How to Escape the Social Media Swindle

One day we’ll look back at this period in history as the big swindle known as social media marketing. But on the upside, we’ll also view these times as the point where companies big and small realized the importance of owning their own home base and enticing prospects not only to visit, but to experience.

Beyond being forced to pay to interact with the very social audiences we built, brands of all sizes now know that social is not for selling. Seemed obvious to some, but apparently not to many.

When it comes to audience, social media is the coldest relationship you can have with a prospect. But it’s a start, and with proper nurturing and direction, your social followers can become true fans.

In this 32-minute episode Robert Bruce, Chris Garrett, and I discuss:

  • The proliferation of the logged-in experience
  • Why big companies are sick of social media
  • A major content acquisition, and what it means for you
  • Why you should build and offer a free course right now
  • The first major transition of
  • What marketing automation means for your business

The Show Notes

How to Escape the Social Media Swindle

Voiceover: This is Rainmaker.FM, a digital marketing podcast network. It’s built on the Rainmaker Platform, which empowers you to build your own digital marketing and sales platform. Start your free 14-day trial at Rainmaker.FM/Platform.

Robert Bruce: Are you ready to log in?

Brian Clark: You talking to me?

Robert Bruce: Yeah. Are you ready to log in?

Brian Clark: Someone had an interesting weekend, I take it.

Robert Bruce: Yeah. Well, it’s Monday. I’m trying to get back in the game here.

Brian Clark: But it’s not Monday. It’s Thursday.

Robert Bruce: It’s Thursday. That’s right. Actually, it’s whatever day listeners of New Rainmaker are listening to this.

Brian Clark: What is it that you like to say? Wherever and whenever you are?

Robert Bruce: Out there on the Internet. Yes.

Brian Clark: That’s right. That’s your phrase.

The Proliferation of the Logged-In Experience

Robert Bruce: We’ve been talking about this ‘logged in’ experience. We’re doing a mini-series. This is number two in a mini-series of looking at membership sites. We also have a nice little surprise today, Mr. Clark, and that is somebody joining us from the well-known Mainframe podcast on the Rainmaker.FM Podcast Network. That’s Chris Garrett, our Chief Digital Officer. Chris, did you make it in?

Chris Garrett: I am the token geek today.

Robert Bruce: Token geek.

Brian Clark: You’re always the token geek.

Robert Bruce: That’s a good way to look at it.

Brian Clark: Actually, remember in Office Space when the one guy that they’re like, “Could you tell us what you do?” And he walks the plans to the engineers from the customers, and then it turns out he actually has his secretary do it and he doesn’t do anything.

Brian Clark: No, that’s not Garrett. Garrett wishes that were his job. It’s a little more complicated, though.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, right. That’s the dream.

Brian Clark: But he does translate for us quite well.

Robert Bruce: I don’t think there’s anything in this company that you don’t have your hands in, in some way. Right, Chris?

Chris Garrett: I just interfere in everybody else’s business.

Robert Bruce: Yeah, right. Hey real quick, how’s The Mainframe going over there? You and Tony Clark, our Chief Operating Officer, are co-hosting The Mainframe. How are things over there?

Chris Garrett: We’re having a lot of fun, and we’ve had some nice feedback. I’d like to unseat Mr. Damien, but we’re doing quite well.

Robert Bruce: Join the club.

Brian Clark: I know. That guy, he’s rogue.

Robert Bruce: You know, I was thinking, you do have direct access to the servers, or at least the folks that do, right?

Brian Clark: Wait a minute, Robert. Oh, you want to fix the stats. You don’t want to just kick him off. Actually, we could just kill his show, but I don’t think that would be in our best interest.

Robert Bruce: Delete. Well, for those of you who are fans of Chris, which are many, you should go over to Mainframe.FM. Check out what he and Tony are doing over there.

Chris, thanks for hanging out with us today. We’ve got some good questions for you, too. Like I said, we’re continuing this mini-series on the idea of membership sites.

Brian, you started last week with the general idea of this ‘logged in’ experience. One thing that struck me towards the end of that episode, you talked about the true nature of a site like Facebook. We think of it as a social media site, which it certainly is, social networking site. But you argue that the real nature of it is a membership site, which I’ve never really thought of before if I’m honest, but we opened up with this idea of the logged in experience. There are several aspects of that. Why don’t we do a quick little recap.

Brian Clark: So we talked about Facebook. Basically, you have to register to gain access. If you’re not logged in, your experience is not the same. So, in essence, it operates like a membership site even though it’s primarily a social network. I’ve actually got an even better example for you this week, which we’ll get to in a second, kind of tied into some recent news.

The basic premise, and this is something we acted on in 2013 when we shifted our email strategy, was that the advent and the mainstreaming of social media, the proliferation of apps, and certain sites that deliver premium content, whether paid or free, have transformed the way we think about the online experience. That really comes into this, whether you’re logged in or not. Whether you’re registered for access or you’re not. I think we did cover some of the psychological aspects of that. We can go fairly deep down that rabbit hole, but you get the idea that — what is it?

Fear of missing out is the dark side of social media. That you’re always worried something’s happening that’s cooler than what you’re doing. I think there is some aspect of that — this velvet rope syndrome — that when you interact with a site and you realize that there’s an experience waiting that requires registration, that is much more compelling than opt-in or, for most situations, just a newsletter.

There’s got to be more. We’ve known this for years with the whole ethical bribe, free e-book stuff that isn’t as effective anymore. I think things have shifted to a new level. Let me give you some examples about this that build on what we talked about last week. Membership sites have been around since the ’90s, started off on the seedier side of the Internet, and then slowly made themselves into a mainstream concept. I think that’s the important lesson here.

Why Big Companies Are Sick of Social Media

Brian Clark: I saw something really interesting from Forrester, who obviously reports on the enterprise level, that big companies have grown completely disenchanted with social media. Number one, I think it’s fair to say a lot of them took the wrong approach for about five to seven years there as far as trying to treat the outer fringes of the audience like they were in a ready-to-be-converted mode. As in, “Become our customer,” after you gave us a Facebook ‘like.’ Didn’t really work that way. That’s a very cold relationship. It still counts as part of the audience, but until you bring them in closer to you, you’re not going to get the kind of response you want.

Number two, of course, is that email is 40 times more effective for converting into sales than social media. That’s pretty huge right there, and we’ll talk a little bit more about that. We’ve got the Zuckerberg bait and switch. You’ve got to pay on Facebook to reach your audience. On Twitter, it’s not really that much better because not everyone’s paying attention at the right time. Unless you do a Guy Kawasaki and tweet out 15 times in repetition, which does work by the way, it’s still disenchanting.

So you’ve got these big brands who are going back old school — everything old is new again — with branded communities. ‘Community’ has been a buzzword on the Internet since the BBS days. It’s always been over-hyped, but these branded communities are essentially what we’re talking about here in the sense that they’re driving people back to their own sites. They’re getting them to register to participate. Usually there’s a form involved. There’s a Q&A function. There’s content. Actually, when you combine all three of them together, as this Forrester excerpt of the report reveals — we’ll link to that in the show notes — it goes beyond evangelism and advocacy into you can actually convert prospects into customers.

We certainly know that. When you bring them in at that level, they’ve come on the other side of the rope. You’re now able to communicate with them directly by email. It’s interesting to me, just as we’re starting to really hit on this change in the way a great website should work, that the enterprise level, which is usually forever behind the rest of us, they’re actually moving in this direction and having legitimate success. There’s more to this than just the scrappy small companies.

Robert Bruce: What does this mean to … let’s not even mention the idea of ownership of the community itself. We all know you mentioned the Zuckerberg bait and switch.

Brian Clark: That’s the point.

Robert Bruce: Right.

Brian Clark: They’re completely frustrated, and I don’t blame them. We, of course, have been preaching this ad nauseam, but I think this is a good sign. Remember when Gary Vaynerchuk’s book came out and he really emphasized interaction at the social level. Really that’s kind of falling apart. I think there were some very smart people with some ideas that turned out not to be right. We have always been strong on home base. Own your property. Bring the audience to you. All of that. We stayed the course, but I’m feeling better that there’s some sanity returning to the world. Facebook’s going to take you for all you’re worth.

Robert Bruce: Garrett, what do you think of the enterprise waking up to this idea of owing their own and developing their own branded communities?

Chris Garrett: It’s like Brian just said about owning the real estate, owning the asset. When you own the real estate, then you control what that member sees. You can put nudges into taking actions. They might upgrade their account, or they might buy something from you, which you can’t do in Facebook as well. You could do some targeted ads, but you’re not in control of the experience as much as if you owned it. If you do that well, then the social proof and the other members will actually sell for you. You don’t even have to step in explicitly.

Brian Clark: Yeah, that’s a great point because Facebook benefits from the logged in experience, not you. They’re there. They have the user relationship. They’re logged in. They get to follow them all over the place, serve them targeted ads, and determine what they see in their news feed. You guys remember the psychological experiments they were basically performing on Facebook users without their knowledge. That was interesting.

Chris Garrett: Yep.

Brian Clark: Facebook owns that relationship. They’ve made that abundantly clear by saying, “You now get to pay us to reach that audience you built over here on our land.” Again, Chris is right because, when you own the property, there are all sorts of ways to heighten the experience that you can’t do otherwise.

A Major Content Acquisition, and What It Means for You

Robert Bruce: A very interesting purchase took place recently and that was LinkedIn acquiring, a massive education site. Let’s talk about that for a little bit, and also what it might mean for smaller organizations.

Brian Clark: has been a site that we have followed and admired since the beginning of Copyblogger. I’m pretty sure the early version of Teaching Sells pointed to Lynda as a great learning community. They just got so big. It’s amazing. Then, of course, what was the acquisition price? $1.5 billion? That’s a lot of money for a membership site, but that’s exactly what happened there.

This is going to become my new example of an overall logged in experience type play. Because think about it this way, LinkedIn has the Pulse service, which is freely available content. It started out in their Influencer program, and then they opened it up to others. So you have all this freely available content that’s being shared on LinkedIn, but also across the web. Then you have the original logged in experience, which is a business networking function combined with the 21st century resume, if you will. Again, you don’t get to do all that stuff until you register for access and log in.

Now there’s another component. Now, with the edition of Lynda, they have a paid business training and lifelong learning environment that complements. Something we’ve been talking about since 2007 is, as technology increases, as business models change, as the pace of everything intensifies, you’ve got to be constantly learning. So the reasoning given behind the acquisition of Lynda from LinkedIn was “always be learning,” which again, another play that we did in Teaching Sells a long time ago. This is a good thing because it legitimizes this type of non-university-backed online training because I don’t see any of the universities at the cutting edge.

It’s always been the practitioners, and that’s what Lynda latched onto. In a way, it continues to validate the people who want to make their own online courses, their own membership sites, because this is the way education happens. Therefore, building up your own authority as a subject matter expert or being able to produce sites that rely on the expertise of others, like Lynda does, that’s going to become a crucial opportunity. Lynda’s not going to extinguish all the training programs out there. We already know that today. I think it just legitimizes it.

The structure is what interests me. Freely available content, an initial free logged in experience leading to a paid logged in experience. That’s Copyblogger, MyCopyblogger, and Authority. It’s the exact model we’ve had in place for over two years now. Now, I’m not saying LinkedIn ripped us off. No. I doubt that very much. This is what’s happening. It’s not a Copyblogger thing. It’s a web thing. It’s an Internet thing, and it’s incredibly important. Chris, you’ve been around with us forever, both before you joined the company and then after, how do you see this all playing out?

Chris Garrett: I look at it as your career is the ultimate fear of missing out. If you see other people progressing in their careers past you, you’ve got to look at why they’re getting ahead. You’re going to look at the certifications, the training, the skills on their LinkedIn profile, and you’re going to want to upgrade. But you’re not going to go back to university. You’re going to tactically add those skills and that experience. I think it’s a really smart move, but it validates what we’ve been doing all these years of highly focused training from people who know what they’re talking about. You’ll get the benefit of selling what you know. They get the benefit of all that experience, and they’ll upgrade in their career or the business. I think it’s a wonderful validation of everything we’ve been doing.

Brian Clark: Yeah. Here’s another interesting thing, because I think you’re right on the business front. I read an interesting article that said, “Relationship, skills, and personal development are the fastest growing segments of online education.” Again, not from a university because that stuff doesn’t get taught at university. This article was focused on very smart, very tech savvy people who just aren’t all that great with women or men, as the case may be. It’s become a boon for people who are into things like reading body language. Not the shady seduction courses that we saw about five years ago. More legitimate stuff, but effectively the same topic when you think about it. So it’s not just business.

Why You Should Build and Offer a Free Course Right Now

Robert Bruce: One thing I keep hearing more and more is this idea of, “My children probably will not go to college or university,” but more than that, it’s the idea not so much in the future of a degree that you earn from a university, but a collection of very specific skills that you bring to a project or a job. That’s, right?

Brian Clark: Yeah. The whole concept of ‘just in time learning’ too.

Robert Bruce: Right.

Brian Clark: I get what you’re saying because by the time my son, who just turned 10, is of college age, can you really afford to spend 4 years … On one hand, yes, I want him to, to get a true classical, liberal education, so he can learn how to think, and how to create, and expand his knowledge. But the stuff that’s going to get him a job is probably not going to come from there.

Robert Bruce: OK, what does this mean? Maybe a couple of ideas for smaller organizations that are not in the $1.5 billion acquisition game?

Brian Clark: Well look, this goes back to the 400% increase in email opt-ins effectively by switching away from opt-in and going to a content library concept on MyCopyblogger. We’ve now refined that with the New Rainmaker free course to where instead of a collection of e-books, we’ve gone to a dripped-out online course where the lessons come every few days. And that was phenomenal. That actually was a big part of the launch of the Rainmaker Platform.

We’re getting more sophisticated in how we’re thinking about it. A lot of what we talk about on the show going forward will be what we’re doing and how you can do it as well because the tech is getting easy. It just comes down to strategy and what works and what doesn’t. Rule number one is still build your email list. But doing this whole concept as one project is going to build your email list faster, and you’re going to be in a position to do some really cool stuff that you wouldn’t be able to do with your email list alone. I know Mr. Garrett is quite smart on this topic.

Chris Garrett: I think one of the basic things that we’ve seen is the difference between the library and the class. A library will get people to join. A class will get people to stick around. Part of growing an email list is keeping people on that list, keeping them engaged, keeping them interested. Keeping them looking forward to the future of what’s coming next because, otherwise, you get a high conversion rate, but then you lose everybody within the first week. You need to keep them sticking around long term and actually engaging with you more and building a relationship with you.

Brian Clark: I will say we didn’t experience that problem with MyCopyblogger because it was the e-book library plus a dripped-out course. But that was the old school way. We just delivered it by email. With New Rainmaker, we did it the more sophisticated way. Now with the addition of the marketing automation/adaptive content features, frankly it’s going to get even more personalized, interactive, and effective.

The First Major Transition of Further.Net

Robert Bruce: Speaking of engagement and continued engagement, Brian, you’ve been talking about the first major transformation of It seems that it has everything to do with interactivity.

Brian Clark: Yeah., for those who are not up to speed on that, has started out as a curated email newsletter. Very simple in a topic that I have no known authority on, and I’m quite candid about that. Started it over three months ago, and it’s funny because the issue this week basically points out the power of teaching as a way to learn and how the act of retrieval and elaboration in the scientific parlance really makes you learn stuff for real, as opposed to the illusion of mastery that you get.

Maybe you read a book three times, and you’re like, “I must have this down.” Studies show actually you probably don’t because simple re-reading doesn’t really go over it. Anyway, long and short, I’ve been doing this curated newsletter. The features are usually me explaining something I learned from a book. Intensified learning. It’s weird how curation can make you an authority when you weren’t before by the simple act of explaining things to an audience.

When you really think about it, what does Malcolm Gladwell do? He takes all these really dense research abstracts and reports. He boils it down for the layperson. He makes it engaging and entertaining. Then he goes and gives speeches for a 100 grand a pop on this stuff that he taught himself by writing a book. It’s the exact same principle. Anyone can become an expert on anything, and my favorite way to do it is not to write a book. It’s to drip out content on a regular basis.

Anyway, that’s what it started with. Now that we do have the LMS, and we’ve already got the membership features, and now we have marketing automation features, what I’m looking to do is make Further go beyond just the email newsletter. Yes, that will be the reason why you stick around, but I’m thinking of doing some sort of 30-day challenge. Further basically covers personal development, so I’m thinking of something such as, “Develop a new habit in 30 days with the Further challenge,” and they register for it.

It’s part education, part accountability and interaction, which we can do with a combination of the LMS and membership features, obviously, which have been around forever, and then the new marketing automation. I haven’t got it all down, so this may be, again, one of my free consulting segments when I kick it back to you guys. Anything pop to mind?

Robert Bruce: Electroshock therapy.

Brian Clark: That would be awesome because if they don’t do it …

Chris Garrett: That is doable.

Brian Clark: Garrett, is that in the next release?

Robert Bruce: It is doable. Coming in Rainmaker 2.0.

Chris Garrett: We can totally do that. That would be fun.

Brian Clark: How would you see that working? You’ve got modules and lessons for the education that prompts an action. Therefore, I want to kick it over to them to do the thing, and then also have a way of testing their understanding of what they’ve learned before they go do it. Again, solidifying that learning.

Chris Garrett: Yeah, we do have quizzes and assessments coming, but what you can do right now is you can give people encouragement when they take the actions that they’re meant to take and nurture them to take those actions if they don’t take the actions.

What Marketing Automation Means for Your Business

Brian Clark: Yeah. That’s a basic simple adaptive content function of the automation, which is if someone doesn’t respond to this week’s or this day’s lesson or action item, you can send them one message of encouragement or motivation to do it. If they do it, then you can send them a note of encouragement for having done it and encouraging them to keep going. It’s simple, but over the normal email auto-responder experience, it’s kind of cool.

Robert Bruce: Yeah, and that being the point, just so people following along, we’re talking about all of this being automated.

Chris Garrett: Yes. If they do not take the action, I would leave them on the current list, the current auto-responder, which nurtures them and keeps giving them reasons to take the action and encouragement to do it. If they do take the action, I would put them onto another list that says, “Well done. Congratulations. This is what you need to do next.” Keep it going. Keep that momentum. So you’re always moving people forward, or further, and the existing people are getting a response to keep it going.

Brian Clark: You’ve got it.

Chris Garrett: You can give them targeted call to actions as well. Because if they’re not in the engaged group, you’ll want to keep giving them more nudges, and more prompts. That’s not necessarily a sale in terms of dollars. It’s a sale in terms of action.

Brian Clark: Yeah. Let’s tie this up with how this relates back. Yes, I am choosing to do it with a free membership concept, but there’s a very good reason for that from a personalization and experience standpoint. It comes full circle back to this logged in experience. Early marketing automation or anything that is an, ‘if-then’ situation, where you can serve up something custom, at its most primitive level, obviously can be done. But we now live in a multi-device world. What happens, Chris, when you cookie someone on the desktop, but they’re trying to come back to you on an iPad or their phone?

Chris Garrett: I saw this over and over again with these big guru launches, the big sales funnels, where I would sign up to something on my phone, and I would click the link. I would do everything they asked of me, but I wouldn’t view any of the content because I wanted to view it on my desktop. I get back to the desktop, and it wouldn’t let me in because I didn’t have the cookie. That is frustrating. You’re screaming at the screen.

Brian Clark: See, that’s what I’m saying. They talk about 1.0 and 2.0, or whatever, but I’m really looking at this as the pre-logged-in cookie world and a much more sophisticated world based on the logged in experience. Again, there’s a reason why the social networks are some of the biggest email marketers in the world. There’s also a reason why they know more about what you do then you do. It all comes down to this post-cookie world we’re living in.

Chris Garrett: It’s also that example of the company knowing the customer and knowing what they should know about the customer. A few times, I got excited about an upgrade of a product I already had. Really, they should give you an upgrade price, or they should give you at least a message saying, “Knowing that you’ve got version 1, this is what you can see different in version 2, and this is the reason to buy.” It’s not that experience of going from device to device. It’s also personalizing it to me in a way that’s good for customer service, and I’m more likely to transact with you.

Brian Clark: Right, and also once you get someone to register, you can do all sorts of things to get them to choose their own adventure, if you will. Identify what type of person they are in the context of the site. “What do you aspire to do? What’s your goal? What’s your problem?” Then all of a sudden, you can put them on different paths that way as well, which is not the same thing that you can do with other technology.

Robert Bruce: All right, gents. Anything else on the marketing automation or adaptive content, or are we going to save it for another time?

Brian Clark: Well Jerod Morris and I are doing a webinar on the 27th April. The post came out on Copyblogger this week. But if you’re interested in these new marketing automation and learning management system features that I’ve been furiously playing with and giving Chris all sorts of wonderful feedback, every time we do a release, we’re already planning the next release. And that’s good iterative development. We get feedback from customers. I happen to be our prime customer in a lot of ways in that, if I can do it myself with my schedule, then it’s working well.

If you want to see a demo of these new features, which are part of the new Pro plan — you can’t buy the Pro plan on the site right now. Existing customers are getting an upgrade option that’s kind of sweet. It’s a one-time charge instead of a recurring higher price, which it will be when it does go live.

So two things you want to do right now. Start your trial of the Rainmaker Platform if you don’t have it yet. If you’re currently a standard customer, you’ve already been given an opportunity to upgrade. Number three, sign up for this webinar, so we can walk you through more of the ‘why.’ We’ve touched on some stuff here today, obviously. Then also a direct demonstration of ‘how.’ — all in one free webinar.

Robert Bruce: You can sign up for the Rainmaker Platform at Rainmaker.FM/Platform. That’s Rainmaker.FM/Platform. Mr. Clark, thanks for putting all of this together for us today. We’ve got a few more of these. What do you think about this little series? A couple more left?

Brian Clark: Yeah. I think we’ve been getting good feedback. Some points where people aren’t getting what we’re talking about. Hopefully, this episode cleared it up. Even though we jumped all over the place between the enterprise, to LinkedIn, to what we’ve been doing for a couple of years, I think you can see the pattern. We’ll continue to explore that a bit.

If there’s anything that you want to know in particular, drop us a note in the comments. I’ll make sure and try to get that answered for you. But yeah, I’ll be back. I think we’re going to be talking about this for a long time. It’s not a series or a tactic. It’s more like, “This is how things work,” or “This is how your prospects, your audience expects things to work.” As the tech gets more sophisticated, it’s going to be an expectation, and I’m hoping to get people ahead of the curve because the curve is moving pretty quickly right now.

Robert Bruce: If you want to leave a comment on this episode, or any other of New Rainmaker, you can do that at NewRainmaker.FM. Mr. Garrett, thanks for coming by today and dropping your wisdom. Really appreciate it, man. You’ve got to do this more often.

Brian Clark: Yeah, thanks, Chris. This was cool.

Chris Garrett: Always a pleasure.

Robert Bruce: For those of you who want to catch Chris Garrett and Tony Clark on The Mainframe, you can do so at Mainframe.FM.

Thanks everybody. We’ll see you next week.