Monday, March 16, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Lani Rosales (49 of of 45)

Our next guest, Lani Rosales, co-founder of New Media Labs and partner in crime at AgentGenius, is quickly becoming one of my favorite people in Austin. She's not only witty and charming but also a great social mediast (she and her partner/husband Benn won an award at the Austin Statesman's Texas Social Media Awards). I'd also like to give Lani MAJOR props for doing her own HTML for this post - much appreciated!

Considering the fact that I'm about eight hours late getting this post up, I'll cut right to the chase and give you Lani's answers to the Experts in the Industry series questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I'm a co-serial entrepreneur with my husband, and I teach people how to cut overhead by implementing their own social media strategy and I'm wicked awesome at it because I'm naturally a connector, empathizer, creative and conversationalist.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
Wow, how far back should I go? I had my first email address in 1995 when I was a freshman in high school, in 1999 I ran my first Usenet group (on Longhorn football, go figure), and studied Internet Etiquette and Dreamweaver at the University of Texas, got on Facebook and LinkedIn in my last year of college in 2004 and by 2007 was named the New Media Director at the nation's most widely read online real estate magazine, Because we had long been consulting on new media strategies and business development of web companies, this year we launched New Media Lab to formalize our approach and offer it in bite sized curriculum in a lab setting.

In other words, I'm a digital native so is there really a way to "get into" a world you were born into? I mean if I go back all the way, I knew basic DOS commands by 2nd grade and played Oregon Trail by 3rd. To me, the web is like a birth mark or a tattoo in a place that lasers can't remove it.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I have two answers to this... FIRST (girl with a degree wearing smart girl glasses answer): based strictly on their social media and not on their business model, tanking economy, awful choices in product lines, or outside influences, it would be Starbucks. They have long encouraged consumers to interact with their brand and were one of the first to teach their loyal customers to evangelize for them.

SECOND (Texan girl in jeans holding a Bud Light): Pet Holdings, Inc. is hands down the best online network in existence, hosting ICanHasCheezburger to GraphJam and despite their incredible ability to maximize traffic and ad buys (as well as entertain me more than anything ever in the history of Earth), they have mastered viral content which is the most desirable element of any social media strategy.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Living? Besides The Pope and my husband, after a ridiculously long time sitting here thinking about it, I would say it's Mark Cuban which dates back many years beginning my freshman year of college when he bought the Mavs and as his first action as owner, walked into the locker rooms and declared that the dingy state of the stanky room wouldn't do and noted that the players deserved better- the lockerroom was remodeled, complete with personal TVs for each player. Why? He said the players were the money makers and the reason the income flows and wanted to treat them well, keep them happy and improve their performance (which he did, taking the team that formerly won less than 40% of their games to a 2006 NBA Finalist team and one we expect to see go all the way again soon).

He understands the importance of *people* which is also evident in the fact that he isn't up in the girly seats behind glass, he's on the floor with the fans. On top of that, he lets his passion show (so much so that he often gets in trouble by screaming in ref faces) yet knows how to say he's sorry (as he did by working in DQ for a day after saying that someone wouldn't even be able to manage a Dairy Queen). He funded and promotes the Fallen Patriot Fund and this year announced his OWN "stimulus plan" offering to fund viable startups in their time of need. I certainly disagree with a lot of his politics, but he has always been a hard worker and extremely creative entrepreneur and you'll be hard pressed to find someone who doesn't respect him regardless of their personal feelings toward him.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
The only reason I would join a toothpaste community is if they aggregated something entertaining like pics of celebs with gangly teeth or asparagus in their gums. If it were for networking or anything serious, I would pass because my attention span is too short, my commitment level to non-critical tasks is low, and although I love brushing my teeth, I don't care to chat about it more than I just spent time doing!

Which non-social media industry person do you follow and why? -Debra Askanase
I follow hundreds of non social-media industry folk, but in Twitter I love obscurity like @Foodimentary, on Facebook I follow my family, almost everyone in my high school graduating class as well as hundreds of real estate professionals and I read several religious blogs daily like One Bread One Body. I actually prefer to follow people outside of the echo chamber of the social media pro universe.

Do you have a favorite Social Networking/Social Media medium, application or site? If so, why that one? -@ggroovin
In my opinion, Twitter is the best social networking site because although it is the most difficult to break into and make a large impact, it has the highest return of any others I've used. It also appeals to my need for instant gratification and the trust barrier is quite low because of the informal tone of the community.

From a business and marketing strategy standpoint, how do you track, converse, communicate and otherwise curate your various social media activities? -Anonymous
There are hundreds of listening and conversing tools, but four of the most universal, free, and easy to implement are provided by Google: Google Feed Reader which brings all of the websites you care to track to one site that updates for you (no more clicking all over the place to get new info), Google Alerts which emails you when a website mentions your specified keywords or phrases (ranging from your name, your company name to specific queries like "small business tools"), Google Mail (GMail) can be used to collect all of your alerts and if you choose to use it as your primary email it has great thread viewing, search capability, labeling/tagging, and Google Analytics tracks your website for you with breakout information ranging from where visitors are coming from to how long they spend on the site.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
If I could start over again in social media, I would have adopted a persona that I used in all my handles like "AwesomeLani," "Lani2Eyes" or "LaniBagOfDonuts" that was universal to whatever industry I landed in, fun to repeat and share, and marketable. My name is awesome on its own, but that is the one thing I would retool from the start because my behavior change over time was organic and unique to the spaces I interacted in, so I wouldn't change that, I would just give myself Botox going in so I wouldn't want a face lift later!

PS readers: VIVA AUSTIN, the Live Social Media Capital of the World!!!


  1. You have made a wise choice in interviewing Lani...I have followed both her and Benn for quite some time both via AgentGenius posts and activity on Twitter. In a word, Lani is SHARP! In my estimation, one of the best in the business. And, a wealth of information when it comes to who is where...she is one connected chica!

  2. Lani's a must follow on Twitter -- one of the most consistently entertaining and knowledgeable people out there. Simply put, she gets it.

  3. Amazing. Lani writes just like she talks. This sassy spoken Texan is an absolute gem in the world of social media and easily demonstrates that you can be a good and gregarious person in real life and simply duplicate that persona online. I know that people who follow her understand her simple language and that it's not a bunch of geeky mumbo jumbo which is refreshing. I can't wait to see where the next decade takes this maven of all things social.

  4. Lani, I appreciate you because you're real and have no filter. I know that when I talk to you (or email or twitter) I'm getting the no bs version. I respect you for that. Your responses to these questions are a true reflection of you. I love it!!

    You encouraged me to change my twitter handle and now I think it's my turn to encourage you to change yours. @LaniBagOfDonuts has a great ring to it.

    Heather | @heatherjstrout

  5. Lani is one of a handful of people I turn to when I want to float an idea or get feedback on something I'm doing. Not only does she always have a thoughtful critique, but she usually offers new ideas that turn out to be winners. One of the brightest social media minds out there ... and a really cool person to boot.

    Aaron - this

  6. Lani is one of the first Austin folks who I met on Twitter. She has always been willing to help out when able or point me toward someone who could and she's been good for a laugh on more than one occasion, though I mostly appreciate her humility and try to model myself after her in that respect.

  7. short...gets it.

    She's funny...Hella smart and always willing to be a sounding board for an idea or a problem.

    She and Benn will go far...just you wait and watch. No doubt in my mind.

    Love ya girl :-)


  8. Lani is one of my confidants on Twitter. I trust and value her opinion. She is a guiding voice for new media. Need wisdom from experience? Call Lani. (And right after Molly Ivins, Lani is my other favorite Texan.)

  9. "In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
    I'm a co-serial entrepreneur with my husband, and I teach people how to cut overhead by implementing their own social media strategy and I'm wicked awesome at it because I'm naturally a connector, empathizer, creative and conversationalist." - In other words, she likes to talk a LOT :-)

    Lani is the only person in the twitterverse that is completely outside of my sphere of total geekiness that I read just because she's THAT good. Really, I'm a speaker, I'm a user interaction authority, what can I possibly gain from reading about Real Estate? Well, if I look past the Real Estate I can and do (a) have lots of fun, and (b) learn from watching what Lani does with twitter and Agent Genius.

    You ROCK Lani!