Social proof and your media

Social proof is “informational influence.” It’s what the internet says about you when you’re not around to speak for yourself. Social proof is something I found myself referencing numerous times this week.


Once was in discussion with my web blog designer, working through a redesign of my site, on the importance of having media logos and designations prominently placed. Another time was while discussing possible speaker recommendations for the upcoming Canadian Internet Marketing Conference with a colleague. I was recommending a speaker from Australia, who I knew planned to be in Canada around the time, following her appearance at Social Media Marketing World. I felt confident in my recommendation, despite only having “met her online”, interacting through email and video, because my impression had been formed outside of that, largely on social proof. We had had numerous online exchanges, and the beginnings of a more personable relationship having made plans to meet up in San Diego at the conference. I knew she would bring solid value, plus I would likely benefit through having recommended her, thereby associating my brand with hers. Who knows if it will wok out, but that is the power of social proof in action.

Social proof comes in many forms through photos, video, articles etc, and can be represented on our owned, rented, earned and embedded media. I’ve excluded paid media here, since social proof is not a “pay to play” model. Social proof is earned, and therefore generally more trusted.

Let’s take a look at our media, and how to leverage social proof.

1. Owned media: These assets include things like your website, blog, enewsletter, podcasts and webinars. Here are some ways to leverage social proof on owned media:

  • Publish testimonials. They’re third party objectivity and add credibility.
  • Feature certifications, seals and badges.
  • Feature client logos.
  • Mention subscriber counts for blog followers or enews subscribers. People want to join others and not miss out. Social Media Examiner suggests you should follow and read what over 250K subscribers are receiving. It makes you think you’re joining a winner.
  • Blog about earned media, and feature logos of those outlets.
  • Blog about embedded media, where you have written for, or been broadcast by a well-known channel with extensive media reach.

2. Rented media: This includes social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, Pintrest, Vine, Youtube etc. While you customize them like your own property, often decorating them like a home and taking ownership, ultimately someone else owns them and can change the rules at any time. Here are some ways to leverage social proof on rented media:

  • Share influencer endorsements. The more relevant and influential the endorser, the more powerful the social proof.
  • Share when certifications are earned.
  • Share earned media, publicity and coverage online, in print, TV or radio.
  • Allow subscriber and follower counts as well as connections, and strive for high numbers.
  • Allow social share counters for blogged content, and strive for high numbers.
  • Share on social media embedded authored articles or broadcast shows hosted.

3. Earned media: This is third party endorsement. In the traditional sense it is when a print of broadcast media company publishes something about your business, giving it visibility, without you paying for it. But it could also include other online media like the Huffington Post, industry authorities through their social media, or well read blogs. Here are some ways to leverage social proof on earned media:

  • Be aware of ratings and reviews sites, and strive to deliver a great customer experience, while monitoring and responding to any concerns. The clout of external review sites will vary depending on your industry, and whether you think they are valid or not, your customers likely use them. Aim to show up well.
  • Keep track of article links, reviews and mentions, and use media and logos in your marketing.

4. Embedded media: This is where you publish or broadcast as an author using the reach of an established platform. Here are some ways to leverage social proof of embedded media.

  • When you have the authority to publish or broadcast on a well known channel with huge reach, because you have knowledge, be sure to note this in your marketing materials, as well as in your owned and rented media.

Social proof is how you show up online, and much of what you do in leveraging it through your media properties will influence how you appear in a Google search.

In an age of online, good marketing starts with paying attention to social proof.

I am thrilled to be a sponsorship partner of the Canadian Internet Marketing Conference, taking place April 5-6, 2017 in Squamish, BC, just north of Vancouver on the way to Whistler. Now in its third year, the event will attract 1,500 CMOs, marketing directors, business owners and agency folks. LINK HERE to learn more about the amazing line up (with a few surprises yet to come!) As a valued member of my online community, I am able to offer a discount promotional code to save you $200 on registration. Use the code “social200” and you’ll be in, way cheaper then on your own. Hope to see you there!

Consider your social proof. Then leverage it through your media. It will be some of the best marketing you do in 2017!

Switching off to be more productive with social media

My personal goal has been to schedule “switch off” time to be able to think, ponder and create in 2017. Admittedly that is easier said then done for someone in marketing and media. But after tallying the results of my survey (thank you all who participated), I’ve come to realize I’m not alone in this need to switch off. In fact, the number one issue identified was: How can I spend less time and get more results on social media? Too many people are running to keep up. And too many people are participating without a plan.


So this week I thought I would share some tools I’ve used to save time and switch off, while still getting results and keeping up with social media.

My first acquisition was an alarm clock to get the cell phone off the bedside table.

I had noticed a slow, seeping trend to wake in the morning and spend time cruising Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, as well as checking email. It was also increasing something I checked at length before going to bed. This of course was in addition to checking in on social media throughout the day, responding to notifications. I love social media, but it was all getting a bit much. It was connecting me for sure, but the morning social media check in was taking away valuable time and priorities. Time management is a challenge, and social media can be a huge taker, without giving back unless you are strategic. Now with notifications turned off, an alarm on my bedside table, and structure throughout the day to check in only during certain windows, I am feeling lighter already. I am walking the dog for that 30 minutes in the morning, and with my brain clear with the empty slate of nature and the perspective of a dog sniffing along, it is amazing what creativity now bubbles to the top, ready to be initiated back at my office laptop later in the morning.

Think I’m alone in this frustration about the time we spend on social media and our phones? Hardly. A recent Bank of America Trends in Consumer Mobility reported that 71% of Americans who own a cell phone sleep with the phone beside their bed, and 35% reported looking at their phone was the first thing they did upon waking. The phone and social media has also seeped into the rest of our day. 23% said they check their phone every few minutes, and 29% said they check it every 5-10 minutes. Throughout the day, more than half of Americans, about 57%, say they use their phone at least once an hour. In New York and California that statistic jumped to 90%. Even on vacation, people still seem to be tethered to their mobile device: only 7% of Americans said they unplug completely. These stats, while shocking on a personal perspective, are potentially good news for those who want to use social media to engage customers with business and products.

But back to the clock. Who knew it would be so hard to find an alarm? The look of confusion on the face of the Visions employee who shrugged and said, “just use your cell phone, that’s what everyone else does.” Or the Walmart gal who showed me huge units for playing music with clocks and alarms, and looked at me all weird when I said I didn’t want to be able to do anything else but tell time.

I finally scored at The Source. But only after resisting numerous attempts to up sell me when I took my dusty little travel alarm box to the till, musing how I had found it beside the AM/FM battery radios, also sorely neglected on a back shelf.

The first step in managing social media is self-control and focus, and the alarm clock was a huge piece for me.

I get asked all the time – how to get results from social media without wasting a lot of time. I think the first thing to get clear on is management of YOUR OWN TIME on it. Then move on to the strategy of who is your target, where they are, and what are your objectives, along with tools to manage timely posting and monitoring. It’s only in those quiet moments walking the dog, running, sipping coffee without a phone at a café, or just being in nature that you will come up with the great ideas of how you’ll actually engage creatively on social media, or generate useful content. Social media and cell phones are amazing tools. They just need to be managed well.

Here are a few other tips to be more productive with social media:

1. Block your time and guard it – to create and post. I personally write on Friday mornings for my enewsletter and blog and schedule content for Sunday morning, then use a scheduling tool to post content throughout the week. I set up my scheduling during a block of time on Monday morning.

2. Use tools – to be efficient with posting and monitoring time. Buffer, Everypost and Hootsuite allow you to monitor all your platforms on one dashboard, as well as schedule posted content throughout the week. I personally use Hootsuite. They’re a Vancouver based company where I live, but have had phenomenal success internationally. I wish I had stock!

3. Schedule tech time in your day. Turning notifications off can feel like a risk, and it might not work for you. But they are eye candy that will draw you in. If you choose when to connect, instead of allowing the device to drive your behavior, productivity will soar. You will also keep your time priorities to your own goals, rather then responding to the goals of others.

4. Have a plan – strategy, and objectives to measure. Be very clear on your target, what platforms they are on, and the objectives for the content you are sharing. Focus on one or two primary platforms and do them well. Monitor and measure with analytics what works.

5. Get an alarm clock. Seriously, it works! And email me what you plan to do with the extra time you will now have in the morning.

I want to thank those who took the time to nominate this blog for the 8th Annual Top 10 Social Media Blog Contest by Social Media Examiner. I am humbled to have received many endorsements. There are some pretty big names in the pot for sure, but I’m thrilled to even be acknowledged on the same page. I’ll let you know how it goes in the coming weeks after the judges make their decision.

Thanks again for being here every week as this community grows.

Think. Ponder. Create. Connect online if it brings you joy or is strategic. And always make time to connect in person. That’s what effective management of social media in 2017 should be about. Until next week…

Most popular blog posts from 2016

I thought it would be fun to take a look at my top 6 most popular blog posts from 2016 to understand what gets people fired up to like, comment or share content online. A few themes emerged that could benefit us all moving forward into 2017. This list involved using some high tech ranking sites and low tech observations from email exchanges, comments, likes and shares on other online platforms as well as offline engagement.

Five themes emerged:

  • Have a contrarian view: stir controversy with a headline, image, or content
  • Generate earned media: get print and broadcast media to share on their channels and through social media.
  • Tap channels with huge reach: tag and generate discussion where lots of people are interacting online.
  • Share trends: be an online thought leader in an area of expertise.
  • Generate lists and “how to” tips: know your audience and be helpful.



#1. How to manage negative publicity: 5 Lessons from Coors Light #BraveTheCold out-of-bounds skiing campaign.

molson-out-of-bounds-adThis post looked at lesson learned by Coors after they blatantly encouraged out of bounds skiing in a beer commercial. It’s the story how their online social media efforts backfired initially, how they recovered, and what the rest of us can learn from it. The spot also attracted local, national and international media attention and for me, quotes and interviews in the North Shore News and Outside Magazine in the US. (Posted: March 25, 2016)

#2. Content marketing and the REACH factor. Nothing like making your living speaking, writing and teaching about marketing, and then being delivered an important marketing lesson over the breakfast table by your teenage son.

PeopleAreAwesome_FBpostThis post looked at the lessons learned when my son’s insane longboard skate video down Lookout Mountain in Colorado was shared on the “People are Awesome” channel, and became a viral sensation literally in the time I was making coffee. I share lessons in the post about how to go viral with video, but as you may have gathered by the title, it’s ultimately all about the reach of various online channels. (Posted: May 9, 2016)

#3. Five ways Trump is winning at media. There is no denying that Donald Trump was a huge media figure in 2016 with his run for president of the US. Love him or hate him, he knew how to leverage media, and social media in particular. This post looked at what the rest of us could learn from that. (Posted: Oct 8, 2016)

#4. How to leverage embedded and earned media.  My Trump winning at media post was the lead up to what ultimately became my MOST controversial article, when I predicted a Trump win a week ahead of the election. In it I called out the media, and social media in particular as channels that were helping perpetuate our existing beliefs, while hiding an undercurrent of unregistered anger.

mary_charleson_cbc_the180promo-the180-smThis post also became an article on the front page of the Huffington Post Nov 2nd,  then earning me a national CBC radio interview with Jim Brown on The 180 Nov 10th

#5. Riding the second wave: 6 secrets to making video go viral. Let’s face it, video was hot in 2016. And in 2017 it will get even hotter, as I predict that Facebook Live will become a paid feature (at least for Facebook Pages and business accounts). But until then, using live, or any form of video, is a great way to stand out and have your message shared – the ultimate secret to generating reach.

ride_waveThis post gave you the secret sauce to go viral…(Posted: Sept 11, 2016)





#6. Content marketing: A strategic slow boil to sales success. Content marketing online can be strategically successful, but it is not a quick fix. Venture into this post ONLY if you are prepared to invest the resources and patience to make it work.

Content-MarketingBut once content marketing it kicks in, it will fuel search, reach and ultimately trust and reputation. And those factors will build your business. (Posted: Mar 15, 2016)



Thank you to all who have taken the time to respond to my survey on business frustrations and challenges from 2016. For those who may not have already completed the survey, would you do me a favour and complete it now? It takes two minutes (could even be less depending on how you answer) to complete this two-question survey? I will leave the responses open until Jan 8, 2017. I’m simply looking for feedback on your business frustrations and challenges so I can serve you better in the coming year. Seriously – it won’t take long, and just respond with what instinctively comes to mind first on both questions. Here’s the link.

Thanks also to those who nominated me for the 8th Annual Top 10 Social Media Blog contest hosted by Social Media Examiner. If haven’t already voted and would like to do so, here is THE LINK. You simply name a blog and URL in the comments section and why you think it is worthy. Nominations must be received by Jan 1st, 2017 so act fast!

As always, thanks to those who share my content or suggest to others they subscribe. Until next week…

Let’s make 2017 the best year yet!



Reputation is currency in the new trust economy

In a world where your brand is less what you say and more the collective shared interactions of those who have experienced it, you have to build trust.

Trust is a commodity of value. Consumers not only want trust from their brands, but very quickly in our transparent online world, our own personas are being measured for trust. In her famous Collaborative Consumption TED Talk, Rachel Botsman, remarked, “Reputation is becoming a currency that will be more powerful than our credit histories in the 21st Century.”

trust_economy_social_proof Ironically as technology connects people across the world, enabling the collaborative consumption model that businesses such as Uber, AirBNB and Task Rabbit are based on, it is rediscovering humanness, built on relationships, which has allowed these companies to scale.

We’ve gone from trusting the sharing of information online with people, to handing over our credit card information, to finally trusting strangers to create people powered marketplaces. Why else would we rent out our place to a stranger on AirBNB or jump in a car with a complete stranger, because he drives for Uber?

I believe virtual trust is now transforming the way we trust face to face. And that has implications for business that go beyond collaborative consumption. Reputation and trust are the new currency.

The Pew Research Centre recently found that active Facebook users are 3X more likely to believe people are trustworthy. And I can add my own anecdotal evidence to that. Last week I found myself downtown in a parking garage without my wallet. In shuffling items from briefcase to purse the previous day, I had forgotten to put my wallet back. Never had I wished more that I had linked up the “pay by phone” APP to my credit card, but there I was with a parked car, a client meeting shortly, no payment method in sight, and the prospect of an expensive ticket or tow on the horizon.

So I decided to simply ask the next person I saw to pay for my parking. It was a pretty bullish move, but I figured working in sales for years surely had resulted in some persuasion skills. Of course I promised to post a cheque or do an e-transfer, and offered up my business card as collateral to track me. Remarkably a young guy named Jamie Jessup forked over $15 on his credit card to bail me out that afternoon and we had quite a chuckle over it subsequently, when I transferred the funds + a trust bonus the next day.

Perhaps it was a Canadian thing. We’re so polite, he didn’t want to say no. Or perhaps it was the season. It IS almost Christmas. But I think it was something else. Virtual online trust has transformed the way we trust face to face.


But the bigger question is, what social proof does your business have online to gain trust? Here are some ideas to generate social proof:

  • Quotes from delighted customers
  • Independent rating scores on feedback sites
  • Online reviews
  • Media appearances and third party endorsements
  • Awards, certifications, education credentials
  • Client case studies
  • Published work
  • Social media influence (followers, influencers, score)
  • Social shares of content ( ) as third party validation


Trust is what builds business. It’s an approach I’ve taken the last number of years publishing regularly to my blog as well as generating a weekly e-newsletter of marketing tips to “my insider subscriber” tribe. When you are helpful and personable, people get to know, like and trust you. While that doesn’t immediately make the cash register sing, it does lead to a relationship that very often results in business. Reputation is currency in the new trust economy, and trust is something that is earned.

PS: For the record, I have now stuffed a $20 in a secret stash of my briefcase to prevent any embarrassing future parking garage encounters!


Would you like the opportunity to influence marketing content I share in 2017? Do me a favor and take two minutes (could even be less depending on how you answer) to complete this two-question survey

I’m simply looking for feedback on your business frustrations and challenges so I can serve you better in the coming year. Seriously – it won’t take long, and just respond with what instinctively comes to mind first on both questions.

My thanks, and have a joyous holiday season!



Get real. Great brands have personality.

Have you ever been told to “get real?” According to the urban dictionary, “When someone tells you to get real, they want you to get a reality check and to stop behaving as though you’re living in a fantasy world.” Envision for a moment “get real” rolling off the lips of a surely teen just told to clean the bathroom and retrieve a month’s supply of spoons and bowls currently residing in their bedroom. You get the idea.

From a business perspective, being real means you have personality. You are comfortable with your imperfections. Frankly imperfections are what make us personable.


This great insight came out in conversation with Ron Tite, CEO of The Tite Group, and a marketing guru I had the good fortune to meet at a recent convention in Edmonton. Ron is all about creativity and insights around the brand experience.

Great brands have personality. They are comfortable with their imperfections. Imperfections are what make us personable. People want to see the unedited version, up close, imperfect and real.

“Unedited is what social media offers

when others speak for your business

or brand and not you.”

Unedited is about trusting that process to happen, and occasionally being exposed on purpose. It’s about comfort with vulnerability.

Donald Trump is unedited, imperfect and real. So was Rob Ford. While both characters ruffled establishment and had less then stellar personal qualities, they were seen as real, if not raw. I suppose real can escape the box on occasion.

On my recent trip to Edmonton I flew Westjet. Rather then making the standard pre-boarding announcement, they said, “If you’re heading to the washroom, let us know. We won’t leave without you”. It sounded like something your friend would say, not a corporation. It’s a minor thing, but it all adds to the overall voice of the company, which has remained remarkably personable and accessible through growth from domestic carrier roots. Again in Edmonton, I watched a fellow speaker, Vince Poscentre a seasoned speaking professional and former Olympic athlete deliver a riveting opening to his talk, where he literally transported us to the top of a ski hill moments before his run for gold. It’s an opening he has no doubt delivered countless times. It was brilliant, and absolutely perfect. But it was later, when he was working through new content, specifically for our audience of colleagues that he stumbled a little. It wasn’t a big deal, but it wasn’t slick, and it immediately made him more personable and accessible. Despite the amazing line up of other speakers throughout the weekend, Vince is the one that really touched my heart. He was comfortable with vulnerability. He was real.

Another example was great initiative out of France a couple years ago to sell ugly fruit and vegetables – the “Inglorious fruits and vegetable campaign.” (I’ve used some of their fruit and vegetable imagery above). A global study had revealed that 1/3 of all food produced gets wasted each year. And much of that waste was simply because it wasn’t pretty enough. So the campaign embarked on getting people to buy double-pronged carrots, elegantly morphed eggplants and incompletely formed lemons. It was hugely successful simply because it cleverly drew to our attention that being real, and less then perfect, still tasted good.

If you’re interested in learning more about the “Inglorious fruits and vegetables” campaign check out this link.

While I love the cleverness of the campaign, it’s the invitation to consider how powerful being real can be in your marketing efforts that excites me. That was the take away from my conversation with Ron Tite. When you are clear on what it is you do, what you stand for, how you are different without apology, and you tell and sell that message truthfully, you’re left with something pretty authentic.

What might being real look like in your business? Perhaps it’s acknowledging when a customer is right in a public space on social media. Maybe it’s about trusting your employees with the Twitter handle. Or maybe it’s about making something right after a screw up and NOT trying to turn it into a marketing opportunity. You get the idea. It’s really about being human and decent to others.


I think it would be refreshing to see businesses dump some of the boastful marketing, and just show up the way they really are, being personable and knowledgeable. That’s the approach I’ve taken for the last three years in this blog and my weekly e-newsletter, sharing and engaging. For those who have been here weekly for some time, I thank you for your loyalty and continued readership. And if you’re not currently part of that group, but would like to join in, you can sign up for my weekly 5-Minute Marketing Tips newsletter, right here.

So what do you do, to BE REAL in your business? I’d love it if you’d take a few moments and share in the comments below. And if you feel like sharing even more, do you have any tips for getting a teenager to clean their room?






The future of social media: 4 trends to watch in 2017

Predicting the future is a crap shoot at best. But the folks behind this years State of Social Media 2016 study have been at it for a while, and so far their track record has been pretty good, when viewed in hindsight. This year they surveyed 1,200 B2B and B2C businesses in the fall of 2016 for the results I’m going to note. You can get a full copy of the STATE OF SOCIAL MEDIA 2016 report here.

I’ve read through the full report and data, and have made a summary of my take on the four big overall trends that are worthy of attention going into 2017. And no, doing more cat videos is NOT the answer to social media success…


1. You’ve got to have visuals and video: While the use of visuals across all platforms has certainly increased in 2016, it’s likely to become even more so in 2017. And video in particular will be a way to stand out – at least until everyone actually gets on board! 83% of those surveyed said if there were no obstacles like time, resources or money, they would do more video, and 42% said they would do live video. Additionally 30% of marketers want to invest in Facebook video, 28% said they want to invest in Youtube, and 26% said they want to invest in Instagram. These are all visual platforms that focus on video. But it’s also evident that video has yet to hit mass adaptation. Only 27% of businesses have done live video, and of that it was primarily on Facebook Live (73%) followed by Periscope (44%) and Youtube (20%). Those surveyed also saw potential in Instagram and Snapchat, with 26% and 22% saying they intended to add the platform. What this all adds up to is a growth in visuals, and video in particular, with a gap still remaining in the field to stand out.

2. Facebook for business will dominate. Facebook is the dominant broadcast social network. I’ve long referred to Facebook as the NBC, or CTV of online. The reach is wide and deep across all demographic and geographic groups. It’s no surprise then that 93% of businesses saw Facebook as their lead platform. And 72% reported using Facebook the same or more then the previous year. When used for business, Facebook can be a pretty powerful tool. It goes way beyond having just a page and sharing good content, and possibly boosting a few posts. With Facebook ads and Power Editor businesses are strategically targeting audiences and lookalike audiences based on metrics like website visits and email databases and many more micro targeting profiles are available. Clearly the pay to play model has been accepted as organic reach has gone down. 91% of companies reported having invested in paid ads or sponsored posts over the last year. The next in line for paid content was Twitter at 34% and Instagram at 27%. Perhaps also worth noting is that 27% of respondents said they would use Google Plus less in 2017. It seems many will likely abandon that platform over time as Facebook assumes the dominant broad based social network.

The take away here? You have to understand Facebook beyond just sharing content on your personal account with family and friends. Learn to use Facebook for business and have a business page. Mari Smith is a leader in this area. She offers several training programs and has a book about Facebook tactics for business. Jon Loomer also runs some awesome online training programs to learn the basics. Intro stuff is free. The 4 week webinar based course is worth your time if you are serious about learning. Or shoot me an email, and we could set up some consulting time to get you started.


3. You’ll need a social media budget. While there is a ton of stuff you can do for free through social, increasingly there is room to justify the pay to play model in your budget to stand out.  51% of those surveyed said they planned to spend the same on social as last year, and 42% said they planned to increase their budget.

The key here is to know how to spend your money wisely so you don’t waste it. My suggestion is to pick one platform that matches well with your audience to focus on, and after mastering it using free posting options and gaining an audience and engagement, then step into using the paid functions there to target. Check out Mari Smith for Facebook expertise, Sue Zimmerman for Instagram, Madalyn Sklar for Twitter, Carlos Gil for Snapchat, and Viveka von Rosen for LinkedIn. Viveka’s Youtube videos with LinkedIn tips are free and awesome. If you’re not sure which channel to focus on initially, go with Facebook first since it’s so broad reaching.

4. Content will continue to be king. In 2017 content production remains important because good content will always be a way to stand out. 84% of social media marketers also work on content marketing production. The main obstacle appears to be time and resources. And if there were no obstacles, 83% said they would produce more video content, 57% more blog post content, and 42% would do more live video. There’s that video theme again, but note the strength of blog content. Also worth noting is that blog and enews content are owned media, rather then rented media hosted on another social platform. For that reason, I believe they are further a way to dominate the content game.

Of course social media is just one of the tools in your kit, but these trends are worth noting for overall planning. Good marketing demands a strategic approach across media and platforms. As always, let me know what you think. How does you plan for 2017 line up with these trends? Where are you going to focus next year?



Why influencer marketing is set to dominate 2017

An influencer is a good friend who has knowledge and experience, and is willing to share their “inside track” on things directly with you. Online influencers serve a similar role, but to a much broader audience. At its core influencer marketing is a type of marketing where you don’t actually communicate directly with your audience. You identify a leader who is an information broker within a specific community, and drive your message through them. Key leaders are those who have earned the trust of your target audience. In an age of information overload and advertising clutter, the influencer starts to become a very appealing proposition to both consumers and clients. Here’s why:

Influencers provide consumers

  • Insider information
  • Save time and effort
  • Add credibility
  • Help ensure good choices

Influencers provide businesses

  • Large numbers of followers and reach
  • Provide third party endorsement
  • Direct channel to a special interest group
  • Remove the perception of advertising


The truly brilliant thing about influencers is the ability for the audience to have been self selected and highly targeted already. You no longer need to comb a database for a target group, create audience profiles within social media for campaigns, or reach out with traditional media tools, because the influencer has already done the targeting work for you. They also have an established channel and reach already in place.

Influencers are nothing new though. For example, fashion magazines used to be the only broad reaching influencer for upcoming styles. Now it’s just as apt to be a knowledgeable and respected leader in that industry with a huge Twitter and Instagram following.


We could even argue that during the last US election, influencers used social media channels to inform and persuade with a reach beyond traditional news networks. For me, that event was likely the wake up call about the power of influencers, since most traditional media did not see the outcome coming. The power of those insider social networks now cannot be denied. As a political side note, if you want to dig into that further, I shared my opinions with Jim Brown on The 180 last Sunday during a CBC Radio One national broadcast. Link to it HERE.

So, you get it, influencers now matter. But short of taking your lantern out to the streets looking, where do you find them?

Here are a couple tools to help:

1. Klear Klear analyzes Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and blogs. It divides people into over 40,000 categories making it easy to distil the right people in the right categories. You start off by category, and then specify country, and then you can filter for location, network, skills etc.

2. Traackr Traackr is a dashboard type management tool where you can find influencers and track communications with them. The tools pick up their profiles across social media for posts, conversations, connections, and size of profile across multiple sites. It allows you to monitor your relationship and engagement with the influencer as well.

Of course there’s also the good old-fashioned “low tech” approach, which can still work with diligence and time. Simply check out a few hashtags that make sense for your industry. Follow the content being published on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook within those #hashtag channels. See who is sharing good quality stuff, who gets engagement, and who appears to have a strong following. Once you’ve watched for a while, join in and engage them on these channels as well as their blog posts through commenting. Over time you may score a “genuine” invitation to share more about your product, EARNING the interest and potential future influence of that person.

There are also several platforms out there that act as brokers to bring influencers together with clients more formally. Check out The services are not cheap, but you had to know someone would make a business out of this! is another one.

And once you find influencers, what’s next?

Do your research. Ensure the influencer has the desired relevance and reach. Let them be authentic. They are an influencer because people respect them. That includes how, why and when they communicate, as well as the tone of voice and style. Influencers are not a quick fix. Influencers influence generally over time. One quick endorsement might temporarily spike sales, but it’s unlikely to have long-term impact.

2017 will be the year of the influencer. It’s time to acknowledge the power that they yield. Or perhaps 2017 is the year to become an influencer yourself?

How to leverage EMBEDDED and EARNED media

Embedded and earned media are two of the five pillar’s of your media marketing strategy. Embedded media is where you publish or broadcast as an author using the reach of an established platform. Earned media is publicity from a third party. It’s when your newspaper does a feature on your business, or you are interviewed on TV or radio.


This post is a case study on how to utilize a piece of embedded media throughout your five pillars, but also on how to leverage it for additional national earned media.

On Nov 2, a week before the US 2016 federal election on Nov 8th, I published an article in the Huffington Post titled Biased Election Coverage and Consumption Will Have Consequences. The article took a look at the role of media – from traditional broadcast and print news outlets to the economic based model of online social media and influencers and how they are all forming our opinions around the US election.

It was largely shared and commented on – both on the Huffington Post site, as well as the various social media platforms I shared it on. And I was delighted to see them feature it on their front-page news Nov 2. That gave it tremendous reach. Of course I also put the link to it on my website. It was a great example of using another established player’s reach to position expertise. In the last two days, Twitter follows have increased significantly, as have Facebook follows and LinkedIn requests.

I thought the leverage would end there.

But then a surprise ending to the election offered an additional opportunity, when it became apparent that my forecast of a Trump win being missed by the media would actually come true.

I used my piece of embedded media to further leverage a major piece of EARNED media this week – an interview for “The 180″ on CBC Radio One, which aired nationally Sunday, November 13 at 11am. You can now link to an archived copy HERE.

I argued a number of theories as to why so much media content seemed to reinforce a Clinton win in the US election, and how that had been misleading, as well as how social media channels with content catered to user profiles, based on opinions of others like us, served to only further reinforce those views.

From an earned media perspective, this was a major coup. CBC Radio One is the largest radio network in Canada, reaching 4.3 million listeners each week. Being positioned as a “marketing and media expert” during a 10 minute interview was great positioning. But it’s the ability to then put that earned content on owned media platforms (blog and website) as a permanent credibility builder that is golden. And of course being able to leverage it out on social channels further added to the reach and value. It’s a piece of marketing that I will be multi-purposing for some time.


promo-the180-smSo here’s the story on how this all happened and what you can learn from it in your own marketing efforts. Being on the west coast, by about 6:30pm results were looking shaky for Clinton. That’s when I went into my office and wrote an email pitch to a producer at CBC that I know. I didn’t send it until later that evening, after 9:30pm. I wanted to be pretty certain of the outcome before hitting “send.” Here was my pitch:


I also sent a text to her cell phone, referencing the email and the Huffington Post article. The producer discussed the idea with several colleagues Wednesday morning, and by 10am I got a call to come to their studio to record the interview Thursday morning.


There were 5 things that got this pitch noticed:

1. A contrarian viewpoint: Most people in Canada though Clinton would win. Because I had predicted that Trump would win a week earlier, it got their attention.

2. A catchy headline: “How biased election coverage and the consequences of consumption and social media prevented us from seeing a Trump win coming.”

3. The pitch was short: The view was based on three forces coming together, and it was substantiated by a previously published piece in a reputable publication, the Huffington Post. Media loves other media.

4. Targeted one influential media contact: There wasn’t time to fan this out to a bunch of contacts, nor did I want to. I pitched one only that I thought was a good match, and it came across as an exclusive offer. This was also based on having rapport with a media producer, and the email and cell phone to reach them in off hours.

5. It was timely: I knew the pitch had to go out that night so it would be talked about the following morning in a briefing session. I also knew the producer would be accessing her email and texts that night, since that’s what producers and reporters do.


One thing worth noting in all this: I keep in touch with media even when I’m not pitching them. I copy people on interesting stories or research I’ve found that they might find useful, or engage them on a piece they’ve put out. I try to help them do their job better, so that when I do pitch a story idea, there’s familiarity and respect.

Hopefully this example has shown you how the 5-pillar media approach of OWNED, RENTED, EARNED, EMBEDDED and PAID media starts to come together. It can be a magic cycle to build branding, identity and expertise when leveraged well.

Visuals are the New Headline

Getting noticed and commanding attention with content marketing has two parts these days: headlines AND images. While headlines are absolutely critical, images are what really grab people. Images draw you in.


Perhaps Andy Warhol summed it up best with the above quote. To a certain extent we’ve become more conditioned to “read through pictures” as we scan information, and the endless onslaught of content we sift through daily.

In a world of ready access to visuals with the prevalence of smart phones and easy to use photo editing software, combined with social media platforms that enable and encourage sharing, one photo can easily reach 10,000 viewers even if it is only accompanied by one or two words. That can go up exponentially with video if it goes viral. And it goes a long way to explaining the appeal of live stream video with real time visual connections and interactivity.

Humans have been reading words for hundreds of years, but we’ve been reading visuals for thousands of years. We are hardwired to be attracted to visuals. In fact consumers post 2.5 billion images every week according to Engadget, a tech blog.

There’s good reason why visual platforms such as Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Youtube have generated so much growth. And it also explains why platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become much more visually oriented, with images and streaming video.

Here are 5 reasons why visuals are so effective:

  1. 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual. We absorb visuals 50 times faster than words.
  2. Posts to Facebook are more likely to engage and be shared if there is a visual image. Posts with visuals receive 94% more page visits and engagement than posts without.
  3. Facebook posts with images on average receive twice as many comments as posts without.
  4. Tweets with images get 2 times more engagement than those that don’t.
  5. Visuals express ideas quickly – in a snapshot. This breaks through the overwhelming clutter of online content.


If you are not utilizing visuals well in your online, social media or enews marketing efforts, you’re likely missing out on views and shares.

The magic for marketers of course happens when narrative details and brand value can be communicated in a single photo or short video.

One example that caught my eye this week was Suprella, an innovative designed umbrella, that folds in an inverted direction, making it easier to fold when entering buildings and cars, and the water doesn’t drip from it. While I’m sure it’s the result of geo targeting, and the fact that Vancouver receive 28 days of rain out of 31 in October 2016, I’ve seen a sponsored video show up in my Facebook feed several times. I’ve seen it on Twitter, and on Vimeo. It doesn’t appear to have a Twitter page, but the hashtag #suprella as a channel there has several people commenting on it. Both the still visual and the video convey in a far more compelling way then a headline ever could the narrative details of the brand.

All this to say, you still need compelling words and headlines in your emails, blog posts, and social media shares. However, I’d invite you to consider that combining a powerful visual with it will make it that much more effective. And I’ll hazard a guess, that without a visual, you will be loosing a large percent of browsers who simply skim and fail to stop.

Choosing what NOT TO DO makes for powerful content marketing

Content marketing and social media are important, but let’s face it, they can take a tremendous amount of time to produce and manage. You can’t retrieve time once spent.


Many of us get caught in an endless vortex of creating MORE content for MORE channels. We write a blog post here. Get some media coverage there. Post a photo to Instagram. Share some stuff on Facebook. Update that LinkedIn profile with awesome stuff. Tweet it. Snap it. Chat it. Maybe give that new live stream video thing a go because everyone says you’ve got to be on it. Then press repeat and do it all over again in the hope that it will push the needle on sales. Sound familiar?

“The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.” – Michael Porter

Many businesses have yet to build a truly loyal audience in any one of these channels, or they’re targeting too many audiences with their content. Is it perhaps time to make decisions on what you are not going to do? Be honest with what is working, do more of that and you’re apt to have the biggest impact.


When we look at great media brands like the Huffington Post or the Globe and Mail, they started by building a dominant presence on a single channel, before branching out to more channels. There’s much we can learn from this strategy, even if you are a smaller player.

Scott Stratten, the UNmarketing guy built his initial following on Twitter. He’s at over 184,000 followers these days. I had the pleasure of meeting Scott in Phoenix while speaking this past summer. He was an early adopter on Twitter, and believed in total real time commitment to the channel, rather then the automation that has taken over the platform for many now. His irreverent musing and total commitment to the platform gave him dominance to then spill over into other channels. Check out his website HERE. Or follow him ON TWITTER.

Chris Brogen is unshakable in his belief that e-newsletters are a core strategy channel for his brand. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from him that I’ve applied to my own business. Check out his approach HERE.

Jeff Korhan is making huge gains with podcasts these days engaging with small business owners and their marketing challenges. Check him out and sign up for his podcast HERE.

Jeannie Robertson, a veteran speaker and comedian, plays in a dominant way on Youtube and Facebook. Link to her site HERE.

In all of the above cases, these folks are of course on other channels as well, but they chose initially to dominate one in particular before branching out. They also knew intimately who they were targeting, and created content for that audience. That is key.

Today’s technology allows us to publish in many different places and to reach thousands of people. But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Perhaps we need to consider that LESS could in fact be MORE.