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The unique–and extremely varied–background of today’s social media thought leaders

When you think of the word “thought leader”, what pops to mind?

For me, it’s someone with years and years of experience. Someone who’s been practiced well before they preached.

Someone who had held positions of increasing authority within their industry.

Wikipedia defines a thought leader this way: A thought leader is an individual or firm that is recognized as an authority in a specialized field and whose expertise is sought and often rewarded.

When I think about a traditional thought leader, I think about people like Richard Edelman.

Richard has been in the PR business for 36 years–and counting. He joined Edelman in 1978. He worked in the industry for years–although he was an exec by 1981. He’s counseled hundreds of clients over the years. He’s spoken at industry events. Been recognized. And now, he blogs at 6 a.m.

Yep, Richard is what I’d call a traditional thought leader.

But, now think about today’s social media thought leader.

A specialization that’s much newer than PR.

But a specialization that’s attracted all kinds of people. And, people from all sorts of backgrounds.

In fact, it might surprise you to learn the backgrounds of some of the more prominent social media thought leaders.

For instance:

Did you know: Erika Napoletano, the very popular social media blogger, speaker and author, started her career in financial services at UBS and Diamond Bay Investments?

Erika N

Did you know:  Scott Stratten, the popular anti-establishment blogger, speaker and author, started his career as an HR consultant with Goodwill in Toronto? He was also a professor with the Sheridan College School of Business as well.

Scott Stratten

Did you know: Amber Naslund, the popular blogger, speaker and former VP at Radian6, got her start in philanthropy with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and Wisconsin Conservatory of Music?

Amber Naslund

Did you know: Kim Garst, the popular social media blogger out of Tampa/St. Petersburg, got her career start as a legal assistant?

Kim G

Did yo know: Dave Kerpen, founder and CEO of Likable Media, speaker, and noted LinkedIn Influencer, got his start as the “Crunch n Munch Guy” in Boston (he actually has his on his LinkedIn profile, to his credit)?

Dave K

Did you know: Jon Loomer, the very popular Facebook blogger and consultant, started his career managing fantasy basketball for the NBA?

Jon Loomer

Did you know: Christopher Penn, vice president at SHIFT Communications and noted blogger, got his start in IT with leadership positions at CASCAP, Boston Automation and Credit Union On Line?

Chris Penn

Did you know: Amy Porterfield, the popular Facebook marketing consultant, was distributor relations sales manager for ABC-CLIO, a publisher of reference books and interactive media?

Amy P

Did you know: Peter Shankman, founder of HARO, got his start as a news editor at “American Online?” (I just wanted to type “America Online”)

Peter Shankma

Did you know:  David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and popular speaker, got his start as a bond trading clerk at Dean Witter Reynolds?

David M S

Did you know: Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, started out as a designer at Little, Brown & Co.?

Biz Stone

Did you know: Joe Pullizzi, content marketing expert, started out as a team leader at Medical Mutual of Ohio working in internal communications and database development (how’s that for a mixed skill set, by the way?)?

photo credit: HighEdWeb via photopin cc

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photo credit: CC Chapman via photopin cc

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photo credit: Mari Smith via photopin cc

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Talking Points Podcast: Is company blogging broken?

In this latest episode of the Talking Points Podcast, Kevin and I experimented with a new format. We asked famed Dell blogger, Lionel Mechaca, to join us as a guest commenter.

Lionel, now with WCG, joined our discussion as we talked corporate blogging (of course), the future of social media strategy, and Minnesota Vikings football (what else?!?!).

Hope you enjoy (also: shiny new Stitcher embed below–you like?).

SHOW NOTES – July 31, 2014

“The Broken Art of Company Blogging (and the Ignored Metric that Could Save Us All)”


Minnesota Vikings/Instagram


Minnesota Vikings/Website


Boston Celtics/Instagram


“Why It Might Be Time to Completely Change Your Social Media Strategy”


Passing the #mnblogcon torch

Four years ago, Missy Berggren and I started the first conference in Minnesota solely devoted to Minnesota bloggers: The Minnesota Blogger Conference.


We started the event because we saw a need (at the time): to help bloggers from different walks of life, who blog about different topics, come together and learn from each other. And, to be honest, just to network and get to know one another.

With the help of many, many people, we’ve pulled off four #mnblogcon’s.

It’s been exhausting. Fulfilling. Time-consuming. Informative. And most of all, a heckuva a lot of fun.

But, our run has come to an end–well, for now, at least.

Last year, Missy signed on with WCG here in Minneapolis. She also joined the board of directors for the Food Allergy Support Group, and signed on as a key member of the planning team for the local Social Media Breakfast chapter. All this meant fewer hours to devote to labors of love like #mnblogcon.

Similarly, new commitments for me to the MIMA board of directors, the Winona St. Alumni Association, Bolder Options and Goodwill (in addition to client work!), have filled up almost all my “free time.”

Enter Mykl Roventine and Jen Jamar.

Missy and I have known Mykl and Jen for years. Big contributors locally. Bloggers in their own right. And great people.

When they showed an interest in taking the #mnblogcon reigns, we couldn’t resist.

We wanted #mnblogcon to live on–after all, we’ve seen tremendous demand for the event, and continue to field inquiries about this year’s #mnblogcon. So, naturally, we wanted to secure its future. With Mykl and Jen leading the way, Missy and I are extremely confident #mnblogcon will be on the right path.

Missy and I will still be involved in advisory roles, but Mykl and Jen will be handling all the day-to-day and planning details. In essence, #mnblogcon is now Mykl and Jen’s baby.

But Missy and I plan to be at #mnblogcon this fall. We wouldn’t really miss it for anything.

So, I hope you’ll join me in welcoming Mykl and Jen to the #mnblogcon family and wishing them the best of luck with this year’s event.

Missy and I have nothing but the highest of expectations :)

PS: If you’re interested in volunteering to help with #mnblogcon, or you’re interested in sponsoring, please contact Mykl at myklroventine@gmail.com. Look for more details on the event at www.mnbloggerconference.com.

Niche: The next evolution of influencer outreach?

$10,000 per Vine.

That was the stat that caught my eye a few weeks ago, when I started hearing more about Niche.

What’s Niche, you ask?

According to its site, Niche is the professional network for social media creators to analyze, grow and monetize their audience.

IG Niche

For brands, it may just be the future of influencer outreach and engagement (good articles from Inc., The New York Times, and Racked here).

At its most basic, for content creators (read: Instagram/Vine “celebrities”), Niche is a place where these people can aggregate all their social accounts in one place. And, more importantly, Niche is a broker for these content creators to work with brands and make, as it turns out, some pretty serious money (you did see the $10,000 per Vine at the top, right?).

For brands, Niche represents a way to collaborate and co-create content with some of the most popular and creative Viners, Instagammers and Tumblrs (those seem to be the big three platforms for Niche) out there.

We’ve seen this model before, right? Software and companies that hook brands up with the right influencers. Izea comes to mind.

And, we’ve certainly heard all about the power of influencer outreach. Mommy bloggers are frequently paid tens of thousands of dollars to promote brand products and services.

So, the concept is not really all that new.

Just the channels it seems–again, the focus seems to be on Instagram, Vine and Tumblr. All more visual platforms, and all more targeted at a younger demo, I might add.

At first I scoffed at this model.

Brands are paying some guy who makes Vines in his basement $10,000 PER VINE?

Did I suddenly wake up in an alternate universe? What year is this?

Brands are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to work with 22-year-old Instagrammers who happen to have a bit of an eye for photography?

Could this really be true? And, more importantly, could it really make sense for brands?

Yep. It could. And, it does.

Here’s why:

Brands crave “creative”–these people and platforms have it in spades

Why do you think brands hire advertising agencies? Think about Mad Men. Don Draper was the money-maker, not Pete Campbell. Creative has always been a huge demand for brands. Whether the execution is an ad, a billboard, a Facebook post. Whatever. Creative content wins. Brands know it. And they’re willing to pay top dollar for it.


Brands also crave “reach”–again, these internet stars have plenty

By now, many brands have large social communities. They have their own “reach.” But, that doesn’t mean they don’t want bigger numbers. More eyeballs. And, in many cases, different eyeballs (younger eyeballs, in this case). These Instagram/Vine celebs are well-known in younger communities. Scoff all you want, but it’s true. And brands are rushing to take advantage (OK, maybe not RUSHING, but they’re seeking it out).


Brands want easy solutions–meet Instagammer X, she has 500,000 followers and she can create wonderful “branded” images for your company! All you need to do is fork over $150,000!

At the end of the day, many brands are lazy. I don’t really mean that in a negative way. They just want easy solutions. And why shouldn’t they? After all, they have the money to pay for them. And here comes a firm (Niche) who’s offering them great creative, good reach with a premium audience (18-44 year-olds) at a reasonable price (compared with traditional advertising). I mean, if you think about it that way, what’s not to like?


And, last but not least, brands typically struggle to produce content that’s not over-the-top branded–and again, these creators are fantastic at this, it’s their bread-and-butter

We see this every day–brands tripping over themselves to fill the content vacuum with ridiculously, overly branded content. We’re 6-7 years into the social revolution and many  brands still struggle with creative content creation. But, these Instagrammers/Viners don’t. They know how to produce content that’s going to get clicks, likes and shares. And, they’re willing to play nice with brands–for the right price, of course. That gives brands an outlet to creative they just can’t deliver.


So, while you may scoff at the crazy price tags these ‘creators’ are demanding, if you think about it from a brand perspective, it may actually be worth it.

I can’t believe I just said a $10,000 Vine might be “worth it”, but the more I analyze what’s happening here, the more I believe it.


Think about what brands are getting:

* Access to audiences they may not already have access to (younger, millennial demos, in many cases)

* Creative they definitely don’t have access to (agency-level creative, even thought the agencies won’t love me saying that)

* And a turnkey approach that requires very little in the way of resources or time on your end (Niche doing its job here)

That’s a pretty slick package from a marketer’s POV. And I think it’s why Niche is succeeding so far.

Will it continue?

Who knows. I tend to think we’re headed for a bit of a bubble bursting on a few different fronts (and these IG/Vine superstars being one of those areas). But, time will tell, of course.

But for now, I can see this working for brands. And apparently, it has been working for a lot of brands. Look at their client list: Gap, Lyft, and BarkbBox, just for starters.



7 ways PR pros in their 20s can ensure they retire by age 55

OK, I know the title is a bit extreme, but I had to get your attention given this is a PR/marketing blogger talking about finances :)

First, I want to start this post with two quick disclaimers:

1–This is not your average Communications Conversations post. I am NOT going to talk about PR, social media or corporate communications in this post.

2–I am in no way, shape or form a financial planner or professional. Please do not take my advice as financial gospel.


That said, I think this is an important topic for students and younger pros just starting out in their career in their 20s.

Why? Because I was you 20 years ago. And I faced the same challenges you do now.

Financial challenges.

Really, not so much financial challenges as financial literacy. In essence, understanding how to better manage your finances.

It’s a class you typically don’t get in college. You tend to obtain your financial literacy in one of two ways: 1) From your parents or other family members, or 2) From the school of hard knocks–learning as you go on your own!

I want to address the folks who might fall in that second bucket. Because establishing financial literacy early on in your professional life can pay huge dividends down the road. HUGE.

I’ve boiled my tips down to seven concepts I believe are worth considering. Again, this is not necessarily financial advicel–just a few helpful tips to consider as you map out and plan your financial future. And, a few things that have worked well for me over the years.


1–When you get promoted, maintain your lifestyle–don’t upgrade it

This is probably one of the biggest–and most simple–concepts you can implement that will potentially help you the most. When you get that big promotion, or that new job with a 20% increase in pay, resist the urge to upgrade your life. Resist the urge to buy a better car. Resist the urge to go on a huge shopping spree. Resist. Resist. Resist. Instead: Maintain. It’s not as hard as it looks. You do that through 3-4 promotions, and you’ll be sitting on more cash than you think.


2–MAXIMIZE your earning potential

Learn how to negotiate. Learn how to stick up for yourself. Learn how to ask for a raise. And, most of all, learn how to constantly re-invent and market yourself. These skills will be HUGELY valuable to you throughout your career. Just look around at people within your company in senior positions right now. Sometimes, they’re not the smartest people, right? But, they’re most likely killer negotiators and self-promoters. Yeah, I know, no one likes a self-promoter. But guess what? There’s nothing wrong with a little self-promotion, if done right. And, it could wind up making you tens of thousands of dollars (if not hundreds) over the course of your career.


3–Don’t buy a BMW

I realize a car is a very personal choice for many, but resist the urge to buy that top-shelf car. Why? It’s an “asset” that depreciates the second you drive it off the lot. And, it depreciates quickly. And, at the end of the day, who really cares what kind of car you drive? My wife and I have driven some combination of Hondas, Toyotas and Hyundais throughout our lives. We’re at a point in our lives where we could afford nicer cars now–but we resist. Because it’s a car. It gets us from point A to point B. Period. And it’s never going to MAKE you money.


4–Splurge on ONE area of your life–save everywhere else

When you get that raise or promotion, splurge. Don’t upgrade your lifestyle (that’s something different–see above). But splurge. But–and here’s the key–only splurge on ONE item. For us, it’s usually food. We spend a decent amount of money on food and going out to restaurants in South Minneapolis. We enjoy that–it’s our splurge. Find your splurge. Spend money there. And then stop.


5–Use ONE credit card and use it VERY sparingly

This one’s obvious, but it bears repeating since so many young people seem to get mired in debt. Establish one credit card, but only use it if you really have to. And, when you do use it, pay it off quickly. Very basic financial advice, but there’s a reason everyone reiterates this. Getting to a “no debt” stage is absolutely key for financial security.


6–Learn how to invest on your own

I’m not saying you shouldn’t hire a financial planner. Go ahead–hire away (in fact, if you’re looking for a good one, hire my friend Eric Rislove in Woodbury–I can provide details if you’re really interested). But, learn how the market works. Learn how investments work. Learn how your 401K works. If you don’t, you increasingly won’t understand what your financial planner is talking about when you sit down once a year. And, that’s dangerous territory. For me, personally, this has meant understanding financial basics enough to invest on my own through Vanguard so I avoid costly fees I would incur through other firms. But bottom line: Learn investing basics. It’s not that hard.


7–Track your expenses–religiously

I have a friend who’s an accountant. This friend sets up a budget for his family each year. He’s meticulous about it. And he tracks EVERYTHING. I used to laugh at this friend. But, eventually, I saw how wise he was. Especially now as a business owner, where I track all my expenses each month. I can see how smart this strategy is. The beauty: By tracking your expenses, you start to become more self-aware of your spending. It’s kinda like keeping a food diary. Once you start tracking how many Oreo’s you’re eating on a daily basis, you become pretty damn aware every time you shove one of those cookies in your face. Start tracking your expenses. Make it a habit.


So, those are my tips. I hope those help. Sorry for the off-topic post today. Back to regularly scheduled programming Monday :)

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