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What it takes to be a Successful Social Media Consultant – Interview with Rodger Johnson


Rodger-Johnson-social-media-consultantBala interviews Rodger Johnson, the founder of SociallyRelevant.us. Rodger is a social media consultant & a communications strategist. He is currently pursuing his Doctorate on this subject.

Rodger has moved from various lines of work to choose the field he loves now. He shares his story on how he started out and what he has learnt from this field of work. From various tips on how to run a Social Media Command center, to the important metrics that need to be measured in social media marketing, are shared in this interesting conversation.

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Time Stamped Show Notes:

01:00 – Bala introduces Rodger
01:30 – After years of experience starting as a journalist, Rodger decides to do his Ph.D. in Marketing.
02:52 – He sells his domain yourprguy.com to start Sociallyrelevant.us
03:35 – Rodger’s professor warned him that he is going to fail in Journalism.
04:50 – Rodger finally found that his passion is for PR and stuck to that for years.
05:56 – Social Media conversations build the relationship for the brand between the customer and the business.
08:14 – The marketer’s job is to be the conductor of orchestras.
10:09 – Rodger shares an example of how he converted a disgruntled customer to a happy customer on social media.
13:21 – Influence is the currency of Social Media. Calculate your ROI right. Return on Influence and not investment.
13:45 – Shares another example of how Southwest Airlines does customer support using Social Media.
15:14 – Balance your goals to match the 80-20 rule for prioritizing between a focus on conversations & engagement vs outright promotions.
17:31 – Before starting out, analyze every component of the business, including the social media footprint of the existing web properties.
19:38 – Tips on how to integrate offline events with Social Media using the “social media command center”.
22:52 – Invest on Influencer marketing. Influencer marketing will only die when the human race stops living.
23:29 – Another example of how an Insurance company succeeded with Influencer marketing.
26:44 – Every business should have a presence on social media.
30:46 – Social Media is a long marriage. You don’t calculate the ROI (Investment) of your partner and if you do, you know what happens.
31:52 – Constantly explore new social media channels.
32:17 – Rodger shares another example of how exploring Snapchat gave an edge with their customers.
34:44 – Rodger does business with only those who are willing to put in the effort for a long term.
37:19 – Explains the process of how he gets new leads for his business through Twitter, Facebook & LinkedIn.


[00:00:50] Bala: Hello everybody. Thank you very much for joining into another great episode of Mondovo 1o1 series. My name is Bala and I’m your host. Today we are talking to a phenomenal communications strategist and the founder of SociallyRelevant.us. Rodger Johnson, welcome to the show.

Rodger: Hi, thanks for having me.

[00:01:09] Bala: Thank you very much for coming here. Roger, Tell for our viewers, who you are and what you do?

Rodger: For a long time I’ve been working in marketing and public relations in both sides. I started up public relations in 2006. I moved into Digital Marketing, probably around 2008 and I’ve been into Digital Marketing ever since. And just recently, I’ve decided to step out of marketing completely and go back into the academy to get my Ph.D. because I think if there is a better way that we can do marketing moving forward and that is through dialogue and that’s really the kind of what my research is gonna be in the doctorate program.

[00:02:15] Bala: Pretty cool. Tell us how and when you got really started with this Socially Relevant?

Rodger: How I got involved in Socially Relevant is an interesting evolution. I started out like I said in Public Relations. I had a blog which is called YourPRGuy. That was pretty successful for a while and then some young professional that was coming in the world wanted to buy my YourPRGuy url. So I sold it to him. That was fine. Then I started Socially Relevant. Really Socially Relevant is my foray into Digital Marketing, into Content Marketing. Now it’s evolving into this whole concept of dialogue in how we do dialogue and the work that we do in dialogue moving forward. That make sense?

[00:03:26] Bala: You also mention that you started as a journalist in the beginning, then you moved into PR, right?

Rodger: Yeah. The interesting thing about journalism is that, all the way back when I was a senior in college and I was graduating. I was a good enough writer and a good enough person in creating relationships that I was employed before I ever got out of school. I was excited and so I went to my professor and I said – “Hey, I got this great journalism job at a paper in the North of where I live”. I remember that she sat there in her office and she said she goes – “You’re going to fail at journalism. You’re not a journalist.”

So, being the stubborn young boy that I was at that point, I didn’t listen to her. So I went out and failed a couple of times. And then I realized that Public Relations was really where I succeeded. And then when I got my first PR job, I went back to her office a few years later and said:
– “You’re right, I failed.” And she goes on – “So what are you doing now?” I said – “Well. I’m in PR.”
She goes – “I knew you’re good into PR at some point.”

That’s how I got into it.

That journalist experience has been invaluable to both the PR side and even more so on the content marketing side.

[00:05:29] Bala: Very good, Let’s take a deep dive inside now. Rodger, according to you, what is the relationship between Social Media, Content Marketing and Brand building?

Rodger: Well, the brand is a thing that a lot well in the back up. So a lot of people think that brand is a thing. But the brand is really where a conversation happens between the customer and the business. When I say it’s a business, the people that make up the business. In that conversation we have things that are doing a lot of work.

When the content is helping customers understand the business better and the products and services of that business offers and how they can use them. But the Social media does a couple of things. First of all it can create conversations between people and the organization and the customers themselves. And it’s that conversation that builds the relationship or the brand if we want to use that term between the customer and the business.

That conversation is extremely important because in that conversation, there’s always work being done.

[00:07:46] Bala: What are your thoughts on the media landscape today, in terms of journalism, PR and marketing communications? Where this landscape is taking us today?

Rodger: Well, I think they are all very distinct parts still. But I think that it’s the concept marketer’s’ job to be the conductor of the orchestras. So the journalists’ play a role, influencers play a role, social media plays a role. I think the content director is the person who needs to make sure that roles are orchestrated in a way that can push that brand’s really out to customers, to the audiences, to people. What I meant by that is developing relationships, deep relationships with journalists, understanding their particular audiences and writing content that they can use to develop the stories that they need to develop for their audiences.

So many times, we see it, this is the PR side of things. So many times we see content marketers putting out generic content and Public Relations, people putting out generic content to journalists that’s not useful. The key is being useful. The same thing goes with influence. In fact, I love journalists and influencers were together under one group because journalists are influencers and influencers are citizen journalists.

So they are one and the same and I don’t see a distinction between them other than one gets paid by a newspaper and the other one sits at home. That’s one side of it. The other side of it is the Social media side of things and developing that conversation with people to get them excited about sharing your content. Not only sharing your content but talking about your content. Talking about your company online.

Let me give you an example of that. Recently, as in last month, I was working online with a customer who was unhappy with our company. With the company that I was working with. And so I started a public conversation with them, about this particular problem. In that conversation, all these people on twitter are watching this conversation in full which is fascinating because then you get people later starting to follow you.

Then you get people who are starting to follow you and then you get people who might start to want to try them in and be a part of that conversation. So, what happens is that we resolve this guy’s problem. That wasn’t a hard thing to resolve. But then, after we resolve this problem, we get into another conversation. A conversation evolves in, he’s like talking about how wonderful we are, how responsive we are, how nice we are and all of that is publicly shared out there on twitter. So people see that and it has an after-life well beyond just a conversation won’t say that a customer service person would have on the phone.

Because if the customer service person is having a conversation with a customer on phone. Then it’s just between those 2. In Twitter, it’s with you and the rest of the world. So what we saw interestingly enough and I just saw that I just saw this out at the corner of my eye was, that the company that I was working with, wears just a ticker on the big screen TV and as I was having this conversation, my colleague noticed that the ticker was going up. We were getting, lands on our website, everything up. I asked him I said – “What you getting in lands for?” And that was for the product that we were talking about online.

So, that conversation is extremely important for the brand.

[00:12:33] Bala: What are the common mistakes that people do in Social Media Marketing?

Rodger: They think that they can automate the stuff and then they think that they can tie the Social media to return on investment. I defer to Mark Schaefer on this. He is a very popular, very well-known Social media expert in the United States. I think arguably the world. He wrote a book called “ROI” which is Return On Influence. Not Investment.

It’s the influence that is the currency of Social Media. It is the influence that matters the relationship you build with people. Firstly, it can’t be scaled. Secondly, you have to pay attention to what’s happening, almost all the time.

Let me give you another example: I had a problem with Southwest Airlines here in the United States. That was a common problem. Instead of calling their customer service line up, I just go online, I tweeted, and within 30 secs, I had a response. Within 5 mins, I had my problem resolved.

Again, at the same time. Southwest Airlines really understands us is that everyone was seeing their problem was resolved their problems and we had a little joking fun and there as well and that adds humor and that whole humanity thing to your conversation that just being an organization that adds here that’s nebulous and doesn’t have any type of personality. People really want personality. So I think one of the things that people loose and people make mistake in the social media is not having a personality. If you don’t have a personality, people aren’t gonna follow you.

[00:15:34] Bala: The content or the product or the service you’re actually promoting needs to be balanced isn’t it? How much should we promote, how much we engage?

Rodger: That really depends on your goal. For example, I’m getting ready to promote the product right now that no one knows about. Initially, to get my message out there, I’m going to have to do a lot of promotion. I’m going to have to do a lot of paid promotion because the algorithm of the Facebook only allows us to do that now and Twitter is about the same way.

But once I start to get that engagement, then I want to capture those people and start a conversation. That’s really important. The other important thing is getting these people that you capture from your initial advertising, initial promotion into an email us. Because if you can get them converted from social media to an email us, then your promotion becomes free.

Because, then you don’t have to advertise to them any more. They were really up to them and saying – “hey I’m really interested and I want to know more.” So that’s kind of part of customer’s journey that we talk about. I would say as a number, I would always link towards more conversation and less advertising if you are a well known product.

More of you are a well know brand. So I would say, more 80% conversation, 20% advertising. But if you are getting ready to launch a new product, then you need to put those numbers around and do 80% advertising and that upfront 20% conversation until you get enough people where you can flip those numbers back around again. Does that make sense?

[00:17:15] Bala: When some company approaches you in order to do a particular kind of promotions for them, how do you take it up? How do you evaluate the situation? What is your thought process?

Rodger: Well. I do what they call. I audit everything. And I analyse not only their social footprint but their web properties, their product itself. I analyse all that. I even analyse their own ability to be social in social media. So for an example, I’m getting ready to work with a client and he has no, his business has no social presence. His website was built in 1999. He has no content. And the product that he’s creating is a brand new product. You can see that we don’t really have any foundation on which to build. So I have to build that. Next, we are going to have to do a lot of promotion here to get these people interested into what you are doing.

And then we also have to connect that interest and that advertising was something a lot bigger than just the product that you have. And I think that’s really a key. What we are talking about right now is creating a movement, a community. So it really depends on the client.

[00:19:23] Bala: How to integrate social media with offline events?

Rodger: You know that’s an interesting topic. (Sighs) When you do offline events, you have to have people dedicated to social media first of all. So you have to set up some sort of “social media command center”. When you do that, you have to make sure that the people behind the social media are good at developing relationships with people at the same time, they are good with some sort of personality as well. So the first thing that you need is some sort of social media command center. It could be one or two people sitting around the table some place with their laptops watching everything on who’s doing what. The second thing is they have to pro-active about engaging people. So if they see somebody using a hashtag, that you created for the event, then they can engage that person with the #tag.

Such and other thing you need the #tag for that event. If you got to use Snapchat, you need to use their technology for the Geo tracking to make sure that you keep that conversation going in the event and so that people can find it as well.

And then finally I think really what you need is, you need to give your social media team at the command center autonomy to be themselves. To have fun with it. And another thing I think that’s really interesting is that, you also need to have a part of that team out in the audience, out in the event themselves, and doing what we used to do in journalism back in the 1990s is on the main street conversation with people. Man on the street, type of stuff.

You take your video camera or your iPhone and you have a conversation with somebody and you promote that through Twitter, through Facebook live and all these other different channels.

But even more than that is you need to tag these people as well. Because when you tag these people, then other people see that they are giving tag and that’s the same thing that we used to do in 1990s in journalism. Somebody in the community we interviewed them, then we put their name in the paper and people love that. And they will share that kind of stuff to other people.

[00:22:21] Bala: What is your take on influencer Marketing? Some say that influencer Marketing is dead, what is your take on this?

Rodger: My take on this is the influencer marketing will only die when human race stops living. Influencer marketing is always going to be here. And it has been here since caveman times. And that will be here long into the future. So anyone who says that influencer marketing is dead is lying and you should run away from him.

So, interesting thing between influencer marketers and the journalists is that, journalist expect them to pitch them the product at some point. They also expect you to try to give them some sort of parameters to mold the store. They expect that. Because that’s part of the business. Now whether they choose to do that or not is up-to them. Influencer marketers, this is they differ a little bit because they are people just like you and me.

And they want to have freedom and autonomy to experience the product themselves. And to add their own type of where to their promotional if they want to promote it. And if they don’t want to promote it, that’s okay too. So I think the difference there is that you give influencers the autonomy to do what they want to do with this.

So for example, the organization that I was just working with last month. We created these poll social media thing. Influencers thing called your events or team. Because there was a travel insurance company. And so what we did was we are going to allow people who are buying travel insurance to take a flag with them to where the destination that they were going and write a story about it. But how they write that story, how they take the picture of them and their adventure team flag is entirely up to those people who are on their adventure.

All we get is the user generated content. As they decided to create that. So when I’m hoping to see is that people create videos, people create really interesting pictures that they have super cool stories and they find in new and interesting creative ways to tell the stories. Because what that’s gonna do for that company is this going to show at the people out there when we promote that through social media or if they promoted through their own world or website that we’re open to cool creative stuff and we enjoy it. And I think that people like to be part of that kind of atmosphere. That makes sense?

[00:25:42] Bala: Right. Absolutely. Say a complete new start up comes up, someone who doesn’t have any presence in social media or does not do much there. But apparently they are doing a good job in terms of SEO and Adwords and things like that but not much in social media because either their customers are not there, or their product is such a way that they don’t have to be in social media. In those cases, would it make any relevant case for them to be in social media or they should absolutely avoid it or everyone should keep their hands into social media?

Rodger: Well, I think every business should have a presence on social media. The reason why I think that is because at some point, somebody, one of your customer is going to run into problem with your customer service, because something’s going to go wrong there. And everybody always does. And then they are going to go to social media, complain about it.

If you’re not there, you miss that opportunity to take that complaint and turn it into something more productive not only for the customer but for the company as well. That’s one reason why I think that every company should have social media presence at some level. If it’s an organization that’s doing great in SEO, doing great in paid advertising, my question is why wouldn’t you want to create a conversation with your customer?

Because of what we think about conversation, and we think about how rewarding it is just between two people. Why wouldn’t your customers find it that much more rewarding. It’s the way in which we have, we can humanize business. When we talk about humanizing business, it’s the conversation that we have it how we do them. That’s really important to understand how we do them. It’s also and I don’t think. This is why I’m going to go get my Ph.D. I don’t think a lot of business does really understand how conversations work and the work has been done in conversations. And how they are structured and how they evolve and how they have an after life. So for a business, doing all the great stuff out here in SEO, and Paid search and all those other stuffs, paid advertising. Great. Super. Keep it up. Alright. You just gonna to benefit more on social media if you are there then if you are not there.

[00:28:58] Bala: Absolutely. One of the major reasons why most companies are also struck into this, is the calculation of ROI. You take SEO, you take Ads. They know exactly what they have spent. But don’t you think that it’s bit difficult to calculate the ROI out of social media? Lots and lots but activity, but real calculation where, what exactly work and did not work. How exactly you calculate?

Rodger: It is tough to calculate. And it’s hard if not impossible to calculate the value of a conversation. Because you don’t , it’s a sociological exercise. Alright. You can only – I guess the best way to put it is you will only know if this works when you see that it works. Or you will know when you see it.

So for an example: what the company does that I work with last month, we had this conversation on twitter with this company I recorded all of that conversation then I went to the senior executive and I said – “hey look at what happened here”. We can’t tie this directly to a Dollar figure necessarily but indirectly from my conversation what happened was that not only that he gave a refund which is what he was after. But we have these all of these other potential social media activity and all these other potential people that we can go after.

You know poor products and services later on. So, developing the potential for what’s coming next is like in a marriage. If you are married to somebody, you don’t calculate the ROI or your conversation all the time. If you did, you will get divorce. But that’s really how you think about is that at the end of the day, is not about our ROI in investment, it’s about ROI in the influence that you are creating. People need to get over measuring everything. That’s what they need to get over.

[00:31:32] Bala: But you see social media functionalities is constantly evolving, What do you think about it?

Rodger: I think that you should always explore new social channels, new technology that’s out there, just to understand what it’s doing and what are the limitations. Whether or not you should engage people in those social channels only becomes relevant to the organisation if you find customers using those channels. And a significant number of customers using those channels.

For an example, with the company that I was just working with, we did find a lot of people that were using Snapchat. But we didn’t know that before until we actually found one of our customers in there. Because we were using it ourselves. So, the idea of always trying to being an explorer what the technology is extremely important. Even if you explore and it doesn’t work, that’s okay. There’s nothing really loss there. There everything that’s been learnt.

So you always have to look at these explorations as learning experiences.

[00:33:02] Bala: Now, let’s talk about the business that you are actually doing right now. So Socially Relevant, you run it as an agency to have various companies to do these social media campaigns. How exactly, how do you work with the clients?

Rodger: For pretty much when I start off, which is a free call, we talk about business goals, we talk about the marketing goals, but sometimes it’s just a little bit of different. And I really kind of get to understand what the customers wants, what’s the business wants me to do? And then what we do is, we do a lot of research. We get into social media accounts, we get into all the other different web properties. What I’m really analyzing for is the level of conversation, and indicators that conversations happening. If it isn’t happening, then that’s a different conversation between the new business and myself.

If there are ways in which we can improve their conversations in social media. Then that’s really where I do my best work. Because and then we just develop a plan. If they approve the plan and then we execute it. And what we like to do is, we don’t want to do this one and done types campaigns because in social media, and content marketing, this is a long term investment.

I always tell them. And if you are not willing to put in the time and effort for a long term investment, then we don’t have any business working together because at the end of the day, you’re not going to be happy and I’m not going to be happy. And that’s not going to be good for any one of us. So, that’s really kind of call I work with them.

[00:35:04] Bala: So you have a team that’s kind of work for them or you train them to do what they have got to be doing?

Rodger: No, I do it all myself. I handpick the clients that I want to work with. And I work with them by myself personally and then I have contracted with people that I work with to do very specific jobs like I have somebody who is extremely good in like facebook advertising. So if you want to do advertising, I’m confirming that work out to my particular client, not client but colleague who actually just lives right down the street from me. And he does all that. By one graphic design, I found that out to my graphic designers. So my team literally is all over the world. In fact, I have people in India that I work with as well, will do different things for me.

[00:35:59] Bala: So you look only the social media side, not the SEO side, or the adword side of the business, just focusing on social media?

Rodger: I do social media and I do content. And then if I have any type of SEO or any type of paid advertising type work that comes across, then I pass that out to one of my colleagues or if it’s something that is something that is larger than we can handle it alone, I have a couple of agency friends, specially in paid advertising, that I just pass that work out to them, so that we can do it. And these were top agency companies in the world like one agency, a company that I work with here in the United States, is one of the top in the US. And there is another one, the person who owns it started to do go adwords. So that’s one of the top 15 people on Google adwords team. So they know their stuff.

[00:37:07] Bala: Perfect. You’ve got a lot of people, aren’t you? Fantastic. So in terms of leads, how do you get it in your leads? Is that like people normally come to you or you have a way of nurturing your leads?

Rodger: Well, I primarily nurture my leads on mine. So most of my business comes to me through online marketing. So I’m out there in twitter, I do a lot of facebook advertising. But then I find that all of my leads come through LinkedIn. And really what I do is, okay, I want to work with this particular type of company. So I do some searching, I found people who are leaders in that particular field.

And then if I want to go out and get lead. I just start conversations with people. I don’t sell myself. I say – “hey you’re doing great on this particular thing in social media”, or “you’re doing great in this particular thing on your website’. I just start a really nice conversation with them and ove time, they realize – “oh wait, this guy does inbound marketing or content marketing and social media. may be we should talk to him a little bit more.” So It’s about the relationship with people.

[00:38:32] Bala: perfect. So normally how long does it take to turn a lead to a customer for you?

Rodger: It really is hard to say. Sometimes, it’s a week. Sometimes, it’s months. Sometimes, it’s a year. So it really depends. But I’m not really so much worried about how long it takes. I’m worried about the relationship that I built.

Bala: Perfect. How many customers do you handle right now? And what kind of projects you’re doing?

Rodger: Right now, I have three that we handle. And the reason why I don’t have that many customers right now is because I’m getting a PhD. So that really takes up a bulk of my time and I’m doing research there. So my customers were like my laboratory. So if I find out something over there, then I come over here to them and I say – “hey, let’s see what happens if we do this”. And because I’ve developed that kind of tight relationship with them, they are more apt to say – “yea sure let’s try that”.

And I haven’t had anybody say that – “no, let’s not try that”. Because I’ve developed that relationship with them.

Bala: Perfect. That’s cool. So I think we’ve covered most of the areas over here. Thank you very much for that. If our viewers have to contact you, what is the best place they can reach out to you?

Rodger: You can reach out to me at my email address which is RODGER@SOCIALLY RELEVANT.US. You can also reach me on twitter @socirelevant and you can get me a call too. My telephone number is 3179085850 and you can also reach me on the web at www.SociallyRelevant.us.

Bala: Thank you very much. It was fun talking to you Rodger!

Rodger: Thank you.

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Bala Ayya

Growth Hacker at Mondovo
Accomplished sales expert and a creative digital marketing strategist with a proven record of success in design and product development/lifecycle, from conception to end-user.

One Comment

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  • Totally in love with this Agency 1 on 1 series. You guys keep on churning out excellent articles. Well, nothing much to add here. I guess people should definitely take out time from their busy schedule to read this informative yet interesting piece of interview you guys have put together.

    P.S – Really enjoyed reading about the way SociallyRelevant started out. Cheers..!

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