Social Media Success Stories: Final with Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com

I apologize for my lateness.  I’ve learned so much from two very cool people who have given me amazing insight into this space where there are no established rules. Joselin Mane and Alejandro Reyes, you guys are a few of a handful of people in this space who just “get” it; are willing to try new things, stumble along the way and carve out new paths for the rest of us. Thanks again for allowing me into your world. I strongly encourage everyone to follow Joselin and Alejandro on Twitter. Here are their accounts: Joselin Mane ; Alejandro Reyes

Here is Part IIc of Social Media Success Stories – my interview with Alejandro.

HJ: It looks like you believe that there is a future in display advertising. I was having a conversation with a friend, who says “People’s purchase behaviour will always be based on emotion”. Regardless of what medium you end up using, people will purchase based on what their mindset is at the moment, whether or not it’s planned or impulse. That has not changed regardless of new formats that are introduced into the ad world. Whether you use an SEM, social media or display format, the consumer will get to where they’re intended to go.

AR: Very interesting… Carlos and Lupe talked about behavioural and targetted type of advertising. When they do their ad buys they’ll go off of demographics and they’ll do a split test on a certain product, and see what converts. So , know your demographics and incorporate tests. These guys do split tests 5 to 7 times a day. So banner advertising is all about split testing. Also, Gmail, Yahoo! and Facebook are using profile information to target relevant ads ie if I’m interested in cars, I’ll get served a Mustang ad. It’s more intuitive type of advertising. Before advertising used to get me so upset because they were so irrelevant. But now if I go someone’s Facebook whose interested in knitting, for example, they are probably going to see a knitting ad. So it’s interesting to see ads tied to people’s profiles and interests. I think that’s where advertising is going.

HJ: Having worked at Yahoo!, they understand that exposure from an ad needed to move away from impressions and more towards performance ie click-through (CTR). Taking it one step further, the addition of behavioural targeting provides a better way for the advertiser to increase CTR performance, but it’s also more expensive to do that. And for advertisers, are they willing to pay the cost for the targeted group they are trying to reach? As well, there are not a lot of places that are doing it well except for Yahoo!. Now, social media sites are under pressure to monetize their sites and they’re starting to incorporate more advertising opportunities. Facebook has received backlash because their users were made aware that their profile and behavioural information was being used to target them for advertising purposes. In this sense, it defeats the purpose of why Facebook was launched in the first place. Everybody talks about the inability to monetize a social media site. You’re talking about it from the perspective of creating authenticity, building credibility and selling it on your terms to your friends and followers as opposed to using the tools on the site.

AR: You’re totally right because it worked for me and I think it can work for other people as well. I just think that people can go out there and for people that want to monetize their site, they have to follow a process to get to there. So why not take that timeframe and add value to people’s lives even though it takes you 3 months or 6 months. Go out there and start it. Don’t completely stop your business but do it as a side project simultaneously. Go to Twitter and connect with your audience – they are out there anyway. But test it and see if it’s working for you.

HJ: How much as your traffic grown: now vs. April when you launched?

AR: It’s so funny because people get on me because I don’t really track all that stuff. On Compete.com I grew 17.9% last month. When I started my site (I don’t know what people think of Alexa) I was at 1 million (est) and now I’m at 120,000. I did that really fast. I went from 600,000 to 300,000 to 120,000 in Alexa. And I’ve been so busy with projects lately that I’ve only blogged about once in the last few weeks. If I would’ve blogged the 3 days a week that I started out with, my site would just be crazy right now. And that’s why I’m revamping my blog to really take that traffic to the next level. But you know, earlier on (June) I started seeing 20,000 visitors then it dropped because I had the baby. Then it started to go back up last month and towards the end of this month I’ll boost it again with a big contest to find the best impersonation of me. Because I’m very loud and crazy and very passionate guy and that’s how my videos are. So, I’m going to give people an opportunity to make fun of me and impersonate me and hopefully that contest will go viral and promote the new blog post. And that’s what people have to do: they’ve got to mix it up and do interesting things that are unique and different to get people coming back to their site. Some people get to the point where they’re not posting enough. Eventually they don’t post at all and they abandon the blog. If people love you and you have a good audience, you will be forgiven and you can be right back to where you were if you do some creative, unique things. And that’s what I’ve done with my blog: I’ve mixed things up and made things different and with this impersonation contest I’ll be right back where I am and get that little boost of energy that I need. I’m getting a green screen, an HD camera and I’m going to do produced show-type videos. I just want to take it to the next level and give people what they deserve. I’m also going to do a lot more podcasting.

HJ: You’re actually using a lot of the social tools out there. And for those looking in, it seems like a daunting task. They’re saying, “Why put in the time? But it’s not really all that difficult, is it? Do you have to be tech savvy to do all this stuff”?

AR: No, it’s funny because I do internet marketing all of my offline friends and family think I’m a tech geek and they ask me, “Hey I have this issue with my computer, can you fix it for me?” and I say, “Dude, I’m a marketer, not a tech guru.” I have an i-phone, I have a Macbook Pro and when it comes to those things on the internet: search, Skype and recording an interview like this – I can do that stuff. But one thing about social media is that you have to like people because if you don’t like people it’s NOT going to work for you. If you are a jerk, it’s just gonna be magnified online especially in social media. First, you have to be interested in people. Secondly, you have to be interesting and to do this, you focus on your passion and you‘ll build your brand around your passion. And for me, I’m all about momentum. In the first 30 days from launch, between Monday and Friday and sometimes on Saturday, I was on Twitter for 2-3 hours a day and people may say that’s a lot of time. But what happened after that was that I created so much momentum that other people started talking about me. Now I’ll spend 30-40 minutes a day on Twitter and people are still talking about me; people will still connect with me, message me and will still follow me. So, when you create momentum, you can maintain that momentum. It’s going to cost you something now in terms of your time or it’s going to cost you later on in your business where you didn’t take the time. Your results long term are going to be impacted: your traffic, your conversion, your effectiveness and your influence online. I’m the type of guy who likes to pay for things up front even though it might stink to sacrifice some time. But long term, I believe that if you build it right the first time and your work really hard, opening the lines, you will create so much momentum that you’ll be all over the place on the internet. You can’t argue with 17,000 backlinks to your site. That’s insane and I have friends who are SEOs and they can’t believe it. A 4 month linkbuilding campaign – a “spammy” link building campaign will give you the same results. But this was authentic; it was about connecting and getting in the trenches, working side by side with people. I believe it’ll hurt you in the long run if you’re not willing to take the time out right now, work the extra hours ie get up earlier and go to bed later —- just do some of these things. People will say, “I can’t afford the time”. I’m a believer that you can’t afford NOT to do it right now because your business depends on it. Some people think it will magically happen because you have a Facebook account and a Twitter account that will make you this interesting social media person. It just doesn’t happen that way à you have to go out and be willing to put the work into it.

HJ: This has been really inspiring. And I connected with you because it’s evident you have a lot of value that you have given to so many. There are a lot of small businesses looking for that holy grail. I think part of it is within social media and if you have the right approach and the commitment then anything is possible.

Thanks again Alejandro.

Social Media Success Stories: Part IIb Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com

As promised, here is Part 11b of my interview with Successfool.com’s Alejandro Reyes. It looks like there will be a Part 11c, which I’ll post later this week.

HJ: Well, it’s funny how I ran across you. I was actually just surfing and looking for people to follow on Twitter and Michelle’s (MacPhearson) name came up. I went on her site and I stumbled onto a video about you and she spoke about the success of your business, your use of Twitter and the methods you used to follow and engage with people. There are a lot of people on Twitter who are spammers. There are people using the search to find keyword, “online marketer” and their intention is to sell you their methods on how to increase your online business ten-fold or how to be a millionaire by working at home. And yet the way you had approached it was not as overt. I looked at the profile of some of these Twitterers and they followed a lot of people, but their follower base was much smaller. Can you tell me about Twitter since that was the main driver of your traffic?

AR: Twitter is definitely my number one traffic source. And the thing about Twitter is that a lot of people ask me, “How much time does it take?” That’s really one of the big things. I was on Twitter on April Fool’s Day but I was on it as a spectator, listening and watching. It all goes back to that awareness I spoke about. And so I used tools like summize. Twitter eventually purchased them but I went to summize , which  was essentially a Google search engine for Twitter. It’s a conversation search engine. So I was looking at the conversations happening, what people were posting and I started interjecting myself into conversations.  Look at it from an off-line standpoint. If you’re at a social mixer offline like a networking event and you’re joining conversations that are irrelevant and you don’t know what people are talking about, you’re interrupting people’s conversations and it’s rude. And what you have to do – and this is how I am offline – is listen to people and if it’s relevant to something I like, something that I’m interested in or a business that I’m involved in like internet marketing or real estate, I’ll jump into the conversation. So that’s the same thing with Twitter: where you start following people, pay attention to what they’re talking about and if something catches your attention you start to talk about it. And that’s the cool thing about Twitter: As I was sitting back watching conversations, there are a lot of people watching my conversations, your conversations and so they start to say, “Who is this guy? He’s answering a bunch of questions and providing some value and he’s getting content.”  And because my blog was in my bio, people started to come to it. On my blog, the hits to my contact form said, “Hey I notice you were talking about this” or “I noticed you commented on Chris Brogan’s blog” or “thank you so much for telling me about that Guy Kawasaki post”. So, I was promoting other people. And, a lot of people don’t like promoting other people’s sites because their mentality is to promote their stuff only. And so I was trying to become a resource of information or “mavens” like in the book “The Tipping Point”. I’m more like a connector or salesman but if you can become that resourceful person, people will start to become drawn to you and watch for your tweets because they know the information you provide, as they’re scrolling through the streams, is worth paying attention. And as I was consistently replying to people, more people rode on my bandwagon and started to reply to some of the things I was asking for. And so with social media, especially Twitter if you can 1) be resourceful but 2) have the ability to cluster or group together — a little community within a community and connect other people to each other just by conversation, you’re seen as the life of the party ie the one that gets people together. In marketing, it’s underrated  and no one sees the value of those people going out there and drawing crowds together in social media. People in social media, for the most part, are non-spammers and they like connecting with other people and if you can be that person that brings everyone together you raise your level of influence and credibility. So as I started to do that, my Twitter following rapidly started growing and after I hit that thousand mark it started growing a lot faster. The thousand mark is a rule of thumb. And I try to tell people to try to get to that thousand but do it in an ethical way. Start with relevant conversations, not forced conversations, very casual conversations with influencers in your niche. The influencers in my niche included Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Brogan and Guy Kawasaki. And when these guys start to tweeted about me (they have 10,000 – 20,000 followers)  I started to pick up their followers because they assume that whoever Guy’s talking to must be legitimate. I wasn’t afraid to connect with the giants, if you will, in my community.

HJ: Interesting approach to get to the influencers and that was exactly what I was trying to do when my company first launched our video product. I wanted to get Guy Kawaski’s attention so I took his video “The Art of the Start” and I created an overlay using our tool. Through Twitter, I sent him the URL trying to nudge his ego a bit and demonstrated how he could promote his video on other sites using our tool. And he responded that it was really cool. And later on as I started talking more about it, he started perceiving this more as a pitch – which it was—and this was me earlier on trying to understand how to connect with people of this stature. Regardless, it really put him off and afterward he started to back off and he didn’t say anything to me. There’s a lot to be said about that because if he doesn’t continue then you know you’ve done something to sour the conversation.

AR: And these people are very savvy. E.g. Are you familiar with the networking community, Direct Sales? A guy comes up and says “I have this great appetite suppressant green tea from China that totally will help your” but in trying to help someone out it’s still a pitch regardless of whether you have the relevant solution. But contrary to what you did with Guy, I knew he was really passionate about Alltop and I know he’s focusing on that right now and so I sent him a message letting him know I had an idea for topics for Alltop. I asked him how he preferred I send it. In the meantime, I pointed him to my blog and requested, “if you deem it worthy to put into Alltop, please feel free to add it.”  Within 12 hours he said, “You’re on marketing.alltop.com” and I’ve been getting traffic from there since. And I also gave him an idea regarding Ustream because at the time they were the only live stream video company that has an RSS feature. Guy gave me his personal email address along with his assistant’s and I sent him an email and asked, “Do you have an RSS for all the good live streams.” He inquired about tracking and I said, “Well, an idea is get the RSS and we’ll find out, through Business Development at Ustream, which shows are the most trafficked.” Long story short, Guy is now on the board of advisors of Ustream. And he’s going to be implementing http://allstream.alltop.com and forever Guy will know that I’ve added value to him and there were no strings attached for me. As I said earlier, sometimes you’ll get the short end of the stick and you’ve got to willing to be ok with that. Some people say, “If I’m not gonna win or I’m not gonna get the better end of this deal, I at least have to have 50/50“. That is the wrong attitude. You have to be willing to give value to people’s lives and their businesses with no strings attached. And so that’s what I do with guy. Sometimes I email Guy some ideas about Alltop and I’ve built a really good relationship there and I haven’t asked him for anything yet. And that’s what I’ve done with Twitter. I get more traffic from Twitter than I do Google.

HJ: What do you think about display ads? The Yahoo!s of the world are out there and they’ve banked on display advertising but considering the explosion of social media is it worth speculating about its sustainability down the road?

AR: Using it to market or offering it on your site?

HJ: As a traffic driver for advertisers.

AR: Absolutely. I was just at an event in Minnesota where I spoke. But it was here where I mett Carlos & Lupe Garcia (who are doing deals with Yahoo! And Myspace). They buy traffic in bulk and buy banner advertising and these guys are generating $1-$2MM a month. Now Yahoo! Has in-house banner ads that are taking up inventory that essentially should be sold to advertisers – remnant inventory. So these guys are buying crazy remnant inventory in bulk, on credit and basically converting it.  I believe SEO is changing and I think it’s going be a little bit less relevant or not as effective in the next year or two. You’re going see this banner stuff increasing. Based off of this conversation I had with them — I was in a room with Carlos and Lupe til’ 1:00 in the morning trying to comprehend how they’re making this type of money and they said to me, “Don’t even worry about Google. Google is a small slice of a really big pie.” And I started to think about that and it made total sense. And all these social media sites, when they’ve grown to a certain point, are starting to implement ad systems – Facebook, MySpace. At Facebook, you can get 5cents CPC. The conversions still aren’t the best. But if you would have asked me last week I would’ve said SEO is the way to go but they really blew my mind with banner advertising. I did some research on them and I talked to some of my friends who were SEOs and they all believe that things are shifting and with social media. Old-school SEO  was all about doing backlinks and on-page and off-page titles, incorporate negative key words, descriptions etc. and you waited for traffic to come to you. But I’m the type of guy whose very aggressive so I want to go where the traffic is at. All the traffic right now is on social media and social networks so it almost makes sense for big advertisers to recognize these things and try to advertise on these sites. I don’t know the HOW but if you can figure out a system or a way to make it convert and have a very good ROI then incorporating banner advertising with social media is only going to get bigger. And SEO is gonna change a little bit.

HJ: It’s interesting what you said because social media and SEO are intertwined. And when people search, social media sites come up first in the rankings more often than some of the official sites themselves. So you can’t really have one without the other.

AR: Yes, you have to have both. I’ve barely done any link building and I’m getting good traffic. But for social media I believe you need a blog. I refer to a blog as a nervous system – a cornerstone of a good social media campaign. So instead of purchasing a popular keyword, go find the long tail key words that are getting 100-200 searches a day. And create interesting content/titles with those key words and phrases. And if you get 2-5 clicks a day and you have a 100 different blog posts you’ve just netted 500 clicks from long-tail key words. So long-tail is better long term but making money online or home-based business or work from home or most popular key words — well you’ll just be doing a Google dance forever. But if you incorporate link building (which Google relies heavily) with long-tail key words you’ll see a greater beneft. A friend of mine has a site called SEOCLUB.com and he tracks data from 300 different servers and he says link building based on the SEO process is about 50% of the formula and I agree you have to have both. I’m not doing a lot of advertising right now and I eventually want to but for people just starting out, especially small businesses, you have to take baby steps. Because most of them who hear about Twitter will say, “How am I going to make money talking to people?  How am I gonna monetize this? Where is my ROI?” They want results right away.” Banner ads will always be there but they have to recognize this new space as well.

More to come….

Social Media Success Stories: Part IIa, Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com

I love Twitter. It’s connected me with some pretty awesome individuals — people who get this social space and understand what it takes — not only to survive — but to succeed. A few weeks ago as I was preparing to present at the SOHO conference in Toronto, I contacted Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com. From what I’ve seen and read about this guy, he is helping define the way we all should navigate in this space especially businesses who are unaware of the immense opportunities as well as the potential pitfalls they may experience unless they follow the rules.

I had about an hour’s conversation with Alejandro. Below you’ll find some pretty rich advice from “the man himself”. I’ve tried not to create an “unplugged” script so you’re getting the essence of Alejandro — his energy and enthusiasm and love for what he does. This is Part IIa because I spent at least 5 hours typing out the script for about 20 minutes of the interview. Needless to say, it’ll probably run into Part IIb and c. Look for these follow-ups in the coming days. I didn’t want to leave anything out because everything he says is important. Please enjoy!

HJ: Tell me about Successfool? Why did you start it? What was the premise behind it?

AR: With my style of marketing and what I believe — it goes back 10 years to where I started in entrepreneurship. The thing about is that I was doing a lot of things online – like a lot of people who get into a niche because of a certain key word and there’s not a lot of competing sites. And I did all that but what ended up happening is that I got bored and started something else and was doing things that I wasn’t passionate about so. I had a mentor tell me last year, “Alejandro, you’ve got to find out what you’re most passionate about and find a way to get paid to do it”. This is a friend of mine who’s a passion coach and travels the world and speaks on passion. That really resonated with me because it totally made sense and I look back 10 years and I was doing things that were to make money vs. what I was passionate about. And for me, someone who was ADD, if I don’t like or love what I’m doing I’ll get really bored and I’ll quit it. And so I decided I’m going to focus on what I’m passionate about. And, and I’m addicted to people, connecting with people, connecting others, being very resourceful, communicating, speaking, inspiring, motivating. So I came up with this idea for Successfool that was based off of a book that Seth Godin wrote called, “Meatball Sundae” . And a lot of marketers who were fans of him didn’t care for that book compared to his other books but I’m the type of guy – if you gave me one nugget and it’s a really good one, I’ll use that and chew on it. And he (Seth Godin) said, “People are looking for an authentic story”. And this really hit me because I started to see how the web was shifting and before it all if I wanted to buy a Honda, I’d go to a Honda site or a Consumer Reports to look at reviews. If I wanted to find a church, I would go to a church website. But as the web shifted into the collaborative Web 2.0 – ie New Media, NOW people are talking to each other and this is where the authentic story came in. And if you’re transparent, real and authentic I really believe as the market heads in that direction, I believe people can associate with what people call the Law of Attraction and I believe that you attract who you are and so I just wanted to be true to myself. I started to look at Oprah’s business model and all she’s ever done for the past however many years is she bought on people and she extracted a unique, transparent, authentic real story. So I decided to be real and be myself. I’m not gonna be this guy in a suit and tie. I’m just gonna be who I was made to be and I just went out there and so started successfool.com. The reason I started that not because not only that it was a really cool brandable name in one word but because, one, Alejandro Reyes I lost it back in 2001 plus Alejandro is just a long name. But Successfool, the full aspect, is who I was growing up. Teachers, my mom — people called me a fool and so successfool was all about people –> sometimes as an entrepreneur you have to look foolish to your family, your friends and the rest of the world and do things that ordinary people aren’t willing to do. And so that was kind of the basis. It is who I am, it is my personality, it is my DNA and I wanted to go out there and share that with the world. On April Fool’s Day I went out there and started successfool.com with no previous posts, no Twitter account, no Facebook account, believe it or not and I wanted to do this social media experiment and spent no money on advertising and then just started the blog. And that’s kinda how April Fool’s started for me and that’s how Successfool.com was born.

HJ: Did you have any idea what kind of content would be on your site?

AR: Absolutely. So many people – and this is the problem with a lot of people especially with social media and the way the web’s going – want to do things perfectly. I’m on the other side of the spectrum from the analytics. Analytics are people who are anal retentive and need to have their systems in place. They need to have their I’s dotted and their T’s crossed. In the book of “Rules for Revolutionaries” Guy Kawasaki says “Don’t worry be crappy”.  Everyone focuses on getting everything perfect and what ends up happening is that they put out their product, their service, their blog, their site and their idea is already passed up by the market. And so I said, “here’s what I want to do. I want to bring on people – because I have a lot of really cool contacts. I want to interview people on their stories of entrepreneurship; how they became  entrepreneurs; how they went from that rags to riches story. And I wanted my site to be a place that wasn’t only about teaching the principles of success, the ideas and theories of success, but also house ideas of real entrepreneurship. So, I was flexible with the direction but I wanted to be collaborative and I wanted to bring in other people so it would mix up the voice; it would mix up the content and it wouldn’t be just one guy talking, writing or doing video. That’s how it started. But since then I’ve added video; I’ve added live view streams and I’m a firm believer in knowing where you’re going and knowing your end in mind but allowing your course to be flexible because what happens is that people get so attached to an idea and sometimes that idea may not work out and they ride that idea to the grave. And so I’ve been very flexible about where I’m headed and I’m kinda just like playing chess right now and I’m getting a better idea of the kind of content that I’m gonna do. I’m revamping my blog right now and focusing heavily on podcasting and video. But the content has always been about sharing inspirational stories of people living the internet lifestyle.

HJ: Why do you think Successfool has done so well? Has it been your approach to driving traffic or do you think the content you’re providing is what’s drawing people?

AR: I think it’s a bit of everything. But it is the content, it is the idea, it is the personality but it’s a bunch of different things. And there’s not ONE thing someone can say that was the instigator – there’s just been about 100 different things that I’ve been able to do like connecting and having connections to influencers on Twitter and Facebook talk about me. The strategies that I teach and talk about are strong drivers. But also having my brand so close to my passion and my DNA — and when you’re passionate about a specific thing or topic you have endless content. Why? Because it is inside of you. And I know you’ll be talking to a small business group and hopefully they’re passionate about what they do or at least they know a lot about the products or services so the content can be endless. If I wanted to talk about golf, which I’m not a huge fan of nor know nothing about, I’d have to find some good writers and do a lot of research outside of who I am, internalize it and create a blog. I believe that if you’re passionate about a topic, it’s already inside of you so all you have to do is collect your thoughts and put it all down on paper. And so I think that’s what’s helped me the most. I’m a firm believer that you have to be posting 3 times a week at minimum because you have to show some consistency and when you’re passionate about your topic it’s going to be much simpler to write than it is to write about something that you don’t really care about and you’re just trying to make money out of it.

HJ: In the social media space, authenticity is always at the forefront. Selling is the worst thing that you can do straight off. It’s about creating relationships. Why, in this space is it so different than traditional advertising. Why is the premise about sharing and collaborating first and selling is last? Why should marketers play in this space when they can’t sell right away?

AR: I’m going to address something you said first –> about not selling. That is something that I loved from my market. People have got to know their market especially those in small office/small business. And I know my industry and if you can do something a little bit different and you can disrupt that community that you’re in I really believe that kinda helped me out. My industry will say, “I’m gonna send an email out or I’m going to post to a forum and point you to a lead capture page and then I’ll start selling you my offer later through email marketing or I’m going to send you to a site that has an offer on it. It’s very Me, Me, Me, Me, and traditional internet marketing from marketing greats of past ie copywriters, gurus — that stuff has worked in the Web 1.0 area and now that’s shifting. So I’ve added a lot of value and selling was at the back of my mind ’cause I have to put food on the table so I did this crazy experiment. I said I’m gonna go out there and provide tons of value to people’s lives. I’m gonna make people lives and their businesses better and a lot of my friends, who are marketing folks, some do well or don’t do well, they say to me, “I can’t believe you don’t have an offer”. There were people following me (on Twitter) asking me what I was selling. And I didn’t have anything on my blog – and still don’t – where I’m directly selling something. So when someone comes to my blog, they are getting me. They’re getting content; authenticity. They’re getting a real story and a real person that’s genuinely interested in their well-being, their future, and their business. And people online don’t really care how much you know and there are a lot of people, I promise you, that are a lot smarter than me who are better copywriters, SEOs. But I don’t believe that anybody can outvalue me because I have a true convinction about providing tons of value because what happens is a lot of reciprocity – the law of giving and receiving – comes into place. So, selling up front on social media for people who are entrepreneurs or are in small businesses, be aware that you will almost get blacklisted — not like on a search engine — but blacklisted in the minds of people. And I’m a huge advocate of people’s minds and I believe you can create these little apartments or these little mansions in people’s brains with your name/brand in them because that’s really all you have online: who you are. And when people think of successfool.com, do they think of authenticity, do they think of fun or do they think of someone whose gonna sell me something? And so the way I’ve positioned my business is to provide a lot of value and on my live shows. I don’t pitch anything. But when I promote something in the future it’s most likely directly related to something that I’m up to, what I believe in and I most likely will not take an affiliate commission because I want people to know that I’m providing services that I believe can help enhance their business vs. me trying to make a dollar. So that’s what’s really helped my blog and a lot of my friends who come from the internet marketing community who really sell, sell, sell — I need to sit down with them and deprogram them. Most of the time in social media you have to be willing to get the short end of the stick in a lot of circumstances and to really raise your value and brand along with your trust and credibility because with social media everybody is talking to each other and if you’re known as the person who sells, sells, sells then someone might unfollow you on Twitter or remove you from their friend list because they know everything you put out there. The updates you put out there are all about you. It’s gonna be about your links and has to do with you making money and people will blacklist you out of their mind. They will tell their friends and this will create a negative word of mouth campaign online that you don’t want to have. I’ve seen it. The thing about social media is timing. One day in social media on the internet is equivalent to three weeks to a month offline. It’s very fast-paced and people will forget about you in a week if you have that sell, sell, sell mentality.

HJ: So, you come to a point where you’ve thought you’ve given enough value and have built a sufficient amount of trust. At what point do you think it’s appropriate to start selling?

AR: Selling is your ultimate goal. That is your end in mind ie to be in a position where you’ve created enough value to gain contracts through coaching, consulting or creating products. So I knew when I created Successfool that I needed to eventually generate revenue. So for me this is where it all started – April Fool’s Day. I believe that you have to have awareness. I played quarterback in high school for a couple of years and wasn’t the greatest athlete but the one thing that quarterbacks have to have is awareness of your surroundings. And I believe that people that are aware of their community — of their followers, of their friends – online will be the ones who win because it’s NOT a timeframe. This is what I feel — it’s more of an intuition when it happens. There is no exact timeframe. For me, I was just pumping content, not even thinking – to be honest with you – about what I was gonna do next so when I did that call with Michelle MacPhearson – and that’s how we connected, right? – and my blog was all about success and it was all about interviews but Michelle was noticing how I was marketing or offering that content to people. And so many people were following it and talking to me that she wanted to interview me not about my blog BUT how I was relating, connecting, growing my blog traffic, my followers on Twitter. And what ended up happening – in about 20 hours of promotion – (and at the time I had only hundred followers) we had 400 people register for that webinar, over 200 people showed up and the coolest thing was that (usually on webinars about 15 minutes into it you lose about 50% of your audience) we held about 90-95% of people throughout that call. I got about 30 emails, 100 adds on twitter, a bunch of direct messages from people, a few voice mails. The next day I told Michelle and my friend Justine about it and told them, “Look at what’s happened? This is absolutely insane” and they both said, “People want it”. People sent me emails that said, “Show me what you do” ,”How do you do it?”, “I need this for my business”, “I love what you say”, “No one’s talking about it”. And I kept getting that message.

Michelle was aiming to create a coaching program based around teaching people what you do so that’s exactly what I did. When I started Successfool, I had no clue how I was gonna monetize it, and I talked earlier about being very flexible with your blog or your site. And so I started creating this program called Social Marketing Rock Stars and it was all about becoming the thought leader or as I call it, the rock star of your community. Most people marketing online will find a keyword, they’ll find the market, they’ll do the whole demographic targeting based off of searches and behaviours and meet the need based on numbers. I met the need based on what people wanted most and it was based on what people needed vs. what people were searching for. People sometimes search for things that they really don’t need so I was out there in the trenches talking to people and I created a course probably 45 days into my blog and the cool thing was I didn’t have this big list of 20,000 people but rather around 300-400. So, I started promoting it and 6 other people ended up promoting it as well. They didn’t want an affiliate commission. They didn’t want a kick-back. They just wanted to do it based on the relationship I created with them. Normally within internet marketing, people will ask, “What’s your affiliate commission?” Is it 30% or 50%. Give me that affiliate link and I will promote it for you. That’s based on sending it to 10,000 people and I can make a couple of grand doing that. But the people that promoted it – it started with 2, then a couple more heard about it and said, “I wanna do that for you as well”. So, I was giving away free content and my friends thought I was crazy but I ended up making a little over $10,000 with zero advertising. I had money to advertise but I didn’t do it. I didn’t create any link-building campaigns or anything of that nature. But the thing is, the way people talk about you online is they link to you so everybody started talking about me and this coaching program and within 4 months (120 days), I received over 17,000 backlinks to my site and I haven’t done one link building campaign. I probably Dugg it a couple times and Stumbled. It goes to show if you’re interested in people first, not the algorithms, not the page rank — if you’re genuinely interested in people, they will tell you what they want;they will tell you what content to blog about; they will tell you about what videos to make; they will tell you about what products and services they’re willing to pay for –> if you just have your ear to the floor. And that’s what I did. I was responding to everybody. I gave out my phone number to people on my life conference call and now everybody and their mom wants to promote my coaching program.

More to come……stay tuned in the coming days.

SOHO, Toronto: Social Media Marketing in Uncertain Times

I was privileged to be a part of the SOHO Conference in Toronto and speak about Social Media Marketing. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was effectively able to get my main points across due to some time constraints. So what I’ve done is provided the presentation on my site so attendees can download it. I’ve also included my speaking notes so you can get a full view of my message. Please note, as part of my presentation I pursued a few online marketing colleagues through Twitter in an attempt to provide important insights on how this medium can help drive your business. In the coming days, I will post my interviews with Joselin Mane of LITBeL Consulting and Alejandro Reyes of Successfool.com

In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to download my presentation, The Art of Conversation.

I’d like to give credit for parts of the presentation that I pulled from Forrester’s “Groundswell”, IBM’s “The End of Advertising as we know it,” “Stompernet” (a strong resource for all my learning) and “Universal McCann’s Wave 3 Study”. I’d also like to give credit to David Jones, a good friend of mine, who was my first coach on the social media scene. Alejandro and Joselin, excerpts of our conversation were also part of my presentation. Thanks again for taking the time to help me get my message out there.

Here’s the slideshow:

Speaker Notes:

Social Media Marketing stems from this phenomena called Web 2.0. This presentation will discuss how the web has evolved in the last few years and why it makes sense to take advantage of this growing trend called Social Media, harness its benefits and help you grow your business and entrench your customers.

Slide 2 What is Web 2.0? It is a living term describing changing trends in the ways software developers and end-users use the Web that have helped shape this new creativity, information sharing, collaboration and functionality of the web. Web 2.0 concepts have led to the development and evolution of web-based communities and hosted services, such as social-networking sites, video sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and folksonomies. An important distinction for you is that Web 2.0 has huge implications for what we call the Long Tail –> ie niche communities. Pareto’s Principle states that 20% of the population control 80% of the wealth. These are the Coke’s and Mcdonald’s of the world. What’s more important is the immense opportunity for the remaining 80% of the web population, who can NOW can start leveraging 2.0 to help move the needle for their businesses.

Slide 3 Before social computing, the web was static; centrally managed; slow to change – content wasn’t always refreshed; and unidirectional ie top down where information was provided and dictated by experts/establishments — libraries, research institutions who traditionally were the sources of information. These were sources we didn’t question.

Now, in this new space there is this a shift:
– From Centralization to decentralization. This means the move away from what we remember as the “mainframe computer” to the emergence of peer to peer networks.
– From Unidrectional to participation. The participation from the masses means the audience is contributing to conversation and information exchange taking place. All this is creating new knowledge streams through user generated content. Simultaneously, this audience is not readily accepting the content provided by mainstream media and traditional sources as truth.

Slide 4 People formerly known as the audience now have the power and technologies are making it easier for the audience to have some control over content. In a nutshell, we are harnassing collective intelligence that is very much a user-submitted and user controlled.

Generally, if people can submit links to content, submit content, make comments and vote good/bad content up/down thus affecting the amount of traffic that content can generate, it’s Web 2.0.

Slide 5 This is some data obtained from an IBM study completed last year that provided a view into how the future of advertising needs to change. Important to note is that media has become increasingly fragmented and the consumer’s time is split among many mediums and devices through newsprint, TV, radio, mobile the internet. Marketers, in general, are challenged more than ever to find those consumers where they are and how to message them appropriately.

Despite this fragmentation, the one area were a significant adoption is being realized specifically for those between 18-34 are social and User generated content sites, where, by the way, there exists little advertising. Interesting to note the significant adoption percentages among 35-54 on social networking sites as well.

Slide 6 Forrester authors, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff came out with a publication called “Groundswell”. They sought to analyze the web population, how they approach social technologies and the level of interaction in which they engaged. They defined as “the groundswell” as “the social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies.” IMPORTANT: they find interest in each other BUT they expect you as a company to listen. They divided up the groundswell into 6 distinct personas: creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives”. You’ll notice the majority of the web population are passive consumers or what we call spectators or inactives. They read blogs, video, browse . But increasingly we’re find a greater move in other areas of participation ie people who actually comment on blogs, rate and review, use RSS feeds. Participation is increasing. Your creators and critics are your early adopters, bloggers, key influencers in this space who can also command a huge following and may be integral to the success of your business.

Slide 7 Forrester looked at this population to determine the age segmentation applied to each segment on the technographics profile. Groups 25-34 over index in pretty much every segment category stated here. Interesting to note are that the 35-44 group are beginning to be a bit more active in these areas as well showing the move towards social networks is not limited only to these young kids. We’re starting to see a move within the older demographic especially within the creators and critics segments. This medium is increasingly being leveraged for the business value that it holds.

Slide 8 While Web 2.0 defines an era that has changed the face of the web, social media as a subset include those online apps, platforms and media that are making it easier for social computing to expand.

Slide 9 Universal McCann did a study earlier this year called Wave 3 that sought to understand the prevalence of social media from a global perspective. It looked at over 29 countries, 17,000 internet users to determine the frequency and usage of each of these social media behaviours. In all these cases since 2006 social media behaviours show a significant increased over 2 years. Some of the highest gains were found in: creating a social network profile, downloading a podcast, reading blogs. There was only one non-gainer among the bunch: ” leaving a comment on a news site”. This again is your traditional centralized, established information source which is still not perceived as a forum for real sharing or reviewing, but significant gains are being made in this space as well and news organizations like CNN are leading the way.

Slide 10 Some of the major findings in this study: 1) The largest participation of social media is in Asia 2) Blogs are now mainstream with over 184 MM bloggers worldwide. China alone has the largest blogging community in the world 3) The fastest growing platform is video.

Social media impacts your brand’s reputation : 1) 36% think more positively about companies that have blogs 2) 34% post opinions about products and brands on their blog

Slide 11 The essence of social marketing is NOT about selling, or being misleading. It’s not about you. The end goal is selling and it will be realized but heed the principles of the space and tread cautiously.

Social media is about about reaching out and connecting and hanging out with like-minded individuals and socializing and creating relationships. Let me illustrate some of the points above through examples.

Successfool.com. I had a conversion with Alejandro Reyes last week. I met him on Twitter. If anybody knows Alejandro’s story, he launched successfool.com April 1st of this year as a social media experiment to test the power of this medium. To launch his site he had he no marketing dollars. So he went onto Twitter and started watching conversations. Once in a while he would interject and provide comments or responses to questions. Before you know it he was gaining a huge following on Twitter and connecting with some very important influencers in the space. Within a few months he had garnered over 2000 followers on Twitter and over 17,000 backlinks to his site. By becoming this “resource of information” he began to raise the level of his influence and credibility. When I asked Alejandro to what he attributes his success, he said, “If you meet the right people, they will teach you the right things if they have your best interest in mind.” That is authenticity. He also indicated that social media is very fast-paced and the minute you put yourself out there you are defining your brand, and raising your level of awareness. How you engage in this medium will determine your success. “If you’re out there making offers on your stuff continuously and you’re not engaging with your audience, you’re just diluting your list and your brand. No one will listen to you anymore.”

Joselin Mane runs a company called LITBeL out of Boston. He is another social media success story.  Joselin left mainstream business to venture out on his own about 8 years ago. By his very nature, he is social and he found it easy hanging out and talking with marketing people on the web. Joselin’s advice to small businesses: “Businesses NEED to keep in tune with the stuff that’s happening around them. LISTEN and try to understand what people are talking about, especially with respect to your business. Do you have an immediate solution or suggestion? Put it out there and see if it has legs. There is a premium on being a Convenient Resource — someone who provides a solution to a question when it’s asked. The value you get is consistent with the value you deliver. Be open, respond and embrace and most of all RESPECT the medium.” With Twitter, Joselin states, “Twitter is fast-paced, real-time and you have an amazing opportunity to be part of a full-fledged conversation with influencers who have their pulse on the market, as well as potential customers.” In combination, they have the power to elevate your business to a new level.

I spoke with one of my blogger friends, Tizio, who I met on scribd. As part of a blogger network, he puts it this way, “In my opinion, the great revolution in marketing isn’t the technology, the creativity or the WOM. The real revolution is to speak the truth. Engage discussions and don’t be misleading.”

Slide 12 If you do it it and do it right what you’re going to do is build sustainable traffic to your site from people who have subscribed to you, based on the value you’ve provided to them. It takes a lot of effort but you’re building yourself a credible foundation based on virtually no monetary investment. The caveat to that is the time you need to invest to reach the right people. Once you do, WOM will kick in, further increasing the business opportunity. Once you have conversion, you’ll need to continue to leverage the medium to maintain/grow the connection beyond the sale.

Slide 13 Important: Building credibility is equivalent to building authority and eventually you will get the attention in the form of traffic.

Understand your Page rank or Quality Score. This is a measure of number of links point to your page and how many links point to the pages that point to that page. How do we get your page rank up?

You cannot get ahead by using the tools of web 2.0 without a blog — PERIOD. Blog content systems are the darlings of search engines. Having a blog means that you have a search engine magnet and an interactive community builder that will drive targeted visitors to your site.

Scribd and technorati can be other ways to build your own authority because again they’re based on what you’re sharing ie your blog content, relevant documents. If viewers like it, they’ll subscribe to you. Use this as opportunity to occasionally drive traffic to your own pages.

Comment on other blogs. Use track backs to add your URL and drive viewers to your blogs. If what you’ve had to post is interesting or valuable then people will come to you.

Flickr and video through some really cool streaming video tools like Mogolus and UStream are making it easier for people like you and me to create some real web-branding with professional-looking interfaces.

Yahoo! Answers gets excellent rankings on search engines. Easily build authority on the number of categories for your niche business.

Reciprocal Links — exchange links with your affiliations ie like businesses, vendors or resellers to help drive traffic back to your site

Social bookmarking:
1) Bookmark stuff on a regular basis that has nothing to do with making you money or building your business: articles, thought-leadership
2) Bookmark frequently ie several times per day
3) Social Bookmarking is measured by the number of times other people book your stuff – delicious, reddit, digg, stumbleupon
4) Bookmark things that haven’t discovered yet
5) Bookmark stuff that the group has bookmarked that’s consistent with your beliefs/or not
6) Use your expertise to show others what is good in several categories
7) Comments take more time but add depth to the bookmarking process
8) Add friends, join groups and participate in discussions
9) Only post your own stuff — your business stuff – after proving your worth

Slide 14 Be accessible to your current/potential customers.

Squidoo: Become an expert in your field simply by having a lens on your specific product/service. Use Squidoo as a niche barometer to to judge whether people are actually interested in your product. Finally, use it to build customer community — bring people together who have used your product and have them communicate with you and to each other. This gives you an opportunity to obtain product suggestions, testimonials, and feedback for future revisions

Twitter: This is a form of microblogging that allows you access to experts in your field and your customers/potential customers. You have 140 characters to say what you’re doing. Engage in conversation and share some important sites or current events or make inquiries to your list. But, add value. This medium is used by strong influencers to get a pulse on the market.

Get Satisfaction Develop a profile on this site if you have an online product. Use this as a forum for discussion or product inquiries.

Final Slide As per Joselin Mane: The Value you Get = The Value that you Give.

David Jones gave me these succinct points which I will share:

Monitor Look at what’s being said about you through your customers, and your blogs and manage your brand proactively.
Analyse Distill what’s being said and develop an interaction strategy on how you respond
Interact Engage with the community. Do it often and have the open dialogue. Remember to look out for people’s best interests.
Lead Be the Subject Matter Expert. Establish your authority and ensure you continue to add value and are consistent in your effort.

Joselin sent me this video that depicts the very nature of the Web 2.0 world. It’s called  “The Machine is Us/ing Us”

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