How The Thank You Economy Changed My Life

In mid November 2011, right around the same time that Brent Koops told me about Amy Jo Martin (see my previous blog post), I was emailing back and forth with Jim Thiebaud, the vice president at Deluxe Distribution. Before moving out to California in December 2007 I was a sales rep for Deluxe for about 5 years in The Netherlands (yup, that’s Holland), so I’d known Jim for a while. If you know him, you know. If you don’t, he is the Henry Rollins of the skateboard industry. Down for the cause, 100% work horse, and always supporting good people.

On Saturday November 19th, if I’m correct, while he was driving to a hospital in Las Vegas to visit JT Aultz, who just had a serious accident, we had a 45 minutes phone call. After seeing what Amy Jo Martin (thanks Brent!) was doing with Shaq and The Rock (and some other teams and brands in the NBA/NHL) my brain was in overdrive. Could I be a social media consultant in the skateboard industry?

Jim told me I should read this book, The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk, as it had made a big impact on his way of looking at social media and branding. Reading a book? Me? Fuck, I don’t recall the last time I read a book, for fun. It must have been at least 10 years? But, as many, I have the utmost respect for Jim, so I couldn’t say something like “yeah, I don’t really read books”. Besides that, I knew my job at Sole Tech was anything but secure, so educating myself made total sense.

Not really sure if I could get myself to read the whole book (and yes, that’s sounds pretty stupid as I’m typing this) I went to the library and got a copy. On Wednesday November 23rd, the day before Thanksgiving, my wife and I went on a belated honeymoon to Maui. I started reading the book as soon as we took of from LAX, and right before we touched down in Maui, about 5 hours later, I finished the book. Besides being an easy to ready book, it was the style of writing (straight up, no difficult words), that really got me.

Having done the social media at Sole Tech for about 18 months (for Emerica, Altamont, and a bit of eS), and constantly having to try to convince people how powerful social media had become, it was amazing to read what a true social media expert was saying about all this. And I thought, at the time, that I was pushing the envelope and focusing on the possibilities of social media, pffff, not even close!

In the week on Maui I would read some parts of the book again, and as soon as I get back to California, I started watching various keynote speeches from Gary, and it blew my fucking mind. Everything he was saying made so much sense. One of the things that stuck with me early was his, “no tweet left behind” quote  meaning people should be replying to every person on Twitter, when they ask a question, tag your account, or talking about your brand/company/name (by using certain hashtags). Until then I was told I shouldn’t be doing that. While I saw how stoked people would get if I would reply (on behalf of one of the brands), and I felt that was worth a lot, the people above me didn’t see the value in that.

On December 1st I was laid off from Sole Tech, and ever since Gary has been my main mentor when it comes to social media strategy, and at least once a week I’ll watch some of his speeches. I’ve reached out to him on Twitter various times (he has close to 1 million followers!), and he has always replied to me. (And yes, he is in the social media business, but he also runs 2 companies.)

The Thank You Economy is the reason I started this website too. I would always “hide behind the brand” and I don’t think a lot of Emerica/Altamont social media followers knew Fred was running the accounts (it also doesn’t matter who is doing it). I’ve exchanged emails with a handfull of core fans that I’m still in touch with. All amazing people. (Marlone, Matthew, Joshua, James, Zach, you guys rule!)
I’m drifting sorry. So Gary talks about starting a blog of YouTube channel and start sharing your knowledge with people. Having a stutter doesn’t make me the best person for videos, but I’ve been writing blog posts for almost 10 years, so I figured that would be the one for me.
It’s still weird to me that I’m branding my own name, but at the same time I’m seeing that it’s working. I remember people asking me why I was giving free tips out, while at the same time I’m trying to get people to hire me. That this business model worked for me is very simple; I had to give something first, before I could take. I’ve helped a bunch of people out for free, and I still do, because I’m in it for the long run. “It’s a marathon not a sprint”, to quote Gary again. “Everybody in social media (marketing) today acts like a 19 year-old dude and tries to close on the first deal. No wonder it doesn’t work”.

To rap it up, do yourself a favor and read The Thank You Economy. If you work in social media, marketing, branding, but really this book is for everyone. Social media has changed things dramatically, so get with it, or stay on the sidelines and get ready to die….

* And for the record, FvS media Inc is in full effect. We work with about 30 different clients and help them with their social media. Crazy how it all worked out this way. And if I can do it, you can do what you think you can/want to do.

Here’s the conclusion of the book:

Here are 2 videos from Gary that I can watch on repeat any day.

This one is a 7 minute video from SXSW 2010 (yeah, that was in March 2010). He talks about Summize, which is now the search on Twitter, and Zappos, which is famous for the longest customer service phone call of 8 hours (without selling anything).

The last video is a 61 minute video of Gary at Keynote speech at the Inc 500. The is the 1st video I ever saw of Gary, and it’s still one of the best ones. Take an hour for yourself, put on your headphones, and listen.

Thanks again Jim Thiebaud for giving me the kick in the ass that I needed!

Renegades Write The Rules Review

Sometime in November 2011 my good friend Brent Koops, one of the international sales managers at Sole Technology at the time, called me into his office and showed me an article (blog post) about Amy Jo Martin. I was doing the social media for Altamont (and kinda sorta eS and Emerica) at the time, as well as the marketing and PR.
The article (maybe this one?) told about how Amy was helping Shaquille O’Neal with his social media, and how much success their teamwork had.

The 15 minutes I spent in Brent’s office have been super influential of where I am today, and what I’m doing. I remember very clearly Brent telling me “this is what YOU should be doing”, and I also remember telling him I wasn’t sure if I could and should be doing my own thing yet. (Justin Casady witnessed it, not sure if he remembers this)

We’re all scared of change right? Besides that, all I wanted for the longest time was to live in Southern California and work for Sole Technology (doing what I was doing).  But shit was getting weird, and I felt I my opinion/expertise was not taken serious (anymore). The éS brand put on hold a few months earlier, a lot of people were laid off, and everyone knew more layoffs were around the corner. In early December my job was canned, and it was time to move on.

The 24-48 hours after Brent showed me the Amy Jo Martin article, I researched her and found tons of interesting articles and videos about what she was doing on the social media front with Shaquille O’Neal, Nike, Chicago White Sox, UFC and Dana White, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Los Angeles Kings, and more.

Fast forward to almost a year later, and here I am running FvS media, my own social media agency, where I work with brand, retailers and pros (= professional athletes), mostly in skateboarding. I looked what Amy Jo Martin was doing with her company, Digital Royalty, and I’m not afraid to say I mirrored my company after Digital Royalty.

At Sole Tech I helped a lot of the teamriders (Andrew Reynolds, Ed Templeton, Braydon Szafranski, Garrett Hill, Kenny Hoyle, Bobby Worrest, Mike Anderson) get started with their social media, so when I was let go I figured I should try and make that my business. I figured I would mimimize the risk of losing my job if I worked for a few different people, instead of one. In the last few months I was able to built up a solid client base, and it still feels surreal.

Over the summer Amy posted (on her Twitter) that she was working on her own book. In late August she announced the book would come out on October 2nd. Through her website I signed up for the Blogger Program, and I was one of the lucky ones to receive an early copy of the book in early September. It took me a few weeks to finish the book and, to no surprise, the book is nothing short of amazing. (It’s an easy read, I was just lagging)

I’m a big fan of her “color outside the lines without crossing the lines” theory, as it’s something I’ve experienced that first hand when I was at Sole Tech.
In the intro of her book she mentions how “Facebook and Twitter alone often help you innovate better, or more effective products, processes, technology,services and ideas” more effectively than any traditional poll, survey, or creative meeting”.
I always questioned how brands would gather feedback from (potential) consumers, but now that there’s all these options to get this feedback for free, most people get all weird.

I highly recommend reading the book, and I want to walk you through the chapters (rules) so you know why you should get it. (*I have the early version, so some stuff might be changed in the final version)

Rule 1: Be the media
When you have a lot of (real) followers on your various social media platforms, and engage with them, they will help you spread the message(s) for/with you. Amy worked with Shaq on his retirement video, a 16 second YouTube video in which Shaq announced he was retiring from professional basketball and thanked his fans for their support. Within 5 minutes it was a trending topic on Twitter, and within 15 minutes a major media outlet picked it up. How the news broke so quick? Shaq and Amy both had a lot of followers on Twitter (and Facebook).

Rule 2: Show some skin
Be authentic. “You have to earn the right to sell something in the same way you earn the right to ask a friend for a favor.” I really like her execution of the fan phone, were some of her clients answer phone calls from fans.

Rule 3: Unmask you motives
In this chapter Amy points out how Tiger Woods never got back to the level after his sex scandal  and Bill Clinton did after the Monica Lewinsky affair. Why? Because “we still don’t know what makes Tiger Woods thick. He has given us no other reason to like him than for his performance.”
She also brings up the Toms shoes example, and how their whole business model is based around given a pair of shoes to under privileged children with every pair they sell. Toms became successful because people “believed in the brands intent to help children in need.”

Rule 4: Get comfortable being uncomfortable
“Often it’s that first leap toward a new protocol, or culture shift, that gets them hung up. They just can’t see themselves sharing their lives with thousands of people, let along millions. So get comfortable with being uncomfortable  Own it. With more than a billion people using these communication channels, you can’t afford not to have an active role in the conversation.”

Rule 5. Ask for forgiveness rather than permission
“Mistakes are ok if you’re engaging with an audience and they’ve come to know who you are. The faults of a friend are far more forgivable and far easily forgotten. Just bring the results with you when someone asked you about it.

Rule 6: Consensus is true authority
“Brand ownership is not very deep when it’s based only on surface traits like quality, aesthetics, and practicality  Social communication channels allow you to take your audience deeper so that their loyalty to your brand is rooted in human qualities that strengthen any relationship.”

Rule 7: There’s a new ROI in town.
ROI should be about the Return On Influence (not Investment). This chapter introduces the RevPAF formula; the revenue per available fan and follower.

You really have to read this for yourself to understand this new way of getting data (from social media).

Rule 8: The act of good can be scaled
“Social media is not only the future of business; it is this moment of business as well. And the more moments you miss, the more irrelevant you will become. To opt out of social media is an irresponsible business decision. It’s quickly becoming a fatal business decision.”

You can read the PDF version of chapter 0, on the Renegade Write The Rules website.

Final quote: “Take risks, experiment, and fail early. When everyone else hops on the bandwagon, their failing process begins as you begin to win. Then share your lessons with other.”

Being a skateboarder first and foremost, I have no desire to be part of a team (sports), but after reading this book I want to be a part of Team Renegades. Not because I want to brag about being rebel or being part of a team, but simply because Amy Jo Martin is leading the way in communication.

Thank you Amy, the Digital Royalty team, and Brent Koops for opening my eyes!

You can order Renegades Write The Rules on Amazon, Books A Million, and Barnes & Noble.

Be sure to also check out the Digital Royalty University website, the latest project of Amy Jo Martin and the Digital Royalty crew. The Digitial Royalty University is hosting online classes for social media. The 1st 30 minute class is free. Check it out.