In his new book, the Age of Influence Neal Schaffer digs deep into what an influencer really is, how they're made, why they're currently a 4billion dollar industry and how you can leverage them for your business — but also how you can claim your own influence, in whatever shape that is.
Neal also shares what makes his own business work and exactly how he's shaped his business around his passion, his family and how he makes sure he's always doing his best work.
Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping innovative businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and development and execution of social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. Founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in more than a dozen countries.
He is also the author of 4 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley) and the recently published The Age of Influence (HarperCollins Leadership), a ground-breaking book that is redefining digital influence and the variety of ways in which businesses of any industry or size can leverage influencer. Check out Neal’s Maximize Your Social Influence podcast for weekly marketing inspiration.
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In his new book, Age of Influence, Neal Schaffer digs deep into what influence really is, how influencers are made and why there currently are four billion dollar industry and how you can leverage them for your own business, but also how you can claim your influence, whatever shape that is. Neal also shares what makes his own business work and exactly how he shaped his business around his passion, his family, and how he makes sure he's always doing his best work.
Hi there. And welcome back to Amplify the Digital Marketing Entrepreneur podcast. I'm Bob Gentle, and every Monday I'm joined by amazing people who share what makes their business work. If you're new to the show, then take a second right now to subscribe so you don't miss new episodes and you can grab some older ones when you're done with this one. Don't forget, you can join our Facebook community. Just visit, amplify me, dot form forward, slash inciters and you'll be taken right there.
So welcome along. And let's meet Neal. So this week, I am thrilled to welcome Neal Schaefer to the show. Neil, welcome to the show. Hey, thank you so much for having me. Bob, it's been a long time in the making, but glad we finally made it happen today.
I know you nearly came on the show a year ago and then life got in the way. So, yeah, I'm really excited to get a chance to finally meet you. I think I've been following you on social media probably for longer than I've been following most people. I've been following on Twitter for a long, long time and then latterly on Instagram. And I have to say, you are the king of the selfie. You've been self-heating for longer than it was a thing.
You know, I will say that I don't know if you've heard of Pam Moore. She's another one of us, sort of social digital marketing consultants. And I had a chance to meet her in her hometown of Orlando, Florida, when I spoke there many years ago. And we met at a Panera Bread, you know, a coffee shop. And I'm like, Pam, before we go, we need to do a selfie together. And I was doing it.
She goes, No, Neal, you got it all wrong. So she holds up the camera way above. And then we are like, you know, scrunching below. And so she takes it an angle from above looking down. And it was perfect. And she's like, Neal, this is how you take a selfie, so you know what we all learn from others in life and yes, ever since then, find the person with the longest arm and then they hold it and it's above and you look up and they shoot it down and it's perfect.
So what's your position on the selfie stick?
I have had a selfie stick. I think that they are a very convenient, but they can also be very obnoxious. So I would not take one with me wherever I go, but as a utilitarian tool, they can come in handy.
So before this descends into the ridiculous, which it's verging on right now, for the benefit of the listener who may not have heard of you, just a very positive history, sort of who are you? Where are you? What kind of work do you do? What does Neil Schaefers world look like?
Sure. So, you know, I suppose my world begins before social media, where for the first, you know, 17, 18 years of my career, I was a B2B technology sales business development marketing executive. I worked in Asia. So I speak Japanese and Chinese actually lived in Japan the first 15 years of my career. And I was in charge of really, you know, in charge of Asia sales or Western Japan sales or, you know, launching new sales offices in China.
So I had a very, very holistic business experience of having to wear a lot of different hats and being an entrepreneur within a bigger company for a few companies. When I came back to the United States after I got married, had a baby girl decided to raise her here. And it was in 2008 where I was in transition for the first time in my own native United States. And my network was either in Asia or, you know, I went to college in Massachusetts.
My friends from high school in Southern California went up to Northern California. So I really didn't have a network. And I had received an invite and joined LinkedIn. I was one of their first million members back in 2004. But I realized that, you know, maybe I'll use LinkedIn to try to create this network. And it was at that time where I got really it was, you know, January, February 2008, where I got really active.
And LinkedIn and LinkedIn used to actually be even more engaging than it is today. They had something called LinkedIn answers. So like a Q&A, like a Quora type thing that was brilliant. LinkedIn groups were a lot more organic and engaging. And I began to really you know, I was really active in that LinkedIn answers forum learning, but also starting to contribute my own answers and the same in LinkedIn groups. And I began to really proactively connect with a lot of people on LinkedIn.
I guess you could call me a LinkedIn open networker when when it still had a good name for it. But, you know, fast forward, I ended up finding a job. And the same day that I got an offer for the job actually launched my first blog, which was on LinkedIn, because they used to have an app platform. So I started a blog on WordPress Dotcom. It wasn't branded. It was sort of like expert answers to your LinkedIn question, something very general like that.
And then three and a half months later, the company that hired me decided that they you know, they wanted to sell the company. They they wanted to give up an international sales. And everything that I had invested just went out the window. This was also the time of the Lehman Brothers crash back in 2008 where jobs were, you know, sort of like today, I suppose new jobs are hard to come by. So that's when my wife had said, Neil, why don't you write a book?
And I never thought I would write one, but I kept blogging after that. And at some point in 2009, I realized that I already had a good quarter of my book already written. So I pursued that path. And in 2009, I began to I did a lot of, you know, networking locally. I began to get asked to do speeches. And as I released that book in September 2009, those speeches became paid speeches. And then just very quickly, in January 2010, I had a number of companies reach out to me wanting help with social media, and they didn't know what they didn't know.
So it was up for me to decide how to service them. And I decided then that I thought what companies needed wasn't necessarily me doing their social media, but really they needed education and they also needed strategy. So I started a I called it at the time a social media strategy consulting company. I now call it a digital marketing consultancy. And I've been doing that for ten years. And even though, you know, my my clients are on the corporate side, I still try to be very active and very social online.
So, you know, whether it's LinkedIn or Twitter or Instagram or Pinterest, Facebook, I'm actually not as active on as as I probably could be. But, you know, I try to stay active. And really what I've learned working with companies and speaking of what have you, I try to share that with my community online through blogging podcasts. What have you so so yeah, so thank you for being a loyal follower, that sort of explains sort of my philosophy as to why I'm I'm always sort of online and very active and sharing lots of things.
I I originally began connecting with a lot of people on LinkedIn and writing the book because I saw social media, especially LinkedIn, as a networking vehicle that with each connection, it gives me the opportunity to learn and to share and vice versa. So if I could connect with more and more people and reach more and more people, it's just going to be a good thing for everybody. And that's been a sort of a guiding philosophy of mine that I've had for some time.
So I'm always very, you know, either proactive in reaching out to people or when people reach out to me like, you know, in your case, I you know, I want to I want to become friends and spend time and get to know them and see how we might be able to help each other. So here we are today.
That was a great potted history. But I think I while you were speaking, I was reflecting on LinkedIn. I knew I joined LinkedIn early and I joined in 2007, but there was no one else there. It was a complete waste of time. You wrote a book about LinkedIn in 2009 when still nobody was there. And then again, your social media strategy book in 2013, the word early sums you up quite well. And that really brings us on to the new book, which is The Age of Influence.
Now, I'm going to ask you to talk about the book because there's so much in there. You were kind enough to give me a copy. I haven't gone too deep into it yet because I've had my own stuff going on. But once again, early, I thought that there must be lots of books about influencer marketing. I had to look, there are plenty on how to become an influencer, which I probably have dubious quality, but there were none about how to engage and leverage influencers, which was a real surprise.
So why this book? What led you to the point where you thought, yeah, influencer was going to write a book about that? Yeah. What's the story with the book now?
Yeah, there's actually another book that I wrote that, you know, I wrote that first book about LinkedIn because at the time there were you know, Jason Alba had a book out, um, I'm on LinkedIn now. What that was a you know, a leading book at the time about LinkedIn. Lewis Howl's, who's now very famous, had just published his first book, which was about LinkedIn. And then there was mine and I thought that those books didn't go into the detail and all the sort of tricks and hacks that I had found that I really wanted to expose for others to utilize.
So that was my gift to the world at the time.
Two years later, you know, a book like a podcast or blog becomes part of your Imbil marketing tool.
And I realized I wanted to write another book and I had half of a book about Twitter written at that time, believe it or not, back in 2011, which is probably it might have been earlier than Mark Schaefers toward Twitter, might have been about the same time. And I had just fallen in love with Twitter and found great business use from it. But I think a lot of people once again thought that was a waste of time. But I ended up writing a book.
I wanted to write a business book because now I was doing social media for a living. And therefore, in 2011, I wrote a book called Maximizing LinkedIn for sales and Social Media Marketing. So I was talking about things like employee advocacy and social selling before they were terms. But, you know, and I was doing obviously a lot of the speeches I was doing and consulting was related to LinkedIn, but not specifically LinkedIn. So when 2013 came around, it was actually 2012.
I got introduced to the acquisition editor at Wiley, this large publisher, and she was say, Neil, you know, what do you want to write for a book? So at the time, I actually had three book ideas. I could have gone back to that Twitter book. I was also because I do a lot of business in Japan scene that I speak it there. I was actually negotiating with a Japanese publisher to write a book on social media for executives.
And the third idea was, well, you know, now what I do for a living is social media strategy consulting. So I could write a book on how anybody can create a social media strategy. And immediately they said, that's the book. That's the book we want you to write. That's the book that we want you to create a platform out of. And that became Maximize Your Social, which is still my podcast, used to be called Máxima.
It's now called Maximize Your Social Influence, but that's very much become a big part of my brand.
So, you know, writing the book for me, you know, social media strategy, social media are way back in the day was was the number one question I would get asked, you know, how do you do it? And I think there was one other book out on the subject, but it had a very, very different perspective on it. Not not the way that I would present the subject. So so, yeah, I ended up writing that book.
And at the time it's like, wow, I'm giving away all my IP. Right. But for me, writing the book and pun intended, it was sort of like closing a chapter, sort of like getting closure so that I can move on to bigger and bigger fields. So by by writing that book, it allowed me to really, you know, showcase my my subject matter expertise and my authority in space. Right.
So fast forward two years later, you know, wanting to serve my community again as I do a lot of speaking. I was getting asked about a lot of social media tools and technology and automation. So I actually launched a social media conference called the Social Tools Summit. It was all around tools and technology. I think this was 2015 and 16. So instead of a book, I did that. And then, you know, 2017 came around and, you know, as a speaker, I realized that, you know, when when people look to hire speakers, they look for people with fresh new content.
And often that means they have a book out. I just came out with a new book, Let's Have Them Speak. And it's a thing that's very, very common in the industry. And really, when 2017 came around, I thought, you know, this is really a good time to think about what that book is going to be.
And at the same time, similar to how I got ask questions about social media strategy, social media, r.i, or tools, I was getting asked questions about influencers and it was really the first time. It was when I taught a I was a guest lecturer at an MBA class on digital marketing at USC here in Los Angeles. And at the end of my presentation it was a general social media marketing presentation. Almost all the questions were not just about influencer marketing and tapping into influencers, but also these marketers in the room were saying, how do I become more of an influencer?
Because they had friends that were that were monetizing their Instagram or what have you. So I thought that there might be something there. And I started to, you know, think about a book and then someone contacted me. Now, Bob, before we started this conversation, you mentioned how you get a lot of people asking to be on your podcast. And I'm the same way I get people asking for all sorts of things for me, as you can imagine.
But one guy, a guy named Lee Konstantine, reached out and he said, you know, I have this startup called Publicize Her. I come from the publishing world. And the idea about publishes her is if you have a book idea, you throw it out there and it's a Kickstarter and you can basically start to get money for your book, get preorders without even writing the book. And psycho, huh? He goes, Neil, just used to test market your idea, give it a try.
And I did. I test marketed an idea for this book about influencer marketing at the time. It was called The Age of Influence. And I ended it selling a few hundred copies without writing the book. So that was my test market. It was successful. And as I delve deeper into the subject, we're now into 2018 2019, where I wrote the book. I realized that marketers were completely misled and miseducated as to what really was influencer marketing and how it wasn't just about Instagram or Tic-Tac.
It was relevant to any social network. It wasn't just about influencing gen millennials. You could influence baby boomers and Gen X. It wasn't just about photo and video. It was also about blog. It was also about podcast.
So I you know, the more research I did in interviews I did and just more, you know, doing my best to be innovative because if I want to do something, I want to add value. I ended up writing what what ended up becoming the age of influence. And I was very close to working with a publisher from the Netherlands who was going to create a Dutch version before the English version, believe it or not. And right when that happened, I got serendipitously got introduced to HarperCollins Leadership, which is one of the biggest business book publishers.
They they work with Gary V and what have you. And I was able to secure a contract with them. And the rest is history. So in March of this year, the book came out. It was renamed, you know, the The Age of Influence from the Business of Influence, the original name. And so far I've gotten really, you know, great feedback. And, you know, since a lot of the book was written in 2019 because of the way the publishing world works, I knew the book would come out for a while.
So I really painstakingly worked hard to ensure that the concepts would be as evergreen as possible so that when this book comes out a year later, it would still have relevance and five years from now would still have relevance. And I think from the feedback I've gotten, I you know, I feel like I've been able to do that. But now, you know, similar to how I got closure before, I'm already thinking about my next book, Bob.
And I think this whole coronavirus pandemic has gotten a lot of us thinking. But, you know, I see influence. If I was to tell you what my next book is going to be like I said, I'm still conceptualizing. Influence, I think is one of the biggest things that most businesses just don't haven't figured out. They haven't leveraged only a very, very small percentage of maybe really aggressive B2C startups on Instagram, for instance, have have been really good at leveraging it.
But most brands, especially in B2B, have not. But it's not all about influencer marketing either, right? I always say social media replaces nothing. It compliments everything. So is one piece of the puzzle. I believe it can be really impactful because companies have such under utilized it. But you still need social media, you still need content. There's all these other ingredients that go into the mix to create that perfect recipe and not sort of this.
The next book that I'm thinking of, you know, more of this going back to maximize your social. But you know more broadly about digital and really bringing all these concepts together to help companies create their own unique digital recipes for their business. That's the this is the first time I've ever really talked about the book publicly, actually, Bob.
But but that's how far you know, I just you know, if I'm going to do something, I want to be innovative and I want to add value. So I appreciate the fact that, you know, getting back to the original question that you thought that I was first to market on some of this stuff, it really just comes down to the experiences that I've had with my customers. But it also goes back to something that really influenced me when Steve Jobs passed away, that Stanford University graduation speech where he talks about connecting the dots.
And it's that connecting the dots and going back into my own history, both as a professional and even further back into, you know, the music that I grew up with or experiences I had traveling when I was in university. It leads me to greater insight. It actually leads me to to innovation. Right. And from there, I try to you know, I try to create something unique that that no one's ever heard of. And I try to test it and see if it resonates to me.
Podcasting gives me the ability to do that.
I you know, my blog posts, which I try to blog weekly, are more I won't say they're for SEO, but they're more they're not necessarily the thought leadership type of content. My podcast is where I want to establish myself first as a thought leader. It's where I will speak future ideas and test out future ideas and see if they have a flow to them. So, yeah, you know, remaining creative in an ever changing world of social media is not easy, but I think we can all do that when we find our own sources for inspiration, which for me is really just working with clients, looking around at what I see, and then connecting those dots, as has been a really, really great formula for me.
So I don't know if there's a perfect formula for everybody, but.
That sort of explains a lot of, you know, what I've done, but I'd say the other part of that is serving my community, serving my customer, serving my readers, always having that in the back of my mind. So, you know, if people aren't going to ask me about ticktock and I don't see the immediate value because I don't think my clients are on tock, I'm not going to start blogging about tick tock because everybody else is talking about tick tock.
You know, if everybody's talking about Facebook Messenger marketing. Yes, I'll give it a look. But if I don't think it's more compelling than email marketing for a variety of reasons, I may not necessarily talk a lot about that because I want to keep balance. And if I just do what everybody else is doing and catch on every trend that everybody else is catching on to, there is no value in there's no value to my clients. There's no value that I'm providing as well.
So I tend to be selective as to, you know, what I talk about, what I recommend, and that so far has served me well. It's prevented me from wasting a lot of time that you could be wasting. So I'm sort of old school while everybody talks about Tic-Tac. I still stick to the tried and tested. You know, LinkedIn is still an amazing network for for business. Facebook, obviously. It's still amazing. Instagram is still amazing.
So, you know, you go over to tick tock. There's still a lot of business and a lot of, you know, people to be found that are still active on these other networks.
I think I do. When I do look at a lot of things like tech talk, I often feel I see a lot of people chasing a tactic without any real strategic direction behind. I think that's really almost what you were talking about. There is there is a strategy, there are universal principles of digital marketing and sometimes these faddy tools computer a bit of a bit of a distraction. They're not inherently wrong. They work. Don't don't get me wrong.
But your average business shouldn't be distracted by those to the detriment of solid strategy.
Absolutely. That the new shiny object syndrome right here, every marketer falls to. So, yeah, I agree with you. It does come down to that strategy and it does come down to really critical thinking. So who is on tech talk and are people leaving other networks to go on tech talk or is it an additional network?
And then even if I was to be on tech talk, what would that content look like for most businesses? It's obviously going to be a struggle. And, you know, I sort of putting my, you know, my social media history professor hat on, I would say that this is very similar to Snapchat. It's a it's a young generation. It's probably people that were using Snapchat that also used Instagram are also on tech talk.
And I don't know if it'll go like Snapchat really failed to go beyond a generation. I don't know how far tech talk is going to go. And therefore, you know, we don't know the future, but we can't control how much we invest in it now. And one day I like to say, Bob, is you're never too late. If you were to get on the LinkedIn now as a new user, as a new company, you can still get really impressive results.
It's not like you have to be there ten years. You know, being there early helps. Don't get me wrong. But I like to say you're never too late for any social network, so you can always jump back in a tick tock. A year from now. You may not be one of the early adopters, but for every early adopter that gets a big following. There's, you know, way more that never get that following that are going to do the same if they came in later.
So that's always been my philosophy on these things.
If it's all right with you, something I would like to speak about is obviously when you observe people on social media, you you see the effect, not the cause. And by that I mean you see the veneer of people's business, what they appear to be doing. And and when I watch you on social media, you're in Japan. One day you're you could be anywhere. I remember watching you in London and you had hired this really nice girl to take some pictures of you.
And I now follow her on Instagram. She's going to be working for me.
Oh, that's excellent. Oh, she's great. Yes.
I have a fantastic idea either. Why have I never thought of that? When you travel, hire a photographer, get some pictures taken.
But these were these were some of the secrets of influencers that I was doing research. I realized that, you know, the notion of hiring a photographer to do a photo shoot, get 100 hundred photos. I think from that photo shoot, I got maybe 120. And if you post once a day, you have three to four months of content. And that's what a lot of influencers will do. They'll hire a photographer every quarter to take those types of photos, not necessarily when they're on travel, could be in their home office or in, you know, the nearby environs where they live.
But, yeah, it's a great idea. Hmm.
However, a lot of the time, that's all you see of people. And when I have somebody like you, I would like to understand what's going on under the bonnet in your world or under the hood, as you would say in America. So I'm curious to know if you have climbed. Work going on, you have speaking come maybe just have a little walk through what is your day to day work sphere look like?
Will the works for every day is never the same. And I'd say now it's very different because of the coronavirus pandemic. So if we had connected a year ago where I was doing a lot of traveling, for instance, the beginning of March, I spoke at social media marketing world in San Diego. I then came home for a night, then went to Orlando, Florida to go to podcast, my first podcasting conference. And I got back home March 10th.
And then the whole pandemic, you know, came here in the United States. I was supposed to have spoken in Belgrad and Mexico City in May, which those events obviously got postponed. So right now, it's going to be very, very different. But I have I divide my work into two. I have client work and I have my work, and my goal has always been, how do I get the most money from my client work for the least amount of time so that I have the most amount of time to spend on my work.
So that's why and, you know, I started as a consultancy and one of my brothers is an entrepreneur. Sanyal Consultancies don't scale and he's right. I never wanted to do the agency. First of all, for me, philosophically, I was sort of opposed to it when it comes to social media. Now, I've grown up a bit since then and I realized that if companies don't have the resource I can provide, I would rather do it for them than have them hire someone that is not as well versed, you know, as I am.
So I've gotten over that. And in 2016, I did have a client that said Nikolov, love the strategy. Can we hire you to do this all for me? So I had already built it up. You know, I have a staff that supports me on various projects, my own, as well as my clients. And I have the tools, the processes. So I started doing that and it went really, really well. But, you know, I realized after doing that for a year or two that the time invested in the money that I got, while it is scalable.
Right. It still wasn't worth my idea of my value and how much I should be getting for every hour I work, I put in, you know, that's why I love to speak, because on average, for an hour work and yes, there's preparation and there's travel and everything, I tend to get paid the most. But what I've realized, Bob, now that you're asking me and it's you know, as we record this, it's about August of twenty twenty.
What I really enjoy doing, I'm getting back to my roots, right. Connecting those dots of I really enjoy the strategy and education. And I find the best way that I can do that is not as part of some project that a company outsources to me, but being part of their team. So it's more of a fractional CMO. And this is something that I have been actually a I've been ramping this up and I've gotten many new customers since the coronavirus pandemic hit me or hit the United States.
And companies just need more help with their digital right. I'm sure you've probably seen that in the UK as well. So that's a role where I'm getting deep experience working together with companies. I have deep impact because now I can guarantee that they're going to do what I teach them to do, which if I just did strategy consulting, I can't and I can get paid more by the hour. I can get paid, you know, enough money so that I could work three days a week in the very, very, very, very comfortably.
And that's always been my goal over the past six to 12 months once I realized this. So with working three days a week and because it is a time that is spent together with a client, there's no homework per day.
There's no overtime per say. Right. So it allows me to have a clean cut and have an off button, which is very critical when you work from home, especially over a 15 year old and a 13 year old. One of the reasons why I do what I do is to spend time with my family. Right. And watch my kids grow up. So it gives me the ability to do that. And it gives me, you know, two days a week.
If I'm not if I don't have a full schedule to pursue all these other things that I do.
So my blogging, my podcasting, you know, speaking opportunities that come up now, they're obviously virtual. So, you know, Bob, now with the pandemic, because I don't have that travel and even some of my my fractional CMO clients, I would travel to their offices locally. I don't need to do that. So I've had so much time. It's almost been like a renaissance in terms of me being able to develop content and ideas. But it also means for the first time, I've been able to properly promote my book because because as you said, if I'm one of the first to market, I sort of want to own the space.
So I just want to do what I can do to get the word out about my book. And, you know, it's my own exercise in influencer marketing of tapping into influencers like Bob Gentil has this great podcast or bloggers or what have you.
So I like to do things in sprints. You know, my first 90 day sprint was, you know, I had these ideas and and now I'm in my sort of second 30 day or 90 day sprint. And for me to get closure, I want to say, OK, you know, I want to get to a certain number of Amazon reviews or I want to appear in a certain number of podcasts or I want to make sure that everybody I mentioned in my book I interviewed, they all got sent a book.
It's little things like this, but they're KPIs that say, you know, if I can hit if I can hit these goals, then I know that I would have done my best.
I would have left no stone unturned. And then I can get closure and move on to the next avenue where I want to go, which is this next book and sort of a digital a digital product or digital mastermind or master class that goes together with it.
So so. Yeah, so. So now those extra two days and because as I mentioned before, we started recording, but I've gotten really into podcasting and it's really exciting because I started by finding. And podcast to listen to, and I found them on Apple podcast just doing searches as well as, you know, people who are listening to my show, what other podcasts might they be listening to? And for the first time, one of those 10 podcasts I'm going to be a guest on for the first time and one of the 10 podcasts, I actually had them as a guest on my iPad, my podcast.
It was just the most exciting thing, right? I mean, they're not like, you know, I think of like the social media marketing podcast, these iconic podcasts that, you know, Pat Flynn, they're like top five business podcast world. They're not like that at all. But to me, they're my heroes, you know, that that I've been listening to them. And with podcasts, you create such an intimate relationship with people. So so.
Yeah. So that's it's really, you know, as I tell people in crisis, there's opportunity in this pandemic has give me the opportunity to double down on promoting my book and writing more and more great content and obviously doing more podcasting, but also developing more relationships, whether it's, you know, recording this podcast with you, Bob, or with others out there in insulting me, other content creators. And you know, my definition, once you finish reading The Age of Influence, at the end of the day, every content creator is an influencer.
Some have more influence than others. But only one percent of of social media users are content creators. Right. So every content creator has, you know, influences through their content. And I want to meet as many of them and offer as much value as I can to all of them. So those that's sort of what what gets me through my day. But hopefully that gives you some idea as to how I work. And I do have a to do list, which I started doing this year or every day, you know, do X number of this.
Why of that these projects that don't appear in my email inbox, they don't appear on my Google calendar like writing the book. These are things that I put up, put down there as reminders of. I want to make this much progress on this week. And it's a very old school way of managing my calendar, but I seem to be very effective with it. So that that's sort of what my days look like.
That's a very good answer. And be the only area where there's no light been shown yet is who can you give me an idea of what your team looks like now? Is it a virtual team? Permanent fixed team?
So I've always worked virtually. And it's the same thing where when I launched my blog in 2008 and started to see that I was getting traffic all over the world, there were other people that were speaking on LinkedIn, but they stayed very local. They wanted to own the local Orange County, California market, which at three million people is quite a big market. But I always thought global. Once you published content on the Internet or podcast, you're global.
It can be consumed everywhere. So with that in mind, I've always wanted to tap into resources globally. So I have a team of specialists. Like I said, when they don't have client work, they work on my work.
So beginning with a podcast editor, which is one of the people I'm most indebted to.
You need a podcast editor? Yeah. And you know, it's funny because I use bug spray for my host and they have a fantastic Facebook community. And all these people, they just spent hours talking about all the audio edits they do. And I'm thinking, why don't you put that time into the content right into your podcast?
So, you know, it's about working, working more on your business rather than in your business. So I do have that sort of a critical resource. I do have someone that helps me with blogging where we're WordPress. Ciccio, more on sort of the content management side. I do have writers that I work with. There's one especially that I tend to work with more frequently than others. I also have, I guess you could call sort of a social media marketing assistant, slash graphics person that helps with a lot of the graphics that are created.
So it's always a team of, you know, four or five. And instead of hiring a general virtual assistant, like a lot of solar burners do or entrepreneurs, it's really about finding key people that have key skill sets that I can use for those skill sets.
So these are people that are not working for me full time, but they're they're freelancers, but they have the ability to ramp up when necessary, assuming they're not at full capacity.
And I found that that for me, works very, very well in doing what I doing. And then when there are client projects putting them in as necessary. So if people are listening, you know, that are interested in this, there's a whole world of qualified people out there that at especially if you lived in if you live in a developing developed economy, not everybody I work with is located outside the United States somewhere in the United States for quality reasons, but for other things that are just easily repeatable tasks that you can teach people, you know, things like Fiverr, things like up work.
I mean, between the two of them. And I know it's not easy to find the right person. You're going to make a lot of mistakes along the way. But once you find the right people, it really helps you scale. And that's the secret to how I've been able to. Even though my consultancy doesn't scale, I've been able to scale my work and be able to charge more and more and take on more clients because of that and because I'm very much into processes and very much in the tools as well, because obviously I ran a conference on the subject.
So processes, tools, people. Right. And it's the people that I think a lot of entrepreneurs and social partners are scared to hire. So you don't need to hire full time. You could start at five hours a week. You can start by project only when you have work. But if you're not doing that, you're not going to be able to grow and you're not going to be able to spend more time on your business. I'm always trying to find ways of of replicating what I do into a process and teaching someone to do that and giving me time to do something that has more impact.
That that's a really good answer. And I think anybody who wants to break that scale trap, I think you would call it, of thinking that you have to hire lots of prominent people and have an office. Chris Tucker is virtual freedom is a master work on how to escape that. It was a big day for me when I read that book.
Yeah. And I'd say that's it's funny because that's something that I think is missing in a lot of education that's out there as well. You know, to your question, exactly how how do you do all this? Who is your staff? What are they doing? Are they there's not a lot of people. Chris obviously talks a lot about this. So I when I work with clients, obviously, and this is part of this community I want to create, I really want to share this and help people do what I've been able to do and find those key people that can really help.
So. So, yeah, Chris, obviously it's funny because I didn't really know much about Chris until I started speaking with more UK podcasters and UK people in social media and listening to more podcasts where obviously his name comes up quite a bit. And it's just an example how and Flyn. I didn't really know either. I mean, I knew it was a podcast or I had no idea how influential he was. Just, you know, these are the influencers to us, like our kids who are watching YouTube and that we've never heard of.
It's a similar thing, right?
It just it falls in this concept of influence. But but, yeah, I you know, I've never read virtual freedom, but I'm I'm looking it up in the Internet as we speak. And so you recommend that over. I think you is also one that he's very well known for, right?
Yeah. There's virtual freedom and then there's resources you partner with right there. Quite different virtual freedoms about building virtual teams. Rise of the Ukraina is is very much about building marketing and monetizing your personal brand or influence. Gotcha. Perfect.
Which I think is quite interesting because you said consultancy doesn't really scale, yours doesn't scale. However, you have scaled it as much as you can because it scales in direct proportion to your personal brand or your influence. The more influential or brand capital you've got, the more people are willing to pay for your time.
Yeah, you use scale by your price. Mm. And if you think of it that way, yes, there is a limit. But I also have that speaking. I also teach at a few universities. I have, you know, revenue streams from books and I have brands that reach out to me as an influencer. Some of those, if I find it, serves my community, I'll do as well. So I also have that other sort of upside income on the side.
Um, so what's interesting is you have choices and I think a lot of people have very few choices because you built this personal brand, you built this influence. You have choices other people don't have.
Yes, you're absolutely right. And that is this gets back to obviously I'm in this for a business and I want to make it as as as profitable as possible. But there's also the lifestyle for me.
The lifestyle is being able to make that choice is being able to make the choice that no, I don't think that you're the right fit for my business, my consultancy, or being able to say I want to block out Fridays in my calendars because I want to have that time with family and only schedule all my client meetings Monday to Thursday. So it's yes, I believe being an entrepreneur gives you that luxury of choice in how to manage your time, which was really critical for me.
I think a lot of entrepreneurs forget about that and they think they just need to be on all the time. And I think you forget about the reason you became an entrepreneur. You know, I was a punk rocker growing up. So one of my first concerts was seeing the clash back in the day. And, you know, maybe I was a little bit anti authoritarian, which is why I never maybe fit in that corporate world. And where I fit was I had my own company within a company.
Right. Like my own entrepreneurial journey. So for me, you know, being an entrepreneur is being able to make those choices and having the freedom of time. And I think a lot of entrepreneurs start out with the same mindset. But somewhere along the line, they forget about that. And to me, just hiring an overarching staff and having, you know, lots of clients where if on any given day, at any given hour, if there's a mistake in a tweet or some crisis that's going to eat away at my freedom, I'm going to become a slave to the tweet, as I'd like to say.
I'd like to say, and I never wanted that to happen, I realized with my agency that some of that was sort of starting to happen. So, yeah, you know, there's a book by Marie Kondo who either you know of her, you don't. But it's all about like living the organized life. And and she teaches you how to clutter your home and your workspace. And it's very simple. You go through every single thing that you have and you look at it and you say, does it give me and my passion about this?
Does it make me feel good or not? Does it spark joy? I think. Does it spark joy?
Yes, thank you. Think I haven't read it in a while. Does it spark joy? And if not, you got to get rid of it. You got to keep things around you that only spark joy. So I like to apply that concept to my work. And and I think that's a that's a really, really good way to describe what I did and what I recommend everybody else listening to as well. Well, Neal, I think that's a brilliant place to wrap up.
I'm looking at the clock and I know you have appointments shortly, but it's been a delight to meet you. And I'd like to spend time with you. If people want to get in touch with you, if they want to connect with you, how would you like them to do that?
Well, my name is Neal Schaefer. I am the real Neal. So to any A-L I know and in that part of the world, there's a lot of any ill Neales or an IBL as the baristas at Starbucks in London would do. But anyhow and then it's Shaffir, there's a few Schaffer's of us. I don't know why, but, you know, there's a lot of us that work in sales and marketing. So it's S.H. AFA. So I'm Neal Schaefer, everyone.
Social media. Yes, I'm on talk. I may not get back to you quickly if you message me there, but I also have my website, Neil Shefford ICOM. I have a podcast. If you're interested in learning more about this perspective on influence and how it applies to digital and social media marketing, you can find that maximize your social influence. And then my new book is called The Age of Influence. I know a number of people bought it in the UK, so it's it's available at, you know, on Amazon and where and wherever.
And I'd love for you to read it and let me know what you think about links to all your things in the show notes. So if you're listening to scroll down to shows, there will be there. Neil, I always wrap up with one question and I didn't give you any warning. Haven't been very good at warning people recently. But what's one thing you do now that you wish you'd started five years ago?
I wish that I would have more intent in what I do. I think that once you once you put yourself out there in digital, whether it's a podcast, a blog, what have you, a lot of people contact you for a lot of different things. In some ways I've been blessed because I've never had to prospect for business. Bob, it's come my way. I've never had to apply to speak at events. They've always invited me to speak, for instance.
But a lot of good things have happened from that. But a lot of things that I've wasted time have happened as well as you can imagine. And although I try to become a better filter as to what I should and shouldn't do, I just wish earlier on in my career I had a little bit more intent, a little bit more. This is the direction I want to go, and this is going to define the things that I do or don't do.
I'm not going to do it on the spot based on the opportunity. And if I done that a little bit earlier, you know, I think I might be I might be in a slightly different place. I like to live a life of no regrets, Bob. I tell my kids the same thing. I don't regret any choice I've made. I've done my best. And yes, we all make mistakes and I'll continue to make mistakes. But a mistake and regret are two different things.
So even though, yes, I wish I would have done that, I have no regrets. That's a fantastic place to leave it. Neil Schaffer, thank you very much. You've been a fantastic guest of honor. Thank you so much for having me, Bob. But only one percent of social media users are actually creating content. It's very easy to stand out. Doing so consistently takes some discipline and willpower as well as a bit of creativity, but not as much as you might think.
Like Darren Hardy shows in his book, The Compound Effect, small, deliberate actions taken over time lead up to a disproportionately large effect. Before I go, just a quick reminder to subscribe. And if you haven't already join our Facebook group, you'll find a link in the show, notes or visit, amplify me from forward slash insiders. I would love for you to connect with me on social media. You can follow me wherever you hang out. You'll find me at Pob gentle.
And if you do message me, let me know and I can follow you back. If you've enjoyed the show, then as always, I would love for you to review it on iTunes. It means a lot and it's the best way to help me reach more subscribers. My name is Bob Gentil, thanks to Neil for giving us his time this week and to you for listening. And I'll see you next week.