Why I Left Social Media Marketing

I used to be somebody. I was kind of a big deal. Well, almost a big deal. I would sometimes go to social media conferences and hear my name whispered as I walked by.

“Hey, that’s Erik Deckers.”

And unlike high school, it was never followed by “LET’S KICK HIS ASS!”

I did book signings. I spoke around the country. I even got paid for it. It was pretty cool.

I was one of the early digital and social media marketing pioneers. I started blogging in 1997. I started doing digital marketing in 1998. I joined Twitter in 2007. And I wrote some of the first books on personal branding and social media marketing.

I’ve been blessed that a lot of people have used my books to make big changes to their companies and to their lives. I’ve heard from people who followed just a few of the steps in Branding Yourself and landed an internship or even a new job. A woman who has since become a very good friend first got in touch with Kyle Lacy and me to say she had followed our LinkedIn chapter and gotten three job interviews in three weeks.

I’ve heard from others who used No Bullshit Social Media to convince their bosses to let them start doing social media marketing for their company, and now they’re heading up the company’s entire social media efforts.

But social media got crowded. It got filled up with newbies, fakes, and charlatans who thought they were social media marketers because they used Facebook, or bought thousands of Twitter followers.

The industry was overrun by rampaging hordes of ex-bartenders and college interns who didn’t have years of marketing experience. And I spent so much time trying to convince people of the importance of it that my client work was slipping.

So I stopped doing social media marketing, and focused on content marketing. It was a hard decision, but I could see social media was about to be completely ruined by marketers, who were taking it over like the killer ant scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

[Seriously. Launch any new social media tool, and the marketers swarm all over it like that Russian dude at the end. Don’t believe me? Google “Snapchat for marketers.”]

At the time, content marketing was still fairly new, because most of the practitioners were still professional writers, videographers, photographers, and podcasters. We hadn’t yet been taken over by scribblers who thought “literally” meant the opposite of literally.

I miss the good old days.
Google Results of Snapchat for Marketers
I worked to hone my skills as a writer. My partner, Paul, handled the social media marketing for our clients, and I read, studied, trained, and practiced to produce the best work we were capable of.

During this time, I co-authored a new book on content marketing, ghostwrote a book with the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and even started ghostwriting the autobiography of a former U.S. Congressman.

For the last three years, I’ve kept my head down, and focused on my craft. I’ve studied several favorite authors. I’m revisiting my speechwriting roots, and learning how slam poetry can influence my work. I even spent three months as the Writer-In-Residence at the Jack Kerouac House here in Orlando, beating out nearly 300 people from around the world for the coveted spot.

It’s paying off. I’ve written several short stories, made it halfway through my novel, participated in several literary readings around Central Florida, spoken at a number of writing conferences, and contributed to different literary publications and events.

My efforts have also helped my clients. The content marketing work we do is bringing them more traffic and leads, and we do it by offering some of the best business writing available. We’re writing stuff people like to read, and getting people to share it online. Rather than churn out as much mediocre content as we can, we focus on high-quality writing.

I won’t lie though. I’ve missed being in front of an audience. I’ve missed meeting new people in new cities. So I’ve decided to shake the dust off my shoulders, rub the sand from my eyes, and re-enter the world of personal branding and public promotion.

Starting in August, I’ll write more frequently on this blog again, and booking more conference speaking slots, especially around my new home state, Florida. I hope to see you around.

Networking 101: How to Make a Solid Email Introduction

The key to good networking is not only meeting new people, but to serve as a referral source for others. But it doesn’t work to just tell someone, “you should call Bob. Tell him I sent you.” That’s a cheap cop-out, and those calls are bound to fail.

Branding Yourself cover image

Just a little tip from our book. I find myself still using this, even six years later.

For one thing, Bob is immediately going to be suspicious of anyone who calls him and starts name dropping. So he’s wary as you explain what you’re looking for.

Plus, he’s not emotionally invested. Sure, I told you to call Bob, but Bob doesn’t know why. And Bob isn’t going to trust you enough to say,”Oh, well if Erik sent you, you must be wonderful!” Bob needs me to tell him that you’re wonderful.

This is where the email introduction comes in. And if you’re a good networker, this is how you’ll introduce people. It’s quick, it’s effective, and it’s certainly a lot cheaper than inviting them both to lunch.

A good email introduction to people involves three things:

  1. An explanation of how you know each person.
  2. An explanation of how and why they can help each other.
  3. Some enthusiasm. You shouldn’t just connect people for the sake of making a connection. Connect them because you think they can actually do some good for each other.

Here’s how that email introduction should look.

Bob, meet Rachel Wentzel. Rachel is a direct mail marketer, and has helped a lot of companies with their own direct mail campaign. I’ve known her for several years, after she helped me with my own business.

Rachel, meet Bob Heintzel. Bob owns a marketing agency that specializes in digital strategies for B2B companies. I’ve worked with Bob for five years and watched him create some effective strategies that helped his clients excel.

Bob and I were talking over coffee today, and he mentioned that he had a client who wanted to launch a catalog campaign, and I immediately thought of Rachel.

I think that together, the two of you can help each other out, and make great things happen for each other and for Bob’s client. I’ll leave it to you to go forward from here. Good luck!

Let’s break it down

In this example, I’ve given a background of each person, and what I think the other person needs to know. I’ve also explained how I know them, so as to add some credibility to my recommendation.

I also explained the inspiration for making the introduction — Bob has a client who needs a catalog campaign. I do this because I can’t wait for them to figure it out themselves. Bob may find a direct mail provider before he ever sits down with Rachel, but I don’t want that. So I make it obvious.

Then, I step back and let them take the reins; they don’t need me for this. They can figure out a time to meet for coffee or lunch, have a nice conversation, learn more about each other, and then hopefully Bob will ask for assistance with his new client. If not, hopefully Rachel will remember to.

Finally, when it comes to an introduction like this, Rachel should take the initiative and reach out to Bob first. Why? Because she needs something Bob has, a paying client. Bob may not be in as much of a rush, so Rachel needs to take the first step, rather than waiting for Bob to clear his calendar.

Successful networkers aren’t known by the number of people in their Contacts list. Successful networkers are known by the number of referrals they make. Don’t just collect people in your email list or LinkedIn network. Do some actual good in the world and make email introductions between people you know. Explain how you know them, why they should know each other, and be enthusiastic about it.

Four Personal Branding Secrets from Joy of Painting’s Bob Ross

One of my pleasures — I wouldn’t even call it a “guilty” one — is recording The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross on my DVR, and then taking a nap while I watch. Bob’s voice is so smooth, so relaxing, I’m often asleep before he finishes showing all the colors across the screen.

If I could make three or four of them autoplay in a row, I’d slip into a coma.

Bob RossI’ve been watching the show for over 25 years (it started in 1983 and ran until 1994), because not only is he fun to watch, but because Bob teaches us important lessons, even if we never paint a single canvas. (Also, he filmed his shows at my alma mater, Ball State University, so I feel a sense of obligated pride.)

Lately, I’ve been watching and relistening, because a lot of what he says applies to personal branding and networking. Here are four lessons we can all learn from Bob Ross, he of the happy trees.

(Why four? Because if I had an odd number, one would be left out.)

1. Everyone Needs a Friend

Bob never paints just one of anything — one mountain, one cloud, one tree. He paints a happy little tree, and then he declares, “I think he needs a friend. We’ll put him right here.”

Everyone has a friend in Bob Ross’ world, and so it goes in our own. If you’re going to become an entrepreneur or grow your personal brand, you’ll need friends. We all need a network of support.

Whether it’s family and friends, community groups, colleagues at the coffee shop, or your online social networks, you need people to help you out. People who can shield you from the wind and give you someone to talk to when you think you’re out there all on your own.

Make connections with mentors, mastermind groups, networking groups, and professional associations. Find your tree friends and your support will be stronger just by having them around.

2. There Are No Mistakes, Just Happy Accidents

Bob never wanted people to worry about their quality of work when they were learning. The great thing about his method, he said, was that if you make a mistake, you just scrape it off and try again.

Even so, the mistake was still a learning experience. You learned from it, so you could do it better the next time.

As you grow your business or personal brand, you’ll make plenty of mistakes and bad decisions. You’ll start down the wrong path, spending hours or days on a project or problem, or in a business relationship, only to find you made the wrong choice.

So you go back and start all over. You scrape off what you did, and do it better the second time.

In the end, you fixed the problem, it looks good, and now you know more than you did before.

3. In Your World, You Do What You Want

Bob Ross - In Our WorldBob never worried that much about colors. Purple skies, green oceans, or on a recent show, everything — clouds, grass, even the water — was a different shade of brown.

One of the things I appreciate about owning my own business is that I get to do things the way I want. I hire who I want, I work when and where I want, and I take on the clients I want. The only thing I need to worry about are the results, not the process.

I’ve had employers, like my stint in the state government, where the process was more important than the results. As long as I was there from 7:30 to 4:00, it almost didn’t matter what I got done.

Sure, I had tasks that needed doing, but we weren’t beholden to shareholders, clients, or anyone who gave us money. As long as we all trudged on the same treadmill, the bosses were happy. That was a paint-by-numbers job if I’ve ever had one, and there was no room for experimentation or change.

Now that it’s my own world, the only people I need to keep happy are clients. And as long as I deliver what and when I promised, they’re happy. They don’t care if I work between 8 and 5, or if I’m working at 2 a.m. at home, or 2 p.m. in a coffee shop.

4. It’s That Easy

Every time I watch The Joy of Painting, I think I could actually paint like Bob. He describes different techniques, and occasionally murmurs, “It’s that easy. Just two hairs and some air. It’s that easy.”

When I see the outstanding work my friends are doing, I know I’ll never be a painter. But when Bob does it, I believe I can do it too.

Not only is his confidence in me contagious (he’s like Mr. Rogers for grown-ups), he shows that his method isn’t as hard as some of the more traditional methods.

He also explains that there are plenty of classes, resources, and even certified instructors who are there to help you out.

So it goes with entrepreneurship. While it can be difficult at times, it’s not like you’re recreating a multinational corporation from scratch in six months. Start small, start with what you know, and make sure you learn along the way. There are plenty of classes, resources, fellow entrepreneurs, and even certified instructors who are there to help you out.

Bob Ross may not be one of the best painters of our day, but I think there’s a reason his show is on 21 years after he died. His lessons and his techniques are applicable, not only to create your own art, but creating your own business and your own personal brand. Start watching him on your local PBS station or on YouTube, and see what gems you can pick up from Bob and his happy little trees.

Being Loathsome is a Bad Career Move

I’m worried about a recent Forbes article that encourages people to be assholes as a way to further their careers.

J. Maureen Henderson’s article, Why It’s Better For Your Career To Be Loathed Than To Be Liked thinks that Erika Napoletano’s obscenity-filled presentations and slides of Sarah Palin copulating with a polar bear are to be admired and cheered.

In the article, Napoletano says:

I’m not concerned with being likeable as a brand or person. I’m concerned with not having to put on a meat suit every day when I stand in front of the world around me. Being honest and building the next better version of you? That’s what creates memorable people, brands and experiences. I don’t give a s*** if I’m likeable. I care the most about whether the people who allow me to do what it is I love every day respect me for who I am and know that I respect them the same way.

Angry Screaming Guy

If this is how you approach your business relationships, is it any wonder people don’t like you?

I hate, HATE, HATE! it when people equate the phrase “being honest” with “being an asshole.” As if being intentionally offensive is honest and noble, and people who are nice are less of a person.

Shock jocks and sullen teenagers do it, but it gets tiresome after a while, and at the end of the day, no one likes either of them.

These are the same people who say “I’m not afraid to speak my mind. I just say it like it is.”

You know who else speaks their mind and says it like it is?

Three-year-olds.

They don’t have the maturity and tact to think twice about what they’re going to say. How bad does a person have to be when they have the same lack of maturity and tact as a three-year-old? You would think that after 30+ years, they would have figured that out by now.

Whatever happened to being nice and pleasant? Being respectful and kind? I knew a man who ran an entire department, whose daily mantra, both to himself and the people who worked for him, was “be nice.”

It was especially unsettling for the people who worked for him, since many of them were retired military officers, including a colonel who had commanded a tank brigade. Their collective job was to deal with large-scale disasters and emergencies.

But “Be nice” won the day. This guy had the respect and admiration of everyone who worked for him and with him. And they were still able to get the job done and keep people safe.

Being Nice Doesn’t Mean Being a Pushover

I know some people who worry that being nice means you have to let people walk all over you, or that people are going to take advantage of you.

That’s not what it means.

Being nice means you don’t belittle someone or try to hurt them. You don’t screw someone out of a business relationship. It means you don’t have a deliberate “screw you” attitude when dealing with people you disagree with.

Being nice means you treat people with kindness and respect. It means you stand firm on your convictions and you speak up — loudly, if necessary — when the situation calls for it. It means you stand up against bullies, and speak for people who don’t have a voice. Being nice doesn’t mean being a wimp, it means being strong, but respectful.

I have never known anyone to be fired or lose a client because they were nice.

“We had to let him go. He did good work, but he was always polite and helpful, and had a kind word for everyone. I hated him.”

There are plenty of people who get fired for being unlikable. For being rude, irksome, boorish, crude, inflammatory, and loathsome. No one was sad to see them go, and some people even got a going away party held in their honor.

After they were gone. And they weren’t invited.

Either Way, Bring Your A-Game

Henderson’s article says, if you’re going to be an asshole — I’m paraphrasing here — you’d better bring your A-game. You can’t just be offensive and be bad at your job, because then you’re just offensive, and you’ll be fired.

Napoletano believes that it’s okay to be loathsome as long as the clients love what you’re doing.

Which is true. But it’s also true that you still have to bring your A-game if you’re nice.

People don’t keep you around because you’re nice if you’re not providing a benefit. They want results. They want success. They want a positive ROI. And it doesn’t matter if you bake cookies for the office every Friday, if you’re not producing, you’ll be let go.

I prefer being the nice guy. I like helping people. I want to see, and help, people accomplish their goals and succeed in their endeavors. The whole reason Kyle Lacy and I wrote Branding Yourself was to help people, because there were a lot of people out of work, under employed, or in a job they hated. We wanted to help them find their way out of that.

Bottom line, your personal brand is yours to define, any way you want. You can be kind and helpful and nice to people, and have people who love to work with you and spend time with you, or you can be pompous, outrageous, and loathsome.

You can be likable and have people who want to work with you, or be loathsome and say you don’t care if you’re liked or not (which is good, because you’re probably not).

You can be successful with either approach, but one is going to bring you — and everyone else around you — more happiness.

Photo credit: B_Heyer (Flickr)

24 Quotes to Inspire Any Marketer, Plus One of Mine

Have you ever had your name mentioned in a sentence with someone you admire? Like you’re being compared to them, or included with them? And not, “Is Erik Deckers older than Jason Falls?”

It happens occasionally for me, where someone includes me in a list of people I’ve only read about, and who wouldn’t know me from Adam. Every time it does, I want to say, “Wait, I think you made a mistake.” It’s terribly exciting and a real honor. It’s also something I struggle to accept.

People from Indiana are taught to be humble, and to not brag. (We’re America’s Canada.) We don’t take compliments very well, because we’re supposed to be humble and not appear boastful.

So when someone includes my name or mentions something I’ve done/said in a list of people I’ve looked up to, quoted, and read regularly, part of my brain ducks its head, says “aw, shucks,” and kicks at the ground. And another part squeals like a 12-year-old girl meeting Justin Bieber.

It happened yesterday after someone pointed me to a slide deck of “25 Quotes to Inspire Any Marketer” from ezanga.com. It included quotes from Dan & Chip Heath (Made to Stick), Seth Godin (Purple Cow, Tribes, and Linchpin), John Jantsch (Duct Tape Marketing), David Meerman Scott (Real-Time Marketing & PR), and David freaking Ogilvy.

And me.

The line is from Branding Yourself, a book that Kyle Lacy and I wrote in 2010, and finished a second edition in 2012. I can’t remember who we learned it from (we cited him in the book), but it was used to illustrate the idea that, just like people have emotional reactions to their most-loved and most-hated brands, people have the same reaction to us.

I thought, “this must be a mistake. Or it’s one of those ‘Daily Paper.li’ pages where 87 different people get included and tweeted.” But then I looked and saw that it was neither of those things. It really was something I said, and it was good enough to be included in a list with the Johnson Brothers, Seth Godin, David Meerman Scott, and David freaking Ogilvy.

People think it’s odd that the personal branding guy has difficulty in accepting compliments or stating simple facts like, “I wrote a book,” especially when he wrote a book that told people “get over yourself.” But I do. I get red in the face when I get complimented. I still don’t like telling people, “I wrote a couple books,” because it seems like bragging. And I still feel like a fake when someone asks me to sign their book.

I have to fight that urge to not say anything about what I’ve done and, you know, actually do the things I tell other people to do.

So, here it goes:

“I had a quote about marketing included in a slide deck and blog post that included a lot of really smart people.”

You have no idea how hard that just was.

Erik Deckers to Speak at Revenue North Indy on March 21st, Free Passes Available

I’ll be speaking at the Revenue North Indianapolis conference on March 21, 2013 at the Wyndham Indianapolis West Hotel. It starts at 8:00 am and runs until 5:00 pm, and they’re expecting close to 1000 people.

Erik Deckers speaking in public

I might even wear this shirt when I speak.

Passes are normally $99 for individuals and $299 for companies sending up to 5 people. But if you use my special promo code, A28LG7, you can get the individual pass for FREE.

You can see the full conference schedule here. Some of the speakers will include Doug Karr speaking about the Dangers of SEO; Kyle Lacy’s dad Dan speaking on Transforming Your Business; networking specialist Jamar Cobb-Denard will tell you to Stop Wasting Time Networking; my mentor Lorraine Ball of Roundpeg will tell you Why People Hate Your Website; and, I’m speaking about your 10 Professional Branding Secrets.

There are nearly 100 breakout sessions throughout the day, so you’re going to get your head crammed with a lot of great information.

The Tortoise and The Hare on Writing a Book

There are two ways to write a book — at least, two effective ways. I’ve written nearly five books with one method; I’ve wanted to write a book with the other. Which kind of writer, books or otherwise, are you?

The Tortoise

This is the ideal writer. He or she writes every single day. You don’t have to churn out a lot of material, you have to churn out material consistently. Write 600 words every day — that’s about 1 word processing page — and at the end of six months, 180 days, you’ll have a book.*

(* Nerdy tech specs: This is based on the ratio of 1 word processing page equalling 1.5 trade paperback pages, like Branding Yourself or No Bullshit Social Media. This will be slightly different/more for regular paperbacks, and I couldn’t even tell you what it equals for the big computer Dummies-style books.)

Of course, most biz-tech book publishers are slave driversinsistent about their schedule, and they give you four months to get your book done. So you’d actually need to jump up your output to 2 pages per day, giving yourself weekends off.

Still, if you can write 1 page per 60 – 90 minutes — again, slow and steady — you’ll be doing okay. You just can’t slack off or skip a day, because you’ll need to double-up on the next day.

The Hare

This is how I write books. It’s how I studied in college. It’s how I face a lot of projects that I have to do. (Unless you’re a client. Then I work on your stuff all the time, and think about it, and you, constantly.)

The Hare waits until a day or two before the deadline, and races through all the pages needed to meet the deadline.

When Kyle Lacy and I wrote Branding Yourself, I could generally do 1 chapter, about 10 – 12 pages, in 4 hours. Of course, that meant a lot of late nights, fast typing, and serious editing before it was finished. I got smarter when I wrote No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls: I took 4 days to write a single chapter, not because it was harder, but because I didn’t want to give myself such short deadlines and long hours.

You Need to be a Tortoise

I cannot stridently stress enough how important it is that you write like a tortoise, not a hare. I like to call the hare’s approach cram writing.

Cram writing is not for the novice writer, or even the person who has been writing for a couple years. Cram writing should only be done by someone who has been writing for a long, long time, and even then, you’d better be prepared for extensive editing and rewriting. There’s no one-and-done in cram writing. Anytime I’ve done it, I’ve had to edit everything twice before turning it in, and even then, my editors still had comments and questions.

Compare that to famed humor novelist, Christopher Moore, who is lucky if he finishes 2 pages in a single day’s writing. That’s 1200 words in about 5 – 6 hours, and it’s his job. He’s a trained professional with more than a few best-selling books to his name, and he can barely finish 2 pages in one day.

On the other hand, he rarely, if ever, has to edit his work.

Think of it. No rewrites, no edits, no typos, no mistakes, no snarky comments from editors. Nothing. Write it once, wait for the galley proofs, and you’re golden.

I try to avoid cram writing whenever possible, and I do recognize the difference in my writing when I give myself a few days to meet a deadline, rather than racing to beat it. I’ve managed to give myself extra time for the last couple of efforts, and have appreciated the difference.

If you’re thinking about writing a book, or an extra-long piece for publication, unless you are a seriously-trained professional who knows his or her limits and capabilities, I do not recommend you try cram writing.

Plan out your schedule, work at a comfortable rate, and pace yourself to be productive over the long haul. If you have to rush to get everything done, look at your time management and see if you can figure out where you’re falling down.