As a military school alumnus and former member of a rock band, Raman Kia may seem like an unlikely candidate to be wearing a sharp suit and tie to work everyday. But thanks to his unparalleled intelligence and hunger for exploring the unknown, he is now at the top of his field as the Executive Director of Digital Strategy for Condé Nast Media Group. See Raman as part of our 10 Most Stylish Social Media Gurus feature, and read below to hear more about this new media expert.
StyleCaster: What led you to a career in social media?
Raman Kia: Many years ago, I was in a rock band named Buddahead, which was signed to Interscope Records. Back then, I started experimenting using AOL chat rooms and online community boards to communicate with music fans. You can trace the roots of social media to those platforms, as rudimentary as they were, and easily connect the dots between music and Myspace 1.0, which arguably was the first social media channel to hit critical mass. It was just my way of staying ahead of the curve and trying to do a better job than the record label. From chat rooms to Twitter, from Myspace to Facebook, and from blogs to multi-layered content networks, participation has always been my zeitgeist.
Years later, when I was leading a digital marketing agency focused on media and search, I noticed that our youngest, hippest and freshest recruits were using a new set communication channels. This was the new realm we now call social media, but back then we were just experimenting to see if we could use them as another set of online marketing tools. In those early days, we put in just as much effort figuring out what to do with Twitter as we did with Second Life. Second what, you ask?
SC: What did you study, and/or was your education related to your current career?
RK: I studied English literature for my Bachelor’s, International Marketing and Business for my Master’s, and I also have a certificate in Human Resource Management. Absolutely none of it is useful in my day-to-day work. But, as my father always told me, education elevates the mind.
SC: Given social media is a relatively new job space, as a kid, what did you envision yourself doing as an adult?
RK: Well, I first wanted to be Bruce Lee. Then, since I went to a military school, I briefly toyed with the idea of joining the parachute regiment but instead settled on trying to become a rock star. In retrospect, I was really unfocused.
SC: Please list three apps you use for your job.
RK: Keynote on the iPad, HootSuite, Facebook Pages Manager
SC: Where do you see social media headed in three to five years?
RK: It will become a much more robust set of channels for reaching the “Intent to Consume” economy.
SC: How many social accounts do you maintain for your job (Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.)? Which are your favorites and why?
RK: Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, GetGlue, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google+, Quora, YouTube. I don’t have a favorite but love finding a slice of the story that fits each channel best in a content distribution ecosystem.
SC: Is there someone in social media whom you look up to or see as doing an exemplary job?
RK: Yes, my wife, Jessica Coghan-Kia, is one of the best. She has been my partner in the agency world for years but has recently joined Ralph Lauren as the senior director of social media.
SC: Describe what sets social media gurus, like yourselves, apart from those of us who simply mess around on Twitter, Facebook, etc. That is, how does social media strategy factor into your brand?
RK: The most important thing I’d like on the record is that I am not a guru. No one really is. But, in response to the ethos of your question, I think you have to be a digital marketing, rather than a social media, strategist. In isolation, social media is limited; but as part of a complete digital strategy, it is a borderless empire.
SC: What’s the biggest blunder you’ve made posting on a social network?
RK: Thankfully, none yet.
SC: Any advice to newbies trying to break into this space?
RK: Social media is easy. Anyone can do it. My parents are on almost every platform, and they do a pretty good job. Learn the hard stuff. Commit to understanding data and analytics just as much as creative posting. Learn the tools of the trade: media planning, search engine marketing, affiliate marketing, email marketing, mobile marketing, so on and so forth.
SC: How many smartphones do you carry on a daily basis, and how often do you drop them?
RK: One. Luckily, not that often anymore. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way.
SC: BlackBerry or iPhone?