After Ten Years In The YouTube Game iJustine Is Still On Top

Justine Ezarik, best know as iJustine, is a YouTube personality, writer, actress and model. She is one of the most successful YouTubers of all time, with over 775 million views across her YouTube channels since 2006. She’s one of the top 1000 Twitter users, with over 1.8 million followers, and has 1.3 million followers on her Instagram account. Justine was one of the first lifecasters, communicating directly with her fans about a number of different topics: gaming, tech, cooking, and travel. She’s written a New York Times best selling book, I, Justine: An Analog Memoir and even advised Arnold Schwarzenegger on The Celebrity Apprentice.

There’s not much that Justine can’t do.

I was lucky enough to sit down with her and we talked about her career, influencer marketing, the future of tech, and what advice she has for the next generation of influencers.

Tom Ward: I was talking to an influencer agent and he was talking about a travel vlogger he worked with that was so afraid of losing his audience that he obsessively created content: Shooting every day, traveling non-stop, editing every night and promoting on social hours every day. He eventually fizzled out and had a breakdown. How have you avoided this?

Justine Ezarik: I think everyone has had that kind of burnout. It’s something that I don’t even really talk about that much because it probably happened to me three, four years ago. I’ve been doing this for eleven years now and I always enjoyed making videos but I eventually hit that point. I mean I was still shooting and editing everything myself. I was running like four channels. I was posting like four gameplay videos a day and then on Fridays I’d do a highlight video. I’d also post a video on my main channel every other day. I’d do a daily, unedited video on my other channel and then I was posting behind the scenes stuff that didn’t make it on my main channel. So I was doing like 50 videos a week and I was going crazy. So I slowly pared back my content…I kind of stopped and asked myself, “What did I like doing when I started and what do I like doing now?” I like video games, I like tech, I like travel, I like my dog, I like food. I’m like, “That’s what I’m going to focus on.”

Ward: When you made that decision did you lose followers? Was there pushback from fans saying, “We want more content? We want daily vids.”

Ezarik: I don’t think so. You gain fans, you lose fans. You’re gonna make some mad but the key thing is to never stop and to keep making things that you like and enjoy it.

Ward: What are you? You don’t fit in any one category. Are you a beauty blogger, a gamer, a travel blogger? What do you call yourself?

Ezarik: Laughs. I don’t know! I don’t feel like I’ve ever fit into a specific mold ever since I was very young. That’s what so cool about YouTube is that you can do whatever you want.

Ward: What’s your most popular content now versus when you started?

Ezarik: I’ve always loved tech. Loved Apple. That’s what I started vlogging about. I just started making more of that kind of content. Then I started to make content that I thought that people were going to like and it wasn’t even something that I was into. So I kind of went back to what I liked in the beginning. I was like, “Sorry guys. I forgot you liked this stuff.”

Ward: When you see your peers that you came up with, that you started out with, at places like VidCon, is it kind of like a high school reunion?

Ezarik: The rate of the Internet and the rate things change, this is like a retirement home now for some of us. Laughs. We’ve been doing this for so long. But it’s great because people that were doing great things then, like Philip DeFrancoRhett & Link, those were people that I looked up to then, and they are still absolutely killing it today! And it’s great because they still have the passion that they did when they started out.

Ward: Why do you think you’ve had the longevity where a lot of the people that you came up with had to stop and get regular jobs?

Ezarik: I think it’s all about if you still enjoy doing it. Are you having fun or has it completely destroyed your soul? Are you able to handle the criticism? It’s not an easy thing at all.

Ward: How long did it take to assemble a team? Like when did you have to start hiring people? When you hit a million subscribers?

Ezarik: I really started bringing people on when I couldn’t handle it anymore. I mean, I still shoot most of the videos and do the editing myself. I’m sitting there for hours editing the vids myself. But I have a PR company and a management company. I use some editors for some of the cooking videos because they can be so long. But I feel like I’ve been a businessperson long before I started doing this because I was a graphic designer. I was freelance, so I had my own sort of business. While I was doing that, I was doing YouTube. I started posting stuff on YouTube to show people that I could edit for them. So I basically was putting myself in the videos as a demo reel so that people would hire me as an editor. And now here we are! I’m like my own client, which is probably more difficult. Laughs. All of this is a lot of stuff that people don’t even know. Like I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer. I wrote almost my entire book on a plane, which is great, because I couldn’t go anywhere. I had nothing else to do.

Ward: What about women in tech? What about the girl out there that says, “I’m not into makeup or fashion or whatever else I’m supposed to be into.” What’s your experience been? Is it still a boys club? Are they hating on women in the space?

Ezarik: In gaming I get that a lot. But I want to be like, “I’ve been playing games since before you were born so you’re kind of in my space.” Laughs. But seriously the percentage of women playing games is actually higher than men. Even though they are sometimes playing mobile games, they technically are games. Maybe they’re not vocal about it. I really love Karlie Kloss. She has her Kode With Klossie thing that’s bringing coding to women. I love everything that she’s doing to help inspire younger girls. She’s got a non-traditional thing she’s doing. I mean, she’s a beautiful model but she’s like, “Listen I love to program and I want to teach you how to do it too.” I think we need more of that: Women being vocal and being role models that aren’t the traditional ones that they have now.

Ward: I just read a survey of young people that said their number one career aspiration is to be a YouTuber. What advice, the good and bad, do you have for those starting out?

Ezarik: I was just thinking about this college graduation that I went to. Michelle Obama was there. It was crazy. It was for all these college kids that were the first ones in their family to graduate college. I was thinking that when I was in their shoes, graduating college, my job wasn’t even in existence. Something that I’m excited about is that girl out there, who wants to be a YouTuber, what job is she going to have that isn’t even out there now. So you might aspire to be a YouTuber, but you should aspire to be what the next thing is.

After answering the final question, Justine was ushered away by her publicist to host a panel, followed by more interviews, a meet and greet with fans, and a meeting with a company about a new product. And she still had to shoot and edit videos for her YouTube channel.

Who said this was easy?

Who The F Is Jerry? An Interview With Fuck Jerry's Elliot Teable

If you’re on Instagram and like to laugh, chances are that you follow FuckJerry.  With over 12 million followers on Instagram alone, it’s one of most popular accounts on social.

If you don’t know FuckJerry, shame on you.  Here is one of my favorite posts:

   

 

 

Like everyone else, I always look for the FuckJerry posts when I scroll through my Instagram feed.  But last week, this post hit me like a lightning bolt.

I first chuckled at the meme but then when I looked closer, I realized it was a carefully placed ad for Malibu Rum.  Wait a minute, who is FuckJerry anyway?  Are they an ad agency?  A dude in his basement? What is going on here?

Turns out it’s a whole team of people.

Elliot Tebele, the founder of FuckJerry, has turned his funny little posts into a big business. Originally started as an account to post cool pics, he pivoted to comedy and the rest is history. With 20 different accounts, 40 million followers across all social channels, a board game, and a digital media company, FuckJerry is becoming a media empire.

I had a chance to chat with Elliot Tebele and his team and we discussed his business, social media, and the future of advertising.

Ward: So how did you come up with the name, FuckJerry?

Tebele:  When creating the Tumblr page I needed to come up with a name and at that time Seinfeld was playing on the TV so for whatever reason I just typed FuckJerry.

Ward: So how’d you start out?

Tebele: I started on Tumblr about 6 years ago and was posting mainly vintage photos and non comedic content. Around that time I checked out Instagram, like everyone else, and started posting similar content that i was posting to Tumblr. I would post a comedic post here and there and noticed the engagement was much higher than the other posts so it slowly evolved into a full fledged comedy account. @fuckjerry was one of the only meme accounts at the time and the account started to go viral from all of the engagement.

Ward: What were your goals starting out?  Did you set out to be a big media company?

Tebele: (laughs) No. It started out as a hobby. I loved curating content and I loved seeing the followers go up. I spent a lot of my time working on little tricks to grow the page, and had a pretty strong hunch that having followers would be meaningful down the road. It sounds obvious now, but this all happened way before the whole influencer phenomenon came about.

As for the future of the company, I didn't spend much time thinking about that early on. I really only focused on growing the network and posting content people liked. I’d like thousands of pics a day on Instagram. Post links to the site everywhere: Facebook groups, anywhere. I was singularly focused on growth hacking.

Ward: That’s good for people to know that are starting out.  That you didn’t just flip on the switch and have millions of followers.

Tebele: Not at all.  First I had the Tumblr page and then I added Instagram.  I really just focused on that.  We didn’t add Facebook until years later.  We used Instagram to create other accounts, and now we have 20 accounts with 40+ million followers.

Ward: Where do you get your content?

Tebele: Everywhere. We get a lot of submissions and emails. Tumblr is a great place. We make a lot of content in-house. Its a pretty broad strategy for producing and sourcing content. We go pretty deep in the dark web of the Internet to find funny stuff.

Ward:  What’s the FuckJerry organization look like?

Tebele: We’ve got 20+ people in-house. We have one division that manages all the accounts and runs our social-first media company. Another group, Jerry Media, which is a full service digital marketing agency, that does everything from social media management, to media buying, to fully integrated marketing campaigns. We have product division that is working on non-media and marketing initiatives and is responsible for launching our latest board game, What Do You Meme, which is now the #1 best selling game on Amazon.

We all work under one roof and I think we'll try to keep it that way as long as we can. We like having a diverse group of people working on a bunch of stuff in the same office. That’s how our ecosystem works and we think its conducive to creativity and better work. Our success is due to their hard work. We also couldn't have built what we have today without my business partners. Special shout out to Elie Ballas, Ben Kaplan, James Ohliger, and Mick Purzycki.

Ward: Tell me about the media company.

Tebele: Yeah for sure. We're in a very unique position right now. We have over 40 million followers on our social media channels, and have very serious intentions of creating one of our generation's most meaningful media companies. We are tirelessly scrutinizing the entire media landscape, and are keeping tabs on all the other players in the space to see what they are doing well, and what they're doing not so well. We launched Jerry News recently, which has been in beta for the last year, and we are preparing to add a meaningful amount of resources into the venture and launch new content strategies that we believe will combat the negative trends like fake news that are plaguing news media and journalism across the board.

Ward: How do you pick brands to work with?

Tebele: We work with a broad range of companies —everything from movie studios to datings apps, to food companies, to mattress companies, and much more. We try not to discriminate too much when picking our partners, but we definitely prefer to work people who are passionate about what they are trying to accomplish. We care a lot about our company's work, and we enjoy working with people who are equally inspired.

Ward: What other brands do you look to for inspiration or are fans of?

Tebele: Wendy’s for sure. Whoever runs their Twitter is great.  It creates a lot of organic reach because it gets reposted. I’ve reposted a lot of it. The way they respond to people is hilarious. Content wise, I think Denny’s is doing a great job: Weird, funny, great content.

Ward: Why have you guys been successful driving engagement with brands?

Tebele: We can communicate better with a young demo. We spend our whole day communicating to our millennial and Gen Z followers and have developed a very strong intuition as to what types of content, branded or not, that they like to consume. Lots of brands get into trouble when their senior team is a bit too old and doesn't know how to call the shots in this day and age. We see a lot of people that are failing to communicate in an efficient way with these younger folks. For us, it’s not forced; it’s organic. It’s who we are and how we live. Often times, we’re tapped to bring in a refreshing communication with brands and our audience; to bridge that gap. We also do some consulting on the side where we’re not creating content, we’re sifting through their content before a brand posts and giving it our blessing.

Ward: Where’s influencer marketing headed?

Tebele: People are finally realizing that it’s a massive opportunity.  The Big Bang Theory is one of the most watched shows on primetime television. Advertisers are seeing between 2 - 5 million eyeballs during a commercial and they’re charging between $250,000 to $500,000 an ad. A FuckJerry ad, like the recent Malibu ad, is generating 8 million impressions. I’d also argue that people watching primetime TV live aren’t paying attention during the commercials; they’re much more likely checking their Instagram.

As for the way platforms are interacting with influencers, that is changing too. Google and YouTube are sharing ad revenue with their creators and Instagram is introducing new features that make influencer ads more transparent and ultimately more effective.

Ward:  What do the next 5-10 years look like for FuckJerry?

Tebele: There are several companies on fire. For the media side we will continue to build out new media verticals and accounts, and expand to other areas of interest. We’ll continue to grow accounts like Beige Cardigan, a female focused account, to step outside of the male perspective and diversify our company's voice. For the agency, we’ll continue to create amazing content and grow our client base. On the gaming side, we don’t see "What Do You Meme" as a one off. We have a vision of creating a millennial focused Mattel or Hasbro.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on July 17, 2017. For full article click here.

Let's Hear It For The Boys: The Rise Of The Male Makeup Artist

(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for M.A.C)

(Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for M.A.C)

Not since the band KISS started painting their faces in the 70s, have men been more famous for putting on makeup. The gender bending makeup artists, such as Patrick StarrrManny MuaJeffree Star and Bretman Rock, have millions of followers across social, are getting major brand deals and are the “go to” makeup artists for celebrities. It wasn’t too long ago that people were making a big deal that Queen Latifah, a full figured black woman, was the face of Cover Girl. We’ve come a long way baby.

Bretman Rock, the 18-year old Pilipino male makeup artist, sits if front of me wearing black Chanel suspenders over a black long sleeved shirt, tight black pants and sparkly black shoes. His eyebrows are sculpted; his lipstick and blush are flawless.

He was always this way. Growing up in Hawaii, he was always wearing a wig, lipstick, and painted nails to school. You’d think he would get a hard time growing up like that, but he was actually embraced. He said, “It’s really easy for people to accept you, because these are the girls I grew up with, so they’ve seen it all. I could go to school in a bikini and it’s just Bretman Rock being Bretman Rock. I just got treated like a normal person.”

He grew up watching MUAs (makeup artists) like Juicy Star and Michelle Phan but there weren’t a lot of male makeup gurus. “Now they’re so many of us. It’s great because we all have different styles. Because a lot of the girl MUAs, they tend to, no offense, but they all look, sound, do the same thing. Why are you all trying to be Kim Kardashian?! Not all, but most talk like robots. Girl, put some personality in there,” said Rock

While Bretman Rock is brimming with energy and sass, Patrick Starrr has a calmer, more laid back vibe. He grew up in Orlando and had a unique background that led him to social media success. He worked at Panera, started studying classical piano, then went to school for nursing. He said, “I feel like being a people person, having experience at customer service, being an educator, and being a photographer prepared me for a career as a digital content creator.”

He grew up in a rural area, where it would take him 30 minutes to get to the grocery store. Obviously, he couldn’t find any other male makeup bloggers to relate to, until he connected with Manny Mua on Instagram. Starr explained, “There was no community in Orlando. No guys were into makeup. Manny was that for me. He was in San Diego and I was in Orlando. We would Face Time and edit our videos and post at the same time. We made a little bestie pack and would post every Friday at noon. We started posting consistently at the end of 2014. Having a peer in the space really helped because there was no one else like us.”

His following grew quickly and once he had about 200,000 followers, the offers started to roll in. He remembers telling his parents about his first sponsored trip. “We were in the kitchen and I was telling my parents that a makeup company was paying for me to go to the Bahamas. They couldn’t understand why anyone would pay me to go on a vacation. I grabbed a spoon and tried to explain it to them, "If I post this spoon, people are going to buy it because I said it’s the best spoon.”

He told me that with him, it’s business first. “When I started out, I did everything myself: I filmed my own videos, did my own editing, booked my own deals, reviewed contracts, formed an LLC, etc. I even pretended to be my own agent. His name was Tony, but it was just me with a deeper voice! It’s a lot different now. I have a team. I’ve got two assistants, a PR person, an editor, and an agent. But I’m the CEO. I’m running a big company.”

People tend to forget that these guys are entrepreneurs and are running extremely successful businesses. Jeffree Star told me, "In just a few years, I have turned my small company into a multi-million dollar makeup empire...Now, I have hundreds of other brands and companies hitting me up to review their products for high prices and there is a whole new door open to people who want to be in front of my audience."

Brands are finally starting to get it. Manny Mua said, “I do think that brands are taking us more seriously now. It was a long time coming. In the beginning it wasn’t so easy to get a brand’s attention. And they thought that we were a joke, just trying to be in a girl’s world. I think now brands see that we’re not going anywhere. The numbers are strong and powerful.”

The reason that these male MUAs have such an engaged following (aside from their makeup skills) is because they’re real. Manny frequently starts off his videos by saying, “I’m gonna start my video, if you don’t like it, don’t f'ing watch it!” It’s hard to imagine Jennifer Aniston or George Clooney saying something like that.

It’s refreshing seeing celebrities actually being real and brave. Instagram is full of pictures of beautiful people, dressed impeccably in an exotic setting. How brave is that? Not very.

Jeffree Star reminds us that, "It takes a lot of guts to put on a face full of makeup, being a male in the world where a lot of people still think that cosmetics are only for women."

So why would they open themselves up to so much hate and criticism?

Because they're brave and not afraid to show their true selves.

Rockman had some words of wisdom for all of us, “What really matters is when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you like what you see? If you’re happy with that, that’s all that matters. People will always have something to say. Once you stop trying to impress other people and start trying to impress yourself, that’s when you find yourself."

This article originally appeared in Forbes on June 29, 2017.  For full article click here.

This Is The Future Of Influencer Marketing

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)

It’s a good time to be in the influencer marketing business.

According to TapInfluence, 73% of marketers say that they have an allocated budget for influencer marketing. ION found that 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference. And 70% of teenage YouTube subscribers trust influencer opinions over traditional celebrities.

For those who don’t know, influencers are individuals who have a significant impact or influence on a social media platform. Brands partner with these influencers to promote their product or service.

Many say we’re in an influencer bubble that’s about to explode. I don’t think that influencer ad spending will decrease, but I do think there are some changes coming that will change the business for years to come.

Long Term Relationships: When Lebron James was 18, he signed a 7-year/$90 million deal with Nike. Nike followed that up with a lifetime deal in 2015, the first in the history of the company. Why? Because they wanted exclusivity. They didn’t want a competitor to steal him away. Brands have been extremely short sighted when dealing with influencers. As a result, influencers are perpetual free agents, always looking for a better deal. Selena Gomez is a great example. She represented Luis Vuitton for years and just recently signed with Coach, a distinctly different brand. Probably the best example of this is the “Can you hear me now” guy. Paul Marcarelli was the face of Verizon for a decade but last year he started repping Sprint. Brands need to choose their influencers wisely and once they are in place they need to think about long-term deals with a non-compete clause.

The Rise Of Micro Influencers: The price tags of big influencers are getting crazy because everyone’s fighting over the same small pool of talent. No worries, there are plenty of micro influencers who will be happy to do the job for much less. According to Gil Eyal, founder of HYPR, “More than 90% of posts are made by influencers with less than 1 million followers. This number was around 60% in the beginning of 2016…In early 2016 a client could be satisfied with two influencers with two million followers each. Now they want to see 20-30 influencers with smaller followings.”

Authentic Relationships: Does Blake Griffin actually drive a Kia? Doubtful. So why do celebrities endorse products that they don’t use? All right, stupid question. Reality TV stars are the worst at this. Since they have a limited shelf life, they frequently take whatever endorsements they are given and it usually comes off poorly. I hate to put my favorite contestant from The Bachelor on blast, but here’s an example from Corinne Olympios. She doesn’t even bother to tag it #ad. Millennials and Generation Z are so savvy that they can sniff out when someone is being phony. Influencers are going to have to be more authentic in the future in order to effectively sell product. They can’t all be pay for play deals. In order to be effective influencers will have to remember what got them to where they are: Endorsing a product because they like it, not because they’re being compensated.

Influencers Gain Respect: Now, they seem to be taken less seriously than traditional entertainers or athletes. Influencers deserve respect! They’re out there every day trying to entertain us. There are no days off. Most don’t have a staff, or any help. They’ve got to be a writer, producer, entertainer, lawyer and agent. And most aren’t making much money. Sure the top 1% are making big money, but most are doing it for little to no money or free product. We thank you influencers for your silly videos, for showing us how to make home repairs, teaching us how to apply makeup and telling us what product to buy. How did we ever live without you?

This article originally appeared in Forbes on June 26, 2017.  For full article, click here.

From The Corner To The Boardroom: Business Lessons From Jay-Z's Lyrics

Former President Barack Obama inducted his longtime supporter, Jay Z, into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in a taped message last week explaining his connection to the rapper.

Obama said, “I like to think Mr. Carter and I understand each other. Nobody who met us as younger men would have expected us to be where we are today.”

As a young man, I doubt Jay Z could have imagined that he’d rise to such great heights.

Born Sean Carter, Jay Z grew up in Brooklyn’s drug-infested Marcy Projects. His father left at an early age and he spent his adolescence dealing drugs and experiencing gun violence. Carter turned to rap at an early age as an escape from the horrors that surrounded him.

After struggling to get a record deal, he and two friends, Damon Dash and Kareem Burke, founded their own record label, Roc a-Fella Records, in 1996. He released his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, on the label later that year. He would eventually sell the label for $10 million. This was the first of many successful entrepreneurial endeavors for Jay.

He expanded the Roc a-Fella brand to include a popular urban clothing line and a film company. He started an upscale sports bar in NYC, called the 40/40 Club, and later added venues in Atlantic City, Las Vegas and Atlanta. In 2012, he became a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets basketball franchise. He founded a sports management company, Roc Nation Sports, in 2013. And in 2015 he launched Tidal, a music streaming service. Last week it was announced that he plans on creating his own venture capital firm, with longtime partner, Jay Brown.

The 21-time Grammy winner knows a thing or two about business and he frequently rhymes about his successes and lessons he’s learned.

“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business….man. Sierra Leone Remix

(AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

(AP Photo/Danny Moloshok)

Jay Z is big business. Forbes listed him as the second wealthiest rapper in 2017, with a net worth of $710 million. According to Ogden Payne, music journalist and fellow Forbes contributor, “This is arguably one of Jay Z’s most revealing lyrics when it comes to how he views himself and his acumen for accruing revenue. He’s not just a person, he’s an entity. I’m sure today’s entrepreneurs, freelancers, and social media influencers can relate.”

 

 

“I dumbed down for my audience to double my dollars.” Common Sense

Photographer: Francis Specker/Bloomberg News

Photographer: Francis Specker/Bloomberg News

Chris Hollod, Venture Capitalist at The Yucaipa Companies & Co-Founder of Inevitable Ventures, told me, “I use a form of this quote all the time — I always tell entrepreneurs that if they have more than four priorities, then they have no priorities. It's easy to overcomplicate things, whether it's submitting an unnecessarily long resume or inventing twenty monetization strategies for their start-up. As Jay implies here, keep it simple. When you're straight to the point and user friendly, people flock your way and you'll reap the rewards.”

 

 

“We don’t lease, we buy the whole car, as you should.” Can I Live

Photographer: Patrick Cole/Bloomberg

Photographer: Patrick Cole/Bloomberg

Jay is talking about the benefits of ownership. Most of the wealthy people in this country own their own businesses. According to the IRS, 90% of those earning $10 million or more a year file as a partnership or an S-Corp. If you want to get rich, own your own business.

 

 

“Til you on your own, you can’t be free.” I Got The Keys

(Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Spike)

(Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Spike)

Chris Hollod said, “Young entrepreneurs understand this quote probably better than anyone on the planet! They feel as if it would be torture for them to be an employee at whatever company, a simple cog in a wheel, and work for someone else. Employment, despite all of its many perks, ultimately implies a lack of professional freedom. Many believe that to be truly free in the professional realm, they must start their own business. To this point, I started my own investment entity, Hollod Holdings, so that I could personally double-down on deals that we love.”

 



“I sell ice in the winter, I sell fire in hell, I’m a hustler baby, I’ll sell water to a well.” You Don’t Know

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

If you are in business, you are in “sales” by definition. If no one is buying your goods or services, you won’t be around for long. Also remember that the sales group is the only part of an organization that isn’t a cost center. They actually bring revenue into the company, while other parts like admin, engineering, etc. cost money. Remember that next time you thumb your nose at a salesperson.

 

 

“Numbers don’t lie, check the scoreboard.” Tom Ford

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

(Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

“This lyric speaks for itself. Talk is cheap, numbers don't lie. In the Venture Capital world, a lot of entrepreneurs talk a big game, but at the end of the day, I want to see numbers and metrics. No matter what an entrepreneur says or promises, if his or her words don't translate into hard numbers, then the salesmanship and pitching really are moot,” said Chris Hollod.

 

 

“World can’t hold me, too much ambition. Always knew it’d be like this when I was in the kitchen.” On To The Next One

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

I’d rather hire someone who’s “hungry” from a lower tiered school, than an entitled guy with an Ivy League education. You can teach someone all the “ins and outs” of your business but can’t teach that hunger to succeed; either it’s there or it isn’t.

 

 

“I ain’t passed the bar, but I know a little bit” 99 Problems

(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

(Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

If you’re going to be in business, a legal understanding is a must. Of the 498 chief executive officers listed on the Fortune 500 List, 46 hold legal degrees. While you don’t need to be a lawyer, you do need to know your way around a contract. How many founders and musicians have been screwed by signing a contract without reading the fine print?

 

 

 “People look at you strange, sayin you changed. Like you worked hard to stay the same.” They Don’t Love You No More

(Photo by Mark VonHolden/Invision for HTC/AP Images)

(Photo by Mark VonHolden/Invision for HTC/AP Images)

I always loved the Japanese term “kaizen” which means continuous improvement. Like they say, if you’re not growing, you’re dying. As you continue to develop in your career and life you’re going to surpass some of your peers, who might resent you for your success. That’s just part of the growing process. You need to surround yourself with people who are better than you, who can push you, and inspire you to be the best.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on June 20.  For full article click here.

 

How Jake Paul Is Changing The Influencer Game

Jake Paul performing

Jake Paul performing

You might not know who Jake Paul is, but your kids probably do.

He first rose to fame by posting funny videos on Vine, where he achieved rapid success, gaining one million followers in just five months. He soon had a wildly successful YouTube channel and started appearing in TV shows and movies. In 2015 he got his big break, starring in the Disney Channel sitcom, Bizaardvark.

The 20-year social media star turned actor now has more than 15 million followers on social media, affectionately known as Jake Paulers, who follow his every move. He has over 6 million followers on his YouTube channel, where his videos get millions of views daily.

But he’s much more than your average YouTuber.

He has a social media company, with investors such as Gary Vaynerchuk. He formed a social media incubator,Team 10, where he spots talent and shows them how to maximize their reach and partner with brands. He’s written and produced a movie, starring the biggest influencers in the game. Last week he decided to release a song, “It’s Everyday Bro”, which peaked at Number 2 on the iTunes charts.

Is there anything this kid can’t do?

I had a chance to sit down with Jake, to talk about social media, the future of influencer marketing and the business of being Jake Paul.

Tom Ward: So how’d you start out doing this?

Jake Paul: I come from a small town in Ohio and was always into sports. My brother and I started filming our games to see how we could get better. Then we just started filming us doing dumb stuff and got into YouTube and starting putting our videos on there. We didn’t get much traction. Then I heard about Vine and downloaded it the first day it came out, and we started making short videos. We figured out a formula that worked and kept doing it.

Ward: When did you realize that this could be a career?

Paul: I got a call from someone who was having a Vine event in Texas and wanted me to come. I was 16. He offered me $800 and a plane ticket and a hotel room. My parents looked into it to see if it was legit, which it was, so I went. When I got there, there were like hundreds of fans outside the hotel that were there to see us. They all knew my name. It made me realize how big things got.

Ward: Then you moved to LA?

Paul: Not immediately, but yeah. I started taking acting and improv classes, making connections, and still doing the video thing. I also wrote and produced a movie, starring big influencers. It’s called Airplane Mode. It’s coming out this year. Everyone is in it: King Bach, Lele Pons, Amanda Cerny, Casey Neistat, Roman Atwood, Chloe Bridges, and Nick Swardson. It’s cool because we could never make it now because everyone got so big and has an agent, publicist, etc. So, I got some acting roles and then Disney called and wanted me to be in a show. I was stoked because of the Marvel angle. Since Disney owns Marvel, I figured it would be a good way to get visibility. I always wanted to be a superhero and play the hero or the villain.

Ward: You also formed a sort of influencer crew around that time.

Paul: It’s called Team 10. It’s really an incubator for social media talent. We take people who have a lot of potential and teach them how to make content, produce it, etc. Then we move them into the house and we all collaborate. We’ve taken people with 5,000 followers and they’ve literally had millions of followers in a month. Then we show them how to monetize with brand deals, merchandise, and ad revenue. It’s like that Drake lyric where he talks about how his music is a blueprint for a career. It’s kind of like that. Like, I’ve went from zero followers to millions, and I can show people how to do the same thing. I formed it because I wanted to start a crew. If you look at the biggest people on social media right now, it’s the Kardashians. My goal is to form a crew that’s bigger than them collectively. It might take us five years, but we’ll get there.

Ward: You’ve also got a social media company.

Paul: It’s called Team Dom. It stands for Teen Entertainment and Media Kingdom. We want to be at the forefront of engaging the teen market. We’re focused on building brands, celebrities, and businesses. We’ve got over 30 million followers and 6 billion views.

Ward: You’ve got Gary Vayerchuk as an investor! How’d you pull that off?

Paul: As soon as I talked to Gary about what I was doing, he immediately understood and wanted to be involved. Gary has had tremendous experience in social media, so he understood our power and value.

 

Ward: How about your other investors?

Paul: We’ve got Angel List, Binary Capital, Danhua Capital, and more angels.

Ward: You’ve also got a VC fund. Tell me about that.

Paul: It’s called TGZ Capital. It stands for Team Gen Z. I formed it with Cameron Dallas and Patrick Finnegan. I saw all these celebrity VC funds, like Joe Montana’s or Ashton’s or whoever, and they really don’t do anything except write a check. So I figured why not start my own influencer fund? I’ll get investors and invest in our own startups. Every startup needs social media strategy, eyeballs and an Instagram page. We’ve already got that figured out.

 

Ward: Where’d you get this entrepreneurial drive? Who do you look up to in business?

Paul:  I studied everyone in the business of entertainment: Dr. Dre, Diddy, everyone. Rob Dyrdek was big for me. He would get 2 million views a week on Rob and Big and from that sprung everything: DC shoes, Monster Energy, Fantasy Factory, everything. I get 6 million views a week. I figured with those kinds of numbers, I could do the same kind of thing.

Ward: I’ve interviewed a lot of influencers but none have the business ambition that you do. What makes you different from them?

Paul: A lot of them are lazy. You wrote an article where you said that a lot of people think that influencers sleep until noon and that’s kind of true. They’re cool with a nice car, or some money in the bank or being able to get in the backdoor at 1 Oak or something. I’m never satisfied. It was just the 20th anniversary of Bad Boy Records and they’re still talking about Biggie. I want people talking about me when I’m gone.

Ward: Where do you see the influencer business headed?

Paul: I think a lot of it is too shortsighted. It’s like when Nike signed Lebron at 18 to a ten-year contract. They had a long-term strategy with him. Brands don’t have that sort of vision when it comes to influencers. I also think it’s capping out. There’s only so much room at the top and it’s becoming harder for someone starting out to grow quickly organically.

Ward: What advice do you have for other YouTubers out there that are starting out?

Paul: You're only one video away from going viral and changing your life. If you were training for the NFL and were only one-tenth of a second off from making the team, would you stop training? No. You shouldn't stop making videos just because you haven't made it yet. I was at the store the other day, getting a protein shake, and a kid came up to me and told me he was funny and should be in Team 10. I asked him if he had a YouTube channel and he said no. I laughed. It's like walking up to a director and saying, “Hey, I'm ready to be in your movie now,” without ever working at it. Do you think Leo DiCaprio just got out of bed one day and became an Oscar-winning actor without putting the work in?

Ward: What are influencers getting wrong?

Paul: Making too many brand deals, missing scheduled posts! This drives me crazy. A lot of influencers will have posting days, like Monday, Wednesday and Friday where they have to make a sponsored post. And they miss them! This is your job and it’s literally the only thing you have to do that day — and you can’t even do that?

Ward: Any words for the people who think they can do what you do?

Paul: To be the best, you've got to beat the best. I've been making videos for the past ten years, so if someone wants to knock me off, they’d better bring it.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on June 13, 2017.  For original article click here.

Kate Hudson: From 'Almost Famous' To Fabletics Greatness

It’s a beautiful afternoon at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Kate Hudson is walking the red carpet. There are the usual celebs, hangers on, and paparazzi that you’d expect to find at any Hollywood event, but this party is a little different. Instead of promoting a movie or TV show, everyone is there to celebrate the launch of Fabletics’ first ever collaboration, with pop superstar Demi Lovato.

“I love Fabletics. The clothes are so cute, but most importantly I love what they stand for,” said Demi Lovato. “The company is all about inspiring women and empowering them to be the best version of themselves, to be strong, and it doesn’t matter what shape, or size, or age. It’s just about empowering women and I love that.”

Since their founding in 2013, Fabletics has been just that: A fashion-forward athleisure brand, designed to be inclusive and empowering. In just three and a half short years, Kate and her team have grown their little startup into a $250 million company.

Not bad for an actress with no business background.

In 2013, the founders of the TechStyle Fashion Group, Don Ressler and Adam Goldenberg, had an idea about starting an athleisure brand. At the time there wasn’t a stylish, reasonably priced, quality athleisure brand out there. It was a sea of black and grey overpriced workout gear for women.

They wanted to change that but they needed a partner.

Kate Hudson was the first person that they thought of. “Kate truly represented what they wanted Fabletics to be. She’s approachable, doesn’t take herself too seriously, and has a very active lifestyle,” said Fabletics president Gregg Throgmartin.

Kate was heavily involved from day one: Whether it was reviewing budgets or picking a social media strategy, Kate was hands-on. She continues to be extremely involved in the design process and works closely with the team to ensure that the styles stay fresh. She looks at the sales numbers every week and knows exactly which clothes are selling and which aren’t.

While it’s hard to imagine many celebrities actually using the products they endorse (I doubt LeBron James actually drives a Kia), it’s not hard to picture Kate running around with her kids or going to the gym in her Fabletics gear.

Throgmartin said, “If there’s one thing that I learned about Kate, it’s that she will not do it if it’s not authentic to her. I think that’s why she’s had such longevity. If she doesn’t believe it in her core, she’s not doing it.”

Although they had a good idea, experienced investors and a celebrity founder, success didn’t come quickly or easily. The company experienced several hurdles early on.

“Our goal was to have the best product in the industry for about half the price," Throgmartin said. "It didn’t start out so great. Our first order was for $300k in inventory, which we had to trash because of poor quality. We had to delay our launch six months in order to make a better quality product. But it was worth it. We’re fanatical about quality.”

Kate also faced negative press, from celebrities like Cher and others on social media, who felt that the Fabletics membership model was a scam. There were also concerns that their most popular items often were sold out.

Hudson spearheaded an effort to make clear communication a priority. Fabletics upgraded their customer service department and implemented a new data system to ensure they’d have the proper inventory levels. In 18 months, Fabletics had a top rating from the Better Business Bureau and a much-improved customer satisfaction score.

Because of this commitment to quality and customer service, Fabletics grew quickly: In 2014 they experienced triple-digit growth. From 2015 to 2016, they grew 43%. In 2017 they’re projected to reach $250 million in sales. They have 1.2 million members and while a lot of businesses are getting out of retail, Fabletics saw a retail growth of 644% last year.

Their partnership with their parent company, TechStyle Fashion Group, has helped to fuel this growth. Rather than go at it alone, Kate hooked up with a company that had funding, experience in the online fashion world and most importantly resources. Instead of having to hire their own Facebook expert, design staff, marketing team, etc. they can share these resources with their parent company. Seventy percent of Fabletics is now a shared service.

Another reason for their rapid growth is their data-driven approach to business. Throgmartin said, “Data runs our business. It tells us what customers are responding to on social, the quantity of product we need to make, and the type of inventory that we're going to design. We're using technology that allows us to collect data at multiple points and send it upstream.”

This data allows Fabletics to serve the customer by matching them with the perfect outfit, remembering their personalized information at the retail store level, and producing clothing that they’ll like. It also allows the company to better streamline their production schedule. The predictive data synchs perfectly with Fabletics’ back-end integration, which allows them to go from design to production in only eight weeks.

Despite the crowded marketplace and industry experts who are calling the athleisure fad dead, the future looks bright for Fabletics. The company, which has 22 retail stores currently, plans on opening a dozen more in 2017 and growing rapidly in the next three years. Along with their growing membership base, their data-driven approach to manufacturing and their successful partnerships with celebs like Demi Lovato, the business is poised to grow rapidly over the next several years.

Even with all this success, don’t expect Hudson to quit her day job just yet. When I asked her if she wanted to be remembered as a businesswoman or an actor, she laughed and replied, “I'm an actor through and through. I'm really proud of the things that I'm doing in business, which we’ll continue and expand, but being an artist is where my heart is at."

Inside Wendy's Social Media Secret Sauce

Even if you haven't had a Wendy's burger or Frosty in years, you've probably heard about their social media this year.

It started with their hilarious clapbacks where they called out everyone from McDonalds to trolls.

Then it was the #NuggsForCarter tweet that went viral. On April 5, 2017, Carter Wilkerson tweeted at Wendy's asking, “How many retweets for a year of free nuggets?"

Wendy's quickly replied, “18 million."

He soon gained a following and just set a new record for the most retweeted post of all time; beating Ellen DeGeneres’s Oscar selfie, which had 3.2 million retweets.

So how did Wendy's blow up on social? What can we learn?

I had a chance to hear Brandon Rhoten, Head of Media, Advertising and Digital/Social for Wendy's, at the WOMMA Summit in NYC where he had some great insights into their success:

• Hire Good People: Rhoten explained, “Don't just hire someone because they're young and have a SnapChat account. Follow their social accounts. Make sure they understand the platforms."

• Let Them Do Their Job: “When one of my team saw Carter’s tweet, asking for a lifetime supply of nuggets, they messaged me to ask if we could engage with him and possibly give away free nuggets for life. I told them, "Yes," and they ran with it. Hire good people, give them direction and a framework, and let them do their job,” said Rhoten.

• Clear Voice Direction: Most brands have several people handling the day-to-day posts, so without a clear direction your brand will never develop a distinct voice. Rhoten said, “Our voice is Chris Pratt's in Guardians Of The Galaxy. We don't have any superpowers and we're not superhuman. We're just a regular guy who happens to be funny and a little sarcastic."

• Know How You're Going To Engage: Rhoten said, “Everyone needs to know how we're going to engage, how far we'll take it, etc. We've got to constantly ask ourselves, ‘Can we improve the conversation?'"

• Take Risks: “Everything interesting in marketing has an inherent risk in it," stated Rhoten. It's better to take a take a chance and risk alienating some people then to play it safe. If you're like everyone else then no one will care and you'll never command an audience.

• Be Unique: Rhoten said, “Most brands suck at social. There are maybe 20-25 brands that are interesting. Wendy's stands out because we're different…Think about what makes you interesting. Focus on that. You have to find that thing and leverage it across all platforms.”

Whether you love the way they interact on social or hate it, you’ve got to admit that you know exactly who Wendy’s is now. You couldn’t say that ten years ago.

So, whether you have a boring B2B company or a hot consumer brand, you can have fun on social. Go ahead, take a chance and be different! Remember, if you try to appeal to everyone then you end up appealing to no one.

How I Got Verified On Twitter (With Only 500 Followers) And How You Can Too

I woke up on Monday, checked my Twitter, and there it was: A blue check next to my name.

I was more excited than a kid on Christmas morning. I told my wife and she said, “It’s only a stupid check, who cares?”

I do and so should you. It's important to be verified, it’s more than just a vanity thing.

If you're verified, it gives you credibility. Trust matters on social media and that’s why you should take the steps to get verified. A verified account lets people know that you're legit. If you have a common name like mine, it can help people find you, while it'll also help you get more followers.

So how did I do it with only 500 followers and how can you?

First you need to ensure your Twitter profile is filled out with all the following information:

  • A verified phone number and email address - If you have a high profile job, own your own company, have your own successful blog, etc. use your work email address. Don’t use your Gmail or other personal email address unless you have to.
  • A profile bio - This is harder than you’d think. You've got to brag, which most people aren't good at. On the other hand, you don't want to look like an ass. Use the biggest job title possible. If you started a company (even if you’re the only employee and don’t make any money yet), you're the 'CEO and founder'. If you're going to use hashtags in your bio, use them sparingly. I can't stress this enough - Have you ever seen a profile like this? 'Bob Smith: #Influencer #ThoughtLeader #Digital Media #Marketing'. If Bob really was an influencer, do you think he'd hashtag it? Keep your profile simple and tag the most high profile accounts that you are associated with. I'd tag @Forbes. It's OK to have some fun. You can throw in that you're a coffee addict or a corgi lover, just don't go overboard.
  • A profile photo - Look at a celebrity’s profile picture. It looks great right? That’s probably because they’re using a professionally shot photo. Don't use a poorly lit selfie, take some time to choose and image which reflects you in the best possible light. Also it's worth ensuring you stay on brand. If you’re a fitness guru, you should probably be wearing workout clothes in your pic. If you're a corporate executive, you should probably be wearing a suit.
  • A header image - You should consider using a picture of yourself showing off your superpowers. Use a picture of you onstage shredding the guitar, giving a speech in front of hundreds of people, etc.
  • Your birthday - You were born right?
  • A website - This should reflect your profession; the reason you should be verified. Ideally, you have a personal website/blog that you can use, but you can also use a link to your YouTube channel, your company, your band’s site, etc.
  • Public tweets - Set your Tweets as public in your privacy settings

Alright, that's the easy part - the most important verification elements come next.

Next, you need to head over to this link to start your verification application.

Here, you need to provide three things:

  • Show evidence of why you’re awesome - Twitter asks for URLs to support your application. You have to provide a minimum of two, but you’re allowed to give five. You should provide five, if you can. This is the most important part of the application process - it's all about the evidence. You can't just say you're an accomplished musician, or a great writer, you've got to show examples. Include links to articles about you. It also helps if you use different sources for your links - for example, I included a link to an article I wrote for Forbes and another link to an article I did for Social Media Daily. It’s also important to include at least one page that has a link to your Twitter account. I used my blog and my Forbes profile page, both of which have links to my Twitter account. You've got to prove to Twitter that your account is yours. If you meet the criteria for verification (that you’re of public interest) then you shouldn't have a problem finding five articles about yourself.
  • Show Twitter why you should be verified - Twitter then gives you 500 characters to sell yourself. Here, they're looking for you to demonstrate your impact in your chosen field - you don't need to have a cool job to get verified; you just need to prove that you’re at the top of your sector. Focus on the facts. Don't say that you need to get verified because you're afraid of impersonators (there's a separate section to report offenders) and don't mention that you've got a ton of followers, because that’s not a factor either. You need to show why you're of public interest. I said that I've had over thirty articles published in Forbes, that I’ve written for several publications, been interviewed for various podcasts, etc. I also mentioned how much I love Twitter, how often I create content, engage with readers, and participate in chats.
  • Photo ID - You also need to provide a form of photo identification to confirm you're identity. This information is deleted after your application is assessed. 

Finally, before you click submit, check to make sure that you've been active on Twitter recently. Make sure you're posting at least a couple of times a day, submitting good content, interacting with people, and contributing to the conversation. And most importantly just be cool; no one wants to verify a jerk.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on April 8, 2017.  To read the full article, click here.

A Hustler's Spirit: What It Takes To Be An Influencer

Being an influencer is all anyone talks about these days. And for good reason. Who doesn't want to sleep in, make some YouTube videos, get free stuff, and get paid crazy money while doing it. And the money is pretty good if you’ve got a large following. According to Inc. influencers are getting paid between $25-$75 per thousand followers. Do the math. If you've got 1 million plus followers, you're talking big money.

So where do I sign up? Is there an opening for a bald guy in his late 30s, with literally hundreds of followers?

I had a chance to sit down with Mariale Marrero, a YouTube star, who produces three channels and has a following of 6 million people just on YouTube. She breaks down what it takes:

• Be Passionate: Mariale said, “Without passion, you won't put in the time it takes to be successful. Also, viewers can tell if you're being authentic or not. You've got to be doing it for the right reasons; not just to get famous or make a lot of money."

• Get The Right Equipment: It's all about quality not quantity. Sure, you can post crappy videos all day, but it's better to post one quality video less frequently. To do this takes time. You need to have a good computer, camera, lighting, backdrop, and editing software in order to create a video that people actually want to see.

• Learn Your Craft: When I asked Marrero what it took to put a video together, I was shocked by the amount of time that went into it. “First I'll have a couple of ideas, then I’ll research them to see if they'll work. I'll pick an idea and write a script for the video. Then I might have to buy some things for the shoot, like a backdrop or lights. Filming is the easiest part, although it can sometimes take 5+ hours to put together. If the audio isn't good or the lighting is bad, you have to reshoot. Assuming the shoot is good, the editing begins. This is a beast! It's so important! I spend hours and hours editing. If you look at my videos, you'll see things pop up on the screen or audio changes about every ten seconds. This is because people get bored. Then you've got to pick the thumbnail. That's really important, almost as much as the video. Then you hit upload. But you're not done yet! You've got to decide on a title, tags, and a description. Finally you publish it and then you need to promote it on social. Then you reply to comments." And you thought they put those videos together in 10 minutes, didn’t you?

• Take Your Time: While there are some overnight success stories, most influencers that I've talked to have had more of a gradual, steady rise. Mariale said, “I didn't even look at the numbers in the beginning. My channels didn't grow for three years. I just kept doing it because I loved it. I loved the community; people telling me to try this eyeliner or that lip gloss." It can be easy to obsess over the numbers. I'm guilty of this too. I guarantee that I'll check the views of this article, dozens of times today. We can all learn from Mar and take a step back and focus on producing great content, instead of chasing numbers.

• Be Authentic: Most of us try to show the best version of ourselves on social, instead of just being real. Marrero said, “It's funny because sometimes I'll post a video of myself applying makeup perfectly and then I'll post a video of myself in my pajamas talking about how I just ate a steak, and I'll get way more comments about the steak dinner. People want a sneak peek into your real life, not some polished image of yourself."

Finally one of the most important traits is to be humble.

Don't forget where you came from or get too cocky because you're only one click away from losing your followers.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on March 30, 2017.  To read full article click here

Stop Trying To Make MCNs Happen (It Ain't Working)

Remember 2013? It was the year of the man bun, EDM, and people saying, "I know right?" after just about every sentence. MCNs (multi-channel networks) were all the rage and they were selling for big money.

Awesomeness TV started it off when they were acquired by Dreamworks for about $120 million. In early 2014 Maker Studios was sold to Disney for approx. $500 million. Fullscreen was sold to Otter Media for about $200 million and StyleHaul to RTL for approx. $150 million.

Fast forward to last week when Maker Studios, once the premier MCN, announced massive layoffs and cut ties to the majority of their online talent.

So how did we end up here and what does the future hold for MCNs?

Stephanie Horbaczewski, Founder and CEO of StyleHaul, said, "Three years ago there was a great need for companies like StyleHaul because advertisers weren't getting what they paid for. They were just spending money because they needed to be in the influencer space. You'd see a lot of content that was generating hundreds of thousands of views but only getting 12 comments. There was no engagement."

After jumping into the business, the MCNs quickly realized that the traditional ad driven business model didn't work. After splitting the revenue with YouTube and the creator, there wasn't a large amount left over. Plus, if a creator didn't have a massive following, they weren't generating the necessary revenue to keep creating good content.

The MCNs had to come up with a new revenue stream and the smart ones embraced long form content. AwesomnessTV was an early adopter of this and they have produced many successful branded content series, such as Royal Crush. They have sold shows to Netflix and are getting into the movie business, with their first release, Before I Fall, coming to theaters this month

You can't call them MCNs anymore. They do so much more.

Originally MCNs were created as a way to help YouTube content creators with programming, cross-promotion, monetization, and audience development in exchange for a percentage of the ad revenue from the channel.

Stephanie Horbaczewski says, "We were never an MCN. We create large-scale multi-platform marketing programs with a data-driven management system that identifies consumers with the highest affinity for the brand. Our capacity to analyze trends across their influencer base in real-time to identify the ideal influencers and content strategies for increased engagement and ultimately customer conversion is what has allowed us to take our business to the next level in the digital space."

Fullscreen is another example of an MCN that has evolved over the years. They produce live events, own their own production company, and are in the streaming business.

All these new ventures have their own challenges though. It is extremely expensive producing high quality long form content. Plus there is intense competition for top Hollywood producers.

Some talent are starting to question whether they even need MCNs. The old days of big guaranteed money (sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars) are gone. It's getting harder for them to justify signing with an MCN. The ones that do sign with them do so in order to get brand partnerships and help with creating content.

So what does the future hold for the MCNs?

They are getting back to basics: Working with less creators, instead focusing on the ones that have the biggest followings that align with the brands that they represent. They will continue to evolve and create new ways to add value to both their advertisers and their talent.

As people spend more time on digital every day, they will continue to drive innovation and content.

Call them a multi-platform entertainment company, an influencer marketing platform, or an MPN: Just don't call them an MCN.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on March 10, 2017

How To Live An Exceptional Life: 10 Tips From Rick Rubin

I had the pleasure of listening to Tim Ferris’s interview with Rick Rubin over the weekend and his insight into the creative process blew me away!

You might not know his name but you definitely know his music.  MTV has called him the most important music producer of the last 20 years.  He's produced everyone from Adele to ZZ Top and he’s worked in all genres.

Rick shared some of the lessons that he's learned along the way which can be applied to all areas of your life:

1.   Only Compete Against Yourself:  If you set out to only write songs that are better than The Beatles, it’s gonna be a hard road.  But if you only try to write a song that’s better than the one you wrote yesterday, that’s much more realistic.  If you do that everyday, you’ll get better.  Take small steps.

2.   Study The Greats:  Competition is only good if you’re looking at the big picture.  Don’t try to write a song better than the current hit on the radio.  Submerge yourself in the great works from all time and try to learn from them.  You can get inspiration from all different kinds of media not just your own.  Watch great movies, listen to the best albums of all time, read the classics.

3.   Be Extreme:  People like extreme things, so don’t water it down.  The best art divides the audience:  Half love it and half hate it.  If everyone says, “That’s pretty good,” why bother making it?!

4.  Be Coachable:  Rick lost over 100 pounds and part of the reason for Rick’s success is that he made a commitment to do whatever his doctors and trainers told him, no matter how ridiculous.   Wake up in the morning and go outside for 20 minutes to soak up the sun.  OK.  Abandon your vegan diet for a high protein animal based diet.  OK.    

5.   Anything Is Possible If You Break It Down Into Small Steps:  Don’t expect to be great at something right away.  You’re going to fall down a lot in the beginning.  If you can break complicated projects into small, digestible pieces then you can tackle anything.

6.   Have A Mentor: Rick mentioned having lunch with his mentor, Mo Ostin, who told him he was getting fat and he was concerned for his health.  Having a support system with people you respect and aspire to be like is important to personal growth.

7.   Don’t Think Too Much:  Creativity is more emotion and heart work than head work.  The head work is later for organizing.

8.   Hang With The Winners:  Rick mentioned hanging with big wave surfer Laird Hamilton, NBA player Jokim Noah, and the magician David Blaine.  These guys may not have much in common other than being exceptional at what they do.  If you want to be great, you need to hang with the winners

9.   Don’t Beat Yourself Up:  You can’t expect to be great out of the box, yet a lot of us put unrealistic expectations on ourselves and get down on ourselves when we fail to meet them. .

10.  Define Your Success:  Rick defined it as being great at what you do, being passionate, and truly enjoying life.  He said he knows a lot of people who are successful in business and entertainment and have a lot of money but are miserable.  They’re not successful in his eyes.  A guy like Don Wildman, founder of the Bally’s fitness chain, who retired in his 50s, and now goes snowboarding and big wave surfing in his 80s is truly successful.

I highly recommend listening to Tim Ferris’s full interview here.  As a side note, Rick only agreed to the interview if it could take place in his 200 degree sauna, with breaks for ice water baths, which is pretty awesome in its own right.

The Dos Equis guy has got nothing on Rick...Rick's way more interesting and he's even got a better beard.

 

 

How To Rock Your Social Like Chrissy Teigen

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)

Chrissy Teigen has amassed millions of followers across her social media accounts, and while there's no formula that's gotten her here, one thing is certain: She's one of the most entertaining celebrities to follow on social. She has a personality, a style and wit that are unmatched. My wife says it best, "When I see a great Chrissy Teigen post, it makes my day."

How do we rule social media like she does?

• Be Hot: I'm kind of joking, but not really. The fact that Chrissy Teigen is a model doesn't hurt. A hot girl on Instagram will definitely get more followers than a geeky looking guy. The same goes for guys. Have you seen any of these good looking doctors on Instagram, posing with puppies? #MillionsOfFollowers. If you're normal looking, like the rest of us, you're going to have to work a little harder to get fans. The same thing goes for brands. If you're a hot consumer brand, it'll be easier to court influencers and make a splash than it will if you're a boring B2B product.

• Have A Voice: Who are you? This applies to brands or people. Chrissy Teigen is funny, quick, serious and silly at the same time. What is your voice? Are you sarcastic? Serious? Passionate? Whatever it is, you need to turn it up in order to get heard. There are a lot of people yelling for attention on social media and you need to stand out

• Be Polarizing: What makes Chrissy so interesting is that she's polarizing. Teigen told Refinery29, "My approach is to always say what’s authentic to me. So, whether or not that’s being completely outspoken, a little daring, a little crazy, if I believe it, then I’m going to say it." According to Evan Assano, founder of MediaKix, "This can be a delicate line for brands. It's easy to say whatever you want when no one is listening, but when you have a massive following you need to be more careful. The recent bad press that Under Armour and Uber have gotten has hurt their brands." The moral of the story is to have a stance but also think about the repercussions before you post.

• Engage In Real Time: How annoying is it when there's an important topic trending, that everyone is talking about, and you see "normal" posts from your favorite celebrity or brand. It's obvious that they are scheduling their posts. What makes Chrissy great is that she posts when events are happening. Dian Oved, Founder & CEO of Empower Digital, says, "She is responsive in real-time to trending topics and events on social media, and provides a consistent stream of wit and entertainment to her followers. Because of her astute sense of timing, her content is often picked up by the news media, which further increases her popularity." Don't just schedule your posts and forget about them. You need to be part of the larger conversation on social. Remember it's a conversation not a monologue.

• Clapback: Chrissy is notorious for calling out her haters. If you put yourself out there on social media, people are going to have negative things to say. You can either address them or stay silent. She chooses to address them. There are so many to choose from, but here are a couple of my favorites:

When she was shamed for going out to dinner 10 days after her baby, Luna, was born:

When trolls told her that she put on weight in her last Instagram photo, she had this to say:

Brands are starting to do this as well.  Most brands choose to ignore negative comments, but that just makes them look like a faceless company.If hundreds of people walked up to you and called you fat and ugly, or told you that your product was crappy, wouldn't you say something?  Brands are clapping back, and I love it. Here's one of my favorites:

Be Authentic: The big difference between Teigen and what other models do is that she shows her flaws. While other celebs will only post red carpet pictures or professionally shot photos, she is likely to take an ugly selfie or show her stomach when she feels bloated. Other celebs only give you a sneak peek into the world that they want you to see. She might comment on her love of Velveeta cheese, and then on the political state of the country. 

Whether you love or hate Chrissy Teigen, you have to admit that her giant personality has translated into a massive following. She has proven that you don’t have to try to make everyone happy; you are better off just being yourself. The old adage still holds true: If you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.

 

5 Influencer Marketing Trends That Will Dominate In 2017

Courtesy Awesomness TV

Courtesy Awesomness TV

Influencer marketing exploded in 2016 with more brands turning to digital creators to reach new audiences, younger customers and to build buzz around their products.

It shows no signs of slowing down.

According to the 2016 Influencer Marketing Report, compiled by CHUTE and THUZIO, 66% of marketers have already introduced an influencer marketing strategy. According to gen.video, “There will be an uptick in investment in influencer marketing: 50% of brands will significantly increase their investment in 2017."

We are in the Wild West stage of influencer marketing; so giddy up, it's going to be a wild ride.

Here's what to expect in 2017 and the years to come:

1. It's Becoming Harder To Get Noticed: Does the world really need another makeup vlogger? How about a fitness influencer? Nope. That's why influencers are going to have to branch out in order to get noticed. Instead of focusing solely on one thing, more and more influencers are getting into the lifestyle segment. This takes them in all sorts of new areas and differentiates them in the marketplace. Max Polisar, Chief Revenue Office at AwesomenessTV, says, "In order to get noticed an influencer needs to be consistent on publishing, have a distinct point of view, and can't be afraid to be themselves."

2. There Will Be More Branded Content: This is still mind blowing to me: A whole series, that's basically a commercial? I guess it's no different than the old soap operas: They were created to sell soap, and they turned into pretty good entertainment. A great example of this is Awesomeness TV's hit scripted series Royal Crush, which is designed to both entertain and sell cruises to teens. Won't viewers get annoyed at watching a giant commercial? According to Max Polisar, "No. If you produce a great show, with interesting characters, then the viewer won't care. It's no different than a traditional TV show, being brought to you by sponsors. At the end of the day it's about telling worthwhile story."

3. Lines Blur Between Celebs And Influencers: I'm not sure what Chrissy Teigan does, yet I follow her on social because she's hilarious. Is she a model, a celebrity, an influencer? How about PewDiePie or Tyler Oakley. Are they influencers or celebrities? The big difference between influencers and traditional celebs is their level of engagement. Craig Lewis, VP Brand Partnerships at Disruptiv Agency, says, "The level of engagement is critical to truly pushing a brand forward. Celebrities are appreciated for the work they do. An influencer is more likely to be appreciated for who they are. The distinction is noticeable and is why you find a trend of "A List" celebrities establishing more of a presence via their social media.”

4. Live Video Will Continue To Grow: Everyone is still trying to figure out live video and you can tell. Most of the production is poor and so is the content. This will change as platforms figure out how to monetize live video. Facebook is testing 15-second mid-roll video ads inside live broadcasts, which will drive more content. Expect to see more of this from other platforms in the future. 

5. Reevaluation Of Metrix: It ain't all about views and subscribers any more. According to Darby Barton and Nichole Brandt from XOMAD, "We've seen traditional marketing metrics applied to influencer strategies, leading to inaccurate expectations and campaign planning. Cost per engagement models will provide more accurate pricing and greater ROI for influencer strategies. Standards will emerge to allow reach and engagement across Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. to be meaningfully compared to one another as well as to log monthly unique numbers."

The biggest trend of 2017 is fairly obvious: Influencer marketing will only get bigger. With the rise of ad blockers, the decline in traditional TV viewership, and the steady rise of social media, marketers need to fully embrace influencers in order to get their message heard in 2017 and beyond.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on February 13, 2017. 

Your Social Media Is Terrible: Stop Making These Five Mistakes

Shutterstock

Shutterstock

“Social media advertising budgets have doubled worldwide over the past two years—going from $16 billion in 2014 to $31 billion in 2016. In 2017, analysts predict a 26.3% global increase on spending for social media ads,” according to Hootsuite.

So why are brands still getting it wrong? What mistakes do they continue to make?

1. Posting The Same Content Across All Channels: This is my biggest pet peeve. If you're going to post the same content on every channel, then why would I follow all of your accounts? I've worked with big agencies that disagree strongly with me on this. Don't listen to them. Joe Legaz, director of marketing for the LA Clippers, says, “Know your medium. Different channels encourage different types of content. LinkedIn is for professional development. Twitter is for quick hits of news. Instagram is for eye grabbing images, etc. Understanding each channel is the key to successful engagement. To this point, don’t get caught in the trap of posting the same thing on each channel."

2. Promoting Too Many (Or Too Few) Posts: Ever seen John Legre, the CEO of T Mobile, on Twitter? Every day there's a promoted post in my feed, asking me to follow him. It's so annoying. It makes me want to punch him in the face. To be fair, it's next to impossible to get heard among all the chatter without boosting posts. According to Joe Legaz, “Don’t feel the need to boost every post. But when you really feel strong about a message, or feel it is particularly great timing for your brand to capitalize, don’t make the mistake of not boosting it. You want to make sure that you not only engage your current audience, but help grow it by reaching others who may not be following."

3. Posting Infrequently (Or Too Much): Again, I see brands going to the extreme: Either clogging up my feed or not posting for days. Thoughts vary here but the general consensus is that you should be posting up to fourteen times a day on Twitter, five times on Snapchat, and two times per day on Facebook and Instagram. This can change depending on the brand, but the general message is to post frequently without being annoying.

4. Providing Poor Customer Service: Are you going to handle customer service via social or not? Every time I go to a Vons grocery store, I wait in ridiculously long lines. I complained on Twitter and ten minutes later they got back to me and asked what location I was at. I replied and then never heard back from them. Cool story bro. Either you're going to do customer service via social or you're not. You can't expect a social media manager to handle customer feedback 24/7. You're going to have to put some resources behind it in order to be successful.

5. Not Being Honest: Ever see a company go through major issues (product recalls, scandal, etc.) and not address them on social? It breeds distrust. Take a page from the sports world. Joe Legaz, of the Los Angeles Clippers, states that, "No matter how painful it might be (say you’ve just been blown out by 20 points) you still have to find a way to engage with scores, pictures, quotes from the locker room, etc." Be honest with your followers and they'll appreciate it.

What do you think? What are brands getting wrong on social?

Article first appeared in Forbes on January 21, 2017

 

New Year's Resolution: Do Social Video Right In 2017

Photo Courtesy Of Delmondo

Photo Courtesy Of Delmondo

Social video is everywhere.  Every time you check Facebook, it turns out one of your friends has been “Live.” When you need to put together furniture you “YouTube“ it. When you’re out on a Saturday night, you post videos on Snapchat.

But social video is much more than putting together Ikea furniture or watching how your friends spent their Saturday night.

Facebook and Snapchat each have over 8 billion daily video views and YouTube has over 1 billion users watching videos every day.

 According to Media Kix, “Traffic from online videos will constitute over 80% of all consumer internet traffic by 2020 (Cisco) and eMarketer estimates that U.S. spending on both mobile and desktop video advertising will reach nearly $10 billion in 2016, more than a 23% increase than last year. By 2019, the total U.S. digital video advertising spend is projected to eclipse $14 billion—nearly 50% of that figure ($6.86 billion) is attributed to mobile video.”

What should your business be doing in order to keep up?

1.   Pick Your Channels:  Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and Instagram all have video features.  For live video you’ve got Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Periscope and Snapchat. What channels should you focus on? According to Nick Cicero, Founder and CEO of Delmondo, a social video analytics company and creative studio, “You need to ask yourself, what is the least amount of content that will reach the biggest audience?  What channel does your audience use the most?’  If you’ve got a large Twitter following, Periscope might be a good idea.  If Facebook is your main focus, Facebook Live is probably your best bet. There will be more platforms added every year and you can’t be in all places.”

2.   Create Content That Works. Funny vids that are shareable are always great.  “How-To” videos are the most popular search on YouTube and are a nice way to connect with your audience. Nick Cicero says that, “Episodic content works especially well. It really is a great way to show the personality of a brand.  Try to create a series that is fun and shareable.” Whatever you choose you need to integrate your brand personality into all of your videos and tell a consistent story.

3.   Break Down The Walls Between You And Your Customer.  Don’t hide behind your logo! A great way to do this is to simply ask your audience what kind of content they want to see.  Shanda Maloney, former Social Media Director at UFC, says, “We asked our fans what they wanted to see and were very surprised by their answers.  I expected to hear from creepy guys who wanted to see the ring girls getting dressed but instead, our audience wanted to get a peek inside the life of a fighter.  How did they cut weight?  What kind of meals did they eat after their weigh in? We created a cooking show based on this idea that has been extremely popular.” 

4.   Be Consistent:  This is true whether you’ve using live or recorded video. If you broadcast a live feed of your restaurant every Friday at noon, then you need to keep up the schedule so your viewers know when to expect it. Think of it like a TV show.  HBO doesn’t air Game Of Thrones on Sunday night one week, take two weeks off, and then air it on Thursday morning.  Why would you?

5.   Don’t Be Scared Of Live Video. Nick Cicero states that, “People have this attitude that everyone out there is a troll and are scared to put themselves out there.  Don’t be.  Live video is an excellent way to engage your customers.  Use it.”  You don’t need a huge marketing budget; you can shoot live video on your phone.  Don’t except to have a massive following right out of the gate.  Experiment, engage with your viewers, and have fun! 

Live video is on every “trend” list for 2017, including mine, and will dominate 2017. One of the other trends that you’ll see in 2017 is that influencers will have an increased role in helping brands get reach. Finally, more companies will be turning to studios to help them create professional quality content.  Remember that everyone now has the ability to broadcast but the difference is the quality of the content. Anyone can have a public access TV show, but it’ll never be as good as something on HBO.  Don’t be public access; you’re better than that.

 

This article originally appeared in Forbes on December 23, 2016

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Influencers (But Were Afraid To Ask)

Photo Courtesy Of FameBIt

Photo Courtesy Of FameBIt

Anyone who thinks that millennials are lazy hasn't met an influencer. They're out there hustling all day, errday.

 

Ok, they’re not saving lives but it’s actually a tougher gig than you’d think. They've got to write, shoot, build brand partnerships, handle social media, supervise their team, and constantly sell. Let's not forget that they are also entrepreneurs and are running their own businesses.

They are the future of advertising. 

So what exactly is an influencer and what do they do?  

Agnes Kozera, co-founder of FameBit, an influencer-marketing platform, states that, "An influencer is someone who has a substantial following and can command an audience.  They have specialized knowledge about a certain subject.  They are all experts at building a brand." Influencers have unique ways of advertising a product, that doesn't feel like advertising. 

So where can you find these influencers?

According to Kozera, "YouTube is the most popular channel for influencers and is where they are financially rewarded the most.  Video is the most intimate way to connect with viewers.  They use YouTube, and other social channels, to make strong connections."

 How the heck do they become influencers anyway? 

 Usually it starts with a passion for something: makeup, cooking, gaming, etc. The truly successful influencers start because they have a desire to share what they're into. They're like your cool, older cousin telling you what kind of sneakers to buy. Influencers get a following by finding their niche, focusing on a couple of channels, and by producing quality content, consistently.   

 YouTuber Brandon Skeie explains, "I started putting myself on the Internet when I was in high school. I started posting covers of my favorite Top 40 hits and things just started to build up.  I kept at it, until I was making enough money to stop working. It was a lot of consistency that really got me to an 'influencer' level."

How do brands and influencers connect?

Do they both swipe right on Tinder? Nah, there's a different way they hook up. Usually influencers will use a platform for branded content, like FameBit.  Anyone with 5k or more followers can sign up and then sort through the various brands' postings.  If they find a campaign they like, they'll send a proposal.  If the brand likes their pitch, they'll hire them.

Marissa Rachel  (1m YouTube followers) told me, “FameBit was the game changer for us.  Before that you needed to get discovered. It's also a much more informal way to interact with the brands, which we prefer."

Multi channel networks, MCNs, are another way that brands and influencers connect but it's harder for those with a small following to get deals. Rachel says, "We signed with an MCN three years ago and haven't gotten one deal from them.  They represent a large group of influencers but only really pitch the same top influencers to each client.  If you don't have millions of followers it's going to be tough to get a deal through an MCN."

How do they make money?

Most top YouTube stars make money from video ads, brand deal sponsorships, affiliate commissions, and by selling their own merchandise.

How much do they get paid?

It's all over the place.  Some will do it for free product; others won't post for anything less than $100,000.

The highest paid personalities are those with massive followers on YouTube.  According to Forbes, Mark Iplier earns $5.5 million annually. Roman Atwood rakes in $8 million. And the richest influencer of them all, PewDiePie, gets paid $15 million a year.

If you're thinking about starting your own YouTube channel to get rich, slow your roll.  It takes an extremely long time (for most channels) to get followers and make real money.  It's like a startup.  Most will fail. 

Also, the money isn't consistent.  For example, ad revenue is highest in December because it's the busiest time of the year for retail. When January rolls around, it gets slow. It's like being an actor: You could make a lot of money during one project, and then go on a long dry spell

What do they do all day? 

According to Shanna Lisa, Marissa Rachel's business partner, “Our schedule changes depending on the day!  We usually film 2-3 days per week. On filming days, we get up early to catch the natural light, put on makeup, set up the background, camera, tripod, lights, and spend a few hours filming multiple segments at once. Sometimes we'll travel to a different location to film. The rest of our time is spent either editing, making thumbnails, preparing future videos (pre-production takes a lot longer than most people realize) as well as general administrative work (answering business emails, communicating with brands, attending meetings, etc.). Being self-employed means that although we have some flexibility with our schedules, we also have to be highly self-motivated."

What do they hate about their job?

Every influencer I spoke to said the same thing: The FTC regulations are unfair and need to change.  Currently, the FTC requires that influencers let their audience know that a brand is compensating them for their post. Marissa Rachel makes a great point. “Why do influencers have to disclose every time that they are compensated by a brand? When you see the new James Bond movie, no one mentions that a watch company spent millions of dollars to get their product featured in the movie.  Why are we held to a higher standard?"

Are they afraid that they'll have to grow up and get a real job someday?

If YouTube were to end tomorrow, most influencers that I spoke with have a backup plan like going back to school or pursuing another career in the media.

Brandon Skeie told me that, “I was terrified that one day all of my followers would just be bored with me; After a while that fear went away and I focused on just being the truest form of myself and working hard.  So if one day I had to get a ‘real job’ I would be OK with it, even though I don't see that happening! Haha.”

After speaking with several influencers for this article, my main takeaway is that these are good kids. Influencers sometimes get a bad rap as being narcissistic and unprofessional.  Sure, they have a desire to be famous (who doesn’t) but they are going about it in a very organic way.  They are growing their following by providing something that their audience wants.

They are also authentic, which is why they’re such a great advertising platform. Everyone I spoke with mentioned that when working with a brand, the first thing they ask themselves is if it’s consistent with who they are. It’s not all about the money. They are looking for products that they use or will benefit their audience.  There’s a human element that’s not found in other forms of advertising.  When done well, there’s no better way to connect brands and people.  That’s why they are the future of advertising. 

 This article originally appeared in Forbes on January 10, 2017

 

 

How To Do Influencer Marketing Right In 2017

Paul Zimmerman (Getty Images)

Paul Zimmerman (Getty Images)

Are you tired of hearing about influencer marketing yet? Well according to just about every year-end review, it’s among the top trends for 2017 so you’d better get moving if you want to keep up.

A study published in eMarketer showed that nearly 85% of marketing and communications professionals worldwide expected to launch at least one campaign involving an influencer in the next 12 months. If you look at Google's keyword search for influencer marketing, it's increased more than 90 times since 2013, according to Adweek.

With the rise of ad blockers, the decline in traditional TV viewership, and the steady rise of social media, marketers need to fully embrace influencers in order to get their message heard in 2017 and beyond.

So where do we start and how can we be successful?

  • Do Your Homework: Whether you're using an agency, a multi channel network, or doing it yourself you need to do your homework first. Who is your target audience? What content do they respond to? What social channels do they use most frequently? Where do they live online?
  • Research Social Media Influencers: There are a number of ways to pick an influencer. According to Marco Hansell II, CEO of Speakr, "The easiest default is to hire an influencer agency to help do the search for you. Your next best bet is using some of the tools out there to help you with your search. If you don't have a lot of money to pay for any of the above then you can always search on your own.  Some platforms are easier than others and have either top lists, top users, or suggested users to help the process."
  • Understand Your Influencer: Spend some time building rapport to find out who they are and what motivates them. Surprisingly, money isn't always the top motivator for influencers. Authenticity, brand fit, and good press often matter more than getting paid. Marco Hansell reminds us that, "Influencers are people too! You're not buying a radio spot, you're interfacing with a human being and you need to understand that all influencers aren't made the same."
  • Define Your Metrix: How are you going to measure whether your campaign is successful or not? Measurement tools are readily available for Facebook and Twitter but are still in the infancy stages with newer platforms. That being said, there are still ways to measure success on any channel. Remember what gets measured gets managed.
  • Set Expectations: What are you hoping to accomplish with your campaign? Do you want to drive sales, traffic, or create brand awareness? Marco Hansell states that, "You need to focus and have only one goal. You can't try to do everything. Remember that a person will only engage one way with a post. They'll retweet it but not like it. They'll like it but not comment."
  • Determine Where The Content Will Come From: Will the influencer create the content or will you? I think the best method is to give the influencer is an outline and let them run with it. Tell them the message you are trying to get across, along with some requirements (like including a link or a hashtag) and give them the freedom to do what they do. It's best not to be dogmatic and to work together to convey your message.
  • Don't Forget About FTC Compliance: One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is that they aren't FTC compliant. According to Adweek, "The rules are clear just be ‘honest and not misleading.' For short-format or ephemeral platforms, the FTC has agreed that ‘#ad’ effectively notes that the influencer has been compensated in some way. For YouTube videos, influencers should state that they are working with the brand, received compensation or complimentary products." Will this hurt an influencer's reach? Nope. Marco Hansell says that, "As long as the product they are endorsing fits with their brand, the audience won't care. They actually want to see the products that they like and use."

It’s funny how things come full circle. Back in the early days of TV and radio, content was created in order to sell a product. Soap operas were actually there to sell soap. With the rise of DVR, Spotify Premium, etc. we’ve figured out ways to bypass ads. Now the social media stars are taking it back to the old school: Inserting ads into their content in order to sell us stuff.

This article originally appeared in Forbes on December 13, 2016

5 Social Media Trends That Will Change The Game In 2017

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

There are over 2.5 billion active social media users worldwide and the number is growing at a rate of 9% a year. The advertising spend is rising even faster. According to Advertising Age, social media spend grew 55% to $10.9 billion, up from the previous year’s $7 billion.

1. Live Video: Although there have been strides in the streaming space (FB Live, YouTube Live, Periscope Pro) we are still in the infant stages. A new study by market research firms Focus Vision and Zanthus found that a whopping 41% of pay TV subscribers (cable, satellite, etc.) are planning to either cut back on or sever completely their subscriptions in the near future. Those viewers are moving from TV to social/digital. Networks and content providers will have no choice but to move to where the eyeballs are. According to David Brickley, CEO and Co-Founder of STN Digital, “You better have a FB Live strategy or you’ll be left behind. If you already have a great following on Instagram, and you don’t have an Instagram Stories strategy, its time to pounce while its hot.”

2. Messaging Apps: Chad Martin, North American Director, Social and Emerging Media at VML, states that, “The idea of being able to engage with a customer in a one on one way is huge. The hurdle will be figuring out how to develop relevant content to so many. Developing bots that provide relevant content and learn from the customer’s behavior is expensive at this point but the cost savings, especially around customer service, validate them quickly.”

3. Social Commerce: Social commerce is huge around the world with WeChat and will soon take off in the US. Chad Martin says that, “We have been able to send money through Google and Messenger for some time but this was a peer to peer exchange. Pinterest and Twitter are allowing for purchases and that will help with mainstream adoption for brands.”

4. Virtual Reality: We didn’t see much VR in 2016, although we certainly heard a lot about it. Most of the content came in the form of 360 VR Videos, uploaded on YouTube and FB. David Brickley states that, “It’s definitely the future. It’s not convenient enough for consumers yet, and wearing a huge headset in your living room daily won’t scale. However, it’s the future and a space that will only continue to grow.”

5. Social Channels Will Continue To Evolve: Snapchat continues to rise, but it will have to make it easier to organically find fun and interesting accounts. David Brickley says, “I would love to follow Kevin Hart or Mark Cuban on Snapchat, but Snapchat makes me work by searching on Google to find their handle or by guessing their username. Instagram has done two amazing things recently with Instagram Stories and the Explore tab. The Instagram Explore tab’s algorithm works incredibly well, and you can get lost (much like with YouTube) in clicking videos for hours.” The more time that users spend on Instagram equals success.

The biggest trend of 2017 is fairly obvious. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms have become such a part of our life, it’s hard to imagine how we lived without them. As people come up with more innovative types of content and ways to distribute them, social media will only get bigger.

This article originally appeared in the November 22, 2016 edition of Forbes.  For complete article, click here.

How Theo Epstein Wins (And How You Can Too)

Theo.jpg

Theo Epstein became the youngest GM in the history of Major League Baseball when the Boston Red Sox hired him at the age of 28. In 2004, the Red Sox won their first World Series championship in 86 years and won another championship in the 2007 season.

In 2011 he resigned from his job in Boston to become President of Baseball Operations for the Chicago Cubs.

The Cubs finished the 2016 season with best record in Major League Baseball, winning over 100 games for the first time since 1935. They will be facing the Cleveland Indians, in the World Series, tomorrow night.

So how he did win a World Series with the Red Sox and is on track to do it again with the Cubs, who haven’t won the World Series since 1908.

What can we apply to our own careers?

Know Your Business: It takes passion, almost an obsession, to become an expert in your business. Do you sell microprocessors but have never taken apart a computer? Do you design ovens, but never cook? You’re probably not going to be the most successful in your field. It sounds simple but you need to understand your business fully in order to be successful. When starting his career in San Diego, his General Manager told him the best way to learn the sport was to sit behind the plate and run the radar gun. Every night he sat there, learning what a fastball looks like, analyzing very players batting stances, etc. Become a sponge and learn everything that you can about your business.

Use Data To Make Decisions: Moneyball is a book by Michael Lewis about the Oakland A’s baseball team and its general manager, Billy Beane. It focuses on the team’s analytical, evidence-based approach to putting together a baseball team. Epstein has believed in this since he was a kid reading Bill James’ By The Numbers, a statistical analysis of major league players. While with the Red Sox, he sent interns to the NCAA headquarters to search through 30 years of stats to see if there were any trends to becoming a successful major leaguer. Don’t always rely on your gut to make decisions, see what the numbers say first.

Have A Vision: All successful leaders have a vision. When Epstein took over the Cubs, he had a meeting in a Mesa, AZ hotel and invited 150 scouts, coaches and front office personnel. There he created a vision for the Cubs: He clearly defined what the personality of the players would be, what the pitching would look like, what their offense would consist of, etc. That vision spilled out onto the field. Whenever they would see an a player make exceptional play, they would yell, “That’s a Cub.” This was meant as a compliment, despite the fact that the team was losing 100+ games.

It’s All In The Details: Theo Epstein is obsessed about details, whether it’s drafting a player or interior decorating. According to Sports Illustrated, “He obsesses over details, from the draft board to the recruiting videos…to the time he spent trolling taxidermy websites to find the perfect stuffed bear for the cafeteria. Last year, while the Cubs were building a new clubhouse, he hyper focused on the number of inches between the couch and the ottoman.” Remember, how you do anything is how you do everything.  You can’t ignore the details and expect a great outcome.

Have Fun: How else does Epstein get interns to work 100+ hours? He hits golf balls in the office while kicking around ideas. He rented a house in Cape Coral, where he lived with and eight front office personnel. They would carpool to the office, blast music, play poker, work out, and eat meals together. He realized that changing a culture takes buy in from everyone. It needs to be embraced by the majority of the team.

There’s More To Life Than Work: While Epstein was with the Red Sox, he attended the funeral of a longtime club employee. The coffin had a Red Sox logo on it. He was quoted as saying, “I don’t want to be buried in a Red Sox casket.” He grew up after getting married and having kids: He started a foundation to help inner city youth and spent more time with his family. People close to him think that he will eventually pursue a career outside of baseball.

A famous Chicagoan, Ferris Bueller said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Go Cubs!

This article originally appeared in Forbes on October 24, 2016.  For more Forbes articles, please click here.