Monica Hamburg, Social Media & Business Consultant Vancouver |

Monica Hamburg, Social Media & Business Consultant

Monica Hamburg has worked on many campaigns and contests since she began consulting in 2007 and is passionate about social media and about connecting businesses with their consumers. Outside of consulting, Monica is also a devout evangelist for her industry, presenting at numerous events and conferences, co-organizing Third Tuesday Vancouver (2008-2010) and contributing her insight, often with humor, to magazines and blogs, including the digital marketing magazine “One Degree”.  She’s been profiled and interviewed in a number of publications including BC Business and Backbone Magazine.  Her humor bent extends to her podcast (“The S&M Rants”) as well as to her acting and writing (including her blog).

Are you a morning person? What time do you get up and moving? What are the first few things (work/business/personal) that you do each morning?
Ideally, very much a night person.  But it makes me too crazy to do that – as it gets me out of synch with the rest of the people I deal with, including my partner and friends. So, I adapt.  Generally, I get up around 5am.   The first thing is to make coffee and breakfast, do some quick email and social media checks.  Then, I exercise and meditate (Yip, I’m one of those).  Then I begin my official workday.

Generally, I get up around 5am.   The first thing is to make coffee and breakfast, do some quick email and social media checks.

When do you first check your email? And how many emails do you get a day?
Pretty much first thing in the morning – while I wait for the coffee to brew.  I’m not sure about how much I get, but quite honestly, there’s not an inordinate amount that I absolutely need to address.  Still, I do find email to be a challenge – because there’s so much I want to read and get to.  I subscribe to newsletters with the best of intentions – but there are only so many hours in a day.

Do you have any tips for dealing with email? (Any techniques or tools you use?)
The Email Game and Boomerang have made my inbox much more fun, efficient and manageable.  Also, the days I manage to hold myself back and only check email a few times during the day (3-4) feel like the most productive and least stressful ones.

What does your typical day look like?
I have no typical days. And I, overall, like it that way, the diversity.  Generally, I hole myself up in my office most of the day.  (Sexy!) And, depending on the day, I work on client projects or personal projects or both.

I have no typical days. And I, overall, like it that way, the diversity.

You’ve acted and openly promote humour on your blog. You don’t see much humour in the business world, why do you think that is? Should there be more of it?
Of course, I think there should be more of it.  As for why there isn’t…  I recently saw an interesting post which rebutted the contention that women are less funny than men and one of the points the author made was that there is more at risk for women to be funny.  I agree with that – the risk for women to not be taken seriously in general, by being funny, is there, certainly.  And, to a lesser degree, this is true for businesses too.  Humor is, to some extent, about poking fun at yourself and your flaws – as well as those of others.  And businesses sometimes go for the bland, the safe – or even the very vague.  So that it does not offend people, or be seen as insulting itself. I would say that the fun and the humor is possible when a company understands that to be creative means accepting and allowing that risk.

How do you approach productivity? What challenges do you have in this area? How are you overcoming them? Any tips for others?
As someone who works online, there is no shortage of distracting shiny things.  And what’s worse, is that those shiny, distracting things are often totally useful, just not something I can/should be focussing on at that particular time.  For instance, while doing research on a project, I might come across some random weird searches that would be a perfect rabbit hole to explore for the blog or podcast. But I can’t go down that path because I need to do this one thing exclusively right now.  I have tried Rescue Time, which proved to be somewhat useful, but not ideal for my purposes.  Overall, trying to be disciplined about one thing, turning off the phone, the email alerts/social media alert bells and whistles while I’m working does help.  And again, in terms of retaining the focus on a particular task, I think the best thing I can do is just note everything that I find or that occurs to me in a Word document and tell myself that starting down that path will stress me out worse later, as there’s a limited amount of time I want to spend in front of the computer (to allow for a life).  That’s the most effective technique I found and it only works about half of the time.

But I can’t go down that path because I need to do this one thing exclusively right now.

Do you have a good work-life balance? If no, why? If yes, how do you achieve it? What are you beliefs around this?
I am getting better all the time – and it’s certainly become more essential to me to have that balance.  I’m pretty committed to the work-life balance I have set up this year. Previously, I have taken on too much, worked too hard, networked too much – and ended up burning out.  As I’ve gotten older, I realize that downtime is necessary and valuable – and that my health and relationships are paramount.  I have to accept being slightly less than perfect (Noooooooo!), and allow myself to take on much less.  I really value my partner, my friends, having fun etc.  I also enjoy working – but not at the expense of everything else.  It’s too high a price, and in the end much less fulfilling. That’s the place I’ve gotten to.

Can you share a personal or business challenge that was hard to deal with and how you overcame it and what you learned from it?
Sure.  I had a project for a client which came with unrealistic goals.  In order to get the contract, I accepted the goals.  They were really, really hard to achieve and I spent countless hours to make the project a success according to their terms.  I don’t regret taking it on, because I learnt a ton with respect to these kinds of projects, but I wouldn’t commit to something like that again.  I’ve also taken on projects where the client really didn’t want to pay what it would take to make the project work, and I still agreed to do it.  I just ended up working far more hours than I billed out in order to make it a success and lost money and all my free time.

I’ve also taken on projects where the client really didn’t want to pay what it would take to make the project work, and I still agreed to do it.

I realized a number of things: Firstly, it’s up to me to set boundaries and carve out the kind of parameters that work for me. Also, sometimes what the client wants and what is achievable within their budget are two different things.  Some look at marketing as a very small part of the puzzle, and, in my experience, assuming you have a good product, getting the word out and how you get the word out is key and at least half (if not the majority) of that puzzle.  You could have a wonderful product, but if no one knows about it, it’s just a great product -sans audience.  So, I have learned that setting boundaries and being upfront about what I need in order to make the project work means that I will lose many more potential clients than I will gain, but that I will ultimately be more satisfied both in terms of money and self-respect with the projects that I do take on.

What inspires you?
Brilliant, creative, original projects.  I can’t put my finger on what specifically, but some things are so inspired that they inspire me.  Also: people who are genuinely passionate about what they do.  As examples, Havasi’s “The Storm” , films that are original, rooted in realistic characters, and are unexpected, unpredictable (particularly thrillers, e.g. Red Road, Ne Le Dis à Personne).  I also love multimedia projects that tell stories in a less-conventional way (was totally captivated by The NFB’s Welcome to Pinepoint) – and other projects that tell stories creatively (the play, Ride the Cyclone was phenomenal, especially in that respect).    

What is your favourite quote of all time?
One? Just one? I can’t…  My two favorites are:

“There’s nothing wrong with getting 20 million viewers, but I think there’s something wrong with aiming at getting 20 million viewers, because then you have to take away all the things that will offend, and you’ll end up with something so anodyne that it just washes over you for half an hour.” – Ricky Gervais (It’s something I think about whenever I am tempted to tone down my humor, within the comedy stuff, so that I don’t risk offending someone.  It doesn’t always keep me from watering it down, but it helps considerably. )

Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Judge every day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you sow.” This is something I try to remember every time I think, “OK, so you’ve done all this, but what’s been the outcome?”  I’m someone who always thinks, given my obsessive work ethic that I should be further along in the process.   It’s a good reminder that the results aren’t always immediately apparent.

When you’re not working what do you do to relax?
Read (especially books that relate to human behavior – psychology, behavioral economics – and humorous memoirs), fitness (am passionate about pole-dancing and started aerial silks this year which is ridiculously hard and also very fun to get better at), watch stuff on Netflix.  I love movies, although I don’t go to see films as much as I used to.  This will serve as a good reminder to do that more.  I also like just hanging out with my partner and friends and good talks and silliness, especially over food.   

What is one thing that your coworkers, clients or friends may not know about you?
I’m a makeup nut.  Love it.  The only time the habit seems reasonable is around Halloween when I watch a YouTube makeup tutorial and realize that all those ridiculous colors I need for that look?  Yeah, I already have all of them.

In your industry, what is the biggest trend or opportunity you are seeing right now?
I feel it’s the ability for businesses and artists to leverage their supporters.  At no other time has it been as easy to find and connect with people who are already interested in what you have to offer. And find new people who might be.    

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing now, what would you be doing?
Probably acting. No doubt. I still adore it and remain passionate about it.  But I don’t miss the lack of control over my life.  That said, there are projects I continue to do on my own, and someday, maybe I’ll really and truly finance a film I’ve written.  I also relish doing the podcast, so we’ll see where that leads.  I do love comedy and making people laugh. 

  • Nice to read something on the personal side. I do agree with Monica there needs to be more humour in social and in life. Also the comment about shiny objects, there are so many new shiny tools and technologies it is hard to follow all of them, yet it is a must if you want to be current.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Great to get a glimpse into the personal life of other professionals. Fantastic way to learn and keep ourselves both motivated and grounded.

    All the best for the holidays and beyond!

  • AWWWWWWSSSOOOMMMEEE interview. Very cool that you enabled Monica to share so much about herself. It’s refreshing to value the life balance that we all struggle with.

  • Tanya

    Go, Monica! A truly amazing woman.