Why You Can’t Reverse Engineer Social Media Success

Why You Can't Reverse Engineer Social Media Success

Srinivas Rao, Founder/Chief Creative Instigator at Unmistakable Creative, joins the Social Pros Podcast to discuss his new book and reclaiming creativity.

In This Episode:

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Full Episode Details

Fostering Creativity

We can’t deny that social media is an invaluable tool for businesses. Whether you are a freelancer or part of a multi-million dollar corporation, social has made authentic connection with your customers a possibility on an unprecedented scale.

As businesses have bought into social more and more, the need for tangible metrics has given rise to deeper analytics. Unfortunately, as marketers and creators, it is very easy to become obsessed with the numbers and lose sight of our own creativity.

According to author Srinivas Rao, the most important thing is to stay focused on that creativity. Create for your own sake, and let your content speak for itself. By focusing less on metrics, you can create with authenticity and ultimately provide more value to your business and your customers.

In This Episode

  • Why you shouldn’t care about metrics as much.
  • Why you should create for yourself rather than creating what seems successful.
  • How comparison is toxic to success.
  • Why you are the biggest factor in achieving your goals.

Quotes From This Episode

“When the metrics get prioritized over the message and the promotion gets prioritized over the product, the end result is actually worse than it would be if it was the other way around.” — @UnmistakableCEO

“What is causing less creativity is the fact that our consumption habits are out of whack.” — @UnmistakableCEO

The only viable strategy to build an audience in the long run is to be so good they can't ignore you. Click To Tweet If an organization wants to innovate, they should encourage their employees to create. Click To Tweet


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Episode Transcript

Jay Baer: Hey everybody, it's Jay Baer from Convince & Convert joined as always by my special Texas friend. He is from the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. He is Adam Brown and what an interesting show this week about creativity with figure it out. Adam Brown: I love it Jay when we have these types of topics where we're talking about social and social media, but we've expanded the debt a little bit and we're talking about a larger concept in this case, creativity and how creativity has really changed in the world and then the time of social media. Jay Baer: I just love the thesis that he really brings to the table at his new book is called "An Audience Of One." This idea that if you're doing work that you think is terrific work that you care about, eventually you will bring an audience. And I think there's a real lesson there for folks, even people who are doing corporate social media, if you do great work, the audience will find it and he said exactly. Sometimes we try to reverse engineer success and it doesn't go well. Adam Brown: That was something really interesting. I think all of us listening to the show, we think of ourselves as creative professionals in a way in shape, but what Sri really kind of helped me do was kind of understand just that, that if you do good work and you're consistent and persistent about it, it's going to find an audience. And so oftentimes we are kind of focused on what our bosses or our bosses bosses or the shareholders asked us to do, and you have to kind of reconcile and wrestle with that each and every day. Jay Baer: It's going to be a good one. Buckle your seat for this one guys, it's a little unusual. It's a little controversial, but it's real insightful this week on the Social Pros Podcast. Hey everybody welcome to the show sponsors this week of social pros include our friends at Salesforce Marketing Cloud who have a fantastic and free guide for B2B marketers called the complete guide to social media for B2B marketers tells you how to use Facebook, Linkedin, Pinterest, and even Snapchat for B2B. Download it for nothing right now at bit.ly/socialb2bguide that's bitly/socialb2bguide Get it right now. Also want to let you know about my brand new book. I could not be more excited. It's called Talk Triggers, The Complete Guide to Creating Customers with Word of Mouth. It's all about how to build a word of mouth strategy tied into your social media that turns your customers into volunteer marketers. I wrote it with my good friend Daniel Lemon. I think it's the best thing I've ever done. Jay Baer: Go to Amazon right now and search Talk Triggers or go to talktriggers.com to see a bunch of special offers just for you. That's talktriggers.com. Also, the show this week is brought to you by our friends at CoSchedule and I use CoSchedule literally every single day. It is the all in one marketing calendar combining project management, email marketing, and social promotion in one place. Imagine that you get complete visibility over your entire marketing schedule. You can keep your sanity and get way done with CoSchedule. I tell Ya, it is all true. Check it out. Go to coschedule.com/socialpros, coschedule.com/socialpros, and you will find there a free social strategy template. Jay Baer: This week on social pros, it's Srinivas Rao who is the host of the Unmistakable Creative podcast. Let me just say before I continue with the introduction, I don't get intimidated very often I've done a lot of things. I'm an old man, but I'm actually intimidated to have Srini on the show because he is one of the finest interviewers in the entire world of podcasting, so I got to ask smart questions this week Srini also is the author of four books, including the new one just came out three weeks ago if my memory is correct, called An Audience Of One Reclaiming Creativity For Its Own Sake. Srini thanks so much for being on the Social Pros Podcast. Srinivas Rao: Thank you so much for having me and what an introduction. I hope I won't fail to live up to your audience's expectations based on that. Jay Baer: Well, I think it's going to be extraordinary. We were super psyched to have you here. Let me ask you a question. This show is about social media, it's actually in the title, social media in most cases when you do it for a business, and I think Adam would agree to this. I mean he is a social strategist for major brands. Social media for business is really all about at its core, pleasing somebody else. Srinivas Rao: Yeah. That is true. Jay Baer: Does that make it solace in the thesis of your book? Does that mean that we can't do our best work because we're not doing that work on behalf of ourselves? Srinivas Rao: No, not necessarily, I've become a pretty vocal critic of social media in a lot of ways that you could call me a conspiracy theorist or- Jay Baer: Show is over. Srinivas Rao: Yap. But I'll tell you why. I've become a vocal critic as somebody who has built an audience that's fairly substantially using social media as somebody who has had a decently sized social presence. One of the things that really became apparent to me is just the sheer volume of bad things that this is leading to in people's personal lives, rises in instances of anxiety and depression. Largely fueled because of the way that these tools are designed, people hang onto them at night and so as a result their sleep suffers. Sleep, it contributes to depression, but I think the bigger issue that I have with sort of the way that we use social media, particularly in a personal level is that what we've done is we've created this very artificial sense of celebrity that I think has been a huge detriment to society. Srinivas Rao: It's been a huge detriment to creativity because everything becomes about sort of reaching some sort of vanity metric. When you basically rank and quantify people's humanity in likes and comments and follower counts, that's a really dangerous place to be because it's abstraction at a level that is almost inhumane. Like we basically don't see people, what we see are numbers, we don't see hearts what we see are eyeballs and I think that really can have a horrible impact on the way that we go about working because it's this constant need to please somebody else. Now I'm well aware of the fact that yes, if you're running a business, you do have an audience to cater to but what has happened as a result of this artificial sense of celebrity, in my opinion, is that people have become so obsessed with metrics. Metrics have become the way that they measure the value of their life, and so when the metrics get prioritized over the message and the promotion gets prioritized over the product, the irony is that the end result is actually worse than it would be if it was the other way around. Srinivas Rao: I'm not saying that these things aren't important. If you're running a business of course metrics matter. If you're not managing your money, you're gonna run out of it. If you're not paying attention to what your audience is doing, maybe it's not going to grow, but the funny thing is that if you look at early, early podcasters or early bloggers or anybody who starts early, myself included, there is this really bizarre sort of period where they are absolutely obsessed with their metrics and it's constantly- Jay Baer: Kind of still hitting a refresh. Srinivas Rao: Yeah, and it's kind of silly because you realize like well, you're doing that isn't going to make the Metrics go up. I'll give another example, David Burkus, who probably is somebody you know as well, I think we're in a couple of Facebook groups together, a good friend and yeah and this is code among writers for how many copies has the book sold? Srinivas Rao: He said, "How's it going?" And I told him, I said, "To be honest, I don't know because I didn't ask and I haven't checked the Amazon rankings more than once." I said, "Because I realized right on the first few days." So I remember the week leading up to launch the pre sales were going really slow and I was getting really, really stressed out, which is ironic given the message of the book. Somebody is like, you teach what you need to learn. And at that moment I realized I needed this message more than anybody. And I remember, my agent told me, "The numbers are this." And I was like, "This is really frustrating." But what I realized was that I could either go spend all my time obsessing over, the fact that we hadn't sold as many copies as I wanted to or looking at the rankings. Srinivas Rao: I had another friend who literally sat in front of Amazon on the day, his book launch and just pressed refresh all day long. That's a recipe for madness. Anybody who does that is going to experience anxiety and I think that that is why I've become such a vocal critic of social media because what it does is it reinforces this perpetual anxiety that is driven by constant fan and follower accounts, and then you add to layer on top of that the fact that these tools are designed to be incredibly addictive. They're designed to modify our behavior. And I think one of the great illusions is that you are making deliberate choices with your behavior. When in all reality, you're only choosing from the options that are put in front of you. Jay Baer: Should be led down the path. Srinivas Rao: Other landmine of conversation. Jay Baer: Yeah. The title of the book is intriguing. It's reclaiming creativity for its own sake and the thesis is that when you do creative work for yourself rather than for someone else, you actually do better work and you're happier to boot. Jay Baer: Can you give us an example of what you mean by that? Work for its own sake, work for yourself as opposed to work for somebody. Does that mean it's not work for hire or was there something else that determines that pivot? Srinivas Rao: I don't know if it's not necessarily a work for hire. So I'll give you an example. Probably chances are almost everybody who's listening to this has heard of PostSecret, which was created by a guy named Frank Warren. And if you haven't, the premise was really simple. Frank Warren walked around the streets of Washington DC and he handed out 3000 self-addressed anonymously stamp postcards and told people to share an artful secret. Now, there's literally not a social media marketing book that would be like, this is a guidebook for how to build a massive online project. You could not have engineered that in any way at all. Srinivas Rao: So why would somebody do that? Because they're acting on an impulse. Humans of New York is another perfect example where the original intention of humans, of New York, according to, to Chase Jarvis, was that Brandon literally just wanted to take pictures of 10,000 strangers on the streets of New York and plot them on a map that doesn't sound like, hey, this is the path to becoming one of Times Magazine's most influential people in the internet. Jay Baer: That's sounds like a bestselling book. Srinivas Rao: I mean, none of that immediately says, okay, yeah, I'm going to do these things. And the funny thing is Brain Pickings another example, Maria Popova started this newsletter as a collection of links that she was sending out to seven friends and we resist- Jay Baer: The oatmeal even, right? Maybe. Srinivas Rao: All of these things. It's funny because if you look at the most commercially successful things, a creative projects on the internet, this seems to be a pretty common pattern. Srinivas Rao: Now, what's interesting is that the world that you and I live in, what we've done with our work, with courses and everything else is we've gone through all of that and we've tried to reverse engineer the process of how to do something that is amazing and resonant and brilliant and creative. And in doing so, I think that what we've done is we've done ourselves a disservice because of the fact that we have made that the dominant narrative and we resist creative impulses because of the fact that we say, "I don't know how I'm going to monetize it. I don't know how a million people are going to find this. I don't know if I can add this skill to a resume." And just imagine if all these people that we just talked about had asked themselves that question before they started. Srinivas Rao: So I'm not saying that people shouldn't have an audience, that people shouldn't monetize their work, that people shouldn't build a business around their work. I think it would be ridiculous for me to say that considering that I've done it, I'm saying that we shouldn't resist the things that make us curious just because we don't know where they're going to lead. Jay Baer: It sounds like it's a sequencing issue then it's more do something awesome that makes you happy and then figure out a way to monetize it as opposed to how can I make money and then what can I do creative to fit into whatever that narrow shoot and letter. Srinivas Rao: Yeah. Absolutely. I think that another thing that social has done is, and I know this because you and I have both been creating content on the Internet for a long time. You much longer than me, is that because of the fact that we can get attention so rapidly, it's kind of created this unrealistic expectation that, "Oh, I can build an audience around something very rapidly." Which has happened in a lot of cases. But what's funny is if you take a closer look at those cases and other, I think the podcast [inaudible 00:12:05] which is wildly successful. Apparently that guy had done a dozen other projects before and many of which had the same level of success that's called mastery. That's how you get good at what you do. So I think the bigger question, instead of how can I build an audience around this is how do I build something that's truly worthy of an audience's attention? Adam Brown: So in your perspective, is it easier? And I'm going to kind of create two buckets of creative professionals here. We've got artists who creates something and they create it because primarily of the passion and everything like that. Then you have the combat art director side where they're really looking at the call to action and they know that they're going to be paid for something is it easier, Srini for an art director to kind of pivot to be more of an artist and to like you say, reclaim creativity for its own sake. Or is it easier for that artist to kind of pivot and be more focused on that call to action and the business and transactional side of the creative work product? Srinivas Rao: I think it's actually easier for the art director because the art director doesn't have to think about where the money is gonna come from or how they're going to put food on the table and so when you are ... When those pressures are alleviated it's such a great place to be in terms of being able to express creativity for its own sake, but it doesn't happen because your job becomes sort of the predominant thing. But I mean all of the research shows that the overwhelming majority of creative breakthroughs are the result of a high volume of creative output. If you look at people who produce the highest quality, they also produced the highest volume of creative outfit. Srinivas Rao: So at just point I think we've done 700 plus episodes of unmistakable creative and I've interviewed Jay before and trust me, like the interviewer I am now is not what he was talking, was when we started was not how he described me at the beginning, far from it. I had a lot to learn. I mean, I still go back and I look at things we did in 2014 and I'm embarrassed by them because I think they could be so much better, but the one pattern that I've had is consistency. So I don't share everything that I create, but I do at least make an attempt every single day to create something whether that's writing in a journal, whether that's recording a podcast and I think the result of that is that you end up with a massive body of work because I said this in the book, what you create in private plants the seeds for your most resonant and impactful public work. Adam Brown: And it's interesting because I get the opportunity to interview Jay here in a couple of weeks about one of his upcoming new books. So I appreciate that advice, is it easier here in 2018 to have that satisfaction at looking at your body of creative work and whether it is like you with medium and as you create your blog posts, if you're a photographer, it's photography. If it's poetry or lyrical works of art. However, that is because of social media, you're saying, I don't want to put words in your mouth that you can't find that same sense of satisfaction from your own creative expression then maybe a couple of years ago or maybe a decade ago. Srinivas Rao: Yeah, I mean, I think that to a large degree social media has ironically, this is what has happened, right? And I think this is also one of the things I said in the book is that the ultimate paradox of the technology that we've created is that it's made unparalleled amounts of creativity possible. I don't know what the age difference is between us, Jay, but when I was an Undergrad at Berkeley, just to build a website was an ordeal. Like you needed some serious coding skills. And so many, many ideas I had just became an afterthought, what used to take thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours can now be done with the push of a button. Thanks to things like Squarespace and you add artificial intelligence onto that. Srinivas Rao: We're barely scratching the surface. I mean, we're going to see an accelerating rate at which we can go from idea to execution, so that's one thing, but the result of course, of social media and all this abstraction and quantifying things as people start to question the value of doing those things, if they can't basically get attention because attention has become sort of the currency that people want. And, I said a while back, that attention is the currency of achievement and yet what do we do with most of our attention? We give it to people like Mark Zuckerberg and if you want any proof that attention is the currency of achievement, just go look at Zuckerberg's bank account. He's become a billionaire by doing one thing. Capturing your attention. Jay Baer: Srini Rao is our guest this week on social pros, brand new book, An Audience Of One reclaiming creativity for its own sake. Three to my favorite quote in the whole book is this one. 'When we insist on the extrinsic, our work actually suffers. It's bled of its authenticity and its potential for an unmistakable signature, which ironically makes the possibility of external success less likely.' And my summary of that is we're all trying too hard. Would you agree? Srinivas Rao: I think that there are a couple of things I think that we're trying too hard, but more than that, I think the bigger mistake that we've made, and I know this because it was very much the way that I thought about the web and the way I thought about social and content creation is that we have basically come to see the words of authority figures as gospel rather than guidance. Because I remember when I started, nobody knew who the hell I was. Not that a ton of people know who I am now, but I remember it was kind of like, "Oh, Chris Brogan is a social media celebrity. Jay Baer is a social media celebrity. So like we should listen to what these guys have to say." I think the funniest thing that I had ever heard Chris say about being famous on the Internet, he's like "Being famous on the Internet is like being famous in Cleveland. Nobody gives a shit." Srinivas Rao: You realize and that becomes very real to you when you get out of this bubble and you go ... I always tell people, go ask your grocery clerk who Seth Godin is and just look at their response and you'll realize that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are famous. Seth Godin is well known among a small group of people. So I think that, so part of what happens with that is that we basically look at what people do. We say, okay, well this person has authority. Srinivas Rao: I'm going to do what they say I should do. And because I do what they say I should do, I'm going to get the result that they say I will get. Which completely disregards one huge variable in that equation. And that is you. So I've seen this play out in numerous ways. It's the person who takes the online course about how to make money from a blog who basically finishes the course and since I've started a new blog about how to make money from a blog, it's the person who goes to a life coach and discovers that their calling in life is to become a life coach. Srinivas Rao: It just goes on and on and on. I remember my friend Paul Jarvis told me when I talked to him that he designed some of Danielle Laporte's initial websites and Danielle is this just brilliant creator, massive audience and for damn good reasons because she's so good at what she does. And he would tell me, people would come to him and say, "I want you to make a website that looks like that, for me." And he would say, "I don't want to do that for you and it's not going to work for you because you're not Danielle Laporte." So in that sense, I think that that is where we've really gone wrong with this idea of an unmistakable signature, because we literally don't leave out the things that would actually make us unmistakable, in an effort to try to live up to some artificially created standard that every authority figure says, this is the way to do it. Adam Brown: Today, here in 2018 is the average person that we're speaking to or interacting with as we, as content creators create content. Are they less creative, are they more right brain than they were five, 10 years ago? And if that's the case, how do we kind of instill that new level of creativity into them? What's it going to take? Srinivas Rao: Yes and no. I think that there are people who really have taken the tools at their disposal and they've realized that this is in a lot of ways a golden age for creativity. It's a golden age also at the same time, it's an age of great inequality when it comes to creativity. So yesterday I was looking at the Patreon website and just doing some article research on how do people make money on Patreon and Patreon is a perfect example of the fact that it's just a mirror of the real world of wealth and inequality. Like there are certain people who make the overwhelming majority of the money. I think it was like 2% of people actually make more than $15 an hour from Patreon if that and all the rest make nothing. Srinivas Rao: I mean that's literally a mirror of the 1% and the rest of society. It's just happening on an online platform. That is the challenge that you get with a society in which creativity is democratized because there is so much noise as far as what people's behavior is like and right brain thing. I think that part of what has happened between the fact that we have smartphones between the fact that we have social media between the fact that you have content creators to the fact that everybody's a publisher and that in addition to all that you have, mainstream media and a president who seems to be on a consistent attack on the mainstream media. We were never meant as a society, as a species to be drowning in this much information, and I think I talked about this. Most of our consumption habits are not deliberate. Srinivas Rao: If you look at your email inbox and you look at all the newsletters you are subscribed too. That's a perfect example of the fact that many of these aren't deliberate choices. You've subscribed to things a long time ago. So I think really what is causing the opposite of what you're talking about, less creativity is the fact that our consumption habits are out of whack. If you eat endless amounts of food, you wouldn't be able to move. And if you consume endless amounts of digital content and status updates and tweets, it's like eating donuts. Wondering like, why your workouts suck. Cal Newport would say this is the cognitive equivalent of being an athlete who smokes. Adam Brown: I love that because just saying, being a good eater does not make you a chef. Being a content consumer does not make you a content creator. The interesting part of this for me is, and I'd love your thoughts on it is if you look at studies of high school graduates, it's like 40 something percent of them think they're all going to be famous. And we're in a world where even three or four years ago, content creator or just creator was not a job description. And now that is an aspiring job description for so many millions of people both young and old. It's interesting how this is all coming together. Srinivas Rao: Look I would be lying if I told you when I started this, I didn't see the same thing. I remember I would see people like Jay and I would see that people had gone from blog to book deal and I was like, oh, well that's ... I didn't realize how long it was gonna take. I thought, well, I'm going to do this. And I remember I got told once, I think it was around 2012 by a woman named Betsy Rappaport who basically works with authors and she said, "You're not ready. Your ideas aren't coherent enough and there's not enough of a through line here." And She was absolutely right. I'm so glad that that happened because it gave me two or three more years to actually work on the craft as far as this sort of fame I alluded it to earlier that we've created this very artificial sense of celebrity for people to live up to. Srinivas Rao: And it's interesting because you'll hear B list celebrities, models or swimsuit models. Talk about their massive following on Instagram as if accumulating a bunch of people that you barely know to like and comment on your scandal as pictures is some sort of accomplishment, like that is not the kind of thing that Ryan holiday would refer to as a perennial seller. It will basically be relevant for a moment in time and eventually become an afterthought and I've never been interested in creating that kind of work. One other thing that I will say about this is a great book, if you both haven't read it, probably have knowing the two of you, but David Brooks wrote this amazing book called 'The Road to Character' SAS for the New York Times. Srinivas Rao: And what we're talking about here when you talk about 40% of high school students wanting to be famous is, it's a prioritization of a resume values over eulogy values. And I think the unfortunate thing is that that is becoming very dominant in our culture. And I think social media plays a big role in all of that. Jay Baer: And that juxtaposition between resume values and eulogy values is beautiful. Let me ask you a related question Srini, What's your greatest fear? Is it being average or being unhappy? Srinivas Rao: Wow. Okay. So I think the idea of average really was just something I looked at with utter disdain and I can kind of give you a story that made me realize that, it was when I was in the seventh grade. I lived in Texas and for anybody who's from Texas, they know this in Texas there are seventh graders the size of grown men. And I went- Jay Baer: Adam lives in Austin right now. He knows they walk amongst him. Srinivas Rao: Yeah. I went out for the [crosstalk 00:25:02] two of my friends went out for the football team thinking, all right this is what you do. And they quit after two days. I stuck it out the whole season. But caveat to my sticking out of the whole season. I think about a month or two and the band director basically said if you switch instruments from the trombone to the tuba, you can ditch football practice to come in here and practice and be tutored. And the other thing that he told me was you can be an average athlete or you can be an extraordinary musician. And that was a very obvious choice for me because I made all state band three years in a row, got into the USC School of music, didn't end up studying music, but to still, look at that. Srinivas Rao: So I hated the idea of average. And the funny thing is, in the job world where I got fired from every job I ever had, I was well below average. So average bothers me, I wish I could say that every moment of this has been just absolute bliss and happiness. But that's not true. And if you look at the research on happiness, it shows that we're on this sort of hedonic treadmill. There's no point at which you're going to be like, okay, yeah, I've accomplished this goal. I remember thinking of that once I had a book deal that it accomplish this thing that I wanted, I would just be on cloud nine forever. And then you realize the goalpost changes because now you're surrounded by other people who have booked deals and your goal post becomes, oh, well this guy sold 100,000 copies of the book. Srinivas Rao: I was like, Jay, invests in startups. I don't have the money to invest in startups. So now suddenly my basis for comparison changes. And so the happiness thing is interesting because we have this sort of world in which we parade, our accomplishments online. There's endless amounts of memes about, happiness and gratitude and all this stuff. And so we're kind of encouraged as a culture to chase happiness. But what we don't realize is that it's elusive and that the goalpost keeps moving and it can be really actually, ironically, dissatisfying to chase happiness. Jay Baer: You were probably the most accomplished tuba player that we've had here in the long history of probably a safe bet I would guess. Srinivas Rao: I might be the only tuba player that you had. Jay Baer: Perhaps. Perhaps, we did. We had Nick Cicero and twice and now he's a very accomplished a trumpet player. [crosstalk 00:26:59] you guys make sure to get together. We talked about 40% of teenagers want to be famous. Probably 75% of teenagers want to have a podcast. Seems to be the current number. So everybody got a podcast now. You were doing a podcast before podcasting was cool. I think it's safe to say why? How did that happen? When you started doing the Unmistakable Creative, which is an extraordinary show, amazing guests and amazing interviewer, you were at this well before it was the thing to do. And how did that happen? Srinivas Rao: Largely by accident? I do want to comment on the whole, this is the thing to do thing. The thing is, we're seeing this play out as we do in any aspect of cultural win. A gold rush starts, yeah, it's literally the same thing. I mean, in 2009, it was the same thing with blogs. Everybody and their mother has a blog and what's interesting is I'm seeing the sort of shake out from the podcasting renaissance happening as we speak. I only know this because there were people I emailed during the book launch and say, "Hey, would you be willing to have me back as" [crosstalk 00:28:04] well? I got back from them say, and these are people with successful online brands. I got replies back saying, "Oh, it's on a brief hiatus. If we decided to bring it back, we'll let you know." Srinivas Rao: I think that, look, here's where I think we've gone wrong. I think it's awesome that ... Let me tell you how it all started and then I'll come back to this rant. So I was in this online course taught by a guy named Yaro Starak. One of the lessons was to interview somebody as a way to get traffic to your blog, so I put a note on the online forum and said, "Hey, I'm on lesson number 13, or whatever it was and I need somebody to interview." And this guy named Josh Hanna Garden. He replied to me and he ran a blog called the World's Strongest Librarian. He was a Kettlebell weightlifter with Tourette's syndrome and who happened to also be a librarian and Seth Godin had found his blog and said I think there's a story here. So he was my very first interview and he said, "Don't underestimate what this is going to do for you." Srinivas Rao: No idea why he said that, but then I just said, "Okay, well in that case can you refer me to somebody else?" So he referred me to this girl named Kelly Deals and so on and so on until we got to about 14 interviews in and there was a guy named Sid Savara who I'd interviewed and I emailed him because I was trying to start a multi authored blog because I thought if I combined efforts with four other new bloggers, we would be able to build a much bigger property and Sid, replied back saying it was a terrible idea. And then he sends me this lengthy email about why I should basically take this interview idea and spin it out into a separate site. It more or less, he said he's like, you're an average writer, but you're a really good interviewer. But which ironic that I'm now writing books. Srinivas Rao: But yeah. And so that was how it started. And I started with the idea that, "Oh, I would interview all these really well known influencers. They would tweet my interviews and every interview would go viral." Which I think every podcast or who has had that assumption realizes very quickly how untrue that is. It's not your guests that cause your audience to grow, it’s your audience that causes your audience to grow. And I realized that like I remember, it's very rarely a compelling pitch to me to say, you'll promote me to your audience. I'm like, well, that's great. That's an added bonus. I'm far more interested in catering to the people that I'm serving. I want to give them something awesome and if you happen to share it with your audience, great. And I think the better the interview is, is very ... When you have a really good interview with somebody, they're going to feel compelled to share it because they had such a good conversation. Jay Baer: Sure. Yeah. Srinivas Rao: And that's really overlooked in all of this. I think the other thing that happened is that there's some things that really concerned me about the space we're an anomaly in the podcast world and that we started way before everybody did, we've grown slower and our audience is a little smaller. I mean it's gotten a lot bigger than this last year. I think just partially because the market is catching up with us and the thing that I saw was that people would enroll in these courses and they would, same thing that we saw with the life coach goes to life coach to discover they want to be a life coach. It is people would look at this format that had worked for some podcaster who got really successful doing a certain format and then they copy that format to the T. Srinivas Rao: They have the same guests. So suddenly you've got this ecosystem in which all of the podcasts have the same guests saying the same things and not only that, inside that ecosystem, there's this illusion that people are reaching an audience because what they do is they go and leave reviews for each other and participate in review exchanges. But what they've done is they've created this sort of filter bubble when they're actually reaching nobody, but they've diluted themselves into thinking they're reaching an audience, but it's the same audience that's in the course with them. Jay Baer: Sure. Srinivas Rao: These are all things that are happening. I think that's why you're seeing a shakeout. As far as wanting to start, the one thing that I encourage people to do is to really think through the kinds of formats. You wonder if somebody were to do an interview show, this is how I want them to do it. Srinivas Rao: I want somebody to do an interview show where they tell the story of one person through different perspectives, like by talking to their parents, by talking to one of their best friends. I don't have the audio editing skills to do that, but to me that sounds like it'd be an amazing narrative journalism NPR style show. If I had the skills I would do that, but I don't. So that's kind of my take on the whole thing. Jay Baer: A lot of people who listen to this program work in a corporate environment and they may be a social media manager, associate director of Vice President of social media. Even a VP digital as CMO for some company, medium size, large, maybe small, and sometimes the iron grip of corporate can start to squeeze the creativity and in some cases the happiness out of your work. Srinivas Rao: Yeah. Jay Baer: What is your advice for those people? Srinivas Rao: This is a really good question because I remember my speaking agent emailed me, he said, "Srini, can you write up something that would make audience, one, relatable to a corporate or relevant to a business environment?" And I was kind of like, at the moment I thought about it. And then suddenly it just came to me. I was like, I thought to myself, creativity is a precursor to innovation. It has to be a part of ... If an organization wants to innovate, they should encourage their employees to create. Because what happens when employees are creating something first, they're engaging in something that they find rewarding and meaningful. They get all of those things that Dan Pink talks about autonomy, purpose, and mastery. They're getting good at something. Srinivas Rao: They're contributing to something. They're experiencing visible progress at something. They're getting better with their habits. They're focusing more on something. So you've got all these positive externalities that come out of encouraging creativity even within an organization. And as a result, you're much more likely to get innovation because of the fact that you're producing such a high volume of ideas. I think if you look at Google's 20% time policy, just imagine if the policy was put out with the caveat, by the way, you can spend 20% of your time on something unrelated to your work as long as we know how it's going to make money. Yeah. I mean imagine how many things would not exist if that hadn't been the caveat. And yet that's kind of the default narrative of organizations as far as feeling this way in a corporate environment. Srinivas Rao: I'm a weird sort of a byproduct of the corporate world in that I'm the guy who's been fired from every job I've ever had. I'm the guy who every boss basically wrote off as unmotivated and uninterested in controlling my own destiny. Very strange things considering where I've landed, and at the same time I probably deserved to get fired from most of those jobs because I didn't do my job. I was always working on creating something that anything part of it is that if you don't create the conditions for it within a working environment, people are going to feel that. I think it's on an organization and it's their responsibility to create the conditions in which people are able to express their creativity on an ongoing basis and not only that, not looking at it solely from how they're going to benefit. Srinivas Rao: In my mind, the greatest manager is somebody who grooms somebody so well that he basically takes over the job of the manager. I think if you're doing your job, you've basically developed somebody so much that them leaving your organization is a natural byproduct. Nobody was meant to stay and do something for the rest of their life. We live in a world where change is constant. From what I'm told nowadays, a year is a long tenure at most companies. And Chase Jarvis said that we're moving to a world where people are going to have five jobs at the same time. And if you think about the amount of automation that's coming, I've seen it. I've watched how artificial intelligence is taking over little things that actually are very high paying jobs, like SEO has been being done largely by AI now, which is great for people like me who didn't know how to do it. Srinivas Rao: So I think part of it is, one, organizations have to prioritize it, but if as an individual you feel that you're in a place where this isn't prioritized, then I think it's something you have to prioritize and that's really about habits, systems, rituals, routines. It's about designing an environment that's conducive to the behavior that you want and making it a priority. I think Laura Vanderkam said something really interesting in an interview she said, "Anything you say you don't have time for is just not a priority." That's harsh, but it's true. I think that people who really care about these things make time for them. You can wake up at five in the morning and if that's when you do your writing or whatever, your creative practices, so be it. But I think it's about making it a priority if you're not in a working environment that encourages it. Adam Brown: So to that point of someone's creative health and how they can nurture it and if it's not happening at the company or organization they're working on, they need to have kind of their own, let's call it a creative side hustle, if you will. Should that be something in the, through the eyes of reclaiming creativity for its own sake and your audience of one book? Is this something that a creative person should do kind of in their own personal journal and it's just between them and the pieces of a Papyrus that make up that journal or is it something that they should put out there, where other people can see? They should maybe put it out and social media, they should be like you and blog it or podcast it. There's pros and cons certainly to both. And I'd love to hear your thoughts. Srinivas Rao: Well, I think it's a balancing act. I think I said we published an excerpt of the audio version of Audience Of One today and I was just reviewing it and I said, like over the course of the year, I'll write, 500,000 words on average. And what I realized is that a good amount of it never sees the light of day, which is fine because if you do that then there is going to be a good amount that you can share. So like what you do in private is actually practice and it allows you to get good at the things that you do for public consumption. So I think there's value to both. I think that you shouldn't undervalue the things that you do in private, the things that you don't share because those things can be incredibly beneficial to anybody. Jay Baer: I guess this week on Social Pros is Srini Rao who wrote four books, the host of the Unmistakable Creative Podcast, which you need to tune into new book is called An Audience Of One. You can get in all the places in ways that books can be procured these days. Audio book just mentioned, did you read the book this time? Srinivas Rao: Yeah, I did. So this is a really weird thing about reading an audio book. If you're a podcast host and your primary way that people have heard you is through a podcast and they're used to. My voice is probably the most recognizable thing and it was funny because Penguin Audio had said they send all this stuff to help us promote and we went and just looking at how the book was performing. I said, "Oh wow, the audio version is outperforming every other version." And then it occurred to me. I was like, well, of course it is. I'm a podcast host and- Jay Baer: That would make sense. Srinivas Rao: But, Well, but the thing is that I overlooked one thing in that I didn't think about the fact. I don't like audio. It's not my preferred form of media consumption. I read books, so I've been pushing really hard for people to buy a physical book and I thought, wait a minute. Half the people who are listening to this probably have an audible subscription. Penguin gave me an audio sample. It was like, let's just publish the audio sample in the podcast feed because thousands of people are going to hear it that way. Jay Baer: All right. I'm going to do that too because I've got 30 days until my new book comes out, so I am calling Penguin right after this podcast. I'll be getting an audio sample of the audio book creates, so thank you Srini that has been very useful. Srinivas Rao: Yeah. Jay Baer: We're going to ask you the two questions we've asked all 300 and whatever number of guests we've had on this program. A far cry from the 700 plus that you have accomplished that we do our best here at the Humble Social Pros Podcast. Question number one, if you could give somebody one tip, somebody who's looking to become a social pro. What would you tell them? Srinivas Rao: Just give it all up. Disconnect your accounts. No, I mean if they're wanting to become a social pro, here's the thing, I think that people get good at what they do by practicing. And I've seen this so much and I've seen it in people like James Clear who we had went from a decent sized readership to a massive readership by doing one thing and it was being consistent about his habits. Yeah. And I've seen it with artists. Srinivas Rao: I've seen it with musicians, I've seen it with writers galore. So I think the one thing that I would tell people to do is if you're serious about this, get committed to practicing whatever it is your craft is on a regular basis because here's the thing, Jay, the only viable strategy to build an audience in the long run is to be so good they can't ignore you because ultimately you can't hide shitty art behind great marketing. Jay Baer: Yep. I think Adam, I think we might have a show title how to be so good your audience can't ignore you. I think that's- Adam Brown: Make sure you give Cal Newport credit because that is his book title. Jay Baer: All right, well I'll do my best. Going to be hard to credit him in the graphic, but we'll do the best we can. I know how it works. It's pretty fantastic. Last question for you Srini, if you could do a video call with any living person, who would it be? You've talked to so many great people in your career. Maybe you got some folks out there on your bucket list. Srinivas Rao: Right now. At the moment I think it would be Trevor Noah. Jay Baer: Oh, nice. Adam Brown: Nice. Srinivas Rao: I've been watching the Daily Show that it's weird. I'm not usually somebody who can watch news, but at the moment the news is like a reality show. I can't stop watching it and mainly because I genuinely find it entertaining. Like I actually think it's horrifying at the same time, this is so interesting because it's so screwed up. I thought Seth Meyers, he said something really hilarious. He said, "Can you imagine if they made a movie about this? It would be terrible because the real thing has been so crazy." But I think Trevor Noah in particular is really interesting to me because he's had to overcome a lot of dynamics that have catapulted him into the position that he's in, first following in the footsteps of an icon like Jon Stewart and to find your own voice. That's amazing. Like I really, I remember thinking I was like, wow, this guy is totally screwed. Srinivas Rao: And then I thought, well, if there's anything that Trevor Noah should be thankful for, the Trump presidency has made his career in a lot of way. Jay Baer: Yeah. The timing worked out pretty well. But also I think it's a testament to your previous point about practice. Srinivas Rao: Yeah. Jay Baer: Trevor Noah was a little rough when he took that seat as anybody would be. It's a very different skillset, but he's gotten better and better and better and better and better every single month. And it's really admirable to see- Srinivas Rao: Really is I mean. And then the other thing is, I think as somebody who is a minority and seeing that we're in a country that has become very divisive, I think it would be interesting to talk to somebody like that about race relations in the country because in some ways it's a little scary. It seems almost like we've reversed, 50 years of progress. Jay Baer: All right. Let's hope we can check it back in the middle here at some point. Srini, thank you so much for being on the show. Fantastic to talk to you. Congratulations on the new book. Friends again, it's called An Audience Of One reclaiming creativity for its own sake. The podcast is the Unmistakable Creative, unmistakable episode here on the show. Friends, don't forget that every single Social Pros episode is available at socialpros.com transcripts, audio recordings, links, all kinds of goodies, maybe special surprises from Adam Brown. I don't know, whatever you're going to find there. Adam Brown: You never know. Jay Baer: Tune in and see. We'll be back next week with another fantastic guest here. Until then, thanks so much for listening to what we hope is your favorite podcast. This has been Social Pros.  
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