Social Media Marvels | October 02, 2019

How To Guide : Scalable Branding Featuring Larry Kim

Picture of Jagruti Bhargav

by Jagruti Bhargav

In this episode of the Social Media Marvels, we have with us MobileMonkey’s CEO - Larry Kim. He talks about growth marketing techniques, how to leverage social media to scale your business and brand. If social media algorithms, engagement, reach are some of the metrics you are struggling with, then this is the episode you should follow.

Find the summarized  transcript from the interview down below.

What Do I Expect from the Video :

  • How to increase audience engagement across social media platforms.
  • Simple three-step process to increase brand’s visibility.
  • How does Larry Kim manage enormous engagement?
  • Why does the audience engage with content?

Q - Your content is centered around the elements of a unicorn? Why the fascination with the creature? 

A - Although unicorns are in trend right now, but I have used it as a metaphor since a decade. Unicorns represent the remarkable ideas, campaigns, products which leads to exponential growth.

In my experience within the industry, most ideas or campaigns are unremarkable. They don’t have the potential reach that unicorn ideas do. The unremarkable ones are donkeys. I think this donkeys and unicorns analogies have been really well received and mostly responsible for the personal brand that I have built today.

Q - So the focus is centered around the X-factor that the content or product brings with it? For the potential customer?

A - It’s just something rare and you know remarkable and very special. I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you do all your different video podcasts, you know some of them do great and some of them not as well. And I’ve noticed that across all marketing channels and I just used this unicorn metaphor to describe that.

Q - Was WordStream your first venture in digital marketing or did you pursue something else before making it so big?

A - That was my first venture in marketing. Before that I was doing software development and product management. And so you know it was just unrelated to marketing. But I think when you think about successful entrepreneurs and founders of companies, one thing they have in common is that they need to have domain expertise in different areas. 

Just because you’re a really great marketer doesn’t mean you’re gonna be a successful software company. So I think the combination of being able to have some experience building software and also be able to learn marketing was sort of the key. 

Q - Was it an informed choice or an informed shift from developing software to getting into strategy?

A - Well you know it’s a journey and you do whatever the company needs you to do and initially you have to build something, all the effort is being focused into product design and product development. But later on once you have a product that you want to sell, you need to attract customers. And so I would say the first half of my journey at this company, at WordStream was in product and engineering and the second half  was just like marketing, sort of a normal company life-cycle.

Q - We know that you like Facebook chatbots - facebook messengers. But what are the other social media platforms that you like working with?

A - LinkedIn is a platform I’m active on. I have a 100K followers, and all the algorithm looks for are comments and likes. So, in order to garner more engagement, one needs to focus on likes and comments.

The other platform I use is Twitter. The algorithm over there frequently changes. I think, it favors larger, authoritative accounts. Reach and engagement come easier to such accounts. I have been on Twitter since a while and with a few 100K followers there as well. Hence, my Twitter posts garner a lot of engagement. Having an old Twitter account is therefore more favorable.

I am also on Medium - here you share more long-form content like blog posts. I am the 8th most popular author on there. Again, not because I am a great writer, but because I have a lot of engagement on my posts. The algorithm looks for hearts and claps when it comes to Medium.

So find ways to generate the engagement, with content, with promotions, with emails. 

Q - In order to generate engagement, you study the platform’s algorithm. And then optimize your content to create that reach. Or is there something else as well?

A - I don’t think I’m the most remarkable person. I don’t think I have the greatest ideas or anything. I think all I do is - I have sort of an engineering approach to marketing. I just look at the algorithms, SEO or AdWords or Facebook Ads. These are all just you know machine-learning computer systems.

They need to determine how much your ad costs or who to show your ad to or you know how frequently they should show it to you. Or you know how much free exposure it should generate. These are just simple inputs and outputs. And if you can spend the time and research and do experiments, I think you’ll find it’s very simple to crack some of these algorithms. 

And if you can observe how they work, you can get enormous exposure on platforms like YouTube or Instagram or LinkedIn. And it’s actually not that complicated as you think it is. It’s mostly based on user engagement. And then once conquered one of your channels, say you’re really good at LinkedIn or something like this, the next channel that you’ll go after will be easier because you’ll have sort of an active channel that you could use to generate the engagement on the new marketing channel.

Q - Do you also train people or companies or clients to understand these algorithms and increase their engagement or are those some secret hacks that you have?

A - Oh no I’m an open book. I do a lot of blogging on a lot of my crazy experiments. If you wanna know how to get featured snippets or if you wanna know how to reduce your ad cost - these are all there. 

The whole reason why I have a personal brand and a following of millions of users is just because I do a lot of experiments and then I publish the results on my blog. And there’s a lot of great insights in terms of how to 10x your click through rates or you know how to get those featured snippets in SEO. Just follow my content. We giveaway every secret.

Q - Could you give us an example of how can one leverage a platform’s algorithm?

A - So one challenge is that I don’t do - I haven’t invested a lot in video content. YouTube and instagram are still kind of a mystery to me. But if you pick any other ones like SEO or something like this, there’s definitely new changes in those algorithms.

Q - How do you stay updated with the constant changes that platforms make? Do you follow someone in particular?

A - I don’t read anyone’s stuff because I kinda wanna run experiments and I don’t wanna be biased by like what other experts say. Especially if Google says something or if Facebook says something, they’re not gonna give away like secrets. 

You shouldn’t really trust any of that. What they are saying - you should validate and experiment yourself. In my experience, usually, the experts are wrong. I mean, the conventional wisdom is more or less outdated by 5 or 10 years.

For example, in SEO, one of the really important signals are like user engagement signals like click through rates and brand signals. I just think that the industry hasn’t really figured that out yet.   

Jagruti - I agree. With social media and SEO especially despite having tangible metrics. You have CTR, PPC, cost per clicks and everything CPC but still it’s always a mystery, coz it’s a miss and hit. Coz even the people who are implementing these strategies or experiments per se, they’re doing AB testing. 

Basically for them it’s an everyday process. Whatever fetches the best results is good enough for us. It may not work for the next quarter. It is still a mystery that even experts seem to have not resolved.

A - In general all these platforms, whether it’s online advertising or social media networks or Google paid or organic search, these are all machine-learning systems. And all of these systems require feedback to determine if the content that is being served is interesting or not. 

So usually there is some form of positive and negative engagement. So like positive engagement would be like very high click through rates, but a negative engagement would be like very high bounce rates. So the key is just to create content or ads that have very very high click through rates usually. And there’s ways to do this like using catchy titles. 

There are certain ways to reduce bounce rates as well. For example, using pop ups and all sorts of other longer form content for example. So generally, it’s something to do with improving your positive engagement and reducing your negative engagement. 

Q - If you had to mention the three phases of growth marketing to a client or follower, what would those be?

A - When it comes to the phases of growth, the first step is to find a bait. This bait is that unicorn, the catchy remarkable idea that sets you apart. It could be an innovative product or a feature that could be responsible.

The second step is to find a way to distribute it. You have found your unicorn, now find a channel to spread it across your potential customers. For example, you know you could maybe package your product as a WordPress plug-in or maybe you could bundle it with some other product.

The step is measuring the results. That remarkable idea is always there within the data you have gained through the unremarkable efforts. So measure the efforts, and learn to ensure growth. It is difficult to find those crazy hacks. And because the easier ideas have already been thought of and you need bigger ideas to generate meaningful growth. 

 

Q - Different companies scale and grow using different strategies. It’s not a one-size fits all. What are some key differences in the marketing strategy for a B2B company and a B2C?

A - With B2B, most marketing is inbound and no scalable. There you are targeting certain groups or niches. You are selling to CMOs. Getting a list of whom is much easier. Why write a blog post and hope that particular CMO discovers it.

That is stupid. With B2B, it is more targeted and controlled. You focus on certain people of companies that check your pre-requisites. It is like account-based marketing, hence building relationships should be prioritized.

But this approach isn’t scalable with B2C. There it is more like broadcasting, general messaging. So marketers need to understand this mindset shift.

But the commonality between B2B and B2C selling is the unique selling proposition. The one aspect that sets you apart from the competition. Recognize that USP and then work on communicating it to your audience so that they don’t forget you. 

Q - When it comes to scaling your business which growth marketing technique would you prefer? Higher reach over higher chances of conversions? Amount of traffic or quality of traffic?

A - You know that’s the thing about internet marketing. I’ve not found a channel that delivers both quality and quantity. It’s usually you choose 2 or 3 channels that bring in a lot of quantity like blogging and content marketing in general. That’s a great way to bring millions of people to your site. 

But then the problem is that 99% of these people are not qualified so usually what I do is I use advertising like re-marketing or email marketing where you can do segmentation, where you can kind of find out a little bit about these people and find out if they’re fit. In order to qualify and convert those leads. 

So generally I’ve given up on finding a channel that does both. I have some channels that bring in people and some channels that are designed specifically for kind of qualifying and nurturing a small percentage of those people.

Q - Recently I had read somewhere that for the real estate market especially Facebook ads - how you could create a campaign based on the interests of the audience and how you project your ads only to those interest groups. 

That was borderline discriminating for them because some of the people couldn’t find homes. And so do you think what could be some of the black hat strategies of paid promotions which the companies are using?

A - Discrimination is bad. Marketers need to be ethical in their work. But I think - There was a situation where some special interest groups had a complaint against Facebook for their discriminatory practices in the home rentals and buying industries. And so strictly objecting to targeting people by age and by race. Because you can include or exclude those people. What Facebook did was they removed some of those targeting. 

Here’s the thing, marketing is discrimination. If I’m targeting parents, people with children like i’m discriminating against people who don’t have children. You see what i’m saying. Or if you’re targeting working professionals well then we are discriminating, we’re not showing the ad to people who are stay at home people. 

Even though Facebook removed some of these targeting options it’s very easy to generate kinda the same results. All you need to do is find correlated interests. So like maybe you can’t target like i dunno a certain ethnicity but perhaps you could find something that’s correlated interest. 

This is an actual real example. There’s a certain television show for example are more popular with certain ethnic groups. And so you could just target the fans and lookalikes of a television show instead of saying a certain ethnicity. Or certain brands are favored by certain groups. All you need to do is just find a correlated interest. And well, Facebook makes it very easy to do that. 

But here’s the thing, it doesn’t even matter because all these ad algorithms, its all machine learning ok. Ultimately the algorithm will find the people who are likely to click on the stuff. The targeting parameters that you set as an advertiser are not honored by Facebook. It’s just a starting point, its like Facebook I would like to find people in this audience. But they’re not optimizing for just that audience that you’re specifying. It also looks to see among that audience who are the people who are engaging with your content and your ads and then it looks for other people that are similar. 

Jagruti - Well true. Because you need to find one way or the other to bring your brand forth to the people. Social media is anyway a little invasive. But it’s an invasion by choice. So you signed up for it. You should be prepared there could be some repercussions of you sharing your life to the world. 

A - People just love sharing their life to the world so I think their business model is great.

Q - Since you already have a lot of engagement on your posts, does that ensure brand loyalty towards you? Or do you still have to constantly produce content to keep them on the hook and also attract new audiences?

A - What we found is that people are 3 to 5 times more likely to buy your stuff as opposed to choosing your competitor if they’ve heard of you and have positive feelings towards your company. Innovation can certainly help like having a really cool innovative product. That can certainly make a big deal.

But also brand affinity, the familiarity with your brand has an enormous impact on click through rates and conversion rates. People are 3 to 5 times more likely to click on your content if they’ve heard of you versus if they haven’t heard of you. 

So think about all these growth channels like SEO and advertising and display ads and social media. These are all machine learning algorithms that optimize for engagement. It’s really hard to grow a business without kind of a community or a brand presence. Have a lot of people who feel great about your products and services. 

I can give you one example, my new company MobileMonkey, it has a facebook group. It has almost 25K people. Its like 30,40,50% engagement rate. So people are really engaged and they really wanna talk about chatbots and how to grow. I think this is a really important element of the success of the company. It’s sort of the combination of our unique technologies and innovations with this amazing community. 

Digging a little deeper into the life of “The Larry Kim”..

A - My inspiration has been my mom. She moved to Canada from Korea in her 30s. She didn’t speak English and she became a piano teacher. She was just teaching students piano lessons. But everything I needed to learn about marketing and business i learnt from my mom. 

I’d just give you a couple of examples. For marketing, she would live in a house that was like right next to a school. Coz right where are the children? They’re near the schools. That was like a growth marketing hack from the 1980s like before the internet. So i thought that was really clever, I thought that she would get students by putting announcements in the school bulletins or the church bulletins. 

I learnt a lot about marketing in that way and I learnt a lot about brand. Like one of the things she said to me was you wanna be the most expensive piano teacher. If you charge so little then you’re gonna get all these terrible students who aren’t committed to learning piano and it’s going to be very hard and they’re not going to stay around for long and it’s gonna be really frustrating.

If you’re doing internet marketing its the same idea. You want big clients and you want to charge a lot of money and have a reputation and a brand for being the best. So I got to know all sorts of crazy marketing strategies from my mom from when I was 5. 

And that I think if you’re a parent, you should fully encourage your kids to not think about working for a company, that you can be self-employed and it’s totally normal to not work for a company and create a company and employ people instead. So that was a lot of interesting lessons and inspiration from that.

The #SocialMediaMarvels is a podcast series that invites digital marketing influencers from across the world to celebrate their journey and get a glimpse of their contributions to the field. Get actionable tips, learn directly from the practitioners, and imbibe it to help your business.

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