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Fluff-Free Social Media Tips To Help You “Rise To The Top” – David Siteman Garland Interview

Helping Entrepreneurs Build Their Businesses Smarter, Faster & Cheaper

In this interview, I talk with David Siteman Garland about how he has approached social media to grow his business and how he has very quickly established himself as a thought leader in the entrepreneurial space. I have been following David now for over a year and can honestly say that his approach to content creation, relationship building and content sydication online has inspired the way I approach my own online business ventures.

For anyone out there that is not following David online, you definitely need to check him out.  For all the big things that David is doing online, the one thing that stands out about him is that he is a REAL person that is focused on providing value and connecting with everyone that reaches out to him.  So, don’t hesitate to give him a shout out on Facebook or Twitter!

Meet David Siteman Garland

Entrepreneur, mediapreneur, speaker and author David Siteman Garland is the Founder of The Rise To The Top, The #1 Non-Boring Resource For Building Your Business Smarter, Faster, Cheaper and upcoming author of Smarter, Faster, Cheaper: Non-Boring, Fluff-free Strategies for Marketing and Promoting Your Business (Wiley Publishing). He writes/hosts RISE, a a web show for entrepreneurs, forward-thinkers, business owners and marketers, as well as The Rise To The Top TV show on ABC.

His philosophy is simple: Money follows passion and not the other way around.

Social Media Interview

1. Tell everyone a little bit about your background and how you got started in the social media world

I’m very passionate about things that are not boring. I like taking things that are of interest to me and turning them into businesses.  My first business was not TheRiseToTheTop.com, it was professional inline hockey, which makes no sense, trust me.  So, I took something that I enjoyed doing and I turned it into a business.  We had a league here in the Mid-West, in St. Louis where I am from, and this was the fascinating thing that happened with social media.

So, when Facebook came out (to date myself as I was in college), and MySpace was big then.  I had this niche hockey league that had just came out.  And, I always think of the David vs Goliath story as it relates to business (no pun intended). There is always some type of big competitor, whether it’s real or perceived. So, as a small hockey league, we are competing with the NHL, when we are really not. So, we thought, what could we do back then that the NHL couldn’t do.  Well….social media!

All of the players were on social media, the fans were on social media and it became a good way to connect one on one with people to come out to the games, interact with the players and do all these different things.  So, my first experience with social media was really out of necessity because we built this league that had no money to market and promote and we had to get back to old fashioned one on one relationships.

Trevor: So, how long ago was that?

It was all the way back in 2006 when the league started.  It became interesting how social media evolved over time with the league.

Trevor: And, that was right around the time of the NHL lockout, wasn’t it?

Ya, and we had to come up with a positioning that was different, so, I would always say that “We are not going to charge you $25 for a hotdog and a beer, so, come out and interact with the players”.  We were always trying to be different and social media was a way to connect with people one on one.  Groups were very popular back then on Facebook, so you could get all of the fans and players into a group and they could be chirping at each other and having fun with it.

But, the interesting thing is that the league led to a radio show.  A traditional radio show here in St. Louis which was on the local ESPN station.  The asked me to do the show, so I said “Ya, sure, I’ll do a show (even though I have no idea what I am doing)”.  That’s when I started realizing that content, or media, was the best form of marketing and promoting. I started learning that because of the show mixed with social media.

Trevor: Ya, I think you were probably ahead of your time there.  I’m involved in the sports world through another venture (http://sportfanconnect.com) and in the last couple of years we’ve really seen the sports world start to embrace social media. But, I think you were in a unique position back then with the inline hockey league to  implement things that weren’t dictated by the beaurocracy of big time sports, so you could experiment a bit.

Sure, what was interesting about that, and I think it’s a lesson for anyone that’s watching this (Cause that’s what I  always try to do.  I try to take a personal story or stories I’ve learned from someone else and hope that it’s applicable to people and their businesses as well).  Back then with the sports, it wasn’t because I was sitting there and saying social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread and it’s going to be so amazing by 2010 or whatever it may be.  It was more like, we don’t have any money, so how do we even get the word out about this league?  Well, we are already really active on these sites and there are things that we can do here.  Not, push, push, push.  But, rather, be engaging and create a community. So, it was more of a necessity as opposed to this big vision of knowing where everything was going at that point.

2. What approach do you take in managing your personal brand (David Siteman Garland) versus your business brand (TheRiseToTheTop.com)?

I always like it when people are humans and not companies. I think there is a huge advantage to being a human as opposed to a company.  Now, of course, we all know companies are run by humans. But, having a presence that is a person on social media, I think is extremely vital. No one wants to be friends with a logo. There is confusion behind that.  You know…the logo is making a joke…I don’t get it.  You know what I mean?  I think there is a small “David” advantage there (no pun intended….vs Goliath) because you get to connect one on many with people.

So, for me, business and personal is somewhat of a blend. I also think it creates somewhat of an advantage.  What happens is, I am not always talking shop.  I’m talking shop a lot, but I’m also talking about other things that are interesting.  Not just because there is a business motive behind it.  Just because I like talking about  movies, sports and slow-pitch softball and random stuff like that.  For me, it’s just being myself on there and I think that’s the biggest takeaway for entrepreneurs.  When you try to put stuff into two buckets they start overflowing and you either look completely business or completely non-business.  And, I think that we are combining a lot of these things, but of course its always based on your personal comfort level and how you want to handle it.

Trevor: One of the ways you do that is by using your own photo on some of your business social accounts.

Yes, it’s an interesting thing about the photo. On social media, I think it’s a no brainer. I think that everyone should have the photo.  Unless you are Starbucks….as a small business….use the smallness to your advantage. One of the advantages is being able to be a person. If you have 5 or 6 people tweeting on behalf of a company, maybe they should all have their own accounts with their own personal brand on it. But, maybe have a broadcast account that pulls together the best.  But that shouldn’t be the focus of why your brand is out there building relationships.

For me, it became important, not because I think I’m awesome (which I don’t by any means).  But, because I felt like connecting with me was important for people that were going to watch the show or come to my events. Which is why you’ll see my photo on the website.  I wanted people to know that it was a person, that it was me trying to help.  And, not just some kind of faceless, non-personality filled content site.

Trevor: Ya, I think we are seeing a lot more of that lately.  The “Comcast’s” of the world are starting to brand their employees, with the company branding of course, but putting that face behind it. And, I know I’ve done a couple of webinars in the past few months with people that run social media programs with big companies and that’s one of the things they always stress.  Someone has actually coined a term “Brandividual“.  Someone that represents a brand, but is actually a person that  represents the brand.

Exactly, for example, Jeffrey Hayzlett (Former CMO – Kodak) who I’ve had on my show before. He was Kodak’s front line of communication on social media. It was his account and he became this persona on there.  His personal brand became bigger than Kodak. And, when he left recently, he skyrocketed out with a new book because he had built those relationships. I definitely agree with you though.  Big brands…this is more of a challenge for them than it is for small brands and I kind of like it. I kind of like that there is a small advantage for the little guy.

3. Which social media tools do you use the most for your business?  Which ones do you find the most value in?

Let me preface this, because I’ve had many debates on my show about the value of different platforms.  I think every social media site is awesome if you like it and you get value from it. If it’s not, it sucks.  Deciding which sites work for you is something that is very personal that takes into consideration your own style, your business, where customers and clients connect.  I don’t think there is a wrong answer of saying you have to be on Twitter or you need to go jump off a bridge.

So, for me personally, I get the most value from and try to give the most value on Twitter and Facebook. I’m on Linkedin, you can connect with me on Linkedin, but I am much more passive on there.  Someone like Lewis Howes, who you mentioned earlier, he is the master of Linkedin and spends a lot more time there than he may on Facebook. Everyone is a little bit different.  But for me, those are the two that work the best for me, that fit with my personality and allow me to connect with entrepreneurs.

Trevor: And, I think the clear message from that is whichever ones you chose, just be consistent and be on there to add value.  Spreading yourself too thin is one of the things I hear all the time.

Sure, whatever your niche is.  Perhaps it’s butterflies or whatever it may be.  I’m in the entrepreneurial niche.  So, if I was starting from scratch, I’ve had a lot of people I need to spend more time on Linkedin because there are a lot of entrepreneurs on Linkedin. And, nothing against Linkedin, but you don’t have to be on every single one just because your niche is on there.  You just have to be on enough so that you can make an impact and you can put an effort into it and enjoy it. I think that’s one of the things that is overlooked. It’s fun and it should be fun.

4. There are a number of resources out there, and as I mentioned, your website is a great resource of information for me.  But, are there any particular information resources you use to keep up with social media trends?

I am a big believe in being a student of the game. Whatever it is you are a student of whether it be sports or social media. So, I divide things into different categories.  On quick news, tech stuff, things like Mashable.com, Techcrunch.com, Engadget.com and Techmeme.com, those are the basic news sites I get a lot of information from.

I really like Hubspot.com internet marketing blog because I think they just “Get it”. One of the big things I talk about, and I think it’s important, is that we’ve gone from a society of product pushing to becoming a trusted resource, a publisher, a content creator, a connector.  And, I think Hubspot gets it and they are a growing company that offers a lot of good stuff.

I read ChrisBrogan.com, Chris is a great guy.  When Gary V puts out a new video I go and hunt it down. I know there is a lot of good content out there and I know I am going to leave a lot of people off, so maybe I’ll stop with that short list so someone doesn’t come and punish me.

Trevor: Ya, the list can be exhaustive for sure.  But, those are all great ones for people to follow.  Especially if they are just starting out.  If they follow those resources, they are going to get a lot of great tips from them.

Yes, and, explore around.  Maybe it’s not even in your niche. Sometimes you get inspiration from the most random things in the world. Just by keeping your eyes open and not getting stuck reading and watching the same thing over and over again.

Trevor: Yes, it’s good to get a variety of opinions because there really is no right or wrong in the social media world.

5. I find everyone has a “WOW” moment when it comes to social media.  Do you have a moment like this?

Ya, it is tough to narrow it to one.  Scott Ginsberg, the Nametag Guy, is an interesting entrepreneur who has a great saying that “Consistency is better than rare moments of greatness”. But, I think one that was interesting was, just on a personal level, the thing that I find most interesting is when I meet someone online and then we meet in person, that’s what I always find the most interesting.

But, specifically, a big “WOW” moment for me would be an article I wrote last year called the “10 Big Marketing Projections for 2010” and that was the first thing that went extremely viral for me.  Guy Kawasaki retreated it and I got to watch the magic of the internet unfold in front of me. A few people picked it up, then this happened and that happened and I was watching this out of fascination.  It was sort of like being inside the surgery watching what was happening. I really think that was a moment where I realized things can spread in a hurry now. It’s not like the news cameras have to come and pick it up anymore.  Good content, or content that is perceived as good can move and you can watch the results instantaneously.

Trevor: Yes. I get a lot of feedback from people that have launched blogs and are wondering why no one is reading their content. I don’t think there is any kind of magic bullet, a lot of it comes down to a little bit of luck, but more so being consistent and writing good content and networking and connecting with the right people.

It’s a slow burn. You have to keep going at it. Moments like the one I just stated are so rare.  That’s why I was almost nervous about mentioning it. That’s not why you blog, to get Guy Kawasaki to retweet it. You need a long term strategy of building up trust, building relationships and positioning yourself as a trusted resource.  You don’t do that by bragging up yourself.  The best people make it about something bigger where you motive is to help other first. Whatever it is, your products or services, they come second.  And, I think that’s what separates the most successful content creators from those that are trying to get going. But, there is no substitute for time. It doesn’t take 6 months or a year, it takes a while to get decent traction/traffic to feel like you are making a difference and that’s different than buying a billboard.

6. What other advice would you give to individuals and business owners getting started in social media.

An interesting quote by Shama Kabani, who wrote a great book called “The Zen Of Social Media Marketing“, said that “social media marketing comes last”. And, it’s funny when you think about that because you really need to have an overall content strategy for social media.

So, what I mean by that is…..what spreads?  Banner ads don’t spread.  Your product, unless you’ve created the next iPod, doesn’t spread. Cause, no one gives a crap about your product.  I think that’s one of the things that people need to understand.  People care about getting helped themselves, solving their own problems, sharing something that will look good, I just being honest here.  I’m not saying that everyone is selfish.  I’m just saying that you have to see what’s in it for others.

When you create a content strategy, be it for a blog, doing your own show, podcast or an app.  Whatever it may be, your content becomes the centre of your social media strategy. Your content (your’s and other people’s that you share) that is going to be the keys to your success.

Connect With David

Current Occupation: President & CEO at The Rise To The Top
President at The DSG Agency
Business Website/Blog: http://www.therisetothetop.com/
Book website: http://.smarterfastercheaper.com
Facebook (Fan Page): http://www.facebook.com/risetothetop
Twitter (Personal/Business): http://twitter.com/therisetothetop
Linkedin: http://www.linkedin.com/in/davidsitemangarland

David’s upcoming book, Smarter, Faster, Cheaper is a living breathing buffet of non-boring, fluff-free ideas, strategies as well as stories and takeaways from successful entrepreneurs (including author David Siteman Garland) so you can take advantage of this unbelievable opportunity whether you are an entrepreneur, solopreneur, freelancer or a forward-thinker ready to innovate.

Trevor Turnbull is the President of T3 CONNECT Sports Marketing, COO of Sports Networker & Sports Executives Association, Contributing Writer for Entrepreneur.com, the lead Linkedin trainer for Route Three Marketing and co-producer of Zero To Money Making Website & WordPress Authorities. Connect with Trevor on Google+
Trevor Turnbull
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Trevors website

About Trevor Turnbull

Trevor Turnbull is the President of T3 CONNECT Sports Marketing, COO of Sports Networker & Sports Executives Association, Contributing Writer for Entrepreneur.com, the lead Linkedin trainer for Route Three Marketing and co-producer of Zero To Money Making Website & Wordpress Authorities. Connect with Trevor on Google+


  • http://www.therisetothetop.com David Siteman Garland

    Thanks for having me on :)

  • http://socialconnectblueprint.com Trevor Turnbull

    My pleasure David! Have a great weekend!