محتوا و قالب

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محتوا و قالب

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CHAPTER 7

CONTENT AND CONTEXT

IN THIS CHAPTER I TALK ABOUT THINKING LIKE A SUPERMARKET, THE TRUTH ABOUT AUTOMATING, BUILDING TRUST ON TWITTER, AND BARTERING YOUR WAY TO THE NEXT BIG LEVEL.

People buy with their hearts, not their heads, and the way to every consumer’s heart is through a good story.

The Greeks recited their stories, the medieval bards sang theirs, and then the printing press dominated for more than five hundred years. Less than a century ago we started putting a lot of stories on radio and television. Today we tweet and blog and Vine. But even as the platforms and distribution channels change, the rules of good storytelling have remained the same for businesses since the beginning of commerce: The quality of a brand’s storytelling is directly proportional to the quality of its content. If it’s not good, no one will pay attention.

What defines quality content nowadays?

It appeals to the heart.

It’s shareable.

It’s native to the platform on which it appears.

It breaks through the noise.

I find that last one ironic. Not very long ago it was only big brands that had the muscle to blast their story all over the radio, newspapers, magazines, and TV. Today’s marketer, however, doesn’t have to invest in a printing press, or a satellite, or buy expensive advertising. You don’t even necessarily need a sales team in order to distribute your story anymore. You’re so lucky to have access to the Internet and be able to use its tools to put out your content. Unfortunately, everyone else has them, too. That low bar to entry means that the field is ridiculously crowded, and it’s getting harder and harder to get noticed.

Which is why it’s so vitally important that everyone from big organizations to solopreneurs to small companies start thinking and acting like media companies. Sure, you’re selling liquor, or tech, or original art, but the very survival of your company will depend on distributing your story through your content as often as possible to as many people as possible. And not just any content, but content that brings value to your current customers while attracting new customers as well. Netflix gets it. That’s why they started making their own TV series. So does Starbucks, which is developing original documentaries that tie into themes relevant to the socially conscious brand. Red Bull, too, is producing original videos, articles, and news covering sports, lifestyle, and culture. If you’re not putting out good content on a regular basis, you will be drowned out by all the companies who are. You will be Blockbuster video. You will be Borders. You will be the carriage driver who bought a lot of horses just as the first Model T drove off the lot.

This advice goes for individuals, too. Like it or not, unless you’re living completely off the grid you’ve got an online identity, and everyone, from dates to schools to employers, will rely on the Internet to see what they can learn about you before ever meeting you. It’s in your best interest to shape what they see. If you’re not producing content, you don’t exist.

It takes far more time than money, so for a while you may have to allocate your time differently than you might have been taught back in b-school. Staffing, strategizing, and selling are all important, but if you must, take a few hours away from those operations every day and put that time toward creating content. That’s how you scale the unscalable.

You don’t have to have a billion dollars like Starbucks or Red Bull to become your own media company. All you have to do is put the time in and be aware of emerging social networks. That’s how I got my start. I didn’t have millions of dollars to get Wine Library’s story out there. I distributed my content on these weird new platforms called Twitter and Facebook and YouTube. They were free and easy to use, and no one else there was doing what I was doing, which meant my content got noticed. Now you’ve got Instagram and Snapchat, Medium and Meerkat, and many, many more. Mold your content so it feels native to these platforms and creates context, scratching the emotional itch that drew your consumer to the platform in the first place. Meanwhile, keep your eyes open to the new up-and-comers. Take advantage of the platforms no one is using yet. Make them work for you. People and brands are using content and context to become stars on them every day.

imageCan anyone create good micro-content? How can you make sure your team consistently creates good content?

Of course anyone can create good content. It’s all about having respect.

First, respect the platforms. A forty-year-old woman is looking for something different on Facebook than on Pinterest. On the former she’s keeping up with her friends and family, and on the latter she’s probably shopping, doing research, collecting ideas, and searching for inspiration. So you have to strategize around that and adapt your storytelling accordingly. On Pinterest, you’d create gorgeous photographs or supercool infographics she might want to add to her board, but on Facebook, you’d write a zingy, funny status update or a short article about something in the cultural zeitgeist that she might be compelled to like or even share. Medium and LinkedIn have a similar intellectual vibe and sometimes share their audience, but even then if you have the time it’s great if you can add something unique to each piece you post. Feel free to repurpose material across platforms, including what you post on your blog—just don’t make it look or feel like recycled material. Content is never one-size-fits-all.

Second, respect your audience. That means putting out content the forty-year-old woman would like, not the content you would like. In other words, not the right hooks you’re itching to throw to get this forty-year-old woman to buy your product or service. At least, not at first. And not often. If I want to sell wine, I can get much closer to my consumer with content that intrigues and amuses like “Five Bottles Under $10 That Help You Get Through the Day When You Have 8-Year-Old Kids,” than with “Five Reasons My Wine Is the Best!” By putting out content my audience wants to read or see or watch, I’m drawing her in, gaining her trust, and making my brand a destination. That’s going to be a lot more valuable in the long run than a forgettable one-off sales pitch.

Good content should rarely be about what you want. Instead think about what your audience wants, and give them lots and lots of it.

Now, the second part of this question is interesting. What if you’re no longer directly responsible for making your company’s content? What if you’ve grown enough where you have to trust your team to do it for you?

That’s a tough one. You’ve brought your brand or business to success by infusing it with your essence and your spirit, and now somehow you have to teach others to basically be you. I think it’s done through osmosis. Start at the very beginning, when you hire your first employee. Hire people who want to learn, and stick close to them. Talk to them, allow them to be a part of your thinking, involve them in the process. You basically want to pour your point of view, ideas, and values into the water of your organization, and give your team lots of chances to drink. If they’ve properly absorbed the essence of your brand, and they know how to respect platforms and consumers, they should start creating exactly the kind of content you would on your own.

imageIf you owned a hockey team, what would you do with Snapchat?

I’d recognize that Snapchat skews young and puts out content that kids ages 13–35 care about. I’d draw on the pictures, run contests, and come up with ideas that really engage that demographic and make them believe that I hear them and am grateful for their attention. I wouldn’t even bother to try to reach my 40–60-year-old season ticket holders, because they’re not there yet, though by 2018 my feeling is they will be. Snapchat is a gold mine of opportunity for any team that wants to create real relationships and build loyalty with its young fans.

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DR. THIAGO MORAES

FOUNDER OF GALLOPER AND VACOVET

tmequine.com

imageWhat are your thoughts about the new TLD extensions market? We’ve seen some new extensions sold for good money, like dui.attorney. Is this going to take off as people expect? Is this something that VaynerMedia would bet on?

The new TLD (top-level domains) extension game is really intriguing to me. I think it will basically play out along the lines of supply and demand. The fact is that .com addresses have enormous value because back in the early days of the Internet, .com was really the only market (along with .net and .org). So if you wanted to own the word car, or wine, or tennis, .com became the one place where you could really do that for real. There was only one cars.com, and thousands of people competed for it. As the new TLDs become more accepted by the market, the value of .com domains will crash. I think they’re opening Pandora’s box, which will make this interesting to watch. On the other hand, I’ve also got a hunch that people are lazy. It’s tough to teach people new behaviors, so it’s safe to assume that .com domains will retain most of their value for quite some time.

imageEveryone visiting my site will be there for custom music. Should I delay them with content?

Your question itself reveals your problem. You want to delay people with content? That’s messed up. It means your strategy is to find value that suits you, not content that brings your customers any value. The last thing people want is to be delayed. They do, however, want to be intrigued. So give them something that will make them glad they stopped for an extra ten seconds or four minutes. Maybe post behind-the-scenes videos of you composing your music, or a short blurb of you greeting people and sharing your thoughts for the day. Make it personal, and make it one of the reasons people come to your site. Few people come to the bar just because there’s a dartboard, but it sure makes the place a lot more fun.

If you are trying to sell ads and trying to encourage viewers to spend more time on your site so that you can leverage that to advertisers, you have to do it organically, not by making it hard for consumers to get what they came for. Think like a supermarket. Supermarkets know you came for essentials so they put the milk and eggs far away from the entrance so that you have to travel the whole store to get what you came for. Along the way they try to show you endcaps and displays of items to raise your bill, but they don’t block the milk from you or make you go downstairs.

imageWhat’s the best way to grow a following or community from nothing?

Put out quality content every day and engage around it.

It really is that simple and that difficult. No one becomes a sensation by accident. The talent to put out content is only one piece of the equation. One percent of the magic. One percent of people who make it big in social media might do it on content creation talent alone, but the rest of us have to work our butts off to bring our community in to see what we’re creating. You can have a terrific idea for a YouTube show, but if you don’t get that content out you’ll have nothing around which to build your community. And if you don’t put in the work to engage, rarely will anyone see your content. The two almost always work together, especially in the beginning.

It’s hard to put out content every day, and even harder when you’ve got high standards. But you’ve got to try. Eventually scale can take over and pure momentum kicks in and you can ride the wave of all that work, but that work really never ends if you want the amazing upside of fame, money, or accolades. Whether you’re putting out pictures on Pinterest, drawings on Snapchat, photos on Instagram, a video, or a written blog, you need to focus on getting as close to that daily goal as possible. BuzzFeed puts out a ton of content all day, every day, ranging on a variety of topics. Seth Godin, on the other hand, puts out his best effort once a day. Either scenario will work so long as the content is high quality. If you can’t keep that up, six days is better than five, five is better than four, and four is better than three. And if you can only come up with enough ideas or energy to put out content once or twice a week, well then, that’s what it is, though it limits your chances for the exposure you’ll need to play this game.

Give people something to look forward to. Keep yourself on your audience’s radar. Create context by responding to comments and otherwise engaging people so they know who you are, that you’re paying attention, and that you care. Give them every possible opportunity to share your name with someone who doesn’t know you yet and to become part of the conversation. Work hard and smart. There’s no reason you can’t do both.

imageThe company I’m working for has a great story but we’re not getting the engagement we hoped we would. Is it worthwhile to promote our Facebook posts, tweets, and LinkedIn posts in order to gain more engagement from our social posts?

Easy: yes. Promoting posts is almost always a good investment if you can afford to target properly. I could go into detail about how to use Twitter and Facebook ads here, but you can find that information in Chapters 9 and 10. Instead, let me ask you a question:

Are you sure your content is as good as you think it is?

Remember, you need to put out content your audience likes, not what you like. There’s an easy way to know if your content is valuable: Look at the raw engagement numbers. How many people are sharing? How many people are leaving comments? How many views are your videos getting? If you are provoking a reaction in the people consuming your content, and they’re taking time out of their day to share it, that’s great news. Pay attention.

Then, look at the big picture. How many people are actually buying? How many books did you sell because you provided free content? On what days do sales spike? Always keep track of what is going out when, and how that affects traffic to your retail site or app.

Let’s say your engagement numbers aren’t what you’d like them to be, but you’re utterly confident your content’s quality and subject are hitting the right notes. Is it possible the problem is with your actual storytelling? Is it contextually appropriate for the platform? Are you using the right hashtags? Are you linking properly? Is your content the right length? Are your logos all in the right spots? There are certain storytelling details unique to every platform whose presence or lack thereof can make or break a piece of content. Are you hitting every one of them every time? (If you need a refresher, I discuss each one in detail in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook.) This is why content and engagement can rarely stand alone. The quality of one almost always affects the reach and effectiveness of the other.

imageWhat’s better for content, blogging or vlogging?

What are you good at? You can crush anything if you’re good at it. I’m not a great writer, but boy can I make a terrific video. So I focus on making videos, and then I delegate the transcription of those videos to someone else to make sure people who like to read their content get what they need.

Since I’ve started The #AskGaryVee Show I’ve spent a lot of time looking at other videos and have been asked by many to take a look at their version of my show. Many are below average at best. Making compelling videos is clearly not these people’s strength. Many of them would do better communicating their ideas through illustrations or cartoons, articles, or podcasts. They need to focus on their strengths, find some other outlet for their content, and put everything they have into it. I bet they’d see an incredible increase in their engagement and reach.

imageI have 39K Instagram followers and I average about 250 likes per photo. I also run the Instagram account for the company I work for, and we have 6K followers and also get 250 likes per photo. What am I doing wrong on my personal account?

Logically, two accounts with such vastly different totals of followers should not be getting the same number of likes per photo. When this happens, it’s because your company brand is more beloved to its community than you are to yours. We can’t know why people like or follow someone else on Instagram, or anywhere else for that matter. Maybe they think you’re someone else. Maybe they liked one picture you posted, got bored by the rest, and forgot about you. Very few people actively go back into their accounts and delete the people or brands in whom they’ve lost interest, because it’s not really worth the trouble, and Facebook’s algorithms make it so that they can’t see what they don’t engage with regularly. I think this is a practice that other platforms might replicate in the future.

So how do we restore these followers’ interest in you? Look at what you post for yourself and what you post for your company. What’s the difference? This particular question came from someone storytelling on Instagram. Instagram is a place where human emotion reigns. The photos on the company site were filled with people; the individual account was filled with pictures of buildings and tunnels. They were good pictures, but they weren’t what people on Instagram generally respond to. There was no mix, and there needed to be.

The same analysis needs to be done on any platform where you run more than one account where one is performing well and the other isn’t. Try to incorporate what’s working in one into the other and see if that helps.

imageShould I post articles on my blog and just mention them on social, or post natively on sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Medium? Or both?

Most people try to tell new marketers that they need to own their content and keep it on their own site so they can monetize it, usually with low-paying ads. The problem is that when you’re only posting on your own site you’re at the mercy of the traffic that goes there. For most people that’s not a huge number, or at least it’s not as many visitors as they’d like. But if you post content on sites where the potential for virality isn’t dependent on your popularity but on the quality of your content, you can gain a lot of followers. I have a lot of reach and fans but I still love Medium, because when I post something and I can see that 1,950 people have read it, I’m relatively confident that often as many as 700 have never heard of me before. That’s 700 people who now know my name, who might go to my site, or hit me up on Twitter or Facebook, or might share my content on their own sites. And when something like that happens to someone with only 400 followers, it can have an even bigger impact on his or her brand or business. In short, don’t worry so much about owning and monetizing your content, especially early on. Get it out whatever way you can, and worry about monetizing the results later.

imageWhat do you think of the recent Omnicom advice to move 25 percent of ad budgets to online video and the space in general?

Online video is at the top of the dog pile when it comes to content, so I’m all for moving traditional media dollars toward it. But I see a lot of people misplacing the money and misplaying that move. If you tell people to spend only 25 percent of their ad budget on online video, they tend to think they only need to spend 15–20 percent of that on the video production. The quality. The very stuff itself. That means 80–85 percent allocated for distribution. So the dollars aren’t being spent on improving the quality of the video, just on getting more video reach. And the same thing goes for content and distribution as goes for content and engagement—to get the results you want, they have to work together. Allocating more money to online video isn’t going to do you any good if the bulk of your money is spent on pounding out hard-core right hooks that nobody likes. To most marketers, online video means pre-rolls on YouTube—the ones that consumers immediately tab out of or ignore while checking their cell phone for the fifteen seconds it plays, and don’t actually consume. Or a pop-up video—the kind that takes up thirty seconds of people’s time before it allows them to read the article they came for. You know, horribly intrusive and annoying crap, the stuff that steals time, one of our precious assets. So when I hear marketers being told to allocate their budgets to online video, I hear them being advised to spend more on stuff that no one wants, which is pointless, and therefore very bad advice.

What would be good advice?

Move 25 percent of your ad budget to creating really great online videos that bring value to your customer.

If you’re not making a good video, who cares if you distribute it to a million people? Make interesting and engaging content that speaks to the people you are trying to sell to. Figure out the most native ways to distribute it on multiple platforms (including and especially Facebook ads and Snapchat and more and more).

imageShort or long videos? What’s the value?

Quality trumps everything. Back in 2007, Yahoo and Google separately flew me out to California to figure out why my thirty-minute Wine Library TV was doing so well, even though all their research told them that people preferred short online videos. Eight years later many marketing gurus are still spewing that videos have to be short or else no one will watch them. But that’s just not true.

I like short and long, so long as it’s good. Avatar was a three-plus-hour movie. People loved it and sat through it. There are six-second Vines out there that people won’t watch to the end. Length has nothing to do with quality or value; it’s all about your message and what you do within the constraints of the platform you want to use.

imageHow do new and small channels gain a following when people don’t engage?

During the early days of Wine Library TV the only people watching were my mom and a few friends. But the quality of the program was really good and I hustled, so the show broke out. That’s all you can do: put out great content, engage with your tiny audience, and go out and try to get exposure for your content by collaborating or getting press or guest posting on someone else’s platform. If you’re watching The #AskGaryVee Show today it may seem like perhaps I’m not engaging with my audience with quite the 24/7 mentality I tell others to, and it’s true the engagement is not where WLTV was. But still, every day and after every episode is posted I spend thirty to ninety minutes reading and engaging with my audience, and not a day goes by that I don’t see four to five comments of appreciation. At this point I’m capitalizing on ten years of a well-executed engagement around my content. Hopefully one day you will be able to do the same.

There’s one more thing you might do if you’re struggling to get fans: Ask yourself if you have enough business development chops. If you really think you have unique content that’s just not tapping into the right audience or gaining visibility (a romantic notion at worst, an audacious one at best), then maybe you need to partner up with someone who can do “biz dev” better than you. It’s worth a shot, because the alternative is that you’re delusional and your stuff is really just average.

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TIMOTHY M. EVANS

FOUNDER/CEO—ATHLETE WEB DESIGN

@TIMOTHYMEVANS

www.timothymevans.com

imageGary, what would you say to the current pro athlete, retired athlete, or even an up-and-coming athlete who is getting scholarship offers, who wants to brand themselves? Should an athlete have an official website? If businesses are now considered media companies, should athletes be thinking along these same lines?

Yes.

The day an athlete retires, he or she is dramatically less valuable than the day before. It’s been incredible to watch over the past few years how dramatic the depreciation is for an athlete upon retirement, even MVPs and Hall of Famers. So it’s imperative to stay in front of your audience at every stage in your athletic career, whether by creating content or just having a destination for your POV. For example, Derek Jeter just wrote his thoughts on Yogi Berra’s passing on his own site, The Player’s Tribune. I think content is important because it leads to other revenue streams available to retired players, like public appearances, speaking engagements, and other opportunities.

For a younger player, it could mean the difference between getting scouted by an NCAA Division 1 school and a Division 2 school because some recruiter might have discovered you based on a video shared out of you making an incredible catch. The days of sending VHS tapes to every school are over. Now you’re putting content out on the Internet in the hopes of being discovered in the same way everything else gets discovered.

Finally, it’s a tremendous hedge against mainstream media. Players are often misquoted, or their statements are taken out of context. With their own platforms, both on social and on a website, they have a chance to stay on the offense. These kinds of platforms are an extremely healthy way for athletes to keep the media at bay in a world where the media is only interested in selling itself and producing headlines that aren’t real stories.

A site and a personal brand are tremendously important in every stage of an athlete’s career—pre, during, and post—and bring massive value in allowing players to communicate on their own terms.

imageYou say to put quality content out daily. Can I add curated content, and if so, what’s the mix?

I can pat myself on the back for putting out a tremendous amount of original content, but at the same time one of my biggest weaknesses is my lack of curated content. I should do it more, like Guy Kawasaki. Have you seen how many pieces of curated content he puts out? Hundreds! I’d like to, because it’s a smart tactic, but I have the same problem with curating content as I do with offering quotes for books: If I’m going to do it, I have to read it first. And while I make time for many, many things that are important to me, reading isn’t one of them. But if I added curated content to my original material, it would bring me even more exposure and create more opportunity. Curating is like DJ’ing the world’s content and spinning it in your voice. In a world where context is everything, it’s an enormous skill.

Platforms are recognizing that content is more valuable when people are allowed to add their context to it and are building the tools to allow them to do it easily. One of the reasons I invested in Tumblr was that it encouraged reblogging. And I love the potential of Twitter’s quote retweet that gives you 250 characters to work with. Your thoughts and opinions about George Clooney’s wedding or Apple have real value when you can contextualize it to your audience’s world, whether it’s music, restaurants, yoga, or pumpkin farming.

imageI work in two different spaces. How do I use social media platforms so that I’m not confusing my audience?

There are a couple of ways you can handle this. Let’s say you’re talking business and wine. One strategy, which is probably the easier of the two, is to create two separate accounts on every platform—two profiles on Twitter, two pages on Facebook, two different boards on Pinterest, and so on—dedicated to their respective topic. The other, harder option is to become a Renaissance person, and become so branded in both topics that everyone knows they can come to you for one or the other and get equally good information or entertainment. But even if you do that, you’ll still need to target specific audiences with promoted content and Facebook ads to make sure that the right people are seeing what you want them to see. You have to adjust to each platform to ensure your storytelling is always giving your audience what it wants.

imageIs there a way to drive traffic to a website when posting content directly to Facebook?

Facebook is content awareness gold. Post a link to an article or video and if your post earns enough likes, shares, and comments, you can just step back and allow the awareness to grow organically. But if you want things to move a little faster, or you want to hedge your bets, you can actively drive a crapload of views with Facebook ads. It’s absolutely worth the investment.

imageShould I wait until my website is 100 percent built before putting out content or put out content while I’m still building it?

Tommy Mottola, the ex-president of Sony, once told me privately that he never let any of his artists go on TV until he was ready to sell something. His thinking was that it would be a wasted opportunity if a fan saw the artist perform and, inspired, ran to the store to buy the CD only to find out it wasn’t coming out for another week. In that context it made sense to wait. But what’s your objective? To sell, right? If the only place you can get your goal accomplished, whether it’s selling a product or getting people to sign up for something or do something, is on your website, then obviously you need to finish the website. But how often is that the case nowadays? How often are we really limited to our sites to do business?

When VaynerMedia was in its early days, our website was garbage by most people’s standards. We didn’t mention the work we were doing or make any reference to our clients. We looked like we were going out of business. I did that on purpose. We were a new agency, and I was David. And when you’re David, you don’t play Goliath’s game. I needed to make sure that the bigger agencies didn’t know how big we were actually getting. This can be an enormously helpful strategy when you’re new to the field and you want to stay beneath your competitors’ radar. You get creative with your content, curating, adding context, and putting out original pieces that don’t necessarily talk about your business but do establish you as an authority and a place for people to convene on a topic.

If you can achieve your business objective outside the website, do it, because not only are you executing, you’re also telling your story, which builds up leverage and equity that you can use later to drive people to your website if you want to. Don’t ever waste time or opportunity. Sell against the impressions you’re getting in social. If you can make your money or do the thing you want to do natively on a platform, do it there. And you know what? Do it there even when your website is 100 percent complete. Use every channel you’ve got.

imageShould I avoid doing podcasts or videos if I have a foreign accent?

I might be a little biased because all of my relatives have Russian accents, so when I hear one it makes me feel comfortable and at home. Are there certain Americans who think accents reflect untrustworthiness and inferiority? Yup. There are idiots everywhere. But there are many, many more people for whom accents don’t matter at all. Obviously, because many of the most successful entrepreneurs in this country do have accents. Have you ever heard Sergey Brin speak?

You’re never going to please everyone. I don’t have an accent but a lot of people don’t like the way I speak, either—too much cursing, arrogance, and bravado. But there are pros and cons to everything. What alienates me from one person is probably the very thing that draws someone else with a different sensibility to me. If you think you can skillfully communicate through a video or audio podcast, invest in it and the market will come to you if you’re good at it. If you’re not, don’t do it, because they won’t come and it won’t be because of your accent. Try it for 180 days and see what happens. See what does and doesn’t work (be honest!), adjust, and then decide whether it’s worth the effort to continue down this path or try another.

imageIf you’re not from an English-speaking country, should you produce content in English to reach a higher number of people, or should you produce content in the native language of your country?

Simple: You should be speaking in the language of the people you want to reach. So if you’re trying to reach consumers who speak your native tongue, that’s what you should use. The only exception might be if English is a second language in your country and 80 or 90 percent of its inhabitants are comfortable with it, too. If English has a bigger stake in the overall market you want to reach, use it exclusively.

That said, maybe you want to reach your native language speakers and English speakers. On Facebook you can, so long as you plan your distribution ahead of time by using the targeting capabilities that allow you to segment your audience and decide where your content will go by language and region. You can’t target so easily on the other platforms, but some people get around that creatively. I have a former client that used Spanglish on Twitter and Pinterest. It works for them. Why couldn’t it work for you?

imageI am growing my business and looking to include partners for content. What’s the best way to recruit them? Money? The promise of exposure?

You have to know what will motivate the people you’re trying to connect with. If you have a big enough platform to create exposure, people will do it for free. Why do you think DRock offered to make a video for me pro bono? Because he knew it would be good for his exposure. Some experiences have more long-term worth than money. The reason I’m willing to accept other people’s free work and hustle is that I know that by giving them a shout-out I can help them. That’s what I was thinking when I agreed to let DRock film “Clouds and Dirt”; I figured I’d get a cool video and he’d get something good for his portfolio. It felt like an even trade. But then when I saw the extent of DRock’s talent, I realized that he was actually bringing me something way more valuable than a five-minute video. He could amp up my entire video content production. So I swooped in, and this show exists because he could provide the infrastructure.

Tailor your approach to each potential partner by offering him or her the thing they value most. Maybe it’s money. Maybe it’s your Rolodex. Maybe it’s exposure. Study up and make no assumptions.

imageHow much time do you spend creating a single piece of content? Do you focus on video because it’s more natural for you?

I’m a talker, so video has always been my best channel for communicating my thoughts and ideas. It wasn’t always easy. I used to have to walk around with a Flip cam and follow this whole convoluted process to get my videos online. Now when I use Twitter’s video product, for example, I can work straight through the Twitter app. So technically it’s much easier for me to create my video content than it ever has been, and it takes me very little time. If you’re seeing more written content from me now, it’s because I have a team in place to help me adapt the videos into interesting written pieces.

I don’t ever stress over what I’m going to say in a video or how it’s going to look. Whatever happens happens. We’re living in a culture where fourteen-year-old girls are taking forty minutes to take a picture because they keep futzing with the lighting, and then if the picture doesn’t get enough likes they take it down. I couldn’t care less about lighting or the angles; I know I’m pretty. What I do care about is substance, and that’s where all my effort goes.

imageYou’ve talked before about “recycling” a tweet, but what about other content such as a blog post? How often do you pull a piece from the archives to dust it off and republish?

I haven’t recycled a lot, though it’s something I might consider doing more now that I have a team to help me adapt pieces of content. In fact, they are constantly on the lookout for nuggets from The #AskGaryVee Show that can be turned into articles, infographics, animated GIFs, and short movies. I do think it’s valuable for people to look back on their own content (though I admit I rarely do it). It can be interesting to revisit your position and put out a 2.0 version of a piece that resonated well with your audience.

What might be more valuable to you than recycling an old piece, however, would be to focus on putting out content across multiple platforms in a very jab-jab-jab-right-hook way. At the time I was writing this book I had started repurposing more and more across different platforms with tweaks to titles and pictures and I was seeing the value.

imageI spend ten to fifteen hours on image posts I make for my company on social media. They are hand-drawn lettering posts as well as computer drawn. I get way more likes on my hand-drawn posts than the computer-drawn ones. But lettering takes a long time to do, and I don’t think I can keep up a daily social media content output. What should I do?

I suspect a lot of artists have had similar dilemmas. Quality and artistic integrity is imperative, but you can’t let yourself get paralyzed by perfectionism. Whenever your effort is disproportionate to the value you get in return for doing work, you have to make an adjustment. How many times have you been absolutely sure you were going to miss a deadline, and then miraculously pulled it off? It’s amazing how fast and efficiently we can work when we force ourselves.

Content creates opportunity, and if you can’t produce the content at the rate your audience wants it or that benefits you, your business won’t survive. So get faster. Experiment. See what you can accomplish in two hours. Even if you hate the results or you see less engagement than usual, do this several times in a row. First of all, practice will help you get more efficient. Second, you might be surprised at how much your audience still likes what you produce.

imageIs it wrong to have my Pinterest account tied to my Twitter account so when I post to Pinterest it autoposts to Twitter?

Yes, it is wrong. Why do you tweet? To get your message out. What’s the best way to get your message out? To make native content. Why on earth would you use Twitter as a Pinterest distributor when you could just tell your story directly on Twitter? Maybe autoposting on Twitter from Instagram is efficient, but it’s not particularly compelling.

imageHow can I take my website to the next level by making it go viral and increasing sales and visibility?

Content, content, content. It’s the gateway drug to subscriptions, sales, and everything else. If you’re just starting out, obviously you just have to hustle and put out as much quality content as you can. But what if you’ve been at this awhile, seen some success, made a name for yourself, and want to go even bigger? The way to do that on a big scale without spending too much money is to use your brand equity to your advantage. Find people who can bring you value who could benefit from exposure in your industry, and offer them the chance to create content for your site. You could offer some payment, but you’d be surprised at how many young people or retirees who love talking about your industry or topic would do this kind of work for very little, and maybe even for free, because they believe your brand equity is worth as much to them in the long run as money. Choose carefully—make sure the people you approach will bring you as much value as you can bring them. And then work together so you all benefit. Your team’s enthusiasm and the content’s quality will shine when everyone feels they have a stake in a project’s success.

imageI posted a video on Facebook that got 2,700 views and 35 shares in one day. It took one year for me to get the same number of views on YouTube. Should I focus on creating videos for Facebook exclusively?

One fan can be more valuable than 2,000 if it’s the right fan. For that reason, I would never tell anyone to abandon a platform entirely. Who knows, one of those YouTube viewers may be incredibly influential in your industry. There’s no reason why you can’t put video on both YouTube and Facebook at the same time. The content could be similar, with small edits made to make sure each is native and that the calls to action resonate with their respective audience. That said, I am very optimistic about Facebook’s shareability, which has enormous upside to many just starting out.

imageSince you’re such a fan of Facebook videos, do you plan on embedding them on your website instead of your YouTube videos, and is it more beneficial to do so if you are not monetizing?

There’s a lot of debate over the value of Facebook videos versus YouTube videos because of the difference in the way the two platforms measure views, or as YouTube calls it now, “watch time.” But I care less about a hundred thousand views on YouTube than I do about taking advantage of the virality possible through Facebook. When you’re not monetizing, virality is everything, and Facebook gives your fans an easy way to share your content and get new people to see it. Facebook gives you a chance to make a good first impression, and I think it’s a better place to find new fans than YouTube. That doesn’t mean that YouTube isn’t a powerful platform and that you should dismiss the value of subscriptions. But not tasting what Facebook could be bringing to you is a mistake. At the time of this writing the embed product isn’t there yet for Facebook—it’s still clunky—but if it does get there that’s the future.

imageYou say you don’t consume much media, but isn’t it kind of necessary in order to put out relevant, current content?

The reason I produce so much relevant good content is that I listen to my community. I don’t need to watch other shows or pay attention to other thought leaders to know what people are struggling with or talking about. I can see it every day, right there on my phone. And because I listen well, I’m able to create content that speaks to my community’s needs. The fact that my content spreads to and speaks to the needs of people beyond my community proves that I know my craft. So I guess you can say the people I interact with and who consume my type of content are the “content” I consume. What’s great about this is that many of these people have plenty of other interests and expertise, in areas ranging from science to music and everything in between, which allows me to get plenty of other “content,” too.

imageIs Pinterest really such a good marketing tool, and how could a small business like a restaurant use it well?

Pinterest was once just a place mainly for sharing, but in the last year or so as people have become increasingly visually oriented online, it has become the new must-have search engine. Many people are using Pinterest as a search engine in visual form, and that’s a bigger deal than most realize. Men are starting to use Pinterest a lot more, too. I think Google should be shaking in its pants.

Now, as to how a small business should use Pinterest. Think visual. Infographics do really well there. If you’re a restaurant, share beautiful pictures of your food, or behind-the-scenes shots in your kitchen or office. Take photos of the street where you’re located, or your neighbors and fellow business owners. Give us a sense that you’re invested in your immediate community as well as the online one. Act like a media company and put out content that’s interesting and valuable, not necessarily to you, but to your customers. Think more like Food Network or Zagat and less like a single restaurant.

imageWhat kinds of headlines attract you on social media?

Usually things that scare me, like “Jets running back in trouble.” I couldn’t tell you specifically what kinds of headlines really attract me. All I know is that if I click on one, the person who wrote it is doing his or her job well.

We all need to accept that the “BuzzFeedification” of media is in play. When the New York Times uses slang and headlines an article with “Five Ways to . . .” you know the trend has gone mainstream. And so whether you’re raising money for charity or selling boots, you need to get good at writing this kind of attention-grabbing copy. Because if you can’t, you’re in trouble. Of course, as many more of us create these headlines the consumer will become accustomed to them, and then there will be a new thing that will stand out. You should always be testing to see if you can be first to figure out what those things may be.

imageI know you’re not big on automation, but it’s a reality. How do you decide what and when to automate, and what’s your take on marketing automation software? You’re an advisor to HubSpot. Thoughts on that space?

Let me be clear: You should never automate your content to pretend you’re generating the content right then and there—in other words, to help you fake a human interaction. Ever. Especially tweets, for reasons you’ll read about below.

That does not mean you should never ever automate, though.

Automation is extremely useful when you want to confirm receipt of an online order, a registration or subscription, or email correspondence from a customer. It reassures people that their emails or orders aren’t disappearing into the ether. It offers peace of mind, and that’s good customer service.

There. Now you know when you can automate. In almost all other cases, don’t. Here’s why:

1.It makes you look insincere.

Automation should not be used to replace human interaction. Even in the case of an automated confirmation email, you should never sign off with your own name. You can sign your company name, or even as “The Team at Insert-Your-Company-Name-Here,” but unless you actually hand-type your customer’s name and hit the send button, that email is not really from you, and you shouldn’t pretend it is.

Think about how much it means to get a personal reply from someone in today’s world. The importance social media users place on a tweet or favorite from someone they admire, whether it’s an individual or a company, is huge. Let’s say you arrange for anyone who follows you on Twitter to receive a direct message that says, “Thanks for the follow @whoeveryouare!” Now you’ve led Whoeveryouare to believe that you’re actually engaging. But you’re not. And that’s not only dishonest, it’s spammy. Same if you automate a follow on Facebook. I mean really, does it take that much time to say a quick “thank you” in person?

This idea that automating human behavior is acceptable in the interest of saving time in a busy world goes completely against all the authenticity and transparency that make the social media age so unique and wonderful. Bottom line: I actually adore automation as long as its intent isn’t to trick someone into thinking it was done by a human being in the moment.

It puts you at the mercy of others.

Look at the New England Patriots who were so excited about reaching one million Twitter followers they decided to send an automated response to every fan who retweeted their celebratory tweet and designed a custom jersey graphic featuring the fan’s user name. Unfortunately, one of its fans had a horrible user name that I will not repeat here because I know better than to mindlessly repeat such an ugly thing. Because I’m human. But the computer didn’t know better, because it’s not. And so it created a jersey bearing the offensive Twitter handle and tweeted it, leaving the Patriots to grovel for forgiveness when the Internet went crazy on them.

How about all the people who were automating their tweets during the Boston Marathon bombing? I saw my own friends posting right hooks just as my feeds were filling up with horrific, bloody images, and I was frantically DM’ing them to warn them to stop because they could potentially ruin their brand. After all, what does it say about you if you’re tweeting or posting “Our new line is in, what a great day!” in the middle of a national tragedy? It says at best that you’re not paying attention, and at worst that you don’t care. In a world where everything is real time, automation is dangerous. You cannot let mainstream media pick up on that kind of mistake, because that mistake could be the end of your career. That, to me, is not worth the upside of automation.

It makes you look like an asshole.

You know that guy who shows up at a conference and barely says hello before sticking his business card in your hand and moving on to the next person? Don’t be that guy. No one likes that guy. These social networks are supposed to be social. If all you’re doing is taking without giving, or thanking, or caring, eventually people are going to turn their backs on you.

Now, if you are bound and determined to automate, there is one thing you can do that will make it acceptable in my eyes: humanize it. Let’s say people are engaging with your automated tweet. Great. But don’t leave it at that. As soon as you can, come back in person and engage again. Make sure your follower knows that this time it really is you, and that you appreciate the time they spent on your feed or page. Work on building that real relationship. That’s something no robot will ever be able to do better than you. And if that sounds sentimental, believe me, it’s not. It’s practical, because building real relationships sells sh@t.

Automation robs you of the ability to create real context around your content.

It is completely contrary to everything upon which many have built their careers, and against everything the social media age could potentially represent: authenticity, transparency, honesty, and caring. The bottom line on this subject is that there has to be a balance. It’s an art and a science. Too many are too all in on the science and a few are way too heavy on the art and do too many things that aren’t scalable. I am clearly comfortable with the artsy hippy mentality but that’s because social media specifically offers the opportunity to overindex for those who actually put in the engagement work.

imageHow do you think overly edited photos and text overlays affect the authenticity of Instagram posts?

It depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you’re a photographer, you shouldn’t edit because you want your art to shine. But if your goal is just to inspire people, a quote over a photo can be a powerful thing. At the end of the day, the audience will find your content, and if they like it, they’ll let you know. If they don’t, they’ll let you know that, too, even if it’s just with their silence as they quietly unfollow you. It’s more likely that they’ll like your work if you like your work, so don’t ever try to be someone you’re not or follow a trend. Do your thing with passion and commitment. Creative is judged by the target audience, not by some Jets fan who thinks he is a know-it-all on this stuff (yeah, that’s me sticking it to me).

imageWhat advice would you give people who want to grow their companies but don’t have your personality and have a hard time meeting people?

Become the flower and let the bees come to you. You know, I’m a big fan of betting on your strengths versus working on your weaknesses. If you’re introverted and networking doesn’t come naturally to you, don’t force yourself to be all rah-rah and attend conferences where you have to shake people’s hands. Instead, put out good content and let your work speak for itself. In addition, email and engage with other influential people in your industry and try to let them see how it would be valuable to let you post your content on their blogs or sites. That doesn’t take any networking, just good old-fashioned hustle and talent.

imageWhat’s the best way for a real estate agent to gain buyers’ trust on Twitter?

Listen, engage, create content.

Listening is easy. So easy it only took me—me, with absolutely zero experience in selling real estate—a whole fifteen minutes to use the Twitter Search function to find thirteen tweets from people interested in finding a new home. If I can do it, any real estate agent can.

Engaging should be easy, too. Find people who are talking about apartment or house hunting, or planning a move to your area, and then answer them! How can I help? Where are you looking? What’s your price range? I know this works because a Realtor named Jason Grant tweeted that he tried my advice and got a lead. And it makes sense. If you were at a cocktail party and you met someone looking for a home, wouldn’t you give her your card and assure her you’d love to help? You can do that every single day!

Finally, like successful people do in every industry, put out that content. Think about how many real estate–themed shows have been on TV in the past two decades. It wasn’t just the people in the market for a home pushing those shows up in the ratings; it was all the viewers wishing they could have a new home, and design lovers, and architecture lovers—many of whom, someday, may in fact need to move. So make content they want to watch as much as they want to watch Property Brothers.

Review the neighborhoods where you sell. Interview the principal of the local school, the local wine merchant, the sub shop, and the neighbors. Tell stories that make people feel warm and fuzzy about moving to your part of the country, and back up those stories with good data that reassures people you’re practical and looking out for their best interests.

This kind of content creation and engagement can be done. As far back as 2009, when I published Crush It, I got a video from a guy who had attached a Flip cam to his car so the world could accompany him on drives through neighborhoods and hear his thoughts. It was a fresh and creative move and he was making a huge impact. And amazingly, so few people are doing this kind of thing well that there is still plenty of room for real estate agents to make their mark this way.

imageDo you think brands need to be represented across all social platforms or just the most popular ones?

Neither. No brand should be on any platform where it doesn’t know how to communicate, nor should they go there if no audience exists. If you sell adult diapers, I’d argue that Snapchat is not going to kill it for you even if it’s popular. If you sell selfie sticks that are only marketed to fifteen-year-old girls, Facebook is probably not the best place for you. If you’re trying to reach sixty-year-old gray-haired execs, consider LinkedIn. Twenty-five to forty-five-year-old women? Get on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for sure. Twenty-eight-year-old dudes? Pinterest, not so much.

It’s not the size of the platform that matters; it’s whom you’re trying to reach. Figure out whom you’re trying to sell to, and storytell on the platforms they love.

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