Women’s History Month Interview Series with Shama Hyder, Founder & CEO, Zen Media

By Danni White - Last Updated on January 31, 2020

Women’s History Month Interview Series 2019

Welcome to TechFunnel.com’s interview series for Women’s History Month where we are celebrating female executives, CEOs, business owners, and creators across various industries.

Joining us today is Shama Hyder.

Shama Hyder is a visionary strategist for the digital age, a web and TV personality, a bestselling author, and the award-winning CEO of Zen Media – a global marketing and digital PR firm. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany.com. Shama has also been honored at both the White House and The United Nations as one of the top 100 young entrepreneurs in the country.

Shama is the bestselling author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, now in its 4th edition and Momentum: How to Propel Your Marketing and Transform Your Brand in the Digital Age. An acclaimed keynote speaker, Shama has delivered keynotes in over 20 countries and spoken for recognized brands including Movado, Chase, Tupperware and Inc 5000.

As a result of her success, Shama has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Technology Titan Emerging Company CEO award. She was named one of the “Top 25 Entrepreneurs under 25” by Business Week in 2009, one of the “Top 30 Under 30” Entrepreneurs in America in 2014 by Inc. Magazine, and to the Forbes “30 Under 30” list of movers and shakers for 2015. LinkedIn has named Hyder one of their “Top Voices” in Marketing & Social Media for three years in a row. Her online videos were awarded the “Hermes Gold award for Educational Programming in Electronic Media” and most recently she was given the “Global Empowerment award for Marketing and Technology” by Anokhi Media.

As the CEO of Zen Media, she and her team help both B2B and B2C brands to make meaningful connections with the modern-day customer via influencer marketing, experiential and digital storytelling — and then turning those into bottom line results. Notable clients include Chase Business, The US Navy, DFW Airport, MaryKay, and Tupperware.

In this interview, Shama talks about how communication has evolved over the past decade, the most difficult lesson she learned while building her brand, and social media trends and platforms marketers should be paying attention to. 

Take it away, Shama!

Danni White: Tell us, a little bit about yourself and Zen Media?

Shama Hyder: We are known as Zen Media, and you can find plenty online at zenmedia.com and shamahyder.com.

DW: You’ve been called the “Zen Master of Marketing,” when did you know you wanted to be in social media?

SH: Growing up, as a kid, I wanted to be a journalist. I loved writing and was a competitive debater and orator in high school. I also had a passion for technology. I got my first computer in 1994, and it was love at first click. Social media definitely combined all those passions. It didn’t exactly exist as a career when I was growing up, AND it was neat to help pioneer in the field of new media and marketing in a way.

DW: When you started your business did you have any idea that it would grow into what it is today?

SH: No, I can’t say I did. It was a passion that met market demand and bloomed from there. I am immensely grateful that it has grown to be what it is. 

DW: Communication is more important than ever now. How has it evolved through social media over the past decade?

SH: Certainly, there are advantages and challenges. Social media has allowed people to be the media. The average person has more information today than ever in the history of mankind. Whoever controlled information, controlled the world. Today, that’s openly available. It’s an immense opportunity to build brands, gain visibility and drive commerce. I do believe there are also challenges. It is harder than ever for young people to be “just kids” – there is a lot of pressure to conform and to distinguish the truth from lies. All information travels fast – the true and the untrue. Once upon a time, if you weren’t popular at school or something happened, you could just turn it off and go home. Today, it follows you, and that can be very stressful, especially during the teenage years.

DW: What was the hardest challenge you had or most difficult lesson you learned when building your brand and business?

SH: That you don’t know what you don’t know and you just do your best with what you have, when you have it, with where you are in life. You have to embrace that you will learn as you go and you don’t stop learning. Ever. 

DW: What pushed you to write your first book and how have you embraced writing since then?

SH: It was very similar to starting my business. I responded to market demand. There was perhaps one other business on the topic. I had nowhere to direct people when it came to finding a resource they could turn to for understanding the basics. It was impossible to scale one on one so I found a book was the next best thing. 

DW: Both your first book, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, and your company, were born out of a demand in the industry. How did you come to discover that there was a void you could fill?

SH: I’ve been always been curious about the greater world around me. While in graduate school, I attended a new media conference and it really struck me that this was the future. This was when Twitter was just starting out, Facebook had just opened its doors to people beyond colleges, and customers were turning more and more to Google for information. Definitely early days but the feeling was palpable. I did my thesis on Twitter when it had just about 2000 users. I spent time immersing myself with the technologies and how people were responding. 

DW: How important is it for marketers to follow through on turning followers into fans and loyal customers?

SH: It’s important part of the loop. Marketing is no longer funnel driven. In fact, the majority of consumers search products AFTER they’ve purchased them. There’s a real need to feel like given the sea of information, they’ve made the best choice possible. Businesses should look at how they can give their customers that sense of safety and trust post-purchase. That’s what turns a buyer into a loyal customer. 

DW: What social media trends and platforms do you think we should all be paying attention to?

SH: Video. I’ve been so gung-ho on video, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. We are still scratching the surface. We will see more video/retail integrations like we just did with Instagram. You can now shop on the platform without ever leaving the sandbox. 

DW: Where do you find digital marketing and social media marketing heading in the next five years?

SH: It will be known as just marketing. 🙂 Digital and social is just the ecosystem in which marketing must take place. It has to be integrated and experiential and immersive. The connected consumer has a higher bar and marketers/brands have to rise to meet that demand. 

DW: Who are the people who have influenced you throughout your career and why?

SH: There are too many to list! I’ll forever be grateful to my teachers and professors who invested so selflessly of themselves to encourage me to follow my own dreams. Where would we be without the amazing teachers in this world?

DW: What is the best career advice you ever received?

SH: The same advice as I try to follow in life. Be grateful for your highs and graceful in your lows. Every career and life have them.

Connect with Shama: LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | InstagramWebsite

Danni White | Danni White is the CEO of DW Creative Consulting Agency, a digital marketing firm specializing in elevating the visibility of small-to-midsize businesses and nonprofits. She is the author of 17 books and hosts the #Hashtags and Habits Podcast, which merges digital marketing, entrepreneurship, and personal growth.

Danni White |Danni White is the CEO of DW Creative Consulting Agency, a digital marketing firm specializing in elevating the visibility of small-to-midsize businesses and nonprofits. She is the author of 17 books and hosts the #Hashtags and Habits Podcast, which merges digital marketing, entrepreneurship, and personal growth.

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