Interviewer’s Note: Today’s interview is with Neil Vermillion of Audience Creator, which strives to build better connections between companies and their clients. We chatted about the nature of the relationships formed in social media, and how critical they can be. Here we go!
Hi Neil, welcome to the Pluggio blog. How do you describe your business?
Basically I help people leverage the communication capabilities of Internet marketing to connect with their audience and get their message out. Whether it’s a business selling a product or service, a non-profit wanting to spread awareness, or an individual just wanting to meet other like-minded people, I help people to connect with other people online.
So you facilitate this process? What do you do that makes you unique?
I treat Internet marketing more like a communication tool rather than a “sales-only” type of medium. Many marketers only focus on getting more leads and making more sales, but I encourage my clients to also include relationship building, customer engagement, branding, and networking.
Why do you think they’re not doing that already?
Most people are too busy running their business to learn how to effectively utilize the technology we have today, so I help bridge the gap for them, however they need it.
How did you get started in that line of work, or realize that there was a need to be met?
I started in marketing back around 2001 in real estate. Back then I did everything offline and got my first experience doing direct mail, print media, cold-calling, sales, etc. As I used the Internet more and more on a daily basis I began to see the power of being able to communicate a message, marketing or otherwise, to so many people so quickly. I started dabbling with little projects, and over time began to devote more and more time to it, eventually transitioning into doing it full time.
What roles does Twitter play in your business?
Right now I am using Twitter to build an audience, establish credibility, and cultivate relationships with others. Those are the three main areas I am focused on with Twitter right now. All three of these areas work together and can be very powerful when leveraged efficiently.
What impact or change have you seen due to Twitter/social marketing?
It’s funny how we, as humans are social creatures. There are certain triggers we all have that help us to make decisions, one of them being “social proof”. I have seen social media totally reformat the way my clients are perceived simply based on their social media presence.
Right or wrong, having no presence (or a poor presence) is perceived as a credibility indicator to many prospects. Lacking social proof can be detrimental, which could mean prospects may decide to select a competitor.
So in addition to increasing the sales funnel, social media has been very effective for my clients in establishing credibility and showing proof they are not some fly-by-night kind of operation, but are in-fact well-liked by others. When prospects see a large following, subconsciously they are thinking… “they must be doing something right.”
I completely agree- I’ve noticed how, the more Twitter followers I’ve amassed, it’s attracted other users with much larger followings than I was getting before! It’s like you have to prove yourself or establish credibility before they follow you, I suppose.
When credibility is securely established in the minds of the prospects a lot less convincing is needed on the part of the sales person. Since the prospect already has a certain level of trust, the sales person doesn’t have to spend time developing it, or at least not as much time. This means that sales people can make more sales in the same time frame, which translates into higher productivity.
Good point, and it leads to other positive side benefits, too, I imagine.
Also, when trust and credibility is established, typically a higher price can be charged for the same service or product, which obviously increases profits for the company.
All of these things used be done in a more expensive media (i.e. – print, direct mail, or face-to-face presentations), but now we can leverage the power of the Internet to reach more people, more effectively, for lower cost and for greater results. It’s truly amazing.
Are there any of your accomplishments with social marketing that you are particularly proud of?
I am not proud of any one particular accomplishment. To me they are steps in our progress. Each one is valuable, but at the same time, each one is a step to the next level. I’m equally proud of each and every accomplishment, no matter how small, because it’s all part of the pieces needed to complete the puzzle as a whole.
How did you build your Twitter following?
Honestly there is quite a bit of work that goes into it. It really boils down to two broad tasks.
The first task is developing and executing a tweeting strategy and doing it consistently. You’ve got to have something worth sharing. If what you share doesn’t really serve or interest anyone, your following will never grow, unless of course you are a Hollywood celebrity.
On the other hand, if you share something note worthy, your followers will appreciate it and even share it with their followers, aka “retweet your stuff”.
The second task is all about building the right kind of following.
Obviously, we want to attract followers with a common interest, but also you want to attract a certain kind of person who is likely to retweet you. It doesn’t happen accidentally. In fact it takes very deliberate action and strategy to cultivate a following that will retweet and promote you to their followers.
When you have a good tweeting strategy, combined with a large following that frequently retweets your posts, the results can be significantly better compared to followers that don’t retweet.
So a lot of thought and preparation goes into developing a solid Twitter following.
I noticed you do video marketing, which a lot of people aren’t into yet. What are some benefits for doing this?
I think probably the best benefit of using video is that it is superior to building trust and bonding with people. Some people just don’t want to read an entire blog post, but they will gladly listen to another person talk, especially if they are interested in what they have to say.
I agree with that, especially with everybody multi-tasking. Reading is something you have to devote your attention to, but I always like to play video or listen to the radio when I’m working on other stuff.
Another benefit of using video is that usually the interface is very simple. Typically the only thing a visitor has to do is hit the ‘Play’ button and/or adjust the volume, and that’s it. There’s no learning code, no filling in forms, no navigating to a specific page, no searching required.
Not everyone is great at reading and writing for a number of different reasons. It might be because of their personal skill set, their age, their background, or perhaps they aren’t a native English speaker, so being able to just sit in front of a screen and push the play button is very appealing, especially to those who dont’ like to read or are a bit intimidated by computers.
That’s a great point- reading comprehension is definitely an acquired skill, whereas understanding nonverbal communication, hearing inflections, vocal tone, etc is practically innate.
I mean, people that don’t hardly know how to type will spend hours on Youtube. That should tell us something… This means people using video will, and still do, have a tremendous advantage and can reach more people in a way that we, as humans, are more inclined to receive.
Another huge benefit of video is its viral nature. If the content is compelling, people will share it with their friends, who will share it with friends, who will then in turn share it with their friends. Many video campaigns have gone viral in minutes, and some people have launched careers using the power of online video and capitalizing on the viral capabilities.
What’s your experience with video been like, at least as a marketing or social media tool?
Video can be tricky. While you don’t have to have studio-quality production, you do have to think ahead and work out what you are going to say, and most importantly, be natural doing it. Most people freeze-up a bit when the red light on the camera is on, and it takes some practice and skill. Not everyone is able or willing to do it, which again, means those who are willing to will have a huge advantage over those who don’t.
Also, like everything else in Internet marketing, having a solid strategy and working to leverage one’s presence together on different platforms and social properties can really multiply its effectiveness, as opposed to just creating a video and throwing it up there and hoping people will watch it.
When does video work best, and when should it be avoided?
I think it works great most of the time, as long as the content is compelling or interesting. Today visitors’ attention spans are so short, there is no time for “fluffy content”. People just won’t watch it waiting or hoping for the video to get good.
But the opposite also holds true. If the video is engaging people will watch it in its entirety and pass them on to their friends. It can really hook people in, and help them to bond with you, and build the relationship.
What strategies did you use for social marketing (either online or offline)?
I have done all kinds of stuff both online and offline. Really I have done a lot, and I’m still continually experimenting, testing and tweaking. One never really masters something that changes so rapidly and constantly. Instead you have to continually adjust and modifiy to fit what’s happening in the moment.
What worked for you?
I think what’s worked best is when multiple strategies are implemented in conjunction with other strategies.
True; you can’t rely on just one tactic anymore. I keep hearing the importance of having multiple approaches.
It creates a kind of synergistic effect where 1 + 1 + 1 = 6, not 3. The results produced are often much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s kind of perplexing, but that’s just the way it works.
It’s a mysterious thing; that synergy. Neil, thank you so much for speaking with us!
Follow Neil on Twitter here.
Become a follower of us on Twitter at: @Tweets4SmallBiz
For my posts about topics in small business and entrepreneurship, follow my updates via RSS here