Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

Life level complete

New York was fantastic. I made it out with my spirit intact and my ambition in overdrive. Hell yeah!

I did what I wanted to do there, especially as far as my career goes. I built a marketing program from scratch at a thriving startup, Olapic. Then I had the opportunity to work for The Economist (my favorite publication) with GE on a program I’m proud of.  I spoke at fantastic events and moderated several enlightening discussions.

Now I’m back in Austin, the city where my career took flight. Finally, Lone Star served without irony.

I haven’t decided what to get into next, but I have a voracious appetite for conversations with prospective collaborators, clients (I’m currently consulting) and employers. Austin will remain my home base, but I’m very open to remote work and travel.

Here’s some background on my expertise and experience. Let’s connect and see what shakes out!


Data Literacy: An Inevitable Opportunity

I wrote this piece for Texas Enterprise in December, 2013, and just received notice that they'll be scrubbing their site of all guest contributions soon. Weird, but OK. My thoughts on data literacy have evolved a bit since then, but I still agree with everything I wrote (as if it's so long ago). 

I'll be speaking about data literacy at C3 in October. Speaking of, well, speaking...I'm doing more and more of it. Click here for more info / to book me. 

One more quick note. I left The Economist to resume consulting full time. Focus areas: brand architecture, positioning, digital/content/social strategy, copywriting. Ping me here if you'd like to discuss working together. 


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Do you want companies to have more of your data?

This question kicked off my exploration of data literacy at the University of Texas at Austin School of Information on Nov. 20. Businesses need to prepare themselves for this question to become commonplace, and very few are even close to being ready.

Consumers have become used to an almost comically lopsided transaction: Companies take and use consumer data for their ends — often without consumer knowledge or real comprehension — while offering them very little in return.

In those rare instances when companies do communicate with consumers about data collection in plain language, they’ll say things like, “We’re using your data to serve you more relevant advertising.”

If that’s the only value proposition your company has when it comes to consumer data, you’re in trouble. Data-literate consumers demand more.   I think data literacy in the general population is on the rise. Here’s the definition I use, which adds an awareness component to the definition offered by UK professors Derek McAuley, Hanif Rahemtulla, James Goulding, and Catherine Souch: Data literacy is “the awareness of data’s presence and potential value, and the ability to identify, retrieve, evaluate and use information to both ask and answer meaningful questions.”

Just as literacy empowers individuals and societies to convert the written word into value, data literacy empowers us to extract value from another abundant resource, data — 2.5 quintillion bytes of which is created each day.

Data, then, is the new written word. In nearly every conceivable realm — from medicine and education to government and business — data is helping us understand and improve the world. But data promises a far greater positive impact if we work to foster data literacy among ordinary people.

But data literacy shouldn’t frighten companies. In fact, the rise of data literacy creates a host of new opportunities. At the core of these new opportunities is the prediction that data-literate consumers will actually share more data with the companies that meet their heightened standards. And this data will be more predictive, accurate, holistic, timely, and actionable.

Data literacy starts with awareness. Someone who is data-aware knows that it is everywhere. This person knows that everything he or she does “emits” data. And this person understands that data is potentially valuable.

When confronted with the question I asked at the outset — “Do you want companies to have more of your data?” — the data-literate consumer evaluates a number of factors in order to determine if the exchange of data under consideration meets their personal criteria for a “good deal.” Among these factors: the company’s reputation, the type of data being requested, difficulty of provision, associated risks, and the degree to which it is identifiable back to the consumer.    

Even the best copywriters in the world can’t do much with a lousy value proposition. For most companies, the question of why consumers should give up their data is hard to answer, and it’s not because they can’t find the right words — it’s that they’re simply not offering a good deal.

So, what do consumers want in exchange for more of their data? We have a few clues, but more research is needed.

A 2013 Intel study found that:

  • 80% of lower-income individuals would trade anonymous personal data for cheaper medications
  • 77% of higher-income individuals would “let an application learn about their work habits to make them more efficient”
  • 53% of Millennials would share purchase histories for “a more personalized world that suits us” 

And a 2013 Infosys study found that:

  • 82% of online consumers “expect their bank to mine personal data to protect against fraud”

If businesses feel that they are offering a fair exchange of data for value, the best thing they can do is to be transparent about the offer. If the offer attracts data-literate consumers without negatively affecting the company’s relationship with less the less data-savvy, it’s on the right track.

Intuit’s Data Stewardship Principles give us a good model. Here the company explicitly states:

  • What they will not do with customer data
  • What they will do with customer data
  • Why they use customer data
  • Their commitments to data stewardship and improving internal data literacy

Educating consumers about data can and should be participatory. For instance, companies can start a conversation about their use of consumer data by showing consumers what is collected and asking them to correct inaccuracies in their “data reflection.” Acxiom’s AboutTheData.com is a leading example of this approach.  

Another way to design participation into the process of data collection is to give consumers more control over the “return” on their data. For example, do they want access to exclusive content, special offers, or loyalty points? It’s a bit like choosing a credit card based on the perks. Since they’ll be getting more of what they’ve asked for, they’ll be incentivized to share more data.

If companies want to address the demands of data-literate consumers, they’ll have to boost their own data literacy first by focusing inward. As the flood of consumer data necessitates that more employees handle it, data literacy must break through common silos (such as finance departments and developer groups) and spread within organizations. Part of that effort will involve external recruitment, and part of it will involve the placement of already data-literate employees in groups that have historically low data literacy.

It also means creating internal training programs to instill useful data literacy in “non-quants.” In parallel with data literacy training, companies should implement standards and evaluate employees against them.

I think of data literacy as an “inevitable opportunity.” As it spreads, businesses can either resist it and perish or embrace it and thrive.

A reader gets Facebook’s attention with a LinkedIn ad

There’s nothing more gratifying than seeing your ideas put to use by other people.  Five-star book reviews are great, but they don’t give me quite the same thrill as seeing something like this: Jonathon Colman

Kevin is clearly using LinkedIn’s killer workplace targeting feature to deliver “reverse help wanted” ads to Facebook employees, and it’s working! Jonathon Colman is exactly the type of person Kevin should want to get in front of, too—he’s known as a thought leader both within Facebook and in the larger content strategy community.  I don’t know how many other people saw Kevin’s ad, but the fact that someone like Jonathon saw fit to share it to his 10,600 Twitter followers is evidence that the ad is benefitting from the social media’s most impressive dynamic, the network effect.

Thanks to Amanda Orson for catching Jonathon’s tweet and bringing it to my attention.

In a related update, it appears that Facebook has changed the rules of custom audiences so as to prohibit 1:1 ad targeting. Custom audiences must now be above a certain, undisclosed, size threshold to run. It was fun while it lasted.

If you’ve read the book, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon.

How one musician is opening social media side doors

 Luke Michielsen This is a guest post from reader Luke Michielsen, a singer / songwriter and artist rep for Stonebridge Guitars. Follow him on Twitter, visit his website, and watch his music video at the bottom of this post (email subscribers click here).

I’m an independent singer-songwriter and I’ve been using social media to share my music since 2006.  It’s funny to think I started doing this in the heyday of Myspace.  Oh how things have changed.  Recently, I came across The Social Media Side Door: How to Bypass the Gatekeepers to Gain Greater Access and Influence by Ian Greenleigh (from here onwards I refer to it by the official hashtag, #tsmsd) and immediately liked the writing style.  I was also impressed with the amount of research that went into it.

Like many musicians, I’ve been trying to maximize the effectiveness of my social media use lately.  Trying to stay current is tough with new platforms for musicians coming out all the time.  #tsmsd has definitely inspired me to try some new things, and has pointed out that changing platforms are actually a good thing, because they open new side doors before the music industry gatekeepers make things difficult (“Gatekeepers” is a term Ian uses for people or systems that block access to influential people).

The main tip I took from #tsmsd was to get creative in how you try to reach influencers in the music industry.  One of my current goals is to play at summer folk festivals.  There are a lot of gatekeepers to bypass to gain access to this circle of the industry.  Most festivals require artists to submit their applications through Sonicbids, Reverb Nation or Music Clout and many require live showcases at music conferences like Folk Alliance in Kansas City.

Applying to festivals through conventional means often seems impersonal and it’s challenging to get any convincing done if you are lesser known (like me).  Unless you or your agent (very few of us have one) knows the artistic director, you’re just another one in a thousand musicians lining up at the front door to get on the bill.

Why not take some of the tips in #tsmsd and apply them to this scenario?  It’s my plan to spend more time finding connections and starting relationships with artistic directors.  I’m finding out which ones have blogs and Twitter accounts.  It’s preliminary research to see if there might be a side door for me at one of these festivals.  It’s not easy work, but neither is making good music, so I’m used to it.

When I do get the attention of an artistic director I have to be careful not too ask too much, and instead offer something of value to them.  Offering value to an artistic director is sure to be challenging and each case will need to be treated uniquely.  I’ll think of what I would need help with if I was in their shoes.

Ian hails the merits of blogging numerous times in #tsmsd so my plan is to improve my skills at this older, but trustworthy, social platform.  I’m starting a new blog, called Socially Savvy Musicians, where I plan to interview artistic directors, or have them guest blog about what they look for in an applicants social media profile.  Maybe that director will direct musicians to my blog to answer queries more quickly.  Ok, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Will making some relationships with artistic directors open some side doors to festivals for me?  Who knows what’s going to happen?  What I do know is that the suggestions in #tsmsd are backed up by research that makes me feel confident that I’m on the right track.


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3 more social media side doors for jobseekers

My friend David Armano posted this screenshot from the new social app Jelly. It pretty much speaks for itself, no? In a way, both parties are using social media side doors (the employer and the candidate).

After dropping out of med school, Clark Walker is working as a barber. Mashable reports that the 26 year-old New Yorker used Instagram to post pictures of his cuts and network with other barbers. After following a high-end barbershop on Instagram, and building his own following, he saw an opportunity when the shop’s latest photo caption read, “Now Hiring.”

‘I commented on the photo and said I'd be moving to New York soon and was interested in working there,’ he says. ‘They responded right away and told me to get in touch with them once I was in the city.’

In the meantime, Walker directed them to his Instagram feed to take a look at his work from the past year. The person running the shop's feed tagged the Fellow Barber manager in on the thread, who soon began ‘liking’ Walker's photos from Ray's.

The rest is history.

This next one is interesting because Dawn Siff, the jobseeker in question didn’t actually land her job through a social media side door after generating a lot of buzz about how she was using Vine to show off her work history and achievements.

When I first talked to Grant Turck, the guy that inspired my Facebook ad gambit with his own, he was in a similar situation. He was getting coverage from high profile blogs in his industry (PR), but it wasn’t landing him the gig.

Even though these social media side doors didn’t lead to the big prize, both Grant and Dawn saw value beyond that single measure of success. And they also saw the benefits across multiple social sites. Grant noted that his LinkedIn network grew by 50%, and Dawn has mixed feelings about Vine, but found more success on Twitter, Quora, and LinkedIn.


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Announcing my new job

Olapic If you’re a reader of my blog who doesn’t know me personally and has no particular interest in my career, kindly forgive the following All About Me™ post. The insights you subscribed for are percolating, and you’ll have them soon. Until then, I invite you to browse the archives  or read some of the recent guest posts and interviews I’ve done (here, here, and here).  

My search for that perfect next career step is over. I’ll be building and leading Olapic’s marketing team as Director of Marketing, based out of New York. We have an incredible story to tell. Here’s how it starts:

Olapic is the missing link between customer photos, videos and the results brands care about. We make commerce visual.

My book begins with a memory that could not be more vivid as I type this:

I’ll never forget walking out of that mall, proud of myself for nailing the job interview at a cell phone kiosk. What’s more embarrassing than not getting that job—I didn’t even get a callback, and it stung—is the fact that I was so close to settling for it.

That was early 2010, just shy of four years ago. Only four years! If you could feel what I’m feeling now…you’d understand that no string of words can even nick the surface of it all. So this post will be short.

Likewise, the names of the people that helped me during this long, humbling job search are too numerous to mention, but I have to give special recognition to the following remarkably kind people:

Brant Barton, Brett Hurt, Lisa Pearson, Amy Hayes, Jeremiah Owyang, Andy Sernovitz, Stephen Tarleton, and Robert Gilbreath.

And to my new family at Olapic: Thanks for writing me into your story.


Powerful people don’t need social media—so why do they use it?

"Dieu et mon droit" refers to the "divine" right of kings, and was "adopted as the royal motto of England by Kind Henry V in the 15th century." Info from Wikipedia / Flickr CC credit: chuckyeager

O now, who will behold

The royal captain of this ruin'd band

Walking from watch to watch, from tent to tent,

Let him cry 'Praise and glory on his head!'

For forth he goes and visits all his host.

Bids them good morrow with a modest smile

And calls them brothers, friends and countrymen.


In this excerpt from Shakespeare's Henry V, King Henry disguises himself as a commoner to walk among his soldiers on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. He does so to learn the unvarnished truth about their morale and preparedness, knowing that if he were to tour the camp as king, the information he’d receive would be quite different.

Access is always accompanied by risk. When powerful people make themselves more accessible via social media, they risk losing privacy, focus, efficiency, and even likability.

So why do they do it?

As it turns out, there are three main reasons powerful people weather the risks of accessibility.

1.    Escaping the echo chamber

The truth is valuable, but it often doesn’t reach the corner office. Information is filtered through several layers of career-minded subordinates and corporate groupthink. And passing through these layers takes time, degrading the usefulness of the information. As I write in my book:

The higher someone’s status, the more other people say what they think the person wants to hear. When reality finally pierces the wall of optimism and flattery, it’s often too late—this powerful individual has simply made too many decisions based on false premises to right the ship.

Information from social media acts as a counterweight to the polished and presentable information powerful people receive from their teams.

2.    The “direct line”

Social media gives powerful people direct, instantaneous access to the masses. No airtime or ad space to buy. No press conference to arrange. This makes PR staffers and in-house lawyers cringe, but the allure of a direct line is too strong for many elites to ignore. This access can be used to promote products, events, and causes (Richard Branson is a great example of the latter), shape public opinion and perception, and defend when attacked. Take, for example, this tweet from Rupert Murdoch, which addressed the News Corp phone hacking scandal and received 30 retweets:

Many of Murdoch’s tweets could be easily dismissed as nothing more than rants. But what I find remarkable about them—rants or not—is just how little they are scripted. Here you have one of the most famous billionaires in the world talking directly to whoever will listen, without the “prior restraint” of minders and copyeditors.

3.    Humanization

“Should I use my personal account or company account to engage with influencers and the press?” It’s a question that comes up a lot when I speak to groups about using social media. My answer is always, “People like talking to people.” Despite the Supreme Court’s affirmation of “corporate personhood,” the idea of brands acting like humans is a bit absurd, especially when you think of all the rotten things humans do. And businesses don’t have feelings or worries or hopes.

But that’s not to say there’s no value to making brands more approachable, sincere, and quick to respond—these are all positive human traits that brands can use to their benefit. It’s not a matter of mimicking humans, but of letting the humans behind the brand shine through.

Company leaders can have a big impact on internal and external perception of a brand and its leaders. For example, the 2013 BrandFog CEO Social Media Survey found that, among employees “83.9% believe that CEO social media engagement is an effective tool to increase brand loyalty.” The same survey also revealed that 68.7% of employees “definitely” or “somewhat” agree that  “C-Suite social media engagement make[s] a brand seem more honest and trustworthy.”

A powerful mindset

Powerful people have already made it. They don’t need to use social media. Both of these are true statements. So is this one: Mark Cuban could retire today and still be fantastically wealthy for the rest of his life. One more for you: Katy Perry could drop off Twitter and still sell out concerts around the world.

My point is simple. Powerful people do things to grow what they already have. It’s this “extra step” mindset that got them there in the first place, and social media is quickly becoming the extra step of choice for the world’s most successful people.


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What's next in the evolution of social media?

Convergence. Flickr CC photo credit: paloetic What will be the next step in the evolution of social media? What is the number one "unique social media marketing tip [I] would give to an intermediate social media marketer?"

These questions were submitted by the 4th and 5th winners of my signed book giveaway! I'm still accepting entries, and all you have to do is ask me an interesting question for a chance to win. OK, on with the show.

Amira Fahoum asks:

As social media continues to evolve and change how we interact with each other--both personally and commercially--what will be the next step in the evolution?

I call it “universal convergence.” Channels, devices, data—these elements of communication are all being woven together. Think single streams, seamless experiences. What we formerly called “In Real Life” (IRL)—the physical world—is increasingly inextricable from the digital world. IRL is now digital, social, and physical rolled into one.

And in a similar way, identities are converging. I’ve worked for people I’ve never met beyond digital channels. I have deep friendships with people I met first on Twitter, and some of those relationships spilled over into face-to-face conversations over barbecue, professional collaborations, etc . I’ve even mourned the deaths of a handful of people whom I only knew through social media, and it felt no less real. At a certain point, we’ll replace phrases like “my Twitter friend” with simply “friend.”

Commercially, we’re seeing a convergence of brands and people. In other words, we’ll be buying from brands because we value the people behind the brands, and a lot of that determination will be based on our encounters with those people on social media. We’re also seeing an intolerance of any disparities between a brand’s social persona and every other part of the brand presence. That’s because the social presence will be decentralized, and not holed up in corporate HQ. If I tweet a hardware question to a hardware store, I want people with hardware knowledge to answer it—not marketing people like me. So, I’m looking forward to systems that put that power (and responsibility) in the hands of select front-line employees.

Whitney Denney asks:

What is the number one unique social media marketing tip you would give to an intermediate social media marketer? Don't tell me something I can find 20 articles on in Google. I need something fresh and motivating!

Oy vey, so demanding, Whitney! OK, I’m game.

Stop trying to make your brand likable. Most people don’t want relationships with most brands, and loyalty is now sustained only by utility. Useful sells. Likable merely amuses. Most money in social media by companies is spent on being likable, while usefulness is neglected.

Reverse the order! Focus on delivering relentless utility through your brand’s social presence to win the wallet.

That’s it for the second batch of book giveaway winners! Remember, you can still enter to win your own signed copy. But if you just can’t wait and you’re into sure things, buy a copy today! If you've read the book, please leave an honest review on Amazon. 




How can smaller companies keep up in social media?

"David et la tête de Goliath," by Guido Remi (1575 - 1642). Flickr CC photo credit  Renaud Camus.  How can smaller companies keep up in social media? How will influencer engagement change? Are infographics here to stay?

These three questions were submitted by the first three winners of my signed book giveaway! Entries are still open, so submit your question today. Now, let's get some answers on the board.

Ryan Swindall asks:

I work for a smallish company that's constantly trying to keep up and look larger on social.  How would you recommend that we keep up with bigger and better funded companies on social media when we can't (or won't) go for another round of funding?

Lots of big companies have really stupid social strategies. That’s your advantage. For example, take a look at the average Fortune 500 corporate blog and tell me if they’ve really got it down! Likely not.

Social media is great for smaller companies because engagement can’t really be bought. The barriers to entry are low, so you can even the playing field by focusing on things that don’t require a lot of personnel and funds. If your big competitor hires ten writers to crank out so-so content, create a content array that relies more on curating great external content to deliver a greater amount of value.

There are a thousand ways to become a resource—it’s not all about creating word count. Don’t go head-to-head on things you’ll never be able to truly emulate (like headcount), and find better ways to make your company useful.

Joel Widmer asks:

What will a successful influencer outreach campaign look like in the next 5 years? How will influencer engagement change?

I’m going to focus on the second part of Joel’s question. There’s a story in my book about a party I attended at a tech conference where supposed influencers were given the sponsor’s latest model mobile phone. I was one of those “influencers,” and they made it really clear I was on some kind of list and I should feel super special about it. I wasn’t ungrateful, but I was perplexed. First of all, I’ve never blogged about consumer electronics, and I’m not one to really tweet about the space either. On top of that, even if they were going for highly influential people in general, I’m certainly not one of them (as compared to some of the people at the party who didn’t get free phones, including a few friends of mine). No, I was on that list for one of three reasons:

1)   Someone at the PR agency handling the party recognized my name from something completely unrelated to consumer electronics.

2)   The data they used to ascertain attendee influence was the wrong data to use in the context.

3)   The data they used to ascertain attendee influence was simply inaccurate.

In the next five years, we’re going to see less of that. Influencer identification is getting more accurate, granular, and contextual. People using these tools are getting better at it. And—this is the thing that sometimes drives innovation more than anything else—the budget owners for these programs aren’t going to tolerate so much speculative money wasting. They’re going to ask for results and proof and optimization plans. The money won’t be coming from the experimental budget in five years, so everything it’s spent on will need to perform. If there’s one corner of the social media space that needs that kind of scrutiny, influencer ID and engagement is definitely it.

Derek asks:

Are infographics just a fad or are they here to stay?

I take it from Derek's question that he isn't impressed with the bulk of infographics out there, and he thinks people are getting away with producing low-quality work because the medium happens to be hot. Or maybe I’m totally projecting my opinions onto his question, because that’s totally how I feel.

It’s hard to find an analogous medium that might guide a prediction here, but take something like online presentations (i.e. slide decks). Slides are flooding the web because slideshare makes it easy to share and embed them. But does better technology—essentially, a better container—lead to better content overall? Judging by the mountain of yuck on slideshare, I think not. And will the rate at which that mountain of yuck grows slow down anytime soon? I don’t think so, because, like a landfill, there aren’t really any penalties for contributing to it.

So you have a similar thing going on with infographics. Technology is driving the costs of production and distribution down. The medium is trendy, as you point out. Everyone wants in on that game, and now everyone can get in on it.

But there’s yet another force moving infographics and slide decks along roughly the same trajectory: impressions-based journalism. As long as ad revenue supports online media, and as long as what outlets charge for that ad space is based in whole or in part on impressions / pageviews, they’ll embrace formats that allow them to quickly churn out page after page of content. Every time you see a slideshow where an article should really be, it’s not because the journalists and editors felt that was truly the best way to convey information to readers; it’s because it’s easy to throw those up with little effort and they can count every slide advance as a separate pageview in order to charge advertisers more. You don’t have the latter issue with infographics, but you certainly have the appeal of easy pageviews and reduced costs associated with original content creation.

As long as someone can embed an infographic on a page, bookend it with a few intro and conclusion sentences, and call it an article, they medium will be extremely popular.

OK, now everyone thinks I hate infographics. Nope. The truth is, well-done data visualization is really incredible. People like David McCandless and shops like JESS3 and Column 5 put out extremely good work. When you have actual data to convey, and that data is interesting, infographics are the bee’s knees! I think infographics will get more interactive as HTML5 and other technologies are widely used. They’ll look more like the data journalism you see over at the Texas Tribune and The Economist.

That's it for the first batch of book giveaway winners! Remember, you can still enter to win your own signed copy. But if you just can't wait and you're into sure things, buy a copy today!


Huzzah! Mega Q&A

Flickr CC photo credit: PitsLamp Photography Ever wonder how you can stop being such a social media mooch? Or why gatekeepers still have their jobs? Do you know what my weird Twitter handle @be3d stands for? I've got answers.

I've been doing a lot of Q&As about the book, and today I'm going to share three of the questions that got me thinking (and my answers). Before you dive in, I have a request for those of you who have read the book (and those of you reading it right now): Please consider leaving an honest Amazon review right here. Each review really helps the book's visibility. Now, on with the show...

From Successful Blog:

How can people find and open their own side doors in social media?

Realize that side doors often open gradually. For example, every time you leave a comment on a CEO’s blog, or tweet a piece of intelligent feedback to an influencer, you’re opening that side door up an inch or two more.

Think about the goals of the person whom you’re trying to reach, and reflect on how you can help them get there faster. You can do things like introduce them to other influential people via Twitter, interview them on your blog about a project they’re promoting, or help them find information they’re after.

Relationships are still the basis for almost all of the value created in social media. Social media makes it really easy to answer the question, “what has this person done for me lately?” As such, you’ll hear “yes” far more often when you’ve provided value before an ask, or in conjunction with it.

From BusinessNewsDaily (also published on Mashable):

Who are the gatekeepers?

Anyone or anything that regulates access to people or power is a gatekeeper. Human gatekeepers come in all forms, but are commonly executive assistants, recruiters and HR professionals, publicists and agents, and anyone else tasked with reducing access to someone else. I made sure to point out in my book that gatekeepers aren't trying to ruin your day. They have an important job to do, and it's probably pretty thankless. But ultimately we need gatekeepers, or else important things won't get done. When I first got into the corporate world, someone told me that the second most powerful person in any given company doesn't have a fancy title or a corner office. It's the CEO's executive assistant, so make sure to be kind to him or her. That's still true, and social media can help you get to know — and sometimes win over — the gatekeepers.

Your Twitter handle is @be3d. What does it mean to be "three-dimensional" in the world of social media?

People sometimes feel they need to play a part when using social media, and I totally understand the impulse. I also agree it makes sense to tailor your use of a network to its particular "culture," like engaging more professionally on LinkedIn because it's "the business network." But I think these lines are extremely fluid and flexible. Ultimately, people like doing business with and hiring people they genuinely like. And if your social media presence doesn't convey a true sense of who you are, you're really just cheating yourself out of meaningful relationships. So "three-dimensional" means the complete package, not a cardboard cutout of who you want others to think you are.

From Vocus Blog:

Why not an email followed up by a phone call?

If that’s working for you, there’s no reason to stop. But it’s easier to stand out where you have the least competition, and where reporters aren’t as used to getting pitched.

Credibility and name recognition are transferable. I think phone calls and emails are great for long-form and later-stage communication, but every time you bring value to a journalist through social channels, the chances increase that he or she will open that email or take that follow up call.

That’s what being three-dimensional is all about. Starting out, this person is completely unaware of you—a blank canvas where his or her mental image of you should be. Then you engage via one medium, and this person forms a kind of mental outline of who you are, but it’s still easy to ignore. Every additional engagement, especially those that happen on new channels, fills in detail to that sketch.

Keep it up, and this person will have a 3-D model of you in his or her head. You’re not just that person that tweeted at them once; you’re that person that gave them the interesting angle on the story over Twitter, then sent additional information over email, and invited you to connect on LinkedIn a week later. Every additional dimension makes you harder to ignore.

Have any questions of your own? Ask them in the comments, and I'll answer.

Reach ANY billionaire, celebrity (or average Joe) on Facebook with individualized ads: How-to guide


In the space of a few days, Mark Zuckerberg has seen my ad 7 times. Marissa Meyer, Yahoo's CEO has seen another ad of mine 39 times. This has cost me nothing. Zero dollars, zero cents.

That's an excerpt from my new book, The Social Media Side Door: How to Bypass the Gatekeepers to Gain Greater Access and Influence. When I learned the technique I'm about to share with you (via Mike Merrill and Dennis Yu), I really didn't believe it. But I tried it anyway, and proved that it works in several different tests (as detailed in Chapter 10). Just in case you haven't quite fathomed the potential of this extremely well-kept secret trick, it's the ability to reach anyone with an eye-catching, hyper-personalized Facebook ad with 100% accuracy. If someone is on Facebook, you can reach that person. Private profile? You can reach that person.

Instead of just walking you through how to do it, I'm going to show you how to reach me. Ready? (Set up your FB ads account if you haven't, then come right back).

1. Find my profile.

I actually have two. Long story. Use either one.

2. Grab my UID.

A UID is a Facebook user id. Even if a profile is private, you can use a simple trick to get the UID--and it's not hacking. Just take the URL my profile, remove "http://www." and replace it with "graph." You'll be taken here. It should look like this:


3. Create a Custom Audience

Open up an Excel doc and paste my UID into cell A-1. Save it as a CSV file. Go back to your Facebook Ads Manager. Open up Power Editor. Click "Create Audience." Upload the CSV you saved, filling in whatever you want for the "Audience Name" and "Description" fields. Make sure you choose "UIDs" under Type. It should look something like this:


4. Create the ad. 

Using Google image search, find an image of me and save it to your computer. Head back to the ads manager. Click "Create an Ad." Enter the URL to your LinkedIn profile or Twitter profile. Use whatever you want for the headline and body text. If you want the ad to show up in my feed and not just on the sidebar, connect it to your Facebook page. Don't worry, your other fans won't see it since I'm the only one in your target audience. Here's an example I used for my webinar with Vocus:


5. Choose me.

The only thing you’re going to touch in the targeting options is under "custom audiences."  Just check the selection that matches the name of the audience you created. Ignore the yellow warning message about impressions; it doesn't apply to what we're doing.

6. Bid. 
Name your campaign whatever you want. Run your campaign continuously. To make sure I see it, optimize for Impressions. Enter a big dollar amount in your daily budget; at least $20. Make sure your lifetime budget is at least 3 times that amount. Don't worry that it will actually cost you $20, since that's the price per 1,000 impressions and I'll probably only see it once or twice. Click "Place Order" !

7. Wait for my signal. 
If all goes according to plan and I see your ad, I'll send you a tweet or LinkedIn invite.

Buy The Social Media Side Door here!

Infographic: How to laser-target journalists with Facebook ads to earn coverage

No, I don't think of journos as dartboards, but this image was too perfect to not use. CC photo credit: Flickr user raindog Reporters and other media pros are typically easy to reach, but much harder to influence. Their livelihoods depend on being accessible to people with tips, angles, and stories, so many of them even publish their email addresses and phone numbers in their Twitter bios, etc.

But! Repeat after me: reach does not equal influence. Here, in case you're a visual learner like me:

reach does not equal influence

To journalists, the cost of accessibility is being constantly deluged with garbage like bad PR pitches, weird attention seekers, and anyone else trying to get their 15 minutes of fame. So, journalists develop selective attention. They become experts in quickly sorting signal from noise, trash from treasure. They also pay more attention to names they recognize. Chances are, unless you're already a known quantity among reporters, they don't recognize yours. Mine either! No matter how great our tips, angles, and stories are, we're starting with a disadvantage. So, we need to stand out.

Let me pause here to emphasize that there is no substitution for longterm relationship building. That should always be the priority, and it will yield way more quality coverage than things like Facebook ads. But Facebook ads are one interesting tool in the outreach kit, and especially useful when you have a fresh, informed angle on a hot story the media already cares about. I worked with my publisher on the infographic you see below to promote my just-released book, The Social Media Side Door: How to Bypass the Gatekeepers to Gain Greater Access and Influence. It covers a lot more than Facebook ads, but that's the thing people keep asking me about, so I figured it would make a great lede for this post. If you share it on Twitter or Facebook, please use the hashtag #tsmsd. Also, I'm doing a webinar with Vocus on October 16th on this very subject, and I'd love to see you there!

 [button icon="link" tag="DL" link="http://daretocomment.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/FINAL_ocialSideDoorInfographic3.jpg"]Click to Enlarge & Download ! [/button]

You Are a Source

Four hard truths of exceptional marketing

Four Hard Truths of Exceptional Marketing There’s money to be made in convincing people that exceptional marketing comes easy, but it doesn’t. I’ve been thinking about marketing’s “hard truths”—those essential but sobering realities that tend to reveal themselves through failure. Maybe the only way to learn these marketing truths is to experience what happens when you contradict their wisdom. Or maybe you’ll read this in time to avoid some particularly thorny terrain (that’s what I prefer to believe). Here we go:

Thought leadership is in the eye of the beholder. It’s always earned, and never bought.

Your audience decides your fate. You can’t produce thought leadership—it’s not a type of marketing. It’s an earned state, and a temporary one at that. You are a thought leader when your audience considers you a thought leader, and not one minute before. You can buy a lot of things that thought leaders tend to have—a six-digit Twitter following and a place on the best sellers list, for example. But these are typically the results of being a thought leader, not the things that get you there.

I was once paired with someone at a small speaking event whose name I wasn’t familiar with. Odd, I thought, because this person had over 100,000 Twitter followers, claimed to be a marketing expert, and also lived in Austin. How had our paths not crossed? After our Q&A session, I asked some friends of mine here in Austin—actual marketing thought leaders—if they knew him. None of them did. After a few minutes perusing his followers, it was clear most of them were fake. Gaming the social proof might have fooled event organizers, but the audience clearly wasn’t impressed with his portion of the session.  They decided he wasn’t a thought leader, so he wasn’t.

Utility is never ignored. Make yourself (and your marketing) useful.

People don’t shut you out when it’s clear that you’re helping them. Most marketing points to some help that the audience will get in the future…if they do X, Y, and Z they don’t really want to do. But the best marketing is itself useful. Every page on your site, every tweet, every email you send to prospects—every one of these is a chance to provide something useful.

And guess what? If you give away something useful, people will want to share it. They want to be useful, too. They’ll also come back for more. Jay Baer wrote a whole book about the concept of utility in marketing, and it looks really…useful!

Buzzwords, jargon and superlatives fool no one.

What’s the difference between the “ground truth” and the “truth”?

Would you rather be “enabled,” or simply “helped”?

Why do customer service reps always put that “do” in between “I” and “apologize,” like “I do apologize for that, Mr. Greenleigh.”

When was the last time you read a company boilerplate and believed they really are “the leading” company in whatever space they play in?

Marketing is like a yearbook where seniors write their own superlatives.

No one buys any of this nonsense. Buzzwords and superlatives can make us feel smart, relevant, part of the tribe, and in control, but they alienate just about everyone else.

Write and speak like the people you want to reach and influence. Even if they use buzzwords, resist the temptation (using buzzwords doesn’t mean one responds to buzzwords).

Show, don’t tell. Marketing should deliver—not promise—value.

“Show, don’t tell” is an old writer’s saying. It means don’t rely on exposition to carry your story forward. Rather, have the story telegraphed through things your characters do (or don’t do), say, their appearance, etc.

Marketers love to tell you about value. They focus a lot on offering things, but not enough on providing them. Here’s a concrete example. One of the transformations I led at Bazaarvoice was taking the blog from promotional to useful. When I arrived, we were still talking about how great our data was, about how much we knew about consumers—and here’s a blog post to promote a webinar where we’ll tell you some of what we know. That kind of thing. I wondered why we shouldn’t just share some of what we know on the blog, and use that content to generate leads. No one objected; it just wasn’t the model my colleagues were used to. Once we got the hang of it, and saw all the right indicators going up and to the right, it seemed so ridiculous that we had focused on offers at the expense of delivery. Take a look at your company blog right now and be honest with yourself: which are you focusing on?

Question: What other hard truths of exceptional marketing would you add to this list? 

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Why Facebook hashtags aren't working--for users or brands

#meh I celebrated the addition of Facebook hashtags, and even picked a fight or two with naysayers in some of the reactionary threads you see whenever Facebook does anything new. But Facebook hashtags just aren’t working.

To illustrate, let's compare hashtags on Twitter and Facebook. Say a big story breaks having to do with Syria. Hop over to Twitter.com, and there’s a good chance it will be already featured in the Trends box. Or, just enter #syria into the search box , and you’ll get something like this:

Twitter #syria hashtag search #1 

Want all tweets in a purely chronological order? Just click All, and you get something like this:

Twitter hashtag #syria search #2

Here’s what happens on Facebook when you search for (or click on) a hashtag.

Facebook hashtag #syria

Famous names, popular posts, some posts from regular people with seemingly no logic as to why their content is featured. Not in chronological order. No ability to change anything to do with what or how content is displayed.

No wonder “hashtags aren’t driving additional engagement” for brands, even though 20% of branded posts include them.

Hashtags are one of the ways that Facebook is trying to strike more of a balance between the social graph and the interest graph. That makes sense, because we’re not only interested in what people we know are doing, what they think, etc. We want to follow things and people that interest us personally—regardless of whether our friends care about the same things and people. This is one reason that Twitter has been successful. It capitalized on the interest graph early on, and incorporated ways to connect people to what interests them, not just who they already know. Hashtags were one of the masterstrokes that made Twitter “the interest network.” When news breaks about Syria, like in the example above, do you really want to rely on people you knew in high school (Facebook) to relay it to you?  Facebook saw an opportunity to move into this territory, and started rolling out features like the ability to follow celebrities without actually knowing them (although you’re only getting their public posts). Hashtags were another move in this direction.

But they stripped hashtags of perhaps the most important factor in their popularity: real-time. Without displaying content in chronological order, without including more “unpopular” content from regular people, Facebook made hashtags into a static popularity contest.

One of the other big issues is privacy. Because most Facebook users post content privately (to their friends), you will only see hashtagged content from public posts and your existing Facebook friends. Twitter, however, is asymmetrical—you can see someone’s updates even if they don’t follow you back (unless they’re in the 11.84% of users that have protected accounts).

Facebook was late to the game with hashtags. They’re not used to being the underdog, and in at least this one way, they are. But to change that, they’ll need to quickly improve the experience, make it real-time and customizable, and educate users.

What do you think of Facebook hashtags? Is there any hope?  Share your POV in the comments below.

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Does this linkbait make my content look good?

Here’s a simple question with a not-so-simple answer, courtesy of Quora:

Do headlines matter as much as they used to?

The poster clarifies: “I ask this because it seems people are becoming content aggregates, blindly sharing the content of their trusted brands. What do you think?”

My mind immediately went to the concept of signal versus noise and the increasing difficulty of separating the former from the latter. Hillary Read summed it up:

I would say they matter a lot more than they used to. You have roughly 10 words to hook people, period. Attentions spans and patience have dwindled, and your headline has to stand out in a LOT of volume/chaos to get noticed. No good headline, no readers.

I was about to leave the question alone because Hillary and others had already posted an answer I agreed with. Then I switched tabs to TweetDeck and saw a YouTube video floating down the page within a column, followed a few seconds later by a beautiful photo from another user. Content is reaching us whether or not we engage with it. So I penned my answer:

Yes and no. The only thing that prevents me from offering a solid "yes" is the increasing prevalence of "previewable" content. Take the way videos and images are being natively featured within Twitter and Facebook, for example. If these platforms forced users to click on links to view all media, headlines would be exponentially more important. But users don't rely on the headlines alone, because they don't have to. They get "content clues" like who has liked or shared something, the description, a representative image (if it's a video), and other information. Or, as is the case with Twitter and many images, they see even more than a preview of the image, they see the full image in their stream. The other element of this is a kind of diminishing opportunity cost. If I need to leave the page or experience I'm currently enjoying to consume content that I might have interest in (based on a headline or tweet w/ link), I might decide it's not worth disrupting the experience I'm enjoying. But now that more and more media is viewable within experiences, I don't feel I'm risking anything (except time) by playing it or reading it.

Jesse posted a great follow-up question, excerpted here:

I believe the "content clues" you've mentioned have a growing weight in this "headline equation." If a friend, person, or brand we highly value shares something and the headline is (literally) "A thing" - I feel like we're still going to share it. Factoring in the content clues, we see "A thing" by [person or brand we like] and it has social proof (people sharing and commenting), why would we not click it?

…I was wondering, as you've mentioned the growing development of preview-able content, do you think a headline (such as "A thing") will perform better since we can only rely on the surrounding clues (author and social proof)? Do you think we have more of an urge to click on something click this to put our uncertainty to ease?

Here’s me again:

That's a good question. I think information overload dampens the urge we have to resolve mysteries. I also think hyperbolic "linkbait" / "clickbait" headlines are conditioning audiences to not expect payoffs once they click through. The cliffhanger headline format has been abused to the extent that its effectiveness is at risk. Bottom line is--and I think this is ultimately a good thing for readers and content creators--you have to deliver the goods, up your game, and constantly respond to marketplace needs.

Wikipedia defines linkbait as “any content or feature, within a website, designed specifically to gain attention or encourage others to link to the website.” Lately, the term is also used in reference to bold headlines or posts that drive clicks, visits, and shares.

But I generally use the phrase pejoratively, as in “I can’t believe that linkbait headline tricked me into clicking on this trash.” You know the feeling, right? You expect something from a headline and the content falls far short of what was promised. This kind of linkbait borrows its tactics from tabloids, scare journalism, and other forms of sensationalism. Pick your poison:


Lazily formulaic!




Grossly exaggerated!

Here’s an incredibly stupid (but all too typical) example:

The worst linkbait of all time

The article doesn’t deliver the goods. Half-Life 3 has not been confirmed. Period. But wait!

Here’s what users see if they click “View Summary” right under the tweet:

The worst linkbait of all time, expanded

That’s right: additional content clues, a meatier preview, and a look at the real headline, which, unlike the tweet itself, does not blatantly lie to users.

This is the direction social media is heading: experiencing content in uninterrupted experiences. Twitter’s summary feature is not just a preview of the content it references, but of the direction our media consumption is heading.

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© 2016 Ian Greenleigh