Ep 28: Expanding Your Brand Beyond Your Wildest Dreams with Michael Stelzner

RV:                   I am so excited to introduce to you someone that maybe you’ve been influenced by, but you may not realize it. Michael Stelzner is one of the biggest personal brands in the space, truly like one of the godfathers of this whole industry of, of influencers and social media and digital marketing. And it’s really interesting because we’ll talk about this. He always put the brand first of the, of, of the company. So social media examiner is the company. He’s the founder of it. They have a massive platform which we’re going to talk about. They run, well, one of the biggest, if not the biggest events in the space, social media marketing world. I’m actually going to be speaking at that. Next year in 2020.

So depending on when you hear this [inaudible] also, they have a tremendous podcast that he is hosted for 10 years. Again, one of, one of the first in the originals. And so this is somebody who has done it as scaled a company, has scaled a brand and I know you’re going to absolutely love him. If somebody that I’ve just gotten to know personally, he’s been a big help to me as an advisor and a friend and a mentor behind the scenes. And so it was like you guys, you’ve got, you’ve got to hear from Michael directly, so thanks for agreeing to come on the show.

MS:                  Hey, it’s my pleasure Rory.

RV:                   Yeah. So just can you give us an like a, a background on the platform of social media examiner? Like how big, I mean, cause you guys have huge blog, huge social, huge podcasts, huge events, a huge email list. Like how many people do you reach every month?

MS:                  Ah, well I can tell you that our social media examiner, the blog has been around for 10 years. We just had our 10 year birthday 85 million unique people. I’ve hit that blog since we launched it, that’s about 12 million probably in the last 12 months. And then the podcast is at 20 million downloads on it over seven years. And you know, the monthly metrics when you go beyond things that are easy to measure, like podcasting and blogging are a lot more fuzzy. Right.

We’ve got half a million fans on Facebook and a half a million fans on Twitter and nobody really knows what the reach metrics are. They’re not as good as they used to, but I would arguably say at least a million people a month, probably more for sure are consuming our stuff. And then we have 360,000 people that get emails from us three days a week. Linking out to our YouTube channel, our podcasts, our live show, our blog, and all the other crazy stuff we’ve got going on.

RV:                   Wow. That is just, that’s amazing. Thank you for being willing to share those numbers with us. I think, you know, a lot of the people here, you know, aspire to have a platform. I aspire to have a platform that’s that big for sure. And I think it also, it helps to have the perspective of time, like seven years, 20 million downloads, but it’s been seven years. Like it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen overnight. Like you’ve been at this a long time.

MS:                  Right? Yeah. And you know, that’s kind of the key I think for anyone who wants to be known is to be consistent and to be working it. Because there was a day when I started where I was a nobody. I didn’t know darn thing when I started, you know, I didn’t know anything about social media marketing when I started social media examiner. It was just relentless work, interviewing experts, bringing their knowledge to my tribe.

Then eventually people started looking to me as a leader and before you know, it all of a sudden they were calling me though leader. And it just took a lot of time. Along the way a lot of people dropped off, started focusing on other things and I just kept going and eventually you can say I became kind of the leader.

RV:                   Yeah. I mean that is interesting. You know you know, when I was on your podcast, we talk about she hands wall and the focus and breaking through and being known for one thing, like you have stayed really true to social media specifically. And, and you became, you know, like you said, I, that’s the way you just described that was perfect. It was like I went from interviewing leaders to a leader, to the leader. And so

MS:                  I suppose by the way, let’s just be clear, right? Because I don’t necessarily call myself that perception. I’m a marketer. Let’s be honest. Perception is reality in the eye of the beholder, right? So very important lesson that I’m,

RV:                   I would say that about you. Yeah,

MS:                  You said that and I appreciate that. And that’s all that really matters, right? In the end is what other people think. And

RV:                   Yes, what Rory Vaden says, that’s what matters in the end is what’s as, right. So one of the things that I have always loved about you because I, what you just said about perception is so true. Like it’s, you know, we have a joke around Brand Builders Groups that we say at least half of what we teach you is actual substance is about producing actual substance because there’s unfortunately or fortunately so much of it is perception driven, but you are data-driven. And over the years I’ve seen you, you know, put out like the social media, this annual report, the annual report that you do. It’s like people should pay $10,000 and you just give it away. It’s, it’s insane. You’re so data-driven and I, and I love that about you. Well, you always that way or like did you like

MS:                  Pretty much, I mean I have a master’s in communications. I publish stuff in journals. You know, like, ah, that was based on research studies and stuff. It’s just, I think, I think I’m one of those rare people that’s creative and analytical and there are some people that are super analytical and some people that are super creative. I’ve got this weird mix of both. And I think that’s what makes me kind of unique in my space because I can get super creative and I can get super and I can flop back and forth.

RV:                   Yeah. Well, so let’s talk about the analytical piece for a second. Just cause I know you’re like watching the trends, you’re watching the numbers. Is there, what are some of the most compelling statistics that you’ve seen maybe like in the last 12 months or so that you think people really need to know about where it’s like if you, if you don’t know this, like you’re in trouble because th there’s some, these are the data. This is a dumb data points that are like there.

MS:                  Yeah, I’ll tell you a qualitative and quantitatively. Okay, here’s the deal. Video is everything. Qualitatively, you all know this because Apple invested billions in launch and Apple plus Disney invent, invent invested billions in launching Disney. Plus there is a war going on in the video streaming war because everyone knows that what people watch video as their primary consumption vehicle now over anything else, they will bend watch hours and hours of video. They won’t necessarily do that with reading anymore. They’re just not reading.

People are not reading as much as they used to. They will listen for sure with podcasts and stuff, but the only do that typically when they’re in a in motion, you know, or they’re doing something, but when they’re home and they’ve got nothing to do, they’re going to be watching video. And that is a signal that’s qualitatively saying something. Now, when I, when I add that with the quantitative data, we have research from our industry report that people can find it.

MS:                  Social media examiner.com that shows that marketers are all in on video and video is becoming very, very important. Mark Zuckerberg a couple of years ago, predicted that video would be the primary vehicle of communication on the Facebook platform. We’re already seeing this happen on Instagram. Half a billion people are watching Instagram stories every single day. So when you have the 15 second vertical video on Instagram stories and you have live video and you have LinkedIn native video and dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. You just realize everything is moving towards video consumption. And if you want to influence people, you need to create video because that is a mega trend.

RV:                   It’s overwhelming to create video on all these PLA like it’s, it’s, it’s a little bit daunting to be like I gotta do a freaking Facebook live and a YouTube live and an Instagram story and I got to do it at LinkedIn and like they all are holding you hostage to like being on their actual platform doing it. Like is there any, anything that we can do to like just manage the, like the workflow and the production of all of that?

MS:                  Start somewhere first and just get started today or tomorrow and decide where it’s going to be. Maybe it should be Instagram if that’s where you know your audience is hanging out. Maybe it should be, LinkedIn does not need to be alive. I would start with stories because the easiest thing to start with, you pick your phone out of your pocket, you pull up Instagram stories. You don’t need to look pretty or well manicured. You just record something and you call it done and you see if you get a reaction and then if you get a reaction, you do it some more and you do it some more until it starts serving a purpose. And once you decide what that purpose is and you achieve that purpose, then you can start diversifying. Right?

So for example, at social media examiner, we do a million different things, but we’re a media company and we have tons of employees and we’re filming and creating content all over the place. But it took us years to get here. We started somewhere and then we eventually moved somewhere else by expansion and then move somewhere else and move somewhere else until you get to the point where it’s really obvious where you should be.

RV:                   Can you, are you comfortable sharing how many employees you have?

MS:                  Yeah, I have 20 full time employees. I have 39 contractors that are regular. And then I have another 30 seasonal contractors. And then I have 200 more volunteers that participate in social media marketing world that does not count vendors that are on location at our conference. And stuff, but it’s a pretty good sized team.

RV:                   Wow. yeah, so videos, everything is interesting. I remember seeing that coming, you know, you’ve been talking about this for a while. It wasn’t like it just came out this year, like you were way, way ahead. And one of the things that we did when we were looking through your, through the report was we moved to a full video profile on Instagram where even our quotes are videos, they come across as video texts because it’s plus, it’s just like nobody sees it if it’s not, like, if it’s not that, it’s like they’re not showing it to anybody.

MS:                  Well that’s thumb stopping, right? Because it’s moving instead of still. Right. And there’s just something special to video. But in particular story in video I think is the magical side of it really. If we’re intellectually honest, you don’t just use video for the sake of video, use it for the sake of telling some sort of a story.

RV:                   Yeah. well, so that’s good to know. I mean, it’s like you have to get on it. Like you just have to figure, I’ve noticed you’re coming more in front of the camera personally, which we’ll talk about probably here in a little bit too. So I want to pause the video piece. I want to come to the audio piece because the Social media marketing podcast UMaine it is like always like number three in all marketing podcast in iTunes.

Like you go in there, you see there’s all these huge podcasts and it’s like consistently right there in the top three. What do you think you do differently when it comes to podcasting that has, has caused it to have such like staying power?

MS:                  First of all, I vet my guests and I make sure that I don’t just let anybody on my podcast, I have a lot of friends that have a lot of books and they all want to be on my podcast. A lot of times I just tell them it’s not a fit because I’m curating for my audience. So the first thing is I want to make sure that I’m getting the right people on the show to maintain that level of quality. The second thing is I always have a half an hour pre-call, you know this Rory will meet with the guest and I will negotiate the topic.

That way when they show up for the interview, I know them better and we know exactly what we’re talking about. Even though it doesn’t sound like that at all. Like my daughter is like what? You know, like this stuff is not just coming off the cuff. I’m all, no it’s not. It’s prepared and that is what leads to a higher quality show. The last thing is I always put myself in the position of the listener and if they say something, the guest that’s like an acronym that nobody knows or they went by it really fast. I say what? Hold on a second and I don’t let them go. And you know this firsthand?

RV:                   Yeah, they really well like you stop and dig and halt and challenge and question.

MS:                  Yeah. And it’s not like I’m trying to challenge the question. I just want to understand. Right? Because I know that my audience wants to understand, and I’m doing both you, the gusta service and the audience a service because a lot of them tell me, you literally asked the question that I had in my brain.

And and that I think is part of what my audience really, really loves about the show and it’s just an interview show, but it’s very much focused on tactical, tactical stuff. And I think that’s just been my tried and true rested P from the beginning rather than just bringing a bunch of people on and shooting the crap. That’s just not how I roll. You know, we’re here to, to learn something. And I think that’s what people love about the show.

RV:                   Yeah. I mean, yeah, the, the, the prep that you do. I mean, I’ve done hundreds of podcast interviews and it’s just like between the prep that you do on the front end and then the, the way that you hold that line of quality and you know, both leading up to and during the episode is, it’s like there’s, there’s less than a handful of people that actually do that.

MS:                  Thank you. I think that’s probably why it’s survived as strong and as long as it has.

RV:                   Yeah. Well one of the things about you also, it’s interesting like usually when I interview somebody for our audience, I’m picking them because they do one thing really, really well. And that’s something that we teach people to do, right, is just like have focus, focus, focus. You know, you, you do podcasting while you social while you’re doing this reports really well, but your, your primary business model, like the way that you actually make money is mostly from the event, right?

MS:                  Correct. Okay. So like more than half is from the conference and the rest of it is from online training stuff that we do or our professional organization that people belong to.

RV:                   Gotcha. So social media marketing world is this event and, and y’all, if you’ve never been there, it’s, it’s amazing. Like there are so many people, there’s so much knowledge. Like it’s a buzz. It’s, it’s, it’s not even like a community. It’s, it’s like I dunno. It’s like an empire. And, and, and the, the, the thing that’s crazy too about your event is usually the people who are teaching are the ones like sitting in the audience. So, so a lot of the people, if you go to other events and it’s like you’ll see, you know, somebody teaching on this or that or whatever, those people are in the audience at your event. Which is

MS:                  And just period behind the curtain. Is that what you mean?

RV:                   Right, yeah. Like the speakers stay, they hang out, they’re there, they’re all networking. There’s all these like private meetups that are happening. And yeah,

MS:                  We designed it to be very social because obviously it’s called social media marketing world. And we knew that people that are in this space are by their very nature wanting to interact with each other. Cause they often sit behind the computer by themselves and they don’t get a chance to hang out with people that are like minded. And I had been going to other conferences and I just noticed this was missing.

The only thing they would do is they’d go into a club and that would be the only chance to get together and you couldn’t talk to anybody because the music was so darn loud. So I’m like, Hey, let’s build opportunities for people to connect and let’s build this in such a way that we highly encourage the speakers to hang out, you know?

And we don’t really have a green room like other events do, so the speakers can’t retreat to it. We engineered it that way. But what ends up happening is these speakers walk out into the hall afterwards and they’re, they’re surrounded by 30 people and they just go for another half an hour and they love it, you know? And it’s like the audience loves it. They love it because it’s accessible. They can get to people and it’s just something unusual. And I’m, I never could have imagined it could’ve gotten this big. It’s really, really kind of one of my big accomplishments.

RV:                   How many people are you expecting?

MS:                  Well, we had 4,700 people there last year.

RV:                   Wow. I think last time I was there it was like 2300 or something.

MS:                  So we don’t know exactly cause it’s still too early. We’re still a couple of months away, but we’ll probably be at least 4,000. I mean it could be more, you can never tell what the event space, you know. But we’ve always grown every year. So it’ll be at least 4,000, maybe 5,000. I honestly don’t know, but it sounds like a lot, but it is still got this intimate flair to it. So we try very hard to make sure even though it feels huge to not make it feel that way when you’re actually there.

RV:                   So when it comes to events, yeah, this is another thing. Our, our team knows this when we started this is our back with our, our former company. But you know, when I kind of started as a professional in this industry, we started by doing events. We were putting on public seminars and you know, we did that. We traveled to a new city every month, every four months for like five years.

And I got to the point where I was like so burnt out on hosting events and doing events and I call it name tags. It’s like anytime you got to print name tag it’s like, I don’t want to print name tags. Like but I feel like events are making you know, in some ways I’m a comeback or, or, or whatever. What do you think that people should know if they want to put on their own event? And you know, some of our clients do. Lewis puts on one big event every year. I feel like that’s kind of becoming more of a theme where it’s like there’s one big event. How do you make an event profitable? Cause you could spend a lot of money.

MS:                  It’s not easy to do. We spend many, many, many millions of dollars to put on our event. But the key to, first of all, you have to acknowledge and understand that people want experiences. It’s like the, the thing that everybody craves now because they’re all stuck on their devices. They want to be together. It’s, it’s especially in millennials, they pay a lot of money for an experience, you know, that’s, that’s like kind of the center of what they want.

So to put on a good event, you need to ask yourself, what can you model that has a really good experience. We modeled Disneyland and we look at the experience of the people at Disneyland and how there’s people greeting you and that everything is clean and taken care of and polished. So that’s what we do. But what, what somebody else needs to do is just ask themselves, okay, how can we create an experience that people will talk about?

MS:                  Take pictures, want to be part of next year? And as far as making it profitable one of the best ways to make an event profitable is to sell the recordings to the event. Because the actual event itself is, it’s very hard to be profitable. You need to have big scale for it to be profitable. But you could have an upsell on the recordings of the video or you could sell the recordings of the video to the people that couldn’t make it to the event. We have many, many thousands every year that buy the recordings from social media marketing world and that is a big source of profit for us.

RV:                   Gotcha. And how do you price it relative to the price of admission?

MS:                  The price. Okay. So the vert, we call it the virtual ticket and it sells between 300 and $700 depending on when they buy it. The physical ticket sells between a thousand and $1,600 when they buy it. So the idea is, you know, it should be a maybe 25% to 35% of the cost because the whole reason typically people go to events where there is teaching is for the content. Right?

But there is obviously that experience that they’re truly paying for, right? That chance to meet you face to face, all that kind of stuff. And if you do really good with the recordings, you can still get lots and lots of people. We do not broadcast it live. It’s just about 10 days after the event. We email everyone and all the recordings are available for them to watch.

RV:                   Yeah. I mean, you guys have so many breakout rooms and stuff. That’d be crazy to try it.

MS:                  I’m simultaneous things going on.

RV:                   Yeah. so that’s interesting. So promoting the event, right? So I think it was like if you have a video course or you have a membership program, it’s like, okay, you know, you’re going to do a podcast or you’re going to build a funnel. You know, people are going to be nurtured through a sequence and they’re going to buy. I don’t feel like you see that as much with events. Events are very hard to sell. So how do you, how do you sell an event particularly like you know, at this point your events are there. It’s not a cheap, it’s nothing to go

MS:                  Hotel and flights. You’re talking $3,000. Right? So the key thing is going to be to sell an event is to figure out a price point. And to figure out where your audience is. If it’s a local audience and it probably could be obviously a few hundred dollars, you know, if it’s a smaller event, you have to have enough, you have to charge enough to obviously cover, cover your expenses.

In an ideal world, an event you treat like a book, right, where you’re not going to make money on the event, but the event will lead to other opportunities. That’s how you have to think about it, right? Like a lot of things we’re going to make money on books either, right? But it leads to other opportunities. So I’m promoting the event is just all about getting the right people to the event. And w we do it for like six months straight, you know what I mean?

MS:                  So for us it’s a massive undertaking to promote it and we use all of our own media to promote it, but it’s the primary source of revenue for our company. I don’t think a lot of other people have that kind of opportunity. So you might want to just, you know, set your goals a little lower than what you think because it’s really, really hard.

So if you want a thousand, maybe go with 300 for the first one, and then if you need more and then you’re sold out and then boom, you’ve got a sold out event. But no matter what, it’s going to be harder than you realize to sell out an event because it’s really hard for people to commit cause it’s a complex sale. They got to, they got to check the dates, they gotta check the flights, they gotta check the hotels. There’s

RV:                   Just so much to it, you know this, right? Yeah. I mean it’s, it is, it is. So, I mean it’s, it’s crazy. So, and when you say promote it, okay, does that just mean you’re telling people, Hey, we have an event, here’s the website that you go to. I mean, what, what, what, what is it, what is that? What are the details of, you know, cause like one of the reasons I like things like courses or whatever, it’s like, okay, there’s a registration page and then there’s a, there’s a video and then there’s a sales page and you buy a, events are much more complex. Just like you said.

So I have five full time marketers on my team working for six months straight. Just to give you some perspective. Okay. They’re doing everything from email marketing and we probably send 50 to 100 emails. They’re doing Facebook advertising, they’re doing organic social media posts. They’re doing ads on our existing media properties that we have. They might be doing, bringing speakers on live video to

MS:                  Do stuff. I’m bringing on speakers that are going to be speaking at the event, you know, and I might plant in what are you gonna be talking about the event, like we integrate all the media into kind of the purpose of driving people to go to that event. And then we also have to get affiliates lined up and get them to promote the event and to get the fans excited about the events we have to do contest and promotions.

Like we just did share your story kind of thing where people created videos and it was my story from social media marketing world and then the winner got an all expenses paid trip. There’s stuff, I mean like I’m just scratching the surface man. It’s deep and it’s wide, but it’s our core business model.

RV:                   I mean that part is that, that last part is not one that I really have heard that much. So you did a, you did a deal where you invited people who were your last year’s attendees to walk? Walk me through that exactly

MS:                  Called, it was called my S M M w story. And it was a promotional contest that we encourage people to either in writing or in video create like a two minute video or a written thing that shared their story. And we were going to pick a grand prize winner, which was a give them a free ticket travel and hotel. We refund their ticket if they already bought one. And the second prize was just a ticket. And we w the grand winner was a guy named Roger who’s a plumber.

He told the story about how he came to social media marketing world and his business was about to go under and now he’s like the leading plumber in the world and he’s speaking on stages over the world about plumbing, you know, and and he met the people at my conference, like Daryl ease from YouTube and others and that led him down the path to YouTube. Now he’s got this huge following and it was really awesome. And it was, he had the hashtag on it, but the goal was to get people to talk about our event, use the hashtag so that it looked as if they were evangelizing for us, which they were, and then we were going to pick the best one and reward them with a prize.

RV:                   Well, I love that. Did you do that every year just to [inaudible]

MS:                  Oh, that’s a new idea this year. Did it work? Well it didn’t because we unfortunately promoted it the week of Thanksgiving. So an idea of where we would have gotten started a little earlier and we also found it was hard to get people to create videos. So we’ll probably give it a little more promotion earlier next year.

We had, we only had like four videos and two writtens and it costs us thousands. You can imagine just in prizes. So we didn’t actually see ROI on that. But we, interesting hermit, you try stuff and if it works you keep doing it. If it doesn’t, you try something different.

RV:                   So what, so what do you think really moves the needle? Like what actual like what

MS:                  Email? 70% 70% of all of our sales for the conference that we can track come from email. The rest is word of mouth, which is just good old fashioned people telling people.

RV:                   Now when you say email is that I’m sending you an email to say, Hey, there’s an event coming up. Click here to buy it. That’s it. Except we do it.

MS:                  Do you know 70 times and each one’s a little different. Like, like here at one email might be like, Hey, you know, you need to do more with Instagram marketing and here’s some interesting statistics and you know, the best way to learn about Instagram marketing is to go learn from the people that are doing it well, here’s who’s doing it. Come learn at their feet link. You know what I mean? That kind of stuff.

So we just come up with a thousand different angles and we write different messages. You know, another one might be a keynote announcement. Right? You get the idea. So the idea is any, anything that we can tell a story or talk about, that’s part of our sequence that happens every single week over the entire six month promotional campaign and multiple times a week sometimes.

RV:                   Yeah. So that’s, so that’s really powerful cause, so basically you’re just taking like one little sliver of what someone’s gonna learn and building one email around that. Yeah. Flushing some content around it and then leading, tying it towards buying the event. So you’re not like, you’re, you’re not just, you’re not just sending 50 emails that say, come to San Diego on these dates.

MS:                  Now they all kind of are part of a theme and build the story. And then the ones that really perform well, we turn them into Facebook ads or turn them into organic content that dah dah, dah, dah.

RV:                   And do you think like how is having the big name speakers, is that still like a pretty big part of why people are coming is like the big keynote speaker or whatever.

MS:                  It’s not the keynote speaker. Cause as you know, most of our speakers are keynoters, you know, like we had other events like yourself.

RV:                   Yeah, you got me, you got me, you got me stowed away in the breakout in the breakout room somewhere. I don’t want to workshop. We’re diving in.

MS:                  Yeah. So it is definitely the the key to it all really is my podcast because people listen to these people every week on my show and then they realize that they’re all there together. You know what I mean? So, and they realize, wow, I’ve actually sampled some of Rory and some of these other people. And it’s like, I want to learn more from them and this is their chance to come and learn from those people. So it’s all kind of intertwined.

RV:                   And then the ads that you’re running. Okay, so, so same thing as like, is it just an ad for [inaudible]?

MS:                  It’ll be more like a remarketing ad. Like, Hey, you need to convince your boss, we’ve written a letter for you. Go here. You know, so somebody who didn’t buy, we’ll send them an ad that says, here’s something we wrote to convince your boss, or we’ll send them another ad that says, not sure the content will be good. Go here and watch the sample.

RV:                   Interesting. And then those, you’re driving those back to your website just on like hidden yeah. Special pages. Yeah, exactly. Aha. So they’re not available. It’s like public pages

MS:                  Public. You just don’t, it’s not necessarily there. You know, the, the website is, you just got for the event, it’s got lots of pages, so they might’ve missed it.

RV:                   Yeah. interesting. And then you have a, and then and then affiliates. So you’ve got, you’ve got people out there send an email blast to their lists and stuff. A lot of them are the speakers to be honest

MS:                  With you. You know, they’re the ones that have the skin in the game and a lot of them just, you know, cause we do not pay our speakers. Which is another surprise surprise. But they come because they really do find a lot of value in what happened, what they get out of it. You know, they get, they get the right kind of audience out of this event that helps their business. So a lot of them choose to be affiliates and a lot of them let their list know about it on whatever method they choose to do it, like their podcast or whatever else.

RV:                   Oh, you’re not paying giving keynote speakers. Like even we’ve never paid a speaker ever. Really not even like the big headliner person. They’re coming because of the value.

MS:                  You’ve never paid guy Kawasaki, we’ve never paid, you know, all the big names that we’ve had. No, we’ll, we’ll, we’ll cover their flight. And their, their hotel and stuff. But we’ve never paid a speaking fee ever. And it’s really kind of our secret sauce because the moment we do it, we’ve got to pay everybody.

RV:                   Well yeah. And that’s, and that’s where it’s like, it really is hard to run the event and the, if the profit goes upside down is speakers

MS:                  And she can get away with that. It’s a lot harder when you’re a small event,

RV:                   Right? Yeah. Yeah. Right. Cause it’s like the reason the reason you come is because everyone’s going to be there and you know, when you’re smaller red, it’s just, it’s just really, really, really hard. But I think even before our former company, the way that I originally started was just doing a free, I just did a free training. I invited people to come and then it was just like in the knee, sell, sell, whatever you have to sell. Or

MS:                  There are, there are keynoters out there where their whole business model is just keynotes and that’s how they make money. And those keynoters like Sally Hogshead for example, will sometimes take one on paid gig a year, you know? Yeah.

RV:                   Or if that’s like me, that’s me. Yeah.

MS:                  Or you know, and, and it, but it’s gotta be really a perfect match for their business model. Right. So, so, and it’s really like you’ve got to have a good relationship with those people. Dot, dot, dot, dot, dot. But there are, there are bazillions of speakers out there whose business model is to get in front of crowds, are willing to do it for free because they make their money by selling consulting, you know? And that’s really where the bulk of the speakers come from, is that the ones that are, you’re getting a sample of their value and then the hope is that you become a customer.

RV:                   Yeah. Well I think that’s a good way, you know, for our audience listening is you gotta be thinking about what speakers would be interested in speaking to my audience because it’s a, it’s a win win. It’s a win, win, win for everybody.

MS:                  Gotta be a win win. If they don’t want to be there, you don’t want them. And that’s it. You know? And, and, and let me tell you the idea that a one speaker is going to make your event, it’s just not true. You know, even Gary Vaynerchuk who spoken at my event, who never does free events has done free events for me. You know, so, but, but the reality is even him alone, there are not, they’re not really have a material impact one way or the other on my business. And he is really the biggest guy in our world. Yeah.

RV:                   I mean, that’s interesting to hear. Like that’s just that, that, that, that name. Well, and in some ways it’s just [inaudible]

MS:                  No, as I’m a big event, if you’re a small event, it could be a huge thing for you. But if you’re a big event, you know, yeah, maybe a couple hundred people might come more, but that’s probably, it’s really hard to measure. You know, you can’t just pin it on one person and that’s where a lot of people get it wrong. They just say, if I could only have Seth Goden or if I only have Gary Vaynerchuk and it’s just not how it works.

RV:                   Yeah. Well that’s, I think that’s actually encouraging is just to go like create an experience. Right. You know, don’t build it, don’t build it just around one personality or speaker or whatever and pin all your hopes to that. Cause there’s a lot of people who do that. They’ll go pay 50 grand to get a speaker and then it’s like, crap, that didn’t help me sell more tickets at all and now I’m broke. You know, like I spent all my money on that, that, that thing for public of PR, particularly for public events. It’s like corporates, a little bit of it.

MS:                  That might be true with musicians and athletes and comedians and all that kind of stuff. But definitely not with your everyday kind of speaker, you know.

RV:                   So speaking about personalities, I want to talk about, open this conversation with you because you know, I think it’s like people heard of social media marketing world and social media examiner and social media marketing podcast, but it’s like the, you have your, you have your little icons and your graphics and your visual identity. None of it is built around Michael Stelzner his face.

You’re not even, I mean, you’re the voice of the podcast, but my face is not on the cover art. That’s true. Yeah. You’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re, it’s, it wasn’t built around your face. Why did you do so? So why did you do that originally? And do you think that that has made your enterprise more valuable or less valuable? And do you plan to keep doing that in the future? Like that, that whole conversation is a big one.

MS:                  All right. First and foremost, I was very well known before I started social media examiner in the world of writing. And it was all about me and my name and my name was everywhere. This was before my face logically made sense because this is when blogging was around and people didn’t put their face. It was before social. And I had that fame and I decided I didn’t want any more of it.

So when I started social media examiner, I knew it was never intended to be about me. It was to create a movement. And you can’t create a movement with a face. You create a movement with a concept. Right? So the idea that social media that I could create a movement of people that wanted to understand how social media works was far more important than Michael Stelzner because people want to be part of a movement.

MS:                  They don’t want to be part of a person, you know? So I was creating something that transcended the individual. Now that did hurt me a little bit in the beginning after I got to a certain level of fame, because when I came out with my second book launch at first people were like, who the heck is Michael Stelzner?

They know social media examiner. But that turned out to not be a problem because my audience didn’t know who I was because my name was on every email that went out from the beginning. And but over time, you know, I just didn’t want to make it about me and I knew that if I made it about someone else, it would grow faster. So what was the second part of the question?

RV:                   Well, so that’s what you did early on. Has it helped you or hurt you and do you plan on doing it going forward? And why or why not?

MS:                  So. So at this point, about two years ago, I started putting my face out there a little bit more when I started a documentary called the journey, which has been retired. We did that for two seasons and it turned out people really actually liked hearing from me and seeing me and my quirky nature on camera. But I decided I’m done with that. My, I’m doing something brand new as of right.

Today I just launched something brand new, which you saw. I only put my face out there with an intent and with a purpose. So me, it’s like I don’t want to be more famous than I already am. I feel like I, I, I, that’s not going to service me. I’m not selling me. There’s nothing, there’s no advantage to the business to necessarily having my face out there more because we’re already so quite successful.

MS:                  But I’ve got something new that I’m going to be launching a course. So I strategically decided that I was going to create a series of videos to show the world that there’s some knowledge that I have that they may not be aware of. And I launched that very first video today and it was very well received. I was shocked actually. I published it on YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn and the comments were like, Whoa.

And I’m getting text messages from friends and like it’s just a four minute video showcasing some of my knowledge and I’m going to be doing it for a couple of months here just to kind of set my audience, set the message to my audience that Hey, I have something to teach you and then when I’m ready to sell the course they will hopefully say, okay, I’ve learned so much from Mike for free. Maybe I’ll go check out his course.

RV:                   So how do you think, how do you, if somebody who’s just starting out, yeah, right. You know, you said there are certain advantages to building it around your face. That’s the thing about a face too, is it, it’s your face. It’s, it simplifies the sale cause it’s like if I like you, I buy from you. If I don’t like you, I don’t. But if it’s a company, it’s like there’s a little more exploration of like, do I really trust this brand? Right? But if somebody’s just starting out, how do they know if they should lead with their face or if they should build it around a brand?

MS:                  It depends on what you’re selling. If you’re selling your knowledge, lead with your face, if you’re selling a product, then you might want to go either way, right? So if you’re selling a widget, then you just have to ask yourself, do I want to build a brand that will help me accelerate the widget? Or do I want to build a personal brand that’ll accelerate through the widget?

Because maybe my story about the, you know, look at all the shark tank stories, right? It’s about the person, right? And some of those persons are naturals, right? Where it’s like, Hey, you need to come on QVC. You need to be the one to sell it. Right? But not everyone’s like that. So that’s Jeff. If you’re a natural communicator and you have that energy and you can bring that content and it comes naturally, then use your face. If it doesn’t, then create a brand that’s a brand that doesn’t involve your face.

RV:                   All right, so let me ask you if the entrepreneurial side, cause I was actually surprised to hear this really. So I was surprised. I was surprised to hear this. I want to from the entrepreneurial perspective, because even though I’m like a personal brand guy, I mean it’s our whole business, right? Is helping people build brands around their face. I’m also an entrepreneurial guy and so I’m interested in equity value. I’m interested in, in resellable value and I feel like, you know, there are things like trafficking conversion that were sold that have high values. To me, social media examiner has a lot of value because there’s less of a question about whether or not this enterprise will succeed without you, which means it’s a sellable asset versus if it’s built around your face.

MS:                  Well that’s a huge upside to having a brand that’s not your face. Absolutely. Yeah. So I, I just, so that was my intent in building the thing. I mean, honestly, I didn’t, first I didn’t feel comfortable cause they didn’t know what the heck I was talking about. And secondly, I thought I could build a brand and I could get out of it if I wanted to and it would still potentially live on.

RV:                   Right. And I feel that’s true, right? Like I think it’s, I mean if you, I mean other than a different voice on the podcast, I think it’s like somebody very much could by social media examiner and there’s like this machine that produces events

MS:                  Every year. We’re not for sale, but it’s true. That is a huge advantage. And you just have to ask yourself like, what do you, you can go either way. You can start with a personal brand and you can spin off a product which a lot of people have done, right. Lots of people have done that.

RV:                   Lots of people, celebrities do that all the time. I mean, that’s what [inaudible]

MS:                  They did. And that the advantage of the personal brand is it can be a huge accelerant because you become the influencer that builds that product. The flip side of it is you could be a company that spins off a personal brand. You see this with CEOs all the time, Richard Branson, right? And all these other CEOs, Steve jobs, formerly, you know, of Apple. And you know, the, the soak can go either direction. You could be, you could come out from behind the brand like I did or you could be the brand.

RV:                   Yeah. So, well that’s interesting cause that’s, that’s, that’s what we would say too is like, it all depends on what is your long term objective and you know, what are your, what are your strengths and your weaknesses and stuff. So it’s, it’s not a, it’s not a black and white answer for everybody. It totally depends on your situation. Okay. Well very cool.

So I have one more little question I want to ask you before I do that. Where should people go if they want to, you know, learn more about Mike Stelzner and you know, social media marketing world. And, and

MS:                  So first of all, if you have room for on your listening podcast for more podcasts, check out the social media marketing podcast. If you go to social media examiner.com you’ll find everything you’ll find social media marketing world, you’ll find our YouTube channel social media examiner.com. Okay. All right.

RV:                   We’ll put links to that. Of course I’ll go into the show notes and everything and I’ll be at the event which I’m excited aside about and looking forward to seeing you again in person, my friend. The coming back to the data. Yes. Okay. One of the things that’s painful for everybody is that the organic reaches is dying on social media. I feel, I mean, true, it is dying and it is really, really frustrating cause people have invested a lot of time and energy at the same time. It’s hard to complain. It’s like it’s free. What are the kind of big trends on the horizon that you think personal brands should be paying attention to in order to maximize their organic reach on social, you know, beyond video or is there anything else? Is it just like, you know, video is the answer.

MS:                  The idea of maximizing your organic reach is kind of a dead idea. So instead of what you need to do is you need to figure out on social, because it’s just, it’s gone and it’s not coming back. You can pay, which is if you’re willing to put a little bit of money behind some of those organic posts you can pay to get those in front of people, which might be smart depending on what your objective is. So do not be shy about putting money behind your organic posts and turning them into an ad. Beyond organic.

I really feel it’s important to diversify beyond social obvious social, like Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn into other platforms like podcasting, like YouTube, which a lot of people don’t think of when they think of social and also the written word. So there are still people that read email, there are still, and there’s a lot of people that just send emails like Chris Brogan’s a great example of that, right? He puts out a weekly email w w and he doesn’t publish that content anywhere else. So those are things that you can do to nurture and grow an audience that kind of are your own. So you don’t have to be at the mercy of an algorithm

RV:                   And you don’t think you, YouTube doesn’t count as social media because it’s not an algorithm. Meaning they’re, they’re going to show it, right?

MS:                  Can it have an algorithm? But most people don’t think of YouTube when they think of social. They think of YouTube as a distribution vehicle. Okay? So you can link to your YouTube videos through all these other mediums, right? So you can say, Hey, go watch the video here on YouTube.

And if you’re lucky, some of those videos will take off in search or suggested video. But I, in the same way, podcasts, you could argue, have a search function inside the Apple podcast directory. You got to promote the podcast, right? Everybody knows that who has a podcast, you’ve got to promote the podcast. You do the same thing with your YouTube videos. You treat it as a, as a source, you know, not at the destination. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s just where the video lives is what I’m,

RV:                   But but, but basically like you post something on Facebook, less than 1% of whoever follows you is going to even that you post something on iTunes, a podcast, all of your subscribers get that. If they are subscribed, it shows up in their feed. And you’re saying YouTube is more like that and less like Facebook your subscribers,

MS:                  Right? But the key thing is to, yes, to grow the subscribers. But the difference between YouTube and podcasting is that not all of your subscribers will see the video. Youtube will reveal the video to your subscribers selectively. And then they’ll look at how many people click on it. And then what they do after they click on it. So what YouTube will do is if you can get them to click on it, which is a good thumbnail, and then they’ll watch it cause YouTube is looking for retention time, then they’ll show it to more of your subscribers and then they’ll show it to non-subscribers.

So there’s a huge distribution upside on YouTube that you do not have on any other platform. Also, remember YouTube videos can work for years. That does not happen on any other social platform. You’re lucky for 24 hours on everything else. So there is that big upside and you can email, you know, that link to YouTube in the same way you might tell everybody to go listen to your podcast with links to Apple and Google play and Spotify. So it’s just one of those things you got to promote.

But, but the upside to YouTube video can be huge because if you can get a video optimized, then it could deliver

RV:                   For years. I love it. Well there you have it. Some of the biggest ideas from one of the biggest brands in the space, Michael Stelzner, everybody check out social media marketing world. The event, I will be there. If you’re listening to this before that time for this year, and any year in the future, I can tell you for sure. It will be amazing. So follow Michael, check them out. This is one of the, the, the, the native sources that I learned from social media examiner. So, Michael, thanks so much for your friendship and your counsel and for all your wisdom and, and ideas today, my friend.