grow} about my thesis work on how conversations through social media can lead to deeper trust and better relationship building.

Return On Conversation

Ironically the title of the article I wrote for the {grow} Blog is How to Achieve a Return on Conversation with Emotional Marketing.

{grow} blog post by Brooke Ballard

Which is what led to getting on this list. It’s ALWAYS about the conversation if you ask me (and is why our tagline at B Squared Media is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign.”)

But the conversation didn’t end there.

Michael Brenner, VP of Marketing for SAP, reached out to me on Twitter regarding my post for Mark. He asked me if I’d be up for meeting and discussing my thesis work and how it pertains to modern-day content marketing.

A conversation? With Michael Brenner? Marketing VP of one of the largest software companies in the world? HECK YES!

Turns out SAP is located a mere 15 minutes from my parent’s house in PA. We met and chatted over a beer in West Chester and also found a lot of common ground with our digital marketing views.

It all came full circle when Mark included Michael on the panel for choosing the top 70 underdogs in social.

I got a Facebook message from Michael:

“I totally voted for you!”

I totally was over the moon.

All of this from one little message on Facebook. Some conversations. A common ground.

What It All Means

I know it seems arbitrary. Mark even said so in his blog post.

But for me, it means that it DOES start with a conversation, no matter who you are.

I was a scared young woman, looking to connect with a “socialebrity” (social celebrity). I had no ammo other than an intense desire to learn more from someone who clearly knows more than me.

Isn’t that also most companies?

I hear from our would-be and current clients that social media is scary. That starting a conversation is hard. That consumers won’t want to talk with them.

I call bullshit.

I think we’re all just trying to push our heads into the sand while we play into our deep-seated insecurities.

I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough. I have nothing new to say.

I think the problem is that we’re out there running around TRYING to be someone else – because it will make us “smarter” or “good enough” or help us say something “profound.”

But that isn’t what got me on that list.

That isn’t the return on my conversation.

I was myself. I touted my own views, as obscure or “wrong” or “touchy-feely” as they may be.

Think Conversation, Not Campaign

And that’s what everyone should be doing: Playing to their own strong suit, starting conversations, maintaining conversations, and connecting to desired networks on an emotional level.

See you in the social sphere!


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Brooke B. Sellas is an award-winning Customer Marketing Strategist and the CEO & Founder of B Squared Media. Her book, Conversations That Connect has been recognized nationally and is required reading for a Customer Experience class at NSU. Brooke's influence in digital marketing is not just about her accomplishments but also about her unwavering commitment to elevating the industry standard of digital customer experience and customer marketing.
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Category: Conversions, Emotional Marketing, Online Influencers, Return on Conversation (ROC), ,
Tags: Influence, personal branding, , , , Strategy, Trust
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11 Comments. Leave new

  • Avatar
    Veronica Solorzano Athanasiou
    June 4, 2014 10:21 AM

    Thank you for sharing details about your journey to the list Brooke. I enjoyed every letter of the virtual conversation. I was also fascinated by your Thesis the first time I read it (well, I read parts of it).
    It must be such a rewarding feeling to continue using Uni’s work far and beyond. But as you say, it’s not only about academics or stereotypes, it’s about self determination and acceptance of our uniqueness.
    Keep it up and – at the risk of sounding cliche – you’ll go very far. You already are and you’ll keep going farther.
    All the best for a brilliant future and will continue to follow your progress on the social sphere until we can meet on either side of the Ocean.

    • You’re welcome, amiga (Veronica)! I thought it was important to highlight my journey from nearly two years ago to the list this week. I hope peeps get two things out of it: 1) Be yourself and work really hard. Nothing comes easy and NOTHING comes from copying everyone else or being someone you’re not. 2) Conversations are the key to everything online. They’re the starting place. The middle ground. The catalyst and the closure.

      I’m ALWAYS glad to have your support, my friend! And, like you, cannot wait to meet in person one day. :-)

  • And this is why I say that the business case for the social web is “you just never know.”

    And by the way, anothetr large company is going to be reaching out to you soon about your post, wanting to connect with you and possibly hire you. Keep up the good work. And next time, lunch is on you! : )
    Mark W Schaefer recently posted…Everyone Hates Comment Spam, So Why Are We Drowning In it?My Profile

    • I could squeeze your face right now, Mark! :-D You don’t really ever know … and thanks to you taking a chance on me (the internet weirdo stalker) this all happened. I can’t thank you enough! Lunch, dinner, drinks … it’s all on me from here on out! LOL.

      Wow. Can’t wait to see what company enjoyed my post. Really just thrilled beyond all belief. THANK YOU.

  • Nicely put, Brooke! Mark’s very interactive, isn’t he? Can I read your thesis anywhere – sounds interesting.
    Michael Taggart recently posted…Lib Dems censor my comment on the cartoon censorship rowMy Profile

  • Avatar
    Lisa Voncino
    June 13, 2014 3:28 PM

    Congratulations, Brooke, on your achievement and I enjoyed reading the serendipitous way you found yourself on the list! It is hard to stand out from all the noise, and you have done that. It is so interesting to watch the marketplace evolve from BBS systems as a form of communication to the instantaneous global networks of today. I agree, it is all begins with a conversation that evokes trust and positive vibes!

  • […] And it all started with a conversation on social media. […]


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