Understanding the Consumer Engagement Cycle With Jason Keath of @SocialFresh [@InboundNow #26]

jason keath Jason Keath, Founder of Social Fresh , joins us for another episode of Inbound Now ! Jason is a well known connector and speaker in the social media space and the first return guest on Inbound Now, dating all the way back to Episode #1 !

In this episode we chat about:

  • What to consider when deciding on in-sourcing vs. outsourcing social media efforts
  • What the Consumer Engagement Cycle is and how you can leverage it through inbound marketing
  • Why fan and follower counts won't go out of style
  • How Social Fresh leverages outside experts for content marketing
I'm in booking mode for new guests for Inbound Now! What inbound marketing or social media mastermind would you like to see me interview next? Leave a comment below, tweet @DavidWells or contact me here to let me know!

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Full Transcript:

David: Hey, everybody. Welcome to another episode of HubSpot's Inbound Now. I'm your host, David Wells. With me today is a very special guest, Mr. Jason Keath. Jason is the founder of SocialFresh.com , InvestInSocial.com , and SocialFreshAcademy.com . He is a social media speaker as well, and he actually was the first guest on Inbound Now. He is the first return guest, so welcome back to the show, Jason.

Jason: Thank you. I appreciate that welcome. I'm excited to do another round.

David: I know. It's great that you are back here, man. I wanted to get you back on. I said that at the end of the first episode.

Jason: Yeah.

David: Here it is.

Jason: I thought you were kidding. I didn't expect another invitation.

David: It was so good I had to get you back.

Jason: I expect to be ten times better this time.

David: Yeah. So I wanted to get you on the show today to talk a little bit about: you've written a number of posts on in-sourcing versus outsourcing your social media, how companies should approach that, some better blogging tips -- because you recently did a better corporate blogging presentation that I checked out -- and then talk about online influence and what is online influence and how can companies leverage it and find other influencers to kind of help do what they are trying to do. So, sound good?

Jason: Yeah, definitely. Let's do it.

David: All right. Let's jump into it. You started this site, InvestInSocial.com, and basically it's a social media company directory, where people can find providers that offer a variety of social media services, right?

Jason: Yes, that's correct.

David: So there is a lot of debate around this, whether companies should outsource their social media activities or do it all in-house and train in-house. What's the best approach here in your opinion?

Jason: I think it comes down to what the company needs. We created the directory because I know that a lot of companies are looking for agencies, looking for social media monitoring companies, looking for all kinds of resources, all kinds of potential outsourcing of different aspects of social media. I find, when most people are looking for an agency or a consultant or a vendor, they are not really sure what they need. They think they want to reproduce something they have seen. They think they want to use a platform like blogging or Facebook or Twitter specifically, and they are not a hundred percent sure why. So I think, for most people, they need to take a step back. They need to think through, "What have we done so far in social media, and what do we think we need to do?" Then ask why to both of those.

Once they start asking that series of 'why' questions, they get to a better understanding of what they really need. I find most people need training. Most people are bringing in an agency or consultant because they don't know how to do it, and they don't know what they need. When that happens, they are probably better off to go to some type of conference, start reading blogs, start educating themselves a little bit about the industry, before jumping in and hiring someone to do something that they are not really sure about. It is a little akin to hiring someone to fix your roof, and if you have no idea and no one else checking on it, what kind of nails they're using, whether it is going to rust, those nails are going to rust in six months, you are going to have brown streaks going down the roof. If you have no idea to repair your own roof and you hire somebody to do it, you are not going to know anything about what they're doing, unless you follow up in a few ways.

These are the pieces of advice I give people. Ask for recommendations. So, ask about their past clients, whether they can talk to them. See if there are any public testimonials. See if they have been in the news for work they have done, things like that. Third party accounts of their work. Then, I think a big thing is to research what they do for themselves. So, if he was a roofer, go check out his roof, but if they are a social media company, check out their blog, is probably the biggest thing to do, because a blog is one of the hardest things to do in social media and do it well. If they are getting a lot of comments on their blog, if they are saying some really intelligent things that you think on their blog, that is a good direction to follow.

Then, as I said before, just circle back and always keep asking yourself why you are going after a social media company. Not everybody needs to outsource everything. I think more people need to spend more time trying to do it themselves, educating themselves, going to conferences, reading blogs. It's the reason we are starting the Social Fresh Academy is so that more marketing professionals can teach themselves these advanced social media tactics.

David: Right. I would say doing it in-house, like if you are hiring an agency to do it, they are not going to know exactly about your business. Yeah, they can ask you questions and what have, but you are the expert in your field, so really you should internalize it. Otherwise, I don't think, like longevity speaking, it is not going to work, right?

Jason: Well, there is one technique that is probably going to happen more. I think a lot of people are hiring agencies to do their social media management, which we are calling community managers right now, because one, there is that education gap that I am talking about, and two, they are not fully sure what resources they need. So they can hire an agency, for three to six to twelve months, without hiring an employee that they are going to have to fire. They can adjust their agency relationship a lot more easily than they can adjust an employee that they hire.

I think agencies are kind of evolving. They know that they are not going to be community managers for every single brand that they are doing it for today, and they are going to evolve their offerings. So a lot of agencies are starting to train community managers for the brand and help manage them, because the cool thing about an agency or even a lot of different types of vendors can offer in social media that a brand can't offer itself is an agency and a vendor will be working for a dozen to two dozen to hundreds of clients. Like HubSpot, for instance, you guys have hundreds of clients. So you have all of this experience from various industries. You are testing things all the time for clients in various industries, and you are going to have a much broader wealth of knowledge about what works and what doesn't. A brand, typically only has their industry or their series of products, and it is not going to have that same breadth. So these agencies and social media companies are going to have a broader knowledge base than a lot of single brands are.

That is one main benefit. That is not necessarily enough to sway the conversation either way, but it's something you are going to see exhibited more, I think, as we progress, as the industry continues to evolve.

David: Okay, cool. They definitely have that wider range and can pull in other ideas that maybe in the brand that they are kind of stuck in their ways and just kind of doing it the way they always have.

Jason: Yeah, and that's what agencies excel at -- ideas. So there is always going to be a place.

David: Got you. Cool. So, let's switch gears a little bit. You talked a little bit already about blogging and how it's the hardest thing to do in terms of social media. If you look at a company's blog and it's not really quite there, because it is hard to do. You just gave a presentation, "Better Corporate Blogging." So you explain why companies should be blogging and you talk a little bit in the presentation about what is called the Consumer Engagement Cycle. Can you walk us through that?

Jason: Yeah. The Consumer Engagement Cycle is . . . engagement is a word we kind of overuse in social media. But when you get to the root of it, what you really mean, is keeping someone's attention, keeping the potential customer or the current customer's attention to try to sell them more things, to try to get some type of long-term value out of them.

Blogging is really good at this. The entire industry of marketing is based on it. The industry of marketing exists because most of the people you come into contact with, that you want to sell something, are not ready to buy it. So how do we keep them interested longer? Advertising. How do we keep them listening to us longer? We try to get PR firms to put our items in the news. We try to sign them up for email list, things like that. Social media is really good at keeping people interested, because it is a lighter touch a lot of ways, and it is more personal when done well. So blogs are really good at this. Facebook pages are really good at this.

The Consumer Engagement Cycle for me is extrapolating from the sales funnel of introducing yourself to a company all the way down to the purchase, extrapolating the social aspects of that, which is the sales funnel, is get them down each level of the sales funnel until they buy something. A lot of times it does not work like that. You are not progressing someone down these items of the sales funnel with your advertising and with your PR to get them to buy something, or with follow-up phone calls.

A lot times, and this is again where social media excels, you are putting them in what I call a Fan Loop. You are putting content out there. You are putting personal relationships out there. You are putting interesting things about your company, but more successfully, you are putting interesting things about them and things that can help them that keep them interested and keep them around your brand in a way that bonds them to you. So blogs are really good at this because blogs typically are almost articles, and a lot of business blogs are how-to articles. So you are helping the people. The more you help someone, the more they want your company to succeed, the more they get that feeling of bonding and advocacy with your company. If someone wants your company to succeed, they are going to be so much more likely to buy something from you eventually. Maybe not today, maybe not next month, but if you keep that content cycle, you keep that fan loop going, they are going to be very primed to buy something when it is right for them.

David: So it is not really the linear progression down the sales funnel. It is like that family who kind of lives on the outside, where you can have evangelists and what have you, people that may not necessarily buy anything ever, but they are evangelizing your content, right?

Jason: Yeah, and HubSpot does really well with this. You guys are a content machine. You are probably one of the biggest out there, putting out so much content. That is what we are doing right now. I don't want to give it away, right? We do it, too. We do webinars. We do our blog. We try to put as much stuff out there as possible, and there are a lot of companies that do it well. There are companies that are doing videos well. Videos are a little harder to do like that, because people don't really subscribe to YouTube channels like we want them to necessarily. But people will come back to a blog that gives them instructional, how-to, valuable content. That value does not have to be instructional. It can be entertaining as well. It can be stuff that is funny, stuff that is pop culture, stuff that is consistently giving them value. The longer you keep them reading, the longer you keep them in that Fan Loop, the more likely they are going to buy something from you eventually. That is what permission-based marketing is based on. That is what relationship marketing is based on, and that is what content marketing is and drives on.

Most people have a really hard time doing it because you do have to consistently put that content out there, and content -- creative, useful, valuable content -- is very difficult to do on a long-term basis.

David: Right. It is hard creating that content, but it is necessary for success.

Jason: I mean, it can be. Not everybody has the blog. If you don't have the time or the effort, you're a small business, you don't have to do it. But if you can do it right, it is a huge value, and it is definitely worth attempting. But you've got to go all in with blogging. You can't just half ass it. You can' t just put a little bit of effort into it. You have to go all in.

David: Got you. So another thing that you said in the presentation that I thought was interesting is your blog is a landing page . What exactly did you mean by that?

Jason: Yes. A landing page, for people who don't know, is a page of intent. It is a page that you want a potential customer to land on to convert somehow. So you either are going to have a place for them to sign up for an email, a place for them to fill out a lead gen form, to buy a product, to subscribe to your blog. Your blog exists, most businesses are blogging, as a marketing tool. So if it is a marketing tool, what is your action? Your action is those things that I mentioned, and your blog should always be directing people towards that action.

So, if people are landing on your content, on your blog, on your YouTube channel, anywhere, anywhere you are doing content and there is not a clear opportunity for them to convert in some way, then you are doing it wrong. So, every page on all your content should have a conversion point, because people get to your content a lot of times and number one, before they even start to consume it, they might move on. If you don't have another opportunity to point them toward something of value or to get an email from them or something, you have lost 50 to 80 percent of people coming to your site.

Secondly, if people do get through your content and there is no opportunity for them to give you a little reciprocation of, "Hey, I really enjoyed that. Okay, I will subscribe," or "Hey, I really enjoyed that. They have this other webinar coming up. I want to put my email address in for that." If you don't take the opportunity of giving value to someone and extending that relationship, then you have lost. So it is always looking for those opportunities, those rest points in your content to extend the relationship a little bit more. Content marketing exists to get you to the next sentence in the blog, to get you to the next video on the YouTube channel, to get you to the next piece of content, and ultimately to get you to that point of action, that point of purchase, that point of subscribing, etc.

David: Right. So you always want to have a visible call to action on every single blog post that is relevant to the actual post itself, right?

Jason: Yeah, exactly.

David: Cool. Another quote that you had in the presentation was: "Collecting big followers and fan numbers will never go out of style." So, this is also a big debate going out there. Quality versus quantity, what is your take on that?

Yeah. To be honest, it has very little to do with that. Obviously, you want quality and if you are getting quality, you want a quantity of that quality. I think every single person in the world understands that basic point. But what you learn, as soon as you start doing social media as a professional marketer, is that most of the people you come into contact with that have a real impact on you continuing to work where you are working or continuing to have the client that you have, understand one universal thing, and that is big numbers. When those numbers are public -- like Facebook likes or Twitter followers or sometimes RSS numbers or blog comments --when those numbers are public, the fact that they are big mean even more.

If you have an email list and I have an email list, those aren't public numbers for the most part. Sometimes they are, but for the most part, they are not. So we are not comparing them. But if we had to wear our email list subscribers on our chest and we were talking to each other in a circle, the first thing you are going to do, human nature is to compare them. That's what marketers do, that's what the bosses of marketers do, that's what clients do. So big numbers and getting big follower numbers, big Facebook like numbers, and big subscriber numbers will never go out of style because of that. There is nothing to be afraid of about that. The only reason it is bad is if that is the only thing you are doing. If you are just building up Facebook likes and Twitter followers -- we all know this -- and that is all you are doing, and like we said with the blogging, you are not having a call-to-action, then you are failing a little bit.

David: Got you. So it is really that social proofing mechanism. Those numbers are public. A lot of people are commenting on a blog post. It incentivizes people to actually add to the conversation. Same thing with Facebook likes and what have you, and comments on your page, right?

Jason: Yes.

David: You run the Social Fresh fan page, and it is actually a pretty active, lively page: a lot of interactions, a lot of likes, a lot of comments. So what tips would you give there to get people engaged in your fan page?

Yeah. The biggest thing we do is we ask questions. To make a fan page active, we created the four A approach, as in the letter A. You try to give people Access to things they normally wouldn't have. So whether it is like experts coming on the page and giving quotes or interviews, whether it is people that are high up in your company that wouldn't normally connect to the customer, whether it is people or products that they wouldn't normally get access to or information about the company, that's a cool thing to do.

You ask them simple questions. About broad topics do the best. Simple yes or no questions do really well. Simple like, like this if you agree with the statement things work really well. You try to spread all media. So you want to do videos, you want to do photos, you want to do polls. These things are going to reach different people different ways. You may really like to consume video on Facebook. I may hate it. A lot of people like photos. Some people just like to answer text questions. So make sure you are hitting the whole audience. We actually have a free ebook on Social Fresh that gives 64 of these tips, and HubSpot has a lot of great resources and blog posts that list these things out there. So you can go and Google them and find a lot of examples. I'd say the number one thing that we do, that generates the best response, is really simple questions that generate conversations and really fostering that conversation once you pick it up.

David: Definitely. I actually took a lot of what you guys do on the Social Fresh page, and actually use it for the Inbound Now page. I kind of modeled off of your page and a couple of others that I saw that were very lively, and it was, it really is the questions that you are asking that just evoke people's responses and . . .

Jason: Yeah, it gets them thinking.

David: Cool. All right. So let's switch gears to the third topic at hand, and that is online influence. Basically, your definition of influence and most people's is the ability to move people to action, and we talked a little bit about that, doing that through your blog and your content. But in your presentation about influence, you talk about the path to influence and what takes people to that conversion point. Can you walk us down that path? It kind of ties in with the consumer engagement cycle too.

Jason: Yeah, it definitely does a little bit. The one thing that you are doing in influence is trying to find people outside your company to move those people to action. The biggest part of that equation to really understand is trust. Like, when people are influencing other people, the thing that is actually causing the influence is trust and the information that person A is providing person B. So you want to look for people that are building that trust online and build relationships with them, build mutually beneficial relationships and figure out ways that you can help them so that they will be invested in your company, they will build that bond with your company, and they will help advocate what you are doing. The biggest thing there is just to ask. Who do your customers trust? Where are your customers going for that trusted information? Because they are not going to you typically. They are not going to ask McDonald's, "Why should I buy a McDonald's?" They are going to go search online how many calories are in a Big Mac. They are going to search online in the -- this probably doesn't exist -- but maybe the fast food forums or something. Or more likely they are going to ask their friends or they are just going to build this database of trusted information from experiencing life, seeing ads, reading things online, reading newspapers, talking to their friends, listening to anecdotes from their friends telling stories about the companies that they interact with.

A lot of these things are hard to capture and use as marketers, but online it is really easy to build relationships with people who really do have audiences that trust their information, and that is what influence marketing is about.

David: Got you. So finding those influencers and researching the communities where they are hanging out, what would be some tips you could give some companies out there for finding those influencers?

Jason: Yeah. It is tough. Finding them is basically searching for the communities first and not the individuals. So you want to search for the blogs that are most active about the topics you are looking for. There are plenty of tools to do that, Technorati, other tools. Blogdash is a cool tool. You want to search for the Twitter communities that form or the Facebook communities that form. There are a lot of Twitter chats on topics. Twitter chats are really cool because they are completely open. They are based on hashtags. You can search them with tools like Row Feeder, save the information, and see who is most active and see who are the leaders of those groups. Forums are the same thing.

You want to search for the communities first, and then you want to find the people who are most active in those communities, the people who are more trusted and leading those communities. You can do that and just be as creative and inventive as possible in finding those communities and then becoming a valuable part of them and reaching out to those people that are leading the way.

David: Okay, cool. So how do you specifically, with Social Fresh, how do you guys engage with influencers, and how do you leverage influencers in the space?

Jason: That is a really good question. I have never been asked that. But it is pretty intrinsic to what we do. We are an education company. So the people that we are bringing in to teach our classes and our conferences, the people who we are bringing in to produce the videos for our Social Fresh Academy, the people that we bring to write for SocialFresh.com, those are leaders in their industry. So we bring in people and make them a part of Social Fresh. That is the best way to reach out to people, because they become interested in what you are doing, because they are a part of it. They are intrinsic to it, and when that happens, they are going to become much more of an advocate than they would if they were outside of that circle or outside of that inner sanctum of the company.

So that is a really key way. Not every company can do that, but if you are doing a lot of content marketing, that is an easy way to do it. If you are producing products, you can also have people influence products' creation process. A lot of companies are doing that, like Starbucks and Dell. For Social Fresh, we also do, when we have events or we have launches coming up, whether it is a physical event or it's for the Academy, we will reach out to people and ask what they want. We will connect with people who are leading organizations that we're interested in marketing to. Whether it is a PRSA (a public relation society) or an advertising club in the city or an online Facebook group that has to do with social media, we will reach out to them, ask them what they think, ask them if they think they can get involved, would this be valuable for you, and really, really listen to their advice. So that is another way we kind of utilize that.

A lot of it is natural for us. A lot of companies don't think like this, but it is natural for me because I have been in it so long. I just know that I want the community to create what we do. When that happens, you are reaching out to the influencers as much as possible to get them involved. Then I don't make a lot of asks. I don't ask influencers that are related to Social Fresh a lot of times to help us, though when we have something big come along, I reach out, I ask their advice, and then ultimately I ask them to help promote it. I don't do that very often.

David: So it is always providing that value first, and then way down the line, if you do have something like a big launch that you have coming up right now, it is like then kind of reaching out.

Jason: Yeah, exactly.

David: Cool. Awesome. So I asked you this question on the first episode of Inbound Now, where you saw trends coming up in the future. But that was 25 episodes ago. What do you think are some trends that people should really be paying attention to?

Jason: I have learned a lot about where people want help since then, because we have been launching the Social Fresh Academy, and a big part of that is listening and surveying our community, surveying other communities, and asking what people want. It is still very simple things. So I think when we ask people about what they are worried about next month or next year, they are still talking about Twitter followers and Facebook likes and learning the ROI. The key thing that I have learned is that vendors and agencies are taking the responsibility of helping people move past those simple things. As we