Phillip Crum: Kathleen, did you put the coffee on?
Kathleen Mills: I did.
PC: Good, because it’s time for another edition of It’s Just Coffee.
KM: It is just coffee.
PC: Happens to be your weekly foray into the minds and methods of the small business people we call the mental health industry.
PC: Yeah. And I hear that we have Michael Stelzner with us today. Is that right?
KM: Yes, sir.
KM: Smile on my face.
PC: You know what? I met that guy at the Podcast Movement ’14 down here in Dallas. Then I went up to Cleveland and saw him again up there.
KM: Yep. You’re following him. You’re stalking him.
PC: I think the guy is following me around.
KM: No, I think it’s the other way around.
PC: Do you, now?
KM: Yeah, I do.
KM: I think you need help. There’s a counseling center down the street.
PC: I reminded him that you were the president of the local chapter of the Michael Stelzner fan club.
KM: I know. It’s fun.
PC: No restraining order required there. Well, anyway. So tell me about this Michael Stelzer fella.
KM: Well, Michael Stelzer is the founder and CEO of Social Media Examiner, which basically is an online portal to train business people on how to utilize social media in order to grow their businesses.
PC: I’ve seen that website.
KM: I know. It’s awesome. Actually, I’ve seen it a couple times, too.
PC: You’ve ‘bout for that website, haven’t you?
PC: There you go. He likes you.
KM: But anyways, Michael also is the author of Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition. In 2001, Michael started White Paper Source, and then in 2005 he started writing white papers. And then in 2009 Michael founded the Social Media Examiner.
PC: I’m very familiar with the white paper site. I paid for that one.
KM: Did you?
KM: Well, I’m a proud attendee of the Social Media Examiner twice – one in 2012 and last year in 2013 – and I will say that the 2012 Social Media Examiner attendance was the best decision that I had ever made. Michael is totally responsible for where I am now and what we’re doing. And I am so excited to have you on, Michael.
Michael Stelzner: Well, thank you so much for having me. And thanks for paying my bills.
KM: Happy. Happy girl. Happy to do that. And I also want to tell you happy fifth birthday to you and the Social Media Examiner.
MS: Well, thank you. Yeah we turn five years old on the 12th of October so.
KM: I think that’s exciting.
PC: Five years is an eternity in the internet world.
MS: It’s true. It’s true.
PC: Yes it is, so good.
KM: Well, here’s the question that I would like to pose to you, Michael, for my business purposes I struggle with. But I think others should be thinking about this, too. What part should the social media landscape play in the development of a small business with, let’s say, one to 20 employees?
MS: Well it’s a great question. I think the bigger question is how can we, as small business owners, grow our influence and be recognized in our space as someone important? And how can we get in front of our ideal audience without spending a lot of money? Which is really I think the underlying question that you’re asking me, and I believe that the answer is to use a combination of content and social together. And when I say content, I mean for example a podcast like what we’re doing right now, or a video – perhaps that provides a little advice or insight into a particular topic – or maybe a blog post talking about how to do this or how to do that or sharing people’s stories. So that content is very, very powerful and when we create content that people really enjoy – specific people, a specific audience – then all of a sudden, something magical happens. Because of the online nature of things now, people tend to share stuff that makes them look good. So if you’re providing, for example in our case, how to use Facebook to do something and you’ve got friends that are also marketers and you share that, you’re going to all of a sudden kind of be their hero. So the idea is to create really great stuff and to encourage your audience to share that stuff. When that happens, all of a sudden these people not only look good but they become evangelists for you and for your product or your service or your company or whatever is it you have to do. So that’s kind of, at a very high level, a way that we can essentially be out in front of people that matter for nothing more than the time it takes us to create the content itself.
PC: Why is it necessary to participate? You just elaborated on that and I know it sounds like a-
MS: Well why is it necessary to participate is a great question. If you don’t participate then how will you grow? I’ll answer that question. You will have to pay someone who has an audience. You will have to pay the local radio station. You’ll have to pay Google. You’ll have to pay Facebook. You’ll have to pay the magazine that shows up in your box. You’re going to have to pay the post office. You’ll have to pay someone. You either have an audience or you pay someone to have an audience.
PC: I love that answer.
KM: I do, too.
PC: That is perfect. You either borrow somebody else’s audience or you pay for the audience.
MS: Or you build one yourself.
PC: Exactly. Alright.
KM: I think your way is more powerful.
MS: It’s more costly. It’s more time-consuming in the short run because you have to now... you know, the path of resistance to pain someone who already has something is very, very minor. You could go onto Google today and you can set up an ad and maybe start seeing results tomorrow. That’s good in some regards because you don’t have to work for it. But it’s bad in another regard because you’re essentially giving money away to an entity that has already built something. If you take that money and just take a portion of it and hire someone to help you produce content for your blog, for example, the return on that investment will be way greater over time. So in the short run, it is more effort, and we have limited amounts of time to create content. So it does require a little bit of reframing of our brains. But when we do reframe our brains and we understand the value of becoming the publisher instead of paying the publisher, that’s when we can build something that’s massive.
PC: It’s the difference between renting and owning.
PC: So what does this look like for a small business owner? I guess I’m angling for a checklist perhaps of, “Alright Michael, I get it and I’m sold. Where do I begin with all the social media plan and-?”
MS: Well let me step back at a very high level and say first and foremost you have to figure out who you’re trying to reach. So if you’ve already got a business then you’ve already got clients and you already kind of know who they are. Start by asking them what are they most interested in learning about in relationship to (fill in the blank)? Mental health. Or in my case, social media marketing. Ask them what is the biggest challenge they face today with blank. And what do they want to most want to learn more about, and give them a checklist of things. What they tell you is your checklist of what to produce – does that make sense? So they’ll tell you, for example in my case, they’re most interested in learning about Facebook, for example. So therefore that means I should create lots of content that teaches them all about Facebook. That will draw them to me and hopefully some of them will say, “How much more will I gain if I get on their email list so that every time they have a new post, I get an email?” And in my case, 300,000 people every day get that email in their inbox from me. Now as I build that list, that is my channel upon which to communicate every once and awhile when I have something special to sell. Maybe I’m having a sale. Maybe I’ve got an event coming up. I can, just with the send of one email to my list that I’ve built, essentially sell it out. As a very high level, that’s kind of how you do it.
PC: I’m going to guess that 300,000 is not all relatives?
MS: Well, I guess you never really know. There’s probably a couple in there I don’t even realize we’re related.
KM: Long lost cousins. A family tree is big.
PC: Oh my goodness. Interesting. So, what do you think the biggest development – I’m going to take a little rabbit trail I suppose – the biggest, latest development in social media is the thing that can have the most impact on a small business that’s come about recently?
MS: Boy, there’s so much going on. One of the big trends is to use images in your social content. So, for example, do you ever notice when you’re on Facebook you see sometimes they’ll be really big, rectangular images with a little bit of text underneath them? And it’s linking to an article? Well, that means the person who created the article was smart enough to create a special image just for Facebook, or just for Twitter. With Facebook it’s called open graph, to get technical. But visual – we call it visual marketing – is the big trend right now. You’ve probably heard of Pinterest and you might be familiar with Instagram. Everybody seems to really love pictures and they say pictures are worth a thousand words and I believe there’s something to that, so if you can create some custom images to go along with your content- for example, on my podcast, which just came out today, Steve Jodo who is a guy out of Canada was the host of the show and it was my guest. And I had a designer take his picture and create a cool little graphic that talked about how to use YouTube. And that image is square right in the article, and whenever anybody shares it on Twitter or Facebook, that image goes right along with it. And when people see that image, it’s much more than just a text update. It’s actually something that conveys something. It’s got a smiling face in it. So we actually create images for almost everything we do to encourage the likelihood of it being shared.
PC: It’s a story of it’s own.
KM: Well you get another part of your senses, sensory.
MS: Kind of like a PowerPoint presentation with all bullets versus one with pictures.
PC: Right. Alright I’m a small business owner and I have a limited amount of time. What do I do? How do I get started and where best to put that time?
MS: Well, first and foremost you have to decide - when we’re talking about social media in particular – where to start. In my case when we started Social Media Examiner five years ago, it was Twitter. I started with Twitter. I dug deep into Twitter. I became good at Twitter. And then I decided, “Okay, I got this down. I’ve got a system. I’m tracking things. It seems to be working. It’s time to go to the next thing.” And then I went to Facebook. And then I went to LinkedIn. And then I went on and on and on down the list. But you have to decide where you should go based on where your customers and prospects are. So if you can ask them where they hang out, which social network do you tend to use the most? Check your favorite one – that will essentially tell you or give you a map of exactly where to start. Now to your question about how much time it takes, there’s a lot of great applications out there that can allow you to schedule things. We use one called Socialoomph.com. It allows us to go ahead and batch, if you will, a bunch of activities together for the week. So we might find a lot of really interesting articles that we want to share on Twitter. Some of them are our own and some of them or not. We can schedule them out. And Buffer is another one that does the same thing. We can schedule these out so that we don’t have to physically be there for that content to be pushed out, if you will. We can batch it all together maybe in one hour for an entire week. Facebook also allows you to schedule posts, so if you have a Facebook page for your business, you can go on there and do the same thing. You can batch an entire week and get it all done in one shot.
PC: So you don’t have a problem leveraging, or utilizing, leveraging tools to accomplish this? You know as well as I do – better than I do – that there’s been a big argument out there. “Oh don’t like that. Don’t cross post. Don’t this, that, and the other.”
MS: Here’s the thing. When you’re a small business owner and you don’t have a team like I do – we’ve got 44 people so – when you do not have – and we still schedule stuff. The argument out there is that you shouldn’t just broadcast. You shouldn’t just post stuff and forget about it. And I believe in that argument. What you should do is engage with your people. For example, I have my smartphone and I’ve got an app on there called TweetBot, as do the other people that manage our social accounts. And we always have it off so we can pull up at a random moment Tweet Bot and pull up the Twitter feed for our account and just reply to people. I reply to everybody who says something about my show. Like if they say, “Hey I love the social media marketing show” and they use my Twitter ID, I always say thank you. These are just little things, you know what I mean, but they go a long way in the world of social. And that cannot be automated.
KM: Conscientious is key.
MS: Yeah, absolutely. Because in the end if everybody else is broadcasting then those few that actually engage are going to stand out.
PC: Plenty of room at the top because most people won’t do the work it takes.
PC: What are your thoughts on- you know you mentioned your email list awhile ago. Does that 300,000 number include your Facebook fans?
PC: Owned versus I called it rented lists.
MS: Yes, wonderful question. We at Social Media Examiner use- we’ve got about another 300,000 on Facebook and I don’t know how many hundreds of thousands on Twitter. We use our social channels to feed our community other people’s stuff and our own stuff. And I believe you need to do at least two parts of other people’s stuff and one part of your own stuff at least. What that means is we’re out there looking for content. We know our audience is interested in whether it’s from us or not. And we’re sharing that out there so we can kind of become that source that they can rely on. They don’t need to go anywhere else. But our real mission is that one part or our own that we share, we drive them back to our blog because that is our own property and it’s not a shared property and we know that a percentage – two percent in our case, which is high – that comes to a blog gets onto our newsletter. So one of our things that we track is how many people we add to our newsletter. We add 1,000 people/day to our newsletter.
MS: But we get 300 people leaving our newsletter every day, and those 300 people that leave our newsletter have probably been on for months and even years because we’re a daily publication. Some of those people move over to our weekly newsletter. But in the end, Facebook and Twitter and all these other social networks, are really great for answering questions, sharing information that’s not your own, but in the end you have to have a destination to drive them to. And if your goal is to build a big community on Facebook, I think you’re doing it all wrong. I think your goal should be two use Facebook to do community engagements, but ultimately your ultimate goal needs to be to drive them to something that you do own. And from day one we’ve always put a lot of emphasis on the email list because it’s the only thing that we have full control over.
PC: Yeah, I’d like to express that if Mr. Zuckerberg wakes up on the wrong side of the bed tomorrow and flips a switch, there goes your community.
MS: Well, technically, it’s already been flipped so in the early days, we would get maybe 30-50% of our Facebook fans would see every update we put out. But now we’re lucky if it’s 6%. So what that means is we have to post more frequently and in the end we have to pay if we really want to make sure they see it. And you can’t blame Facebook, they have to pay their bills, but in the end that’s the challenge of building your house on rented land.
PC: I don’t think they’re short for the electric bill either, but yes.
MS: Oh I hear you. And trust me, it’s been a lot of marketers – like me and other businesses – you think about it in the old days, every brand was saying, “Follow us on Facebook” in all their commercials. And it’s because it was free and now Facebook is in some regards no longer honoring what made them famous. It’s not them but everybody else evangelizing them. But on the flip side, their advertising is very effective and you can do it for a very, very low amount of money. And we use it with great effect. One of the things that we do is we do what’s called Facebook Remarketing. So when someone comes to social media marketing world, this is our conference. And they come to our website – it’s our physical conference – and they do not buy. We target them later in the week when we’re having a sale and we show them ads that say, “Hey don’t forget to get in on this at this kind of price. It ends Friday.” And that’s really powerful for us because we didn’t capture their email address. We don’t even know who they are, but Facebook does. And Facebook is only showing them those ads and it can be quite effective.
PC: What have you found to be the most effective promotion tool/ad to drive people to your website? And that’s rather broad, but what I’m thinking within a framework of trying to convert those likes and followers and whatnot from various other websites to your website to get them to sign up.
MS: Yeah, I got the answer for you.
PC: Let’s hear it.
MS: If you go to Socialmediaexaminer.com and you scroll down a few inches, you will see this big, humongous advertisement for something that we give away called our industry report. It’s called the Social Media Marketing Industry Report. And every year we survey thousands and thousands of our readers, kind of like we were talking about earlier in this interview. But then we take that data and we make a free report out of it. It’s like 50 pages, 80 charts, and literally tens of thousands of people have got on our newsletter because they wanted to get a copy of this report for free. And it’s extremely effective for us. And it’s not just effective for our newsletter subscribers, it’s also gotten us an amazing amount of press. Almost every other day, some media outlet is referencing our report. We’ve been written up in every conceivable publication – Forbes, Wall Street Journal, all of them – and they’re constantly referencing the data that’s inside of our reports. So not only does it draw people to our newsletter, it gets us free press and the report itself has been read hundreds of thousands of times. And part of the reason it’s been read so many because we do have a period of time where it’s right out there for free and nobody has to register for it. And then we kind of lock the gate, if you will.
PC: Did you say that you update this every year?
MS: Every year. Yeah, this is our sixth annual report.
MS: And it’s really cool because that report also tells us what we should do for our marketing. It tells the whole industry, but it also tells us, too, like, “Okay this is what everybody wants to learn about. Let’s make sure our editorial calendar meets what’s in this report.” Because we have the raw data, we can do deeper analysis that’s not in the report.
PC: You mean if you ask people what they want, they’ll tell you?
MS: And if you give them what they want, they’ll buy it.
PC: What a concept. Alright. We are just about out of time, sir, so any final thoughts or burning passions that-
MS: Here’s what I would say: Social media is... our slogan is, “Your guide to the social media jungle” because it is constantly changing. There’s new species popping up every day. You can get tingled. There’s bugs. And it’s scary and I just- that’s good news because it’s very hard for a lot of businesses to keep up. So all you have to do is just grab on to one thing. Maybe it’s YouTube. Maybe it’s podcasting. Maybe it’s Twitter. Maybe it’s Instagram. Just grab onto one thing that you know your audience is really interested in and just dive deep and learn as much as you can about it. Our stuff is mostly free. We publish two articles a day, long form every day for free. My podcast is free – I’ve done over 100 episodes. And just dig deep and study this stuff and start experimenting with it because it really does work. All it takes is time, and once you get it to the point where it works and you can track and you know it works and you can maybe begin to see some sort of a benefit, then the next step is to get someone to help do it for you. Because you’ve proven to yourself that it works and therefore spending a little bit of money to get an intern or somebody – a stay at home mom whose kids just went off to school. Somebody to help you manage these things. That’s how you begin to succeed with this kind of stuff.
KM: Michael, where can people find you?
MS: Well, if you listen to podcasts, search for Social Media Marketing because that’s my show. If you have room for another one on your smartphone. And Socialmediaexaminer.com is where you can find the free report we mentioned and obviously everything else I have to offer.
PC: Well this has been a blast.
KM: This has been awesome.
PC: Yeah, very, very informative. And we might try to bend your arm to do it again in the future. I might bend it personally at the next conference if you’re following me around there, too.
KM: Well I can absolutely say that you’re the first class that I took. Social Media Examiner was just the turning point for me and I thank you so much for everything that you’ve done with this because it’s such a tremendous resource.
MS: It’s my absolute pleasure.
PC: Thank you very much. I appreciate everybody listening. And we’ll see you next time. I’m still Phillip Crum, the content marketing coach, at Contentmarketingcoach.us. That right over there is Kathleen Mills, and she can be found at
KM: Lifetreecounseling.com or you can email me: Kathleen@lifetreecounseling.com.
PC: Thanks for listening everybody, and thank you very much, Michael.
MS: My pleasure.
About Kathleen Mills
Kathleen Mills is a fire-breathing, 30+ year veteran of the counseling world. A tireless warrior for the profession, her goal with PracticeMentors.us is to bullet-proof the counseling profession so that what happened to her doesn't happen to you!