By Tyler Prich
Inbound Marketing is one of the fastest growing forms of marketing, and social media plays a pivotal role in making it work. Inbound Marketing is about creating content (Blogs, videos, podcasts, etc.) to attract viewers who will share the content across social media. Nate Riggs started his career as a social media consultant at the very beginning, when Facebook still had .edu proceeding it and AOL chat rooms reigned supreme. But, Nate explained, the economic downturn of 2009-12 put many marketers out of work. Many of them hopped on the growing social media train, thinking it would be their saving grace. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Social media consultants popped up left and right, so much that the title lost all meaning. So Nate took a step back from social media consulting and focused on finding social media’s place within the bigger marketing picture. He most recently started his own inbound marketing company called NR Media Group.
I chose to interview Nate because his experience with social media goes back to its root in chat rooms and forums. He has seen the business evolve from the very beginning, and offers an analytical perspective of social media in the marketing world.
Q: Since the economic bubble popped in 2009, has there been a recovery for social media in your eyes?
I think it has matured drastically. While there are still a lot of consultants out there that do good work, for instance Jay Baer, but they are fewer and farther between. Now, those independent consultants got swallowed up by larger companies. For instance, you talk about social media for a small/medium sized business, locally run, where the numbers just aren’t there. Like Bob Evans, we were small. We had around 200,000 fans on Facebook, and managing that alone was a full-time gig. My second week on the job, I open up the page and the page is being bombed with dirty toilet pictures. That became a 48-hour job of cleaning up and responding to criticism. Businesses then realized that it takes a team of people to manage this. Now what they did, was create a director to oversee a team for social media. All of the sudden, there were entire staffs and firms dedicated to running social media. Then what we saw was the advancement of third-party software. Monitoring systems, sentiment analysis, low-level dashboards all looking for the insights that we need. Now, every marketing system monitors social media, like HubSpot. Then we have one like Sprinklr, which is made for major companies like Cisco. The whole industry, driven by conferences, has really pulled together the stragglers of the social media boom, and now they are working in corporations to drive the industry forward.
Q: What do you think is the most important upcoming trend in social media and why is that trend important? (He is a noted skeptic of Snapchat)
Number one, technology is not a trend, but technology causes trends or can influence trends. Something like Snapchat, that’s just a technology and why I’m a skeptic is that marketers kill the ideas. We look at it and think, “How are we gonna make money off this?” That’s not the intention of what that technology is designed for. Think about Snapchat, it’s about privacy, I see something and I want it to go away. And there are people pontificating about how Snapchat is the future of business, which is what I heard about Google+ and Vine and the list goes on and on. Even a year ago, it was Meerkat and Periscope, and while they’re still out there and have interesting political applications, they’re dying too. What I do think is the next trend? I think there’s two. From a marketing perspective, social media moves from marketing into customer experience and service. The other is that social media is going towards privacy, and that’s driven by millennials who don’t necessarily want to put everything out there. I was part of the first wave of users who went, “Sure, here’s my life, put it online!” As a 35-year old, I regret a lot of that, and I took two or three of my years offline, because I didn’t want to be that public anymore. Your generation saw those mistakes and responded by saying, “well we don’t want everyone to see what’s going on. We can share business with the people we actually care about.” That close-group communication is going to heavily impact how marketers focus on that one-on-one customer service interactions.
Q: Back in the day, you started off doing weekly podcasts, is there a specific advantage to using that as a medium over others?
A: The big podcast we had focused on the restaurant business, but we stopped after around 55 episodes because the restaurant industry wasn’t the inbound target we thought it was. That being said, that one show landed me 4 or 5 speaking gigs, a whole bunch of network connections, clients, the list goes on-and-on. And so yes, there are results from podcasts and here’s why: a couple years ago, automakers shifted towards Bluetooth enablement in car stereos, and now that it’s become an everyman type of thing, it opens up a whole world for drive time listening. You wonder why talk radio has remained so popular, because average commutes are around 40 minutes in the city. And now that podcasts have grown out of iTunes, where it used to be only an Apple product, now you can hookup any podcast app in your car stereo. Both production and access to podcasts have become cheaper and easier. I think we’re going to see people replace drive-time radio with podcasting. We saw it start with Sirius XM, but podcasting gives so many more options as opposed to terrestrial radio, that only offers one show per station at one time. I can speak from personal experience, we’re getting ready to launch a new one in my company, Podcasts are a great marketing tactic.
Q: Who do you follow who in order to stay up to date when it comes to social media?
A: There’s always the analysts, like Jay Baer always has his pulse out there. Here’s the secret sauce though, if you want to stay up to date in marketing, you need to find the speakers and the conference goers. So people who work in corporations with ridiculous travel budgets and attend once a month, or the speakers who are going multiple times per month. It’s those people who are speaking who are doing most of the media, and are out there having conversations with people doing the work, talking with tech vendors, investing. That circle of folks are the ones to stay up to date one, folks like Anne hanley. If they’re out there traveling, they are the first place to get the news.
Q: How important is it to have strong writing skills in the world of marketing and social media? Given the rise of branded content.
I would say critical, but it’s not even critical anymore. If you don’t have them, you don’t work. At the end of the day, you have to sit down and write a compelling piece, whether it’s a blog post, script for a video, or a proposal. Whatever it is, if you can’t write, you can’t be a marketer. Plain and simple. That’s why we’re seeing branded content, which is a very Scripps term, I think the more dominant term is content marketing. When the journalism industry got shaken up and many journalists became unemployed, those journalists launched other businesses. They retain those writing skills and are able to produce unique content and then become an industry resource. Not to say don’t go out and work for a publication, you should get a few years under your belt, but the real money comes from working for a corporation and using those writing skills to tell their story and being a content marketer.
Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social media professional?
Ah, that’s a good one. The most important piece of advice I would give is to become a systems expert. If that really is your goal, you should sit down every week and look at no less than 3 technology demos. Because there are hundreds of systems out there that help you monitor, manipulate, publish, post, catalog, whatever social media. And chances are, when you go into an organization, you’re not going to run Twitter from Twitter, or Facebook from Facebook. So, get familiar with analytics, get familiar with dashboards. Even the high-end ones. You can contact Sprinklr and go through an hour Webinar to learn the ins and outs, and having that knowledge makes you stand out to a hiring person. Scott Brinker built this graphic, that is the landscape of marketing technology. There are 1,876 vendors over 43 categories. The more of these systems you know, no matter what for, it’s going to make you a really good candidate for social media jobs.
Nate and I’s interview lasted around 30 minutes, and he rambled a bit, but the information was worth it. He offered a unique, technical-based view of social media. The graphic he provide me of the systems, and the advice he gave about learning these systems can place you ahead of the game in the job market. Social media is a valuable tool that fuels the inbound marketing process, and the systems are the key to harnessing it.