Amber Osborne says her career path has been a series of "happy accidents." She talked to TechRepublic about social media insights, her non-traditional career path, and the power of Twitter.
When rapper Macklemore sat in front of Amber Osborne on a plane from Las Vegas to Seattle, he had no idea he was sparking a moment of life affirmation.
Osborne is the CMO for Meshfire, a social media management tool. She was flying back to her new home (Seattle) from a blogging conference, and just had a strange moment where she connected the dots between her struggles breaking into her industry, and the Grammy-winning artist's well-known story of hearing "no" so many times before finding success without a record label. It was something she could understand having heard "no" a great many times herself.
"I'd worked with bands and celebrities before, so it wasn't being starstruck, but struck with my own destiny," she said. Seattle was the place she was supposed to be, she thought.
Osborne's career path to that point is what she describes as a "series of happy accidents." Her career in marketing, in some ways, got off the ground when she was a high schooler promoting bands.
"It was really cool, especially when you're in high school and you've got a note because you've been at a show late at night and the note's from one of the performers," she said. But more so, she learned a lot from how bands branded and marketed themselves.
High school turned into community college, community college turned into four-year college, and four-year college fed directly into unemployment.
"I was trying to go out and do what people normally do to get a job and it wasn't working," she said. She was young and inexperienced, had blue hair and no idea how to network. When she started blogging and telling stories, and learning about how to use Twitter, she turned all those elements that were working against her into the heart of her brand - Miss Destructo, a persona born out of the will to destroy stereotypes of not only what it means to be in business, but what it means to be successful in it.
Her ability to connect with people on Twitter lead to a social media marketing gig with Bruce's Yams (more on that in a moment), and later on to co-founding a social media marketing agency.
And as for Meshfire - a job that took her and her now fiance from Florida to Seattle, it was Twitter once again that produced a job. Osborne and Meshfire CEO Eli Israel talked on Twitter at one point about where they saw gaps in the tools available for individuals and small businesses navigating social media. A few months later he got back in touch saying that he thought he could build that tool.
After six months of consulting for Meshfire, Osborne jumped on full time and moved to Seattle.
"It was really random how Twitter was able to connect me with people all over the world and lead me into opportunities that I would have never gotten," she said.
In her current role at Meshfire, Osborne functions in multiple areas. She works with developers and graphic designers to keep the brand on point. She also works to build the Meshfire community, whether it's through traveling and getting the word out (in person or online), or coming up with initiatives like an active-users-only Facebook group where Meshfire customers can network with each other.
Now she feels like she gets to pursue a few passions in particular that are important to her - getting to know people and telling stories.
"Your story is you. Your product can do amazing things, but if you're not telling an amazing story..." she said, you're missing a crucial opportunity. For this reason, Osborne emphasizes getting to know customers beyond a cursory understanding of what they do, but rather what they need and how they work.
At one point, she and Israel had an extra ticket to a conference in Canada. She offered it to a customer - a college kid trying to get a foothold in the industry. Needless to say, he was excited. He came out of the event with a slew of new contacts, and Meshfire came out with a strong brand advocate.
"I remember when I was there just trying to make it out to social media conferences or to tech conferences and I couldn't afford it because I was just starting out," she said. "Those people that reached out to me made all the difference."
This also aligns with one of the trends that Osborne said she's seeing increasingly: experience marketing. "He's not going to remember me if I send him a mug," she said. The memory of that conference, however will stick.
One thing Osborne said people do remember about her is the blue hair, and she gets questions about it now that it's gone. She likes to tell people that she's still here, and still Miss Destructo. The 'do was just her "blue period."
"That will always a part of me, but as any good brand does, you have to evolve," she said.
In her own words...
How do you unplug?
"Every week I like to go out to trivia - just the local pub trivia. The reason why is because all my friends have to put their phones away because we're not allowed to have our phones out or we'll get yelled at because they think you're cheating. I love it because no one's on their phone, we're having a good time... It's a great way to not only meet new people, but also disconnect for an hour and a half. It's also a great way to get some ideas going and have a fun time."
[The trivia night is called Geeks Who Drink.]
If you could pick a different profession, what would it be?
"I've always played around with the idea of going back into the music business and doing more artist management, and maybe helping musicians and artists that are just trying to build up their marketing and build up their social media presence, because it's a huge challenge. Now it's not how many CDs have you sold, it's how many Instagram followers do you have? There's such a need out there, especially for some of these upcoming artists."
More about Bruce's Yams.
"Back when I was doing the brand account for Bruce's Yams, I was like, 'Wow, this is going to be a challenge because it's sweet potatoes.' What I was really passionate about doing was not talking about the product itself, it was just having fun with people. And sometime it went out of control. We started a hashtag around South by Southwest that was fake South by Southwest, and I was chiming in as the yams. People were like, 'Oh hey, there's a can of yams here!' People would make up these fake stories about passing the can of yams around. It spun out of control, but it just having fun with people."