Why CEOs With Social Media Skills Will Dominate With Gaetano DiNardi

Stephen: Hey guys, welcome to another episode of the Digital Masters Podcast. Today we have on Gaetano DiNardo, and we’re going to be talking about why having social media marketing skills is going to be the X factor for companies and brands going forward. So let’s get into it. 

All right. What is going on, man?

Hey, thanks for being on the show today. 

Gaetano: Hey, thanks for having me, Stephen. Appreciate you. 

Stephen: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I appreciate it. 

So I’ve been wanting you on the show for a while. But I was waiting for the opportunity and I saw a post you did the other day. You were talking about how CEOs with social marketing skills are really going to be the X factor going forward for brands.

And so I thought we could chat a little bit about that. And so the first thing I know is you’re all about results and it’s something you’re always talking about, which I agree with. But what insights or proof are you operating from to make you come to that conclusion for the people who may not believe that yet?

Gaetano: Yeah. So I guess the question is how do you prove that if a CEO is doing marketing that it’s worth doing? 

Stephen: Yeah, I guess so. Because there are a lot of people out there, at least in the realm that I live in, where people haven’t even bought into social media yet.

So what are you seeing out there? What gives you this insight that this is the X factor? 

Gaetano: Okay. I would say the highest-paid-attention to topic right now in B2B marketing is the shift away from companies that are focused mainly on the 5% of the market that is in the buying cycle.

The reality is that 95% of the market, more or less, — that’s not an exact data figure, but it’s just figurative speech — but you get the point, around 95% is not in the market in a given moment. So why are B2B companies marketing to everyone like they’re in a buying cycle?

And that goes for everything from the calls to action on a landing page, or an ad, the language being used, the type of creative that’s being deployed. It may be demo focused, right? Pricing and demo focused. But the reality is that’s just not how it happens. 

Even for something very basic, like a toothbrush, you’re not walking around every day…how often are you in the market for a toothbrush? Not very often.

Stephen: Only when that little light comes on and tells me I need one. 

Gaetano: Yeah. Something like that happens. Or, like me, you’re an old school guy and you like the soft bristle stuff. Or you lose a toothbrush or you’re traveling or the one you have is just no longer sufficient. 

And then what do you do? You think about the kinds of brands that are marketing to you all the time. You’re going to go to the store and pick something that you’re familiar with. 

And it’s the same concept in B2B marketing now.

And this shift is happening where companies are starting to understand, in B2B software especially, we need to start getting away from this transactional mindset with our marketing. We have to start being memorable. Likable, creative again. We have to be memorable. 

What gets repeated gets remembered and what gets remembered gets done!

That’s kinda like the Donald Trump method. Be controversial, but be memorable. 

Where I’m going with all this is how CEOs come into the picture. I don’t know about you, but it’s very hard for B2B corporate brand messaging to be exciting, memorable, remarkable, something that’s attractive, and makes you want to find out more about a solution or even just more about this company, their point of view on the world, why they exist, what they do.

And so one of the best ways to leverage that is through content and storytelling. And who better in your company, then, to deliver that message on camera, in a convincing way? In a method of conviction, of authenticity? There’s nobody better than the CEO to tell that story.

That’s true especially if it’s a founder CEO. Getting back to it, there are many examples of companies who are thriving because their CEOs play a huge role or at least an intermediate role in their messaging, marketing, brand, corporate PR, and social strategy. 

And you need credibility as well. CEOs for the most part have credibility. So all those things considered, this shift and trend away from the transactional advertising and marketing motion to one of being memorable, authentic, and interesting is the shift that we’re seeing. And that’s where CEOs can come into the picture and make a huge impact.

Stephen: Yeah. And then marketing to me is more than just messaging. It’s also improving the product. So I guess that’s product marketing, but it all revolves around the same thing. If you’re out there interacting with the public, if you’re on social media, you’re doing posts, doing videos, you’re ultimately going to get a chance to interact with people.

Not necessarily people that are buying now, but just customers in general. And then you’re going to get feedback that’s going to allow you to improve the product and understand what people actually want. What are they saying? What’s on their mind?

Gaetano: Yes. You can get inside the mindset of your potential customers by doing things like reading comments. 

There’s a product out there or a solution called Wynter that was launched by Peep Laja, where you can actually submit your messaging and your website to a focus group of individuals that meet your demographic and psychographic criteria. Then they can prove or disprove your messaging hypothesis. 

So there are ways of testing and getting validation about your messaging about things like you’re saying, like product feedback. All that is also apparent on review sites and B2B peer communities like Sales Hacker, for example, and there are many others.

To tie this all together, if you have a CEO who is able to command engagement, command attention, know where the audiences that would care about your solution hang out online, and then how to get your message in front of those people…

If your CEO can be a vector to help you spread that message to the people that matter, where they hang out online in the places that matter, you’re just going to be much more positioned for success in the long run. 

Stephen: Yeah. When you say it, it almost seems too simple. Just have engaging content, go to where people are, read the comments. Where is it that you think people go wrong in the execution? 

Gaetano: They fail on the most important part. The most important part is the actual creative or the message itself. There’s far too much copying. There’s not enough uniqueness in design. I think people are defaulting too much to text-based advertising and displaying static assets.

The reality is that video and audio are the most memorable marketing vectors. Like people remember jingles, people remember commercials. They remember ads that made them change an emotion or an emotion was generated as a result of the ad. Everybody remembers The Dollar Shave Club commercial that transformed their entire business.

There are many. The Budweiser hat, right? I can go on and on about memorable advertising campaigns that kept brands in the limelight. But they would never be able to do that with just text. So text is good for scanning and deeper understanding. But for those top line campaign-based memorable things it’s gotta be either video or audio and brands. They need to focus more on that instead of just text-based display or display creative. 

Stephen: Yeah. I can attest to that, because I post video on LinkedIn every day, even though I know that I get fewer views and I know that LinkedIn counts a view on a text post versus a view on a video a little bit differently.

But I know from feedback that when I end up talking to somebody, they’re like, ‘Oh man, it feels like I already know you.’ I know that the people who aren’t into me or don’t vibe with me or whatever, those people just never call me. But the people that do, they’ve usually said that they’d been watching my videos for a while, which I think is kind of interesting.

Gaetano: That’s great, man. That’s great. Yeah. So like you’re saying, maybe the reach is wider… or it isn’t as wide, it’s more narrow. But the people who are paying attention to that video that you’re putting out, they’re really paying attention. They’re consuming it. So back to the thing you asked, how do you know it’s working?

You don’t have a lead metric. You don’t expect somebody to create a video on LinkedIn and it’s going to generate business. But what you want is for that message to get consumed. That’s the whole point. It’s like a musician. The point of making songs and making albums is so that people will listen to the music.

That’s what you want. No musician would say I’m going to make an album just so that I can be the only person listening to it in my room. I’m going to close the door, lock the door to my room, and I’m going to be the only person that listens to the album. That’s not how it works. You want people to consume your message.

So the way to tell if this is effective or not is to look at engagement metrics, you look at comments, you look at if there’s a website-based component to this, you look at things like time on page. That will be very telling as well. Did people click from the initial entry point, into deeper layers of the site to discover more, maybe browse some solutions or vertical pages or product or future pages or something like that?

Total overall session duration is a telling sign. Total session refers to the time, the total amount of time spent on a website. Then things like backlinks and social shares also can matter. 

And the video watch-through you can count as a goal conversion is the amount of time that a video was spent being watched. Once it passes a certain watch threshold, that counts as a goal conversion for your videos. 

So that is the shift in measurement. It’s getting far away from, ‘Hey, we’re gonna do six months of advertising on LinkedIn to our ICP with this kind of creative and messaging.’ The way we’re going to measure the success of this campaign is engagement on the content.

And then does that play a correlation to an increase in direct traffic, brand direct traffic. We should see more people searching the brand domain into the URL space bar, hitting enter. We should see more branded traffic as a result of these campaigns if we know they’re working well. If you are doing this in a local or targeted area, you should see that traffic from those regions is increasing.

So there are ways to correlate your brand advertising efforts back to the bottom line. It just may not be as clear cut as ‘did this produce a lead,’ or ‘what’s our cost per acquisition?’ 

Stephen: Yeah, I got you. And then even for people who are just like me, I’m not even running ads, but I’m listening to people who DM me and say, ‘Hey, that was a cool post.’

And then engaging with them and saying, ‘Oh, what did you like about it? What was it about it that you liked?’ Even just simple things like that. When I’m working with clients, that’s one of the hardest things to get across, that I have to consistently talk about. They’re always, ‘When do I get my first client?’ and I’m talking about first let’s get somebody to just reach out and say, ‘Hey, that was a cool post.’

That’s almost the first metric to know if you’re going down the right path. 

Cool. So the flip side is, and I’m just kinda curious what your point of view is on this because you’ve talked a lot about how people misuse their time on social platforms. Like they’re wasting a lot of time on places like LinkedIn. 

How should we be thinking about this? There’s this huge opportunity, this is where the world is going, but there’s also this negative aspect to social media. How do you think through and balance those two things?

Gaetano: Yes. I would say there are a couple of things to be careful about. One is just getting caught up on the hype train and the vanity. That can become very time-sucking for people. 

There’s a lot of negativity and toxicity as well. People can get sucked into comment battles with strangers, just because they want to prove a point, that sort of thing. Politics, religion, sex, you want to avoid threads like that. So I do see people getting sucked into that. 

I do see a lot of vanity and people getting caught up in the hype and I see this mistake, too, people trying to push their own personal brand harder than that of the companies they work for. So it starts to raise eyebrows. Companies are starting to say this person is a high profile person at my company and they spend an awful lot of time promoting their personal course, their online course, or Patreon group for a one-time fee of $400, whatever. I’m just throwing a number out. You see a lot of that. And so that is going to make people raise their eyebrows. So I would say, that is certainly one thing too.

The other thing to avoid is just assuming that your audience is active and engaging on a specific platform. One trap is following the shiny new trends. If someone says, ‘Hey,’ like you said to me, ‘are you on TikTok yet?’ Not every audience is on TikTok. I think it’s great for some, maybe not great for others.

Same applies to LinkedIn. Twitter. Instagram. You’ve got to know what your audience is doing online. If, for example, you’re targeting construction workers, the construction industry is probably not the hugest interacting part of the community on LinkedIn, for example.

I’m just throwing that out there. Doctors are notoriously hard to market to on social platforms too. So it’s just figuring out whether this platform is right based on the audience that I’m targeting. Does this platform have an affinity for the audience that I’m going after?

And I think those are the things to consider. 

Stephen: Yeah, that makes sense. When I first got onto LinkedIn I hadn’t really been on any social platform before that. So I was totally new to this whole concept and I just made the assumption that everyone was on there too. Over time I realized that a lot of it is just content creators talking to other content creators. [laughter]

Like those are the people that are there a lot. The professionals log in for 15 minutes, like once a week, if that, and then they’re out of there.

Gaetano: Yeah. And that’s like me, I try to limit my time. 

The final component to this is productivity. The world that we live in is insanely distracted. It’s full of endless distractions online and you can end up going down rabbit holes that will make you lose productivity because you’re spending too much time going through the cycle of checking every platform. 

There are so many people on WhatsApp, email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Snapchat. The list just goes on and on. Slack. Asana. Once you’ve checked, you’ve made a cycle. The cycle is what I guess I’ll call it. Once you go through the cycle of checking all these platforms that could be a combined two hours’ worth of work, responding to comments, clearing that inbox.

You’re wiped after that. 

Stephen: Your mind is frazzled. 

Gaetano: Your mind is frazzled. Yeah. So how do you go from whack-a-mole workflow to like more of a deep-focused workflow mode? That is something to be mindful of if you’re going to be active on social media because it can get very distracting and you can fall victim to whack-a-mole syndrome and waste a lot of time and lose productivity as a result of being addicted to social media.

Stephen: Even when I’m trying to be intentional, I’ll jump onto LinkedIn. I’ll have something that I wanted to do. I was like, I need to go check out this specific thing. It pops open and I literally forget what I was trying to do. And now I’m sitting there, I see the feed and it’s just like, oh man… 

Gaetano: Yeah, it’s a real problem.

Stephen: Yeah. So then, for the people that want nothing to do with social media, what’s the path for companies or individuals that just want nothing to do with social media? Do you think they’re doomed or is there a path? 

Gaetano: If there are people who are giving up on social media because it’s too addicting and they’re just losing too much productivity, I don’t necessarily knock them for that.

I’ll be honest with you. If I didn’t have to be so up to date and up to speed on everything that’s going on in the world, I would probably choose to not be on all these platforms. The reality is that you can learn a lot from Twitter and LinkedIn.

I think on Instagram, there’s a lot of mindless scrolling, a lot of bikini chicks and weed videos, fights, and WorldStarHipHop, stupid stuff like that which can become quite toxic if you get exposed to too much of it. 

But I follow smart minds on Twitter and I learned about investing. I learned about crypto. I learned about growth marketing. I learned about real estate. I learned about sales. I learned about raising money, startup life, and what it’s like to be a founder, SEO. The SEO community is huge on Twitter. So there are certain communities on certain platforms that you don’t want to be necessarily excluded from by means of your decision not to participate.

But if you are just like an advocacy freak or you just really are big on protecting your time and you don’t want to fall prey to the addictive mechanisms that are inherently placed in every single online platform that we subscribe to… I wouldn’t necessarily knock someone for deleting their accounts or just not participating in modern day social media. So it’s a double-edged sword, but that’s just my initial gut check response, man. 

Stephen: No, I get you. Yeah. I have to say too there’s been a couple of posts on LinkedIn specifically, that kind of changed my trajectory, it’s not like they give you the full blueprint or anything, but I remember Chris made a post about repurposing content and a couple of dots in my head just connected. 

I was like, Gary V has been talking about this and he’s being successful. And it was enough of a proof point where I just was able to jump in and just say, okay, I’m going to figure this out and just go for it. And some of those things have really changed my life.

Gaetano: That’s awesome. Yeah. That’s amazing. 

Stephen: Yeah, totally. Yeah. And you said a couple of things too, that are still sticking in my head. You were talking about how good marketers are typically creatives and they do music. And ever since you said that I’ve just been in the back of my head chewing on that, thinking about why that might be.

And maybe that’s a conversation for another day. 

So let’s do the rapid fire and then I’ll get you out of here. So just tell me what you think: underrated, overrated. Or properly rated.

SEO. 

Gaetano: Properly rated. 

Stephen: What about SEO for smaller companies that don’t have as many resources?

Gaetano: There’s always something that you can be doing. Here’s what I’ll say about that. First, it depends on how crucial SEO is to your sales motion. Are you a product that is not very expensive? Has a lot of search volume? Is it a high transactional sales motion? And you know that SEO could be a big part of your revenue strategy? 

If you’re producing inbound demand then obviously that means that PPC is also going to be important. That also means affiliate marketing is going to be important. So it’s most likely that it won’t just be looking at SEO. It’ll be looking at all things inbound and all things search. So it’s likely that if SEO is important, all those things are important and it just really has to align back to your revenue model.

So that is what you should think about with regards to SEO being overrated, underrated, or properly rated. I think it’s just the classic, ‘It depends’ answer. But an example of where SEO may not make sense is if you’re selling something that doesn’t have any search volume or people don’t know how to search for it.

If it’s a very obscure or new thing that there’s no ongoing bottom of funnel demand for at scale, then SEO will only benefit you if you want to use it as an audience development mechanism, if you want to build content, because the kinds of eyeballs who are searching this content, you want them to become familiar with you. Then it matters. 

So you have to think about the ways you’re using SEO and why, what area of the funnel, how does it align back to the revenue model, but in a nutshell, that’s how you could think about it. 

Stephen: Got it. And you did mention, like the first example you brought up was a lower priced item. What about higher priced items? Tell me how you’d think differently if it’s a higher ticket item. 

Gaetano: If it’s a higher ticket item, it’s unlikely somebody is going to search for something…let’s think of something really high ticket. Say you are talking about sales enablement software for the enterprise, that could be something that’s in the 50 K range. 

Or learning management software for HR executives. That could be pretty expensive as well. People are doing research about this online, and there’s not any certain bottom of the funnel thing that they’re going to search that’s going to make them buy it tomorrow. 

But what you want to do is just be present along all those touchpoints of their decision-making. So they’re going to be searching things like comparisons, a tool X versus tool Y, pricing. They’re going to be searching for pricing reviews. They’re going to be searching for product reviews, company XYZ reviews.

And they’re going to go to places like Gartner Peer Insights, and G2 and Software Advice, and Capterra, and just see what are people saying about this? What are the use cases? And so those are the things I think you have to check the boxes on and make sure that you’re secure in all of those areas as you’re going through this.

Stephen: Yeah. Cool. Yeah. That’s an interesting insight. Yeah. 

And then what about LinkedIn? 

Gaetano: LinkedIn is, I would say properly rated, man. I, again, it kinda comes down to how you use the platform, but I would say LinkedIn is properly rated. It can be overrated if you spend too much time on vanity. It can be underrated if your audience is not really hanging out on LinkedIn but you’re spending a lot of time there on stuff like that.

I think that’s just what it comes down to. 

Stephen: Yeah. Cool. What’s your take on creator mode? 

Gaetano: I don’t know enough about it yet. Actually, I have creator mode turned on and I don’t know what’s any different about creator mode than non creator mode. 

Stephen: It just seems to shift things around on the profile.

Gaetano: Yeah. I think maybe it displays content, or it enables you to feature content like you can stick on a sticky tab, and boom! This is an article I wrote or a post that I wrote that did well. But other than that, I don’t know much about it. 

Stephen: Cool. And then I know you haven’t spent much time there yet, but what are your thoughts on TikTok?

Gaetano: There’s organic potential. There’s potential for organic reach. I think, look, it goes back to the thing I said at the beginning where 95% of your market is not in a buying mode. So like you, for example, you’re on TikTok and you are into software, you’re into tech. And so what that means is that there’s an opportunity for advertisers of software products that would want you to buy their stuff. There’s an opportunity for them to reach you on TikTok. 

The assumption is, ‘Oh, B2B executives are B2B decision makers. They don’t go on TikTok. They just hang out on LinkedIn.’

Now it’s true that they’re on LinkedIn during the day. But what are they doing late at night around 8, 9, 10 o’clock at night when they just want to be entertained? They’re probably browsing through TikTok. They’re probably browsing through Instagram, YouTube, right?

Less businessy platforms because they want to just let loose, take a load off, not see posts about automation and scale and attribution.

Stephen: It’s funny that you mention that because several of the posts that were real successful for me and literally got people to go to my website and book calls, were like, ‘Yeah, I was going to bed and just I watched TikTok for 10 or 15 minutes and your video came up and I was like, that was pretty cool. So I booked a call with you to chat with you.’ 

Gaetano: That’s amazing. 

Stephen: Yeah, it was cool because I had the same insight you did too. People are going there to get entertained. So why can’t it just be you that pops up and does something a little bit different than a dancer?

Gaetano: That’s exactly right, man. That’s exactly right. So yeah. Long story short, there’s an opportunity to capture mindshare and attention on TikTok, but I wouldn’t think about it from a lead gen perspective at all. I think it’s just the place to capture more mindshare attention, brand marketing, creative cool fun stuff. But that’s about it. 

Stephen: Cool man. All right, man. I appreciate you being on. It was a huge honor to have you on and I look forward to chatting with you some other time. 

Gaetano: Thank you. Appreciate you having me, man.

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