In 2019, there's no denying the need for a brand to have a strong presence in social media but it can be daunting to and some smaller brands may not know where to begin. The task of effectively utilizing social media poses a lot of questions that agencies can help you with but you still need to have an idea of what you're looking to achieve before you open that door.
Leveraging social media to position your brand for success is not an easy feat but it is truly rewarding in today's social climate. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines the best practices for positioning yourself as an expert through social media from the experience of UpMyInfluence's Josh Elledge.
A Little Background On Josh
Josh is a US Navy veteran who became a serial entrepreneur in an effort to solve problems he himself felt he needed help with. Josh's first startup, SavingsAngel.com, due to having more than 50 employees, grossed more than six million in sales with less than $500 in advertising spent. In 2014, he launched the extension, Up My Influence, to help entrepreneurs attract their perfect audiences and grow their brands without needing help from an agency. Since then, Up My Influence has evolved into an easily accessible platform which helps entrepreneurs share their expertise and wisdom while growing revenue.
Josh is a frequent speaker at business and startup conferences including Social Media Marketing World and Tony Robbins' Business Mastery. He's a weekly consumer expert on Fox 35 Orlando and News 13, writes his syndicated column for nine newspapers with total readership above 1.1 million readers, and regularly appears on more than 75 TV stations across the country. All told, Josh has appeared in the media more than 2000 times.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: Can you tell us a little bit about what you do, where you've been, how you got to where you are today, and we can go from there?
Answer: Sure, I failed in business a number of times. I think six pretty significant failures in fact, after I left corporate America, but I just felt like I had work to do. I was a terrible employee. I was alright when I was in the Navy because I felt the special purpose to what I was doing, but then just in corporate America, I just... it was really hard for me to be in that environment. I needed to be a part of something that I was involved in the creative process and could really put my finger on, but like a lot of people, we try something, it doesn't work, and that's okay. It's the normal path for business owners - cashflow issues, having to abruptly move from a home or lose a home to foreclosure, bankruptcy, that was all part of my experience and it was really painful to go through that.
When my other company, Savings Angel, succeeded and we started having seven figure years and six figure months, I had really come to the decision that I was going to spend a lot of time serving pro bono in my local startup community helping other entrepreneurs in whatever way I could. Again, all pro bono because I just believe that that's what we should do. When you finally hit it, reach down and help as many people learn from your experience, so that they don't have to go through as much of that pain.
Savings Angel we grew, by the way, and people want to know how did you get to six figures a month? That sounds really exciting. It is. It's really fun to get to that level because when I launched it at the beginning, I had zero money. We were completely bootstrapping. I didn't have any exposure at the beginning and I knew that exposure was everything. You can have the best business idea in the world, but if you don't have any visibility, nobody's going to know about it, and you're not going to become successful.
Another problem with that is that you don't have enough data, because nobody is a fortune teller, we don't know what's going to work in business, so the only way to figure that out is you have to have the market tell you. If you don't get enough numbers, you don't get meaningful data and you're trying to base the success or the failure of your business on the opinion of 10 of your closest friends, sorry, but that's not good data. You need people that come to your website, bounce off your website, you need to try to extract that information and that will let you know which direction to take your business in.
It was the first couple months of launching Savings Angel, which, for a long time, was a membership-based website that would help consumers cut their grocery bill in half. So what I did is social media was really early in its infancy at the time. This was 12 years ago. I reached out to local radio stations, ad magazines, blogs, like anyone I could that I knew had an audience. I said, "Look, I would love to bring value, this is what I can do. I can help consumers cut their grocery bill in half. I'll teach people." I had a local radio station show pity on me and invited me on. This was in the middle of winter and I had a heating bill that was due. I didn't have the money for it and this was a Tuesday morning, my bill was due I believe like a Friday or something like that. I thought, "this is my last shot. If this doesn't succeed, I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't want to lose another home. I don't want to have to go and live with my in laws or my parents again because that's embarrassing."
I went on air for a three-minute radio segment. At the time, I didn't even know what happened. I went home and I had actually made several hundred dollars for that three minute segment and that paid my heating bill. Then, we made a little bit more money the next day and people were signing up. I got my heating bill paid and in the years that followed, that turned into a very, very successful business. We were able to help a lot of good people.
Question: You just talked about how you were able to harness the power of radio, basically. Earlier when we were chatting, you wanted to talk about the difference between advertising and authority building. How would you position that - was it advertising, what is authority building, is it a combination of the two and can you share a little bit more about that whole topic?
Answer: Yeah, I'm going to share a quote that I think is going to make some people very uncomfortable. I forget his name, but he or she is the founder of Geek Squad and they said this, "Advertising is the tax you pay for being unremarkable." You can buy your way into some sales, but that's hard and in many ways, advertising, look, I'm not saying don't advertise. Everyone needs to advertise. You need to constantly be advertising, but advertising, for the most part, is kind of like being on the hamster wheel. When you stop advertising, that's pretty much it.
We are big advocates for what Mark Schaefer and his brand-new book. Where does authority come from? It comes from three places today. It comes from one, did you create anything successful? I think you and I will talk about this, but I don't think it's enough just to say, "Well, I'm an expert at being an expert." I think consumers are past that. That kind of sales funnel is dying. You need to have something behind it.
Consumers are sold to more than ever and we're more skeptical than ever. We only choose to connect with those people whom we know, like, and trust. That benchmark is getting higher and higher and harder because we live in a day of podcasts and YouTube. Number one - did you do something? Number two - this is where authority comes from, number two is your social proof. Can I go to your social media and see, "oh wow, this person, she actually has a pretty big social media audience, I don't want to get left behind, these people must know something I don't, I need to pay attention, so I follow, I engage, but most importantly, my opinion of that thought leader just went up because I see they've got a hundred thousand followers on Instagram or Twitter, I need to pay attention to them."
Then, finally, number three would be your associations. We do a lot of work with this at Up My Influence and your associations would be, for example, me getting the invite to speak by the Tony Robbins' Organization and speak to his Business Mastery audience. If you look at my speaking experience, you're going to see that obviously, you're going to let people know. I'm speaking to Social Media Marketing World, getting to appear on Stacy, on your show. These are all associations, so people respect your authority, Stacy, because you've been in this industry for a long time and you've got an audience. Hopefully now, as I share this episode with my people, they will transfer a little bit of the know and trust they have with you, onto me, and hopefully that raises my level just a little bit.
The beautiful thing about this is as business owners, I think we're in this environment that as we serve one another, as we look to help and say, look, I want to help Stacy's business, I want to promote her as much as I can, and similarly, if there's some residual for me, that's the environment where we all win. Competition is dead. Competition is for losers in many respects when it comes to our business success. I think domination is probably the better way to go and domination comes from being authentic, genuine, serving, and truly focusing on the three things that I mentioned in terms of achieving some success, serving an audience, building a big social following, and then just try to serve on other stages. This is the formula moving forward. Consumers have never been more cynical toward marketing and marketers, so it's time to evolve.
Question: Okay, so they've gone out, they have created a presence on various social platforms where their competitors are not, and they can stand out and shine and be helpful to other people and serve those communities. What else can someone do?
Answer: In terms of investing in your authority, obviously you're being judged every time that people are choosing whether or not to engage with you, so let's say that you're being helpful, someone hovers over your name, get your Facebook profile optimized. In 2019 and beyond, if you're in B2B, you cannot over-invest in LinkedIn. It's that important. If you want to engage with the media, they're going to use LinkedIn. They're going to do a Google search on you, if your LinkedIn profile is properly optimized, generally it's going to come up in the first page of search results unless you have a pretty common name.
There are two other Josh Elledge's that float around on the internet. I feel bad for them because they can't really get much coverage with me. What you want to do is you want to make sure that everything communicates that you take this very seriously, that you're a professional in your space, so you will attract the caliber of client relative to the level of your branding and you will never exceed that. A high-level client is not going to hire someone who has low-level branding. It's just not going to happen because a high-level client is going to be very picky and they can't waste their time, so they have to work with someone who they feel is already working with clients at their level. It's really hard because you're going to be based on your branding, everything from your website design to everything that's in your social media profiles, it's all going to be judged ruthlessly.
I'm telling you that your success rate is going to be much higher if you make the investments. At the beginning, you've got to do what you've got to do because I understand budgets aren't quite there, but every dime you get, put it back into branding. When people see, "she's got head shots, she's got a great logo, she's got great messaging, she's producing great content, she's engaging with her audience," all of this communicates something to that potential client that says I want to be a part of that.
Even when I launched Up My Influence, I was really doing it pretty part-time because I already had a thing going with Savings Angel. I didn't put a lot of effort into the branding because I wasn't really actively looking. That said, I didn't get a lot of inbound leads out of nowhere. When I started getting more interest in there, we took all of that, just kept on investing it into our branding and now I can tell you we just don't have to worry about where business comes from. That's a really great position to be in and I have been in that position when you have to stress every day of "where's my next meal, how's my next meal going to get paid for?" I've been there. I know what that's like.
I want to let you know, it's going to be okay, you're going to do all right, just keep ... You're in the right place, doing the right thing, learning from the right experts. Just follow this advice and it will get better. Trust me. When you go to a conference, and I've done a lot of conferences as a "nobody", right, but I've also been to conferences when I've been a featured speaker. It is a completely different experience and I want that celebrity experience for everybody because it feels good, but it's so much easier to build and grow your business when people are standing in line waiting to talk to you, pick your brain, ask you questions, get your advice, and find out how to engage with you.
Question: Where can people make a bit of a mess of this if they move forward and how can they not get the results that they want?
Answer: Marketers screw this up all the time because what they don't realize is that when you're engaging with audiences, you've got to take your sales hat and put it on a shelf. If consumers smell sales on your breath, they are going to turn and run. It's kind of like if you've ever been to a networking event or a mixer and you're just walking around and some dude comes up to you. He's wearing like a used car salesman jacket or whatever and all of a sudden he just goes into robo-sales mode.
How does that feel as a human, as a person? How does that feel to be treated so thoughtlessly that you're nothing but a potential lead or sale to that person? It feels lousy. That should give us a clue because chances are a vast majority of people listening to this are business owners, but we're also all consumers, so it's really important that we engage with people at the level exactly how we would like to be engaged with. D you want to be sold to? Nope. We don't. Do we mind being informed? Yeah, that's okay. I want to know what people do. Just inform me, but you don't need to go into the sales pitch. We have to treat our audiences like they are brilliant.
Consumers pride ourselves on the ability to read people. We all think that we can read people better than anybody else, when in fact, we've all got this skill. We could watch a reality TV show and there's just going to be some people you like and some people you don't like. Some of it is non-verbal, it's how they say things, it's their body language. We build this profile of somebody based on all of these cues, all of these poker tells.
If you think you can look at your audience as just sales leads and think that that's not going to come across, good luck. People are way too smart for that. They're going to spot it a mile away, so you've got to get it right in your heart. When you do that, people are going to love you, they're going to resonate with you, and they're going to want to know how can I engage more with you. Give value, inform, tell stories about what you do, but let people take that next step. Like, the dating metaphor I think is so completely appropriate for sales and marketing. You don't go on a first date and ask for someone's hand in marriage. That's a little creepy, right?
The appropriate thing to do would just be to always just present your best self and be authentic and genuine with people. When it feels like the right time to have that first kiss and it's meaningful, we'll have the first kiss. When it feels like it's the right time to say, "I'd love for you to meet my parents," you'll know if you're truly being attentive to your audience or to your potential client. You'll know, if you're following their cues, when it's appropriate to do that. If you do it too early, it's pushy and it's icky. You're going to find out that people keep breaking up with you. Chances are if people keep breaking up with you, there's something wrong there and generally, it probably has more to do with you.
To learn more about using social media to position yourself as an expert, you can listen to the full interview in our podcast.
The Next Step
What to further your knowledge about best practices for digital marketing and your brand's social presence? We've written plenty of other blog posts on the topic as well for you to check out!
- Digital Marketing Strategies With Naresh Vissa
- 3 Content Marketing Tools You Should Be Using Right Now
- 4 Trends For Influencer Marketing In 2019
- The 15 Best Digital Software Marketing Tools To Create Content That Sky Rocket Social Engagement
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