Convince and Convert

How I Became the Person Most Mentioned by Digital Marketers on Twitter

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A quick parenting tip:

If you want your pre-teen and teen kids to listen to you (at least temporarily) beat out Pharrell and Jimmy Fallon on an Internet list.

That happened to me – and you’re damn right I dad-milked that sucker – when it was announced last week that (among digital marketers) I am the most retweeted and most mentioned person on Twitter (PDF). In the latter rankings, I bested Mr. Fallon, Mr. Happy, and some guy named Barack Obama.

Screenshot_5_28_14,_9_42_AM-2The same study concluded that this blog – the blog you are reading right now – is in the top 25 most shared information sources among digital marketers, alongside enormous websites like Mashable, TechCrunch, The Next Web, ClickZ, AdAge, etc. Wow!

I had a few immediate reactions to these announcements:

1. What was the methodology, and can this possibly be true? (Leadtail analyzed the Twitter accounts of 515 digital marketers, manager level or or above in North America, so it’s based on what people actually do, not on what they say they do.)

2. Lots of great people that I consider to be colleagues and friends were on the list(s) too, and sites I adore like Social Media Examiner, MarketingProfs, Buffer, Social Media Today, and Hubspot made the top 25 sources group as well.

3. These lists would be a lot different if they were focused on G+, Linkedin, Youtube, Pinterest, or Instagram.

4. How is Pharrell the #10 most mentioned person on Twitter among digital marketers? That guy is EVERYWHERE!

I’ve been on some lists in my day, but I never talk about them much here. I’m not a big believer in using a blog dedicated to marketing education to take a victory lap on your attention nickel.

But after I pondered it for a few minutes, gave a speech to the Marketing Association for Credit Unions in Montreal (thanks for having me), endured a flight delay and finally boarded the tiny aircraft where I am writing this post in TextEdit (no Wi-Fi), I decided to embrace this development because it gives me a chance to remember some things. Some of this may be slightly out of sequence, but I’m old and on a plane.

I Remember

I remember selling my digital agency in 2005 and planning to teach at a university when my earn out concluded in 2008.

I remember the simultaneous real estate and stock market collapses in 2008 putting that plan on indefinite hold, resulting in me starting a new consulting firm.

I remember that this consulting firm (which was a “firm” in name only, since it was just me in my house) originally being devoted to conversion rate optimization, hence the name “Convince & Convert” – which was partially chosen because the domain name was available.

I remember hiring my good friend Chris Bohnsack to create a series of logo options, and over beers at a craft brewery outside of Tucson, settling on the very distinctive one you see here.

I remember deciding that the website for this new firm would include a blog, which perplexed me since I’d only written about 3 blog posts in my life.

I remember waking up early and reading dozens of great blogs and online newsletters and trying to figure out the news of the day in social and digital, and then writing a “here’s what I think” post as fast as I could, and then going back to all of those sources and writing strong comments with links to my posts attached.

I remember the biggest traffic day on this blog over the first three months being 242 visitors.

I remember Jason Falls, who I’d never spoken to and didn’t know at all, tweeting one of my blog posts. It was the very first sign that maybe I was doing something worthwhile. I’d been blogging for several months at this point, writing four posts per week.

I remember Bailey Gardiner (now called I.D.E.A) , an agency in San Diego, becoming my very first client (and we still work with a ton of agencies every day).

I remember being on vacation in Los Angeles with my wife when Chris Brogan tweeted a post of mine for the first time. I actually cried, and printed out the tweet. The post was about Janelle Monae and used her as a metaphor for customer experience (if you’d like to cringe at how much I sucked then, click away).

I remember shortly thereafter when Ann Handley (whom I’d never met) agreed to let me speak at MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Mixer in Scottsdale due to the urgings of my friend Stephanie Miller, who curated the email track. In those days, I still mostly wrote about email, as that was one of our major points of focus in my previous agency.

I remember writing a “Guide to Enjoying the MarketingPros Digital Marketing Mixer” based on my insider’s knowledge of the area (the conference was not far from where I was living at the time) and being overjoyed when Ann shared it with all conference attendees ahead of time, giving me a dose of name recognition.

I remember enjoying the email part of the event, but being enthralled by the people and the topics in the social media portion.

I remember meeting Chris Brogan for the first time. Mythical. And CC Chapman. And of course, Ann. I remember meeting Amber Naslund for the first time, and can picture so clearly in my head her and Chris sitting alone on a couch by the elevators late at night, and thinking “those are people with whom I want to spend time”.

I remember meeting Gary Vaynerchuk, who was just hitting his stride with his video wine blog (which taught me a ton about wine), and playing poker in the casino next to the conference with Gary and my pal Jeff Rohrs from ExactTarget (a long-time friend and now the co-host of Social Pros).

I remember my idea to start interviewing people live on Twitter, which had never been done before, Joseph Jaffe being the first guest in the long-running Twitter20 series of live twitter chats and blog posts, which helped put me on the map among social media thought leaders.

I remember – vividly – hiring Jess Ostroff to be my virtual assistant based on a tweet for help. Jess had been my intern for a summer when we both lived in Phoenix. She’s been with me ever since, is the managing editor of a blog that is a top 25 information source for our target audience. Congratulations Jess!

I remember going to SXSW for the first time the next spring and hanging out with Mack Collier, and meeting Jason Falls in person, and seeing Patrick O’Keefe talk about his book, and meeting Shawn Morton and David Armano and Richard Binhammer and so many other people who are truly brilliant and kind and caring and supportive.

6147543920_0784f25b10_zI remember debuting my bottle opener business cards at that event – a trademark to this day.

I remember being a Mixologist at a MarketingProfs B2B event with Stephanie Miller and Beth Harte and Michael Brito, and that opportunity starting to position me as something other than an attendee and occasional speaker.

I remember my old friend and colleague Chris Sietsema joining C&C to help provide exceptional consulting to clients (and he’s a senior strategist with us today)

I remember Scott Stratten recommending to Shannon Vargo at Wiley that I would be a good person to publish a book.

I remember being 100% positive that I wanted to write a book with only one other person in the world, Amber Naslund.

I remember spending a marathon outline session with Amber at my old agency offices in Arizona, surrounded by giant Post-its with ideas for “Taming the Waterfall” which was eventually renamed “The NOW Revolution”

I remember being introduced to Tom Webster through Amber, who interviewed him for the book. This sparked a friendship that gives me great joy on a regular basis.

I remember Jason Amunwa (formerly of Bailey Gardiner) building a great website for The NOW Revolution for us.

I remember hitting the road and doing 25 or so speaking gigs about TNR in exchange for bulk book buys, the first time I’d ever done speaking in any real concentration.

I remember thinking: I really like being a consultant, but you certainly get more applause as a speaker.

I remember doing a 10-minute version of the TNR presentation to a packed house at the ExactTarget Connections conference, and the reaction being extraordinary.

I remember Mike Stelzner asking me to guest post for Social Media Examiner, and supporting me time after time with slots on his virtual summits, and keynote gigs in both of his extraordinary Social Media Marketing World events.

I remember bringing to the C&C team my former client Daniel Lemin, an ex-Googler who is a senior strategist here and is a brilliant and amazing guy.

I remember moving from Arizona to Indiana (here’s why), and driving across country with two kids, a dog, a cat, a snake, a lizard, and 12 cases of wine. I remember my friends and family thinking we were crazy.

I remember Joe Pulizzi from Content Marketing Institute asking me to put together an 8-minute “burst” session for the first Content Marketing World event, and coming up with a them of “useful marketing”

I remember standing in the shower when the word “youtility” popped into my head.

I remember Jason Keath inviting me to speak at many of his highly-curated Social Fresh events, and now I am a co-host and a big believer in his vision of intimate, thoughtful marketing conferences.

I remember changing my name from Jason to Jay because there were already so many Jasons in social media, and my Twitter handle was @JayBaer. It took 18 months to fully make the shift, and now when people from my Arizona days call me Jason, it sounds weird.

I remember working with Jess on a new editorial calendar for the blog, where I would write only one or so posts per week, with a rotating cast of guest writers, in an effort to turn this from a blog to more of a digital marketing magazine.

I remember a year later realizing – somewhat sheepishly – that the less I write, the more traffic we get.

I remember my little brother suddenly dying, and canceling my new book (which was going to be called Surprise Marketing)

I remember Eric Boggs from Argyle Social asking if I’d ever thought about doing a podcast, and us starting Social Pros together, basically on a lark.

I remember reaction to my first-ever Youtility full-length presentation (at BlogIndiana, now called MixWest) being so strong that I decided it could be a book, and getting back on track with a new book project.

I remember my dear friend Lisa Loeffler coming to the C&C team to handle publicity and events and special projects. She is indispensible.

I remember Julien Smith helping me figure out how to take Youtility to the next level, and connecting me with my agent Jim Levine, who got me a swell book deal from Portfolio.

I remember my old friend Kim Corak joining the C&C team to head up special projects, which at the time consisted mostly of helping with Youtility research and eventually, book promotion. Kim is remarkable, and now heads our biz dev efforts.

I remember my pal Zena Weist (long-time Social Pros co-host) recommending ex-Edelman Digital smartie Megan Gilbert as a possible addition to the C&C team. Thank goodness. Megan is incredible and we (and our clients) are so lucky to have her skills and attitude around us.

I remember so many professional speakers like David Newman, Sally Hogshead, Rory Vaden and Mark Sanborn mentoring me and showing me the ins and outs of the business side of speaking. They continue helping me day after day, and put up with my constant questions.

I remember asking my friends on Facebook for help with the Youtility cover design, and being blown away by the smart feedback, especially from Billy Mitchell (whom I met through the extraordinary Mark Schaefer) who came up with the “why smart marketing is about help not hype” subtitle.

I remember putting together such a “we’re all in” marketing plan for the book launch that Portfolio’s marketing team said “we’ve had a lot of authors try a lot of things, but we’ve never had an author try everything.”

I remember spending hours and hours and hours emailing individually to just about everyone I’d ever known, asking them to pre-order the book (a technique I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk). I was so incredibly touched and honored by the response. Just unbelievable.

I remember getting the email that Youtility was a New York Times best-seller, and staring at the rankings on their website for many minutes.

I remember being on vacation at the time, and trying to find a printed Sunday New York Times in tiny Show Low, Arizona being more difficult than I’d imagined.

I remember subscribing to the Sunday New York Times shortly thereafter.

I remember my old friend (from our email days) DJ Waldow recommending to me the digital marketing genius Zontee Hou. Zontee has been an extraordinary addition to the C&C team, working with corporate and agency clients.

244881480A77612E46FA7A96B62EFF3CI remember all three of our annual Convince & Convert company retreats and thinking every time how lucky I am to have a team that I would do anything for, and a group that has had zero percent turnover, ever.

I remember emceeing the IBM Smarter Commerce event recently, and interviewing Ron Howard on stage in front of 5,000 people and thinking “don’t screw this up.”

I remember each of these circumstances, but more importantly these people, and what they’ve done for me (plus the many, many others that I didn’t include here, as this post could have been 15,000 words, easy).

It’s You, not Me

Chris Brogan did an amazing video years ago talking about it taking 10 years to become an overnight sensation. He’s right of course, but I remember it a little bit differently. I remember the hundreds of people who guided me, supported me, cajoled me, believed in me, helped me and gave me their time, attention, expertise, loyalty, friendship and love. I am equal parts fortunate and grateful. Each of them – and all of you who choose to read this blog or my tweets, or listen to my podcast or whatever – are trusting me to add value. That’s not my right. I haven’t “earned it.” I haven’t “paid my dues.” It’s a gift. And I try to never take it for granted.

So when I’m asked why I’m so committed to the principle of being useful, and when I’m asked “how did you get to be the most retweeted person?” I’ll remember…to send them the link to this post.

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    As you know I rarely read books (I prefer mediocre movies based on SNL skits) or leave comments on blog posts, but I am compelled to thank you for including me in the story of your journey. Here’s to many more years of success!

  2. says

    What a wonderful post! So happy for your success, sir.

    Makes me fondly remember your great session in the tiny room at UAT for PodCamp AZ in the way back.

  3. Vanessa Sain-Dieguez says

    Congratulations Jay, and to the entire C&C team! You deserve all the success, and then some. I remember meeting you at SXSW in 2011 at a dinner. I wasn’t going to go and at the last minute thought, maybe I’ll meet someone interesting and I met you. I remember thinking all through dinner: this guy is totally cool, I want to hang with him! So glad I can call you a friend and mentor today. Rock on! (Oh, and PS. your bottle opener is the only one we use in this house. We were telling our friends about you last night as we opened beers)

  4. Chris Syme says

    Awesome piece Jay. It is heartwarming to know that hard work does pay off but there are also bumps in the road. Way to keep moving forward and trusting good people to give you great advice. C&C is a huge source of though leadership for me. Thanks.

  5. says

    Nice post Jay, your are definitely one of my most shared bloggers/marketers/inspirations. There’s a lot many marketers can and have learned from you. You earned that spot and deserve the recognition. I remember meeting you at the MarketingProfs Mixer, which was my conference speaking gig (and the poker game that night, losing most of my money to Gary in short order) Good Times!

  6. says

    Fun read Jason, er, Jay. I remember approaching you at the CMWorld BBQ as a major milestone in my journey. And I’ve appreciated your generosity ever since. Congratulations.

  7. Mediaweb says

    Nice work Jay, you deserve it. Love what you have to say, and our company, Mediaweb, has been listening to your advice on the other end of the world, way down in sunny South Africa – pretty cool that your message has an impact so far and wide. So, thanks again, nice to see you acknowledged on a platform of such credibility.

  8. says

    I remember Zena Weist introducing me to you at Jason Falls’ conference, and how generous you were with answers to questions and your knowledge of the biz. Thanks so much, Jay. Really enjoyed catching up last week, and loved your #BMA14 keynote. congrats on the success, brother

    • says

      Thanks so much Tim. Looking forward to see what you’re cooking up next. Great to see you in Chicago, and I appreciate the advice on the crowd.

  9. susanyoung says

    A wonderful story and inspiration. Thank you for sharing, Jay! “Put your head down and work.”

  10. Jonathan Wichmann says

    I remember working with you and it was one of my best working experiences ever. Thanks for being both kind and useful. And also thanks for having me on the Social Pros a couple of years back. Hope to talk again soon! (PS: Great post – I love the “TextEdit on a plane” part)

    • says

      That’s damn high praise from you, as I have as much respect for you and what you’ve done (and are doing) as I do for anyone, period. Congrats on all of your success. Richly deserved.

  11. Jennifer Kane says

    The thing is, Jay…you’re kind, even when you don’t have to be and even when it’s likely not profitable or convenient. And I believe great things SHOULD happen to kind people.

    There are so, so many people out there who will happily drop kindness in a hot minute if it means fame and fortune for themselves. Every day I watch those kind of people become Internet “stars” and quite frankly, it makes my soul hurt.

    So when I see someone like you get recognition, it makes me hopeful that kindness still matters and that the douchey shall not, in fact, inherit the Earth.

    Yes, many people extended a helping hand and a kind word to get you where you are today, but you were also in no way required to pay those favors forward, and help others in return. But you did (and do) anyway. In my opinion, there are not enough lists in the world to heap praise upon people who make that noble choice.

    • says

      My favorite comment. Thanks so much JK. We are totally aligned on the noble choice. It’s one of the reasons I don’t write much negative stuff on this blog. I was raised in the “if you don’t have anything nice to say…” culture. Midwestern through and through, I suppose.

  12. says

    Proud of you bro. Beyond being wicked smaht and successful, you’re just a good person. Means more to me than any of the professional stuff. Keep crushing it.

    • says

      Notice I didn’t include any pre Convince & Convert tales here, because I’d have to devote 4,000 words to our days of debauchery as young men! Thanks for the kind words. High five, my friend.

  13. msmiciklas says

    I remember meeting you for the first time on your way through Vancouver and walking back to my office thinking “Holy S***, I just had coffee with Jay Baer!” Congrats on all your success – you deserve every bit of it – and thanks for the support and inspiration.

  14. A M A K A says

    I’ll remember how this post made me laugh and inspired me to
    my bones, and I’ll remember to take my “shower ideas” more seriously. People make the world (my mom’s credo) and Great
    people make even Greater People (mine) – Your amazing achievement is proof of
    that! Outstanding!!… and well deserved sir!

  15. says

    Congratulations Jay. Wow, what an amazing (and personal) evolution. Loved the part about the first Chris Brogan retweet because did the same thing. Well, I didn’t cry, but I did save and admire it for a while!

  16. Aseem Jibran says

    Excellent. Loved reading your story down the lane. It is definitely a result of a continuous effort from your end. So touched to see that you remember almost everyone on your way up and mentioned them here. Truly inspiring. Congratulations on topping the list!

  17. says


    It’s still surreal to me to think that it’s been seven years since I made the silly decision to move to AZ for a few months… but reassuring to know that even though I went there for the wrong reasons, I made it out with an experience that helped shape the life I know today. I owe you everything and am overjoyed to be a part of your journey. I’ll never forget when you first told me, “I’d rather be rich than famous,” but being a bit famous doesn’t hurt :) Cheers to the next 6 years of C&C!!

    • says

      You’re the best. And you don’t owe me anything. You took the initiative – I just noticed it. And in terms of being famous, I guess that’s true for me in a very, very, very, very, very, very small sliver of the world!

  18. kkredit says

    I remember meeting you when we were both consulting with a tiny little company in Phoenix & thinking this guy is really smart, pretty funny and a lot of fun to work with. I remember having lunch with you at Forest Highlands and thinking to myself, how do I get a gig where I can consult from the cool pines of Flagstaff?…and then reading you & your wife’s restaurant review blog (hottie & the fatso) to find some good places to eat up there. I remember how you always replied to my emails asking for career advice. Most of all I remember thinking how its great to see good things happening to good people…even if they are from UofA. You’re a good man Jayson/Jay! Congrats on your latest, but certainly not last, success.

  19. heatherwhaling says

    I love this post. What an amazing journey! Congrats on making this list, but even bigger congrats on all the achievements that led to you making the list. So glad our paths have crossed … and hope I get to see you again soon!!

  20. says

    When I saw that list come out, it wasn’t surprising at all to see your handle at the top. (And I post that while holding my Jay Baer bottle opener business card and stroking it, saying “my precioussssss”) Excellent roadmap in this post!

    • says

      That makes me so happy. I certainly didn’t set out to inspire anyone. Just trying to make a living. But I’ll glad it worked out that way.

  21. says

    Hey J, Thanks as always for sharing this reflection. I’m so grateful to know you, to watch your company grow, and to be a small part of it. I’m truly honored.

  22. says

    What was that email site we were trying to launch back in … what was it … 2006? Dang Jay. I knew your before you were FAMOUS. Ha! Seriously though, you are the man. Mad respect. Mad props. I think what you failed to write in this post is how much YOU have helped others along the way. I realize that was not the intent of this post, but I know you have impacted so many people both personally and professionally. You have always been there for me, personally, as a friend, mentor, colleague, and so on. THANK YOU.

    I’m trying to remember when we first met in person. It may have also been at a MP event. Hmmmm.

    Speaking of MP events. Remember this? – I spy Sonny Gill and Mack Collier.

    Seriously Jay. You are the man. I appreciate YOU.

  23. says

    I loved reading this post, Jay. You epitomize the “Go-Giver” philosophy and I learn from you and your team every week. You show us that though you are an excellent teacher, you are also very much a student as well. You have been more than gracious with your time and knowledge. I am especially grateful for the time you have taken to be a part of my podcast interview series as well. Good things happen to good people. You’re good people, Jay.

    • says

      I love that “go giver” angle. I hadn’t heard that before. Consider that stolen. Thanks Pamela! Let’s do another podcast this summer too.

      • says

        I cannot take the credit for the “go-giver” philosophy, Jay. My friend and fellow speaker Bob Burg is the one who came up with this with his writing partner John David Mann. Written in a parable style, the “Go-Giver” books connect well with today’s online world of give first and good things will come your way. You should know Bob. I would be happy to make an introduction if you are interested.
        I am reworking my podcast through June but would love to have you as a guest again. Interviewing you is always informative, has great tweetable moments and just downright fun! I will be in touch!

  24. says

    It’s been a pleasure to watch you grow and prosper. Congratulations, and keep shining your success on all of us. And here’s to MarketingProfs conferences – funny I was at the Arizona Digital Marketing Mixer too but don’t think we met until years later. Isn’t it great what a small world this space is?

  25. says

    Congrats, Jay. Well deserved!!! And thanks for sharing your story. I think this is a small reminder that it takes time and people to achieve success. It doesn’t happen overnight or in isolation. It’s great that you took the time to shine a light on all the people who helped you along the way. Cheers!

  26. says

    This just wins Jay! Your ability to recall all of those specific moments from your journey is awesome. I consider you one of the smartest marketers, kindest friends, and helpful persons I’ve ever met. It’s no accident you become the most mentioned digital marketer, no accident whatsoever.

  27. Kate Nolan says

    I’m not sure I’ve ever read a post with as many name-drops in it as this one, but that’s a good thing. Of course, this isn’t your typical “name drop” situation, what a wonderful way to call out how many people it takes to build a “village” like C&C and a testament for what you’ve built. Congrats on your #1 ranking. I expect to see a new profile pic with a “we’re #1” foam finger soon!

  28. Katie Pinke says

    Jay, you are a big part of my digital experience and work. Thanks for being a role model, mentor and leader. Congrats on this recognition!

  29. says

    Jay, allyour hard work has paid. Thanks for sharing valuable experiences with us. Its amazing from where you started and where you have reached. What if I ask you for one good valuable tip for me. I am at the very start of social media thing but my problem is that I am very much inconsistant with it. Things seems to be very hard for me. Any personalised suggestion from you? thanks.

  30. Jim Brown says

    I remember meeting you at the inaugural Online Marketing Summit in San Diego (2007). I was so impressed with the work you had done with Esscentual Brands that I spent a month researching you, Mighty Interactive, and the clients that you worked with.

    After that, I reached out to you to inquire job-shadowing you in Phoenix. Ultimately, the new owners were comfortable sharing their IP. Regardless, I’ve followed you ever since and continue to be inspired by your work.

    Funny aside… even before you did it, I had considered changing my name to “Jay” to get away form being “Jim Brown.” My personal site just uses the letter “J” —

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