Transcript of How to Discover and Embrace Your Creative Side written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing
John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto, modern, easy payroll benefits for small businesses across the country. And because you’re a listener, you get three months free when you run your first payroll. Find out at gusto.com/tape.
John Jantsch: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Tania Katan. She is an award-winning author, public speaker, playwright, and creativity expert. She’s also written a book that we’re going to talk about today called Creative Trespassing: How to Spark… Wait. How to Put Spark and Joy Back in your Life. Tania, thanks for joining us.
Tania Katan: A pleasure, John, and thanks for making a mistaker right off the bat. I’m being totally sincere. I think that that’s part of the nature of creative trespassing, which is making beautiful mistakes and realizing that’s where we learn how to be creative souls in the world. Thank you.
John Jantsch: You’re welcome. As my listeners will know, I do not edit those out either.
Tania Katan: That’s great.
John Jantsch: We’re going to talk about creative trespassing. I guest there is such a beast as a creative trespasser. What does that person look like?
Tania Katan: I don’t know if beast is the right adjective, but I appreciate it. A creative trespasser in my esteem is someone who is willing to take risks, to make mistakes, and to embrace all of their flaws and scars and awkwardness knowing that those are the places where our real superpowers lie. As somebody who has worked an entire life personally and professionally embracing my flaws, scars and awkwardness, I figured that it was important to create a map for other human beings because we are all flawed and imperfect and delightful and fantastic and that that’s actually… Those are the places where real innovations and art and solutions lie. I wanted to write a map and show people that, hey, there are fellow creative trespassers out there. Perhaps we didn’t have a name. Now we do and now we are a force to be reckoned with.
John Jantsch: I’ve realized, of course in hindsight, that I’ve spent most of my life trying to fit in. When do we stop doing that?
Tania Katan: Gosh, I hope the moment that we realize that we’re trying to fit into systems or work cultures or cultures that aren’t valuing all of our weirdness, that those are the times to stop fitting in and embrace our outsiderness. Yeah, I mean, honestly, I come from a long line of outsiders too and that’s my DNA. I thought my birthright was the worst birthright ever, which was to not fit in. That’s all I wanted to do as a kid. Then in the professional realm, I was hired in the marketing department and I just wanted to market, but I had these crazy ideas that led to campaigns that were unconventional and actually worked for the company. The way I’ve learned to embrace my outsiderness and find the value in it is when I’ve proven that it is more valuable to see things objectively as an outsider.
Tania Katan: That there are many people who feel actually stuck in their day to day jobs because they haven’t quite yet figured out how to see what they’re doing, how to see the mundane or their everyday rituals and tasks as something new and exciting. That’s part of why I decided to write Creative Trespassing, to offer exercises and ways for finding and refreshing or reinvigorating these things that we’ve come to think of as boring or we’re just stuck or blame other people for our situation, in fact, our rife with opportunities to be creative.
John Jantsch: I’m sure you get this, and so I’m just going to toss this up here for you to like kick it right out of the park, but you know, you work in an art gallery. You work in marketing. You’re a designer. Those are creative people, but what if I’m an insurance actuary? How am I going to be a creative trespasser? I mean, we don’t do that here.
Tania Katan: Yeah. First of all, I have to say, there are plenty of people who work in “creative jobs” or in “creative industries: who do not feel or in the day to day are doing anything that is wildly creative. I know that we can be uniquely creative whether or not we’re in a creative field. One thing I go to all the time and when I work with clients, I give them the power of the what if question. You probably know this and practice this, John, but you know, as a trained playwright and somebody who comes from theater, our job is to ask what if questions. You know, what if. Basically in doing that, what we’re asking is what is possible or probable or crazy outlandish or unbelievable that doesn’t exist in this moment.
Tania Katan: What’s a solution we haven’t tried and isn’t true? To really brainstorm, well, what if instead of having a marketing campaign on the internet, we had it on the moon? What if we actually got an astronaut to help us launch the campaign? In in asking all of these outlandish questions, we’ll actually land on a solution and ideas that are new and will actually solve the problem. I think the people who are stuck, whether or not you’re an accountant, hey, if you’re an accountant and you can’t figure out your budget, you can’t reconcile your budget, you got to be creative.
Tania Katan: You have to ask, what if I lost my receipt on the way to lunch yesterday, instead of looking at the numbers and trying to solve a math problem, try to think of the whole context and ask what if questions.
John Jantsch: Oh, that’s just crazy talk. All right. You already mentioned that you have spent some time in the theater. I’ve seen you perform. You could do stand up for a living. I mean, what if it’s just not my DNA? I’m giving you like really, you know, silly objections here, but I’m just hearing people go, “That’s easy for you.”
Tania Katan: Yeah, so a couple of things. One, every time I speak, and that’s what I do for a living predominantly is public speaking, there’s at least one person who raises their hand and says, “I’m not creative,” you know? Really the basic definition of creativity is using your imagination to solve a problem or come up with something new. Right? I kick it back to you, John, and say, “Hey, Mr. Devil’s Advocate who’s not creative. Do you ever imagine or use your imagination to come up with something new, whether that’s to add an item to your shopping list or come up with Q4 goals? Do you ever use your imagination to come up with something new or solve a problem?” It’s a rhetorical question. The answer is yes.
Tania Katan: A lot of the exercises in Creative Trespassing aren’t just like weird dictums to be a wild creative. They’re are actually ways to increase your creative confidence. For example, if you feel uncomfortable practicing using your imagination, there’s an exercise that I call the I Rock Files, which you remember the Rockford Files? You’re old enough, John.
John Jantsch: Do I sound that old?
Tania Katan: I don’t know. I don’t know.
John Jantsch: I am old enough. I am old enough. Yes, you’re right.
Tania Katan: Okay. Okay. The I Rock Files are basically something that I came up with because there were so many high level super smart people that I was coaching who didn’t believe they were smart or creative or wildly innovative. I said, “Well, why don’t you get outside of yourself and find and gather evidence that proves that you are and start a file that says I Rock File. It can be a physical file. It can be an online folder, but evidence that you’ve gathered that points to the fact that you are awesome, that you are creative. When people, like customers, send you a note that says, “Oh my gosh. I never thought to solve a problem like that. I appreciate you taking the time to do that,” or your boss saying, “You exceeded your Q4 goals. Good job,” and go to that. Because a lot of the times that we’re feeling like we can’t do something, we’re the first barrier to entry. We’re the ones who stop ourselves from doing it.”
Tania Katan: This is actually called limiting beliefs. These beliefs that we hold that we can’t do something or we aren’t something. I’m not creative. I don’t deserve a raise. I’m not good enough to x, Y, and Z. Those are just constructed thoughts that we’ve come up with so that we don’t actually have to fulfill our dreams, desires, or goals in life.
John Jantsch: I actually had some teachers that reinforce those thoughts.
Tania Katan: I had those teachers too. Mister… No. Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, our society is sort of banking on us not fulfilling our dreams, goals and desires and us staying in our own way. But you know that anybody who’s ever done something major in the world, and by major I sometimes mean just getting up and feeling good about who you are and how you are in the world, everything from that to starting a creative revolution, they’ve all started with approaching a limit with an option. Like I’m going to tunnel under it. I’m going to jump over it. I’m going to dissolve it or hug it and embrace it and make it go away so that I can do something new in the world.
John Jantsch: You have written about, and I’ve seen you speak about, your battle with cancer. What do you think in hindsight that’s done for you?
Tania Katan: That’s done for me?
John Jantsch: That challenge. You know, surely, I’m just guessing. I don’t have any experience. I’m just guessing that that made you mentally tougher and all the things that we think it might’ve done.
Tania Katan: Well, you know what, John? One thing that you saw that your listeners didn’t see when I gave the talk at the World Domination Summit was yes, I was diagnosed with breast cancer twice and each time I had a mastectomy, which left me with two scars. I went through chemotherapy and all of this kind of stuff. In order to ensure that diagnosis and statistically speaking, many of your listeners have either endured cancer personally or have gone through it with a family or a friend or whatever, a colleague. It’s not that it made me tough. It made me question my mortality, and then it made me embrace my body that was filled with scars. Again, I had two mastectomy scars. I did not get reconstructive surgery. I started questioning like, what does it mean to be a healthy body in a different form, right?
Tania Katan: Here I am a woman in our society and my breasts are gone and what does that mean. In questioning all of those things, what I ended up doing was running a topless 10K for breast awareness. I didn’t do it to cause a spectacle or anything like that, but I did it because I realized that there is a disconnect in who we are and what we do in the world. There’s a disconnect. As I go into two different companies across the globe and consult and give them creative strategies for moving forward, there’s often a disconnect between the mission or the vision of the company and then the on the ground realities. In having breast cancer, I realized, well, I’m actually healthy now. I don’t have cancer anymore.
Tania Katan: I’ve gone through chemotherapy. I have this body. It’s scarred. It’s weird. It’s little, and it’s mine. I would go to all these races for breast cancer, and I didn’t see anybody else with scars exposed. I thought that’s weird. We’re all here for the same reason. We’re all here to celebrate the life of somebody who has endured or lost their life as a result of breast cancer or cancer. How do I show that you can be a healthy body in a different form? Anyway, I started running these topless races and to mixed reviews. They were very scary for me to take off my shirt and run topless in a sea of thousands of runners, but what they did was they allowed me to feel more comfortable and confident in my weird and new body and also to show a connection between why we were there and who we are.
Tania Katan: That was really important for me. That’s what having breast cancer kind of helped me to realize is that we are connected to everything we do and every place we occupied, whether we show that or not. That’s actually helped me in my professional life and my vocation with again, working with companies and people who think that they’re connected to the mission of their company and then find themselves not. I’ve worked in museums where we’ve sold art and yet we did not work in a very artful way to sell it. Yeah. I think that was the big lesson there.
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John Jantsch: One of the things that, it seems to me, is that in order to really to ask a question like what if we did this on the moon, requires a level of vulnerability that very few people can walk around with. I think that that’s… In a lot of ways, I don’t know you that well, but in seeing you speak and reading your work, I feel like you’ve embraced a level of vulnerability that now turns around and comes out as strength and power.
Tania Katan: Well, thank you. To that point, it’s funny to ask the what if. Yes, we need vulnerability. A good way to find that is to convene a diverse group of human beings to solve problems. This is something I actually learned from my time working for a software company, which is something called agile methodology. Anyway, long story short, within an agile way of making software, you have to invite people from diverse departments in to help you solve the problem. When you do that, everybody’s vulnerable because nobody feels like they’re an expert, which is fantastic. They might be an expert in their own area, but then they’re trying to find ways to connect with their peers, find common ground.
Tania Katan: I would say that that kind of vulnerability comes when people feel like they’re less of an expert among other experts in their specific field. We bust open those silos and invite diverse people and thinking in to address and solve problems. Yeah, I think vulnerability comes in. This is what I do in my personal and professional life. I put myself constantly in situations where I feel uncomfortable, where I feel like I don’t belong, where I feel like I might be an expert in creativity, but all of these people are experts in marketing. What the hell am I doing here? Then find ways to connect. To me, that’s what it means to be alive is to disrupt…
Tania Katan: It’s to disrupt situations that feel comfortable and challenge myself to find ways to connect across divides.
John Jantsch: Does every business need a you? It’s like, “let’s bring in the freak and have that person participate,” or is it really more about we need a culture that just embraces diversity of thought?
Tania Katan: Both. I think that… Some companies definitely need a shot in the arm and it’s sometimes easiest to hear those things from an outsider, from a consultant, or a coach even if you’ve been saying it to your colleague this whole time like, “You know what? You guys, we say that we champion innovation, but we have not done any sort of innovative exercises or lunch and learns in 10 years.” Sometimes it’s easier, a lot of companies will bring me or people like me in during lunch and learns or they’ll have speaking series and things like this or as a consultant. However, there are plenty of mes that exist underneath the company’s noses. It is about creating and nurturing a culture of creativity, which doesn’t mean that people need to identify as an artist or a writer or a musician.
Tania Katan: It does mean that those people who are in positions of power need to create situations where people can express themselves, have brainstorming breaks, have an engage in play or in rituals that aren’t typical so that we get unstuck from the patterns and habits that are keeping us stuck. Yeah, I think it’s championing and also engaging people in play and creative exercises and doing that with regularity. I mean, you know, this is… Again, I get brought in a lot of times as a consultant because everybody says, “We champion creativity and innovation,” and the first thing to go when they don’t have time, when they feel like it’s the last thing on the to do list is the most important part of the business, which especially if you’re a tech company is innovation.
Tania Katan: You can’t have innovation without having creativity or play. You just can’t.
John Jantsch: Creative Trespassing is filled with exercises that you use, I’m assuming, in your work. Do you want to share maybe one of your favorite ones as an example of what somebody might do or experience if they were trying to break out a little?
Tania Katan: Yeah. Well, two things come to mind. That’s how I roll. I’m just going to shout up with two of them. One is a super, super simple exercise. It literally is to look around and see what problems your company is not looking to solve, and then gather a group of diverse human beings, diverse in background, in mindsets, in departments, in title and brainstorm all the ways in which you can solve that problem that no one is looking to solve. If you’re feeling really gutsy, raise your hand at the all hands meeting and share your ideas for solving this problem. That exercise developed after I was working at a tech company and a boss of mine said, “Hey. We want to kind of solve the problem of women in technology or the lack thereof.”
Tania Katan: They were a tech company selling project management software. Like we didn’t need to solve the problem of women in the tech com… I mean tech sector. That wasn’t important. That didn’t affect our ROI, and yet we set out to solve that problem. We didn’t solve it, but we came up with a marketing campaign that went around the world. The point is is that in looking to solve something that nobody else was looking to solve, we came up with an awesome idea that resonated around the globe. That was a really cool thing. Then the second-
John Jantsch: Can I interrupt you before the second one only because I want you to finish that thought. It Was Never A Dress is probably a story that you get a little tired of telling, maybe not, as you’ve told it so many times, but we’ll have it in the show notes. I don’t know if you want to just give us two seconds on what… Because you alluded to the campaign and I know-
Tania Katan: Yeah, totally. No, no, I never get a… No, it’s really… The beautiful thing actually about writing my book was that I got to write about the process behind coming up with the idea because people see It Was Never A Dress which is if you… In your mind’s eye, listeners, please see the women’s bathroom symbol. See her little round head and triangle dress. Okay. You know her, right? You’ve seen her. Maybe some listeners have seen her several times today because you know, they had to pee pee. But anyway, we kind of a re-imagined the symbol. Let’s say you were looking at her in the front and she’s wearing a dress, but what if we turned her around and she was wearing a cape? We were looking at her the wrong way this whole time. We were looking at her back and in front she’s wearing a cape.
Tania Katan: This shift in consciousness and this visual that we’d seen that became mundane, that we hadn’t thought of now becomes this radical and exciting symbol for seeing women as more than just wearing a dress. That there were visual options for women being in the world, in the workforce. It went viral as the kids say. We put out this image and it went around. For marketing people who are listening, we received 20 million organic impressions within the first 24 hours of putting that out there. This was in 2015. The exciting part, John, the part that actually never gets dull to talk about is the fact that because it was embraced by so many people so quickly that the people made it their own. It wasn’t important. Only now I get to write about it and share stories about it, like sort of behind the scenes how it came to be.
Tania Katan: But the beauty of it is is that it became everyone’s. It didn’t become ours, this like little software company who came up with this weird idea. The young woman at TSA who when she saw my sticker said, “Oh my gosh. I love it. I gave this to my cousin and we told them we’re superheroes and we feel so empowered.” It’s my friend’s aunt in the Midwest who never gives a shit about anything online and saw the symbol and said, “Oh my gosh. Now when I go to work, I feel like I belong there.” That’s the coolest part about the It Was Never A Dress campaign is that it became bigger than our idea. It became and belongs to everyone.
John Jantsch: I’m sure there are a few bathroom symbols around the world that have been vandalized as well.
Tania Katan: Yes. I take no responsibility for that.
John Jantsch: Oh, well, you put out the taggers guide to.
Tania Katan: No.
John Jantsch: All right, so I cut you off.
Tania Katan: That’s fine.
John Jantsch: You were going to give me the second exercise.
Tania Katan: Oh, the second exercise that comes to mind because of your Devil’s advocating earlier, when you were like, “Well, what if I don’t fancy myself creative, can I still be a creative trespasser?” This exercise allows everyone to be creative trespasser, which is called the official unofficial award. You know how many times, especially in work culture, it’s like you have to earn employee of the month or you have to wait around for some other like an annual review to get a raise? Like we’re only awarded one time a year, maybe, if we’re lucky. Some people never get awarded and yet they’re doing so many cool things behind the scenes. Get your colleague, your friend, your family member, an official unofficial award.
Tania Katan: You know what I’m saying? You can write it down on a piece of paper. You can change their screensaver when they’re not looking. Somebody could be like the inclusionary visionary award because you bring people to meetings that are unexpected and amazing, or the you make meetings fun award, or whatever. In fact, I’m going to launch an official unofficial creative trespasser award. This is going to happen. I’m going to do it on social media because it’s so easy to see and celebrate those around us who don’t often get seen or celebrated for the amazing things they’re doing every single day to make us feel more alive, more engaged, and just more human. So there.
John Jantsch: I’m speaking with Tania Katan, the author of Creative Trespassing. I think we’re doing a little creative trespassing today, I hope, for listeners. Tania, where can people find out more about you, your work, and your book?
Tania Katan: Sure. They can go to taniakatan.com and that’s Tania, T-A-N-I-A-K-A-T-A-N.com, and then you can follow me on Instagram where I’m TheUnrealTaniaKatan. That’s right, TheUnrealTaniaKatan. Because when I went to sign up for Instagram, there was a Tania Katan already and she was a mom of two. I didn’t want to say I’m the real Tania Katan and make her children go to therapy at an early age. I decided to give her that moniker and I became TheUnrealTaniaKatan.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Tania, it was so great visiting with you and hopefully we’ll run into you again out there on the road.
Tania Katan: John, it was a pleasure. Thank you for having me. Take care.
Today on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Tania Katan. She is a speaker, bestselling author, and CEO of Creative Trespassing. She’s dedicated her life to embracing creativity and teaching others to do the same.
Her speaking, training, and workshops are designed to help and inspire those who may not think of themselves as creative to overcome their limiting beliefs and tap into their creative impulses. She’s keynoted at many major conferences including CiscoLive!, Expedia, Uber, S.H.E. Summit, Amazon, Etsy, Talks at Google, Humana, and TEDx.
Her work has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, HuffPost, TIME, BuzzFeed, Money Magazine, Forbes, NPR, and Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, among others. She’s also the author of the book Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy Back Into Your Work and Life.
On this episode, Katan shares how creativity can transform your organization and how to cultivate a culture that celebrates and champions creativity.
Questions I ask Tania Katan:
- What does a creative trespasser look like?
- How can you be a creative trespasser in an industry that isn’t considered creative?
- Does every business need a creative consultant or coach, or is it more about creating a culture that embraces a diversity of thought?
What you’ll learn if you give a listen:
- How to overcome your limiting beliefs.
- Why vulnerability is an important part in the creative process, and how to make space for vulnerability in your organization.
- What exercises you can do to help tap into your creativity.
Key takeaways from the episode and more about Tania Katan:
- Learn more about Tania Katan
- Order your copy of Creative Trespassing
- Follow on Twitter
- Connect on LinkedIn
- Follow on Instagram
Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!
This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Gusto. Everyone loves payday, but loving a payroll provider? That’s a little weird. Still, small businesses across the country love running payroll with Gusto.
Gusto is making payroll, benefits, and HR easy for modern small businesses. You no longer have to be a big company to get great technology, great benefits, and great service to take care of your team.
To help support the show, Gusto is offering our listeners an exclusive, limited-time deal. Sign up today, and you’ll get 3 months free once you run your first payroll. Just go to Gusto.com/TAPE.
Transcript of Why You Need a Virtual Assistant (And How to Find One) written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing
John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. And my guest today is Melissa Smith. She’s the founder and CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants. She’s also the author of a book called Hire the Right Virtual Assistant: How the Right VA Will Make Your Life Easier, Create Time, and Make You More Money. So, Melissa, thanks for joining me.
Melissa Smith: My pleasure, John.
John Jantsch: So I’ve been talking about virtual assistants actually for years. And in fact, certainly while it was kind of a novel idea a decade ago, I mean, now we have entire virtually-staffed companies. So in your work with this idea or this concept of a virtual assistant, how have you seen that evolve over, let’s just say, the last dozen years?
Melissa Smith: It’s evolved quite a bit. I think that it’s really just changed the name. We might’ve called it telecommuting before. And now that term is on its way out. It’s almost fully gone. We know we’ve talked about freelancers, remote working. Skype really started to change things. Really in the future with VR, that’s a whole other realm to get into.
Melissa Smith: But it’s really changed how a lot of executives and high-level people were doing work, right? Their time is so important. You have tens of thousands of people that report to you, basically, your company around the world. There’s time zones. There was a lot of travel, and so it really changed where we could be, how fast we could get there, the information that we could share, how personal it was.
Melissa Smith: It’s really changed a lot. But I don’t think what people really saw coming way back when was that it was also going to change the way many workers can get work done and report into work and start their own businesses.
Melissa Smith: When I talk about remote working, it’s nothing new. It seems different because now I’m outside the office and someone’s in their office. But the times where someone that I worked with was always in the office with me, I just can’t even remember those times. We were communicating by email, by text, by video chat. They were never in the office. So essentially we were remote working. I just happen to be remote working from inside the office and now I no longer have to do that.
John Jantsch: Well, and really the technology that’s kind of changed and caught up … I mean, really, as I referenced, I mean, you have entire organizations that have 100 employees and none of them report to an office anymore. And so that’s obviously … Even that behavior kind of has changed how people think about getting work done.
John Jantsch: So would you say … Let’s start with the definition. Is there a definition today of what a virtual assistant is and what it’s not?
Melissa Smith: Yes. So a virtual assistant is someone who is an independent contractor, a business owner. They are not an employee. So you can have an assistant that is an employee, but their title is not likely to be a virtual assistant. It is likely to be some type of other title, remote worker-
John Jantsch: Executive assistant, even. Something like that.
Melissa Smith: Possibly. I mean, there’s definitely executive virtual assistant, but typically, like I’m doing a search right now for a chief of staff, but that’s an employee position. You could have a chief-of-staff virtual assistant as well. But usually once you put that virtual assistant title on there, that’s what makes it into a different realm.
John Jantsch: But I guess that’s … I mean, you’re really hitting on the idea that you may be started out with what was … Defined how people viewed a virtual assistant. And now it’s almost every role, it can be virtual. And so I’m assuming that even in the Association of Virtual Assistants, you have people that are doing work, like virtual content people and virtual web assistants and virtual marketing assistants, not just maybe what people thought of as sort of admin work.
Melissa Smith: Oh, absolutely. It is a very, very wide range, from working with speakers [inaudible] solo entrepreneurs to working with those who are still very much in a C-suite and those who have brick-and-mortar companies, and their needs are just ranging, working with nonprofits, whether you need someone who can be an assistant or someone who can do some content, someone who can update your profile, some to reach out to those who want you to come out and speak at their event, or you’re reaching out to speak at more events.
Melissa Smith: I always tell people, if you have a need, there’s a virtual assistant out there. And for those who think they’re in these fields that think, “Oh, you know that would never become in my field. My field is highly regulated. It’s very secure, it’s very demanding.” From legal offices to financial offices, virtual assistants is everywhere.
John Jantsch: So, in terms of of hiring then you make a good point, because I could see a lot of people thinking, “It’s time for me to get a virtual assistant. I need somebody about 20 hours a week.” But then they want them to do eight different sort of specialized tasks. When it comes to that type of approach. I mean, is there a right approach? I mean, do you hire somebody and hopefully, like a lot of employees, a lot of employees get hired, fill up the day and they’re asked to do things that there aren’t really in their skillset, but they’re there. So they’re asked to do that. So would you say that the better technique is to maybe hire four different virtual assistants for different specialized needs?
Melissa Smith: Absolutely. I would highly recommend that, one, you’re going to get better work. You’re also going to get more informed work. So the benefit of hiring someone that is an expert in a field is that they have to also keep up on the trends. So this is a really hot topic right now. Do you specialize or you generalize? And the workforce is actually going towards more specialization, although people are talking about generalization. And the reason why is because things change so fast. If I’m a generalist, can I do the work? Yes. Am I as likely to be in the know of what changes are coming and get to those changes before they happen if I’m not a specialist? Not likely.
Melissa Smith: And then the other thing you said is 20 hours a week. Most people only hire a VA five to 10 hours a week. The work that can be done virtually is very specialized. So again, you’re not looking at a lot of time. Do people hire VAs for more than that? Yes. But if you’re hiring a VA for 20 hours a week, chances are you’re doing a lot of business, a lot of business, it’s just not as common. And then the other side of it is if you have a lot of things that you need to do and you’re thinking, “Wow, I just don’t know one person that can do all these things.” Maybe you need bookkeeping, you need some social media and you need someone who can also be an executive assistant for you.
Melissa Smith:There are teams out there where you can just hire [inaudible] report to have a one person report to you but then have multiple people doing the work. And it doesn’t cost that much more than having a regular, like one virtual assistant working for you.
John Jantsch: So how do you recommend people go about finding [inaudible] fit? Because I’ve worked with probably two dozen virtual assistants over the years and, you know, some were a better fit than others. Some I did a better job of finding than others. I mean, what’s the best process? Because I do think I have at least experienced, there were definitely people that I felt like I got a lot more work out of. I felt a lot more comfortable with their work because I think they were a good fit. So, how does somebody go about, especially in the virtual world it’s … you’re sometimes doing these over email, how do you find a good fit?
Melissa Smith: So, the first thing you do is start with your communication strategy. It’s in your style, your medium, your manner, your tone. It has to be super easy for you. I’ve seen far too many people say, “Oh I have to communicate with my VA this way.” And that is the tail wagging the dog, if you’re spending the money, it has to be for you. So my example is if you’re walking through the grocery store and you’re like, “Oh, I totally forgot to tell my VA this,” how would you message that person? Would you call? Would you text? Would you Slack? You know, what are those things? And that should be the way that you get to do that.
Melissa Smith: The second part of it is that you should be your VA’s ideal client. They should have started their business to work with someone just like you. Because if not, a lot of VA’s can work and do their work for anybody, but they won’t want to. So when they get a full book of business, they’re going to drop you. So you want to make sure that you’re their ideal.
John Jantsch: Go back to that point again because I mean, how would I determine that? Like how would I find that person that I’m their ideal client?
Melissa Smith: Sure. You would go to their website, their LinkedIn profile, their social media handles. What are they saying? Who are they for? What does their message look like. If you don’t find yourself in that, if you’re not finding yourself sharing the same articles, reading the same books on the same platforms, using the same terms, that person did not create their business for you. You should definitely see yourself in there.
Melissa Smith: So if I work with podcasters, it should say virtual assistant podcaster. Now, I know that’s pretty vague. They’ll going to say more than that, but I don’t work with podcasters, so you won’t see that in my profile. I love podcasts. I’m a huge fan. They’re the way of the future in terms of SEO more than ever. But that’s not my specialty. So if I’m an executive coach and they come to my site and they want to see who I worked with and who I work with, they’re going to see their name on there. They’re going to think, “Wow, Melissa works with people just like me.”
John Jantsch: So in terms of productivity, I know a lot of times I’ve talked to people over the years that have hired a virtual, excuse me, assistant and just felt like it was more work getting them up to speed and I didn’t know what to tell them. I mean, is there a process, a timeline, a way that you should think about orienting and training to get a person to be more productive? I mean, a lot like you would an employee I suppose.
Melissa Smith: Yes, there should definitely be an onboarding process. Now, again, we go back to working with experts. I’m not onboarding them on how to use a certain software, how to use a certain system, that should not be part of the onboarding process. The onboarding process is, “This is how I like to do things. These are my preferences. We’re going to get our working rhythm down. We’re going to start to really dive on this level of communication.” But it should not be, “I can’t log in. I don’t know how to find this.” Those aren’t the kind of conversations you want to have.
Melissa Smith: But if you don’t have an onboarding plan for your VA, and this is something I share in my book and there’s a complete strategy for it, you want to know what good looks like so that you can convey what good looks like to your VA.
Melissa Smith: And the great part about it is you’re going to do like that one week or two. Here’s that point. We’re going to share information. You’re going to say, “Okay, here’s the logins,” share them through a secure site. You know, that sort of thing. Here’s what we should be up to speed. We should have our meetings down. And then through the next couple weeks you should be working on what it is that you want this person to be impactful for. If you just have this list of, “Gosh, I have like eight things they could work on,” you’re not going to be really satisfied with that. Really pick where you want to be at the end of 12 weeks and work backwards.
Melissa Smith: And then the benefit to this is you’re also going to say, “Okay, these are the things that I think might derail me. This is what good looks like. This is my rich goal and this is what I would consider a failure, if we didn’t hit this, if we didn’t get this done by the end of 12 weeks, I would not be happy with that.” And once you know that, it’s much easier not only to manage the process, but it’s also manage the VA. So if you don’t hit those timelines, then you know exactly where to manage. Like why did this not happen? How did this fall through? And at the same time, if you’re ahead of schedule, it gives you something to be really excited about.
John Jantsch: Want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers. And this allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation, email autoresponders that are ready to go. Great reporting. You want to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships? They’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s a docu series, a lot of fun, quick lessons. Just head on over to klaviyo.com/Beyond BF, Beyond Black Friday.
John Jantsch: This kind of fits into that same vein. How much expectations should there be that this person’s going to just wait for me to tell them what to do versus they’re going to come back and say, “Hey, here’s a better way to do it.”
Melissa Smith: This is a hot topic. And the difference between a real assistant, any type of assistant, whether it’s AI or human, is the ability to anticipate your needs. If they can’t anticipate your needs, then it’s not a real assistant. That is a task-taker. That’s someone that you’re going to be delegating to. I’m not a fan of delegation. Delegation is work. Some people are really good at it. So if you’re good with delegating and just giving people tasks, then by all means, that’s a different kind of person.
Melissa Smith: But if you’re looking for a true virtual assistant, that person is going to be able to anticipate your needs. And they will start picking up the clues. They’ll start looking at your calendar. They’ll start seeing patterns the same way that AI will, right? And that’s how we do things.
Melissa Smith: My clients, even though I matched them with virtual assistants and I train other virtual assistants, I anticipate what they need before they need it and even hiring. Because I know I can see down the road because I’ve done this before. And the more clients I work with, the more clients I can see. And then I start to anticipate new things and I start to see new trends and I start to anticipate those and I ask the right questions and see if it’s applicable to them. But the idea that you’re going to be just waiting on someone, or someone’s going to be waiting on you to give them work, that’s just more work.
John Jantsch: So I heard you mention 12 weeks. Is that a realistic goal to think somebody’s, and maybe you just used that as an example, but is that a realistic goal to think yeah, we should be on track to get up to sort of full speed by then?
Melissa Smith: Absolutely. In many cases it can be done before that. I use 12 weeks because it’s really easy to break down. And it accounts for holidays. It accounts for vacations. It accounts for illness. But if none of those things are happening, you can easily get something done and get your VA onboarded before that time and reach your goal.
John Jantsch: So I’ll ask this in two separate questions. I was just going to ask a two-part question, but I’ll ask in separate questions. When am I ready to hire? How does somebody know that they need to get somebody?
Melissa Smith: The best time to hire a VA is before you need one. And this is the perfect time to get all those little details about how working with you is going to go, what value you want your clients to receive, how you like to communicate. It’s a really good time to get that rhythm down while it’s not an emergency situation, while you’re not already working against a deadline.
Melissa Smith: And then now, this person can come up and you can really just start using them maybe five hours a month, 10 hours a month. And then when you start getting more up to speed and you’re really starting to ramp up your business, now you have someone who can already be with you and already know everything so that you can take part of opportunities.
Melissa Smith: Part of the biggest thing that I see when people don’t hire a VA before they need one is opportunity lost. They’re just not at a place to get up that landing page, to get out an e-book, to say, “Oh yes, I can go speak at that event because someone is taking care of this thing over here for me.” Or just even feel like they’re looking professional enough to have those things in place.
John Jantsch: So the second part of this then is, is there an exercise you run people through to help them understand, “Okay, how do I know I’m going to get the value based on the cost?”
Melissa Smith: So you start with your budget, right? Working with the VA is an investment, it can’t be an emotional decision. So you start with your budget and you say, let’s just talk about a really low budget. We’ll have a $200 budget for the month. What do I need that I could have a virtual assistant do for me for $200? How could this change? And maybe that is getting some things that are evergreen in place, like that FAQ that your clients are always asking you for and you’re sending out the same email over and over again, or that video editing where you could now create seven clips from and have social media content for three months. Something that was really going to save you time and you know exactly how you’re going to use it, where it’s going. It really is a budget of not only your money but also your time and how it’s going to be used in the future.
Melissa Smith: So if I think about a vacation and I think about how I’m going to use that money, how much money I’m going to save to go on vacation and how it’s going to be spent and what I’m going to get out of it. A VA is the same thing. I got to know, is this an ongoing thing? Is it just going to be like a monthly thing that I can do? How can I get the most out of it? What is it going to be tangible for me? And once you know that, it creates a whole world of opportunities for you. And now you know, “Okay, now I’m going to get this client, this client will pay for three months of this kind of work and now I can hire a VA for the next three months for sure.” And then it just starts to snowball from there.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I think there’s a key component of that is know what your time’s worth.
Melissa Smith: Absolutely.
John Jantsch: Because one of the justifications is it could just allow you to do more high pay off work. And so, that could certainly turn around and pay for itself so that you get out of doing the work that that VA could do for you. So, in terms of finding, there are lots of marketplaces now, I would suggest that to some degree the Association VAs is a bit of a market place. Upwork is a market place. There are companies, staffing companies, now that are placing people in virtual roles. And then obviously there’s that independent person that you might find on LinkedIn or Facebook or something. What’s the best process that you have found for starting the search?
Melissa Smith: The best process is to make sure it’s a transparent process. It’s part of the reason why I created the Association of VAs because I just didn’t find that there was enough transparency. And the biggest question clients have when they work with me is, “Where do I find the right VA?” Yet, ironically, virtual assistants have the same question, “Where do I find the right clients?” And I thought why aren’t these two people meeting? They’re looking in search of each other. But they just were not meeting up. And you just have to go where that other person is. Right.
Melissa Smith: If I want to have a cup of coffee, I’m going to go to Starbucks. It’s just that simple. And so if I’m thinking, “I’m on LinkedIn, I like to work on LinkedIn, my clients are on LinkedIn. I would expect a VA that I hire to also be on LinkedIn and I would search for them there.”
Melissa Smith: If I want to create more of a presence on Instagram, I’m like, “Gosh, I’m not really comfortable on Instagram, but it’s definitely a popular platform. I’m missing out by not being there.” I’m going to go get on Instagram and I’m going to find a VA on Instagram and I’m going to look through all their stuff and I’m going to look through all their past videos and their photos and I’m going to find someone that says, “This person is consistent. This person knows what they’re talking about when they speak and they write. That’s something I would say, I think they’re professional. I think they could represent me well.”.
Melissa Smith: But knowing that and then really writing out a job description that makes people want to work with you and then sharing it with your colleagues and your friends and showing them what good looks like for you.
Melissa Smith: Because simply saying, “I need a VA,” and sharing it with your colleagues and your friends. There’s no shortage of people that are working with the VA [inaudible 00:21:32], “Oh I know somebody,” but someone else’s VA may not be the right one for you. This happens all the time. They’re like, “Gosh, this person worked with them and maybe I’m just not right for a VA because I didn’t get the same results as they did,” but they might be using their VA for something completely different than you need.
Melissa Smith: So really saying, “This is what good looks like. This is what I would really want in my VA. If anyone knows anyone send them my way.” And that’s a great way to do it as well. But looking on the platforms where you want to be, where you expect that person to be, and then checking up on their profiles and making sure that they’re responsive. If I reach out to a VA on LinkedIn and she doesn’t get back to me for two weeks, clearly this is not a good fit.
John Jantsch: Well, I tell you, over the years, I’ve learned this the hard way. In some cases that, when working with anybody virtually the more information I can give them, be the designer or a writer or, that if I take the extra 10 minutes to really thoroughly explain what I want, I always get it. And if I don’t do that and I try to just kind of rush through something, then it’s hit or miss, and I think that that take that extra 10 minutes and you’re going to get 100% better results.
Melissa Smith: Absolutely. And then there are some steps that you can’t skip after you think you found the right person. And that is getting those references, checking references and doing a background check. Don’t ever go with your gut. I mean, I would love to say that it’s 100% right all the time, but I’ve been doing this for awhile and I always do the reference checks. I always do the background checks. And it is just another layer of peace of mind. And you would be surprised what people will share with you both good and bad about this person you’re about to hire. It might give you that extra nudge.
Melissa Smith: It’s like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited now I can really get started with them because they had such stellar references.” Or they might just say a little something and you know, just say, “You know what, you really have to give her permission to give feedback to you.” That’s also a really good piece of advice so you know that going in.
John Jantsch: I just think everybody, I just like everybody and trust everybody. So that advice is something I need to hear too. So Melissa, where can people find out more about the Association of VAs as well as your work?
Melissa Smith: Sure. You can go to associationofvas.com, of course we’re on LinkedIn and Facebook and Instagram. You can also reach out to me at Melissa@associationofvas, thepva.com. I’m on LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter. However easy it is for you to communicate. Feel free to do that, and I promise to get back to you.
John Jantsch: Well, thanks for joining us, Melissa, and hopefully we’ll run into you someday out there on the road.
Melissa Smith: Thank you for the opportunity.
Why You Need a Virtual Assistant (And How to Find One) written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing
On today’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I visit with Melissa Smith. She is the founder and CEO of the Association of Virtual Assistants, an organization dedicated to setting industry standards and providing training, support, and resources for VAs.
Additionally, Smith is a VA matchmaker, helping harried business owners find the support they need with the perfect VA. Plus she’s a VA trainer, sharing tools and advice with VAs to help them grow their businesses and strengthen their skillsets.
Smith has also written two books on the world of virtual assistants, including Hire the Right Virtual Assistant: How the Right VA Will Make Your Life Easier, Create Time, and Make You More Money. Today, she and I chat about all things virtual assistant, from how the broader industry has changed to how to find the VA that’s the right fit for you and your business.
Questions I ask Melissa Smith:
- How have you seen virtual work evolve over the past decade?
- Is there a definition today of what a virtual assistant is (and is not)?
- How do you find the right virtual assistant?
What you’ll learn if you give a listen:
- Why it’s beneficial to hire a virtual assistant who is a specialist.
- How to communicate with your virtual assistant in a way that establishes a good working relationship.
- How to strike the right balance between cost and benefits when it comes to hiring a virtual assistant.
Key takeaways from the episode and more about Melissa Smith:
- Learn more about the Association of Virtual Assistants
- Order your copy of Hire the Right Virtual Assistant
- Follow on Twitter
- Follow on Facebook
- Follow on Instagram
- Connect on LinkedIn
Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!
This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. If you’re looking to grow your business there is only one way: by building real, quality customer relationships. That’s where Klaviyo comes in.
Klaviyo helps you build meaningful relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers, allowing you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages.
What’s their secret? Tune into Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday docu-series to find out and unlock marketing strategies you can use to keep momentum going year-round. Just head on over to klaviyo.com/beyondbf.
5 Tools Every Business Needs to Create an Amazing Website written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing
Your website is the heart of your online marketing efforts. Every other tactic that you undertake should drive visitors back to your website. It’s the one corner of the internet that is all your own. It’s where you can share your brand story in the way that best represents who you are and what you do.
But having a great website goes beyond creating great content. There are some technical elements that you need to nail in order to keep things running smoothly, give visitors a great experience, and easily keep track of leads. Here are the five tools that every business owner needs in order to create a website that works wonders for them and their customers.
1. A Tool to Host Your Website
First thing’s first: You need a way to get your website out there! There are a lot of web hosting services, but they are not all created equal. A bad host can hurt your website. Bad hosting can slow down load times on your site, which drives prospects away. In fact, a one second delay can result in a seven percent reduction in conversions!
Security is also a major concern nowadays. Having an HTTPS certificate for your website is an essential part of trust-building. Google now calls out websites that aren’t HTTPS by labeling them as “not secure” in big red letters in the address bar. If that’s the first thing a customer sees upon clicking on your website, chances are they’ll think twice before handing over any sensitive information to you on your site. Some web hosting companies include HTTPS certificates at no additional charge, while others will try to upsell you for this necessary element.
For my part, I swear by Pressable WordPress Hosting. They provide super-fast and secure web hosting, and their customer service team is on hand 24/7 so that you’re never left in a lurch if you have issues with your website.
2. A Tool to Design a Beautiful Site
As much as we may hate to admit it, looks do matter when we’re browsing websites. Sites with outdated designs and hard-to-read formatting are a major turnoff for customers. And if your business isn’t big enough to have a full-time web designer on hand, it helps to have a tool that allows you to make changes to your website so that you can keep information current and include all the elements you need in a modern site.
A tool like Thrive Architect can help you get it all done. They have simple drag-and-drop layouts that allow you to control the content and design of your site without a computer science degree. And it’s about more than just adding texts, images, and video; they have conversion-focused elements that you can easily incorporate into your pages.
3. A Tool to Generate Leads
Speaking of conversions, a great website needs a way to collect and generate leads. You can have the fastest, most secure, and beautiful website on the internet, but if you don’t tell visitors what they’re supposed to do once they get there, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.
Yes, your website should include your promise and story, but you also must tell visitors what you want them to do next. Do you want them to sign up for your mailing list? Register for a free trial? Providing a call to action, where you ask visitors to take one specific move, is the first step in the process of generating a lead and moving them down the marketing hourglass.
Thrive Leads is a simple WordPress plugin that helps you do just that. It allows you to create forms using simple drag-and-drop design so that you can capture the information that you need from your visitors. Getting this information is step one to building a relationship with a prospect. Without that information in hand, you can’t possibly move forward with other tactics to move them further down the hourglass. And the Thrive Leads plugin has advanced testing, targeting, and analytics so that you can measure the success of each lead generation effort.
4. A Tool to Integrate Email and CRM
Once you start collecting these leads, you have to do something with them! Housing all of the information in one centralized location is an important first step—that’s where a CRM comes in. I love ActiveCampaign, which brings together CRM, marketing automation, and email marketing tools all under one roof.
Having all of your prospect and customer information in one place allows you to begin an effective email marketing campaign. You can also design targeted search and social media marketing campaigns, with messaging designed to speak to various segments of your audience.
5. A Tool to Design Custom Landing Pages
Once you begin to undertake marketing efforts beyond your website, the end goal is still to drive traffic back to your online home. But you don’t want to send paid search and social media ad traffic back to your homepage. It’s far more effective to have a custom landing page for each and every campaign you run.
Landing pages allow you to tailor the information to the specific offer that’s featured in the ad. When your audience clicks through and finds only the most relevant information on your website, conversion rates go up, and you get the greatest return on your advertising investment.
A tool like ClickFunnels can help you create these highly customized landing pages. Like the other tools I’ve recommended, they have a drag-and-drop design feature that makes it easy for you to build a page with the layout and messaging you want. Their focus is on lead conversion, and they have the strategies and tools on hand to help you create the most effective landing pages possible.
Building a great website means incorporating a lot of different elements—from superficial things like design elements to behind-the-scenes pieces like proper security. Fortunately, there are lots of tools out there that make it simple for any business owner to create a strong, effective, secure online presence for their business.
My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.
I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you to check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from an online source or one that I took out there on the road.
- Quicc – Add captions to your social media videos.
- Userlist.io – Onboard and engage with customers at your SaaS business.
- QuotaPath – Track sales performance, commissions, and earnings.
These are my weekend favs, I would love to hear about some of yours – Tweet me @ducttape
Transcript of Putting Social Media Myths to the Test written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing
John Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Opteo. That’s O-P-T-E-O, dot com, slash ducttape. And if you go to that link, you’re going to find out how you can get a six week extended trial of this Google Ads optimization software.
John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Scott Ayres. He is a content scientist at AgoraPulse, and he’s also a contributor to the Social Media Lab at AgoraPulse, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. So Scott, thanks for joining me.
Scott Ayres: Hey, appreciate you having me on. I’ve listened and followed you for, well, over a decade now probably. So it’s great to get to talk to you for the first time ever. Yeah.
John Jantsch: Well, I’ve been a fan of what you guys are doing there at the lab. I think everybody really likes to see … Experts like me can pontificate about stuff all day long, but I think people like to see results, don’t they?
Scott Ayres: Yeah. I was part of the problem for a very long time. I was telling somebody other day, for eight, nine years I’ve blogged and written about social media, but it was usually that opinion type stuff. “Here’s what I think should work,” or the top five things to post to Instagram. But there’s no data behind it. It was just off the top of your head. And so I think we, as experts, have unfortunately fed that too much. So I love that we’re running these long form experiments and really just testing weird little things to see if they really work or not.
John Jantsch: Well, and I think the right answer to a lot of people’s questions is, “Who knows?” I mean, because, I get asked all the time, “How often should I blog? How length should a blog post be?” And really, my best consultant answer is it depends. And I think that that’s probably what the data is actually proving out to be. So explain an experiment. I mean, how do you pick it? What does it look like? What do you hope to gain? Just kind of go through the process of an experiment that you perform.
Scott Ayres: Yeah. So basically what we do is we actually do follow as close as we can the scientific method. You remember that ninth grade biology. So what we do is we kind of go out there and see what people are talking about or see what people have posed questions to us. “Hey, what is this? Can you do this?” Or, “Is this better than that?” And then we looked through what everybody said and see if we can test it first, because there’s some things we just simply can’t test. If someone comes to me and says, “What content works best for the 50 and over crowd?” Well, unless I have a bunch of pages and accounts targeted towards that demographic, I really can’t test it because the product may not fit them.
Scott Ayres: And then we then we form some hypothesis based on all of that research that we’ve done from experts, if we can find anything. A lot of times I’ll find stuff, it’s just opinions. There’s no data on it. And then we go through the process. We do the hypothesis. We start the test and run it. Typically, most of our tests are going to run from anywhere from 10 to 30 days, just depending on what it is that we’re testing. Paid ads tend to be about 10 to 14 days, just based on the ads typically. And then we pull the data and I spend an enormous amount of time in spreadsheets because I’m the type where even though I can go to tools, even like Agora Pulse or whatever else out there and pull data, I like to go straight to the source just to make sure that everything’s legit and it’s 100%, nobody can question what the data says.
Scott Ayres: So we take all that data and then try to draw a conclusion on it. And what we do is we use a a thing called a statistical significance calculator, which is a phrase I couldn’t say two and a half years ago because it’s like a tongue twister. But basically what that does is you put all the numbers into this formula and it puts out what’s called a P value. And if the P value’s at least 95% or higher, it means you have at least 95 to 100% certainty that if I run this test again or if you, John, ran this test, you should get the same results. And as far as the data science geeks are concerned, 95% is the minimum, where you and I probably would have said, “Hey, 50% is pretty darn good,” but we had to have that 95% before we can say, “Yes, this is statistically significant.”
Scott Ayres: And a lot of times we find out, like you were saying in the beginning, sometimes we found out it didn’t really matter. So if one of them was easier to do than the other, you might as well do that, or if you prefer it better, you might as well do that. And so sometimes we come up and our results just don’t show us anything. What it does show is that, hey, that effort that took you 30 hours a week is a lot. You shouldn’t do that when you can do 10 hours a week. So that’s kind of how we go through the process in a quick nutshell there.
John Jantsch: Yeah. I kind of live by the motto that 50% of the time, 90% of the statistics are made up to prove the results that you want, right?
Scott Ayres: Right, right.
John Jantsch: So how do you, though, account, and I know that the calculator and the P score is trying to say, “Yeah, plus or minus so much,” but how do you in social media account for … There’s so many variables that come into play in a lot of the experience. On a Tuesday in Texas, if the wind’s blowing, Facebook’s going to show something else.
Scott Ayres: Yeah. I mean, we try to do our best anyway, and sometimes we just simply can’t. And we’ve gotten better as we get older here, but we try to do it across a couple of different accounts depending on whatever it is that we’re testing.
John Jantsch: Well, I got to stop you. You said you’re getting better as you get older?
Scott Ayres: Well, as the lab gets older, and I’m getting older too. I’m in my 40s now, so I’m a little less stubborn. I’m getting more stubborn actually probably, but I’m actually learning, which is hard for you when you’re a guy in your 40s. But yeah. So I mean, what we’re trying to do now is we try to test across multiple accounts and multiple industries, because if you just test, the bad thing about a lot of us in social media marketing … You can probably attest to this … We say, “Hey, go do this.” Say back when Periscope started. I started a Periscope account and got 10,000 followers watching it. Well, you have 100,000 followers. Yeah, sure. You probably did get 10,000 people to watch it. But Bob’s Shoe Shack has 10 Twitter followers, no one’s going to watch his Periscope.
Scott Ayres: So I think in the social media marketing world, we’re guilty of that too much, just kind of pontificating what worked really well for us we assume will work well for everybody else and it doesn’t. So I like testing on small business accounts and local accounts. Right now on Instagram, I’ve got like eight or nine accounts I’ve been working on for months that are just, they’re entertainment pages, if you will. They’re about animals or about cars, motorcycles, fitness industry, that sort of stuff. But they’re all different niches that are very targeted to getting their followers and being engaged. That way, now I can test on them and kind of get an average across the board. That really helps, because what would happen a lot of times is you have two accounts in the same niche and you tested on it. Well, it just may work for that niche. It may not work for the other one.
John Jantsch: Yeah. And I think that’s the caveat with all of this. What you’re in some ways doing I think is providing people maybe a shortcut but they’ve still got to do their own testing, don’t they?
Scott Ayres: Well, yeah. I think everybody should always test no matter what it is. A lot of stuff we put out there just kind of gives you a guide. This did work. You go try it and see. If you’re someone out there who has a business and you’re just listening 100% of what somebody says and doing it and never testing, then you don’t know. You may be missing out on something that could have been working for you just because you read the blog on it. So I think you should always test stuff and change up what you’re posting constantly because like you said earlier, social media changes so quickly that on Tuesday, the wind blowing across here in Texas, the algorithm changes. And so you’ve got to constantly move around. But I do think our goal is just to kind of help you, if you’re starting out at square one, maybe we can help you get to square two or three a little bit faster. That’s really our main goal.
John Jantsch: So let’s talk about a couple of the experiments and you can expand on it, but I’ll start by kind of what you were trying to test. So one of the more recent ones and a lot of people in Facebook, they’ve given you lots of options. Now you can have a video carousel image ad, a single image ad. So you were trying to get trial signups and you were testing the carousel. The hypothesis was the carousel ad will outperform the single image ad and generate more free trial signups. And I guess it’s worth noting that you were hypothesizing a result. You weren’t just saying, “Let’s test these two things.” You were actually suggesting that you thought a carousel ad would outperform a single image ad, and I would be behind that. What’d you find out?
Scott Ayres: Well, we initially did an experiment we had done by a guy named Charlie Lawrence. Give Charlie a shout out. He’s the guy over in the UK. Love Charlie the death. Sometimes we have guest bloggers do stuff for us, which is kind of fun, because they have a different set of accounts than we have. And so it’s always nice. We’re doing a test right now with a couple of other companies. I won’t name them here just in case you have competing sponsors. But we love when we get other people to get on there.
Scott Ayres: So Charlie ran this experiment trying to see if you can get trials over to Agora Pulse. And in the end, he didn’t really find out much. It was almost a wash. The clicks on, let’s say the free trial [inaudible 00:09:19]. Let’s look at that number because that was the one we focused on. The carousel ad format got 51 free trials. The single ad image got 50 free trials, so basically the same. We spent the same exact amount of money on it. The reach was almost identical. The link clicks were almost identical. And so what I found on the end is neither one of them generated more signups. Neither one of them outperformed better than the other one.
Scott Ayres: So kind of what that tells me and tells us is, while it might look a little bit better to have the multiple carousels, you don’t necessarily need to do it and take the time to do it, because there’s a lot of people who don’t have that option. Maybe they don’t have enough images to do it, especially I’m thinking about a small business or something didn’t have it set up. So in our case, it doesn’t matter if we did it either way. Now, the caveat there, we did it on one account and we just did it to our free trial signup. So obviously, you’ve got to know that when you’re reading this and it may not apply to you if you’re trying to get foot traffic into your store or something like that.
John Jantsch: Well, and just to put out another shout out for testing, I mean, you theoretically could have changed out that single image and maybe it would have bombed or you could have changed so many variables.
Scott Ayres: I know, especially on the paid ads. I’m doing a lot of our paid ads right now. I just started doing them a lot for the lab now and the stuff you can do, I will say the cool thing in Facebook ads manager that I’m just in love with is the ability to AB test in the ads without having to … It used to be, remember, you had to run two separate ads your own and set them up? Now it’s just like, “Boom, I want to test two different images,” and now you can just test two different images. I’m in love with ads manager right now because of that.
John Jantsch: To the same audience. That’s what was always a killer. You had to create separate audiences and everything. So even then you created your own variables.
Scott Ayres: Yeah, and then the ads were running at different times. The worst thing you can do when you’re running an ad experiment is accidentally let it go to a different placement than the other one. I just set up one here recently testing an image that was our graphic from our blog to drive traffic versus a graphic with me. We’re on a podcast so you can’t see us, but normally I’ll wear this big orange wig and a lab coat when I’m in our live show, we’re doing presentations. So the other one is that image of me with my hands up in there or something like that. So I’m going to be kind of curious to see if people click based on an actual photo versus the typical featured animated image we use for our blog. But it took like two seconds to set it up in ads manager and we were done.
John Jantsch: One thing that I’ve learned over the years is there’s a lot of times where … I mean, it just makes me hooked on testing. There’s so many times where I’ll go, “Well, look at this image. It’s awesome. It’s going to kick butt.” Never does. I’m always wrong. And so there’s no accounting for taste.
Scott Ayres: Yeah, I think that’s true. And it’s times, it’s what’s going on in the world on that day that you tested. There’s so many variables that pop in and you may post something that … like our guys had tested for Agora Pulse, and this wasn’t part of the lab, but they were testing images of people versus this goofy animated bear jumping out of the bushes, and the stupid bear outperformed the regular image. It didn’t make any sense. We’re like, “This shouldn’t work,” but people were signing up for free trials like crazy with it. So they use it all over the place. Just, hey, why not? If people are going to sign up, might as well.
John Jantsch: Well, I see a lot of people actually advocate that idea of all you’re really trying to do with the image is get somebody to stop.
Scott Ayres: Yeah, stop the thumb. You got to stop the thumb.
John Jantsch: Yeah. So that could be what’s going on there as much as anything.
Scott Ayres: Right, true.
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John Jantsch: So I’ll give you a chance to do a little shout out for AgoraPulse. How does AgoraPulse, the tool itself help you in some of this? If I’m a person saying, “Yeah, I need to do more testing,” how could AgoraPulse play a role in that?
Scott Ayres: Of course, we have a lot of different things our tool does, but for one, at the basic level, it schedules your content, which is nice when you’re doing testing, especially across multiple accounts. I’m running tests on 8 to 10 Instagram accounts. I could never do that inside Instagram. I’d have to be logging in and out all the time. So at the minimum, at least we’ll do that. But from there, it’s getting the reports, it’s getting all the engagement numbers that are right inside the app. It’s managing all your comments, especially ad comments. That’s real important. If you’re running ads, you can’t really manage those on Facebook. It’s impossible basically. But we handle that.
Scott Ayres: So right now, we’ve got an ad running that’s getting a lot of interaction. It’s about one of our lab posts, actually. It’s getting some disagreements on my data, which I’m all for the discussion, and so I’m having to make sure I keep up with that ad comments and I do it right inside of AgoraPulse where I don’t have to wait for a Facebook notification and be like a day late on that response. It’s all right inside there. But you can have team members, you can have all different kinds of things in the app. So our app really, for me, I only use it for myself and for our accounts, but if you have team members or you’re an agency, it’s one of the best tools you can have. And I used it before I worked for AgoraPulse. I was paying for it before I came onboard. So now I don’t have to, luckily.
John Jantsch: So there’s a special breed of animal that comments on Facebook ads, it appears.
Scott Ayres: At times, yeah, at times. You don’t get a lot of positive yeahs. You get a lot of this negative stuff on ads, it seems like.
John Jantsch: Well, I get stuff sometimes that I’m like, “I don’t even know what you’re asking or saying.” It’s like-
Scott Ayres: Well yeah, you get the weird troll type stuff, or, “Hey, come join the Illuminati,” or something like that.
John Jantsch: All right, let’s talk about another one. Posting content on social media, one of the hot topics, and you specifically went to LinkedIn, but one of the hot topics is, do you get more engagement with long stuff, short stuff? I think when people are just, “Hey, here’s my latest blog post,” you’re probably not getting much engagement but you tested thousands of words of basically a blog post on LinkedIn. So what did you find out? Long versus short for engagement?
Scott Ayres: Yeah, this was an interesting test that Melonie Dodaro, who’s kind of known for her LinkedIn marketing abilities, she was seeing an interesting trend on her text only updates. And so we did a test with her first and found out that our text only updates on the different accounts that we tested got like a thousand percent more views and engagement. It was ridiculous.
Scott Ayres: And so then we said, “Okay, let’s take it a step further. Let’s see if long versus short works better.” And what we do on most of these … I’ve done one on Facebook, I’ve done one on Twitter, I’m actually about the publish one in a few days that’ll be on Instagram character link, we kind of give an old hat tip to Twitter, the 140 characters, under 140 being short, over 140 being long, just to kind of make it easy to kind of look at. But we tested across, we did three different accounts. We did Agora Pulse’s account, did my own personal account on LinkedIn, so you have that mix of a personal account with about 9,000 connections when we did it. And then I used a small local business. Actually, I’m sitting in their office. I run an office from a recruiting firm in the construction industry, so very niche, and we tested on their LinkedIn account.
Scott Ayres: We did like 14 short posts, 14 long posts and did it over a two week period. And then what I always wanted to do is just average all those numbers together and kind of see which one did better on it. And so basically when we get done … I’m scrolling down and looking here on my other screen here … What we found the short text only updates on LinkedIn got about 13.85% higher views compared to posts that were over 140 characters long, so almost 14% more views. In marketing, that’s a pretty good amount. It’s not statistically significant in our little nerdy calculator, but it’s enough for me that made me go, “Okay, maybe long is not always better on LinkedIn. Maybe people want to have conversations.”
Scott Ayres: And if you think about LinkedIn, LinkedIn’s become cool again, last year, too. Everybody’s flocking back to it. I’ve been on LinkedIn longer than any other social site out there other than MySpace, which I guess nobody uses anymore. And LinkedIn, they tend to be in your industry. So whatever industry you’re in, they tend to be in that and they love to talk about subject matter around that. So if you’re doing short updates that kind of spur on conversation, it makes sense that people want to talk about it. So if you’re a realtor and you say, “Hey, what’s your best tip on an open house?” Well, all your realtor connections are going to want to add in their two cents on it. But if you write a long blog post on LinkedIn, while they might read it, they’re less likely to take the time to engage with it. You remember back 10 years ago, people comment on blogs like crazy. Now they don’t. So I think it’s the same on social. People don’t comment as much.
John Jantsch: So how do you feel about the LinkedIn algorithm? I mean, obviously all of the social networks, particularly Facebook, have kind of made it so that it doesn’t matter what kind of following you have. Nobody’s seeing your organic stuff. So do you feel like LinkedIn’s still a little bit wide open in that regard?
Scott Ayres: I thought it was. I mean, I think it still is, but I think so many people have flocked to it and people are getting too many connections. For me, for example, I was looking at mine today. I get about 20 or 30 connection requests every day and I’m one of those guys who just accepts all of them, because whatnot. But now my feed is miserable. I’m looking at, I’m going, “This is way too much. I can’t take it in.” And so I think there’s a balance you’ve got to figure out as a business or as a person. But as the business side of it, you’ve got to stand out, whether that’s now the hashtags you can use on there, which is something worth testing and looking into. I think the shorter updates of live video is coming around for LinkedIn. I think it’ll end up being just like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter where the majority of your followers aren’t going to see it unless they go to you or they’ve got you in a list or you’re active in a group or something like that.
John Jantsch: So I’ve invented a drinking game for LinkedIn, and so it goes like this, that when people give me a connection request, I look through my connection requests for the day and I bet on the ones that are going to reach out to me and try to sell me something within 24 hours. And you have to take a drink every time they do.
Scott Ayres: Oh, I would have taken about 30 shots today alone, because I logged in earlier. I’m looking at them right now. I’ve got like five or six just, “Hey, wanting to connect and see how are you doing,” and there’s some link in there. There’s a Bit.ly link. That’s the problem with LinkedIn, I think. I wish they figured that out where … I think there’s a setting. Judy Fox probably would know. You could go in and turn off the ability for people to send you these random messages. On LinkedIn, the one thing I hate the most is the anniversary, happy anniversary of your job or your birthday, because you get 9,000 connections, you’re going to get a lot of them. I can’t get to the stuff that I might actually want to get to.
John Jantsch: All right. So any huge surprises. Over the time you’ve been doing this, did you just get blown away by how definitive something was that you didn’t think was?
Scott Ayres: Probably the one that’s gotten us the most traction and is the one right now that’s getting us the most … I was talking about people commenting on ads. We’re running an ad right now to an experiment we did on Instagram that is it better to put the hashtags in the original post versus putting it in the first comment, because a lot of people for years have been teaching, “Put it in the first comment, put it in the first comment.” And up until recently, there was no tools, legitimate tools, anyway, that would do that. There are a few now they’ll do the first comment and Instagram’s allowing it for whatever reason.
Scott Ayres: And so we tested that because my theory was, my hypothesis was that you would have a higher reach if you put it in the original post because I’m not a fan of stuffing it into the comments because to me it just looks a little … I don’t know. I just don’t like the look of it. It looks a little spammy. It’s like you’re trying to get around everything. So we tested across three different accounts, our Agora Pulse account, my personal account, which is set up as a business account. At the time when I ran this test, I actually had a local bounce house business, you know, right now, bounce houses and water slides and stuff. A fun little business. I loved it to death. Did it for about five years. I sold it to my brother recently. I got tired of being out in the heat in Texas.
Scott Ayres: So what we found was pretty interesting, was when we put the hashtags in the original post, so whenever you schedule it or post it, you put it in the original post, it had 29% higher reach than if you stuffed it into the first comment. That’s a lot. It’s a big difference. And if I can get 5% more reach on Instagram organically, I’m going to do that. 29% says a lot there. Granted, it was three accounts. I’ll probably go back and test this across some more accounts just to kind of see if it changes anything. But what that tells me [inaudible] a lot of our friends in the industry have said, and I actually got a couple of not so nice messages on this one, because a lot of people are teaching this and they’ve taught their followers this for a long time, “Stuff it in the first comment. Put it in the first comment.”
Scott Ayres: But what it tells me is Instagram has gotten smart to that, for one. Any time marketers come up with something and it kind of gets around the algorithm, what happens? They always change the algorithm. And so the hash tags aren’t for your followers. They’re for people who are going to discover you and find you. So you want to get it out there as fast as you can. If you don’t get it out there right at the beginning or if you put it down in that comment, your likelihood of being in the explore feed is decreasing obviously because it’s timestamped. So that was probably one of the ones that’s got us the most engagement, the people disagreeing with us. But I challenge that. I’m like, “Okay, go test it and tell me what you see.”
John Jantsch: And I think you bring up one really good point. If you do a test and let’s say we go back to our original Facebook one and the carousel ads are just slamming the single images, it’s like, “Yeah,” well, everybody’s going to go that direction. And then guess what? A year later, nobody wants to do carousel ads because everybody’s doing them. I’m sure that some of your experiments, you could go back and retest a year later and because of whatever variables, you’ll get completely different results.
Scott Ayres: Yeah. And that’s just the name of the game in social media. Facebook and Instagram and Twitter, LinkedIn, I mean, they are businesses who are out to make money. And so, I mean, they’re going to make sure that for one, that they create a need for you to run ads. Let’s just be honest, and so organically when the marketers have figured out a way to get around the algorithm, they’re always going to adjust. It’s not like they don’t know.
Scott Ayres: If you remember back years ago on Facebook, there was that whole thing with, there was a lot of clickbaiting. You put an image of a baby up and then you had some funny description, but the link would be to something else, to a landing page or a quiz game or something like that. Facebook got smart to that, and what’d they do? They diminished the reach of those sort of posts that had a link with the photo. And so they are always going to figure this stuff out when you do that. Now, I guess a year later, they’ll come around it and might change that. So it’s a constant thing you’ve got to test.
Scott Ayres: But for me on this one, if I’m going to get at least 5 to 10% more reach by just putting it in the first comment, I’m going to put it in the first comment … I mean, in the original post, excuse me … even if that means you do the whole white space thing. You make it where it goes to the read more on Instagram and then you kind of put it below that where no one in the feed sees it, but it still shows up in the explore tab. Even if you do that, at least, at least get it out there when you schedule it and post it and don’t waste your time.
John Jantsch: It’s funny. I’ve seen a few people doing that in LinkedIn now where they’re just making their comment as big as possible and then putting a link in it so that it takes over the entire thing.
Scott Ayres: Well, there’s a lot of people right now, I’ve had people actually come to me and say, “Hey, I want to test putting the link in the first comment on Instagram,” I mean, on LinkedIn, because they’re seeing better results from it. And so maybe there is a little trick, but again, that’ll change as soon as LinkedIn figures it out.
John Jantsch: So Scott, where can people find out more about the Social Media Lab and AgoraPulse?
Scott Ayres: Yeah. Our little room in the house on AgoraPulse is agorapulse.com/socialmedialab. You can find us everywhere on all the social media sites. We’re @AgoraPulseLab. That’s a brand new social media account we’ve created here recently on all of them. So the follower count’s low on them, but we decided to finally get our own accounts here in the last couple of months. So AgoraPulseLab, you’ll find us everywhere, or you can search Social Media Lab on podcasts, wherever you listen to podcasts.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, thanks Scott. I love Social Media Lab. A lot of fun there and appreciate you stopping by, and hopefully we’ll run into you soon someday down the road.
Scott Ayres: Yeah, thanks. Thanks for having me on, John. I really appreciate it.
Today’s guest on the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is Scott Ayres, content scientist with AgoraPulse’s Social Media Lab.
Ayres and the team at the lab are testing every question a marketer has ever had about social media. Things like, “Should Instagram hashtags go in the caption on the first comment?” Or, “What’s the ideal length for a LinkedIn post sharing your content?”
Rather than relying on stories from marketing folklore, Ayres is using the scientific method to test different approaches on social media to see what really works.
The Social Media Lab is a great resource for marketing consultants, agencies, and business owners who are trying to keep a lot of marketing balls in the air and get the most mileage out of each social media move, while wasting as little time as possible testing approaches that don’t work. On this episode, Ayres shares some of his findings and talks about the current state of social media marketing.
Questions I ask Scott Ayres:
- What kind of social media experiments are you running at the lab?
- How do you account for all the variables that come into play within social media?
- Any huge surprises that you’ve discovered in your experiments?
What you’ll learn if you give a listen:
- How to create posts accompanying content on social media that get the greatest engagement.
- The secret to effective hashtag placement on Instagram.
- Why what works on social media today might not be effective next year.
Key takeaways from the episode and more about Scott Ayres:
- Learn more about AgoraPulse
- Learn more about The Social Media Lab
- Follow on Twitter
- Connect on LinkedIn
Like this show? Click on over and give us a review on iTunes, please!
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