“I’ve always been an early adapter,” said local social media guru Tonya Hall, “so I signed up for MySpace when it was launched in 2003 — and I saw then that social media would change marketing in ways that no one could imagine.”
A self-described military brat, Hall was born in Kansas and grew up in Texas. Her parents, now retired, live in Colorado Springs.
“We lived all over Texas,” she said, “you name the town — I’ve probably lived there.”
Her career in marketing began during 1990, when she joined a Missouri company, Continental Cablevision. Six years later, she left Continental to work in the telecommunications industry.
“It was clear that the game was changing,” she said, “and I wanted to be part of that change, and at the time, telecoms were the new game.”
But within a few years, the new game was the old game, so Hall shifted gears again and jumped into the brave new world of social media.
After brief stints at Verizon and Wide Open West, Hall started her own company, Barzhini, during 2006, and quickly assembled an impressive client roster of local, national and even international companies.
Barzhini, according to its Web site, “provides overall vision and leadership to all areas of marketing for clients, including brand management, customer research and development, trend, promotions, advertising, marketing communications, internal communications and public affairs.”
“Change is so fast that it’s a full-time business just to keep up with the technology,” Hall said, “much less understanding its implications and using it effectively.”
Gary Rosenson at Playboy Enterprises, a Barzhini client, says that Hall is “a marketer who is willing to push the boundaries, rather than simply put forth cookie-cutter efforts.”
The catalyst for social media, Hall believes, was the 2008 Barack Obama campaign.
“Obama used online technology and social media and linked it all together in ways that had never been done before — it was a complete game-changer,” she said, “and since then no business, no political campaign, no non-profit can afford to be without a social media presence.”
Hall even has a plan for late-adapting companies.
“I look at what a customer is doing, and sometimes it only takes a small adjustment to make big improvements — a viral campaign, a refocused Web site, a different presence in social media,” she said, “and sometimes I have to sort of reinvent the wheel.”
Monty Kerr, the CEO of Red 5 Games, has worked with Hall.
“I’ve almost never had good experiences with external business consultants,” Kerr said. “But I’m glad I listened to Tonya. She changed our message with a few inexpensive adjustments that increased our adoption and lowered our churn rates.”
Hall spent much of 2008 and 2009 with the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce as director of emerging business sectors and technologies, patiently explaining the intricacies of social media to local businesses and, during the Chamber’s annual trip to Washington, to elected officials.
Elected officials, says Hall, are neither more nor less clueless than the rest of us.
“The ones who got it, got it,” she said. “They all seemed to see value, but some are more comfortable than others.”
Hall attended college at East Texas Baptist University and Missouri Baptist University, majoring in communications and business. She was awarded scholarships to both institutions because of her skill at an ancient social medium: voice.
“I have a very deep passion for music,” she said. “I’m very emotional about it — it’s a big deal. That’s why I so enjoy working with the Colorado Springs Conservatory. We’ve been working on a scholarship program, which is kind of on hold now because of the economy, but we’re hoping to start back up this year.”