Fanocracy | Beyond Speaking Podcast Transcript

Brian Lord: [00:00:12] Hi, I'm Brian Lord, your host for The Beyond Speaking Podcast and today we have on David Meerman Scott. He has a business growth strategist, he's the author of 10 books, including four international bestsellers. And he is also a connoisseur, I found out, of granola, dried fruit, and yogurt. So thank you, David Mirren's got so much for coming on.


David Meerman Scott: [00:00:40] Brian, thanks for having me on. I love what you're doing with the podcast and I love the fact that you often eat granola, fruit, and yogurt as well.


Brian Lord: [00:00:48] Well, one of the things that you talk about, so your new book is out, Fanocracy, and you talk a lot of it about how people bond and connect with different things. And so I just found out that I get made fun of for eating that. And just before we got on, I found out that you and I eat- you eat it 100 percent the time I eat it, you know, 25 to 50 percent of the time depending on my mood. But that's one of those things that that creating fans and other things that once you find that kind of odd thing in common, that you bond over it. And to me, that's one of the fascinating things about the book.


David Meerman Scott: [00:01:26] And that's what's so great about this idea of fandom, is that it gives us an instant bond with another human being because we're part of the same tribe. We like the same things, even if it's something as mundane as what you eat for breakfast.


Brian Lord: [00:01:43] Where did the idea of Fanocracy come from?


David Meerman Scott: [00:01:46] So it was five years ago, I was thinking to myself. The idea was I'd been talking about on the stage and in my books for the last 10 years or so, the ideas of reaching people through digital communications and online content and social media. That's all great. It all works well. But so many companies are abusing the channel. They're doubling down. They're sending yet another tweet there, yet another LinkedIn connection, too many emails. And it's become polarizing in many ways, the digital chaos that's going on out there. And I realized at the same time that I'm just a massive geek, a massive fan of a few things. I'm a huge fan of live music, especially the Grateful Dead. I've been to 791 live music shows and 75 Grateful Dead concerts.


Brian Lord: [00:02:38] Wow.


David Meerman Scott: [00:02:39] And I was talking to my daughter Reiko about this and she's a massive Harry Potter fan. And we just decided that there was something really interesting going on around the idea of fandom. So we decided to collaborate, to write a book about it. And I'm a middle-aged white male and she's a millennial mixed-race neuroscientist who loves Harry Potter. So we're a great, great team to collaborate on researching and writing this book, which we did for the last five years.


Brian Lord: [00:03:12] What was it like writing a book with your daughter?


David Meerman Scott: [00:03:18] It was amazing and still is amazing as we've transitioned into a sort of book promotion time here. It brought us closer together. We recognized that in order to make this work, we had to trust one another implicitly. And I couldn't treat her as a kid and she couldn't treat me as the dad. We had to be co-authors in every sense of the word and teammates. And I recognized really quickly that she's way better than I am at some aspects of putting this book together. And it brought us much, much closer together and has been just a fabulous way for us to get closer to one another.


Brian Lord: [00:04:05] What was she better than you at doing with the book?


David Meerman Scott: [00:04:07] Writing. She was a fabulous writer. And one of the reasons that I asked her to come on the project is because when we’re talking about her fandoms. She said, "Dad, you may not know this about me. And I know you know, I love Harry Potter. I've watched every movie multiple times, read every book multiple times, went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando several times and even went to London to the studios where they filmed the movies. But did you know I just finished a ninety thousand word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series where Draco Malfoy as a spy for the Order of the Phoenix? And I put it on a fanfiction site and it's been downloaded thousands and thousands of times. And hundreds of people are commenting on it."And it's like, wow, that's really cool. And then she said, "Oh, yeah. And I just submitted another story to a speculative fiction journal and it was accepted for publications." Like wow, you are a better writer than me! So she's just got a really beautiful way of writing about human connections and about personal relationships and about passions. And she is really into something called narrative medicine. Narrative medicine is the idea of understanding the true full patient, the patient's narrative, as opposed to just understanding the symptoms. And it's a great way to do better healthcare and make better outcomes when you know the entire patient's story. She actually teaches this now at Boston University School Medicine, where she's going to school. And we translated those ideas into the understanding of a narrative by a company to be able to reach a better understanding of who their customers are and be able to come closer to their customers and grow them as fans. So she was really able to bring some elements to it that there's no way I could have done by myself. And it made the book that much better.


Brian Lord: [00:06:17] So did you write about your adventurous underwear selections just to make sure you did check off the Dad-Embarrassing-Daughter box?


David Meerman Scott: [00:06:26] That was an embarrassing one. Yeah. [Laughing] Well, I talked about I love this company called MeUndies. Oh, my gosh, they're fabulous. They do subscription underpants, of all things. And so every month I go in and I choose my pair and then they come a couple of days later and I can't wait for it. I mean, I used to hate to buy underwear. And now it's just unbelievable. And their tagline, which they keep having to increase by one digit. But their tagline currently is 10 million butts and counting. No, sorry, 10 million happy butts and counting. Which I absolutely love. And yeah, it was- my daughter was a little bit wiggy about me writing about my underwear, but that's OK because it's a true fandom story.


Brian Lord: [00:07:16] Well, one thing that I really liked that you talk about- and this also plays in you're just mentioning with your daughter in seeing sort of getting that narrative, that story behind each patient. One thing that you talk about is that relationships start with curiosity. So how could someone maybe explain a little bit out about that and then a hall also, how can you teach yourself or allow yourself to be more curious?


David Meerman Scott: [00:07:40] Exactly. So interesting thing about curiosity is that when you're curious about another person when you're curious about the world around you and you develop passions for things, you develop passions for the things that you really enjoy, that makes you a more interesting person and it makes your business a more interesting business. And we recognize that so many people in the business world are unwilling to share the things that they're passionate about, unwilling to share the things that they're curious about, unwilling to focus on the things outside of work. So a typical manifestation of this is they they they only do work stuff on LinkedIn and then Facebook is only for their personal stuff. But what we learned is that the more that somebody puts themselves out there, as both their personal life and their business life, and it's not about work-life balance, because that implies that there are two different things. We actually think that those things are converging in such a way that when people share the things they love personally, it makes them a much more interesting person that people want to do business with. And you probably see that in your own business, when you can share something with a client, with somebody or with a speaker that it just makes that relationship so much stronger.


Brian Lord: [00:09:16] One trend I have noticed because I like learning about other people, you know, the day gets long if it's just a transaction. And so I like to learn about different people and their interests and those sorts of things. One thing I've noticed, especially with some of the younger people I work with, is that they do not like to talk on the phone and a lot of times they won't even have a voicemail or the voicemail almost seems to be intentionally full. How do you build relationships with those people?


David Meerman Scott: [00:09:49] I've noticed that, too. And Reiko told me that that's absolutely true about her and her friends. So one thing we recognize which is really interesting is that a photograph or a video, but especially a photograph can serve as a proxy for having a personal connection but using digital channels and there's lots of interesting research that we dug into by speaking with neuroscientists around this concept of how you can develop a stronger personal relationship. And the neuroscientists told us that our brains, our ancient human brains, are hardwired to have a more emotional connection with people the closer we are to them. So if they're close to us and we know them and we trust them, we like them. It's a very positive emotional connection. If we're close to them and we don't know them, we don't trust them and we're fearful of them, it can be a very negative emotional response. So, for example, if you're walking down a quiet street at night and someone approaches you nearby and you don't know who they are, that's it can be a very negative feeling in our bodies. But if we enter a room, it can be very positive when we see people we know. There's actually levels of proximity. There’s further than 20 feet away is called public space. We don't really think about people in our public space within 20 feet. It becomes social space. Our brains begin to track those people. And then within four feet is called personal space. And anyone in that zone who we appreciate and like and enjoys like cocktail party discussion, that's a very, very positive human emotional connection. And it turns out through mirror neurons, another concept of neuroscience, that a virtual connection- by using a photograph like a humble selfie. This little selfie that people think is so frivolous that millennials love and that I love, too, by the way, that indicates in a virtual way that you're close to somebody, because our brains react when we see somebody do something as if we're doing it ourself. So that when we see someone in a photograph, our brains react as if we were actually close to that person. So a selfie, they're looking in the camera, they're smiling. It's as if we know them. And that explains why we feel we know movie stars and feels like we know television stars. So what we've learned from the perspective of reaching younger people comes directly from neuroscience. No, they don't like to use the telephone, but they love to use images on photographs and sometimes video. And when they're cropped in such a way that you feel as if you were actually physically in the presence cocktail party distance for feet or closer, that can be a very powerful thing. So it might be something as simple as just shooting in a selfie of yourself and including that in the text or the email that you send to a potential customer who's a younger person.


Brian Lord: [00:13:05] Now, that's one of the things that kind of runs counter to everything, is that a lot of times people will spend a whole lot of money to get really professional, you know, photos and headshots and everything else made. And you're saying that maybe for some of your audience that you would do the complete opposite. Just flip your phone. You know, just do a selfie and then just go with that.


David Meerman Scott: [00:13:25] Exactly. And again, you could change them up all the time. You don't always have to have the same photo. And specifically, can you have images that show you in the wild doing the things you love? You know, like in my case, I love to go to live music concerts. I love to surf. I love international travel. You know, so if I can share on my social networks or share with the people that I'm doing business with, the fact that I'm at this live music event or that I'm at the surfing beach or that I'm somewhere interesting in the world or that I'm about to go on- This, is the other part where it specifically relates to our business. I'm about to go on stage, shoot a selfie, push it out using the hashtag for the event, and that gets a great reaction with people. I actually often will shoot selfies from the stage with the audience in the background and it gets great reactions or find the event organizers and get a photo with them and put that out. Use the hashtag, use the event's Twitter feed and use the event's Instagram feed and that that can be really, really powerful stuff that very, very, very few people use to proper effect.


Brian Lord: [00:14:46] Well, one of the chapters you talk about is getting closer than usual, which almost sounds like he could be getting closer than is normally comfortable or maybe what you're used to. What's your advice for sort of that section in a nutshell?


David Meerman Scott: [00:15:00] So we talked about the basic neuroscience behind it just a moment ago. The idea that neuroscience tells us that our ancient brains, our DNA, it's hardwired into us that we have the most emotional connections with anybody who is close to us physically within a couple of feet of us. And so that means for all of us who are in this business of putting together really powerful and amazing events, how can we use this concept of proximity in our work? So how can we build proximity with people, with other people into the events that we create? And so what this might mean specifically is: Can there be ways built into the formal event? You know, the speeches, where there can be ways that people can interact. Like, for example, when I deliver talks. I often build in a couple of minutes for the audience to break into very small groups. They're not disruptive, like go into the corner or break into groups, but just turn to the person next to you and discuss a couple of things. Now that that becomes a powerful connection between two like-minded people and that emotional connection, because they're within four feet of one another, they're at the same event and they're specifically chatting with one another for two or three minutes about a topic and that they have in common because they're at the same event that builds a powerful emotional connection, which rubs off to the event itself as being a positive emotional connection that they've had. Can there be more opportunities for cocktail parties or other kinds of interactions between those people? And something that I also do is I make it a point to come down from the stage and go into the audience and get close to some of the audience members and then through the power of mirror neurons if I'm on the video screen in the larger events that show video, the video of the speakers in action just by getting close to one or two audience members physically within four feet or even shake someone's hand or put my arm on their shoulder in a natural way, not a forced way. You know, I come and ask him a question, hand them the handheld mike. Other people see it on the video and they feel through the magic of mirror neurons as if I was actually having that conversation with them. That's how their brain reacts. And so putting opportunities for physical interactions like this into a meeting and meeting planners who understand this concept of close physical proximity as well as the mirror neurons aspects of virtual proximity. Another manifestation of that can be "Can the meeting planner help the organizers to post images of people in close proximity to one another, both on the social networking feed using the hashtag as well as if they have one on the event app?". The more of those photos of people in close physical proximity with one another, the more people's brains light up as if they are having close emotional connections with other people. Really, really powerful stuff that most people really don't understand or use effectively. I mean, I'd say one of ten events are using these concepts effectively.


Brian Lord: [00:19:09] As an event planner- so event planners may be listening to this to try to figure out if they should get you as a speaker. But what are some additional ways that they themselves can, you know, build that in, whether themselves for their attendees or the people they're working with? Even trying to decide a speaker that sort of their event planning team... What are some additional ways that they can do that?


David Meerman Scott: [00:19:35] So I think when looking at speakers, it's a good idea to understand if that speaker builds ways into their talks or after their talks or through breakouts or something where they can get they can have interaction, audience interaction or getting people in the audience to interact with one another, that would be something that I think, when looking for a speaker, can be important. When advising the client- So if they are a third party event planner advising the client or if they're an in-house event planner advising their team members, how can you build as much interaction as possible into the event? So having the people who are on this stage interact with the audience members, you know, have a special VIP event after the speaker gets off the stage where they get together with a group of people for an evening event, for example. Or can you get more opportunities for those physical interactions? Again, the reason is that our ancient brains react when we are in close physical proximity with like-minded people. And then the virtual aspect comes in when we use photographs and images and video in such a way that we showcase the fact that people are having close personal interactions at the event by posting photographs, by posting video. And that's also something that an event planner can help to facilitate, you know, to make sure that as part of the event that there's a social media hashtag, that there's particularly for the bigger events. If there's somebody- can there be somebody who's responsible for posting photographs, for grabbing photos from people's feeds and reposting them in a way that other people can see them? These days, many people have event apps. Can there be a person whose job it is to get as many photographs as possible posted to those event apps, as many photographs of people as possible? I've seen the used really well at the end of each day, can there be a video recap or perhaps the next morning? Can there be a video recap of the day before that shows a lot of photographs of people interacting, people at the cocktail party, people sitting next to one another at the speech, people at the meals? People waiting in line for something, because every time you show in a virtual way that people are enjoying being together with one another. That's the incredibly powerful human connection that we humans crave, especially in this world of digital chaos that we're living in right now.


Brian Lord: [00:22:44] One of the things I'm always fascinated about with authors is the process of writing. And one of the literary terms I have learned recently was "Murdered Darling." So like the one thing in the book that you really, really wish you could have included in there, but the editor cut out. There just wasn't room for what is one thing that you really wish- so this is your chance to get it out there to the world- What's one thing that you wish you could have had in this book that you didn't get to put in?


David Meerman Scott: [00:23:13] That's a great question. So and then they Kill Your Darlings is so true because sometimes the stories I think are the best are the ones that don't even get in because other people are like, "What are you talking about?" So there are a couple of different stories about me and the things that I love. A couple of stories about live music, a couple of stories about surfing. And I had more than those. You know, I also wrote a long section about my love of the Apollo Lunar Program. I wrote a book called Marketing the Moon, which came out a couple of years ago. And that was turned into a three-part mini-series that went out on PBS American Experience called Chasing the Moon. And I mean, it was really cool to write a book that turned into a film. And I served as a producer on that film. I mean, that was really great. It premiered in July of 2019 at the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission. And I thought, wow, I know that's another thing I love. I'm going to write about the Apollo program and my daughter and my daughter said, "You know, Daddy, I know you love this stuff, but you already wrote about surfing, you already wrote about live music. We've had enough of you. I think we should cut this." And I'm like "Oh, man, You know, I love this stuff!" She goes, "I know you do, but you also love live music. We've got a couple of pages of that. We also know you love surfing. We got a couple of pages of that. I think it's intriguing to share a little bit about who you are and your passions. It's important to the book, but we don't want too much of that." And she was absolutely right.


Brian Lord: [00:24:50] One of the things that we learn is right when the book starts off of your obsession is stickers for computers. So did you have a Commodore 64, like 30 years ago with stickers all over it? Or where did that begin? [Laughing]


David Meerman Scott: [00:25:07] Actually, the stickers began back in 2002 because that was when I left the corporate world and started doing my own thing. And it was the first time I got an Apple MacBook Pro and the stickers went on it then. And I recognized this became a really important part of our book, Fanocracy, because I recognized that when we're a fan of something we want to share with the world, that we're a fan of that thing. And so we wear the baseball cap with the logo on it. We wear the t-shirt with a logo on it. We put the sticker on our computer, we put the sticker on the bumper of our car. Sometimes people even tattoo with the logo of the company or the organization they love onto their bodies. And this outward manifestation of fandom is really important to us. And so I've been putting stickers on my computer for 17 years now. And it wasn't until recently that I started to think about how powerful that is, that people are putting stickers on their computer, even of a B2B company, even of software companies, even of technology companies. So what it really told me is that people, when they're fans of something, become really passionate about it. And when we first started writing the book, we thought, of course, people become fans of sports teams and and and artists and entertainers. But do they really become fans of companies and non-profits? But the answer is yes, because of that outward manifestation of people where people wearing the logos. And my favorite example is there's a government agency, a U.S. government agency that millions of people wear the logo of that has over 50 million followers on Instagram and over 40 million followers on Twitter. And that government agency is NASA. You know, and who would have thought that a government agency has millions and millions and millions of fans that are so passionate that they are eager to share that passion with the whole world? And that's really what we talk about that anybody can create. If a government agency can do it, anyone can do it.

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