Why Do Social Media & Community Building Actually Work?

The Ecommerce Times was recently writing article on social media community building and reached out to 15-year digital marketing expert and 10-year social marketing expert Brian Carter for an interview. ECT published some of his responses in this article, “5 Ways to Build Community Around Your Brand.”

If you liked that, here are Brian’s complete responses!

Q1. Why is it important to build social or community around a brand?

When we do social for clients, part of that is building engagement and awareness around a brand and its offerings.


In a time where a lot of digital experts have gravitated toward conversion optimization only, I understand that, because I grew up doing that with SEO focused on conversions, Google AdWords focused on revenue and ROI, Google Analytics, Omniture and split-testing.

I’m a data guy, a test-discover-learn guy… basically a geek!

So it took me a long time to believe that engagement really had a hard quantitative value beyond all the soft feel-good stuff people seemed to like about it.

Starting in 2010 when I founded my agency, we ran fan growth and engagement ads for companies along with Facebook and Google ads for lead gen, ecommerce and other conversion-oriented campaigns, though I often was skeptical about whether the fans or likes were really helping them grow their customer base, drive sales, or improve profits.

The customer often wanted fans and engagement things, and we counseled them about it (“this isn’t the quickest way to get customers or profits”), but they may have wanted the fan numbers or the likes on their posts, and we took the challenge to get the best results we could there. We drove fans and engagement down to low costs and discovered how to get really high engagement rates.

But I was still skeptical about the business value of fans and social media engagement.

And it’s hard to overcome that skepticism, a skepticism many people have, because:

a. Multi-touchpoint analytics are spotty (not every company has them)
b. The analytics for multi-touchpoint seems complicated or out of the way (not every company wants to dive into this just to examine whether their bias is correct), and
c. Finding out the truth about your social media’s conversion value sometimes requires spending money or even third party studies of your analytics.

Not every company can or will do all of that 20% or so of clients we’ve had who did both engagement and conversions AND looked at their metrics, we’ve always seen big benefits to running engagement ads in addition to conversion campaigns:

  1. Engagement ads usually spike organic search traffic and sales: Increased brand awareness from social engagement ads increases search engine searches for your brand name (people notice you more and think, “Oh what was that thing? Oh yeah that company… Let me search for that now…”), which gets you additional organic traffic and sales. When you see an organic traffic and sales spike after starting a new social ad campaign and not changing anything else, you have to be honest: it might have been that social awareness. Sometimes you can track that, if the social ads led to traffic, but if they didn’t, your website analytics can’t even track that, unfortunately.
  2. Engagement ads can pay for themselves: Often you can look at the social engagement ads data and see specific revenue driven from that same ad spend- and often it pays for itself. It may not be a positive ROI, but its breakeven. That means you have to run other ads, of course, to drive profits, but the engagement ads aren’t necessarily a cost- they may pay for themselves. Now, to make that happen, there must be links in your posts… if you aren’t putting links and calls to action in your posts, that’s a whole nother topic- how to create effective engagement ads that also drive traffic…
  3. Engagement ads can improve conversion rates and profits: The brand familiarity you get from this (look up the “mere exposure” effect if you haven’t heard of it) lowers people’s resistance to buying from you, which increases conversion rates, which in turn lowers cost per sale and cost per customer, which of course, increases profits.

Q2. What are some of the most effective ways that e-commerce businesses can build this kind of social media or community? Why do these strategies work?

You have to run Facebook and Instagram ads, create a lot of posts and ads, and see how your customers respond to them.

It’s just like learning how to get along with a real person- you have to get to know them- and online the only way to get to know people is to either look at their data first, or put stuff out there and see how they respond.

Listen to the data- what do they like? What do they share? What do they click on? What don’t they respond to?

You need a repeatable process for constant improvement- we call ours F.I.T. First you find the Facts- that’s data about who are they- then you Invent things, and Test them (discover what works by looking at everything!).

Then look at the Facts again- how did they respond to what you Invented? By Inventing more stuff like what they liked, you create a better and better fit of your marketing materials with their likes. If your marketing fits your customers, they love you more, likability increases, and you know what excites them.

The RARE company’s research on loyalty showed that 86% of customers are loyal because they like the company. So how likable is your brand, and how likable is your marketing? What are you doing to increase that? What process do you use to ensure you win at likability?

This is critical to your survival, and to thriving, because when companies disrupt others, or entire industries, its always because they suddenly make your customers a lot happier than they have been. You can’t afford to just be good enough and maintain, because that’s what companies like Blockbuster and Borders and the Yellow Pages and Yellow Cab did before they got disrupted by Netflix, Amazon, Google and Uber.

Continually strive to become greater and make your customers happier. Make sure you have a process for that. We use F.I.T.

Q3. What are common mistakes that e-commerce businesses make when trying to build social engagement, and how can these mistakes be avoided?

The biggest mistakes companies make with engagement are about vanity, narcissism, self-centeredness. We’re talking about smart people who would never walk into a mixer and talk about themselves for 15 minutes straight. Hopefully… They’re smart enough to know that people like people who focus on them. Not on themselves. They ask others about their lives and family and hobbies, and they make a friend.

But somehow they have a blindspot when it comes to marketing their brand- and they get very narcissistic. They do self-centered things by showing their products a lot… even their “lifestyle” images are about their products, not truly about the customer’s lifestyle.

They don’t think about who the customer is- what their daily life is like, their pains, fears, worries, dreams, goals and obstacles. And when they do it’s only in terms of their products.

You have to go a level beyond your product into the customer’s life and emotions and live with them and talk about other things and have faith that this creates a relationship that makes them love you so much that of course they want to buy your products.

You can’t be afraid to NOT talk about the product for a while. You can’t be so afraid that if you go off topic, you’re wasting time.

Because the truth is: so much of friendship and relationship is about wasting time because you are together.

You have to just be with them- without selling- sometimes, or you’re not building a relationship… you’re just an annoying salesperson… and that’s not a likable approach.

Academic References for My Keynotes

I love talking to audience members who come up to me after my keynotes 🙂

Typically, they’re business owners, execs or marketers who want to learn more, or are excited about one ideas or another, or perhaps they really enjoyed the entertainment portion of it, or they want to hire my agency or have me speak somewhere else.

More rarely, someone comes up who is a very smart peer or industry consultant or vendor who wants to get into depth on the details.

I recently had one of those at my ARN 2018 talk to airport operators and concessionaires.

She was very complimentary and enthusiastic about the talk, but she courteously suggested that I be more clear about where my research and stats came from.

I completely agreed- in principle- because my education was very academic, and I am a scientist at heart, so it’s very important to me to get the facts right and not just make things up or bend research or stats to serve my points.

But when it comes to a keynote performance, which is a very specific and demanding sort of gig, speaking like a college professor isn’t the most effective approach.

Imagine 1,000 people (who are sometimes tired from several days of meetings or perhaps even hung-over from excessive networking) sitting and listening to an intellectual, scholarly dissertation… there’s a lot of eye-rolling and sighing and coughing and seat-shifting and phone-typing and suddenly-necessary trips to “stretch my legs.”

A lot of the success I’ve had so far at keynote speaking is because I can combine ideas with our real-world client experience and stand-up-comedy-style entertainment.

Unfortunately, at the keynote level, which is very different from a training or a how-to class, I sacrifice some of the academic requirements to deliver a powerful, punchy, fun, yet transformative talk with big business impact. That doesn’t mean making up stats- it might mean not listing every source if that would be tiresome. Some of my slides combine 4 or 5 sources into one quickly understandable chart.

The whole point is to make it quickly clear, and going through all that would undo the work I’ve done to make it digestible.

She understood all that.

But her point was still good- and I kept thinking about it-

So I decided I needed to create a resource for my keynotes- a sort of back-of-the-book reference section…

And hence… thus… ergo… this blog post!

The following are the data, facts, research, stats I mention in my keynote and their sources. Hopefully that will satisfy the occasional person who thinks, “Where does all this come from?”

How many users are on each platform (Facebook, Google, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter)?

This depends on whether we’re looking at U.S. or I’m speaking internationally.

These numbers changes all the time, and so do the sources for this info. I update it at least every 3 months, and sometimes more frequently than that.

Basically, I Google it every time and look at the sources… but here are some of the usual suspects (some are direct sources, and some are meta-sources that collect data from multiple sources):

Customer Loyalty

Digital and Social Marketer Salary Info

Comparing Amazon and the Other Top 500 Internet Retailers

Business Case Studies

  • A number of these are from our agency clients, so the data comes from their advertising and analytics accounts.
  • The PayPal case study came directly from the marketer responsible for the results at the time, Dave Peck,  delivered in a panel I moderated for Social Media Marketing World.

Facebook Advertising Facts & Statistics

How Americans Spend Their Leisure Time (Including Social Media)

There you go- Enjoy!

Of course, the stats change a lot, so from time to time I have to Google things again and find new sources- but that’s par for the course in a constantly changing industry…

REPLAY: How to Go Viral and Sell More with Memes [Facebook Live Show]

Episode CINCO of Live Online Learning (LOL):

To be sure not to miss future live shows, opt in here to join the email list so we can keep you notified!

Here’s what we talked about, in addition to attendee live questions we answered:

  • What are MEMES?
    • “An element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.”
    • “A humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.”
    • Not unlike cover songs or music sampling by hip hop and EDM artists
    • By nature there is some conflict with copyright and intellectual property, but the law supports music sample and hip hop- memes are very similar.
  • Why use MEMES?
    • Results
      • Big engagement
      • Free shares (viral)
      • Traffic, leads and sales
    • People love them, tap into what they already like
    • Quickly recognizable
    • Fun
    • Easy to create
  • How do you use MEMES?

The Problem With Free Content Marketing

imageWhat’s the point of content marketing? What’s the goal? Why do we do it?

Some would say it’s to grow an audience. Some say it’s for search engine optimization. Some do it for lead generation. Some only care if it ultimately increases sales.

My problem with focusing entirely on freemiums and growing an audience with free content is that it can almost become “guilt-trip content marketing”…

“Hey, if we give them a whole bunch of free content, they’ll feel like they owe us and they’ll have to buy from us!”

Whether that’s consciously or subconsciously manipulative (no more manipulative than trying to sell people something), I’ll table for now…

Even if the freemium approach is “get-to-know-like-trust-us” and we’ll build-an-audience, it only works sort of well.

  1. So you’ve grown a list of 10,000 or 100,000 emails…
  2. And 20-30% of those people open your email- are you emailing daily or every other day or twice a week or weekly?
  3. About 8% of them click to the site and read more free content-
  4. How many of them are actually buying something? Are you tracking that?

Freemium, high quality content marketing is only PART of the answer because… we human beings are all a bunch of freeloaders!

We’ve Created a Bunch of Information Freeloaders

As content consumers, we’ve been trained now to expect a lot of free helpful content.

Marketers have been taught over the last decade to create free content that is as good as content people should have to pay for, but the companies that are creating this free content aren’t getting paid for it…

  • How many newsletters have you joined and then never paid that company a penny?
  • How many podcasters have you listened do and never given them a dime?
  • How many bloggers have you read and you’ve never bought their course?
  • How many blog posts have you read and you don’t even remember them or who wrote them?
  • How many whitepapers and ebooks have you downloaded and you didn’t fully read and you don’t remember where they are on your computer?

This freemium deal with the devil strategy only makes sense if you can monetize that audience- but are you monetizing that audience? How? Are you tracking it well enough to know it’s profiting you?

Sure SOME of this audience of freeloaders converts without you trying that hard. But how many more people would have converted, how much higher would your ROI be if you’d thought about converting them? If you were better at direct marketing?

So content and lead gen are just one piece of the puzzle and if you do them the wrong way you make it hard on the salespeople. Or if you’re an entrepreneur you make it hard on yourself to get sales.

You haven’t done all the work, just part of it…

Why Do People Buy?

Because we as people only buy when we are really excited or in really big pain we can’t stand one second longer or when marketers make us feel special or we think it’s a really good deal on a really valuable thing that’s going away forever (there has to be value and trust there for that to work, of course)…

  • Why should the potential buyer take action with you right now?
  • Why not procrastinate?
  • Why not ignore you?
  • Why not choose your competitor?

You have to sell. How?

  • Urgency
  • Scarcity
  • Pain relief
  • Gigantic opportunity now
  • Limited-time only

The difference between rich and poor people, billionaire and middle class, successful sales organizations and unsuccessful ones is understanding:

  • Pain
  • Value (which includes relevance)
  • Urgency and
  • Tribes

“Join our tribe now and we’ll relieve your pain and you’ll be special and have super powers like us but if you want in, you have to join now, for a limited time only!”

This is the difference in getting 2% of your webinar attendees to buy and 16% to buy.

It’s the difference between 1% of people interacting with your Facebook post and 21% interacting with it.

The difference is measurable and huge.

  • Why is your thing a new, big, limited-time opportunity?
  • Why NOW?
  • Why do you think Microsoft puts out new versions of Offce and Windows all the time?
  • Why are there always new iPhones?
  • Why are there new models of the same cars each year?
  • Why does the McRib keep going away and coming back?

If you’re too free and too available, you’re not that interesting. When they see your content there’s a lot of hmm and huh and meh. You can’t compete.

So- the biggest pitfall of the marketer is being too soft, not wanting to sell.

Don’t be soft.

Sell Something and Track It

Freemium is not bad. I do all kinds of lead magnets. They’re great. But you have to sell something too.

  • You need to track which of your leads become sales.
  • You need to track which of your customer targets are not just great lead sources, but which ones are great buyers.
  • Which of your lead magnets create customers, not just leads?

Use AdWords and Facebook pixels and conversion tracking. Make sure you have a way to trigger a conversion for the purchase not just the lead. Then you can track all of that back to the content.

If you can’t do that, your content marketing and freemium work will always be off target, and you’ll be at a competitive disadvantage.

In 5 Words: Your Favorite Thing About Social Media [VIDEO]

I asked social media experts and aficionados, “In 5 words, what’s your favorite thing about social media?” They answered via selfie-video and I put them together with Bensounds’ awesome music (www.bensound.com). Here it is. Watch it. And if you like it, share it with your friends!

Here are all their answers! Click on any quote to tweet it.

  1. “You can build genuine relationships online.”Jessika Phillips
  2. “Circle of friends expanded dramatically.”Joel Comm
  3. “The best people hang there.”Viveka Von Rosen
  4. “It flattens out the world.”Gini Dietrich
  5. “It makes my audience bigger.”Garrison Wynn
  6. “There are profound cat photos!” – Andy Livengood
  7. “Deeper connection with your customers.” – Andrea Vahl
  8. “Meaningful relationships and passionate communities.”Ekaterina Walter
  9. “Connecting people and ideas.”Kate Buck, Jr.
  10. “Videos, infographics, podcasts, humor and bacon.”Phil Mershon
  11. “Getting to know you better.” – Adryenn Ashley
  12. “No pants required!”Aaron Higgins 
  13. “Connecting with other curious people.”Courtney Smith-Kramer
  14. “On demand engagement with fans.”Jon D. Harrison
  15. “Building human connections before meeting.”Kathy Klotz-Guest
  16. Extending boundaries in a human way.Mark Schaefer
  17. “Connecting with humans online globally.”Bryan Kramer
  18. “Create, connect, promote, interact and transact.”Lee Odden
  19. “Connecting you to your people.”Martin Shervington

(And yes, GASP! I know: some of them didn’t do exactly 5 words. It’s like herding cats in here!)

A Facebook-Powered Father’s Day: Woman Finds Long-Lost Dad on Facebook & He’s an Elvis Impersonator!

This is why I called my vidpodcast Brian Carter’s Brain- my brain is interested in all kinds of things- and this is a story of a woman who found her long-lost Dad via Facebook… just in time for Father’s Day! I met Melonie Dodaro at Social Media Marketing World in 2013, and she’s an amazing LinkedIn expert… we’ll talk to her about that in the future, but for now, here’s an awesome Father’s Day story:

How to Grow Your Twitter Following Fast With Zero Work

I got on Twitter in 2008, at first protesting that, “I have too much of a life to be on Twitter!”

Turns out I was wrong. I was working on the opposite coast from my wife and I had very little life, and quickly, most of it was in social media! I even did the first-ever live online Twitter standup comedy show… which was basically me tweeting all my one-liners out over a 30 minute period.

Once I got the hang of it, my followers shot up to 8,000 pretty quickly… and eventually into the tens of thousands.

Twitter gets me more website views and blog post reads than any other social traffic source… because Facebook people, unless you use ads to drive them to your website, tend to stay on Facebook more.

How to Get More Twitter Followers

The hang of it is: follow other people and interact with them. Every so often, unfollow the ones who haven’t followed you back. Two steps forward, one step back.

You can do this easily for free with Tweepi, in 10 minutes or less per day.

You don’t want to get just any followers- you want the ones that you can help, and can help you. You want potential customers. So find someone with a Twitter account who has the followers you want, and follow their followers.

If you don’t have the time for Tweepi, I’d recommend a new service called Zeek. Its founder, Tom, contacted me and gave me a free trial. All he asked for was some input on what kind of followers I was looking for.

The results have been great.

And seeing my new followers’ interaction level, I’d say Zeek-sourced followers are at least as targeted if not better targeted than what I got with my own efforts.

Zeek Automated Twitter Growth

Here’s what Tom says about his service:

“Zeek is a Twitter account management service with a lazer-focus on follower acquisition and engagement. You indicate to us your ideal audience, and we know how to target and engage them intelligently.

“Basically, we’ve developed a growth hacking system that we’ve streamlined to enable scale and reduced costs for agencies like yourself.

“All of the agency clients that we’ve onboarded are delighted, and the success stories have been nothing short of extraordinary. With some accounts acquiring thousands of new followers month after month, with engagement through the roof.

“Here are a few quick screenshots breaking down the growth, targeting, and engagement of one of our clients over a 6 month period:




For more info on how to get Zeek, contact me with our contact form to the right!

8 Social Marketing Strategies You Shouldn’t Waste Your Time On

LAST UPDATED 3/28/2017: Biggest changes since last year are that I’m now enjoying Instagram, we do ads on Instagram for clients, and we are testing Pinterest ads.

Getting the best possible marketing results is not only about doing the most effective things.

It’s also about not wasting time on the least effective things.

You can’t get great digital marketing results if you’re always try to do EVERYTHING.
To be effective in digital marketing you have to BE PICKY about which things you do.

Digital marketing and social media is full of blog posts like…

  • “52 More Ways To Market On Pinterest!”
  • “37 New Social Marketing Tools!”
  • “10 Reasons Snapchat Is Awesome!”

What would happen if you did all the things that all these posts recommended? You’d be stretched thin on a mix of things. Some would work, some wouldn’t.

As a result, your overall marketing results would be mediocre.

Maybe one of them worked for somebody- but is it transferable to most companies? Will it work if it’s a corporate, not a person-to-person strategy? Is it scalable?

Yes, I get sucked into those blog posts just like you do. Yes, I have FEAR OF MISSING OUT, too. But I’ve read enough blog posts that…

  • Don’t deliver on the promise of their headline. “Wow, these ideas are pretty lame.”
  • Promise great results but when you implement their suggestion, you find the real results don’t measure up to their claims. “They were lying… or they didn’t really test this… or they didn’t give away their secret.”

Ironic: I tried, “The 17 Coolest Chrome Productivity Plugins” and found only one plugin was worth it. The other 16 decreased my productivity while I was trying them out. Some secretly required me to pay a monthly fee after I installed them.

What just happened?

Somebody had to write a list-post to try to get more traffic to their blog, and they wasted my time. Irresponsible. You’re supposed to help me and save me time with your content. Not used up my time and attention in blind pursuit of “time on site” and pageviews.

Bad blog post writers should be blindfolded, given a cigarette and shot.

Too far?

Sorry, it’s frustrating. I have limited time on Earth here, buddy.

The social marketer must protect their time. There are dozens of things we COULD do, but only a few things we SHOULD do. [click to tweet]

I’m ruthless in my exclusion of strategies tactics that I don’t judge to be worth my time.

Time is our most precious commodity. You can’t get more of it.

Yes, there are exceptions to my list below. Any of the tactics below might be important because of your niche or goal. And I’m also always open to being wrong on these. I bet I’ll hear something at Social Media Marketing World this year that makes me look at one of these tactics again.

But for the most part, it would be worth your while to consider avoiding some of the below.

8 Social Media Strategies I Don’t Waste Time With

I rarely do LinkedIn ads. They are not prominent enough for people to see and click. I can’t waste time on ads that no one will click. My goal is to get leads and sales.

If I can’t even get clicks… well, LinkedIn, let me know when your ads graduate from elementary school. We sometimes manage LinkedIn Ad campaigns for companies that are already using them. But I’ve yet to be surprised by an effective one.

(They are a good way to jumpstart a new LinkedIn Group, though. And Groups are one of the most effective marketing activities on LinkedIn.)

I rarely do Twitter ads. They have shown promise as they’ve developed. But Google and Facebook ads are so much more effective. What do Twitter ads add to what I get from Facebook ads? I’ve tested Twitter ads occasionally, particularly when people start to buzz about something like Twitter lead cards. But they do not perform as well as Facebook ads.

I might get better results if I invested more time and testing, but I don’t have that time right now. This is something I can afford to procrastinate, since Twitter has 1/5th of the users that Facebook does.

And, you know, there might be a reason why conferences can’t find any Twitter ad experts… that reason would be: it’s not worth your time because you can get so much more out of Facebook and Google.

I mostly ignore social networks that don’t have an ad platform. If you don’t have ads, I can’t scale what works on demand. I don’t have enough time to do everything by clever labor. Yes we sometimes fail, but I can fail and succeed on a grander scale.

Social networks with ads can become sales machines.

Without ads, ugh. That means:

I do Snapchat but only for fun and I actually save my snaps to my iPhone then post them on Instagram!

I don’t spend much time on LinkedIn Company Pages. If less than 1% of people go back to actual Facebook business pages, why would we think it would be any different with the LI Company Page? An exception would be the Human Resources department of a huge company- the company page has to look good and may be quite valuable for them in terms of new hires.

I don’t go out of my way to post to the LinkedIn (“home”) stream. I’m not sure people are really looking at their LinkedIn content streams. Most of your LinkedIn posts won’t be seen by most of your connections.

I do use Buffer and include LinkedIn, so my content does get posted there. But it doesn’t cost me any extra time or effort.

I don’t create Twitter Lists. I find that my actual networking is more effective on LinkedIn and Facebook. I confess, I use Twitter to broadcast blog posts. It’s not very 2.0 of me, is it? But it works.

But I would recommend Twitter Lists to heavy online networkers or salespeople. But people have begun to complain that people don’t engage on Twitter anymore. They certainly were most engaged up until 2010, and then it began to drop. Twitter has been almost completely marginalized by Facebook and has slowly added more and more Facebook-like features in a – perhaps unintentional – admission that their platform isn’t as successful as Facebook.

I don’t add apps to Facebook pages, because no one goes to FB pages. I have to advertise to get them to the app? Then why wouldn’t I just send them to a squeeze page (which I can split-test for optimal conversion rates) to obtain their email, instead? I have to pay for visibility to both fans and non-fans, so why would I advertise to just fans.

Emails are more valuable than fans.

I don’t spend time recklessly on new social networks like Ello. Remember Ello? It was supposed to kill Facebook. Scores of social media gurus (of which there are about 12 million) spent hours posting and buzzing about the promise of Ello. “More transparent than Facebook!”

Checking back in on the Ello buzz a month or two later, no one was using it. Surprise: it wasn’t sticky.

Flash in the pan.

Waste of time.

Shiny object.

Let other people waste their time on new social networks while you use the proven ones to get results. What if that new social network becomes powerful enough to rival Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn a year from now? Ok, jump on it then. You will be able read how-to blog posts by people who spent their time figuring out how to use it, and you’ll suddenly be as good at it as they are. That will save you a ton of time and money. In the meantime you can use the most effective networks. Stick with best practices as far as platforms and strategies go, and innovate with your content and tactics.

I recommend not early-adopting but reasonably early adoption. Wait until there is a significant amount of your target market using it. And there’s an ad platform.

I don’t use SlideShare. I used to, but I noticed no matter how many views I got, it didn’t turn into hardly any website visits for me. Good for slideshare, not good for me. I asked a peer who was using their lead gen offering and he said it didn’t work well. Ok.

Plus, as a paid speaker, do I really want to make it easier for the other 12 million social media experts to put my slides in their presentations? Nope.

I don’t try to motivate or manipulate influencers. Still waiting on any proof that it does more than raise awareness. There are easier more affordable ways to get awareness like Facebook ads. Big-time (slappa da bass mon) influencers are hard to influence. And maybe disgustingly egotistical.

Yes, I have tons of influencer friends. And yes, networking is super valuable. But should the average company try to coral a stable of influencers and get them to influence on their behalf? I haven’t seen case studies to convince me it does more than raise awareness- which you can do much more affordably with TV or Facebook ads.

I’m sure there are more time wasters I’ve forgotten about! Thank goodness. They aren’t cluttering my brain. I can focus.

This month, try cutting out some of the less effective things you do. It’ll increase your results and profits.

How I Beat the Internet Marketing Odds and You Can Too

I want to tell you a short story about how I beat impossible odds and ended up a thought leader with a fair amount of brand fame… and how you and your company can do that too.

If you like, you can watch the video about it instead of reading:

If you watch the video and don’t scroll down… here’s a buy link for The Awareness Blueprint. Or, if you’d rather, you can try three videos for free, first!

Now to the story:

Back in 2004, I was like a lot of people: just an untrained guy who wanted to have his own business doing something he was good at that would help other people. I wanted to get enough consulting clients to get paid and do my part bringing home the bacon.

But I struggled because there were so many blogs and competitors out there. I just couldn’t get enough attention or leads or clients to make it. It was hard. I was frustrated! Have you felt like that?

Now, I’ve always believed in and been grateful for freedom, for the American dream of being in control of my own business, and for the opportunities we have with capitalism and to decide on our own career. I didn’t want to work for somebody else. I wanted to be “the man”, not work for the man!

I just wanted to build something special that helped other people, something they appreciated. Isn’t that what we all want?

And then I saw opportunity: the Internet. This was it. A huge phenomenon that suddenly gave us all the opportunity to easily do business with people all over the country- even the world!

I was excited because it seemed like the Internet would change everything in business- and I wanted to get in on that! Wouldn’t you?

But the odds were stacked against me because I had no schooling in internet marketing, I had no savings to bank on, and there was no reason for people to come to my website or business instead of anyone else’s.

I had done a lot of different types of work in my life, but I wanted to focus and get good at one thing. I was married and my wife had been the bigger breadwinner and I wanted to make more money to help her out and feel better about myself.

The internet was growing and people were making lots of money, but not me. Ever felt left out like that?

I was going up against much bigger companies, like training companies that had dozens of bloggers, and internet marketing teachers with a 3-4 year head start on me. I didn’t know anybody who had succeeded at this. I had no connections at all.

I had to get trained. So I got on the Internet and took some online courses. I went and had coffee with the marketing guy in my local San Diego networking group. I read tons and tons of blogs.

And at first, I made A LOT of mistakes. I was super-excited to make some money with Google AdSense, putting their ads on my alternative medicine site, but then the Google search algorithm changed and I lost most of my traffic. That was depressing. Don’t you wish Google was easier?

I started an AdWords consulting business but I couldn’t get enough clients.

Feeling a bit beaten, I took a job as an eCommerce manager for an outdoor store and spent a year building their online store, only for them to tell me, “Brian, we just don’t want to invest in buying enough inventory for the online store to succeed.”

Back to square one, dang it.

Again I went into solo consulting but I wasn’t getting enough clients, and my wife said, more or less, “Get a job or else maybe we should separate for a while.” Wow, that hurt!

So I took a risk on a job where I would build the internet marketing part of a regional agency in South Carolina. I had to move and be away from my wife for a couple years, which was tough, but I worked super hard.

I was initially not very smooth with clients, but my coworkers taught me a lot about account management and successful business relationships.

I was getting better at the Internet business:

  • I got results for our clients.
  • I started blogging and got attention.
  • I got to speak at a conference, then two more conferences.
  • I got a column writing for a big search engine blog.
  • We built the internet marketing part of the agency from $100k revenue to $650k revenue in less than two years.
  • I brought them in new clients from other parts of the country.

Then, to my surprise, the company laid me off!

It turns out I had TOO good a compensation deal with them. I was making too much money. And they didn’t want to expand beyond their region, so they didn’t much value my national networking and speaking.

But by now, I had become an industry thought-leader. I was known and read as a blogger on search marketing and social media. People enjoyed the talks I gave. By traveling and networking, I had made solid friends in the industry. And I had found a professional speaking mentor.

Wouldn’t you love to have a successful mentor in what you’re pursuing?

Because of all that I was able to write a Facebook marketing book, which quickly turned into two published books, and I started getting paid to keynote speak for companies. I and my small new agency got to work with great companies like Carl’s Jr, Universal Studios and The World Health Organization.

Next thing I knew I was on Bloomberg TV in New York City, and getting to work with companies like Microsoft, NBC, Salesforce, GoToMeeting, Dramamine, PrideStaff and others.

Wouldn’t you love to have more opportunities and clients?

It felt amazing to be an author, to be a respected authority, to be someone companies would pay thousands of dollars to come and speak or give consulting opinions. It’s flattering to repeatedly show up on lists like “The Top 50 Marketing Experts in the World”.

Oh and by the way, now I bring home ALL the bacon and my wife works for me, and she’s a brilliant Facebook advertiser. 🙂

During that journey I learned a ton about what does and doesn’t work for building brand fame and awareness. And I’d love to teach you what I’ve learned.

That’s why I created The Awareness Blueprint. It’s only $97 in 2014, but goes up to $399 in 2015. Students and peers tell me it’s too valuable to charge $97 for it, but I wanted to give people a chance to hear about it and- it’s my holiday gift to you, $302 off!

Hope you buy it. If you’d rather, you can try three videos for free, first!

All the best,
Brian Carter

Why Was This FB Post Shared 14,539 Times?

Facebook old-timers [I’m looking at you Dennis, Barry and Jeremy!] remember when we got Facebook page likes for less than one cent apiece. Of course, that was before we all got cynical about the value of Facebook fans. Are they worthless? That’s another debate for another day- and my short opinion on that is that they are still valuable, but shouldn’t be your #1 priority.

Don’t worry- the post we’re going to talk about is below, but first…

See that chart of ads below? Cost per post engagement ZERO. That’s not an error. It says zero because it’s less than $0.01.


Now, I’m pretty excited about the Facebook posts I have that are getting three or four interactions per penny. And no, you don’t have to target a third world country to make that to happen. Not even the whole U.S. I’ve seen similar results targeting one U.S. city, and even one interest within one U.S. city.

The real upshot is that you absolutely must care what people like… you have to be ruthless in testing your Facebook posts. If you don’t know what that means, you probably aren’t even using the right paradigm for your digital marketing. Some people are just throwing darts randomly and not even looking where they hit.

When you find a highly engaging post- that means somewhere between 6-12% of people like it… now hold on a second… you are keeping track of what percentage of post viewers are liking your posts, aren’t you? Those who aren’t are still in Facebook posting kindergarten. Here’s another shocker- Facebook isn’t calculating that “engagement rate” percentage for you. You have to do it. It’s interactions divided by reach. The simple shorthand is likes divided by reach. Do it!

Anyway, when you find a highly engaging post, and it stays highly engaging when tens of thousand of people see it, then what? You’ve hacked your audience’s brain. You’ve plugged into pure affinity. You’ve found their limbic system buttons and you’re pressing them. 

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Here’s an example of such a post…


First, everybody I show that post to laughs. Then I worry they’ve missed the point. It’s like when I’m trying to learn screenwriting by watching a great movie, and I forget and just experience the movie. That definitely was a good movie, because it made me forget to learn anything! The post above might make you forget to learn about Facebook marketing. So, keep your brain engaged.

In 65 days, I reached over 424,832 people and got 50,807 interactions for about $225, an average of $0.004 per interaction.

Do you think shares are awesome? Me too. And they only cost an average of 3 cents per share with this promoted post.

Now, my ads and posts aren’t all huge successes. That’s why I say you have to be ruthless about testing. You’re testing in search of the outlier, and that outlier is one post in 50… one ad in 10. Are you creating a lot of them? Are you testing enough different approaches? Are those tests informed by your understanding of your audience? If you’re not sure, check out Facebookize.

Another tip- I am opposed to creating editorial Facebook post calendars a month or two ahead of time. I think you should create one post per day. Why? Because in my experience, I only have a finite amount of creativity and insight at one time. If I create 30 posts right now, they won’t be as good as the 30 I create if I create one per day. If you’re watching your engagement rate every day from yesterday’s post, you’re smarter halfway through the month than you were at the beginning of them month, because you’re learning every day. Not to mention, you see a lot of things… you watch TV, see tons of social media, have conversations, dream at night, and your subconscious has more stuff to work with. Your day 15 post is smarter (and has a better chance of engaging more people) than the day 15 post by someone who created them all two weeks ago. Especially if they only spent a few hours making them, total. Stop doing Facebook editorial calendars.

The other thing is- those results are engagement only. You might also get a few page likes or website clicks. You can alter this some to get website clicks out of it. I find that they still only go as low as $0.30 or so. But at the same time, you’re getting those same supercheap likes, comments and shares. You have to play with the text and call to action in the post to find the ones that will get website clicks, because often, even when you’re trying, you get a BIG FAT ZERO website clicks.


You have to find a needle in the haystack, and you have to create the haystack. Maybe the needle too. I’m not sure I understand my own metaphor. My point is you have to come up with these amazing post ideas. And write the copy. And do the ad tests of format and targeting.

So the sponsored post above did get clicks too, at $0.29 cost per website click- but also at only $0.007 per engagement. So in one day of just a $2 spend, it got 7 website clicks, 141 likes, and 45 shares… this part, getting the website clicks at the same time, is new for me, so stay tuned for more test results later.