Scott Stratten, Best Selling Author of Unmarketing [Podcast]

OK, you are in for a real treat on this one. Scott Stratten is one of our favorite marketers, sorry Unmarketers.

Scott Stratten is the best-selling author of Unmarketing which is a must-read for every marketer out there. His blog, Unlearn, is also a must-read.

And this interview is a must-watch!

In it, we discuss…

  1. Rush and Digital Marketing
  2. Sales Cloud vs. Sales Funnel
  3. Missed Opportunities on Social Media
  4. The Futility of “Going Viral”
  5. Expanding Your Personal Brand


Digital Transcription (Edited for Readability)


Jon-Mikel Bailey: Welcome to the Wellspring Digital Chat, I’m Jon-Mikel Bailey. This is where we interview marketing experts and bring their brains directly to, what’s in their brains, directly to you. So today we have one of my very favorite speakers and marketers, sorry unmarketers, Scott Stratten.

Scott, who are you, and why?

Scott Stratten: That is way too deep of a question to start something like this off. All right. Let’s get deep. Who? Yeah, yes. Let’s see, I should put some background music on and stuff right now. But yeah, I’m Scott. I’m a proudly Canadian speaker and author and ranter about all things unmarketing, unbranding, and unselling. Unmarketing is about, you know, bringing customers and clients to you versus going out after them by positioning herself.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I thought we were gonna leave the Canadian part out. Maybe we can edit that.

Scott Stratten: We should have bleeped that. I don’t know what the exchange rate is or the bit rate of this audio going over to you either, but at the border, it gets kind of diverted. It’s pricey. It’s definitely.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So I know I say I’m always excited in these interviews. And let me just say that I’m extra super excited about this one because I consider Scott to be a marketing Brethren, an appreciator of humor, and a speaker who I absolutely enjoy watching. So, this should be fun for me. I don’t know about you.

Scott Stratten: I do need to know, I’m sorry for interrupting, I do have to know where I rank between Jay Baer and Ann Handley. In the excitement, you don’t have to say it now. A postmortem of it. I don’t need to put you on the spot. But you need to be on the spot about this.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I don’t mind throwing Jay Baer under the bus but Ann is so sweet and cuddly. You just, you know…

Scott Stratten: I’d rank both above me, to be honest with you.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Oh, you’re a good person. I’m not so. All right. So I really hope that we can get deep into some, some marketing, maybe some untruths and truths, and you’re doing things and all that good stuff.

Rush and All This Machinery Making Modern Marketing

So our core principles, I don’t know if you can see it behind me. They probably can’t even read that. But I’ll read it for you at Wellspring Digital, our core principles are integrity, transparency, and results. You operate under a similar set of integrity, transparency, and authenticity. So if you’ll excuse a rush reference, can all of this machinery making Modern Marketing still be open-hearted?

Scott Stratten: You don’t put Rush into my head and ask me to talk.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I know you’re Canadian. It’s like your national anthem.

Scott Stratten: I’m just like dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee. So are our three, our three our authenticity, integrity, and community.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: And I screwed it up.

Scott Stratten: That’s okay. It’s close. But if I’m going to pick three words, I got to make sure they’re right.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah, I’m sorry.

Scott Stratten: That’s okay. It’s okay. It works altogether. And with, like for us, and by the way, I’ve totally forgotten your question because Rush threw my brain for a loop.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Can all this machinery making modern, still be open-hearted?

Scott Stratten: Well, so this is the thing. So when people hear something like, “authentic,” they think, obviously, it’s the individual doing something, it’s like me reaching out to you in an email. And it’s us talking and being true. And it’s an overused term, a lot of times. And so for us, authenticity is simply about that, when you are your authentic self, you have no competition.

And that for us means like, you’re just, you’re not trying to be second best at something or trying to copy. You could have swipe files, you can have best practices. I love reading case studies and best practices, but it’s always going back to those words, those three words for us, and like how does this fall under this umbrella?

Marketing Automation and Authenticity

But then you hear something like scale or automation and people think that could be evil. And people think I’m like that, and I am not. I think there is a wonderful marriage between automation and also authenticity, or scalability and authenticity, where it’s under the guise of either context or frame of reference for people and I’ll give you an example…

The best example I can give in-house for you is like I am so against automating things on social media. I’ve been always against that. I’ve been saying that since I joined, in 2014, which was pre like LinkedIn, sorry, 2004, pre LinkedIn, dinosaur, yeah and dude, and you should see my profile photo from that epic and it was the same idea from then it is still today, which is if you try to automate, you know relationships or automate social or conversations it’s like sending a mannequin to a networking event. You’re there but you’re not there.

Unmarketing Newsletter Automation

But for us, if you sign up for something like the unnewsletter, our newsletter, for 17 years, I’ve been using the same welcome email for 17 years. And when you sign up, so obviously when you sign up for a newsletter, you are already preconditioned to know that you’re signing up for a newsletter. So when it gets sent out, you will receive it. You’re not expecting, this isn’t a contact us, this isn’t a chatbot. This is what you’re expecting.

What do you usually get after you sign up for a newsletter, an automated thing back and you’ve either signed up or you’ve signed up, here’s the info you signed up for. I don’t understand that at all. I always love the ones where in there it says “we’re just doing it so you can confirm, you know, your email address is right, and they send it in an email. We can pause for a commercial break if you want to think about that for a while.

But when you get to the point, so when somebody signs up, they automatically get an email, but from me, from my email address, that says, “Hey there, thank you.” We don’t do first name. So we don’t do merges like that. Yeah, I said, “Hey, there. Thanks so much for signing up for the marketing newsletter. We know how busy an inbox, how crowded an inbox can get and we appreciate a slot with it. May we ask what line of business you’re in? We always love to try to tailor our newsletter to our audience and we find it fascinating to see which different areas people are from. Thanks so much, Scott Stratten, President, Unmarketing.”

Almost every day, you know, once in a while you don’t get almost every day, I get a reply from that. “Hey, I’m doing this,” from the mundane to the fascinating. And I tell you, I reply to almost everyone. Because it takes me seven seconds to do it. And reply back saying… and most of the response is “I know this is automated, but I wanted to answer anyway.” And then I reply back, “you know, automated is one of the nicest things I’ve been called this week, thank you so much.”

And then I mentioned something about where they are because luckily for me in the past 10 years, my only job has been speaking at conferences. So I’ve got to travel to so many places. And since the main concentration of the sign up for the newsletter is North America. And I’ve covered almost all of North America in my travels, I always have some kind of reference to where they are.

So somebody just literally just before I came on this interview, wrote back and said, “Hey, and they’re in the Gulf Coast.” They’re in Alabama. And they’re like they’re a realtor. And I’m like “I was in the Gulf Coast eight months ago. Thanks so much. Thanks, again for signing up. And I’m telling you that the reply back from that part is all caps almost every time “OH, I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU ACTUALLY REPLY.”

And that for me is something that’s using scale. So the newsletter automation, so if it gets too busy, or I get too busy, I don’t have to reply to it. But the fact is, I can still reach out. The biggest thing I think somebody can do is give you their email address and say “add to my clutter in my inbox.” Like they’re literally saying, “You’re worth adding on to this pile.”

Now if they give you their cell phone number that’s like, now you’re married. Like that’s the ultimate gift of privacy and information. But when somebody signs up for a newsletter, they’re saying “I trust you. I find your content valuable. I want to keep happening.” And we thank them by stating what they just said to us. We have an op we have a golden opportunity to say hello and to return the high five with them. We just whiff almost every time on that.

And for us, it’s been set it and forget it that way. And I love it. Man, I have so many fascinating conversations with people on email from all different places. I’m a huge sports fan. I’m a huge music industry, that’s where I got my start, fan. So people in those worlds, like I had somebody from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I do digital marketing for them, and I was heading there two months later, like on a pilgrimage. And it was so cool. And how else would I gotten to know that? Right, so great. And I love that.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So is it fair to say that it’s really just a question of your honesty? Yeah, your honesty. Sorry, I’m just finishing the Rush theme.

Scott Stratten: Keeping with the Rush, but I dig it. I dig it. You know, that’s the closest place to a Canadian’s heart.

Sales Cloud vs. Sales Funnel

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So you had a recent post about the sales funnel versus the “Sales Cloud” and one line which really hit me was, I’m gonna read it, “once someone is in your traditionally viewed funnel, the goal is more about not messing it up because they’ve come to you with information.” So I really think that B2B companies miss this all the time, and I wonder if you could maybe explain the concept of a Sales Cloud as it relates to a B2B marketer because I really think they need to hear this.

Scott Stratten: What it comes down for us is we call it, B2B especially and I’m glad you brought this up, is that they get Funnel Vision. They get this Funnel Vision, which is when somebody steps into my funnel, whether I’m going to hook them into it, or I get a lead, we assume almost that’s the start of their investigation. That’s the start of their inquiry. That’s the start of their interest.

And it used to be partially that way, you know, back in the day, 15 years ago. You’d go to your industry’s trade show, you’d see what’s in the booths, and the industry rags, and you’d figure stuff out, you put out “learn more about this.” Now, you look at any study, there are so many studies out there, 65%, 45%, 55% of people research before they actually reach out to a company.

Selling on LinkedIn

And you have a lot of these people in B2B sales who are just like “no, but if we reach out to them first, we can beat them to the punch.” And they’re just like, like this race to the inbox for people. And it’s somebody, and I spread yesterday, on LinkedIn, a post, and somebody was getting really mad, and they’re always a brother from another mother. They get really mad about getting spammed on LinkedIn. I’m like, yep, like, I’ve been yelling about that for a very long time.

And, and somebody wrote, he says, “this is not how you do sales. This about relationship building on here.” And somebody had in the comment, he was a business development person, of course, said, “How else will they find out about the new developments and products in their industry?” And I’m like, “any other way?”

I promise you, anybody listening right now, I promise you, I will bet my house. I don’t know, it’s a crazy time right now, I won’t do that. But you know, I’d bet the farm if I had one, I bet the farm on the fact that nobody is sitting at their desk right now saying “what I really need is a cloud server solution. I hope somebody just calls me. I hope, I pray they call me.” No, they do the work. Or they’ll find a third party or a consultant or they’ll do a vendor like that can go search for them.

How Companies REALLY Looks for Solutions

But here’s the thing, think about it for a second… this is the biggest part. And I would say this to sales audiences when I’d speak on stage to them, and it would just be quiet in the room. Quiet. And I said, “if you as salespeople needed something for your, you know, like, let’s say sales enablement – which turns into it, you know, quite the trend in the past recently about sales, just helping sales pretty much in one way or the other getting information – if you needed a tool to help with that, how would you go about finding which vendor to use?”

People say, “I would go, I would search the term, I would read some industry publications, I would go and I would demo a few.” And somebody else will be like “I would ask one of my colleagues or somebody I know that’s at another company, what they’re using.” Next person, “I would post on LinkedIn and ask what my colleagues are using in their area.”

And I’m like, “so none of you are waiting for a random phone call.” And then it went quiet. And I haven’t been asked this, but I haven’t been asked to speak at that event again. But this is the problem, and also I don’t I’m not fully against, you know, targeting people and doing cold outreach.

Is It The F#$king Catalina Wine Mixer?

That’s just not my world and not my thing. And that’s okay if it’s yours. And look, if you’re snappin necks and cashin checks and going to the Catalina Wine Mixer soon with all of your sales, fine. Keep doing it. Why are you even why even listening to this?

Jon-Mikel Bailey: I just used that reference right before this interview.

Scott Stratten: We are in sync. But the issue with this you have this thing where people say “well it does work.” Then go do it. But the reason why I created Unmarketing, the entire reason why the book Unmarketing was written was for people who wanted to market and sell the way they like to be marketed and sold to right. That’s it. It was the end of hypocritical marketing.

Look, it’s positioning, it’s giving content. It’s helping to learn. It’s having content be shared and spread. It’s creating evergreen stuff, that type of stuff. That was the point because especially especially especially in B2B sales. It’s like the sales world has its own generalizations and stereotypes, but then it’s B2B sales world, that whole world of it and it’s just like, it literally gets to the point of that Catalina Wine Mixer part. It’s like this ain’t how it works.

We have so much more access to information. You still have companies gatekeeping a lot of info, “oh you want our report you got to sign up” and I get it. It’s a lead generator and I’ve done more than my fair share of, of white papers and ebooks and reports and PDFs and squeeze pages. I love squeeze pages and landing pages and all that jazz. I’m a big fan.

But when you say you’ll only get the information when we get your information. They’re just gonna go somewhere else and get it. Because it’s available and the problem is like that person who posted a comment on LinkedIn saying, “well how will they know about the latest trends and new developments in the industry?” Well, the problem is, I wouldn’t go to you because you’re only selling me the products and services you sell.

It’s not what I want. They just think that well “once they come in the funnel, I can educate them.” No, your job is not to mess it up. Because they’ve already been somewhat educated at that point and that’s the biggest issue. It’s why we wrote Unselling and was like, “would you stop it?!?”

I really believe that the long-term sale starts after you sign on the initial sale. Especially in B2B, right? Versus like, renewals. And this is like, you want to build loyalty and this loyalty isn’t like “I really like Pringles chips.” This isn’t like “I like Starbucks” or here, Tim Hortons, apologies, Canada.

But you have these things, this is 5, 6, 7, 8 figure contracts. This is the helicopter buying show. Like, this is the big deal for these people. And they just, it’s like, you get that sale, and you hand them off to a lesser equipped group that has been given over-promises. And they have no choice but to under-deliver. It’s not a good thing.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: By the way, my wife is from Buffalo. So we have a Wegmans here, in Maryland, and I am enjoying a cup of Tim Horton’s.

Scott Stratten: There you go. There’s a big controversy in Canada because everybody in Canada calls it Tim’s or Timmy’s. And I’m the only human in this country that calls it Horton’s. So that is the hill I’m dying on. That’s it.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: That’s your Uncoffee.

Scott Stratten: That’s exactly it.

Missed Opportunities on Social Media

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Alright, so I want to take it down a notch. And I wanted to take a moment to offer my deepest condolences regarding your suitcase. I know that can be hard. So I wondered if you could, if it’s okay, if you’re able, to share with these people your tortured tale of unrequited love shown to a certain suitcase brand and the lessons that came along with that.

Scott Stratten: Yeah, thank you. It’s a really good snapshot into what I was alluding to earlier in the conversation. I was just kind of returning that high five. And we had framed it around returning a brand high five and what we had noticed, especially early on in the growth of social media, and Twitter, publicized social media, especially like Twitter, was brands were on the lookout for putting out fires and rightfully so.

The Real Value of Social Media

Twitter was turned very quickly into the complaints board, you know, the, those type of things where people would go, because, and rightfully so, and I always say that because we’d never had a venue before.

Like what would happen 20 years ago, if you got a bad experience at a restaurant or something. You’d phone them and the cook would pick up the phone. “What?” You write them a sternly handwritten letter. Now we’re like, “oh, we’re finally able to say “you didn’t treat me the way you’re supposed to. You didn’t give me what I paid for.” And that’s good. That’s a good thing overall.

Now we don’t all need endless ranting. There are also people who it’s not true. There are three sides to every story. But this type of stuff is you have opportunities. And the issue is when we first got into corporate social media, you kind of gave social media to the intern or somebody or the co-op or something like that. “Yeah, go use Tweezer and Bookface. I don’t care. It’s not a business.”

It felt like it was like a 96 or so. 97 when it came to the internet, right? I remember being at a job that like, “oh, we’re not going to have a website. That’s not our market.” “Do you sell to humans?” “Yeah.” “Because I think they’re on there.”

Social Media Complaints vs. Compliments

And you had this whole move to social. Okay, so it was this, they were only responding to negative replies. So when I would complain about an airline on Twitter, I would get, not only that, I had a big following, so, I would get like double. So I get a reply and I’d be like, “thank you,” and, “well, it must be nice to get help.” So that was happening.

But brands weren’t really replying to good one, and I remember the first it’s in the book we had where it was the first brand ever to reply to me was Cirque du Soleil. I remember how that felt in 2009. I love Cirque. I love Cirque’s shows. They’re Canadian and I just love it. I just have seen another show there. I wrote, “I just have to say to the world of Twitter, I just love Cirque du Soleil.” That’s all I tweeted, I didn’t add them. I didn’t know they were on Twitter.

They wrote back and I said, “Ah, we love you too.” That was the first time and that was like brands can actually wow, they can actually not only make a customer feel good, they can do it publicly. And then nobody, barely any brands, were barely doing that.

The Failed Social Media High-Five

So anyway, I find that I see this because I’ve traveled so much I spent the past decade on the road pretty much where I’ve averaged 60 gigs a year for almost the past decade. So that’s 100 and I average about 150 days on the road.

So a lot of hotels, 100,000 miles plus a year. I am carry on. Allison, my wife and business partner, and co-author. It’s also a wonderful carry on pack we did like 14 stop book tour on a carry on, carry on each including snacks like we did so we just felt this.

So for me, suitcases are my… pick your favorite thing? And they’re like suitcases remotes like Oh, yes. And so they have this, you know, there’s a Kickstarter for this one. And this one has like a built-in USB and all these things. And then, so I love a good suitcase. It’s gotta roll nice. It’s got a stand up well.

And so I find I bought one and I tweeted about it. And I’m like, I bought one I can’t wait to check it out. So I’m actually marketing for this company. I don’t want a free suitcase. I didn’t tweet the passive-aggressive, which Canadians are great at and tweet that, “oh, this looks great. I wonder if I should get one with Uh, huh. emoji on it or something?”

And they look and at the time, I’m literally like one of most influential people on Twitter on Canada, and top 10 in North America, I could have done that and said, maybe you want to send me one. But I didn’t. I got it. I said I bought it. It’s on its way I can’t wait. And then I got it. But they never replied. I tagged them.

Anytime somebody tagged you, a customer, or somebody tags a brand, even if they say I just love this brand, part of it’s looking for a return of the high five. Tagging a brand, what you’re saying is even just click on like, like heart it just once. You’re saying, hey, it’s a great opportunity. Which is fine. I only simply resented it because they didn’t. But that was fine.

Then I got it. And then it just kind of sucked. It wouldn’t stay standing up. Then the zipper broke the first flight. And then it tore. And I’m like, hey, so then people are like, “what do you think?” Because people are waiting for my opinion like this was almost like a review type of thing. You know and I wasn’t even formally doing it.

And then I sent a tweet a month later. And I’m like, “Alright, so this suitcase (I named the suitcase).” I’m like, “it was great, other than it wouldn’t stay standing up, it wouldn’t roll properly. The company immediately replied to me, “we are so sorry. We’ll look into this now to blah, blah.”

But here’s the thing, I thought about it, if a month before that, when I gave my excitement about it. And they replied, and they followed, and you got to know them and talk to them. I would have went private, with my issue, at least to start because then you get to know the people behind the brand or you connect with them. There’s a humanity to it. And you feel more connected.

And I didn’t say it’s the right thing to do. It’s just honest with the thing I thought which was I wouldn’t have done this if I knew the person because I went back and thought of the other brands. I had tweeted in the past year and gotten to know their social people. And I wouldn’t have been that big of a jerk. Wasn’t gonna out them like that.

And so that returning that brand high five, I think is as important or almost as important as replying to a negative tweet or an Azure review as well.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It seems to me in some ways to be more important, especially when you’re talking about things about trying to build engagement on social media. There you go. There’s an invitation right there.

Scott Stratten: It’s a perfect opportunity handed to you on a platter.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Exactly.

Scott Stratten: And this is what gets me the most. If we go back to that 98, 97, 2000 even, and I came to you or I sat across the biggest brands there were and said, “Hey, I have a method that can hear conversations and whenever you’re mentioned, not only can you see it in real-time and hear it you can respond and people are okay with it. Would you be in?” Every brand would say “yes, please.”

And I’m like it’s 10 grand a month. That’d be like, “yep, no problem.” It’s the same companies that back in 2011 and 12, and even today, they’re like, “no need.” But if I put a price tag on it, maybe sold it as SaaS? Made it a grand a month, 10 grand a month and plug it into Salesforce, good to go.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It comes with its own server.

Scott Stratten: But now you’ve got this world, now, though, to that even the respect still isn’t there in circles, right? You have social media managers who by the way, if you are a social media manager if you’re listening right now, for every month you’ve worked social media, since March, I think you should get a paid year off.

Like just during all this, like, I mean, like, if we’re at seven months now, if this then you should have seven years paid off. Like it’s just nobody’s signed up for this. I always used to say social media is like the is the is the character, the care traffic controller, you know, it’s your customer care.

Your job is saying, “Okay, this complaint, this problem here, I’ll direct it over here, and kind of going that route.” But now it’s just like, you’re all in crisis management. And you haven’t been given the pay or the training to be able to deal with this on that level, yet. Not only are you expected to deal with it, you’re expected to deal with it without any blowback, without any kind of friction. And it’s just not this is not fair. At all.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: And by this, we’re talking about the passing of Eddie Van Halen.

Scott Stratten: Bingo, what a year, what a year. Oh, Eddie, that was where I always thought about it. It’s like how many musicians are first names. You know, I think I thought I thought Veder was gonna dethrone Eddie Van Halen for the name, but um, depends on demographic. I think, too.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yeah. Oh, absolutely.

Scott Stratten: Yeah, it might, it will always be.

The Futility of “Going Viral”

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So speaking of demographics, you have one of the best illustrations of the futility in chasing vanity metrics and “going viral.” And one of my favorite lines currently about the millennial generation. So wondering if you could share the story with these folks.

Scott Stratten: I can, I can, I can. Yeah, so metrics. So with the millennial stuff. It’s funny. I had a rant like I do all the time. And one gig I was at, Allison was at it with me. And I decided to, I really don’t like generalizations, like overall, you know, especially about humans, in general, and coming together in anything that, but age seems to be one that gets allowed all the time. Ageism is allowed.

Scott Stratten Hates Millenials (Yeah, I said it!)

And we’re allowed to lump people by just some random demographic numbers and so I was really pissed at that. And I was speaking at an event called HigherEdWeb, a great event for people in post secondary education who do digital marketing. And I just had looked at Allison before, they’re reading my bio, and I looked at Allison, I’m like, “I’m gonna lose it about this millennial crap. And she’s like, “go get them, baby.”

And I got up and just in the middle of the talk, I just went off. But I went off like I was against millennials. That was the setup. I would say the bit. The bit that went viral, which would lead to this conversation about metrics was me saying, you know, Millennials are actually between the ages of 18 and 35, whatever the number was at the time. And I said, “who in this room is between 18 and 35?”

And at every event, people put their hand up, and I’m saying shock, and like, “oh, you’re here. I was told it was fellow old people.” I said, “so millennials in this room, I’m going to translate what us older people mean when we say the word “millennials.” And so we have to switch it around.

And I would look at them and I’d say “so when we say the word millennials, working with you, hiring you, selling to you, what we mean is people younger than us, and we don’t like you. And I pause and there’ll be that kind of laughter right there. And, and I would just freeze onstage and I would stare at everybody. And they would laugh.

I worked the bit a little. I researched so much about comedians, I don’t watch a lot of other speakers. I love and really respect the comedy industry. I don’t consider myself one because I don’t do a comedy club. I have a bar for being funny and business speaking at conferences is so low, it’s inverted like it’s in the ground like you don’t have to lift your foot to get over the bar, you have to slide and stop. All in.

So people would come up to me at the end of a conference or Keynote. They’re like, “You’re so funny. You know, you should be a comedian.” I’m like, “no, no, no, this pays better. And nobody heckles me.” So it’s a bit different. And plus, when I walk out on the stage, they think I’m the sound guy. So great. And I play off that.

So anyways, the millennial bit, I do that bit, and then I flip it on them. So I flipped them around in the middle. But the bit, the video I used, because I thought it would go well and could go viral was that joke. So that clip, it’s about a two-minute clip. So I took it, and I put it out there as a clip. And at the time, the Unmarketing page had 50,000 followers fans, whatever you call it, and I put it on there, just regular.

I closed-captioned and just put the bit out, put it out there. I named the event, it was that and everything. And it got a reach of about 250,000 people, which is decent when you’re looking at the comparative metrics to it and like it’s five times your page. And that’s decent.

But I wasn’t, I wasn’t satisfied. Like, there’s no way. This only got that when I looked at the comparative videos out there at a comparative size following on the page, and I’m like, “nope, this is no way.” So I said where’s the friction? Where’s the pass along friction? Where is it not resonating? Because the problem with viral is you’re always playing to your first circle.

The First, Second, and Third Circle in Social Media Reach

We call it the third circle, which is you’re trying to reach that third circle. Which the first circle is who you can reach, your fans, your followers, your employees, your family, your kids, whatever that is immediate. And when they share it, it goes to your second circle, which you can’t reach.

But when that second circle shares, it has no condition, no obligation, no relationship. When they share, it goes to the third, that’s viral. And I wasn’t hitting, I could tell by the analytics, it wasn’t hitting that. And I realized that the videos that were going viral at the time were letterbox with text across the top and or the bottom that stayed there, which is because it stopped the thumb scroll.

And that was a basic thing of the thumb scroll. And I know we’re doing a podcast here but audio-wise, I’m gonna bring the video up here to get for the visual for you, but I will still describe it. So that was the difference. It was just a straight video. So I decided to have it be letterbox. And I had my video person, just put it in a letterbox.

So, it just said, “What old people mean when they say millennials,” the goal is to stop the thumb scroll. That’s the entire goal, is to stop it in its tracks, to stop them from actually scrolling anymore. And I changed it, the same exact clip. Same link, same audience, I even sent it out to the same base 30 days later. So they’d already seen the original one of this. So that can lose some momentum that way.

And it went from a 250,000 person reach to 32 million people reach.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: It caught me. I watched it.

Scott Stratten: Well, now here’s the thing, so because that would be the end of the case study sometimes. That would be the end of the case study for people. And they’d be like, “See, there you go. “Just match the platform and make…” no this wasn’t the point at all of it.

Video Metrics on Social Media and YouTube

It was actually the faulty metric. The vanity metric because 32 million people reached means nothing. That is literally the same as a billboard company saying 35 million cars drive by here. Has nothing to do with your thing. It has the potential to be seen by that because it was served in somebody’s newsfeed. So go from 32 million reach. But then it says 13 million views. Am I okay? You’ve got to match.

I love metrics. I LOVE LOVE, LOVE LOVE metrics. But I love actual metrics. I love metrics we can do something with, we can share, we can sink our teeth into and say “So was this successful?” And you won’t know until you know what is the metric you’re trying to use. And for me, it was just longer viewings of it. My success metric was people inquiring about a keynote like me to come to their event.

But the real metric was me was them actually watching it for an extended period of time. So 13 million views is still not the metric I matter. It is still a vanity metric because a view on Facebook is three seconds or more. That’s not a view. That’s a whiff. You ever walked by somebody’s cubicle or something like that and you think they farted but you’re not sure? That’s a three-second passing of time from the smell, to the curious, to the continue walking. That’s a whiff, not an engaged viewer.

YouTube is 30 seconds, which is true. YouTube is 30 seconds or even less a video is under 30 seconds, then it’s the duration most usually. But there’s also a difference in YouTube when it comes to the context of a view. And a view, is a view, is a view.

And I’m not just talking about the measurement metric of a view that is 30 seconds versus three seconds, which is a giant difference, but the other huge part about a YouTube view being so much more valuable as an individual unit is because it’s usually, a majority of the time, a destination of view, you went looking for it.

Facebook view can be serendipity. We just happen to scroll and it’s served up. YouTube’s a search engine. I am going to see this thing. So I would take a YouTube view, over a Facebook video view over 10 seconds over 20 seconds over there any day of the week, because this is like a warm lead or a cold lead type of thing for me, I’m looking for the right thing.

So instead of 13 million views, I need to keep digging there. So I dig, even more, you click down the analytics, and then I get to see that, okay, it’s not 13 million that watched it for any length of time. It shows you in Facebook, in analytics, it’ll show you 10-second views, which is their judgment saying, “you know what, this is actually the view.”

Why they don’t show you this on the surface? Well, you and I both know why. But it’s you know, metrics. Like, look, we didn’t know you didn’t, it was like, it was like Google Plus saying they have 300 million active monthly active. Like, you can’t even smell your own right? You can’t smell it. You’re so around your own BS, you can’t even smell it.

So you dig deeper into 10 seconds of view. And Facebook says my video didn’t have 35 million, didn’t have 30 million, but had 4.8 million 10 second views. But that is still not the metric that matters to me, because you can dig deeper. And that metric is with sound on over 10 seconds was actually 3.4 million people. That’s the metric I can actually start with now.

Because the point of this is if you don’t watch it with me speaking, you can’t tell, you can’t hear the audience laughing. You can’t hear me speaking. That’s not the view that helps me as the producer of the content. That’s fine if you watch it and spread it and share, or you don’t. But the point is, that is the effect I want.

So that’s 3.4 million, and 1.3 million people watched it over 10 seconds without the sound on and I just I don’t know why I seem like an angry mime. Like, there’s no context to it to me just flailing my arms around. And so you have this world where the metrics have to be proper the metrics have to, you know, to do the right, what we want. And this is the problem.

Now, if your boss or your client likes the vanity metrics, then yeah, go on and do your bad thing, do yourself, like, give them the metrics they want. But as marketers, if we are about Integrity, Authenticity, let’s find the real numbers. Let’s figure out what is actually working.

But even this, and this is what we didn’t reveal on the post or on a talk or anytime. So you’re getting like a scoop here. That even because I used to say at the end of this thing with when I would talk to a marketing audience, I had a talk was called Data, Digits, and Dummies. And it’s about just that we can mislead with data and ethics and a whole bunch of stuff.

So I put out my speaker demo though. A month after this, my trailer four-minute trailer, my “sizzle reel” as we call it and it got 4000 views, over 10 seconds with sound on but I got like eight inquiries. Okay, so like, which is the better video and it was like, obviously, the 4001 and we’re like, Yay, we all high five we leave.

The Real Impact of Viral Video

But here’s the thing, what had happened a year or so after was that the viral one didn’t lead to direct inquiries directly from the video. But as I started talking to people a year down the road, because conferences get planned a year out sometimes two, sometimes six months, a year, two years out.

Six or seven conferences that following year when I would find the conference and talk to them because I always want to find out how they found me originally. Right always doing the metrics always trying to get this the attribution to the right place. And five or six of them had said the same thing, which was “my sister in law sent me your clip on Facebook. And then I sent it to somebody and they inquired here…”

So it was never directly connected. And I wasn’t looking to find out anymore because it suited my narrative. So it actually did help someone it did work somewhat. But it was also the lesson of learning about how much did it work and how well did it work. Plus, by the way, my kids, a lot of my kid’s friends saw it, and it made me famous with them, which I that’s all that matters.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: That in and of itself is a win.

Scott Stratten: They’re your children and their friends think you’re cool. That’s the ultimate.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Yup, that’s a win. All right.

Expanding Your Personal Brand

Jon-Mikel Bailey: So if you if you’ll indulge me, a friend of mine, who’s also a fellow marketer, and a fellow speaker, Jen Gerlock is, is also a fan of yours and has a question she wanted me to ask you. So I’m going to read it.

Scott Stratten: I’m a fan of Jen. So.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Okay, here we go. Perfect. Perfect. I’m going to read it so I don’t screw it up. All right. “If you are looking to expand your personal brand as a professional during COVID, meaning during a time when people aren’t seeing each other face to face, and could pick only one or two platforms and strategies, what would you recommend?” – Jennifer Gerlock, VP, Frederick County Chamber of Commerce

Scott Stratten: It’s a great question. And I don’t want to give a cop-out answer for but you need context for it. Because I could say right now, create video. I could say, write blog posts, I could say do a podcast, I could say all those content kind of, write that book, get, practice that talk, work on all those things, but it won’t, it’s not taking into the context of the actual individuals that would need to do the work.

Effective Marketing and “Going with Your Grain”

So where that comes to is like, I’m, we’re huge fans of going with your grain. Okay, which is like, what do you want to do? What is natural for you? Or something you want to get better at and do? Is it? Do you like writing? Okay, then I would focus on creating a blog post. But I’d also focus on making some kind of report, something that I can pull that I can give away, people can download, because then it’s easily shareable that way as well.

I can make it even better. I could be a sellable product, I could, you know, you could put it up in gumroad, in 10 minutes from now, and you boom, you can be selling this stuff, anytime.

Do you like video? Then there’s a whole bunch, a swath of video. When it comes to live, to doing a show, to doing recorded or scripted videos. And then if you just like talking, but you don’t want to be on video, and you got podcasting, you got a bunch of things with that.

But at the end of the day, what I think I really, really think would be the best thing to do for a personal brand right now is regardless of what you pick, and only pick one or two to start one of those things, is to try to make it also as evergreen as possible. Because the problem I’m seeing, I’m not sure if you’ve seen this too, but a lot of people are just trying to shoehorn their content around COVID.

It’s like they’re like, “well, now I can speak about resilience.” And if I can take this old post and mention the word resilience in it, that’s gonna work for COVID. And then they open the thing with “in these trying times.” I don’t need another brand. But this we’re also in a catch 22. Because I know I don’t even know the brand telling me “in these trying times for thinking about you.” But if they don’t say anything, you know, do they sound that just not reading the room?

And that’s the problem with that. And I just think that we are getting exhausted by the “in these tough times” type of stuff. We are getting exhausted by everything is about COVID. But yes, it’s also a pandemic. So everything is about that.

But I think we can create content right now, that can be used right now and still be sensitive to that somewhat, and not just pretend that everything is normal, and referring to going out and doing all these other things. But I think you can create core content right now, that can be used that is useful right now, but that has a long tail to it when it comes to content.

Because I don’t what I don’t like about this world right now, digital, and I love disruption, that’s my, that’s my jam, I love tech, I love things being shifted and moving and more accessible and more scalable, but what I don’t like about this is the expiring content world. That 24 hour and it’s dead.

Now I’m not just talking about Snapchat message or Instagram story or something like that. I mean, the algorithms in almost every social site, it’s based on relevancy. One of their biggest parts is time decay. You know, the older it gets, the less chance it’s gonna be, and I totally understand it, I totally get it, I would do it too.

Except as a brand, when you create content, we used to have you know, content calendars, and you create something and you build it and then you’d have the first day, and that week, that month, and you’d have a little, but then a long tail it would be good for SEO the rest of the time.

I am not about expiring content. I am not a fan of that. Now if it’s authentic, if, you know, shooting from the hip, off the cuff type of stuff that is perfect for brand expiring content because it gives a human side it works well. But to produce stuff, it takes so long and so hard, you’ve got to give it a shelf life it’s got to be able to last.

We are such a Jack Russell Terrier on speed run after squirrels with content these days. There’s 17 you know different social platforms to put it on. 73 different orientations for every single post and by the way I do have some beef right now I need to get off my chest.

My kids, the kids, those millennials, and Zedders if you’re in Canada. They keep telling me “Dad You got to be able to you got to do horizontal video. You got to do horizontal.” I was like fine. I finally turn my flip phone over. I’m kidding. But I gave up my Blackberry more recently than I’d like to admit.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: They are a Canadian Company.

Scott Stratten: Thank you. Finally, I’ve got horizontal, fine, my life is horizontal. Everything’s horizontal. I take pictures horizontally video, and then I do it and they’re like “you got to do it vertically.” “What are you talking about?” “Well, it’s because of TikTok and Instagram like…” “No, Instagram, I do landscape, but I have…”

“No, Instagram stories.” I’m like, “would you all get together and figure this stuff out!” Which is, I swear, you know, it’s just like, it’s like something, you know, places like Canva and stuff, my saving grace, just resizing stuff.

You know, just like, even just for the audit, when, like, for me, I got a Canva pro membership solely, I think solely, so I can do the one-click resize in 17 different platforms. It was just like, it just saved me so much time on that.

Now being back in the practitioner mode of stuff for our own content. I’m just like, how do you even like, remember when I was a practitioner, you know, when I was doing the marketing of stuff, 12, 15 years ago, the graphics design person did the graphics stuff, this person, this person did this?

And I’m like, why are there 17,000 tools for everything now? It’s crazy. It’s crazy. So really long, long term content and going with your grain to answer a long-winded answer to Jen’s question.

B2B Companies and Choosing the Right Platforms

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Which I think can also apply to really B2B companies, too, because I feel like a lot of our clients are coming in saying, “well, we need to do this, we need to do this, we need to do this.” And my reply to them is “well, wait a second. You know, what are you going to do well?”

Scott Stratten: Exactly. And plus, this is one of the things I find with especially the B2B companies to where they’re like, “Well, why don’t we put something up over here?” And I would tell people, “if you put content somewhere, and you’re reaching your customers, then that’s where you are.”

“So when I have an issue with something, and I see you put an Instagram story up or something like that, and I reply to that, you better have a channel there that makes that work properly.” You open that door to content, you’ve also opened door to conversation.

I could not care less if you don’t want to have a conversation in there, it doesn’t matter. You can’t tell a customer they’re standing in the wrong complaint line. Right? You can’t it’s like standing in a line, you finally get the front. They’re like, “Oh, I’m sorry, returns are down there.”

Customers don’t see silos. We don’t see departments, we see the brand. And that’s why I never suggested people going to every platform anyways. Unless you can manage it unless you’re going to pay that social media, customer care traffic controller, a good amount of money to handle the stuff, and give them a team. Then don’t go running downstairs and say I just read something on in Time magazine that says we should be on tweezer go.

Your Core Values, Strategy, and Shiny Objects

It’s got to go back to exactly what you and I talked about at the start of this thing. It’s going back to your brand type of, you know, for you, integrity and transparency and results. Does this fall under those things? For us? It’s the same thing. Does this fall under integrity and community and authenticity? And then why are we doing it?

Allison and I have these conversations now. Before I was like that, too. I just did this here because I wanted to do it. And we’re like, “what’s part of the strategy?” Part of strategy, though, is you come up with it beforehand. That’s why it’s called a strategy instead of a reaction. Okay?

And a strategy, if anybody is worth their weight in anything, strategy is done, sequentially. So we have a strategy for this quarter, this six months this year, goals, strategy, and your budget. It’s pretty simple, pretty basic. And when you come and say, “we should be doing this…”

We used to do consulting back in the day. This is where I’ve got all my wrinkles from my hair. I’ve lost my hair because of consulting. No, but they would come to us and they’d be like, “Well, what about this?” And we would just show them and say, “Okay, here’s the plan. Which do you want to take out to put this in? Or did you get an increase in budget you didn’t tell us about?”

That’s really what it came down to? Because I’m not doing more with less with this. And part of, I think, a good agency and a good representation, when it comes to anything digital, is that you should always be going back to the center focal point, which is “how is this helping us be more with more integrity and transparency or help our results?”

How does this help authenticity and community? How does this help this goal? Because we had discussed this. Now clients don’t like to hear that. My clients want to be right. Look, our goal is to make sure we meet these measurable, actionable metrics. That’s why we came up with them and doing this will take away from that. We can get these metrics or we can do these things.

I can get you the vanity metrics if that’s what you want. Let’s do it. But sometimes it’s hard to do that. And I just found with consulting for me, it was just like, I thought I would say something. I would do something and then they wouldn’t do it. It wouldn’t happen. And they’re like, “well, nothing’s working.” I’m like because you’ve done none of the things.”

I ran one of the most successful viral video companies on this planet in the early to mid-2000s. And so we did viral videos back in the day with dial-up. Imagine that. So you had a buffer screen, you had a loading screen. All the Flash files, it was in Flash, had to be under Meg in size.

So we made them and we were the most successful one anywhere. We made 65 videos over six years. Back then every week, guaranteed every video would have at least 100,000 views. And back then that was it. And we had one client who we did it. And the whole goal was the landing page for these things.

We would show that they watch it and if you ever if you’re listening right now, they were like they were glorified slideshows, right? So you’d go to like, the dash And it was cheesy music, stock photography, and just like words come across the street. The majority of those that were online back then was were ours. And I’m sorry.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Thank you for apologizing. We’ve been waiting years for that.

Scott Stratten: The big difference was the landing page at the end. So the reason why they weren’t on there, we never moved on to YouTube was the conversion at the end. That was always what you pay for which was building mailing lists for the client. And so we build mailing lists of hundreds of thousands of people with these things.

We had one client where she had booked us to do it. And we made it for them. And then we launched it, we had a list of people we’d send it to and they were hungry for these things. And four or five hours later, my phone rang. And I picked it up and it was a client and I just thought that she’d be ecstatic.

She’s like “what is happening?” And I’m like, “I’m sorry, what is happening with this video? It’s working. It’s going viral. It’s awesome.” I use shopping cart commerce. I was using a shopping cart company back then. There’s one of the main ways to do a mailing list was to use a back then.

And she’s like, “well, the number of signups I’ve gotten has bumped me to a higher tier. And I am not. I did not expect this increase.” And I’m like, “Oh, I’m sorry. I thought we discussed this.” “This is not acceptable.” And I’m like “do you want me to turn it off?” She’s “Yes, please.”

So I turned it off. Why? I don’t know. I just find humans fascinating. I would like to study them one day behind you know, glass or something. This species is fascinating to me. I just don’t understand at all. I won’t figure it out either. I was gonna say I was gonna figure it out. But I won’t.

Jon-Mikel Bailey: If you try you’ll go mad. You will go totally and completely mad. Well, Scott, this has been a blast as I expected it to be and I really appreciate your time. So much great stuff in here. And so that’s it stay safe everybody. Yeah, be well be good to each other. Bye

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