My Home Office Set Up and Tour

I’m taking you on a tour of my home office! This space is so important to me because it’s where I create content for all of you—I hope this video inspires you to work towards your own dream office!

My Home Office Set Up and Tour

What’s up, everybody? I’m so excited, because today I’m taking you on a tour of my home office!

Whether you work from home or a coffee shop or somewhere else, you’re going to get a couple things out of this post.

First, you’re just going to see the different kinds of work that I do and why it’s important to have a specific environment where you do those certain things.

Second, hopefully it will also give you some inspiration for something to work toward when it comes to your own work space—because this is definitely not how it was for me in the beginning. It took a number of years and a lot of hard work to get this level. I’m not about dream cars and dream vacations and things like that; I’m about the dream office, because my office is where I produce a lot of what I create for you guys.

My Very First (Very Tiny) Office

I remember my very first office. It was in a one-bedroom apartment I shared with my wife, April, right after we got married. It was hardly any room at all; just a little dinky corner in the kitchen space. Check out this screenshot from a video I made way back in 2008.

My very first tiny home office

But the thing is, this tiny space worked really well for me. This goes to show that you don’t necessarily need an incredibly spacious office. You just need a place to do your work—one that has whatever you need to get into that “work mode” mindset, whether you’re sitting down or standing up. As long as your location and setup helps you check in mentally to do the work you need to do, that’s what matters.

My New Digs

From there, we rented a house and I had an office for the first time. That was really nice, because I had my own door that I could close. A few years later, we bought our own house. By that point, I had a really good idea of what I wanted in a working space, and I was willing to invest a lot of money to build one I would love. And that’s what I’ve done! I put a lot of thought and care into my current office space. The design process was especially cool because I got to tap into my architecture past to help make it happen. I created some design drawings and then shared them with an interior designer, who added her touches and shared them with the people who eventually built it all.

Ready to take the tour? Let’s go!

My Home Office Tour

Here’s a shot of (most of) the space. It was definitely built from scratch and it’s my dream office. I had it very specifically laid out for all the different things I do, and each space and item has a specific reason for being there. I’m going to share those things with you now!

Pat Flynn's home office tour

This room isn’t that big; it’s maybe 14 feet by 16 feet, but that space is utilized in a way that maximizes the productivity and usefulness of the entire space. As you can see, there isn’t much wall space left—but it’s not just a bunch of shelves, either. Everything in here has been very strategically designed and placed.

The first thing you’ll see is the large stand-up desk in the middle of the room. Standing up while working has been one of the best things for me in terms of staying focused and being able to get off my butt a little bit. It’s nice to stand up. It’s good for your back. And if I have to sit down, I can pull out one of the stools that are strategically placed underneath the desk so they don’t take up much room!

Pat Flynn's standing desk

I use the standing desk to do some of my writing, but I also write on the board you see below. It’s not really a whiteboard—it’s a frosted glassboard. I like it better than a traditional whiteboard because it’s a little more stylish. Regular dry erase whiteboards don’t really do justice to some spaces, and I wanted to make sure this one looked really good and fit the space nicely.


The surface of the glassboard is writeable, so I can just go into one of the drawers located in the standing desk, pull out one of these markers and write on the surface. Then, if I want to, I can erase it using one of these chamois cloths. You might also recognize these Post-it notes from a previous blog post where I walked you through my book writing process.

Pat's post-it notes

Down on the ground on the left here is the infamous “Hello, My Name Is Pat” backpack, which some of you may have seen on me at conferences!

Hello My Name is Pat

Now, I’ll get into some of the other important parts of the space. To the left of standing desk is my planning area. As you can see, there are no computers here.

Pat's giant calendar

This is where I sit down to do my planning, scheduling, and things like that. This giant calendar essentially has my whole year laid out. I don’t use this space very often—it’s more decorative than anything most of the time, to be honest. But I still keep some interesting pieces over here! Here’s my diploma from Cal.

Pat Flynn Cal diploma

And here is my foam roller. I sit on the floor here every once in a while and do some foam rolling to wake myself up if I’m feeling tired. It’s good for the muscles and tissues, as well.

foam roller

To the right are some books you might recognize from posts I’ve written before. Here’s a fun little tidbit for you: My interior designer, who I hired to help create the space, told me books look really good when you take the covers off. If you’re trying to design a nice, elegant space, just take the covers off some of your hardcover books and set them out. Here’s The 4-Hour Body, which you might recognize as a purple and orange book, but take the cover off and it’s a nice-looking blue book for you to show off.

Pat Flynn's bookshelf

This is my hoverboard from Back to the Future Part II. It’s not a real hoverboard, but it does look like one. I got it on

Back to the Future II hoverboard

I’m a huge Back to the Future fan, if you couldn’t tell already from the hoverboard, or the Back to the Future Lego I’ve also got over here.

Back to the Future Lego

This next one is really cool. An artist who was a fan of SPI sent me this. If you look really closely, you can see some of the threading.

SPI fan art

Back to the center of the room, you’ll notice this large TV.

Pat's office tv

I do a lot of my writing right here. If you look underneath the table, you’ll see some stools. Often, I’ll pull out a stool, set up my laptop up here, and do some work.

Pat's office stool

I can also use Apple TV and Airplay to show what is on my laptop on the screen, as well. Let’s pull out my Logitech Bluetooth keyboard that’s stored underneath the TV and fire up my Apple TV.


Then we’ll open up YouTube and see if we can find some Smart Passive Income videos. There we go!


I like using this space as a “learning center.” I’ll watch course material or informative YouTube videos and take notes. It’s almost like I’m watching a lecture, which is really cool. I find that I learn better sitting in this space as opposed to the area to the right with the computer screens, where it’s easier to be distracted.

Another thing I love to do at this table is practice my keynote presentations. I’ll pull one up on the screen, then walk back and forth behind the table to practice my presentation while I look at the slides on the screen.

Practice keynote presentations

Let’s move down to the right, where I have my computers. This is the space where I actually spend most of my time. You’ll notice these two iMacs, which I use to do a lot of my writing. My main screen on the right is one of the newer Retina display 27-inch iMacs, and the one on the left is an older 27-inch iMac.

Pat's iMac

To left of the screens is my podcasting mic and stand. Those of you who are podcasters might recognize the microphone as a Heil PR-40. This is an awesome podcasting mic (although the ATR2100 by Audio-Technica is great, as well).

Heil PR-40

The mic stand also shows off my Smart Passive Income mic flag, which is really cool. You can go to to get your own.

Smart Passive Income mic

The mic arm is really handy because it connects right into my desk. I had to modify it to do that, though. The part that’s supposed to keep it from sticking or moving around kept falling off, so I just said, “Hey, let’s drill a hole in the counter and stick it there.” And it works really well!

microphone stand

Typically when I’m podcasting, I swing the mic around and up so I can speak into it while standing. I like podcasting standing up. I feel like I have better volume, and I’m more alert and focused. I’ll often do Skype interviews this way, too.

SPI microphone setup

Let me show you some other cool parts of this space! The shelving area to the right of my computers was originally stacked full of books. When my interior designer came in to help me design my office, she loved this space so much that she wanted to take pictures of it for her portfolio. So she gathered lots of little books, boxes, coral, vases, and bottles from her house and brought them here. I liked the way she set it up so much that I half jokingly said, “Hey, I’d love to buy that stuff off of you because it looks great there.” She said, “Okay!” So I bought them from her and left them on the shelf, along with some of my camera stuff and other things that are important to me.

Pat's office shelves

You can see the trumpet up there. I played trumpet in marching band in high school and college.

Pat's trumpet

A bear, because I graduated from UC Berkeley.

Cal Bears

And of course, I’ve got the Delorean with working gull wings, from Back to the Future Part II.

Back to the Future Delorean

This is a baseball signed by Nolan Ryan, my favorite baseball player. (Thank you, Azul, for hooking that up for me.)

Nolan Ryan signed baseball

This is a lightsaber. If you follow me on Instagram, you might remember I was Darth Vader for Halloween one year.


I have a lot of storage space in here, as well. Another thing you’ll notice about this room is that the wires are virtually hidden. That’s one thing that was important to me, because I didn’t want to get distracted and I don’t like seeing wires everywhere. All of that stuff is in the walls or inside the cabinets.

This cabinet is where all the internet stuff goes: my router, cables, and all that stuff.

Routers, cables

Over to the left, this cabinet is where my printer lives, as well as my sound mixer and scanner. You can’t see it because it’s so dark, but the printer is an HP Laserjet P1102W. It’s the thinnest printer I’ve found, so it fits in that space really nicely.


You’ll notice these red boards here. These are actually padded. This is more acoustical paneling on either side of the television here, which frames it quite nicely.

Acoustic panels

The windows are covered in gray Roman shades, which absorb sound, too. I like this little white border that my interior designer insisted be placed there. I’m really glad she did, because they look really good.

Roman shades

If you look up, you’ll notice these track lights. These are something I’d never had in a home before. They add some modern elements to the space, and can be used to highlight different parts of the room.

Track lighting

Up above, you’ll notice some more books and memorabilia, including stuff from my college years, and of course, more Back to the Future items.

Moving to the right, here’s one of my favorite parts of the room. This is the banquette area (as my interior designer called it), and it’s sort of my thinking area. A lot of cool things happen in this space. More on that shortly.

Banquette area

Above the couch, you’ll find an image of me at New Media Expo in 2014, presenting about how to convert your casual audience into raving fans. The cool thing about this piece of fabric is that it’s not just a canvas; it’s a piece of acoustical fabric. It was custom printed on this fabric that absorbs sound from the room so there’s less echo. You’ll also see these Edison lights, which are really cool, on either side.

New Media Expo collage

To the right is possibly my absolute favorite part of the room. Behind all these cards is a 5-foot acoustic panel that’s similar to the one over the couch. On this one, I’ve pinned all my thank-you notes and letters from fans of Smart Passive Income and people who I’ve helped with their businesses. This isn’t all of them, not by far. When I’m feeling down and out and lacking motivation, I’ll often just turn around and look at this board, and it always gets me fired up again. Some people have even sent me the first dollars they ever made online; one person sent me the first $5 they made online, because they promised that’s what they would do.

SPI thank you notes

Thank you notes from SPI fans

There’s so much cool stuff here. Someone sent me a CD with videos on it. Another person even sent me Magic cards because they knew I like Magic: The Gathering.

Right next to my thank-you board is my meditation chair. This is where I meditate using the device you see on the table there. It’s also where I journal using my Five-Minute Journal. We’ll come back to those two things in a minute here!

Meditation chair

This really cool table cuts away to reveal storage space I use for magazines.


Back to the chair. This is my favorite chair in the room. It’s actually an Ikea chair that I reupholstered for a couple hundred bucks. I do a lot of my thinking and reflection in this very chair, mainly in the morning. Here’s my routine: Each morning I come downstairs, get a glass of water, then boil some water for my bulletproof coffee. Once I’ve grabbed that, I sit down here and journal.

Five-Minute Journal

I’ve been writing in my Five-Minute Journal almost every day for several years. It’s been life-changing to write down why I wake up each day, what I appreciate, and what I’m striving for. Then at night before I go to bed, I journal about the things I’ve accomplished, and write down what I wish I could have done better.

Pat journaling

I also use what’s on this table to help me meditate, because I’ve always had issues with meditating. Having one spot where I meditate each day helps me check in mentally and get into a routine. To help me meditate, I also use this device, the Muse headband.


You may have seen me talk about the Muse before on the blog. It’s a brain-sensing headband. If you go to, you’ll see what this device is all about. I’ll put it on now, then sit down and show you what I look like for 7 to 12 minutes every morning.

Pat Flynn meditating

I don’t have my headphones on right now, but those are also necessary. The Muse senses your brain activity, and when you have an active brain, you hear crashing waves and loud wind in your headphones. When you have a calm brain, you hear hardly any wind at all, maybe just some trickles of water. If you’re calm for a certain period of time, you may also hear some birds chirping in the distance. It’s a really cool tool, and it helps me validate if I’m doing it correctly, because that was the biggest issue for me with meditation.

I get my work done in the other parts of the office, but this area is where I sit down, relax, journal, meditate, and read, and I love it. It’s also where I can be right next to what matters most to me besides my family—you guys, courtesy of my thank-you board.

Pat sitting and relaxing

Well, there you have it! I showed you all the different spaces in my office, including where I get stuff done, where I plan, and where I meditate and work on self-improvement. I know a lot of you might not have a home office, and even if you do, it might not be quite as intricate and planned out as this one. Maybe you get most of your work done at a coffee shop. It’s up to you! You have to figure out what works best for you.

I’d love to see where you work, as well. Where do you get your work done? Where do you do your planning? Where do you do your meditation stuff? Maybe it’s all in the same spot. Wherever it is, I’d love to see it. Click here to visit the video version of this post on my YouTube channel. When you get there, leave a comment with a picture of your workspace, too. I’d love to see what you have going on and where you do most of your work.

And if you haven’t already, make sure to click here to subscribe to my channel to be notified whenever I release new videos. Cheers!

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SPI 309: How to Create a Marketing Funnel That Works (with Molly Pittman)

No matter where you are in your business journey, it’s fundamental for you to understand your customer’s journey. What happens after a person comes to your website? How do you go from the minute they find you all the way to a purchase? I knew when I hired Molly Pittman that it was going to change my business forever, specifically with funnels. She’s here today to talk about strategies for your customer journey, how to implement them in your business, and how to keep them simple so you’re not overwhelmed.

Molly is the former VP of DigitalMarketer—the company that puts on the Traffic & Conversion Summit every year in San Diego (an amazing event). I brought Molly on to help me and Team Flynn manage all of the pieces of our business so that we can better optimize the customer journey. What does that mean? Well, it means taking the free stuff, the paid stuff, the lead magnets, and combining them all into a funnel which then leads to an offer.

What happened before Molly was kind of a mess—a lot of failed attempts. Things weren’t working as well as they could, but Molly, with her superpowers, delivered something that made complete sense. We’re getting deep into all of that and more today so sit back, relax, and let’s talk about the customer journey with Molly Pittman.

And, if you’re interested in starting a podcast (and want to see how these funnels work!) you can check out my mini course at

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Molly Pittman for joining me this week. Until next time!

How To Make Passive Income Online (3 Business Models)

I’ve been building businesses since 2008 and have generated over $5M in earnings. In this post, I’ll distill what I’ve learned into three passive income business models you can choose from.

How To Make Passive Income Online (3 Business Models)

The internet is an amazing place, folks. I probably don’t need to tell you there’s more than one way to make money online. And today, I’m going to give you the lowdown on three strategies you can use to do just that!

I’ve built several businesses since 2008 using one or more of these models. I’ve been featured in magazines and articles across the globe, and since I started my journey I’ve generated over $5M in earnings from these businesses. All of my income and expenses for those businesses dating back to October 2008 have been tracked publicly on

But you don’t have to read all of my income reports to learn how I’ve made these three strategies work for me—or how they can work for you.

In this post, I’ll distill what I’ve learned into three business models you can choose from to decide which path you want to go down.

Those three models are the FP, AA, and EP models.

“But those are just acronyms, Pat! Tell me what they meeeeeaan!”

Fear not. I’ll explain them all, and help you figure out which one suits you best.

A Quick Primer on Passive Income

But first, let’s about talk passive income! What is passive income? There are many different definitions out there, but mine goes something like this: Passive income is all about building online businesses that can work for you, that allow you to generate income, and grow and scale, without a real-time presence. In other words, you don’t trade time for money. You build something up front that can continue to work for you over time.

“But Pat,” you might be asking, “is this really possible?” It’s definitely possible. And you don’t need a huge investment, either. Unlike investments such as real estate or stocks, you don’t need a ton of money to start to build something.

But there’s one thing you need to be super clear on. It’s definitely not easy to do. Some people may tell you there’s a magic button or blueprint you can use to get rich, all by doing nothing. Don’t get me started on people who say you can make it happen overnight. No way, no how. It takes a lot of hard work. You’ve got to put in the hours.

You have to work hard now to build assets that will continue to work for you later. But once you start to build that passive income stream, you start to gain a little flexibility and freedom. You have a little more time to do more things, build even more passive income streams—or do fewer things, if that’s what you prefer!

So as I introduce these three business models to you, realize that yes, they all take time, but that time will also be very much worth it.

Cool? Okay, let’s get started.

The FP Model: Starting with Active Income

FP is the Freelance to Product model. In this model, you start by freelancing, then you find a problem that can be solved with a product.

Yes, we’re talking about passive income. And yes, freelancing is active income. So what’s the deal? To be perfectly honest, I believe freelancing is the #1 way to get started a building business of your own. You’ll learn a lot of skills, and you’ll get paid a lot quicker, too. You need some active income first!

But the biggest reason I recommend starting with freelancing is you’ll get to know the industry you’re in really well. You’ll learn it so well, that you’ll be able to find the holes, the opportunities, that allow you to create a successful product-based business.

Let me tell you about my friend Brian Casel. He was a freelance web designer who used to bill all his work by the project and sometimes by the hour; it was all tied to his time. He could only fit in a certain number of projects, and he was basically living project to project. It was not an ideal situation.

Brian had found a huge need for web design in the restaurant and food truck space. After getting tired of working with client after client, he decided to turn his service-based business into a product-based one. He made his services more standardized and productized. He eliminated all his client work and created templates and products to serve that market instead. And it’s been going great for him.

You can check out my interview with Brian in the Smart Passive Income Podcast #158.

All active businesses can be turned into more passive businesses by using products you’ve already made, by using software to do a lot of the legwork, and even having other humans do some of the work, too.

The AA Model: Advertising Your Way to Income

Next up, I’ll tell you how I made my first bit of passive income in 2008 with business model #2: the AA Model.

AA stands for the Audience and Advertising Model. It’s one of the most-used models for building passive income online—but it does come with a fair number of warnings, which I’ll share with you in a minute.

If you’re a YouTube personality, this is how you generate your income. If you’re a blogger who gets a lot of traffic to your site and uses advertising or sponsorships, then you’re also following the AA Model. Got a podcast with sponsorships? Same deal. You have an audience, and you have advertisers that want to get in front of that audience, so you marry the two and get paid for it.

When I started building my architecture-related business in 2008, I made my first dollar through advertising. I’d spent a lot of time and money building the site and getting traffic. Then one day I threw an ad on the site one day, and I made $1.18. Sure, I could find that much under my couch cushions—but that’s not the point! The point is that I was able to build something online, put an ad up, and make money without having to do anything. I learned it was possible, and it motivated me to move forward.

Eventually, I put more ads on the site. Traffic continued to grow, and I started earning between $30 and $50 a day just from advertising.

Then I built a brand-new site, got even more traffic, put ads on it, and . . . didn’t make more than $50 after six months of advertising. And therein lies one of the downsides of the AA Model. Ads are not super-predictable, especially auto-generated ones like those through Google AdSense.

There’s a second downside to this model. Although I’ve done advertising and sponsorships in the past, and have made hundreds of thousands of dollars doing so, the truth is it takes a lot of time for this business model to start to generate income for you, because you need to build that audience first. In addition, what happens when you build your audience on a platform that ends up changing its algorithm, affecting how often you actually get seen by the audience you’ve built?

In order to build an audience, you need to have a platform. You need to have something worth following and sharing; something that’s valuable to others. And that, of course, takes time. That’s not to say you can’t build a huge audience in a short amount of time. But as much as we hear about the people who’ve succeeding at doing this, we don’t hear about the millions of others who are struggling every day to get just a few more fans and followers.

Long story short: the AA Model, while it can work for you, should be approached with care.

The EP Model: Making Money by Being Expert Enough

But the great thing is, you don’t need a huge audience to generate passive income and make money online!

That’s why if I had the choice, I’d go with the EP Model.

This is the Expert to Product Model. Now, don’t let the term “expert” scare you away—because it’s probably not what you think it is. Most people think an expert is someone who’s a master at something. Someone with a special degree or training, who’s put in those 10,000 hours, who is just great at what they do.

That’s not the kind of expert I’m talking about here.

What I mean is that you can be an expert in the eyes of someone else just by knowing a little more than they do. Because guess what? You have experiences, ideas, and opinions that are all unique to you. The goal is to become expert enough to earn the trust of others so that they’ll want to learn even more from you.

Quick story: Remember that $1.18 I found in the couch? Even when that increased to $30 to $50 a day, it still wasn’t enough to live on. So I looked for other options. In August 2008, after people started to know who I was and how I could help them pass the LEED certification exam through my blog, I wrote an ebook. It included all the information I knew about passing this exam, and I sold it on my blog for $19.95.

On October 2, 2008, when I finally put the book online, I sold my first copy, which was an amazing feeling. Fast-forward through October 2008, and I ended up making $7,126.91 just from ebook sales!

The craziest part of this was I’d wake up in the morning and there would be more money in my bank account, from people who had bought my book overnight. When you think about it, an online store that sells something that’s digital is something that’s open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Using tools, software and systems, you can automate the delivery process so you literally don’t have to do anything to serve that audience. That’s super powerful.

What’s also really important to realize here is that when I took the exam I was teaching people to study for, I didn’t get a perfect score. In fact, I didn’t even get close to a perfect score. I passed. But I also knew a lot about this exam—way more than somebody who was just getting started diving into studying for it. And it was because of that, because I was just a few steps ahead of them, that they trusted me to help them with that information. To support this, I provided a lot of great free value to help them along the way. I engaged in conversations and interacted in comments sections and on forums. Most of all, I just really cared about those people, because I struggled big-time with that exam myself.

Here’s the truth: a successful business is something that successfully solves a problem. And that business can make more money in two ways: solving more people’s problems, or solving bigger problems. The cool thing about the EP Model is that sometimes these products don’t even have to be yours. You can generate income by recommending other people’s or companies’ services or products. This is called affiliate marketing. It’s actually how I’ve made most of my money since I started in 2008.

The first time I did affiliate marketing was way back in the day on my architecture exam website. I connected with a company that sold practice exams, which gave me $22 for every person who bought one of their exams via my site. Since then, I’ve generated over $250,000 simply by recommending that product alone. Again, this is a product that was not mine, but one that has still been helpful to my audience. This was all done with thousands of visitors a month. Not millions, or even hundreds of thousands.

So how do you get started with the EP Model? First, you need to be an expert in the eyes of those you’re looking to serve. And again, you don’t need all those qualifications and credentials. A lot of people gain expertise and credibility just by sharing their experience learning something, which is something I’ve done on If you think about it, many people in the personal finance or fitness space establish their authority by sharing their journey and their process. They do it by sharing their experiences—and you can do the same thing, too.

Another great way to get started is to identify an area of interest you have. Then, go out and start talking to people. Ask them, “What are you struggling with right now? What are your biggest pains? What’s something you wish existed that doesn’t?” That’ll give you some ideas about where to get started.

Active Problem Solving + Automation = Passive Income Success

Remember, a successful business solves people’s problems. At first, you’re going to have to do the legwork and put in the time. But it’s about building something now so you can reap the benefits later, with the help of software, tools, automation, and people you hire. In this way, you can then turn this business that solves people’s problems into something that generates passive income for you!

What model resonates with you most? Leave a comment below with your pick!

Also, make sure to watch this video below about 3 passive income myths, and the truth behind each:

SPI 308: Sunny Lenarduzzi on Bad Dream Jobs, Building a YouTube Empire, and Using Video for Business

Today’s guest is Sunny Lenarduzzi, an amazing woman with a giant YouTube channel and a brand-new podcast. She’s here today to talk about her story, and to lay out tactics for using YouTube and other content to drive email subscribers, engagement, and traffic for online business.

Sunny’s story is truly inspiring. Imagine you work years to land a dream job, but you get there and it’s not what you thought it would be. You realize the dream job was just that: A dream in your head. What would you do? That was exactly Sunny’s experience, which she’ll be sharing with us today.

I got connected with Sunny literally over Twitter. I’d heard her name before, but when I was posting about doing some more YouTube collaborations, Sunny was quick to say “Pat, I want to work with you!” What she had built blew my mind—her channel with over 130,000 subscribers, for example. I knew that one day she was going to come onto the show—today’s that day!

This episode is full of great tips and blueprints for boosting your YouTube channel’s visibility and growing and engaging your audience. Make sure you put your devices away—this episode is a loaded one and you won’t want to miss out. Let’s get started!

And if you want to get started in your own podcasting journey, I have a new, free three-day mini course that you can check out. Visit to learn more. I’ll teach you everything you need to know to get set up, launched, and on iTunes.

Thanks for Listening!

To share your thoughts:

To help out the show:

  • Leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I read each one.
  • Subscribe on iTunes or download our mobile app.

Special thanks to Sunny Lenarduzzi for joining me this week. Until next time!

Is SPI Better Than Business School? 9 Lessons One Reader Used to Grow His Business

Better than business school? Read about how Salo Mizrachi grew his family business to six-figures and doubled it using 9 lessons he learned from Smart Passive Income.

Is SPI Better Than Business School? 9 Lessons One Reader Used to Grow His Business

Welcome to our first of (hopefully) many SPI community member features! On our SPI Facebook Group, we have over 30,000 amazing entrepreneurs across all stages of business, and I wanted to start highlighting some of the amazing work the community members are doing with their businesses here on the blog.

Brendan Hufford, our Facebook Community manager, wrote this post to highlight Salo Mizrachi and his business, EzPacking.

You can also check out Brendan and his work at Photo MBA.

And if you haven’t done so already, click here to join the Facebook Group and be a part of the community!

In 2015, Salo Mizrachi took over his family business, grew it to six-figures in 2016, and doubled that in 2017.

Additionally, Salo saw NPR’s popular “How I Built This” podcast feature his business in a 2017 “How You Built That” story.

Sounds impressive, right?

But what if I also told you that in 2014, Salo was still in college for business, and his only “practical experience” came from reading the SPI blog and listening to the SPI podcast?

I had been following the SPI blog for almost two years by the time I started my business and a lot of the tactical, day to day ideas I was experimenting with I learned from Pat (not my college professors).

Like you, Salo realized you can learn almost everything you need to know on Google / YouTube.

But also like Salo, to see results you have to take action on what you learn.

Wanting to start “doing” the things he was learning about in business school, Salo graduated in three years instead of four.

Little did he know, his mom was brewing up a business of her own.

Frustrated with the packing process and wanting a way to easily organize her suitcase, Salo’s mom started a small company called EzPacking. She created a clear system of packing cubes to help other moms, like her, be organized.

She invited Salo on a trip with her to China to source materials and while he intended to go just to keep his mom company, the trip to China opened his eyes to the possibilities available for ecommerce businesses.

And yet, Salo’s real reason for joining his mom has nothing to do with business:

I joined my mom because she needed help. She needed a partner to accompany her on the roller coaster of entrepreneurship and someone to share the work/stress/euphoria. My mom had helped me out so many times in life that I wanted to at least get her set. If things went well, I could continue helping her. If other opportunities presented themselves, I could pursue those. It was so fun and exciting to run the business that I never looked back!

Their first customers were other women that his mom knew from his local community in San Diego. Salo can still recall the day he received his first batch of inventory:

We had worked all day unloading a container, got home at around 5 p.m. and already had three people that were desperate to have our product before leaving on vacation the next day!

While word of mouth was great to get initial feedback and support, it wasn’t a long-term strategy. This led Salo to split-test selling at a farmer’s market and selling online, but other than reading SPI and listening to the podcast, Salo had no experience with selling online so he wasn’t sure how successful it would be.

By the third week, they made more online daily than in a full day at the farmer’s market.

Since then, Salo Mizrachi has bought out his mom, runs his family business, and is having his most successful year ever.

How’d he do it?

Here’s nine business lessons Salo Mizrachi learned from SPI that he didn’t learn in business school:

1. Take your Email Marketing Strategy Seriously

Salo didn’t have a strong email strategy before reading Email the Smart Way. He was collecting email addresses on his website but he didn’t have a clear strategy for monetizing his email list. Pat’s guide helped him come up with ideas for our autoresponders that have dramatically improved his funnels. Yes, even physical product companies should use funnels! Recently, he’s noticed a large increase in conversion rates from implementing them.

2. How to Grow Your Business With No Budget

One of the big ways Salo grew EzPacking in the beginning (especially when they had no budget), was to collaborate with bloggers. He got this idea by reverse engineering Pat’s success as an affiliate. Salo chose to follow the lead of companies that Pat works with which have great affiliate programs (like Bluehost [Affiliate link: Pat will earn a commission if you purchase through this link]). Salo now has dozens of bloggers collaborations under his belt and many affiliates.

Salo even tells all of his new affiliates to sign up to Pat’s list to receive Affiliate Marketing the Smart Way so that they have the right mindset when working with him! Salo credits building EzPacking to over six figures to working with affiliates and reverse engineering Pat’s affiliate marketing methods.

Even if you don’t see yourself as being in the affiliate marketing business, you can use your knowledge to build an incredible affiliate program for your own products.

3. You Can Produce Engaging Content In a “Boring” Niche

Salo remembers listening to Hotseat #7 from Pat and Chris Ducker’s 1 Day Business Breakthrough Podcast. This podcast was extremely helpful for Salo because Pat and Chris talked about a bird feed company that didn’t know how to produce content around it’s niche. Salo was feeling the same thing at the time, not sure how to make his products interesting to prospects even though there were so many different topics to tackle.

Listening to this podcast stirred his creative juices and helped him realize he could write about all sorts of topics, ranging from smart packing tips to behind-the-scenes of EzPacking. Most of the content in their post-purchase and opt-in email sequences came from Salo’s brainstorming sessions after listening to this podcast.

4. Build Community Around Your Physical Products

In episode 269 of the SPI Podcast, Pat interviewed Tom from Chubbies shorts.

Chubbies is in a crowded market but they were able to stand out, making this podcast huge for Salo. He had thought about these kinds of companies before but had never broken down their formula for creating a strong brand in a crowded market. EzPacking has many competitors in their space and Salo learned so much in this episode about using content and social media to build a tribe in a crowded market. It definitely helped shape his strategic plans for the rest of the year.

As a result of listening to this episode, Salo totally changes his thinking around who they sell a product, but they could also create a community around organizing. Salo is creating an active facebook group for his customers to interact, meet and share. Above all else, this episode helped Salo clarify his brand’s tone to really focus on his target audience and create a culture based on participation in the community.

5. You Can Start Without Any “Experience”

Despite having gone to business school, Salo still credits Smart Passive Income with teaching him most of his “applicable” knowledge.

Salo remembers the exact moment when he listened to episode 122 of the SPI Podcast—a now famous episode where Pat interviewed Shane and Jocelyn Sams about their transition from teaching to rocking it in online business:

I was riding a bus in Rio de Janeiro in November 2014. I had graduated college and was solo traveling in South America. I didn’t have any business ideas yet but I knew I wanted to do something when I returned home. Shane and Jocelyn’s story was so inspiring to me. It made me feel like I could reach their levels of success. It was even more relatable to me than Pat’s story because they had started so recently and had no previous experience. My bus ride ended halfway through the episode but I stayed at the bus stop until the episode ended because I had to listen all the way through!

With the inspiration gleaned from this episode, Salo started his first niche website while on his trip and while he’s since shut the site down, he honed all of the basics (site design, research, etc.) with that first project.

6. Business Ideas Don’t Fall in Your Lap

In another immensely popular podcast episode, SPI #46, Pat interviewed Dane Maxwell. This episode was a huge value bomb for Salo. He was in college at the time and thinking about entrepreneurship but didn’t know how to get started.

The episode made him realize that you have to be proactive about finding a pain point by conducting interviews. He uses Dane’s idea extraction process all the time in his business, interviewing a few customers each month to find new pain points for new products that he can make and new sources of information he can provide to make their website and content even more helpful to his customers.

For example, Salo learned that a subset of his customers have difficulty organizing their purses and handbags. He’s currently developing new products to solve those pain points, keeping those customers in the loop to make sure he’s solving their specific need.

Additionally, Salo discovered that a segment of his customers, new moms, had a lot of questions around traveling and organizing for their newborn babies. Creating content for that part of his audience has been a big focus for 2018.

7. Don’t Be Afraid of New Mediums

For Pat’s Let Go Challenge, Salo submitted a video and was selected as one of the winners!

Salo didn’t get to meet Pat in San Diego, but did get on a call with Pat where they spoke about creative ways to expand Salo’s content strategy and use non-traditional mediums like co-marketing and conferences to spread the word.

Salo had a bit of resistance to these ideas but quickly realized he was nervous about them because he was inexperienced. Based on Pat’s advice that his “nervous” feeling meant it was a prime area for personal (and business) growth, Salo did a full evaluation of all the areas in his business that made him nervous (growing his team, expanding overseas, co-branding deals) and made a plan for addressing those opportunities.

For example, Pat recommended that Salo seek out blogs that had reviewed specific organizing books because that would mean they’re already a great fit to work with Salo. Pat also recommended co-branding deals with influencers or brands, and while Salo is still nervous about pursuing that, he’s stepping into discomfort and taking action toward it.

8. Learn to See (and Conquer) “Superhero Syndrome”

For some reason, Salo didn’t hear Pat’s chat with Chris Ducker in episode 103 of the SPI Podcast until he had already started running his business. He was drowning in his to do list and this podcast opened the possibility of hiring out extra help.

Salo remembers hearing about outsourcing before but it was something he was nervous about: mostly because he didn’t understand how it worked and he didn’t believe it would work for him. It seemed like the moment Salo started down the path of conquering his “superhero syndrome,” he encountered yet another dreaded monster of entrepreneurship: “analysis paralysis.” With so many pieces of advice and options when it came to hiring, Salo relied on people like Pat and Chris Ducker, especially their advice to “just do it.”

After those massive mindset shifts, he has made a few key hires, including a virtual assistant (VA), writer, and designer, to help increase EzPacking’s impact on their customers. Here’s how:

One year ago, their website had almost no content on it. Customers would come to the site, buy, or leave.

With the additional team members, Salo now has the ability to add content to the site, educate his customers, and build loyal fans. His writer is doing most of the writing work, while the graphic designer is creating infographics, packing lists, and checklists. Then, his VA is putting everything together by interfacing between the other team members and adding the posts to Shopify.

There are so many tasks that you can outsource to talented people and Salo recommends starting off with social media management, customer service, graphic design, and going from there.

9. 1-to-1 Marketing Matters More Than Ever

In his July 2017 Income Report, Pat mentioned that he was using Bonjoro to send personal video messages to his customers.

Salo was extremely camera shy but after recording that video, he was more open to the possibility.

When I heard about Bonjoro, I was in the right mindset to give it a try. I’ve been using it for a month. I send a video to each new customer and it has made such a big difference. We used to do email follow up but these videos are so much more personal. My customers LOVE them and we are getting so many more reviews on our website and customer referrals because of this new follow up we are doing. It’s made a big impact in our business and it doesn’t take that much time.

Note: The only other time in his life that Salo had recorded a video of himself was for the Let Go challenge, above!

So, What’s Next for Salo and EzPacking?

He’s working on doubling his business again next year by growing his team and network of freelancers to improve efficiency.

This team will help him by allowing more time and freedom for Salo to spend time creating new products to sell online, focusing on content marketing, building their email list, and improving their SEO.

Long-term, Salo’s goal is to build another brand and replicate his success, like Pat has again and again with niche sites.

So that begs the question, what’s next for YOU? What’ve you learned from SPI in 2017 that you’re going to put into action in 2018? Let me know in the comments below.

Helpful Resources:

Twitter Makes Changes to Combat Spam: Here’s What You Need to Know

In February 2018, Twitter announced new guidelines around the use of automation and multiple accounts. If you use automation (such as scheduling tweets to be posted later) or manage multiple Twitter accounts, it’s important to understand and follow these new guidelines. Read on for more on the changes and how Hootsuite is making changes in our platform to help customers comply.

As Twitter explained in the announcement on their blog, the changes are intended to keep Twitter safe and spam-free. “One of the most common spam violations we see is the use of multiple accounts and the Twitter developer platform to attempt to artificially amplify or inflate the prominence of certain Tweets. To be clear: Twitter prohibits any attempt to use automation for the purposes of posting or disseminating spam, and such behavior may result in enforcement action.”

The new rules target bad actors abusing social networks to create and spread spam and fake news, essentially by making it harder to create or control accounts to make it look like a particular point of view has more support than it actually does.

If you’re already following industry best practices for social media management (as outlined, for example, in our guide to Twitter marketing), the changes are unlikely to affect your business. However, it’s important to be aware of the new guidelines to make sure you stay within the guardrails.

What’s changing?

Twitter’s new guidelines prohibit the following actions:

  • Posting the same or substantially similar content, replies, or mentions over multiple accounts you control.
  • Creating duplicate or substantially similar accounts, with or without the use of automation.
  • Posting multiple updates (on a single account or across multiple accounts you control) to a trending or popular topic (for instance, through the use of a specific hashtag) with an intent to subvert or manipulate the topic, or to artificially inflate the prominence of a hashtag or topic.

If you use any social media management platform like Hootsuite to manage your Twitter accounts and activity, you’ll no longer be able to select more than one Twitter account when composing messages, or to use RSS feeds to post automatically to Twitter. For more details about the changes in Hootsuite, see this article.

What do these changes mean for you?

If any of these posting tactics are part of your current Twitter strategy, you’ll need to make some changes.

If your Twitter strategy involves tweeting the same content to a single account, note that the updated guidelines prohibit this specifically in the context of posting “to a trending or popular topic (for instance, through the use of a specific hashtag) with an intent to subvert or manipulate the topic, or to artificially inflate the prominence of a hashtag or topic.”

This point repeats language from Twitter’s rules, where the act of repeating tweets to a single account is listed as one among many “factors that we take into account when determining what conduct is considered to be spamming.” The list includes a number of other factors such as spam complaints, reports of buying or selling Twitter interactions, posting misleading or malicious links, and so on.

The bottom line here: Before tweeting the same content multiple times, consider your context and whether you’re complying with the intent of these guidelines.

For brands with many Twitter handles, this might mean moving to a model where you tweet content from a primary account and have other accounts retweet content as appropriate, rather than publish identical updates across multiple accounts.

In fact, even though it’s been possible to post the same content to multiple social networks (and multiple accounts) for a long time now, cross-posting isn’t a strategy we recommend. Each network has its own unique characteristics and users, so while applying the same strategy to multiple networks might seem like a shortcut, it can cost you more in engagement and authenticity than it saves you in time and effort. Personalization for each network is key.

For a more targeted and customized approach, consider cross-promotion: promoting content through the creation of unique messages for each social media channel.

A solid cross-promotion strategy helps you speak the language of each platform, and can actually help increase the reach of your content. Check out our article on cross-posting vs. cross-promotion for examples of brands that are acing their cross-promotion strategies, and for best practices you can follow to make this strategy work for you.

For Hootsuite customers, we’re making changes within our product to help you stay within these new guardrails on Twitter. For more details about the changes in Hootsuite, see this article.

Social media is an amazing platform for building meaningful connections between people. And while automation can serve as a valuable tool for creating those connections at scale, we’re all in favor of social networks recalibrating the scales from time to time to keep them from tipping in favor of bots and spammers.

Here’s to keeping it real—and human—on social.

Everything You Need to Know About Google My Business

First thing first, what is Google My Business?

Essentially, Google My Business is a business listing service.

For example, if you search for Hootsuite you’ll see a box appear to the right hand of the results. This contains a short blurb about the company, social links, and other companies that are usually searched for by association.

But if we were a cafe serving up coffee, you’d also see opening hours, address, what times the cafe is usually busy, and any other information that Google thinks you’d be looking for.

example of a Google My Business listing

Why should you care about Google My Business?

Users don’t simply look things up on the internet, they Google it. Over 3.5 billion searches are made every single day on Google, so you want to make sure you can be found.

In 2015, Google introduced the concept of ‘micro-moments’, speaking to the idea that people expect an immediate answer in the moment—they want to know, go, do and buy. Google says this kind of search behavior is on the rise, with consumers forgetting what it was like not getting answers to their questions immediately.

Do you have a physical shop or branches? Ninety-seven percent of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2017, with 12 percent of those looking for a local business online every day. This gives your business enormous potential to be seen if you’re in the right spot.

Think about how often you use Google, and how annoying it can be when the information you’re looking for isn’t there. People could potentially be having the same experience when looking for your brand or business.

But there are a multitude of other reasons to use Google My Business:

It’s simple and easy to use

Google guides you through the process effortlessly. It’ll only take up a few minutes of your time to set up, but will boost your business’ visibility exponentially when searched for.

It’s important for SEO

Gone are the days where repeating a keyword on your website made Google take notice of your brand and hand you the number one spot on the search engine results page.

Giving as much information about your company and linking your social profiles and websites to Google My Business will help you rank higher in search results. This, in turn, will make it easier for potential customers to find you.

It’s a win-win.

It gives you a competitive edge

Your competitors could already be taking advantage of Google My Business, making it easier for them to rank higher than your business in search results. This means it may be easier for customers to choose your competitor as well.

By listing your business and providing as many details as possible, you give Google enough information to decide if you’re offering what a user is searching for, while potentially beating your competitors to the top spot.

It can boost engagement

Remember how many searches Google processes per day? Each one of those is a chance for your business or brand to connect and engage with your audience.

Google encourages users to review businesses, leave comments, and ask questions—all places where you can engage with your audience and build a relationship with them. Eighty-five percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so it pays to keep an eye on what people are saying about you and respond to any problems.

Plus it’s always a morale booster to see all the positive things your customers are saying about you!

Google My Business is like a mini website

There’s lots of tools you can use in Google My Business to make the journey seamless for your customers, from adding a booking form to enabling users to order online from your business.

Google can even help you build a basic website for free if you don’t have one. It’s autogenerated from the information that you’ve already given Google, so they’ve done a lot of the hard work for you.

It includes analytics

If you want to understand your customers better, Google My Business includes those insights. You can deep dive into where your customers came from and how they found you, enabling you to make informed decisions about your strategy

These insights also help you learn about your customers’ actions—where did they click? What images are getting the most views? How many customers tried to call you? All of this information can be used to better target your old customers and bring in new ones.

It’s free

Need we say more?

Tips for using Google My Business

Claim your Google My Business page

…if you haven’t already. As we mentioned earlier, Google tries to give as much information to a user as it knows, so it may have already formed a listing for you. It’s simple to create yours from scratch, however. Just use an email that’s associated with your brand or business.

Fill out everything

Give Google as much information as possible about your business. Fill out all the sections you can, making sure all information is in line with any of your other online points of customer contact.

Google will already have some information on your brand or business, and is probably trying to fill in the blanks itself. They also encourage their users to help them do this, by allowing them to suggest edits to your business’ listing if they know the answers. So, it’s likely that they have some of the information wrong.

In the best case scenario, this misinformation is slightly embarrassing for your business. In the worst case scenario, you lose a customer. So by at least updating your Google My Business listing, you’re able to control the information out there and ensure your customers are always (correctly) in the know.

In fact, you could take half an hour and read our blog post on improving your social media profiles to ensure consistency throughout all of your online profiles. That way a customer always has the most up-to-date information on every platform they’re viewing you on.

Add images

And show off your business! Humans are visual by nature and want to see what you’re all about, not just read about it. So use photos to give the searchers what they want.

These can be images that you’ve taken yourself, or ones that you’ve asked a professional to do. Think about the first impression they’ll give of your business, and see if it’s worth investing in paying for higher-quality images. You want customers to be attracted to your business, so show it off in the best way possible.

Treat it like an extension of your social media

Check in as often as you can, making sure information is up to date and that there are no unanswered questions or reviews you need to respond to.

The more you put into Google My Business, the more you’ll get out of it.

Add value

Got a sale on or a special offer? Or even a company update? Take advantage of Google My Business posts and let customers know about it.

Google My Business Posts are news updates that you can create about your business that are published directly on your listing. They also provide analytics, so you can see how well a post has performed and which one was most popular with customers.

example of a Google My Business Post

Creating a post takes no time at all and can help you reach a wider audience.

Now that you have enough information to get started using Google My Business, get out there, get listed, and get new customers.

8 Old School Marketing Tactics That Work for Social Media

Okay, so it’s hard to imagine Don Draper meeting with Bethlehem Steel execs in Sterling Cooper’s top floor Madison Avenue boardroom, telling them to get on Snapchat. But even though we no longer think of typewriters as “technology” or describe TVs as “radios with pictures,” there are plenty of solid ideas from the Mad Men-era of advertising that translate to social media.

So let’s throw it back to a time before #ThrowbackThursday existed for some good old-fashioned advice from the old-school pros.

1. Doing smart, thorough research

In the premier episode of Mad Men, Don Draper trashes an in-house researcher’s report on the psychology of cigarette users and decides to wing a presentation for Lucky Strike executives instead. While Draper pulls it off, not all ad executives were so cavalier.

“Advertising people who ignore research are as dangerous as generals who ignore decodes of enemy signals,” said David Ogilvy, the founder of Ogilvy & Mather who was credited as the “Original Mad Man” and the “Father of Advertising.”

Ogilvy’s experience at Gallup’s Audience Research Institute taught him to value data way before Big Data became a thing. His knack for research-supported copywriting is best exemplified in his headline for a 1960s Rolls-Royce ad, widely considered one of the best auto taglines of all time.

Ogilvy's Rolls Royce ad

Nowadays, social media marketers looking to emulate the OG Mad Man’s advice should support their strategies with analytics platforms and research-backed ideas. Here are a few tips on how to make social media data work for you.

2. Learning the rules, then breaking them

There are more game changers in the Advertising Hall of Fame than there are rule followers.

“Rules are what the artist breaks; the memorable never emerged from a formula,” said ad exec William Bernbach, creative director who co-founded the agency Doyle Dane Bernbach in 1949.

Bernbach’s “Think Small” campaign for Volkswagen in the 1960s threw out the rulebook for traditional print ads. To sell the compact Beetle to muscle car-crazed Americans, Bernbach’s team departed from convention by picturing a very tiny car on a page filled mainly with blank space. The small idea translated to a big boost in sales and brand loyalty.

VW Think Small ad

Rule breaking may seem trickier on social media, but it’s still possible. BETC’s “Like My Addiction” campaign caught more than 100K Instagrammers by surprise with the reveal that the Parisian “it girl” Louise Delage was a fake account designed to portray a textbook alcoholic. Created for French organization Addict Aide, the initiative demonstrated that it can be difficult to spot signs of youth alcoholism.

3. Avoiding sleazy bait-and-switch tactics

Known as the world’s first female copywriter and the author of the first ad to use sex appeal, Helen Lansdowne Resor was keeping advertising real long before the ad men of the swinging 60s and 70s came onto the scene.

Her conviction that “copy must be believable,” can be found throughout her entire body of work, including her early copywriting for Woodbury Soap Company in 1910. Smooth taglines like “A skin you love to touch,” and “Your skin is what you make it” remained in circulation for decades.

Skin You Love to Touch Ad

Social media marketers can take Lansdowne Resor’s point in two ways. First, copy should not be too over-the-top or exaggerated, especially since teens are skeptical when it comes to trusting brands. Avoid empty platitudes or superlatives that may arouse doubt.

Second, don’t lie. Millennials are 43 percent more likely than other generations to call a brand out on social media. You dig?

4. Getting right to the heart of things

It’s hard to imagine that the “I ❤ New York” slogan was invented in a pre-emoji world. Sparse in word count and minimal in design, the logo is emblematic of co-creator Jane Maas’ direct approach to advertising.

I Love New York ad

In How to Advertise, a book Maas co-wrote with colleague Kenneth Roman, she explains, “Commercial attention does not build. Your audience can only become less interested, never more. The level you reach in the first five seconds is the highest you will get, so don’t save your punches.”

The advice is eerily applicable to video marketing in the current digital media ecosystem, where attention spans are running shorter than ever, especially among today’s teenyboppers. You must catch your audience’s attention immediately, or risk losing them entirely.

Check out The Four Key Ingredients of a Perfect Social Video for more pointers on creating punchy video campaigns.

5. Using the right imagery

Inspired by a sea lion performance at a zoo, John Gilroy developed the “My Goodness, My Guinness” for the Irish beer company in the late 1920s. The series depicts a flabbergasted zookeeper prying his beer from the arms of a polar bear, the pouch of a kangaroo and the jaws of a crocodile. And, of course, a toucan.

The humorous misadventures of the zookeeper pop with vibrant colors set against an often-white backdrop. Keen observers point out that it was Gilroy’s uniform use of typography that helped solidify Guinness’ brand image. The popularity of the artwork and consistency of style made it one of the longest advertising campaigns in history.

Old Guiness ad

Using images is a great way to up your social media game, especially since visuals can aid in information retention. Marketers should ensure that photos complement branding and style guidelines. And where possible, add the logo and logotype to the image. Consistency in style is a bonus, but it will help your followers recognize your brand on any platform.

If you don’t have access to artists, photographers, or graphic designers, check out these resources for creating quick and beautiful images for social media.

6. Ditching the one-size-fits-all approach

As the first black man in Chicago advertising, Tom Burrell quickly saw that advertising boardrooms had a diversity problem. Too often, ad execs would create content for white audiences and expect it to have broad appeal. Or, they’d create a commercial for white actors and film a second version with black actors.

After witnessing a number of tone-deaf gaffs and insensitive blunders, Burrell found himself repeating to his colleagues, “Black people are not dark-skinned white people.”

By advocating for tailoring messages for specific communities, he was one of the first to pioneer ethnic micro targeting in advertising. He founded his own agency, Burrell Communications, in 1971 and quickly became the authority on crafting messages for African-American audiences.

In work he did for McDonalds, Burrell reasoned that the company’s slogan “You deserve a break today” sounded too occasional for many African Americans who had a more regular experience with the fast food chain. Instead, he came up with lines like “Sure is good to have around” and “Get down with something good at McDonald’s.”

McDonalds ad by Burrell

With Gen Zers forming the most ethnically diverse population in U.S. history, Burrell’s approach is one that social media marketers should put in practice.

Here’s how to find your audience on social media.

7. Knowing that context matters

In 1970, advertisers working for Schaefer beer created a print ad to commemorate the company’s tradition of producing America’s oldest lager. The minimal layout was designed to place emphasis on the year Schaefer’s lager was introduced, with a 10-word tagline reading: “1842. It was a very good year for beer drinkers.”

The two-page ad was placed in a number of popular publications such as LIFE Magazine. But its placement in Ebony Magazine, a publication with a predominantly African American readership, drew criticism.

As Tom Burrell points out in an interview with NPR Planet Money, the year 1842 in the United States was a year many black people were enslaved. “It just screamed insensitivity,” he says. “It was a horrible year for us.”

Schaefer beer ad in Ebony Magazine

Getting context wrong can make a brand appear ignorant at best. At worst, it can cause lasting damage to a brand’s image.

Getting context right, on the other hand, can have a positive effect. Wells Fargo adapted its television commercial so that would be optimized for Facebook, where viewers prefer shorter content and may watch videos without sound. To promote the launch of Friends and prove the show’s relevance, Netflix’s Pre-Roll campaign shows viewers a clip related to the YouTube video they’re about to watch.

Social media marketers should shift from cross-posting to cross-promoting, with content tailored to suit each platform.

8. Engaging the audience in a conversation

In the 1950s, American advertising executive Shirley Polykoff’s personal approach to copywriting convinced women across the United States to colour their hair. By posing the question “Does she… or doesn’t she?” in Clairol hair-dye commercials, she reassured women that a hair colouring—then a new fad—could look natural.

“Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer,” she said. Her lingo was so effective that it’s now part of the vernacular: “So natural only her hairdresser knows for sure” and “Is it true blondes have more fun?” Who knows, maybe if she’d worked on a campaign for Rogaine we’d still be using the phrase Chrome Dome.

Miss Clairol ad

Besides being concise and memorable, Polykoff does something important in her copy that all modern social media marketers should take note of—she asks a question. Posing questions to your audience is a great way to get followers engaged and increase the visibility of your campaigns, such as Airbnb’s #TripsOnAirbnb campaign.

To get the conversation going on social media, Airbnb asked followers to describe their perfect vacation in three emojis. Not only did the prompt generate hundreds of responses, but Airbnb kept the conversation going by responding to each submission with Airbnb Experience suggestions. Remember, if you want to start a convo, follow-through is key.

More brands have been exploring the opportunities to engage via direct messaging, too. To jumpstart conversations between brands and users, Facebook just introduced Click-to-Messenger ads.

Here are a few more tips from an expert on writing ace social media ads.

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A Simple Guide to Using Ads to Promote Your Content on Facebook

It’s something you’ve probably heard before: you need to use Facebook advertising to give your organic content a boost.

I’ve always been stronger at the organic side of marketing—SEO audits, creating inbound content, and writing.

That said, it’s getting incredibly hard to both rank in Google and get traction on social networks without some paid support.

With the help of Hootsuite’s social media marketing coordinator Christine Colling, I’ll walk you through the steps it takes to use Facebook ads to promote your content—from targeting the right audience to stretching tiny budgets.

In this article you’ll learn:

  • How to make strategic decisions when it comes to promoting organic content
  • The ins and outs of demographic targeting
  • The secret to getting the most out of your ad budget
  • The key metrics that can make or break your ad campaigns

Step 1: Find your best performing organic posts

“The simple strategy we use at Hootsuite is to promote content that is already performing well on Facebook,” explains Christine Colling. “Facebook’s advertising algorithm rewards engaging content, so you want to make sure that the content you promote will start conversations and earn engagements.”

To apply Colling’s tip, begin by analyzing your current Facebook content to see what’s already performing well. You can use a tool like Hootsuite Impact to gather this data. You can also try posting the content you want to promote on your Facebook page and see if it clicks with your audience.

If you have a tiny Facebook audience and never get traction for organic content, use Facebook’s Boost feature. Boosting your post is a cheap and fast way to see if your content will engage Facebook users. Spending a little budget here will help later when we go over how to build the full ad campaigns.

If you use Hootsuite, you can boost posts directly from your dashboard.

Step 2: Target the right audience

Once you’ve found a few pieces of content to promote, it’s time to build out your target audience.

One simple way to get started is to target people interested in your competitors, especially if those competitors have a large Facebook presence. You’ll also want to know a few basic things about your customers such as their general age and the cities or countries that most of them live in.

“A quick A/B test with Facebook can reveal some of this essential customer information,” says Colling. “Facebook will show you the top locations and demographics for people that engaged with your campaign.”

If you’d like to build a more sophisticated audience profile, use the categories below.


Facebook’s demographic targeting options let you reach people based on traits like age, gender, relationship status, education, workplace, job titles, and more. If you’ve created audience personas, you should have a pretty good idea of which demographics you want to target.

Interests and behaviors

This type of targeting allows you to reach audience members based on their interests or, well, their behaviors. As Colling explains, “Match your interest targeting to the content—for example, in our TED Talks we targeted to people who liked TED Talks in addition to targeting the demographics from our customer persona.”

If you’re really looking to narrow down your audience, interests can sometimes be too broad. We recommend using the “But No One Else Would” trick. Think about what makes your audience unique. What are some things they would find useful or interesting, but no one else would? Find and focus on these niche areas to attract your target customers.

For example, if I’m trying to sell an advanced copywriting course, it would be a mistake to target people interested in “marketing” and even “copywriting,” as those categories are very broad. But if I target fans who have liked the page of the famed author and copywriting expert Robert Collier, those are serious students of the craft who have done their research—and who are much more likely to purchase a course.

Layer targeting

Use the process of layer targeting to narrow down your audience even more. The more specific and focused your audience is, the better chance your message will resonate.

For example, an investing platform and publisher like WealthSimple might target users with a college degree who have also liked the Wall Street Journal or another competitor.

You can also exclude people based on interests and demographics. So, a brand like WealthSimple might want to target people with college degree and who like one of their competitors. Than they can tell Facebook to exclude people who already like WealthSimple to be sure their content is being delivered to a new audience.

Device and timing

You need to be where—and when—your audience is active.

“A wedding company would know that their audience is likely female and online in the evenings and weekends,” explains Colling. “So with this information, you can turn your boost off during the day.”

You also need to consider what kind of device your audience is using most frequently, and when. They could be using a mobile device for their browsing or research purposes, but then a laptop when it comes time to actually buy.

With Facebook’s device-specific targeting options, you can initially target ads to one device as part of a brand awareness initiative, then target a different device to drive conversions, and another to complete the sale.

To get the most out of this feature, first identify the type of device you want to target depending on your campaign goals. Consider your target audience
and the devices they would be most likely to use based on their demographics and behavior.

Custom audience

Custom audiences let you find specific groups of people to target based on an existing set of data. This could include email lists, data from CRM systems such as HubSpot or Salesforce, and people who have liked your Facebook Page.

For example, if you want to reach people who have visited your brand or product page but haven’t purchased anything, you can create a custom audience to target these people.

Lookalike audience

Lookalike audiences help you “reach the people who are similar to your existing customer database—making them highly likely to convert as well.”

Once you’ve figured out what works for your custom audiences, you can create lookalike audiences from this data and show them similar ad content. If your main objectives are brand awareness and customer acquisition, a lookalike audience is the answer. Learn more about creating a lookalike audience with our blog post How to Create the Perfect Facebook Ad in 10 Minutes.

Step 3: Build your ad

It’s now time to build your Facebook ad.

“We’ve run successful static ads,” says Colling. “But if you can, you’ll see much higher returns from creating a video ad—for example, a short 15-second video that pitches why people should read or click through to your content.”

At Hootsuite, we’ve seen video ads consistently outperform static ads. Not everyone can afford a video team, but there are different tools such as Animoto that you can use to create inexpensive videos on any budget.

If a video is out of reach, make sure you do some A/B testing for your static ad. Facebook shows you which images are resonating. If you have the Facebook Pixel installed, you’ll also be able to see which images lead to conversions on your website.

Step 4: Set your budget

When it comes to your Facebook ad budget, there are two ways to define cost—overall amount spent and the cost per result. If you have a budget of $500 per month, this is your overall amount spent. If you divide this amount by the number of clicks (or other measurement), you get your cost per result.

At Hootsuite, the key areas we measure are cost-per-click, cost-per-result, and cost-per-engagement.

“We set targets for each of these so we can easily tell if something is underperforming—or draining our budget,” Colling explains. “We’ve done this at Hootsuite for years, so our targeting is very precise and our costs are low. Any brand that sticks to it and slowly refines their ad process will see their targeting improve and costs go down.”

While results can be achieved with any budget, you need to set realistic goals depending on your budget.

“Smaller budgets need smaller locations,” Colling explains. “You can’t spend $50 and target all of New York. Target a smaller area and for shorter time frame, such as a week. Make sure you’re targeting the right areas. Don’t target fancy Manhattanites with your time tracking software for plumbers—target New Jersey.”

In order to simplify the budgeting process, we recommend setting a daily budget. Divide your overall amount spent per month by days in the month to get this number. Then, set a reminder in your calendar to check on your budget and costs every day.

Pay attention to the more successful days (i.e., those with lower CPCs.) What did you do differently on those days? What steps can be replicated? Consider the variables that could have affected your results, and use this information to optimize your future campaign budget.

Step 5: Measure performance

One of the most significant errors social ad managers can make is forgetting to track how their ads are performing. If you forget—or don’t know how—to measure your ads properly, you can end up costing your business a lot of time and money.

Measuring your Facebook ads means paying attention to what’s working—and what isn’t.

“In the start, it’s important to check a lot. I recommend checking on your campaigns every 24 hours and 48 hours to make any tweaks. Once an ad is performing well, we’ll let it sit till the end of the campaign,” Colling explains.

When you closely monitor your ads, you’re able to quickly make decisions such as pausing or stopping ads that aren’t performing well. This lets you pour that budget back into top-performing ads. Monitoring your ads gives you the opportunity to make adjustments that will ultimately drive better results.

What to track

Before you begin any campaign, you need to establish performance metrics relevant to your objectives. According to Altimeter, only 34 percent of organizations feel that their social strategy is connected to business outcomes.

If your objective is business conversions, for example, you might want to look at the number of leads driven by your Facebook ads.

“We track cost-per-conversion when our goal and main objective is conversions, Colling says. If someone signs up for a webinar or downloads a piece of content, we’re able to track the business impact of this.”

As we explain in our guide to proving social media ROI, there are three key questions to ask yourself when deciding what metrics to measure with your Facebook Ads:

  • Does it align with my objectives?
  • Does it help me make decisions?
  • Do I have the capacity to measure it effectively?


Once you have your metrics in place and you start seeing results, it’s important to build reports. Collecting this data will help you make more informed campaign decisions in the future.

With Hootsuite Ads’ reporting tool, you have the ability to customize PDF reports in minutes. With drag-and-drop tools, you can display key elements and metrics in a format that makes sense for your business. These reports can easily be white-labeled and set up for automated delivery directly to your inbox.


It can be difficult to measure success if you don’t know what a successful campaign looks like in your industry. Hootsuite Ads gives you the most up-to-date Facebook and Instagram advertising metrics for your industry so you can make informed decisions around your advertising campaigns.

“We also use AdEspresso for automatically promoting content, which is a big time saver. You can set a threshold for when you boost a post, such as five shares—which means I don’t have to manually do this,” Colling shares.

For more on ad optimization, check out our blog post 5 Surprising Ways to Optimize your Facebook Ads.

Get the most out of your Facebook ad budget with AdEspresso by Hootsuite or Hootsuite Ads. Both are powerful options that make it easy to create, manage, and optimize campaigns.

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12 LinkedIn Accounts That Will Make You Smarter

Your brain is a muscle (or so I’ve been told). Just like your workout routine, if you neglect intellectual pursuits, you won’t see any improvements.

Luckily, with so many influential people and organizations sharing their expertise on social, it’s easy to keep your brain sharp. We’ve created a list of LinkedIn accounts to follow for when you’re on that quest for knowledge.

1. Susan Cain

Whether you’re just starting your career or you’re an executive promoting your top talent, Susan Cain has something to teach every one of us. She is the co-founder of the Quiet Revolution and author of the award-winning New York Times bestseller, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Cain gives much-needed credit to the quiet doers of the world and shows how often we overlook and undervalue introverts. Her expertise on the topic has been featured in publications like The Atlantic, New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. And her Ted Talk has over 18 million views.

On LinkedIn she regularly shares helpful business advice for introverts.

screenshot of a Susan Cain post on Linkedin

2. Arlene Dickinson

If you’ve ever watched an episode of CBC’s award-winning series Dragon’s Den or The Big Decision, then you’ve probably heard of Arlene Dickinson. She’s one of Canada’s most iconic entrepreneurs and is the author of bestselling books, Persuasion and All In.

As you can imagine, this self-made millionaire has a few things to teach us about how to manage money and run a business. Dickinson also shares a monthly digest on LinkedIn with her latest sources of inspiration.

3. Dr. Travis Bradberry

Most of us could probably be a little more emotionally tuned in at work, and Dr. Travis Bradberry offers simple ways for us to get there. Bradberry is an expert in emotional intelligence and an award-winning coauthor of the bestseller Emotional Intelligence 2.0.

His work has appeared in publications like Newsweek, BusinessWeek, and The Harvard Business Review. On top of all that, Bradberry regularly writes and shares educational content on LinkedIn that makes emotional intelligence easy to understand and accessible. For example, 10 Things Confident People Won’t Do and 9 Bad Manager Habits That Make People Quit. If you’re looking for a quick read and useful tips for navigating tricky situations at work, Bradberry is worth a follow.

screenshot of Dr. Travis Bradberry's post on LinkedIn

4. Wealthsimple

Wealthsimple is an online investing platform that makes personal finance and investing fun to learn about. Their recurring series, Money Diaries, tells some pretty amazing stories, including interviews with people like Woody Harrelson, Margaret Atwood, and Tegan and Sara.

They’ve also started a new series called Smart People Explain Things, where experts break down tricky topics around finance. Follow Wealthsimple if you want investing tips or if you enjoy reading stories from beloved celebrities.

5. Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global and founder of The Huffington Post, wants to change the way you think about career success. In her latest bestselling books, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution, she talks about the importance of improving mindfulness and wellbeing at work.

On LinkedIn she shares lessons about everything from the impact of the internet on our personalities to how to build confidence in a team environment.

6. Kathryn Minshew

Kathryn Minshew is the co-author of The New Rules of Work and co-founder and CEO of The Muse, a platform that helps people navigate their careers. She was listed in Forbes’ 30 under 30 in Media and Inc.’s 15 Women to Watch in Tech.

On LinkedIn Minshew shares stories about the changing world of work and advocates for more inclusive, flexible policies so that companies can keep their best talent around longer.

screenshot of a Kathryn Minshew LinkedIn Post

7. SpaceX

SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk with the mission to revolutionize space technology and make it possible for people to live on other planets. With some historic discoveries and expeditions under their belt, it’s no surprise that they were named one of the World’s 50 Most Innovative Companies for 2018 by Fast Company.

Follow SpaceX to get news on the latest space technologies.

8. Bill Gates

A veteran of the tech world, Bill Gates is an investor, author, philanthropist, and co-founder of Microsoft. Gates has a lot of valuable insights and experiences from his time at Microsoft and ongoing work for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Whether he’s having a chat with Steven Pinker about human happiness or sharing breakthrough research in the clean energy sector, his educational posts on LinkedIn cater to a range of interests.

9. General Electric

As discussed in the Hootsuite podcast, General Electric (GE) has won a lot of awards for creating social content that educates and inspires their audience. (You might remember their #6secondsciencefair or their virtual reality series on science.)

On LinkedIn they share company updates and technological advances, like their new MRI machine, and often invite their LinkedIn followers to join discussions on discoveries in the field.

 10. Ryan Holmes

Ryan Holmes is the CEO of Hootsuite and author of the Amazon-best-selling guide to social media for leaders, The $4 Billion Dollar Tweet. He shares his insights on the world of tech and social media in Forbes, Fast Company, and Inc. He also ranks as a global influencer on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Follow Holmes to learn about the latest social media trends, tips for business leaders, and get insights on how to create and maintain a positive company culture.

screenshot of a Ryan Holmes LinkedIn Post

11. Ann Handley

If you’re looking to brush up your writing skills, Ann Handley is a good place to start. She’s a digital marketing expert and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Everybody Writes. She was cited in Forbes as the most influential women in social media and made the list of 20 women bloggers in ForbesWoman.

On LinkedIn Handley shares her marketing expertise along with her latest thoughts about the world of writing. If you like reading about the latest Oxford comma debate or want helpful marketing tips, follow Handley.

screenshot of an Ann Handley LinkedIn Post

12. Adobe

As a leader in the digital media creation space, Adobe has a lot of knowledge to pass on to creatives and brands. On LinkedIn Adobe shares the latest trends happening in the digital space, along with tips from experts on how to improve your strategies.

Follow Adobe if you want to create better digital experiences for your brand.

Follow these LinkedIn accounts to stay educated and curious. You’ll open your mind to new experiences, get insights on your industry, and make your work life more enjoyable.

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