David Siteman GarlandToday’s interview is with David Siteman Garland, CEO of The Rise to the Top.  David bills TRTTT as The #1 Non-Boring Resource for Marketing Like an Entreprenuer: Smarter, Faster, Cheaper.  His website is an awesome resource for anyone who is getting started or already in business.  He also hosts a weekly TV show on ABC.

I’ve spoken with David a few times via Twitter (@TheRiseToTheTop) and also met him at the November ‘edition’ of the St Louis Social Media Group.  He’s quite energetic and I enjoyed his presentation.

David, I know your business has been around for several years, what first spurred you to get involved with social media for your business?

Social media for me was a little bit of being in the right place at the right time. I was one of the first 5,000 members on Facebook because I happened to be in college at the time (back when it was called THE Facebook and only for college students) and my school, Washington University in St. Louis, was one of the first schools to be added to Facebook.

For me, it started as a way to communicate with my friends in school and quickly evolved to be encompass forming relationships with other, promoting my businesses and other people’s businesses.

Tell us about The Rise to the Top’s online strategy. What online tools are you using now to grow your customer base?

Great question especially since I feel a lot of companies do not have an online strategy at all which can be a huge problem. We love experimenting and try not to be afraid to fail, but we do have a strategy.

Our platform or home base is a custom created website by our design/web team (therisetothetop.com) which has daily content (Monday-Friday) for entrepreneurs and marketers via our online web show and interviews hosted on WordPress. The strategy is simple. We want to be helpful to business owners and entrepreneurs and bring them to our
site to watch shows, interact and improve their business.

Our mix is social media, email marketing, TV and online content.

We use social media tools (Twitter, Facebook) to interact with folks, form relationships and as a promotional strategy to come to our site. I also do a fair amount of guest blogging and guest videos which is also a very big promotional strategy for us.

The TV show we have ran on ABC for the past year-and-a-half is also partly an online strategy since we want to bring people to our website and social networking accounts.

Current tools include: Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Ping.FM (to update all sites at once), Widget Realm (which syndicates our content onto mobile devices and Yahoo! TV Widgets), Objective Marketer (helps organize and analyze social media efforts) and Feedblitz (email marketing).

What´s the “one thing” that social media has taught you about your business?

Business has always been and will always be about relationships. Whether the relationships are face-to-face, over the phone (especially when my Grandma leaves me a 3-minute message) or on social networks. Building reciprocal and helpful relationships continue to be the key and social media simply puts that notion on steroids. Why? Essentially, you can access anyone you want.

What was your biggest social media blunder? How did it affect your business? How about your biggest success?

Somewhat hard to pick a blunder since I view everything as a learning experience. I would say promoting to everyone on Facebook was a blunder. Meaning promoting my old business, professional inline hockey, to say 22 year old women. Not exactly the right demographic. I learned early on to segment and make sure to know your audience.

Biggest success was a result of Guy Kawasaki. We have a relationship because of social media and it was a huge tipping point for our business when he liked some content I created (10 Big Marketing Predictions For 2010) and he along with others caused a viral effect over over 700 retweets and countless other good things that happened (including media interviews, consulting gigs, etc.). The key was forming the relationship, giving first and he reciprocated.

How do you measure and evaluate the results of your online efforts?

Three ways:

Are there any new tools that you’re playing with that haven’t caught on to the mainstream, but are working well for you?

I really like Gist which organizes your contacts from all sources (Facebook, Twitter, Email), Objective Marketer which is an incredibly cool social media tool for organizing and measuring efforts, and Feedblitz which is an automated email system.

The common ground of the three is all three make life a lot easier online.

What is your favorite part of social media? Your least favorite?

My favorite part is the first word: “social”. I’m naturally an extrovert both online and away from the computer and love meeting and helping new people. Social media is like crack for me.

My least favorite is that with any set of tools you will have people that try to game the system and make it a tiny bit worse for everyone. Meaning sketchy “Work From Home” people and those that just don’t understand that social media is people driven and not a place for corporate babble or to use as a megaphone for your business without interacting. But, I don’t let that worry me. You can’t worry about the negabots.

You’ve featured some pretty big names in the ‘twittersphere’ – from Chris Brogan to Gary Veynerchuck on your website. They obviously put a lot of emphasis for business growth on social media. Do you agree or disagree?

I 100% agree. Gary and Chris are two very different people with different personalities, outlooks, platforms, strategies, etc. Their common ground is they have used social tools to really build businesses. They are at the peak of the mountain and also reminders that really anyone with hard work and a great idea can climb to the top using social media.

What are some good tips for a small business that wants to get into SM but aren’t sure how?

  1. Start by listening. Use tools like Twitter Search, Facebook Search, Google Blogsearch to look for your name, your companies name, and competitors. What are they doing? Also, look for keywords related to your business. Example: “Chinese Food St. Louis”
  2. Have a platform before engaging. An interactive website, blog, etc. will give the social people on social media a place they would like to visit.
  3. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try different things. Start by reacting and responding to your niche. Follow the thought leads in your niche. As opposed to having a set campaign, start by having little conversations.

Do you recommend any books or blogs that have helped your business grow?

Sure. Putting The Public Back In Public Relations by Brian Solis. The Whuffie Factor by Tara Hunt. Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith.

Blogs: ChrisBrogan.com, GaryVaynerchuk.com, BrianSolis.com, Mashable.com

Are you a Saint Louis business owner that is using Internet Marketing or Social Media to expand your exposure and brand? I’d love to do an interview with you!  Just email me Will [at] WillHanke [dot] com today! See other St Louis business owner interviews

2 Responses

  1. Great interview Will! Third time I have heard that Trust Agents is worth a read — and David had just tweeted something out about Gist. Checking them out for sure.

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