'My overnight success, ten years in the making' - Queen of Facebook Mari Smith
Placing fourth on the Forbes list of Top Social Media Power Influencers is a feat that requires determination, energy - and just a tiny bit of luck.
Mari Smith, often referred to as “the Queen of Facebook”, is relatively demure about her global success to date when I call her in San Diego.
She's breathless; it's her 9am and she's already completed her workout before her day begins.
"I like to think I’m humble - honest, transparent and humble," she told independent.ie.
Ms Smith is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on Facebook marketing and social media - and regularly appears in publications such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Fortune and Success Magazine.
Next month, she will take the stage at Dublin's Social Media Summit as the keynote speaker. So I asked her if she had any tips to share with up and coming Irish influencers.
"Every year I choose a word one theme for my entire year. This year it's 'FOCUS' or 'Follow One Course Until Successful'," she said.
"That's what I would advise those starting out to pay heed to. Many profiles have all kinds of things listed in their bio; half of the stuff that's in there...it’s hard to take them seriously.
"Be a specialist, pick an industry, be part of a niche."
With over 1 million followers across Facebook and Twitter, Ms Smith believes the key to building up such a following is "staying true" to herself.
"It’s also about integrity. In the last year or so, people are generally gullible, specially in the world of fake news.
"I've grown an audience online and offline; they trust me implicitly and that comes with responsibility. My customers will know that I would not endorse anything and promote just because I’m getting paid."
But Ms Smith has a solid background behind her lofty moniker. She has over 12 years experience in social media marketing and was headhunted by Facebook to lead the Boost Your Business series of live events across the US.
"I went on tour with thousands of SMEs teaching them the power of social media and marketing," she said.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland and relocated to San Diego via Canada, Ms Smith said her invite to California "came out of the blue from an old friend".
In the months prior to this, she had decided to start up her own business and had already done the research and funding drive to set out on her own.
"I had been an employee all my life and I’d never been an entrepreneur. But throughout my entire career I’ve always had a love for technology and people," she said.
"When the invite came to move to San Diego, it was a case of preparation meeting opportunity. I knew one person but in about six weeks, I was meeting all kinds of people. I even worked on a website for my emigration attorney in lieu of his fees!"
Ms Smith now serves as Brand Ambassador for several top companies, including Adobe, Microsoft, and Animoto. She has also written several books including The New Relationship Marketing and Facebook Marketing: An Hour A Day (a co-author).
"Throughout my entire career I’ve always had a love for technology and people," she said.
Her interest into 'what makes people tick', her inherited determination - "my dad was a baker and worked for himself all his life" - and her natural ability to network led to a whirlwind decade.
"In May 2007, Facebook fell into my lap; they invited to me on a beta test team for their new app. I just though everything was so beautiful and totally different from MySpace.
"By December that year, I was already getting clients, coaching on tools and teaching etiquette...It was very daunting...I call it my overnight success ten years in the making," she said.
Now Ms Smith's digital marketing agency provides consulting and training on Facebook marketing best practices for SMEs and brands.
"There are 60 million businesses that have a Facebook page but SMEs really need to know what works, what's powerful and what's not," she said.
"You really need to know what you're doing to maximise your results. Some people are still stuck in 2012."
Social Media Summit Ireland will take place on the April 11 and 12 in Croke Park. Ms Smith has promised to share some secret inside information on the day.