Amy Jo Martin sees opportunity where others would see challenges. Contributor Blake Landau interviewed her at BusinessNext Social this week to learn more about her social media philosophy.

While there are thousands of people who try to pursue social media consulting, Amy Jo Martin (@AmyJoMartin) got involved in social early and had some important key successes that led her down a path of building her successful agency Digital Royalty.

These formative moments include leaving her role at the Phoenix Suns to launch her own social media agency (and taking Shaq with her as client #1), working with Tony Hsieh on his Delivering Happiness Tour (and subsequently moving to Vegas to work with him on the downtown Vegas project) and her new book "Renegades Write the Rules."

Martin delivered a keynote speech at BusinessNext Social (#NMX) in Las Vegas earlier this week and presented the tenets of her social media philosophy. I interviewed Martin about how she built her agency, her unorthodox upbringing and being a woman in the sports industry.

A Foundation in Adaptability

In her book Martin writes that executives need to get used to being uncomfortable in the constantly shifting world of digital media. She attributes her ease with change to her upbringing.

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photo credit: Jill Richards Photography

Martin grew up in trailer parks across America -- her dad's job took her family on the road. Martin said in her keynote speech that these experiences shaped her spirit. She felt it taught her important lessons about entrepreneurship. Martin said,

Moving around and changing schools frequently taught me to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Instead of dreading a move and being afraid of change, I became addicted to change and fueled by curiosity. This adaptability has served me well as an entrepreneur.”

Some might argue that Martin was lucky to launch her career working with some of the most influential celebrities in the country. When I asked Martin if she thought her clients had success on social media because they were already celebrities she said no.

Many of my celebrity clients may have had a leg-up when they started simply because of awareness. However, that doesn’t mean that non-celebrities can’t attain a similar level of social media success with proper education and strategy. It’s all about delivering value when, where and how your audience wants to receive it, whether you are a celebrity or not. Value always rises to the top.”

Return on Influence

When marketers talk about audience, the question of ROI often surfaces. For most large companies social media is still somewhat unchartered territory. Many believe it’s still early in the game -- particularly when it comes to ROI models. These models are in constant flux and are highly debated.

When anyone claims to have a definitive ROI model for social business, ears perk up. In Martin’s #NMX presentation she shared her patented ROI (Return on Influence) formula. In our interview she further unpacked how she came to this ROI model:

A few years ago, I was working on a social media endorsement deal with a major CPG brand, trying to convince them that my client was more influential than other celebrities. To prove this, I developed my ROI (Return on Influence) formula, which is based on the fact that impressions (the traditional metric) don’t always convert, but influence does.

It is made up of two parts, cold metrics (impressions/number of fans and followers) and warm metrics (engagement and sentiment). The “cold” traditional metrics are important because that represents total reach. The “warm” metrics give marketers a clearer picture of their customer’s affinity towards the brand because unlike the TV, social media is a dialogue. It creates conversations that can be listened to, recorded and measured. Using trackable links, brands can measure and track a customer’s engagement with the brand from initial interaction to final purchase.” 

Turning Bad Tweets into Good Business

When I asked Martin to give me a story she shares with traditional executives to help them understand how being vulnerable can be a business advantage, she shared the story of Dana White, President of the UFC, who was also a speaker at BusinessNext Social. At one point White accidentally tweeted out his phone number to his 1.5 million Twitter followers. His followers retweeted his number and within minutes, 9 million people had his number.

Martin said,

He called me in a panic, asking if I could undo what he had just done. I explained to him that there was nothing I could do to remove his number from the Twitterverse. He said, ‘Well, if I’m stupid enough to tweet my phone number to everyone, I’m going to take their calls.’

For the next 45 minutes, Dana took as many calls as he could. He listened to the fans and answered their questions. As a result, headlines were made, engagement levels spiked, and the UFC fan base increased. Dana’s vulnerability exposed the human behind the brand, and in doing so, created an authentic community of loyal followers that has made the UFC one of today’s most successful sports organizations.

After listening to the response, Digital Royalty took the concept of creating a ‘Fan Phone’ to Dana. We encouraged fans to call Dana before events by tweeting the Fan Phone number to his millions of fans. Eventually, we were able to secure a marketing partner to sponsor this concept, which made this social media mistake a revenue generating and loyalty building opportunity.”

Working Beyond the Gender Gap

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Martin works with many athletes and what one might call a man’s man. But you don’t get the feeling Martin has any fear or doubts about speaking up -- no matter how tough the client is.

Martin started out working in sports marketing, a male dominated field. Now she’s working with executives from a good amount of big companies. For a woman who sees herself as a renegade, I wanted to know if she felt being female was an advantage. Here’s what Martin had to say:

“I try to encourage all entrepreneurs, men and women, to be results-driven instead of gender-driven. Stereotypical gender roles weren’t a huge part of my upbringing. Therefore, it’s never been in my frame of reference to think differently about being a woman in business. Being a woman isn’t a business handicap. Regardless of gender, we should be graded on performance, action and results.”

Editor's Note: If you'd like to read more of Blake's interviews with industry leaders, check out Interview: Mark Fidelman on How Creativity, Innovation and Golf Relate to Social Business