Are you struggling with content marketing? Well, get ready for this one.
I guarantee your perspective will change after listening to today’s guest.
In this episode, we’re joined by Ross Simmonds. He’s an entrepreneur and strategist who provides B2B marketing strategies for founders and marketers--but what’s unique about Ross is his online presence. He reaches hundreds of thousands of people each day by experimenting with sharing content on tons of platforms.
Today, Ross is going to explain exactly how he does it. Whether you sell products or provide a service, you can apply his tips to generate more leads for your business.
It's the antidote to marketing bullshit.
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Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome to another episode of EveryoneHatesMarketers.com, the marketing podcast for marketers, founders and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I'm your host, Louis Grenier.
In today's episode, you will learn how to distribute and promote your content because creating great content really isn't enough. My guest today is the founder of Hustle and Grind, which is an eCommerce store for entrepreneurs, Create, which is a content-marketing software and he also offers content marketing services via his business foundation to brands and startups around the world.
One thing that I liked the most about my guest today is that he likes to test stuff out. He likes to test content on multiple channels to see what sticks and he's using this kind of experimental mindset to reach hundreds of thousands of people every month via his blog, twitter, Instagram, SlideShare, and probably other channels I haven't thought about. I'm super excited to talk to you, Ross, today. So Ross Simmonds, welcome aboard.
Ross: Bonjour, bonjour, Ross Simmonds. I'm excited to be here. I'm really looking forward to our chat.
Louis: Let's dive in then, straight away into a question I've been thinking about for a while as soon as I knew I was talking to you. As I mentioned in the intro, you start to have quite a big following around you.
I mean, you have a good following on SlideShare, on LinkedIn, on Twitter and your blog, you're speaking at conferences all over the world. You know your stuff when it comes to content promotion and distribution, and also content creation.
Now, let's imagine something together. Let's imagine that you had to start all over again. Let's imagine that you have no audience, no credibility, nothing at all, right? You have your knowledge of today, but you have … nobody knows you, nobody cares about you and you have no audience.
Here's the challenge for you. Let's say in six months' time you need to get from zero revenue to, maybe, let's say, $2,000, $3,000 a month of revenue of some kind. Perhaps we can decide right now on whether it's gonna be consulting, maybe we can do that, maybe it's gonna be software, or something like this. But, you need to reach this objective using content as your primary source … as the kind of overall thing that you can use to reach that.
Here's the simple question for you today. How would you do it? Step by step. Where would you start?
Ross: Great question. At the beginning, I would definitely start by creating and getting my house in order as it relates to what platform I'm trying to drive people to. Whether I'm in consulting, whether or not I have an eCommerce site or whether or not I have a SaaS product, whatever that may be, I have to get the house in order first and foremost.
I'm going to set up a website and that's going to exist online. Once I have that established, my next step is to create content. Probably, I'd say 3-5 pieces that I know that my audience would find value in, and I'm going to put my heart and soul into creating these pieces.
The next step is very simple: I'm going to go into Facebook groups, specifically, where I know my audience is spending time. If I'm talking to gamers, I'm going into gamers Facebook groups. If I'm talking to moms, I'm going into some of the millions of mom groups on Facebook. If I'm talking to marketers, I'm going to go into the various SaaS marketer groups on Facebook.
I'm gonna go into these communities and I'm going to answer as many questions as I can that people are sharing while also referencing the content that I've developed on my own site.
In doing so, I'm going to be considered somebody who adds value, first and foremost. People are then, by association, are going to check out my website and see whatever offering I have. Once they're there, it's my job to ensure that the copy, the messaging, the story that is told is going to essentially drive them to convert and become a customer.
I would say within a month time I would be able to quickly generate that type of revenue by simply taking what I know about a certain space, injecting it into a Facebook group in the various communities where people are spending time online and turn that into revenue.
Louis: All right. Well, that was today's episode. Thank you very much. Laughs. No, thanks so much. That was quite impressive--your ability to do it step by step very quickly--but this podcast is all about going very specific and really into the detail.
Let's backtrack into the step number one, right? It might not be the sexiest step, it might not be the one that people would like to remember, but you said straight away to create a presence online and you would start with a website. I think for the sake of this exercise, let's say that you want to sell consulting, right?
Louis: I know that a lot of people who are just getting started in the game. They want to get in the consulting business, starting a new business, or maybe they've tried in the past and it hasn't worked. They tend to overthink those steps. They tend to spend six months building these websites and polishing it, and don't do anything, don't expose themselves to anyone. They just wait and wait, and wait.
Louis: It sounds like you're doing it a bit differently. For this first step, how would you do it? Would you just go quick and dirty on Squarespace or how would you typically do it?
Ross: Yes, so I'm a WordPress guy through and through. I definitely love WordPress, so what I would end up doing is going to ThemeForest and finding a template or a theme that already exist on there. I'd then download it and install that on WordPress, and then I'd have my website. I'd then modify the copy and the messaging, make sure that I have a domain that's related to the industry that I'm trying to sell in.
For example, let's say I'm selling to SaaS founders my website isn't going to be, at this point, rosssimmonds.com or it's not going to be louis.com. It's going to be something like saasmarketingforfounders.com.
I'm going to make it very tailored specifically to the audience that I'm trying to connect with, I'm gonna have that domain, I'm gonna create stories and messaging around that and that's all going to live on my website, first and foremost.
Louis: Right. So let's say we have a decent theme. We have something that is like quick and dirty. It looks professional but you haven't spent six months building it, right? You've literally maybe spend six hours, 12 hours on it and-
Ross: Yes, it should be less than a 24-hour project type of thing.
Louis: Okay. Now we challenge ourselves to say, “Okay, within 24 hours we'll have something live and even if it's not perfect, fuck it. We'll just move to the next step and improve it as we go.” Right?
Ross:100%. You can't just sit and sit on your thumbs. You have to move quickly if you want to make that money in 30 days or less.
Louis: Right. Now we have a decent presence, we have a domain name that is professional enough. We have a website that looks professional and it's not perfect, but at least it shows something, it shows a bit of credibility. Now, you said I'm gonna write five pieces of content that I know people will actually like, that would solve pain points that actually have but how would you do that? Because it's easy to say that, right? How would you go about it?
Ross: Yes, 100%. I have this philosophy that I call the "Sherlock Homeboy Approach", which is essentially you find out where your audience is spending time, you reverse engineer the content that has done extremely well there.
Let's say my audience is everybody who would be typically browsing Hacker News. I'm going to go into Hacker News, I'm going to type in something like ‘marketing' and I'm going to see what over the last few years has been the top posts in Hacker News about marketing, about growth, about business, about selling things online.
Then I'm going to create an improve on any blog posts that was developed, say, four years ago, five years ago with modern insights, modern recommendations that essentially I know this audience will appreciate.
That's how I would go about figuring out exactly what type of content people want. The same thing could be done with any sub-Reddit. You go into a sub-Reddit, you sort content by the top posts, you browse through them and you understand, simply by scrolling through, what type of content people in a specific industry, space, interest, tribe are interested in. Then you just create that content but add your own personal spin and make it better than it was when it first got into that community a few years ago.
Louis: The interesting part here is, I think we can forget about Hacker News on Reddit and all of the technology because maybe in five years' time, none of them would exist, but the principles behind what you're saying will still exist. The principles of understanding where people are hanging out, whether it's online or offline in the real world is crazy important.
Louis: How do you do that? Because let's say I challenge you to go and try to sell your consulting to the type of people that maybe you're not that aware of. You don't know them very well. How do you go about it traditionally? How would you like to discover this to act as Sherlock Holmes for this particular audience?
Ross: I think for me, I do rely heavily on the digital side of things. I think that at the end of the day, whether you're somebody who's into the tech space, you're a super geek and you love the Internet, or if you're somebody who's just getting started with the Internet...Let's say your grandmother who loves knitting, there's probably a Facebook group all the about knitting for grandmothers.
You can go into those communities and see what type of things they're looking for, that they're writing about, that they're talking about and then you just create the content that they want.
If you want to remove tech from the situation entirely, the approach is going to be a little bit more traditional but I wouldn't go down the path of focus groups more than anything. My approach would be simply going to a coffee shop, going to a mall and talking to people about their problems, and seeing who comes in looking to fit the stereotypes or the kind of the persona that I'm trying to align with.
And then just talking to people, having good old fashioned conversations and chatting with folks about their challenges, their struggles, what it is that they'd be interested in if we were to take technology out of the equation entirely.
Louis: Right and I didn't mean to remove technology entirely, but more about, I think it's easy for us because both of us we're around the same type of people. I would say I hang out on Reddit, I know you're very familiar with it as well.
I know how Hacker News, you know Hacker News, so it's easy enough to sell to marketers, it's easy enough to sell to people we know. But I was interested to know as well from your perspective, how would you get to know people that you don't and you mentioned two things.
So I think talking to people, we talked about that quite a lot on this podcast, talking about understanding problems and all of that. But I think the other thing that you mentioned is quite interesting and we can dive into, is the way you reverse engineer stuff that have been shared in specific groups or specific forums to understand what works and what doesn't.
RosS: Yes, and I think forums is still--with no question in my mind--one of the most underrated channels because we've all got this kind of sexy appeal of the Reddit, of Facebook groups and stuff like that, and forums have been around from the time I was like eight years old.
I remember my first forum was about Pokémon cards and things like that, and forums are still just as lively and relevant today. They're just underrated and not talked about as much by marketers.
But I really do think if you go to Google and you type in forums for Moms, you're going to find thousands of pages of search results for forums that are dedicated to moms. Some are dedicated to urban moms, some are dedicated to connected mums, mums who love technology.
Some are related to older moms, younger moms, there's content on all of these different things and these different communities. They're great areas where you can figure out exactly what type of content your audience wants to consume.
Louis: How do you typically understand and reverse engineer what people care about?
Ross: Yes, so for me it always goes down to looking at the metrics around those conversations that are happening in a forum or in a community. Let's say we're trying to target moms of boys. If we're going into a Facebook group or into a forum, it's dedicated to moms who are raising boys and they're trying to learn how to be that cool mom for a son.
You go into those groups, you're going to look at which posts were in those forums with the most comments, which ones had the most views, and you're going to use that to give you insight into what type of content they're going to resonate with on a regular basis.
I think that that's really what it comes down to. More and more people are relying on online forums and I think that you can gain insight by looking at the activity levels that each of those different threads have had to get a better understanding of what content people actually want. And what content is going to stir up the conversations that you need to act on when you're creating your content.
Louis: So you start with this list of these and for moms who have younger boys and that kind of stuff. Let's say you have identified the top five discussions going on there What do you, in your head like scanning through them, what goes through your mind? What type of things are you looking for?
You probably are thinking straightaway into, “Okay, those five discussions, I guess I can create content that is better than that or I can shape it in a different format or whatever,” but what are the questions you like to ask yourself when you look at those?
Ross: Some of the things that I would be looking for is like, were there any surprises? If somebody commented and they say, “Wow, I didn't know that blank,” then that's something that is an insight that you can leverage in the blog posts that you're writing.
If you are going through this forum and you're noticing that people are rallying around somebody who said that they were doing something a little bit differently, then that again is an interesting insight. Because maybe mom's haven't taken this approach, but somebody has shared an insight with the community that you can then leverage and talk about on your own website.
Is there specifically someone who's put up a post in that thread where it became very controversial? If so, maybe you're going to write a blog post that says, I'm giving you the final answer, should you do this or should you do this? And that's going to be the asset that you create and then that's the asset that you're then going to stir up and share into these different communities.
I really think that when you're going into these forums and you're going into these communities, it's all about figuring out is there any insights that were unexpected that you can capitalize on? Is there any conversations that really stirred up a little bit of a debate and a controversy within the forum?
Also, I would say are there any conversations that just got tons of support from the community? Meaning they got a bunch of uploads, they got a bunch of people just uploading the content that was written saying, “Thank you so much for writing this piece or thank you so much for sharing your take on this,” and then using that to guide the content that you create for your website.
Louis: All right, so is it unexpected? Is it creating surprises? Are people saying, “Wow, I didn't know that”? Is it the creation of engagement of people actively commenting, liking, and doing? I guess, what you're looking at right now is like the behavior.
Which is the only thing that matters at the end of the day because they are doing it and you can't really trick that so you can see that people do stuff. The third one, I'm gonna forget, controversy. So the controversy element, is it steering some debates? Are people arguing with each other? Is it a passionate, emotional subject?
Ross: Exactly. I think that that's one of the most underrated type of content topics, and you have to be sensitive with it. But if I was tasked with getting people looking at my website within a month, I would double down on ensuring that some of the content I was publishing would turn some heads and get me on the map a little bit because again, that might even generate some backlinks and give you the ability to rank long-term with this new website that you've launched.
Louis: Now you know what works and what doesn't. Now you have rough ideas of what type of things your audience are caring about, find controversial or are very passionate about. And then you mentioned, I'm going to write five, four or five, six pieces of content, right?
Louis: I know it's a difficult question because it might depend on the audience and all of that, but you would start with written content or would you actually change the format depending on the audience? How would you go about it?
Ross: Yes, so I would definitely start with written content. Based off of my skillset, I think written content would do the best at actually allowing me to do what I do well. written content would probably be where I'd start and I would share that content into the Facebook groups that I was talking about earlier.
Where I would look at the various groups in these communities and I would go into them with this written content that I've developed, and I'd share it within those groups. I would be, first and foremost, adding value by answering their questions.
If somebody has a pain, they have a struggle that they're talking about, I would respond to them and answer that question. And then I would look to see if I have a blog post or an asset that I've created that I could also share in that Facebook group and drive them back to my website where the conversion can take place.
At the end of the day, what you could also do is, once you've gotten this bank of content written and developed, you can then repurpose that content and start to use it in more creative ways.
You can start to share that on Twitter in a different way, you can start to read your blog posts for a video, you can start to create audio clips about the blog posts that you've written. You can then take even that content and start to circulate it through a variety of different channels which will give you the ability, again, to reach this target audience.
At the end of the day, creating the content is the starting point and the next step is, really, distributing it to the right people as frequently as possible.
Louis: Right, before we go into the promotion and distribution sites, which I think is the core topic of this episode. One thing I want to highlight from what you just said, it's like you're naturally saying, “I'm gonna write the blog posts because this is where my strengths lie,” and I guess this is the key of this question.
I don't expect everyone to start with writing content when they are unknown and have no credibility and no audience. Maybe you're much better, for example, like me interviewing people and doing videos rather than writing long blog posts, maybe you're good at something else.
Louis: But focusing and doubling down in your strength instead of trying to copy Ross because he's a good writer is probably a good advice.
Ross: Yes, I 100% agree. I think that you have to double down on what you're good at and ignore the things that you're not good at. If you're not a great writer right now but you are amazing at creating podcasts, then, double down on creating podcasts.
If you're amazing in front of the camera and you can come off as somebody who's great in front of a video camera, like do that. Start to create videos, content and use that as your way of connecting with your audience and providing them with the information that they need.
I think that's the greatest thing about this era that we live in. You can create content that suits you. If you want audio, double down on that. If you want video, you can do that. If you want to do written content, you can do that as well. So I think that, to your point, you have to do what works best for you
Louis: I guess that's the answer to the FOMO happening in marketers and designers, and developers, and everyone who wants to try to sell stuff or grow their business. I feel that one of the biggest pains right now is: Gary Vee is doing all of this and Ross Simmonds is on SlideShare and I have thousands of units in his slides, I need to do that as well.
I think focusing on what you're doing very well to start with and just doubling down on that instead of following this myriad of possibilities and burning out is probably a good way to save yourself from insanity.
Ross: Yes, I would agree. I think a lot of times when I'm talking to founders, they write a blog post and the blog post tells them to write a blog. They believe that they have to write, but they have no writing skills. They're not great at writing, but they may be awesome at coming up with the illustrations or something like that.
If that's where your skill set lies, then maybe you need to double down on not writing blog posts but instead just creating visual infographics about your product, about your space, and using Instagram maybe to create content that is going to connect with your audience.
You shouldn't feel like you have to do anything. You should feel like you should just do the things that you're really good at and where you feel like you can actually excel.
Louis: Now let's say we have published those four or five pieces. Based on your expertise, you've done that many times before. Based on the research you've done in the past, some of them are working quite well. Let's say you realize that when you're starting to answer questions and you plug your articles every now and then, you start seeing that people actually seem to enjoy it.
Louis: I would say that's probably the start of the distribution and promotion side of things. You would probably focus your attention on the articles that got the most traction.
Ross: Yes, 100%. You're going to focus on the content that actually is resonating with people and you're going to be aggressive with sharing that content. If I have a blog post that is generating very few views but I have another one that is taking off and is getting thousands of hits every week or whatever that may be, I'm going to take that asset that is working and I'm going to come up with ways to repurpose it and reuse it on different channels.
To remix that content for SlideShare, to remix it for tweets, for Facebook posts, for potential podcast interviews, whatever that may be. I'm going to use that content as much as I can to get the real bang for its buck.
Louis: Before we go into the step by step--because I think I can get a lot out of you on this particular step--what are the objections that people have or concerns that people have when around this idea? When you say, “I actually take this article and just re-share it everywhere.”
Ross: I think that most people think that people are going to get fatigued by the fact that they've created this content and they're saying the same thing over and over again, but the reality is that people forget that there are billions of people in the world and those billions of people will have not all seen that content.
And it is very unlikely that everybody who would be considered their target audience will have seen their content. I think that that's the biggest challenge. That's the thing that a lot of people need to get out of thinking is the idea that they are going to fatigue their audience by sharing this one piece of content over and over again.
There's millions of people who you have not reached with your best blog posts till this day and you have to aggressively be consistent with sharing that content so you can reach more people, impact more people and ultimately drive more results because you're now reaching an audience that you just wouldn't have been able to reach if you gave up after two or three days in.
Louis: I was hoping you would answer with this answer, so thanks. Thanks for that because that's exactly where I wanted to go. It's funny because it's very rare that I don't get sick of the content I create after seeing it two or three times, but I am the one producing it and it's normal for me to feel like everyone has seen it thousands of times. But that's not the case for your audience.
Ross: Right, not at all.
Louis: The other thing is very integral to principle and the way people work psychologically. Is that, if you want your brand, you, let's say you want to own the content marketing consulting game. Or actually more even in depth, you want to own the content distribution consulting game to stay top of mind.
You want to make sure that you repeat things that work. You want to make sure that you reshare, that you put that in front of people many times and I'm not going to get sick of it. It's very unlikely that they are because you're going to build credibility, consistency, trust, and all of that.
Louis: I've been following you for three or four years. I think at this stage, Ross. I was telling you that before we started the interview and I know that this is, probably, one of the things you're the best at. I struggled to find other people outside of Gary Vee--even though he has a team of maybe a hundred people doing that for him--who are able to distribute that content and experiment with their content in different places without getting super sleazy or aggressive about it.
You have a nice way to share your stuff and I admire you for that. Let's get into this, the nitty gritty of it. How does your process look like for this? Where do you start and where do you choose where to promote your content?
Ross: It's a great question. For me, it always starts by understanding who it is that I'm trying to reach. For the most part, I'm trying to reach entrepreneurs, I'm trying to reach other marketers, and I'm trying to reach people who are getting into marketing. I'm trying to connect with people who are essentially spending time in the communities that I also would spend a lot of time in.
What I essentially will do is, I will look at where those people are spending time and then I will start to spend time trying to figure out how I can create content and distribute that content effectively.
A lot of people believe this idea that they'll write a post, they'll tweet it out and then they'll get profits. In reality, what you actually have to do is, you need to take the time to invest and understand where your audience is spending time, and then spend the time in ensuring that your content is reaching them on those channels.
As an example, if I go into a channel like Quora and I do a research, and I do a quick search for a keyword like marketing, I'm going to find people who are asking questions about marketing. I'm then going to uncover the fact that somebody is asking a question about SlideShare and I'm going to respond to them by giving them a valuable insight and a valuable recommendation around how they can use SlideShare.
But I'm not just going to end there. I'm also going to link back to our resource that is not going to seem spammy but is going to be a value-add to the conversation we're already having. Then it gives them the opportunity to then visit my blog or go visit an actual SlideShare presentation, or maybe it's a guest blog where I'm talking about a specific thing that I'm talking about in that Quora thread in more detail.
For me, it all starts by knowing exactly who it is that you're spending time with, understanding where they're asking questions and where they're spending time online. Then going into those communities--not just spamming them, submitting a link, and walking away--but instead going in first and foremost with value and then suddenly referencing the content that you want them to check out as well in the mix.
Louis: All right, and that makes sense. Right? I mean, you obviously want to know your people, you want to know where they are and you also want to know how to reach out to them. And then when it comes to, let's say you have this article that has been working really well, okay?
Louis: It's quite controversial that has been working, what do you do typically? What type of format do you try to play with? What type of channels do you like to play with? Do you use a team? Do you have freelancers to help you out? How do you do it?
Ross: Great questions. I'll talk you through the process of distributing an asset. The first thing that you're going to do is publish that asset on your website. The next step, once you've gotten it published on your site, you're going to share that on your social media channels organically.
I'm going to push it out on Twitter, I'm going to push it out on LinkedIn, I'm going to push it out on Facebook. I'm going to share it on all of my networks, Instagram stories, all of those different things.
Now, what you need to keep in mind when you're doing this is that each channel is different and each channel is going to respond differently to the copy that you are promoting that asset with. On LinkedIn, I'm probably going to write a long-form post that is going to drive people to this article because I know people on LinkedIn enjoy more long-form content. I'm going to write maybe 300, 400 words before I actually link and referenced the article that I'm driving folks to.
On Facebook, I'm going to keep it short and sweet. Twitter, I have 140 characters. Well, now it's up to 200 and some. What I'm going to do there is keep it within that constraint, but I also know that on Twitter people love emojis so I might throw a few emojis in there to increase the likelihood of that being shared.
Now, at this point, I still haven't paid for any content distribution. I've simply shared it on channels that I own and that I manage. At this point, the content is going out to my followers and they're going to engage whether I like it or not.
What I do next is, I go to a list of people who I believe would be interested in reading this piece and I'm going to reach out to them with a DM on Twitter, I'm going to send them a message on Facebook, I'm going to write them a personal email and I'm just going to say, “Hey, I've been thinking about you as I was writing this piece. I think you might find it valuable. Let me know if you have any questions or if you think that I missed anything in this piece.”
Typically, people are going to say that they love the article, they love the resource and within, probably, 24 hours you're going to actually see them sharing it on their own networks as well which is just a great way of getting your content even more reach.
Once that happens, I'm also going to make sure that I'm reaching out to people who happen to have a roundup newsletter to see if they would be interested in including my asset in their newsletters. Again, it's going old school with email, but I'm reaching out to people who run newsletters that essentially have an audience that lines up with mine.
I'm going to ask them if the article that I've created will lineup with their audience and would be of interest to them. Now at this point, I still haven't paid for any distribution but I've probably reached a good chunk of folks, but now it's time to double down on communities.
I'm going to look at, is there a Slack community that I should be in? Seeding this content and asking people if they would be interested in sharing it on their communities, but also just sharing it in a Slack community where my audience might be spending time.
I'm going to do the same thing in a sub-Reddit. I'm going to find the various sub-Reddits where my audience is spending time and I'm going to submit this content, but I'm going to also make sure that I researched the type of content that these different sub-Reddits want and make sure that I'm not breaking any rules around what type of content you're allowed to submit to these communities.
I'm then going to go to community forums and rather than just submitting the content as a link, I'm going to look for people who are asking questions about the content that I've created. Let's say, somebody is in a community of tech entrepreneurs and they're asking about content distribution.
I'm going to give them, essentially, four tips for how to distribute their content effectively. But at the end of that I'm going to say, “If you want a few more, check with this blog post that I wrote, there's about 20 more on this list.”
And then if somebody wants that, they can click it and they can consume that content. And I'm going to do the same exact thing in subreddits, I'm going to do the same thing on Product Hunt, I'm going to do it in all of these different communities where my audience is, again, spending time interacting with one another.
I'm going to take that same philosophy, that same approach, apply to Facebook groups. At this point, I'm probably getting tired and I want to have a cup of coffee, so I'm going to go grab that. Then I'm going to come back to my computer, and then I'm going to double check and see how people are engaging with the content on Twitter and LinkedIn.
And then from there, I'm going to determine if I'm going to create an entire tweet storm about the article that I created and start sharing that out. That's really just the beginning of some of the efforts that I would take to distribute that asset effectively.
I could continue to riff off on a variety of different things but I think the audience will get the point here. That at the end of the day your blog post doesn't end when you press ‘publish'. That's when the life of your article, the life of your video, life of your podcast actually begins.
Louis: You're challenging my skill set quite a lot as an interviewer right now, which I appreciate. Let me go back to the first part of your answer because, first of all, thank you so much for going through this in depth that quickly. It's quite amazing to hear.
You first mentioned to share out organically and one core thing that you mentioned, I think is critical, is to make sure that the way you share your content throughout the different channels is really tailored to this channel.
And you make it sound very easy because based on your experience, that LinkedIn long-form content works, but you only know what works for what audience by … for what channel, by testing things out, right?
Ross: Correct, 100%.
Louis: You say emojis works for Twitter, you probably did a lot of tests with that or you start to understand what works, what doesn't. That's the first thing I picked up. Then you mentioned something that I find super interesting. I think it's very rare to have content marketers or content creators to spend the time to do that, it's to reach out to people of interest, right?
I'm not going to call them influencers because it's just over the top. Like people who have interest. People who might be interested, people who have a network. You mentioned people who have newsletters with people in there, people who have a huge audience that they're being followed and you said I would just reach out to them with the article.
Louis: I know it's a difficult question because it will depend, but for a specific piece that you know is working quite well, let's say cornerstone type of content that you created, that you know is working quite well already. How many people would you like to contact and how long does it take you to only do this?
Ross: This goes back a little bit to the conversation we were having a little while ago about the fact that there's billions of people in the world. Like I never stop. I will write a blog post and it will go wild for, say, a month and I will continue to promote that piece to people two months after.
If I noticed that somebody just wrote a blog post about the impact of coffee and I have written an article about the value of coffee and hip-hop, and how it increases your productivity--you can rest assured that I'm still going to reach out to that person and say, “Hey, check out this piece I created. Let me know what you think.”
And if that one email is able to give that piece of content that I wrote eight months ago new life, then that's gold. That's what it's all about. It's about giving your content more life long-term rather than just having a one-time hitter.
For me, you constantly are looking for those opportunities. But from a starting point, I would probably look at reaching out to anywhere from 15-25 people and then dumping into those communities to seed it.
Of course, at the same time, you're going to have your friendlies and you should never forget the friendlies, like even if they only have 100 followers, 70 followers, 10 followers, whatever that may be. The fact that you have some people who are interested in always knowing what you've developed and what you have created, you always want to go back to them and ask them for some assistance regardless of their audience just because you know that you can get them to share your content.
Louis: And in a typical scenario, this outreach process of like reaching out to 25 people takes you how long?
Ross: Yes, so I think that would probably be about a 2.5 hours type of effort because you do want to personalize it. If you already have those emails captured, then that's icing on the cake and it probably won't take that much, but it won't take that long.
Usually, 2.5 hours would give you enough time to reach out with a personalized email, research the people's emails to make sure that you have them. Of course, if you're sliding in a DM via Twitter, that makes the time timeline even shorter because you already have direct access to those folks.
Louis: You don't seem to be a super, prolific content creator or maybe I'm not following you enough, but you don't seem to be the type publishing content twice a day, new content twice a day, right?
Ross: Not a chance. No, not at all. I have a lot of clients I have to create content for a lot of brands that have to continuously manage, and I got a new baby that's keeping me up late and early morning. I'm definitely not creating new content on a daily basis, very rarely, as at even a weekly basis.
I'd say every two weeks or so, I'm creating new, big assets. But I do put out new tweets and micro-content on a regular basis, but it's not the in-depth pieces that a lot of people would be creating.
Louis: First of all, congrats on the new baby but the second thing I wanted to say is, it seems like, the reason why I'm asking you these question, it seems like you are spending more time distributing and promoting than creating.
Ross: Yes, and that's completely true. I think that one of the issues that a lot of people run into is the fact that they spend so much time creating that they don't actually have time to distribute their content. I do think that there's value in creation, don't get me wrong there.
I think that at the end of the day, you have to create quality content but if you have a few great pieces of content that are high quality and that will add value to your target audience, then you can repurpose and remix that content for a very, very long time, and people will continue to add that value and associate it with you.
Louis: Then this other thing you mentioned, was about the community. You mentioned that from the very start when I challenged you with this stuff and credibility and audience. You naturally went into the community side because it gives you the insights of what people give a shit about and also gives you the opportunity to promote your stuff as long as you add value for us and without being spammy.
Ross: Exactly, yes. I think going into the communities is a great avenue for any marketer in any channel or in any industry.
Louis: You have to organically reach, like a media or through the channels that you own yourself or where you constantly share stuff and repackage them, then you have the reaching out to people doing outreach.
Then you mentioned communities and then you stopped and you said was probably enough. I don't think it's enough. I think you have other stuff up your sleeve. What else do you like to do for your clients? Give me your secret sauce here because I can feel here there's something else that you do that you don't want to say.
Ross: Laughs. I think another opportunity that a lot of people underestimate is outsourcing some efforts to sites like Upwork. So on Upwork, you can get people who, for example with this podcast, we will be on here for about 50 minutes or 60 minutes. Whatever that may be and we're going to be talking about a lot of different things.
What I would do at the end of this podcast is, I would send that to an Upworker and I'd ask them to take the audio and chop it up into a variety of different bits, and then I would ask them to turn that audio into a video style clip that I can then send out as a tweet.
They would put together say 16 or 20 audio clips from this, they would put a picture of you, a picture of me on it, they would have a bit of a wave, the sound wave, going across it and I would ask them to put that together.
They do it for say 50, 60, or 100 bucks or so, and from there I'm going to have 16 pieces of content that I can share over the course of the year that I can always be tweeting out and sharing on social.
I'm then going to get another Upworker to take the audio and repurpose it with videos of me speaking at events, and then I'm going to take that content and share it on Instagram into Instagram stories. I'm going to upload it to IGtv and I'm also going to, probably, create a teaser to go with one of these podcasts that will go up on LinkedIn driving folks back to this.
It would be a custom video where at the start I can customize the intro where it says, “Hey, LinkedIn,” or maybe it says, “Hey, Facebook,” or “Hey YouTube,” and then, again, I'm going to repurpose that content on each channel, but it seems a little bit more personalized. I'm not actually doing all the putting this video together, but I would get an Upworker to do it for me and then I'll just take care of the actual distribution.
Louis: Yes, so that's where I want you to get to because you definitely have a scale, and like as you said, you have a personal life as well and you're not outreaching to people 24/7. You also have a team, but more importantly I think you,'re relying on freelancers and outside people to help you scale so that it feels like you're everywhere without being everywhere.
Ross: Exactly. Right, 100%, and also taking the audio from this podcast and then turning it into a blog post. I would share this with somebody on my team and I'd say, “Hey, I want you to find four or five key points that we talked about and turn this into a blog post.”
And, then, at the end of the blog post it would reference the podcast, link back to it and that would be a new blog post for rosssimmonds.com, maybe foundation's website, whatever that may be.
I think that there's constantly ways that you can redistribute that content and share it. You could also get some quotes taken from this. I'm sure that we've said some type of sound bites that could be used for Instagram assets, that we could share on Instagram and then drive people back to the link in our bio. For me, it never stops as it relates to the opportunities to create content out of content that you've already developed.
Louis: Is there any other secrets, Ross, you're not telling me right now?
Ross: Laughs. I think I've given you the vast majority of them. I think that with this, anybody who's looking to distribute their content effectively should be able to do so and find some amazing results.
I do have one other secret tip that I would share with folks. When it comes to channels like Twitter, you can actually get folks to just send them the tweet where you shared that article that you've developed and then it makes it easy for them to just click retweet.
That's something that I would also look at from a promotion standpoint. It's about make it easy for people to help you. When you are reaching out, just to send someone the tweet, say, “Hey, would you mind retweeting this or check this out.”
Of course, you're going to do this with people you have a relationship with. You're not going to reach out to Gary Vee and ask him to retweet something if you've never met the dude, but you're going to reach out to people who you actually have a relationship with and ask them to share that content on their accounts as well.
Louis: Yes, definitely. From experience what I found is when I reach out to people via email and ask them to share something or at least telling them this is the article, one thing that works is definitely to make it so easy that they literally just have to click retweet or they literally have to copy-paste a message and post it. It's just … I know myself, right? I receive emails like this often enough and-
Louis: -most of the time I'm so fucking lazy, I don't want to do anything because they ask you so much.
Ross: Right, exactly. Easy, make it easy.
Louis: So if you tell me, “Just tweet that,” and it'll just takes me five seconds then I'll do it. I reply back and said, “Don, thanks and something else and there you go.” Yes, making it easy is probably one of the core thing that you need to remember when you reach out to others but, more importantly, making it easy but also making it all about them.
I think baking in the promotion elements into the content creation is probably also a tip or even beyond a tip and another tactic that you can use, which is really about … Let's say for this podcast as an example, I would pick a quote and something that you said that was super interesting.
I will also try to look at other episodes in the past where other content marketers like yourself have shared other interesting stuff and I would find some common themes to write an article about and, then, I would mention five of you, and then I would email you one by one and say, “Hey, I've mentioned you in this article and I wouldn't even ask you to share it because I know you will share it.”
Ross: Exactly, I love that. I think that people underestimate the power of ego. If you tell someone that you've referenced them and that you've created a piece about them, they're very likely to retweet that content.
Louis: Especially if it's good, right? Obviously, if it's a piece of shit type of content, no. But if it's really good quality content that solves a big problem and you're including quotes that are already in context or super interesting. Obviously, it's all obvious what we're seeing from the start the distribution works when you distribute good content that solves problems, not spammy 300 word article that don't make any sense.
Ross: Exactly, yes. This is going a little bit off topic, but the roundup style blog posts are kind of taking a hit because so many people have done them, right? Like the roundup posts, as great as they were for getting so many people to share your content, it's now at a point where when you create a roundup and it's 100 marketing experts chiming in on the future of AI and digital strategies.
If you're marketer number 92, you are not going to want to share that content because to you, you're like, “Wow, I'm only 92 out of 100. I do not feel flattered anymore.” But if it was only a roundup of four great marketing entrepreneurs who have thoughts on AI and digital strategy and I'm number three, I'm more likely to share that content then if I was number 92.
Louis: Yes, things are getting more difficult. At least there's the feeling that it is getting more difficult but I would say it's all about the same things over and over again. As long as you're helping people out, as long as you're giving value and without waiting for a lot in return.
As long as, as you mentioned, take the time to do the hard work of actually reaching out to people, there is no hack. You can just hack your way into reaching out 1,000 people and getting magically 1,000 shares. It doesn't work like this, so building relationships, going into the community, answering questions, creating value, it all comes back to that.
Ross: Exactly. And you have to be willing to experiment and fail. You might try to publish that blog posts, you then republish it on medium.com and it only gets five claps. That is completely okay. You don't walk away from that and say, “I'm done and I quit. I didn't get a lot of love when I tried to republish this on Medium.”
You say, “What can I do better? What are other people doing that is allowing them to generate the 20,000 claps on a blog post?” And then you study that, you reverse engineer, and then you try to replicate what they did to find success in your own practice.
I think that, to your point, the rules have pretty much stayed the same. The game is definitely getting harder, but if anything what it's pushing us to do is to double down more time and energy on distribution, and not being afraid to experiment with different channels and different tactics for getting our story seen.
Louis: All right. Ross, you've been absolutely amazing. Thanks so much for being through this step by step with me today. I think you're one of the guests that packed the most insight into less than what 45 minutes discussion, which is really good.
I don't say that to every guest, I truly mean it. Thanks for doing that. I do have two or three questions left that I always ask my guests. The first one being, what do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years, 20 years or 50 years?
Ross: Oh, great question. I think for me, this is a bit of a more MBA-style answer, but I think that for marketers that are going to come up and be successful, I think that soft skills are still very valuable and they're oftentimes overlooked.
A lot of people will say, “Oh, it's so important to double down on learning how to write swift, it's important to learn how to do html and to write React, you have to learn all of these different languages and spreadsheets, and all that stuff.”
But I think that at the end of the day, as automation becomes more important, as technology starts to kind of continue to evolve and AI starts to influence even us as marketers, I think that managing people EQ, being able to make decisions, not necessarily feel beat up when you're wrong, resilience, negotiation, complex problem solving, I think that all of those soft skills are very rare and they are going to be extremely valuable in the years to come.
Louis: Amen to that. What are the top three resources you would recommend to listeners? That could be anything from webinars, podcasts, books, articles, whatnot.
Ross: Yes, so there's a few places that I would definitely recommend. I think that marketers should always spend time with other marketers and I'm a big fan of communities that are dedicated to marketers.
So we lost RIP inbound.org a few years back, but there's still growthhackers.com out there, so I would recommend people to spend some time there. I know Rand is starting SparkToro, which is a great resource for people to consume content. And I also agree that Indie Hackers and channels like that, while they're not tailored towards marketers, they're great places where marketers can spend time and consume content.
When it comes to fine-tuning your craft, I think that the Moz blog is still one of the best assets out there. I also think that there's this great little website called YouTube where marketers can gain a ton of information and valuable insights on how they can leverage and achieve success.
I think that a lot of people forget the fact that there's no problem at the end of the day that any marketer, that any human can go through, that somebody else hasn't gone through in the past. You just have to find people who have gone through it, who have written about it, who have talked about it, and then consume that content.
Another resource that is a little bit outside of the marketing and business landscape is this book by a guy named Clayton Christiansen called ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?' And it's simply a blog … it's simply an article that evolved into an entire book about finding your purpose, finding the things that matter to you, not only in work but also in your personal life.
I think that everybody would be better to read this book. I think that it, for me, changed my life. It's without question the one book that I gift to people the most often and I would definitely recommend that everybody take a read of ‘How Will You Measure Your Life?'
Louis: I never heard of it, so thanks for sharing this one. I'm definitely going to check it out. Ross, once again I'm going to repeat myself, you've been amazing, I learned a lot from you today for sure. Where can listeners connect with you and know more from you?
Ross: Yes, so definitely check out rosssimmonds.com, that is the one place where I'm constantly trying to deliver and develop content that will help people generate more leads, and as a result live more life.
But check on me on Twitter @thecoolestschool. I created my Twitter handle in university, so please don't judge. I would love to connect with folks. I always love hearing from entrepreneurs, marketers, go-getters, and people who are simply trying to improve and enhance their life.
From my end to yours, I really do want to thank you for having me on, I want to thank you for putting up with this type of content. I've checked out a lot of the episodes that you've been creating, I've been checking out with the content that's been repurposed on sites like Indie Hackers and you're doing an awesome job. Thanks for doing it and keep on hustling.
Louis: What a way to wind up. Thank you very much, Ross.