Digital Persuasion: Erin Gargan

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Every single day, we get an average of 300 digital messages, and in just a few seconds, we decide whether to answer or ignore those messages. Most of the time, we ignore them. This is a problem for sales people and entrepreneurs who need to communicate with prospects and customers online. So how do we attract attention and sell smarter through email and social media? That’s where Erin Gargan, author of Digital Persuasion comes in.

Erin has developed a sales messaging formula that’s been leveraged by some of the world’s biggest brands, including Disney and ABC.

In this episode, you’ll learn how to persuade prospects to engage with you in less than three seconds. You’ll understand the psychology behind must answer emails and Linkedin messages. Finally, you’ll learn how to craft the perfect sales message every time. By the end of this episode, you’ll know how to master the art of digital persuasion.

Get Erin’s new book Digital Persuasion on Amazon.

Find out more at ErinGargan.com.

Erin Gargan: It was an oddly cloudy Friday morning in Laguna Beach, California, and I was sitting in my office and I got a phone call. That phone call was from our point of contact at our biggest, biggest account. I run a social media agency for events and brands. This account is so big that more than likely you have one of their credit cards in your wallet right now.

I had at that time, I had 15 employees working out of an office, and about 70% of our revenue came from this one client. On this phone call, I find out that we are losing the account. It went from Friday morning, getting ready for the weekend to “My gosh, I have to lay off two thirds of my staff, we cannot afford this office and I need to figure out what we’re doing by Monday.”

I moved everyone into my home, the five employees that were left. I took the art off the walls and put white boards up. I moved the guest bed down into the garage and put a conference table in our guest room and quickly had to pivot the business to figure out how to reinvent what we were doing.

I needed to find clients very quickly.

I began to do copy and paste madness, everyone I could think of in my LinkedIn network for about a week, trying to find new clients, this is the following Friday and I have gotten any bites for any business to hire an agency. Sitting there and I poured a glass of cheap chardonnay, all the way to the top of a goblet, like they pour at Chinese restaurants, just all the way to the top. Super classy.

I remember sitting there and thinking, what am I going to do? All of a sudden, this message comes through on my email. I opened it up and it was this guy named Kevin who said “Hey, I just want to let you know, there’s an API change happening with Instagram. I saw the Hitachi Healthcare is one of your clients, might want to check out the content that you have scheduled for next week because it’s affecting a lot of the third party softwares that plug and play with this technology.”

What They Got Right

Charlie Hoehn: Just to pause you there for a second, could you explain kind of – to the layman, what is the API change?

Erin Gargan: Basically, we schedule in social media posts for our clients so that certain types of content will go live at pre-planned times. This is from years ago. It’s not really done anymore but that was kind of the way social media was run back in the day. There were changes made to where the post where going live, that would mean if I didn’t change how it was setup that the post would not go live.

Hitachi Healthcare would be mad and potentially fire us and then we’d be doubly screwed. On top of losing one big client, we’d probably lose another one.

We couldn’t afford for this to happen essentially, and I ended up writing back and saying, “Kevin, thank you so much for the heads up,” looked at his LinkedIn profile, turns out he sold a software that seem like a better solution, ended up setting up a meeting with him for the following week, buying his software instead of the one that I was using, and he’s still our vendor to this day. That was years ago.

I sat there and all of sudden started feeling sorry for myself that no one was answering my emails. I said, “Wait a minute, what did that guy just do to get me to meet with him and I’m not doing myself?”

So I spent the whole weekend going through every email that I ever opened from someone that was trying to sell me something, and I tried to look for patterns. I went through like a thousand emails over the last five years, because I’m a CEO. I get pitched all day long on everything you can imagine, from software to accounting to financial services.

The vast majority of messages, about 98% of the ones that I got, I never even opened or I just deleted or I ignored. But about 2% of them, I did open. I started to look for patterns in those messages to see what they were doing differently.

What I found was that there were a couple of elements that made them more digitally persuasive than the rest.

I began to use the same techniques in my business and my agency went back out of my house, we tripled our business in two years, and now I have a full staff of 50 contractors. We got hired by the Oscars, we got hired by Fashion Week and Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and Disney and ABC and all these great brands, all using this exact technique that I learned from this guy Kevin a few years ago.

My book talks all about that ‘Aha’ moment and how people can take what I’ve learned and become more effective, digitally persuasive communicators.

People Haven’t Changed

Charlie Hoehn: I’m looking at the three steps that you lay out in your book and it’s totally on point, it’s super simple. Do you want to say what those three steps are now?

Erin Gargan: Sure, let me just frame the steps first. When we talk about persuasion, people are persuaded and influenced by people that they like. There’s a great book written by Dr. Robert Cialdini, Principles of Influence. It’s a classic sales book, and even Dale Carnegie, right? How to Win Friends and Influence People, that book’s still a best seller 80 years later or something crazy.

The same key principles still apply, people are influenced by you when you take an interest in them, when you make them feel good, when they like you, when the trust you.

Even though technology is outpacing itself day after day, people are still the same.

They still want to connect with people on a very human level. When you look at the way automation and artificial intelligence and the machine learning you’re impacting all of our industries, the one thing that still can’t be automated is that person to person human connection. That’s where social media comes into play. For a long time, you had no other choice when you had to persuade someone to engage with you or to buy from you than to just ask everyone that existed because you had no idea what they cared about, what they needed, what they wanted, what they liked. You had no other option. Pre-Google, people appreciated that because how else they’re going to learn about things.

What’s happened is that, in the last 10 years, social media has created this whole trove of information. For example, I found out that from your LinkedIn profile that you’re from Colorado and you’ve written a book called Play It Away and another book called Play For a Living and that you work with Tucker Max and JT McCormick and all these really awesome guys and I can see you’re into video production.

I know everything about you, and we just met on the phone about 20 minutes ago.

As listeners and sales people, we have so much information at our disposal to better position ourselves, to be more powerful communicators by eliminating ourselves and stop trying to make old legacy sales models fit in a new socially digitally, mobile connected workspace. That’s my book, that’s what it’s all about.

Erin Gargan’s PUB Method

Charlie Hoehn: Alright, let’s get into the three steps, break those down for us.

Erin Gargan: Well, the three steps, I call it the PUB method which is another long story that you can read about in chapter two, has to do with Irish pubs but it’s called the pub method, PUB.

P stands for personal, U is useful and B is brief.

The first part is the most important, which is personal. We’re all very self-centered. I mean, we’ve always been self-centered, but social media has made us selfish on steroids.

I took a selfie yesterday because I was getting interviewed for international women’s day at ABC in LA, and I immediately deleted it. What am I doing? I got my hair done, big deal.

Why are we so obsessed with ourselves? The phone has made us so narcissistic. In today’s world, we’re just so used to focusing on what is in it for us, the message we want to say and shout. The majority of messages lead with “Hi, my name is this and I work for this.” “Hi, my name is and I want to tell you this.”

Everyone just leads with themselves.

A big part of my book is about flipping the script and deleting yourself.

Instead of leading with the word I which is the majority of communications, after, “Hi Charlie, how’s your week?”

It’s a stupid nicety because no one’s going to write back like you’re pen pals at camp and tell you all about their week, right?

It’s like, look at my Instagram, you know how my week was.

Stop saying I, because everyone uses I so much more. I think, I want, I feel, I know. Obviously that’s why you’re writing it, just write it. Just say it. Don’t preamble, just parachute right in.

Skipping the niceties and skipping yourself is a really big piece of personal. You want to leave something personal to your recipient. A proper noun (so a person, place or thing that has a name) that either you have in common, you can comment on or that you have some kind of a comment about or compliment. Something that you can begin dialogue with where you’re not trying to close them on a meeting, you’re trying to open a relationship.

That’s really the whole point of the book.

A Personal Opening Line

Charlie Hoehn: Can you give an example of one of your favorite opening lines that you like to use?

Erin Gargan: Typically, my formula is proper noun of personal significance to the recipient, followed by a question mark. Then, a comment compliment or commonality to follow. I’ll give you an example.

If I were trying to reach out to Charlie Hoehn and I didn’t know you, let’s say I was trying to talk you into letting me be on your podcast. I wanted to persuade you. A normal author would probably say, “Hi Charlie Hoehn, how’s your week?” Even though I don’t’ care. “

My name is Erin Gargan, I’m an award-winning entrepreneur, author, speaker, writer, trainer, I’m amazing, I won all these awards. I was 2017 Orange County, Business Journal of the Year,” you’re already bored, right? Going on and on, “I was a world champion Irish step dancer…”

I, I, I, I. We’re just me-mailing our faces off, we’re talking about ourselves.

From that opening line, you’re seeing, “Hi Charlie, my name is Erin and I am going to talk about myself for the rest of this message.”

Immediately, you are lumping me into a group with everyone else, he was just talking about themselves which is not persuasive. It does not make you like me, it does not make you feel important. It’s annoying and its generic and everyone does it.

Stop the Scroll

Instead, if I wanted to get your attention and I want to get you to stop the scroll from all the messages you’re getting every day because you’re a busy important decision maker. I would look up your profile, do some light, appropriate, public-ally available information stalking of you, right?

I would lead with a personal noun. I would either say a person we had in common like I would say, JT McCormick? Tucker Max? I would say, maybe Book in a Box? Austin? I might say South by Southwest or Austin City Limits or Colorado, something that is important to you that when you’re going through your email, you’d stop and read.

Charlie Hoehn: That’s in the subject line?

Erin Gargan: Yes. Then I would open the message by saying something that follows up with that. Either a compliment or a comment or a commonality. You know, JT McCormick? Love working with that guy or I would say, Book in a Box? What do you think about the new author coaching series?

Something like that. The idea is that I would reach out and begin a relationship with you and stop you from scrolling by and ignoring me, the whole point is just to start a conversation that you want to engage with, as supposed to try and sell yourself, introduce yourself, enclose you on something when you don’t know me and you don’t care.

Be Useful

Charlie Hoehn: How do you recommend being useful and what is it that people are doing that’s messing this up?

Erin Gargan: There’s an example I always share about my time working with a very large real estate company. Commercial real estate. High touch, high dollar transactions, and these commercial real estate brokers are essentially looking for investors. Investors are people that everyone is looking for, they’re very hard to get their attention, right?

We did an analysis, and I split the team, there’s 50 of them, into two groups. A was the control group. They just kept sending out their same traditional copy and paste message, you know, “We’re the leaders in these transactions, we help you find the best deals in Orange County,” basically, the me-mail, it’s all about them.

The second control group, we had them leave something that was personal to the recipient and then move into something useful.

Useful was not “here’s a white paper,” essentially talking more about why we’re so incredible.

The useful was something that was designed to inspire a feeling of reciprocity in those investors, which is a very strong persuasion principle.

Reciprocity’s very powerful.

We just can’t help it, we don’t want to be indebted to somebody.

Testing the Theories

Erin Gargan: I had the marketing team create a small market research report that had nothing to do with the real estate firm but was aimed at helping real estate investors in Southern California, understand five key trends of the last five years.

As they opened a dialogue with these investors, they slowly began to open an appropriate relationship and sending something useful like this key trend document to these investors.

The goal of that was not to close the investor in that Linkedin message, which was not going to happen anyway. The goal is to inspire action in that investor, inspire a sense of reciprocity and motivate that investor to take any kind of action besides ignore them.

We’d look at their profile, maybe agree to connect with them, maybe like one of their posts.

Just engage with them in some way to beginning the start of a relationship to move them closer down the funnel to where it’s going to be appropriate to say, “Hey, let’s meet for coffee,” or “Hey, I’ve earned the meeting to now see if you want to meet on a zoom call,” or something like that.

That useful step ended up taking the entire commercial real estate sales team from a 1% to 3% action rate—which is what we call it, kind of like a social action rate—to anywhere from 40 to 65%, depending on how creative they were with their opens that personal open.

They were doing half the time, half the work and getting way more results, it was totally quality over quantity and highly effective. I took that approach that I kind of tested on them as guinea pigs and I wrote it out across multiple industries and I’ve seen similar success rates across finance, real estate, retail, hospitality, insurance, finance, you name it. It’s really incredible, the results.

Get Creative

Charlie Hoehn: What are some examples of being useful that you’ve seen their work extraordinarily well that anybody can use?

Erin Gargan: This is the key where deleting yourself really comes in handy, because we’re approaching communication from behind the screen without seeing somebody. Because they’re not a person, we kind of move into almost like writing in our diary, right? It’s like we forget there’s a person on the other side of the screen.

That’s why we behave so horribly online and we become this horrible version of ourselves. That’s why you see cyber bullying, which is awful, and Facebook fighting, which is horrendous, and people just becoming these monsters because they can’t see the person on the other end of the screen.

So when you are thinking of something useful, you have to really take a minute and try and put yourself in your recipient’s shoes to get inside their psyche of what they care about.

You can find what will be useful to them by reading through things that they share, things that they post, people that are connected to. You know, the circles they run in online, things they engage with, you can get a feel for what their pain points might be.

This part takes a little creativity. This is the intersection of the art and science of digital persuasion.

Some things that I have seen my sales teams use that work really well. Number one, of course, timing’s everything.

One thing that we have found is that the most powerful digital persuasion opportunity lies within 90 days of someone changing jobs or getting a promotion. That psychology is, “I am ready to put points in the board and prove myself, and I’m going to change states and I’m expected to affect change in some way. So I am motivated to take action already.”

If you can couple that timing with offering something useful like introducing them to someone that’d be able to help them or an idea that might somehow save them time or save them money or help them to avoid risk in some way. That’s a really big one.

Ideas are the currency of the digital age. I mean, it’s all about sharing concepts, that’s what people want, they want knowledge and ideas and things that can help them to avoid risk, save them from some kind of pain or save time or save money.

Those perform the best.

Then sometimes, this is less powerful but sometimes just sharing maybe a story or a study or some kind of news of interest is kind of a nice to have. Things that can help you be better can be persuasive.

But what we’ve done is that things that help people avoid risk and to save them from something painful in some way tend to perform a lot better in terms of activating strong feelings of reciprocity.

You Can’t Automate This

Charlie Hoehn: Before you go into that, I just want to double down on how important what you said is. I actually typed it out and highlighted it, this trigger point of this person just changed their job or got promoted which can be tracked on Linkedin within 90 days is the best time to approach them with value.

Erin Gargan: Okay, let’s talk about that a little bit. If we think about it. If you’re a sales person, like the world’s greatest sales people are notoriously great (blank), what would you say? What would you fill in the blank for that sentence?

Charlie Hoehn: Are notoriously great, blank? Fill in the blank? The world’s greatest sales people are notoriously great, I don’t know if I’m doing this right, but caring for their clients like they’re family.

Erin Gargan: Very good answer. Yes, what makes them great at caring for their clients like family is that they’re excellent listeners, great sales people are great listeners because they listen for pain points, they listen for opportunities, they listen for that little moment where they know how to position themselves like a chameleon to morph their product or their service or themselves into being the solution for that problem.

That is what the world’s greatest sales people do.

In the modern market place because face to face interactions are increasingly rare, the world’s greatest sales people are now great researchers. Research is the new listening of digital selling for the modern market place and so if you think about it, I mean if only there was a place where you could know what everyone cared about and where they were going and who they are hanging out with and with their problems are, what their interests were, I mean there is this treasure trove of persuasion.

So this treasure trove information at our disposal, and yet the world’s biggest sales organizations are still playing the numbers game.

I always say that if you are going to keep playing the numbers game, your days are numbered.

Because if you don’t think robots that can drive cars and do open heart surgery or brain, whatever robots can do now, they can create their own languages like that whole project that Zuckerberg shut down at Facebook.

Where you probably heard they created two robots, they started speaking in a language that programmers didn’t understand like I am pretty sure they can copy and paste, you know? So if you’re someone that is so focused on automation and your job is to ignite relationships, to move deals forward, you don’t want to automate this. You want to hold onto your humanness because that is the one thing that an algorithm cannot program into this world.

It cannot program person to person liking, knowing and trusting and that is still propels progress in commerce forward. So that is really the bigger why around this book.

Outside of writing sentences, it’s shifting your psychology from legacy to currency, from self to serve, and from being annoying to attracting. It is about putting the humanity back into how we are engaging when there is a screen between us and our most targeted prospect.

River Dance?

Charlie Hoehn: I mean you really also talking about emotional intelligence.

Erin Gargan: Yeah, it’s so true. I am building an app and I can’t talk about it because it is really exciting. But I am building this app and it’s going to change the world like they all do, right? And everyone is going to download it and it is going to make tons of money.

But anyways, I am building this app and I made a mistake because I haven’t worked with a new vendor in a long time. Most of my vendors are long term relationships or referrals.

And so I made the mistake of putting on LinkedIn, “Hey I am building a new app. Any recommendations for a great designer or UX/UI developer?”

And I got hammered. I got buried. Over a hundred people reached out to me on LinkedIn, on Messenger, on email. I got cold calls, I got voicemails. I deleted it as soon as I could because I was just getting buried under everyone.

Every single person was sending me a canned copy and paste me-mail pitch.

“We’re the leader in this. We have done this.” Us, us, us just shouting about themselves. Finally, finally thank goodness, I got a message that opened to something personal, which was a River Dance GIF because I was a world champion Irish step dancer back when I was a kid.

It’s so random. I was 15, totally random fun fact about me but I have it all over the internet because my whole life is on the internet.

So they stalked me appropriately and they put “River dancer?” in the subject line. I opened it up and it was a Michael Flatly GIF of him river dancing which made me laugh. So I like them.

It’s about me, you have my attention, and then the offer was useful. They created three ideas for apps for our current clients that we are working with.

Literally just quick ideas like, “I see you work with Hitachi and you do their social media. Have you thought about an app where maybe they are marketing team can push out interesting content to their sales tea

m via text message to make it easier to disseminate information across the global organization?” Just tweetable ideas for apps for three of my clients.

I have a meeting with that developer next week. I ignored everybody else.

Be Brilliantly Brief

Charlie Hoehn: How do we know if we are being brief enough?

Erin Gargan: Well this is the one that I struggle with the most, as you can tell I am a talker. If you’re in sales, you are a communicator. We tend to over communicate, and anyone that is in a TED Talk can tell you that creating that 20 magical minutes is so much harder than doing a 60 minute presentation. Every word counts, and it is so hard to be brief.

My friend Jay Baer just posted on Facebook this morning and he released all of this data around the social media web and trends and what is happening. He actually was interpreting someone else’s data, but his essential takeaways were this:

He said that text based digital communication like Facebook and Twitter which are primarily still written form text based social networks are declining for the first time since they were launched.

Heavily visually based social media networks like Snapchat, Instagram and Pinterest are the only ones that are still continuing to rise. The rise of Instagram stories and Snapchat stories, those visual storytelling narratives, those types of formats are the way that we want to interact with information.

If you look at people having full conversations, emoticons, praise hands, heart, eyes, puke face emoticon conversations, we are essentially going back to the days of hieroglyphics.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and our brains have just become so overloaded trying to interpret all of this content. We just don’t want to read anymore.

Being brilliantly brief is one of the biggest digital differentiators.

My rule of thumb is if it is anything more than one scroll, it should be a conversation. Anything more than a scroll probably should just jump on a quick Facetime or a Zoom. Let’s just talk it out, because we type 40 words per minute and can read and talk much faster than that.

So it’s this idea that when you open that message and it’s short and it’s brief and it’s all that beautiful and breathable white space. You are thinking to yourself, “Okay this is a message I can digest. This is a message I can engage with.”

You don’t look at two, three mobile scrolls and think, “Oh god forget it. I’m not trying to read this nor I am interested with engaging with it.” So being brief is really, really important. It also activates a feeling of scarcity, which is another really powerful classic persuasion principle. Dr. Cialdini talks about it all the time in his book that scarcity and mystery are the same thing.

If you’re single and you’re in a bar and some dude walks up to you and he is just talking about himself…I live in Orange County, so I spent a little time being single in Newport Beach, which is the land of D-Bags. They pop up at the beach all the time.

You’re just glazing over, getting to your happy place, just wanting it to be over because they don’t stop talking about themselves.

And I will never forget, I met my husband and I met him on a hike randomly, not in a bar but I will never forget we were hiking and we ran in passing and he said something quick and then kind of left.

There was this mystery, there was this allure. Who is this guy who’s not trying to persuade me that he’s the man? So it’s the sexiness of scarcity, it’s that brief quick message that is digestible and approachable and isn’t asking you for something, isn’t demanding something. I mean just that alone will differentiate yourself from the vast majority of me-mails and selfie shouters.

Find Commonality

Charlie Hoehn: Do you ever send either prospects or your clients’ visual messages?

Erin Gargan: Yeah, so actually I just sent one the other day. I am a keynote speaker on The Art of Digital Persuasion, and so a great way to get booked for gigs is working with a speaking bureau, which you probably know since you are an author and a fellow speaker as well.

As you know, being a professional speaker is kind of like trying out for American Idol and being a bar singer, right? Everyone thinks they are Carrie Underwood, but most people are William Hung.

And so these bureaus just get hammered with people who think that they are going to be the next Simon Sinek. So I reach out to bureaus using this brief message.

The other day, I was researching someone from the Washington Speakers Bureau, which is a really pretty good bureau. They don’t know me and I don’t know anyone that is there, so I started researching one of the gals there and I found out that she went to Georgetown and was an English major like I was. My dad went to Georgetown, he was like a super stud quarterback football player.

Long story short, I ended up sending her this Hoya Saxa, which is their chant for their football team, hilarious GIF that had this whole thing being acted out and I just sent Hoya Saxa in the subject line and when she opened it up it had this fun GIF. I just told her a quick story.

This is the commonality I am talking about when I said personal pronoun question mark.

I said, “So funny, my dad was a Georgetown quarterback, he still has one record that hasn’t been broken, but even more impressive, he was a bartender at the Tumes and has his name on the plaque. I’m sure you’ve probably had a beer there once or twice before.” Or something like that and that’s all.

I didn’t ask for anything. It wasn’t like, “I’m an award winning speaker. Hire me.”

I just said that, and sure enough, she looked at my profile. I had a trackable link in the message so she ended up looking at my speaker reel, and she ends up writing back and saying, “I get so many of these messages every day and I never answer them. I only hire speakers that are referrals, word of mouth,” she said.

“Your stuff looks great, we should talk.”

And so we are now working on a blog post project together and she’s looking at trying to get me booked with some new gigs.

She said, “Your method that you teach in your book and what you’ve taught these different sales organizations, it worked on me. So I know it’s legit because it actually made me open it and actually be persuaded to talk to you, so I know this works.”

Persuasion Opportunities

Charlie Hoehn: You have a chapter that I am most interested in learning about which is How to Identify Persuasion Opportunities. What do you mean by them?

Erin Gargan: So persuasion opportunities are what we talked about a little bit earlier. So moments in time where someone is on more of a receptive mentality to be open to being persuaded by you. I interviewed a lot of my “fancy friends.” So any of my friends that have CEO or CFO or COO are considered a fancy friend.

One of my fancy friends is my best friend from high school who is the CMO at Mashable, and my other good friend, not to be braggy but you know, I had these different friends.

So I interview them all the time like, “What makes you respond to someone that you don’t know reaching out and trying to influence you to give them a shot?” and they all say the same thing.

They’re like, “If it’s one of those days where I just literally had a conversation with someone about meeting this solution and they happen to reach out that day, that’s the only time I ever answer a cold email. If it’s a lottery winning, Vegas slot machine, lucky situation.”

So as a sales person, that makes it really difficult.

You can’t just be pulling the slot machine just sitting there all day like Ruth from Michigan hoping to get three apples.

I mean that is not a productive use of your time as a sales person. And so scanning for persuasion opportunities is a really big piece of doing a better job leveraging social media to become more effective on how you position yourself and your products and services.

For example, LinkedIn groups, which I heard LinkedIn groups are going away. I don’t know if it is true or not, but I hope they don’t go away because they are a gold mine especially the ones that are really active and small and targeted.

I don’t come in there hot with my speaker reel and bragging about how amazing and how I am going to change their life, I just listen. I am a voyeur to their problems.

So I listen to them talking about different things like what kinds of rooms that people like you know, do people like to see speakers in the round or do they see speakers in the traditional way? You know one big screen, two side screens, all of this meeting planning stuff.

So I am always just giving it a little scroll through, having a listen, looking for any potential opportunities to offer value, to be personal and useful and brief.

One time, a meeting planner said, “Hey, I’m so sick of doing the same old theme. You know we’ve done Hollywood, we’ve done ‘80s, we’ve done Vegas night, I am looking for a fun new idea that hasn’t been done for a party that we are throwing at this tech conference in San Francisco in a couple of months.”

I had just been to a conference that did a really fun yacht rock theme, so it was kind of overboard ‘80s yacht rock music and everyone wore fancy cheesy 80’s country club outfits and it was really fun.

So I just jumped in and I was like, “You know I went to this great party…” I told him the story, so that comment got 10 likes. Of those 10 likes, eight of these meeting planners looked at my profile, of those eight, three connected with me, and of those three, one reached out and said they had a gig and would I be interested and what was my fee. From just making a comment.

A full fee, a full paying gig. Just listening to those moments where you can jump in and have an opportunity to influence someone in a positive helpful way.

Erin Gargan’s Client Work

Charlie Hoehn: I would be, I think, a fool to not ask you about your time in working with the Oscars and Disney and ABC and all of these clients that you’ve worked with in the past. Can you talk about your work with them and some of the transformations you’ve been able to provide for them?

Erin Gargan: Sure, so for those brands my company socially is hired to these social media journalists. So we’re essentially putting a microphone and a spot light around everything that’s happening before, during, and after these events.

It’s pretty easy for an event like the Oscars to get engagement. Engagement is not the problem, we manage over 15 million conversations. It’s more, how do you coordinate between multiple brand ambassadors. So you know, we’re working with AEG Entertainment and ABC Disney and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

You have three big ego brands all trying to tell their narrative their way.

So that project was more just an exercise in unbelievable social strategy around project management scale. So that was a really interesting experience but I think when I share that story people are like, “Yeah but that was the Oscars, of course you had engagement and conversation.”

Telling a Story

Erin Gargan: I think what is a better story to tell is events that are a little less sexy, events like for example the Sea Air Space Convention, which we also ran social media for, which is a gathering of the world’s defense contractors.

So it is Boeing and Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, they are making planes and boats and helicopters, and the trade show floor has flight simulators and tanks and all of this stuff, and the buyers are primarily older guys, 40 to 60, that are five star generals from different branches of the Navy and the Army and the Air Force.

It is a very traditional, buttoned up, classic kind of event. So when we were brought in to do social media, I wasn’t even sure that these guys and gals were really even using social media. So what we tried to do was create a strategy that would bring out more storytelling into their event.

Prior to us coming on, a lot of the social media content that was being posted was just “Come to our booth, come to our party, register now,” just lots of calls to action. Very boring content.

We went in and really put on our journalist hats and tried to think like publishers and uncover these gems. What persuades people to attend an event or engage in content are emotional storytelling that also if they share it makes them look a certain way, right? So if you think about it, the psychology of sharing is that we share content that makes us look cool to our network.

We don’t share content of us doing laundry or looking like crap or being boring at work. We share content of us at the Oscars or being at South by Southwest at Austin in the VIP Lounge being a baller or at our book signing being the smart person.

We share based on how we want our network how to perceive us.

We share for very selfish reasons, so a lot of people don’t think about it when they are creating social media content either for an event or for a brand. They don’t think about creating content through the lens of share-ability.

They think about it through the lens of selfies and what makes us look good and shouting about themselves.

So in Sea Air Space, we have created stories that told about different heroes. It wasn’t about the product themselves, it was about what the products were able to allow people to do, which was save lives to protect our country. So not only did those stories get a lot of traction within the event itself, they began to be shared outside the walls of the event.

And so what ended up happening was at the end of Sea Air Space, which was a very small event that most people hadn’t even had heard of, the official hashtag was actually trending on Twitter.

So there were more people talking about this small random defense technology conference than #obama and #nationalbeerday that ended up blowing it up, which was really cool to see. That is just one story about how we work.

10 for 10 Challenge

Charlie Hoehn: Let’s leave our listeners with a challenge. What is one thing you recommend that they try from your book this week to improve their life or their style of communication, which would you recommend?

Erin Gargan: Okay, so I throw down a challenge in my talks and it’s called Ten for Ten, okay? So the challenge is for 10 days, can you work on making the first 10 words of anything you type, text or tweet be personal useful and brief.

And the reason for this is that if I back up for a second to the story that I told earlier about the commercial real estate sales team that I worked with, and how the B test group was improving in personalizing their communications. At first, that method of personal use of brief was actually not working any better than the spray and pray, than the control group.

The reason for that was because when you look at the preview of a message like on desktop you have a couple more words, you have the subject line and then a little preview of a couple of words of message or whether it is a mobile notification on your phone from a social media network or a text message.

Our brain is becoming trained to make decisions about what this message is going to entail for us just based on the power of that little preview.

And the preview is about 10 words-ish, about 2.5 seconds, so those commercial real estate people that I was working with, are still saying, “Hi, my name is Charlie and I work for XYZ commercial real estate group.” And then they jump into personal useful brief.

But the problem was they’ve already blew the opportunity to be different right from the inbox, right from the notification. They didn’t capitalize in the power of the preview.

So what we saw is that if we just took out all of that, “Hi my name is…” the niceties, “I wanted to reach out, my company is this, I do this.” Just taking deleting themselves out of the first sentence and just leading right with personal useful and brief right out the gate, which in person is kind of awkward, right?

It would be so weird if I just sat down with you and just started talking, like I didn’t do the niceties.

But the way we communicate online versus in person is very, very different.

What we found is if you just change that preview, the first 10 words, you’re digitally differentiating yourself from everyone else in their inbox. You are immediately establishing an environment that allows you to be more likeable and more influential because you are setting yourself up as not being all about yourself. You are leading with them.

The challenge is for 10 days, can you perfect your preview? Can you be more effective and more aware and more conscientious with how you maximize and capitalize on those very first 10 words of any digital communication that you send out?

Charlie Hoehn: How can our listeners connect with you and follow you? I know you do some speaking, you obviously work with big brands, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?

Erin Gargan: Probably just my website, Erin Gargan, eringargan.com.

Get Erin’s new book Digital Persuasion on Amazon.

Find out more at ErinGargan.com.

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