Before becoming the “Social Media Swami,” Shashi Bellamkonda had to take a giant leap of faith and seek a fresh start.
The North Potomac resident was living in his native India, overseeing a staff of 150 people at a logistics chain when he decided to bring his wife and child with him to the United States. Bellamkonda didn’t want to grow old and not feel like he had taken every opportunity to be successful, he said.
Fourteen years after coming to the U.S., Bellamkonda has found his success, selected as one of 25 recipients of the Washington Business Journal’s 2012 Minority Business Leader Awards.
“It was quite a pleasant surprise,” Bellamkonda, now 49, said. “I met current and past awardees and there is a lot of enthusiasm. I’m lucky to be associated with people like that.”
After taking classes at Montgomery College and balancing a full-time restaurant job, Bellamkonda started with Network Solutions in its customer service department, he said. He would work his way up the ranks with a new job “every 2-3 years” before landing in his current role as Senior Director of Social Media where Bellamkonda works with customers to create content for small business, helping them with community outreach, he said.
“There comes this moment of discovery,” Bellamkonda said, “that if you can reach people and answer the questions they’re asking, you have maximum impact.”
And Bellamkonda finds ways to be impactful in both his professional and personal life by applying his knowledge of social media and using it to help his friends, he said.
He’s taken his trade to Bombay Bistro, helping its chef get his blog off the ground. Bellamkonda’s also befriended his optometrist, Dr. Alan Glazier, and inspired him to start using social media.
Around late 2005 to early 2006, Glazier said he noticed his practice was dying and with some guidance from his patient, boldly abandoned traditional marketing platforms for social media.
“[Shashi] is a visionary in a lot of ways,” Glazier said. “He has the ability to point out stuff to me that’s going to take off well in advance."
In this case, Bellamkonda suggested there might be an opportunity to drive attention to Glazier’s practice and save money, Glazier said. He proceeded to spend six months building his social media presence and search engine optimization and “saw a huge uptick in business for Q4,” Glazier said.
“[Shashi’s] mastered the social side of it,” Glazier said. “A lot of people claim to be ‘Swamis,’ but he really knows how to use the medium they way it’s meant to be used.”
Using the success of his own business model, Glazier wrote a book – Searchial Marketing: How Social Media Drives Optimization in Web 3.0 – and sought Bellamkonda’s input within his areas of expertise.
In addition to his role at Network Solutions, Bellamkonda also teaches new media platforms at Georgetown University where he tries to bestow the same knowledge he worked so hard to acquire since coming to the U.S.
"You really see the students grow," he said. "Teaching is a form of learning, and you learn every day in life."