Affiliate Summit Keynote: Peter Shankman

August 11, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences


You awake now? Yeah? Stellar. Our keynote speaker this morning is Peter Shankman and he looks ready to go. He’s hopping around. He’s chatty. He’s threatening the folks in the front row that he’s gonna make fun of them.  He’s basically my kind of guy.  This is sure to be fun.

Okay, everyone’s getting silent now. That usually means we’re starting. And that I’m about to launch into a monstrous coughing fit.

Peter is going to talk about what he’s done with HARO and how he was able to do it. He then wins my heart by saying that in the 1990s he was in a Melrose Place chat room…which he explains to the under 25 set as being today’s equivalent of twittering about Gossip Girl. Analogy WIN!

We’re getting a bit of Peter’s life story, but unlike most others, his is actually funny. Here are some highlights:

  • The Internet and social media are like skiing. We’re all going really fast and if something gets in our way, we turn. That’s what he’s doing.
  • He has ADOS – Attention Deficit OOH SHINY!

We’ve moved into the age of immediacy. And if you’re looking for attention, you need to be a lot smarter than a few years ago. You can’t make anything viral. But you can make something good. And then people will latch on to it. Social media is about trust. You need to trust me that I’m not sending you a pile of crap.  If I send you something, you have to trust me enough to open it.

Social media does not exist. What does exist is the ability to screw up to a larger audience in a much shorter amount of time. And if you don’t believe him, he’ll start naming airlines. Hee!

He shows us a video of a guy living in San Francisco. He was a video game programmer and he decided he wanted to quit his job and go around the world. So he did. And then Stride gum asked him to do it again and post a video of his experience online. So again, he did.  That video was featured by NASA. The end result was something like 25 million views on YouTube. It’s become a household name.  If you haven’t heard, that guy was Matt Hardy.

[I’m now crying in them middle of Affiliate Summit. Damn you, Peter Shankman!]

We’re a society of finders. We like to find things and then share them. He guarantees us that the guy that created fire, did it and then walked around showing everyone how cool it was. Fire is good.  That’s social and where social has its merits.

How did he do that with HARO?

He spent the past 10 years working in PR and doing good stuff just for the hell of it.  We live in a society that is very much “me” centric. What can I get from this? What can I achieve from this? When you do something that helps people, you’re remembered, you’re not just recalled. Doing it to be nice gets you remembered and gets you that phone call. And then when you have a story, people will take your phone call.   And every year he sent that email asking to help people, Gawker would make fun of him.

When you don’t know someone, you try and find people that you do. On a whim, he started a Facebook group where he would forward the queries he got from reporters and send them to his friends. He did it for 3 months before PR Newswire (who does the same thing but charges 4k for it) called him threatening to sue for stealing their queries.

They were playing by the old rules. If you want something, you sued to get it. The new rules say that if you can work with the person first, you’ll almost always have better success.  Lawyers are still useful mammals, people just aren’t running to them first.

Rule 1 Of Social Media: Transparency

He built a Web site – HARO and pushed his Facebook group over.

He was having a conversation with the people who were on his list.  People thought he was talking to them — and he was.  He was being transparent about his day, what he was doing and why he was running HARO and that led to immediate trust. And immediate trust lends itself to viral.  He was using his personal email at the time. He responded in real time. Social media is two way communication. Social media is not broadcast. Radio is broadcast. TV is broadcast. If you are engaging in a social media campaign, you must be prepared to talk, listen and respond. It’s not just about posting.

Transparency exists. Our current administration in the White House is based on transparency.  We are in a society where, for the first time ever, old white men are no longer running the country.  Corporate boards, previously run by old white men, are skewing younger. That means we’re adopting new ways of running corporations and that means adopting transparency – admitting you screwed up and moving on.

Rule 2 of Social Media: Be Relevant

He created email crack with HARO.   People had to open it. He kept it relevant by categorizing queries. He could get people exactly what they needed, when they needed it.  Relevance is giving people what they want, when they want it. Every time they gave people something that they asked for, he emailed them to tell them that it was done and it was done before they asked for it.

Have you ever asked your customers how they like to get their information? Podcast? Videos?  What do they want?  Are you following how they want info and then giving it to them in that way? You should be.

Rule 3 of Social Media: Brevity

The average attention span in the 80s was three minutes. Now its 2.7 seconds or 140 characters.  He doesn’t know that twitter is going to save the world. Tweeting we get. The act of sending a text message was ingrained in our brains via two things: 9/11 and American Idol. We get it. Short, quick messages will survive. Will Twitter? That’s anyone’s guess.

You get brevity by learning to write. [waves to @graywolf]  You need to learn how to write. Take a class. Learning to write will increase the number responses, it will increase the number of buys and clickthroughs. You have one paragraph to get people. If they’re on your site, they’re already willing to buy. You’ll lose them without brevity.

Can I just repeat that? IF YOU CAN’T WRITE, TAKE A DAMN CLASS.

Rule 4 of Social Media: Top Of Mind

His morning: He gets up. Runs. Makes coffee. Goes to his living room, opens his laptop and goes to Facebook. On the right hand side, on the bottom, are birthday announcements. He wishes everyone a happy birthday either on Facebook, via email, or through Twitter DM.  He makes it about them. Takes him 10 minutes. He gets nothing out of it, but it’s self-connecting.

On average we talk to 3 percent of our network on a regular basis. The other 97 percent we totally ignore. The problem is, we need to come back to relevance.

Where we’re going in 12-24 months: He believes we’re moving towards one network and that network will be everyone you’ve ever met.  He talks about the Poken (WANT!). You enter in all your social info, then touch someone elses when you meet them, and it transfers the information over.  You can then upload that directly into your computer and it will start the following/friending cycle in all your social networks.

Information used to flow from outside the network in. Now, it’s flowing from inside the network to out.  We are a society that loves to share.  We’re not truly miserable until we’ve made everyone else miserable around us.

Your job, under the guise of social media, is no longer to do your own PR. If you walk int o a bar and tell someone, “I’M AWESOME!”. They’re going to throw a drink in your face and carry on.  If instead, a hot girl’s best friend looks at her and says, “He’s AWESOME!”. You’re going home with him. That’s PR.

Your job isn’t to do your own PR. It’s to get other people to do it for you and the best way to do that is to provide stellar customer service to begin with. Find out what they want, help them get it and they’ll do your PR for you.

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