The Why I Social podcast, hosted by Chris Barrows, is an outstanding listen. Chris was kind enough to invite me on to talk about my experience and growth professionally over my career, and the role social media played in that growth.
Listen to the full episode or continue below for some transcribed highlights.
The changing role of relationships and communities, including the possibility that you’ll outgrow them.
Chris: When you went to go into your own business, did anyone give you advice? Did anyone play a role in helping you get off to a good start and ultimately find success over the course of 16-plus years?
Stephan: We all have our mentors, colleagues, and trusted advisors over the course of time. Those people change, those relationships change, kind of depending on what we need at the moment.
There’s a lot of people over the years that have really helped me at various points in time professionally. Like I said, I come from a very entrepreneurial family, so a lot of the beginning stuff was sort of rooted in that.
As I went out on my own and said, “Alright, I’m just going to sort of pursue a consultancy,” there wasn’t as much that I could pull from. First of all, most of my family builds homes; those are things that exist in the real world and most of my world existed online. There was a big disconnect right there, and not a lot that I could pull from as far as those experiences, and I sort of outgrew that sphere.
Then I had to go find another sphere or circle of influence.
I found that actually on social media, and in a couple of different communities throughout the web that I’ve come to find both professional development and networking. Places like MarketingProfs, or Inbound.org a little bit more recently. Sites like that and communities like those really help on the educational side, and help you really build relationships in a professional way that can help you get to where you need to be.
Advice for solopreneurs or those thinking about starting their own business.
Chris: Before we get to your journey to where you currently are, I think it’s worth asking because when it comes down to it, I’ve had a lot of folks on these shows who are very excited. They’re doing something entrepreneurial. They’re in the very early stages.
As someone who you just described it as being burnt out, what advice do you give to people yourself when they say, “I want to start a business,” or, “I want to do this entrepreneurial project”? What do you tell those people?
Stephan: Play it all the way out. This is kind of a cheesy example, but it’s a really easy one to make sense out of. You know those direct sales programs, P90X, Rodan and Fields, etc.? (By the way, this is absolutely nothing against anybody who does that stuff). Or the social media consultants that just appear out of nowhere?
A lot of times people buy into the idea that all of a sudden they can build a platform for themselves and really take things “to the next level” and “get engagement” and all the buzzwords again.
The thing that I think, the core part of it that these guys might be missing, is that they haven’t thought it all the way through.
Like literally, how much money is it going to take for you to pay your bills every month if you want to go all in on this thing?
Once you know that, let’s take a step backwards.
How many things do you need to sell in order for you to make that kind of money?
Now, go one step further back [how many people will convert? How large does my audience need to be? How will I develop that audience, and so forth]. You trace it all the way back to figure out whether or not you actually can even put together a marketing plan or a program of any sort that’s going to help you get to the end. And then you’re going to know how long it’ll take.
[By working backward] What you end up doing is grounding yourself in the things that matter most, which are sales, smart growth, retention, and building the advocates as you bring in customers.
I think a lot of that gets missed because so many times, especially today, we look at what’s being published online, and we read all these best practices and tips and case studies. A lot of it is very snapshot, in the moment stuff, and it’s missing that broader context.
I feel like if people took the time to just maybe take a step back and say, “How does this apply to me? And let me think it all the way through if I’m going to do this idea,” they would be so much better off because they’ll be grounded, and they’ll be thinking about things that are going to help them truly make a difference in their business as they get started. Not just be chasing the latest and greatest so that they can get recognized as an influencer and all that other stuff.
Why I’m so hot on advocate marketing right now.
Chris: How important do you think advocacy programs are now? Because you talked about, yes, they’re on the newer side. It’s not like they haven’t existed, but they’re definitely newer. Why do you think advocacy programs are so important?
Stephan: If you think about really what it is, it’s a big answer. I’ll try and simplify it.
Think about advocacy from a word-of-mouth perspective. How powerful is, let’s say, 100 people at my company sharing an article about the company with their social networks and this aggregate number of connections?
Think about what it would cost in paid search or paid social for a brand to not only reach that same number of people. Now consider the fact that the brand doesn’t have that same level of trust that the people’s networks have with the people themselves.
My social network obviously trusts me a lot more than they’re going to trust a brand, and so trying to buy your way into those networks is going to be largely expensive, and also largely ineffective compared to having the employees themselves spread the word organically.
That’s the initial allure of employee advocacy programs from a word-of-mouth perspective.
But if you kind of take a step back from that, why are people going to share things about the company that make them excited? It’s because they’re excited about what the company does and their impact and the kind of work that they do.
When you hit those things, you’re really doing well. You’ve got a great product. You’ve got super happy customers. Everybody feels valued at work, so, sure, why the hell wouldn’t I share something about what I do?
The underlying components of advocacy helps the company as a whole from productivity, hiring, all kinds of things that go across the whole organization, not just impressions and reach and possibly website click throughs.
The value of creating raw and authentic content through discussion.
Chris: You’ve done your own shows. You’ve done a Hangout on air show, and what was your favorite part about actually running one of these Google Hangout shows?
Stephan: I actually wrote a blog post about this. I called it “Confessions of a Google Hangouts on Air Host.” There’s a lot of things that I love about it. I mean, first, you get to name drop. I got to speak to people from GoDaddy and T-Mobile and talk to Miss USA once. Who else? There’s a bunch of really cool names that I could drop, so that’s kind of neat. You get a little bit of street cred with that.
I also love just being able to have truly authentic connections with people as you look at them, face-to-face. They not only get to hear the emotion and the inflections in your voice that we’re doing right now, but you also get to see it. That’s so important I think, the visual component, especially today where in terms of building trust. I think I loved that just as much as the name dropping and all.
Finally, you learn so much from people that are here to share all different kinds of things with you, and that also turns into a tremendous content.
I’m a big fan of things like podcasts and Hangout shows and all these other, even Twitter chats. I think there’s a lot of value to creating a library of raw content through discussion, and from there you can really take it to, you can take it to lots of different places.
We talked about a lot more, so be sure to listen to the full episode