Episode: 308 |
Sree Sreenivasan:
Creating Virtual Events:


Sree Sreenivasan

Creating Virtual Events

Show Notes

Sree Sreenivasan has been the Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University, New York City, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is considered one of the most influential people in social media.

We cover many topics in this episode, including the work of Sree’s firm Digimentors, which produces world-class virtual events.

Sree mentions the course he developed for Muck Rack on Fundamentals of Social Media. Check it out here: https://academy.muckrack.com/

During the COVID-19 crisis, Sree is hosting a daily, global conversation with experts: http://bit.ly/sreecovid19call

How to follow Sree:

Sign up for Sree’s Sunday Note newsletter with tech, social and life tips: http://bit.ly/sreenote.

Join his FB Group, Sree’s Advanced Social Media: http://bit.ly/sreefbadvanced

His NYT guide to social media: http://bit.ly/nyt2017

His five TEDx talks: http://bit.ly/sreetedxvideos

Twitter: @sree: http://twitter.com/sree

Instagram: @sreenet: http://instagram.com/sreenet

One weekly email with bonus materials and summaries of each new episode:

Will Bachman 00:02
Hello and welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex, which connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. I’m your host Will Bachman. And I’m here with Sri Srinivasan, who I have wanted to have on the show as a guest on the show for a long time. Three has been the head of digital for New York City for the Met museum. He there’s about 25 things I want to talk about, but three, welcome to the show. First question I have for you is you have said work on something. What are you working on now?

Sree Sreenivasan 00:37
Thank you, I’m working on my tan actually. And on Fire Island. Though, for me, getting a tan is not that hard. I am permanently tanned as they say I am working on this idea that we should all be working on something. During the time of pandemic, even as things are starting to open up or close, it doesn’t matter. We found ourselves all of us with a little bit of extra time, especially if you’re not an essential worker. And we’ve also haven’t we learned well, that essential and skilled worker, unskilled work, all those words have now all gotten mixed up have, haven’t they. And so in terms of working on something, My idea is that we all have a little bit of extra time, many of us have been baking sourdough, and learning to be master chefs and things like that’s great. But I tell people, this is a great time to work on your digital skills and upskilling yourself improving your digital abilities. And whether it’s working on your LinkedIn, or you had an idea for a podcast that you’d like to imitate will and do a podcast of your own, this is a good time to do it. Because there are more easy tools than ever more tutorials than ever and more forgiveness in the air than ever before. People will tolerate your bumbling fumbling first steps on any digital project, because they also have time. And you could learn and just keep doing and improving what you’re doing. So I took this start of the crisis to be an opportunity to work on a couple of things. One was to learn how to use YouTube as a creator, rather than a consumer, consumer obsessed. I’ve been obsessed with YouTube for many, many years and did an occasional YouTube video with my children that I would have unlisted. But I was not trying to build a following and create content on YouTube. So I can talk about that set of adventures. The second thing I wanted to do was learn how to do design and graphic design, which is something that, you know, is important. And you know, professionals do it much better than you. But if you have time, can you raise your game at least a little bit, so that when you’re dealing with a graphic designer, they are able to work with you at a different on a different plane than when you’re the fumbling bumbling person that most of us are on graphic design. And the third was I wanted to learn how to do a daily show that provides useful information and to see if that can morph into something. And those are the things that I worked on.

Will Bachman 03:14
Yeah. So three here, you’re being a little bit humble about this. The third part, your daily show, has gotten over a million visitors a million visitors. Right, you’ve had 201 guests with 99 episodes. And as I think we talked earlier, out of those 200 guests, 124 of them are women just awesome. So that is not a small thing, you know, doing 99 shows in 99 days. Tell me Tell us a little bit about the practical side of putting that together as well as sort of what’s the strategy that you’re thinking about? as you as you came up with the show? What do you talk about? What do you focus on? How do you run it? One of the guests,

Sree Sreenivasan 03:57
thank you. And because a lot of your audience are people who are knowledge professionals are consultants who are working on projects, they have their own business, they’re looking to learn how to reach people. There may be some ideas in here that apply specifically to them. So yeah, as you know, you can do a blog, you can do a podcast, you can do a newsletter, and I encourage people to do all of those things. What I wanted to learn is what is the way in which you can connect in this time of pandemic that is different from everybody else. And we decided we’re just going to do a conversation around COVID-19 and this was the very early days of the lockdown. We’re talking March 14 15th, when the NBA had just suspend been suspended. Tom Hanks had just gotten sick. You know that at that stage where all of it seemed far away, not really about America, right that we were going to ride this out. We’re going to lock down we’re going to ride this out a couple of weeks Everything will be fine. Of course we learn a much different story along the way. But what what we did was we just started bringing People into a conversation and just like you’re doing on a podcast, we started doing that online. We in my very first show, I had invited a doctor to just chat with me about core what she knew about Coronavirus. And we didn’t all know a lot about it at that time. But on that first call, by luck or or just by, because of the way the internet works, a doctor called in an anesthesiologist in Richmond, Virginia called into the show, asking my doctor guest a question about Coronavirus. And that’s when it struck me that there’s really a problem in knowledge. If doctors are calling some random doctor they’ve never met on the internet to ask a question Live on the Air. We have a lot that we can help by not being somebody who has the answers. I have very few answers. But I know a lot of people who have answers, or a lot of people who know a lot about these topics. So my only skill is my Rolodex, a word that some of your older listeners will remember as a thing that we used to have on our desk that had all the information of all of our contacts. And now we have these virtual Rolodexes. And we built that using that as a premise, we were able to build it into the show that’s gone on now. 100 plus days, and on the 99th episode, we had the chief scientist of the who and the head of pandemics at who speaking on our show. And to think that we went from nothing to that in 99 days tells you how amazing the world is today that people do want to share and get information. At the same time. It also tells you how much work 99 days of non stop work not even a day off in order to produce something that does it. So that’s not credit. To me, that’s a credit to the audience. It’s a credit to the team that worked with me on this volunteers who said we want to help, and we want to learn how you’re doing this as well. And then we got sponsors we got lots of things come out of it, including because I run a consulting business around social strategy, digital strategy, and virtual events. It became an ad for my work. And so that’s that’s been the reason people ask me, Why do I do it every day, partly because people have found it helpful. And partly because it is a non stop ad for what we can do. People have sent in this incredible comments, somebody said, this is a lifeline that they look forward to daily. But it turns out, it’s a lifeline for me, because I’m learning every day, and it gave structure to my lockdown, unlike a lot of other people actually had something to look forward to every day and to learn from people all over the world.

Will Bachman 07:40
Yeah. So you are and that show goes live. I know on Facebook, on LinkedIn and talk about sort of operationally, what’s going on behind the scenes? Where is the show going live? Do you also publish it as a? Where can people find the show? Tell us a little bit about the mechanics of it?

Sree Sreenivasan 07:59
Sure, thanks. I might The show goes live on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn on four channels every day. And it’s able to do that because of a tool called stream yard that allows you to go on multiple channels. And why I like using stream yard is that it is not zoom, I have nothing against zoom, I spend my days on zoom. But zoom calls our meetings. And I want to create a show people want to watch a show. So we create conversations where it looks much more like television with tickers at the bottom, and subtitles when necessary and pictures coming in and a one shot and a two shot. All of those are the things that I want to create. And that’s what stream yard allows you to do. It’s a $20 a month product or a $40 a month product. It’s not about the technology. It’s what you put into that. And so that’s a lesson that I’ve learned is that if you have great content, and you can build an audience, first of all, if you have great content, you can build an audience. And if you have both of those, then there are people who will come to support it. There’s marketing dollars sitting on the sidelines in this pm during this chaos, and we’ve been able to attract a tiny, tiny sliver of it. But there’s so much opportunity with that. So people can find it by following me on Twitter at three or on Facebook, three net or on LinkedIn on all of these I go live. And then I decided, as I said to learn how to use YouTube. And I started using YouTube, I had, let’s say 200 followers. And that’s my smallest platform but I decided to focus on it because I wanted to learn what works on YouTube and what doesn’t. And the end result of it has been I’m so impressed by all the millennials and others who have built a businesses on YouTube because YouTube is so powerful but you have to work so much harder on YouTube. When to get started. Then you have to do on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, I have platforms you know where 4050 80,000 followers and I’m this platform had 200 followers. But I put my effort into that. And I wish I could tell you I have now 10,000 followers, but I don’t. Because what you learn on YouTube that’s really humbling is you have to earn every new subscriber as they call it on YouTube. Because a YouTube subscription counts for a lot. If you’re the audience, it’s what goes on your big screen TV, it’s what goes on your phone app, it’s what matters to you, you have those few precious minutes of me time, and you’re not going to waste your time subscribing to junk, you may view a lot of junk on YouTube, but you’re gonna subscribe to the things that really count. So we went from 200 to 1000, which, you know, on a percentage basis is great, but at the end of the day, it’s still nowhere near my followers and other audiences. But it doesn’t matter. I learned now so much about YouTube. And I still think I’ve just scratched the surface, even 100 days and 100 episodes, I only scratched the surface.

Will Bachman 11:01
Wow. Now, talking about you had mentioned earlier about learning about social media, you have put out there a free resource, and you’re one of the global experts in social media muck rake Academy. We’ll include a link in the show notes, but tell us a little bit about macbreak Academy,

Sree Sreenivasan 11:21
there is a company called muck rack.com, which works with professionals in the communications field to help them connect better pr, pr folks and journalists to connect them better. It’s also the world’s largest directory of journalists, and anybody in the comms field that wants to connect with journalists, journalists uses mock crack, and I joined them as an advisor this year. And we were going to do a series of in person events for which we could, you know, have people join us and we could share etc. Of course, that all went out the window. And I should tell you in my background, I you were very kind to emphasize my leadership at the, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I was the Chief Digital Officer. It was the three best years of my life, but I lost my job there and financial troubles. And I know what it’s like to be unemployed, and wanting to start your own firm and everything is great. But at that moment, you know how difficult that is. And I can’t fathom 30 40 million Americans unemployed. And I wanted the slightest smallest thing I could do is to share my knowledge on what I know how to do, which is social media. And so we worked with MK rack to create MK rack Academy’s fundamentals of social media course, it’s a free course that anybody can sign up for 4000 people have signed up for it already. And they get about two hours worth of free training on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. And they get a certificate at the end of it. And it wasn’t like something free that I did. muckrock paid me and my team to create it. So this was an investment by muckrock into their teaching and their audience. And for me, it was a chance to not ask my production team to do a do me a favor, but to pay them to do a serious piece of work that we’re proud of. And the idea here is that anybody and everybody can improve their social media game. Many people who are professional social media managers have already taken the course and posted these wonderful comments about how they already knew many things here, but everybody can benefit from getting the certification. And now they get a line on LinkedIn that they have the certification

Will Bachman 13:35
antastic he talked about how your consulting business is one of the things you do is put on virtual events. And that’s Yeah, I would love to hear about what’s been going on there over the last few months during during the pandemic. And

Sree Sreenivasan 13:52
yeah, thank you. We’ve been busy in a good way. Again, we’re very grateful in the middle of everything going on that someone said to me, sorry, this is what you’ve been talking about. for 25 years, the whole world has gone digital, aren’t you happy and I said, I wish it wasn’t at this cost the world shutting down. For us, those of us who have been preaching this stuff to be taken seriously, but I’m very grateful that we have the opportunity for our team our companies called digit mentors, and we work with companies on their social and digital strategy. But now we’re doing a lot more virtual events as well. And people are canceling conferences, people are canceling events. And what we say is don’t cancel without talking to us. We can be 10% of your production or 110% and some lessons from that process is that you cannot replicate everything about what makes a great in person event, the in person networking the connections, the exchanged business cards, the drink at the at the hotel bar, the the ability to look over On one shoulder as they’re talking to someone else, and learning in that, and observing all of that is very difficult to replicate. But some things you can and something you can do even better than you can in real life. So finding that balance is what I’ve been exploring and thinking about for these last three months, we’ve been doing tiny events and huge events, we did the world’s largest gathering of teachers, 100,000 teachers in with 25 speakers, including Malala, his father, who’s a teacher himself, in 88 countries with three languages simulcasting in English, Spanish and Arabic, we were inventing this stuff. If you think about, well, for any event that you’ve ever been to you as a event, organizer, you or you do the editorial content. And then you hire the Hilton Hotel, ballroom, and you do these in there. And then you have the side rooms and everything right. Those are, that’s what we’ve grown up for 50 years. That’s what how events have been done. And today, when we still work with companies who are the editorial, but we’re the Hilton ballroom, we are the silos where the lights were even the flowers on the table, because we are responsible for the entire production. And that’s a scary thing, considering that was not our business on March 1. And by May 30, we were doing huge productions like this, we’re doing a giant doctor’s conference, a and a conference that was going to lose its its major revenue is now not only not losing its revenue is actually making more profits because they don’t have to pay for the meals and other things. And that’s, that’s not a tribute to us. It’s a tribute to people who are saying, this is a moment where we can try new things. Let’s put forward a lot of people cancelled because they didn’t know any better. But we should all be just trying what can we do to salvage this? Because people need the connections, need the contacts need the information and need the ability to learn? And that’s what these opportunities provide in these events?

Will Bachman 17:11
Yeah, so here’s a question. One thing that I’ve been looking for and haven’t found it yet, maybe you know of a tool like this, or if not, maybe you could, you know, encourage someone you know, to build it, it seems to me that I haven’t found a tool that would allow you to mimic the kind of cocktail hour mingling part of an event where but I imagine it should be possible. So like zoom, or other tools that you can do plenary session, you can slam people into a small breakout session, but you can’t have like a large room where you could see maybe icons of people in small groups and kind of wander up to them and hear what they’re talking about and ease their way into the conversation of two or three people. And then ease your way out and go, you know, connect with somebody else. There’s tools like run the world, which will, you know, kind of shift you into a small room with one other person. But I haven’t seen something where you can kind of wander around as if you were at a college reunion, or just any kind of cocktail hour. Have you seen something like that?

Sree Sreenivasan 18:19
Yeah, so many people are building those kinds of things right now. And I’ll I can explain, since this is audio, it’s, we’ll have to, we’ll have to talk about it. And I can show you an example. There’s a tool called Remo or Remo, I’m not sure even how to pronounce it REM mo.co. And what it does it it creates a floor plan. And in that floor plan, you can have different cocktail areas. And then you can wander from one table to another. So there’s a table of four. And then you go in there and then you see only those four people there with you. And then you leave and you go to another cocktail table. And there are seven people there. And then you listen to them for a bit you say hi. And so what you can you know, even in real life, you don’t really jump into multiple conversations you there’s some etiquette, some protocol, some I have some side eye that somebody gives you the stay away, because this is my meeting, right? Like those are, those are signals that are harder to duplicate online. But there are versions of it that are now coming up that are very interesting. And I’m excited about the possibilities. This remote is just one example there are many of these that people are playing with and we are talking to many of these companies in order to to do these, and how do you keep making them better and better. I’ll tell you for one of our clients there, this is a major celebrity musician, actor. We are creating for them a tour where it’s a speaking tour, and he’s going to do a big public event, but he wants to mingle with his VIP Others in the pre party and after party. So what we do is we use zoom as a pre party event. So 150 people in a room, he talks to them takes questions. They love it. And then he says, Okay, I’m seeing the Big Show. And he leaves. And then he’s on the Big Show with with 1000 or 10,000 100,000 people. And we did that. Also for the University of Rhode Island. We’re doing a series of conversations with us about the First Amendment. And the very first episode was with Nick Kristof and Sheryl who done the Pulitzer Prize winning journalists at the New York Times. And they met with about 35 people in a in a zoom area. And then we took them out. And then we said, Okay, everybody, half an hour, you’ve got your question with Nick and Cheryl, they’re, they’re off to the Big Show. And we’ll see you there. So there are ways in which you can, you can try to improve some of these things. And this is like radio in 1912. This is television in 1950. We’re still inventing it. And the good news is that we’re learning every day, all of us, we’re doing this, and then we are adjusting and learning and so that the iterations are really important to make this work, like podcasts have been perfected, over five 710 years, that’s it’s taken to get to this stage. And like that, we don’t have that time. Unfortunately, with this, the very new you saw the disaster that happened in online learning, and online teaching, you know, that online learning, I taught my first online class in 2009, or 10, for credit. And most people, most teachers and students had two days to suddenly go online and teach on zoom. Oh, even even at the most expensive universities the most. And by the way, the most tech savvy students, they were not ready for this because no one had ever asked them to think about it. And people were learning on the fly. Even this idea of a flipped classroom was a term, most professors didn’t learn because they thought of it as something for all those techie professors not for us, when suddenly, we became the US if you remember the, your you’re probably too young. But there was a palmolive commercial, like, Where’s the palmolive, you’re soaking in it, and where’s the digital revolution, you’re soaking in it. And that’s what happened. I was the Chief Digital Officer at Columbia University. The first one, they’re thinking about the future of education, we used to talk about this, that you need flipped classrooms, you need the ability to teach online, because the way we’re teaching hasn’t changed in three 400 years, maybe even longer. The only innovation that I can point two is PowerPoint, a in a classroom, otherwise, anybody walking into, you know, let’s say, Alexander Hamilton, or john Jay, or one of those founding fathers, walking into Columbia University, after all these years would look around and recognize in fact, the very similar looking classroom with somebody at the end of the board, or you know, out of the room talking with a sometimes still using chalk or an array, you know, our smart board. But that’s the innovation. So the way we learn has to change somewhat, but there’s still magic in one person with teaching 1015 students in a room. When I was at the Met, I would say nothing can replace the magic of one person with one painting in a gallery or 10 paintings in a gallery. So how do we best take advantage of the digital opportunities without losing the magic that I was describing?

Will Bachman 23:35
Right? What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned? So you mentioned that you’ve learned all sorts of lessons both on, you know, learning YouTube, creating your show, and doing now over 100 episodes of your daily show? What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned just in the past three months?

Sree Sreenivasan 23:55
Thank you. Well, one of them is that always be learning is something that I’ve been advocating for a long time that there’s so much to learn, and there’s so much that we don’t know. And nobody knows. So even the same thing Dr. Fauci does not know. And that’s something that we have to keep in mind. The second is that when you’ve all seen these financial times graphics of where the pandemic, the spread of it, and my countries, and I’ll never forget looking at these charts and saying that South Korea and the US got the pandemic the first day of the Coronavirus, confirmed case on the same day. And at the point where America was supposed to over 100,000 deaths, Korea was around 1000 deaths. So I look at those charts and I say that this is a result of failure at the highest levels of American leadership, American government, American media, American technology, that a country that prided itself at being the best in health care, showed that they could be doctors and nurses being asked to put on garbage bags to do surgery and other life saving operations, we saw a country that where science and information is not taken seriously by a lot of people. And all of that’s going to have an impact and be one thing to say, okay, we’ve learned our lessons, we’re pivoting now, we are serious, folks. Let’s do this. Instead, we’re seeing every day, the consequences of this. So let’s even look out a little longer term, the vaccine, if and when it comes, I’m very worried that there will be 10s of millions of people who refuse to take it because they believe that Bill Gates is going to inject them with a chip, and things like that. That’s the state of the world we’re in now. And a lot of people have to answer for it. And we all suffer as a result. And it’s a problem. So I’m trying not to be political here. I’ve not mentioned any names. And just to understand that this is, you know, one man or one woman didn’t make all of this happen. But this is a problem going back decades. All of that is is is kind of converging at this moment, even before the pandemic I said, in journalists were interviewing me at the end of the end of the year, is asking what old 2020 be like, what are your predictions and consistently, I said, historians will look back at 2020. And say, the most important year in, in many dimensions, of course, political year, but also the year, the climate change, where we had a chance to do something about climate change, and we didn’t do it, or we did do it. This is an opportunity for technology for privacy, so many things that we should be focused on, we’ve taken our eyes off the ball because of the pandemic. So that shows us how little we know about all of this. One of my favorite sayings is from Les Hinton, the former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, who says the scarcest resource of the 21st century is human attention. And that you could have great content, you could get great work, you could have great technology. But if you can’t get people’s attention to it, you are going to leave opportunities and money and everything on the table. And that’s what we’re seeing. I

Will Bachman 27:20
want to switch gears, let’s say someone who has a LinkedIn profile, and they’ve been active on LinkedIn. But let’s say a person who has not really been on Twitter, maybe they created an account, but they never visited, or maybe they don’t have an account at all. And I’ve heard about this Twitter thing. Tell us what would the advantage to someone be of getting a Twitter account? And what’s the right way to use Twitter, in your view? Or what’s a you know, what are some of the right ways to use Twitter?

Sree Sreenivasan 27:54
Thank you for asking that. And I hope anybody who is thinking about this will sign up for that muckrock Academy class will have the links in the podcast, of course, their show notes. I think that Twitter is a fascinating case study in how you think about technology. In the course, we created for the first time, what we’re calling the buzzin dozen, which is the definitive list of social media platforms, their size of the influence, etc. And you’ll, anybody who looks at that list will see Facebook at the very top, and you’ll see a 2.6 billion and all the way towards the very end is Twitter at 380 6 million along the way is YouTube at 2 billion, LinkedIn at 675 million, etc. And Twitter has been kind of plodding along at the 300 million mark for years now has not gone up. And when people look at that people often will say to me, you know, I don’t get Twitter, I don’t understand it. And I say that’s the way it’s been built. First of all, it’s only on the world of social media and Wall Street, that having a product with 300 million customers is considered to have, you know, to have left money on the table. Well, that’s a different conversation. But in terms of what we’re talking about, the reason Twitter is so much more noisy than almost everything else is because that’s where celebrities are politicians are journalists are and journalists love talking about their own favorite things. And that’s what you’re seeing.

Will Bachman 29:23
Yeah, it does. It does seem to punch above its weight, in terms of the kind of impact on the culture and on, you know, at least in terms of the news that, you know, versus some of the other ones, you know, where people are connecting like WhatsApp has 2 billion users, but it’s not so much you know, where the conversation is happening. So what are some ways that you think people should be thinking about using Twitter like, what’s the what’s the benefit, and of getting there and it also feels like it really takes a big investment to, you know, to build up a following before you can start getting the benefits of it is that is that true? Tell us Little bit, what are the benefits of it? Sure.

Sree Sreenivasan 30:01
Well, one of the founders of Twitter said he surprised how successful Twitter is considering how complicated it is to use. And that was in 2009 2010 10 years later, it’s still a problem. One of the primary things I used to complain about Twitter is that, for example, if you start a tweet with the letter with the x symbol, and I and I, and I write at Bill Gates, then that’s a message that goes only to me. And the people who follow Bill Gates and me together, that’s a very small percentage of people even no matter how big my following only the people who follow both of us here. But if I start with dot app, Bill Gates, then potentially everyone who follows me sees it. But this is kind of in the weeds, technical thing that 10 years later, people are still complaining about. And that tells you the the, if I took my slides on how to use Twitter from 10 years ago, today, the the basic premise would be the same, that there’s so much potential here. But there’s also so much noise, that it can be problematic. But if you find Twitter boring, is because you’re following the wrong people. Find the people in the world who you are most interested in, most influenced by, you want to be influenced by you admire. And if they’re on Twitter, they can, you can have a completely different look at someone’s life and work and thinking and, and career, then you do otherwise, because people are sharing oversharing extra on there. And Twitter really is a place where you’re able to have that kind of listening tool, it’s such a great listening to what you’re talking about is if I want to be famous, or I want to have instant impact, Twitter is hard. All of these platforms are hard, because people have to have a reason to follow you. So the way to think about it is that there’s a former Twitter employee named Erica Anderson, who was a great Twitter handle at Erica America. And she said, if you’re good in real life, you can be great on Twitter. And I change that to if you can be great on HR, if you’re great in real life, you can be awesome on Twitter. But if you’re bad in real life, you will be awful on Twitter. So what’s Twitter and all social media platforms do is they amplify who you are, they don’t make who you are. And that means a lot of people focus on Gee, I want to be famous, I want to they don’t do the work, but they want the fame and they focus on the on the lighter aspects of social, the more or less serious stuff. And then there are other people who do the work and then earn those followers. And that’s what you want to think about if you if you have bad products, bad advice, bad customer service, you’re always late to things you give out bad facts, you’re going to that is all going to be amplified on Twitter and Social. On the other hand, if you’re known as somebody who gives good information, people will follow you. But the good news about having people follow you is this, that yes, it’s hard to get them to follow you. But if you get the right people to follow you, that’s all that matters. So for example, on one of the things that I have learned is that my followers on social, my top 100 followers have 240 million followers themselves. So what I tell people, it’s not who follows you that matters. It’s who follows. who follows you that matters, meaning I’d rather have my top 100 people follow me than have a million people follow me. I mean, whatever, like a million people Sure, that’d be fun to say, but but the fact that I have 100 people who themselves have 240 million followers, gives me a reason to do what I’m doing. Having the ear of influencers is almost as good as being an influencer yourself. Because you’re an influencer in a different way. You’re influencing the influencers. Another somebody did a study and showed that 22% of all New York time staff who are on Twitter, follow me on Twitter. And that’s an incredible, incredibly humbling thing, right that they are doing that. So this is why I do Twitter, not because I’m going to get a million followers. Well, it’s interesting people,

Will Bachman 34:26
we should say that three has 85,000 followers, which is which is not inconsiderable, so,

Sree Sreenivasan 34:32
if it’s No thank you, but at the same time, we all know, you know, 25 year olds who have 10 times that so that’s so what I’m saying is don’t focus on the number of followers but see if you can get influential people to follow you. So I will say to anybody listening, not because I’m important, but practice on me, find me at three and tweet content in a certain way that attracts my attention. That makes me want to follow you, right Give me a reason. Don’t give me a reason to follow you don’t give me the everybody. When they look at a tweet, when someone tweets at me, I look at it for 10 seconds and I decide, oh, there’s an interesting person, should I follow them or not? And that’s what you can do. Same thing on LinkedIn. Right? Like one of my principles is what’s common sense in real life is common sense. And social media. You don’t you know, you don’t want to be the, the, let’s say the Greenpeace advocate on the sidewalk, just stopping everybody and saying, buy my services, buy my services. Greenpeace gets away with that, because the Greenpeace and they’re trying to help save the planet, the urgency of it. But if you remember the very early days of the internet with the joke was that people were doing internet advertising, like they were dropping business cards in Times Square, and just walking away and hoping somebody will pick it up and hire you for whatever it is you do. Instead, today, social media allows you to create content, create ideas, if you have good ideas, products or services. And you can get that onto the internet onto social in meaningful ways people will find you and people will follow up. But it requires work it requires energy requires a lot of activation on your part, and a lot of determination because it’s not easy. That’s what we have to acknowledge that this stuff is not easy. I like to say that social media is hard in my social media workshops. I show a tweet I did about Jim Acosta, the CNN white house correspondent that got 185,000 impressions, which is huge by my standards, that’s a lot. And I thought, gee, I’m going to get 10,000 new followers, maybe I can IPO This is going to be a great day. And you know how many followers I got one, one follower from 185,000. impressions. Why? Because people are just glancing, they’re just skimming, they’re just browsing. This is also from my early days in television, I had a whole television career I was on New York City Toilet television twice a week, every week. For a dozen years. I’ve been on the Today Show dozens of times. And people. I’m not famous for that at all people. There was a Seinfeld episode where people would say, oh, if I could just get on the Today Show, I’ll be set my business will be set. And there’s a whole puffy shirt episode we won’t get into here. But a Seinfeld classic. And what I’ve learned is that I could be on the show, and people in my own family didn’t care and weren’t watching, right? Like we have this understanding that everybody’s watching and reading everything we’re doing. And on those biggest platforms left. If you can just get our boss in a New York Times article we’re set. That is not true. It is of course it will help. Is it better to be in there than not? Absolutely. Should we be trying to get on the Today Show? Yes. But we have to do other things to be successful.

Will Bachman 37:46
Okay. change gears. Canva, you’ve taught yourself some graphic design. I love Canva. I use it myself. What How have you gone about teaching yourself? Canva? Did you just sort of explore it did take a course Did you try to create something that, you know, that sort of mimic someone else? Like how did you go about exploring and getting into building some expertise around around graphic design?

Yeah, thank you. And I want to tell you about some Canvas stats that may shock some people in your audience Canva isn’t just been valued, it was a year ago valued at $3 billion as a free product that helps you do graphic design. And last year was valued at $3 billion dollars started in Australia. And this and as a just a wonderful female founder, for example, and, and now has been doubled in one year to $6 billion valuation. This is an incredible tool. And this is all part of that subscription model basis. So it has 1.5 million paying subscribers and 30 million users, we use the free version, I use the free version for most of the pandemic, because I wanted to see how much you can do on the free version. And I ended up paying for it. Because there are some things it helps you do a little better. I mean, a lot, a lot of things that helps you when you’re when you pay for it. But you can do so much on the free side. So one of the things I learned about is some principles of graphic design. When I started my I was trying to fill the entire like write essays on a on a design this, fill it with text, and I needed to get everything into it. And that’s just not the way you do these things. People won’t read you if you do that. And more importantly, the computers won’t understand what you’re talking about. So I went from super complicated, very busy content, a. So something may have, you know, 200 words in a single graphic to going to 10 words on a single graphic and that’s what works online is is much more simple design, clear design above everything else, you think you need to bring in all this content, what you need to do is to bring the bare minimum, so that then people can learn on their own elsewhere.

Will Bachman 40:15
Yeah. Okay. And, and you know, I’m looking at here at some of the graphics that you did some very text heavy and I see the progression. Did you just sort of? Was it like a course you went through? Or did you just look at what other people that were successful were doing? And try to copy them? Like, how did you manage your own learning? And and, you know, do kind of deliberate practice that you just experiment and then see what people responded to? I’m curious to hear your thought process on that.

I think all of the above, including I have a drag, I have a wonderful design director on my team who’s fabulous. She worked at Vogue was actually my intern once upon a time and Isn’t it amazing when your juniors become your bosses and become your betters in many ways? And so she, I would, I would show her something, she would improve it for our clients. And so I just started paying attention to what she was doing. And then we sat down and said, What am I doing wrong, and she like, tore apart everything I was doing. And it really helped us to understand the principles of design, what makes sense, what works, what doesn’t. And just again, just doing it again, and again, and again, is, is something that really helps and not having the fear that if you do something and you make a mistakes and make a mistake, it’s going to be terrible. And this is all subjective. So you don’t have to feel bad if you don’t get it right. But we can all learn from the process and having a community of people in my case, we have a big Facebook group called threes advanced social that’s free and open to I mean, it’s closed group, but anybody can apply and join. We have senior people from Facebook, from Twitter, from LinkedIn, from YouTube, who are on that, including hundreds of journalists, 1000s of journalists, and people post things in there, ask questions, and we learn so that learning community, so anybody who wants to join it, just search on Facebook, threes advanced social, I’m very proud, it has 10,000 people and very little noise. And that’s because people are very respectful of what they pose the questions they ask. And design is one of the things we’re all trying to learn together.

Will Bachman 42:30
Amazing. Three, I am, I’m inspired by this idea of to go and do something, make something learn something. And it’s incredible how you you know, being a person who’s already considered like a global authority on social the way that you have, you know, pursued keep learning about new things during the pandemic, and creating know your show and learning about YouTube. What parting thoughts do you have for us? And I’ll obviously include your your various links in the show notes here. What parting thoughts do you have for folks as we, as we kind of continue to go into the unknown here in the pandemic?

I think it is, it is a big unknown, I learned that we think that we can plan and that we really can, my wife decided to throw me a 50th birthday party, and she planned a year in advance for October 24 of 2020. I just got news that they’ve canceled the New York City Marathon in November, a week or so after my birthday. So there’s a good chance that we will not have that birthday. But along the way, we’ve learned that instead of a party for 50 people in Manhattan, we could have a party for 5000 people around the world, right? So looking at what are the positive sides of this? What are the things that we can learn? What are the ways we can shake through some of the bottlenecks in our companies in our own daily lives? What are the things that we were so stuck on to and that we loved so much, that we’re actually something we needed to break? That’s one of the things I’m asking myself, and I’m asking others to look inside. And just appreciating having said all of this, that you don’t have to do any of this. Just be really clear that we’re not putting any added pressure on you to learn Canva and learn design and launch your own show. One of the shows I did was with the two greatest experts on Shakespeare in England, came on our show to talk about Shakespeare and pandemics. You heard the line that he wrote King Lear during the pandemic And should we then have to write King Lear to be successful. The good news is he didn’t write King Lear during the pandemic. He himself may have been just curled up into a ball and crying just like the rest of us. And that you do what you can and this point about you should also find time to To laugh and do other things. Even in the middle of covering this crisis as 100,000 deaths were mounting, we did an episode about humor. And the reason we did it is we said, if we don’t laugh, we’ll just be crying all day. And that’s also as human nature for us. There’s so much pain around us so many people in real difficulty that even us talking about, oh, let’s do this and do that. We have to be aware how tenuous everything is, right? We have bought the Kool Aid, that we had the greatest country on Earth, we bought the Kool Aid, the greatest economy in history, when you know that 40% of Americans couldn’t write a $500 check for an unplanned expense. They couldn’t fly across the country for a funeral. And that’s when we call it the greatest economy of all time. So that’s before 40 million people lost their jobs. So what America do we have now and what America will we have a year from now? 10 years from now, all of that will depend on how we act this year, how we each individually behave, and how our leaders behave. And I don’t mean just in Washington, I mean, every step of that way from, you know, the lowest level to the highest level. And we all have a role to play in that.

Will Bachman 46:14
All right. Wow. Great, great points. I agree with that. So much, three, thank you so much for joining, spend a fantastic conversation. I’m so inspired. I feel like I need to go out and create some more and learn some more. I really appreciate you coming on the show.

Well, you’ve done an amazing job with the business you’ve built and the podcast. You’ve built all of it. I’m very impressed. Thank you so much.

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