Scott Stratten is one of the top Twitter personalities in the world. Unlike traditional celebrities, Scott has built his reputation on the back of compulsive tweets and "unmarketing" tactics. As a result, over 50,000 people follow his daily updates.
Currently, he is gearing up to launch his first book with publisher Wiley (@WileyBiz) which should hit shelves this fall.
I caught up with Scott between his book tour dates to find out more about the "unmarketing" phenomenon and the magic behind his success.
Clement: So, you've built your whole business around the term "UnMarketing". What is UnMarketing, exactly?
Scott: UnMarketing is about building relationships. I call it "pull and stay" marketing instead of "push and pray" marketing. "Push and pray" marketing is the old-fashioned mindset of pushing messages and praying that somebody's going to buy from you eventually. "Pull and stay" is when you pull people toward you and stay in front on them, whether it's via a newsletter, blog, or Twitter. It doesn't matter what medium you use, because I firmly believe that business is built on relationships, and you need to make building your business a priority.
UnMarketing teaches you how to get to know people, how to get them to trust you, and also like you as long as you're authentic. We have to stop being hypocrites.
Clement: Tell us a little bit of your background - were you always so passionate about marketing? Did you ever think you'd be this successful doing what you're doing?
Scott: The funny thing is, I actually went to school for human resources and ended up teaching it at the college. I still teach it to this day.
Human resources is all about human nature and what makes people tick. I started out as a lead singer in bands and quickly realized my talent didn't exactly lay with vocals - it lay with being a manager because I understood business. Most of the time, great artists aren't exactly great business people. I figured that, if I could combine the two, it would start working for me.
On the Toronto music scene, Craig Morrison, who was the main guy at Lee's Palace, sat me down on my first day of booking bands and told me, "At the end of the day, you could be the greatest band of all time. You could be the second coming of anything - of the Stones, the Beatles, or The Rush - but if you don't bring me a hundred hardcore drinkers, you're not coming back."
That's when I realized that, although people like to get great products and services, they're not in it for you. We have to remember that. We have to find ways to stay in front of real people and engage with them the whole time. So that's really how the whole thing started - from being in a band, to 8 years later: "UnMarketing" the world.
Clement: 8 years in the making and it's a huge hit... So, you consult with businesses a lot on their social and viral marketing strategies. Is there a recurring list of mistakes that they all do? You know, like kind of a top 10?
Scott: Yeah, I'll give you the top mistake first.
They have given this new evolution in marketing a label like web 2.0 or social media. They think this new way is just a better method of going about the old ways. Not true.
Social media is not a new way for you to push your ads out, you know? A blog is not a new way for you to start converting sales right off the bat. It's a whole new kind of paradigm shift in marketing and they don't realize it. They still make it about them, about them, about them. And then they come to me and say, "Why didn't it work? You know what, Scott? Social media doesn't work. We got our "Tweezer" account and we put a couple of ads for our products in there and nobody bought anything."
You have to invest what I call your "social currency" into social media. You wouldn't go into a bank, open a business account and just say, "I want to withdraw $5,000" right?" If you haven't put anything into it, you'd be insane to want to get money from it. You've got to invest first. Companies have to shift into engaging in conversations and talking with people rather than this 'push, push, push' mentality.
Clement: So then how responsive would these businesses be to someone such as yourself, who comes in and says that what they're doing is rubbish and that they need to actually listen to people. Is this essentially a "listening" problem?
Scott: (laughs) Well, I think it's a problem with expectations. It's not only listening; it's reacting to what I'm saying. You can use Twitter as a listening post. You can use Facebook to hear what people are saying, but you have a choice here. You can either listen or you can engage.
I've stopped arguing. I'm getting older and I'm no longer preaching as much as I used to. I'm no longer forcing this down people's throats. People say, "What's the ROI?" and in saying that, they don't get it.
They can see that with direct mail, if they invest 10 grand and they make 11 grand from it, that it works. If I went to them 5 or even 10 years ago and said, "There will be tools in the future that will allow you not only to listen to your potential, current and past customers, but also to jump in and talk to them" and then offered those tools to them to use, they would have paid me 10 grand a month to use them. But now that the tools are available and don't cost anything, they're still wondering if the ROI is worth it.
Do I have to tell people that this actually works?
Clement: Right! So now that we're heavily invested in the term "social media", is it really the technology that's bringing about this shift in marketing? I mean, fundamentally, what does social media mean to you, and how do you think marketing with it is going to evolve over the coming years?
Scott: I think we forget that social media isn't the cause of the success - social media just drives it. And if you don't have the content - if you don't have the engagement, it's not going to work.
Take YouTube for example. Because I've had some success on YouTube with video views, people actually tell me, "We want to get our video on YouTube so people will see it." But YouTube doesn't create views - it's the content that creates them.
Clement: Right. So the chances are that even when new technologies emerge, it's still going to be about engagement?
Scott: We're still in the infancy stage of something like Twitter. Facebook is still evolving, and even YouTube is shifting to engage more within videos. Blogging has shifted much more from static posts and articles to the comments and the threaded comments section. Sometimes the conversations are almost better than the original post itself, so I think we have to look at improving what we have now rather than looking so much at what's down the road. It is still human nature. People like to talk and feel listened to: Social media just gives you more tools to do that.
Clement: Given the hideous state of the economy, is there any advice you have for the unemployed or unhappily employed that might give them more hope for the future, both short and long term?
Scott: The biggest and least talked about tools of social media are forums where people can talk to each other without feeling threatened that they're going to be sold something. If we're going to be unemployed or not happily employed, we have ways to get to know people without the threat of sale.
I use Twitter because it's a good casual conversation example. I don't have to pitch to you or have a product you need - I just talk to you. Relationships create opportunities. A hundred times out of a hundred, I will hire somebody I know before I hire somebody I don't know. That should be your job: to get to know people out there, because you'll never know what comes out of it.
Clement: What makes you get up in the morning?
Scott: (laughs) My son, pretty much because he wakes me up.
What drives me is, I guess for lack of a better term, the legacy I'm trying to create. My goal is to one day bring my son into all this. You know he's 8 and a half now, so we've got some time.
I think that's also what connects me to other people. What makes the online world nice for its casual conversations is that I bond with other parents. That's why the majority of my market is moms, because we bond that way and it works so well for me.
Clement: And is "UnJunior" already using social media?
Scott: Yeah, well he's got a Facebook page that I run!
He knows Twitter. He'll sit beside me sometimes and he'll want to say hi. A few months ago, I tweeted and said "Hey, everyone say hi to Owen and let him know where you're tweeting from" and I got about 350 tweets back.
It was so much fun. I love that kids are growing up with computers and laptops. It's something that we can talk about together because somehow he's also into it all.
Clement: If you had to choose, who would you say are your business heroes and why?
Scott: I have a few of them, both inside and outside of social media, since that's my bubble.
Outside, the two people that really drove what I'm doing now are Seth Godin and Alan Weiss. I read Permission Marketing 10 years ago and that literally shifted my brain. It gave me permission to market in a better way. And then Alan Weiss wrote Money Talks, which is a book about the speaking industry, along with Million Dollar Consulting.
Within social media, Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk are two guys who I think are doing it right.
Clement: I love what you wrote about Chris Brogan on your blog roll - "he's like Boba Fett, but without the jet pack."
Scott: For me, he is. You know, he is tireless. He just keeps going and walking his talk, and that's something I respect. I don't have a lot of people that inspire me for the most part because I don't listen to a lot of speakers - I can't do that. I don't read certain books because I'm jaded in a way that I don't believe a lot of what's said.
So, those four guys in total are my kind of "lunch crowd. I'd love to just sit with them one day.
Clement: I can see that you're a funny guy by nature. I've noticed that you used comedy in pretty much every material that you have online. Is that just you or is it premeditated? Or even a little bit of both?
Scott: That's just me. I've always been Mr. Sarcastic Jackass; that's my personality. It was very important to me not to be artificial about it. I don't sit there and say, "What can I do right now that's going to be funny?" I just enjoy it. I enjoy laughing, I enjoy when other people laugh, and I really think humor's one of the most endearing things you can do.
And, again, you want to make it fun. When I'm writing, I look at it and say, "How do I make this blog post great? How do I make it fun?" So you're still having a conscious look at it. But that's just my style. It's all in my voice because if you are your authentic self, you have no competition. I don't want to change that.
Clement: That's excellent advice. So what's next from UnMarketing as a business?
Scott: The book comes out at the end of August. That's the whole next plateau. So, I'm going from the bubble, the insulated world that you and I know about in social media, and opening it up. That's kinda scary.
Clement: Is it outside of your comfort zone?
Scott: It's pretty daunting - it's going to be up there on the shelf with all the rest of them.
One of the biggest things that we have to realize (and I've known this for a while) is that everybody is equal. At the end of the day, those that are über-successful weren't at one point in their lives and they did a lot to get there. So when people say, "It's easy for you to do it because you have 52,000 followers", I remember how everyone starts at zero.
Somebody said a couple of days ago about Chris Brogan, "Blogging and getting traffic is easy for you. You're a cyber celebrity."
And I say to the person, "No. He became one because of those posts, not the other way around."
Scott: And that's a huge thing. You gotta build your name.
But I'm going to a bunch of cities in the fall to be on stage and that's a passion of mine. I just love it; I know that's what I'm meant to do and I love to do it. So the book for me is my lead in to getting me on the stage more.
Clement: If you look over the last few years you've been in business, is there one thing that you could say to people that you've learned from on your journey, like the most valuable lesson you ever learned in business?
Scott: I think that the biggest and nicest thing that pushed me was having great people out there to build relationships with. When you do that, there's nothing that's impossible. People are out there to help. People drive and encourage everything you do. Okay, there are brands and logos but people drive companies. We need to realize that it's the individuals that run everything. It's all built on relationships. It's not about newsletter conversion rates or anything else. It's about getting to know people. I'll do anything for a friend of mine - I'll do anything for somebody I like. I won't if I know they're just trying to use me. Build strong relationships and great things happen.
Pre-order "UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging." at Amazon. To contact Scott, follow him on Twitter. To find out more about UnMarketing, visit his website - http://www.Un-Marketing.com.
Follow Clément Yeung on Twitter: www.twitter.com/vandtmarketing