PEOPLE: Why Shama Hyder doesn’t believe in ‘fake it until you make it’

Shama Hyder is a globally renowned marketing leader, CEO, Author and more. Shama started Zen Media, one of the first social media agencies in the world, when she was 22 years old.

We asked Shama about her views on the trends versus the buzzwords, and her advice for others considering a career in marketing and social media.


  • What was the biggest prediction about digital marketing in 2019 that flopped and why?

That VR will be the big thing. Most people don’t engage in VR on a daily basis. I do believe AR has a lot more potential but that’s on a 5 year trajectory. 

  • What is the most over-looked trend in digital marketing that you think will truly transform businesses and consumers in 2020? Why?

Experiential. I think we’ve just scratched the surface with it. There’s so much room to fully engage people – offline and online. I also don’t think attention is as scarce a commodity as we make it seem. People pay LOTS of attention when it’s something they are interested in or care about. The focus shouldn’t be on how we get attention. It should be about how we make it RELEVANT enough to be worthy of attention. Even a whisper can be heard if there’s enough hunger for it. 

  • Why is digital marketing and social media a passion for you? When did you know it was something you wanted to build a career around, and what’s your advice to other young professionals considering a similar career path?

I wrote my graduate thesis on Twitter…when it had 2,000 users. It was VERY early days for social media and digital marketing at large. In fact, it was so new that there were no jobs in the industry. The “industry” barely existed so I started my own company, Zen Media, right out of school. I wrote one of the first books on the topic, The Zen of Social Media Marketing, which is now in its 4th edition and used by college campuses around the world to teach the subject.

I started my company when I was 22. I’m often still the youngest in a room. Today, my portfolio of work speaks for itself. There’s a proven track record so clients trust that I know what I am talking about. When I was more junior, it took a lot of self confidence and removing the risk for the client. I knew I could deliver so I’d make it a no-brainer for them to hire me. Basically, if they weren’t happy with what I was delivering, they’d be under no obligation to continue. And, it worked. I don’t believe in “fake it until you make it”. I DO believe in betting on yourself. Don’t expect others to take that risk. I always understood the burden was on ME to prove myself, and not on them to even give me the opportunity. In that way, I never took anything for granted.

  • Digital marketing is easily under-estimated and over-simplified among the C-suite – do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

Agree. I think it has shifted in the last few years. When I first started Zen Media, there was more a sense of educating people in the why. Now, because of the way the world has moved, when people approach us it is because they understand the importance. We don’t really have to pitch them on the idea. We are not explaining to them why this is important to them anymore. They are on the digital bandwagon. The challenge is that it HAS been over-simplified and is often forced to act and be measured like traditional marketing which just doesn’t work. You can’t fit a square peg into a round hole. Digital has its own rules. It IS by far the most effective way to reach people and the ROI is not up for debate so that’s the good news. I do believe b2b companies are way behind their b2c counterparts. It’s why this year, I wrote an entire b2b marketing manifesto. 


About the expert

As CEO of Zen Media, the first Business Relations Agency™, Shama and her team help B2B brands succeed in the digital age. Zen Media is the only b2b PR agency  to be honored by both the White House and the United Nations as a Top 100 company in the United States. She has been named the “Zen Master of Marketing” by Entrepreneur Magazine and the “Millennial Master of the Universe” by FastCompany,  Forbes, Businessweek, and Inc have all recognized her as one of the Top 30 under 30 entrepreneurs in the field of marketing.  Shama has built a global audience and is known for helping brands succeed in the digital age. She is the bestselling author of The Zen of Social Media Marketing, now in its 4th edition and Momentum: How to Propel Your Marketing and Transform Your Brand in the Digital Age. An acclaimed keynote speaker, Shama has delivered keynotes in over 20 countries and spoken for recognized brands including Movado, Chase, Tupperware and Inc 5000. She has been named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Marketing for four years (2016-2019) in a row.