Six Questions with Muhammad Saleem

Search Engine Strategies Chicago will commence on Monday, launching a week of Internet marketing education and camaraderie in the Windy City. Susan will be giving us a front-row view of the sessions she attends next week, but right now we’re privy to a special sneak peak with SES Chicago presenter Muhammad Saleem.

Muhammad Saleem

Muhammad is the director of social media strategy at ChicagoNow, a Tribune Company blog about all things Chicago. He is the senior social media editor at, a peer-reviewed journal covering the search engine marketing industry. He also writes on his blog Muhammad Saleem: Social Media Strategy For New Media Entrepreneurs.

Muhammad is a presenter during the sessions “Real Time SEO: No More Yesterday’s News” and “Facebook Rockstars Roundtable: Marketing For the Other Internet,” where he’ll share his insights about social media marketing, online news organizations and the real-time Web. Before the show, though, he’s going to share some thoughts with us right here and now.

1. You’ll be speaking on the panel “Facebook Rockstars Roundtable: Marketing For the Other Internet.” The session description says that speakers will share anecdotes of their winning social media strategies. Is there a story you tell clients and colleagues most often in order to illustrate an important point? If not, can share a revealing story with us anyway? :)

The story I love to tell is the one where we started with no budget for Facebook marketing or promotion and an understaffed team and managed to grow our Facebook page fan numbers 10-fold, interaction numbers on the page about 15-fold, and traffic from Facebook to our site(s) about 40-fold, all in 2 months. You don’t need to invest a lot of money into Facebook to achieve stellar results you just need the right strategy.

2. The ability to measure effects of social media marketing is still in its early stages. Do you have any recommendations for marketers struggling with social media metrics? What is your process for measuring social media’s brand impact?

The metrics you monitor depends on what your business goals are. There are qualitative metrics like presence, mindshare, exposure, etc. and there are quantitative metrics such as unique visits, page views, time spent on brand pages, and total interactions with the brand. Either of those metrics are fine as long as they help you achieve your business goals. There are dozens of social media monitoring tools out there and the one best suited to your needs depends on the size of your company (and your target presence, i.e. How many touch points you anticipate wanting to measure) and your budget for monitoring.

3. You are the director of social media strategy for Tribune Company’s ChicagoNow, a HuffPo-Facebook hybrid for the Chicago area launched in August. Anytime a new site launches, there are always compromises to be made among team members. Were there any social media requirements you just wouldn’t bend on? What capabilities did you feel were most important to include when designing a community site for Chicagoans from the ground up?

One of the main reasons I joined the team was that Bill (my boss) told me that I wouldn’t have to make compromises. Everything that made sense to implement would be implemented, it’s only a matter of time and resources. Our goal with ChicagoNow is to have a presence in every vertical that Chicagoans are interested in, and interact with the community on any platform they’re congregating on.

4. At ChicagoNow you’re specializing in the growing intersection between local and social marketing and content. The two seem to make a natural pair, but what has the experience been like at ChicagoNow? Any early takeaways on how users prefer to interact with the news-community hybrid site?

When you’re working on platforms that are designed to be global tools with local dimensions, there are many things that are simply out of your control. Whether it be building a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, or even simply blogging. Once you create the content, you cannot control how it is shared by your community. So while we have a very strong local presence (and social media definitely helps bring some of that in), the larger audience coming from social media tends to be more national than from Chicago.

5. You’ll also be speaking on the panel “Real Time SEO: No More Yesterday’s News,” which is focused on search marketing for media companies. ChicagoNow is doing something pretty innovative by bringing together outside blogs. It’s a fascinating new approach, but giving up control — both of the content and of the ability to optimize it –might make some businesses nervous. What would you say to them? Has your team faced any challenges in optimizing a site that relies so heavily on outside content?

There is no need to be nervous. Giving up control over editorial doesn’t mean that you give up the ability to optimize or maintain quality in any other way. We have a rigorous process that bloggers have to go through before they come on the site, and once they come on board we train them on blogging as well as basics of SEO and SMO. Furthermore, the way our compensation structure works, it’s in the best interest of all bloggers to be personally invested in the success of the project. Our bloggers are genuinely interested in learning from our experience and fine-tuning their craft and are more than happy to listen to our recommendations when we tell them what trends to look for, what kind of content to create, and how to create the content. The final decision rests with them but they have an enormous support structure if they choose to avail it.

6. Are there any other sessions you plan to attend while at SES Chicago? Where might attendees be able to track you down for a minute or two?

I haven’t made plans to attend any panels but I’m hoping to meet with a lot of people outside of panels. People can get in touch with me via email at

You can also find him on Twitter, @msaleem. Thanks so much for taking the time to share your expertise, Muhammad, both with blog readers and with conference attendees. Have a great time at SES Chicago next week!

By the way, it’s not too late to register for a pass to SES Chicago. Just to sweeten the deal, don’t forget to use the 20 percent discount code 20BCLAY — applicable on conference passes as well as on Bruce Clay’s one-day SEO training course.

Virginia Nussey is the director of content marketing at MobileMonkey. Prior to joining this startup in 2018, Virginia was the operations and content manager at Bruce Clay Inc., having joined the company in 2008 as a writer and blogger.

See Virginia's author page for links to connect on social media.

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