If you’ve not eaten at Mozzarella Fellas, downtown Sarasota, you’re missing out on the best sandwich in Sarasota. Oh, and other stuff too.

The 5 steps to a perfect sale, and how to bake them into your next digital product. #SalesLife

Watch a passionate presentation that outlines the 5 steps to every sale and explains how social sales will evolve over the next decade.

Get an inside look at my thought process by exploring a few of the hand drawn sketch notes I took at WordCamp Miami 2015.

I just talked to the boss. He said your raise is effective just as soon as you are.

Being your own boss can be hard, but it can also provide the ultimate pay off.

This post is part of my 30 day creative writing challenge. Click here to learn more about the challenge or here to explore the other posts in this series.

You hate it. Every time you have to go in on a Saturday or stay late on a weekday. Every time you have to work a few extra hours to get the job done. You are “so much better than all of this!”

You’re not perfect but life is hard and others wouldn’t understand what you’re going through. I mean, your story is different. You are hurting inside, more than I could ever imagine.

If only the world could see… they’d have to understand… Wouldn’t they?

You want that great schedule and kick ass career, but just can’t seem to get your ass in gear.

You deserve a raise. You feel undervalued. But you continue to give the world nothing to appreciate.

You keep spinning your wheels while repressing the superhero inside of you.

You know it’s in there. You feel it stirring. Trying to shine, dying to be seen.

Waiting for the moment you decide to let it out. When you finally let go of all that self doubt.

But don’t believe the lies. They just aren’t true. Whatever you are in this world, is up to no one but you.

“Oh and, I just talked to your boss… he said your raise is effective just as soon as you are!”

P.s. You’re fired! – With cause.

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So now what? Where will you turn? Will you go back to work and continue to yearn?

Or come out on your own, and show the whole world you’ve actually grown.

Because education is great, but don’t let it fool you, out on the street, the real world will school you!

You want things you are unwilling to give. To set yourself free, to let yourself live.

Stuck in a box, a corner of life. Stuck on repeat. Stuck on strife.

Tell me you hate it, keep on complaining, show me your tears, I’m patiently waiting.

To show you the way, to gain your trust. To give you knowledge and a new type of lust.

Not one for sex or selfish desire, but one of accomplishment, one to aspire!

I’ll push you to work, but not for the machine. And I’ll help you accomplish your wildest dream!

I’ll show you that you are the thing, standing in between you and succeed.

You and your stubborn reluctance to feed. On all that’s around you, on all that you need.

But soon you will starve and then you will see, the lessons of life, the lessons you need.

To get you through, to help you exceed. To be the best you-to-the-world you could possibly be.

Nothing more that what you need, Let me in, I’m just planting the seed.

So water away, and together we’ll see, that we all have the tools, to set ourselves free!

Did you enjoy this post? I’d love it if you shared it with a friend!

This post is part of my 30 day creative writing challenge. Click here to learn more about the challenge or here to explore the other posts in this series.

So, you’ve been writing for a while now, maybe even started your own blog, but no one is reading what you write…

This article is going to help you fix that!

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You’ve tweeted your post, Facebooked it, hash-tagged it, and even spammed your friends and family with emails linking to your work. You know the world would love what you have written, if only you could get them to read it. But how the heck do you get people to notice your work online?

First, it helps to put yourself in the readers shoes. Think about how you browse the net. Think about how you skim articles, scroll through social feeds, and engage with the content you enjoy.

Once you do that, you can see how easy it is to have people skip right over your work. People are impatient online so it’s up to you to snatch their attention whenever you get a chance.

Don’t take it personal if your writing doesn’t go gangbusters as soon as you hit publish. Writing and articulating your thoughts is an important part of the process, but it’s just the beginning. If you want to get people to consistently read what you write then you have to promote your work and give it the best chance to get noticed online.

There are specific ways to do this right, and blasting your Facebook feed with the same link 10 times a day is not the way to do it. If you’re serious about getting people to read what you write, then here are a few tips to help you attract those eyeballs on a consistent basis.

1. Writing compelling titles

You should spend as much time on the title as you do on the article itself as this sets the expectation for the reader. Everyone online judges book by their cover. 80% of people decide whether to click on a link based on the title alone.

Most of my articles actually start out as an idea for a compelling title. I have a blog concepts folder in my Evernote that is full of ideas and titles for articles that I would like to write. Usually it’s just a concept for the article, some ideas on the title, and a sentence or two about what I would like to delver with that particular post. Then whenever I want to write something, I can just go into that folder and go from there.

Want to read more about how to write compelling titles? Click here

2. Formatting. Formatting. Formatting.

Seriously, if your post is just one long paragraph, I’m gonna click the back button before I read the first sentence.

Short paragraphs work best online and using headings to split up the post is always a good idea. You can also use things like block quotes, call outs and images to break up your content and make it easier to read.

Want to read more about formatting the perfect post? Click here

3. Always deliver value

If you want people to read your words, then you have to give them a reason to do so. To do that, each article should have a specific take away. This also gives the reader a reason to click on your link the next time they see it in their news feed.

Writing personal posts can be empowering, but most people don’t want to read your frivolous rants about life.

However, people love a good story. So if your writing skills are strong enough, then you can definitely deliver a compelling personal story that people will love to read.

Just make sure you write it in a way that allows the reader to place themselves inside of your story. Let the reader connect with you emotionally and you will quickly find yourself in front of a growing audience.

Want to read more about delivering value and blowing your readers minds? Click here

4. Connecting with influencers

Influencers are people who have large online audiences. People who can share a link to your work and help you gain exposure.

All traffic on the internet comes from links. Whether it is a link on a Google search result page, another blog, or social media, the only way to get people to your site is by having other people to link to it.

You can do this by connecting with influencers in your industry and sharing your post with them directly.

How do you do that? Find out where they are and start engaging with them. They are more likely to notice you if you notice them first. Quid pro quo is a perfectly acceptable strategy when it comes to sharing content online and growing your audience.

Want to read more about how to get influencers to share your work? Click here

5. Asking for the share

I always ask for a share at the end of my posts. It usually goes something like this

“If you enjoyed this post, I would appreciate you sharing it with a friend. It’s the biggest compliment you could ever give me! Thanks.”

Adding something like this to the end of your posts is not spammy and is a great way to build your social shares.

Think about it, they just read your entire article. And presumably, we only read things we like, so asking someone to share something that they just read and liked is a pretty logical progression.

Not everyone will share your work, but every extra share means extra eye balls on your post and that is the overall goal.

Want to read more about how to ask people to share your posts? Click here

6. Posting at the right times

Knowing when your audience is most likely to engage with your work takes time but it is something you should think about when publishing on your website or on social media.

For me, I have the most success when I post articles in the mornings, around 8:00 am to be precise. Additionally, Mail Chimp tells me that the best to send my emails is around 10:00 am. But that is all based on my particular audience.

The best times to post for your particular audience may vary, and probably will for most of you. If you want to give your content the best chance at being read, then knowing when to post it is pretty important.

Want to read more about proper post timing? Click here

7. Publishing Consistently

I don’t mean to tell you that you need to publish your posts at the same time each week, or even that you need to publish something new every day. What I mean when I say consistency, is that you have to constantly produce high quality content in order to build credibility with your audience.

Publishing on the same day each week and having a consistent schedule is not going to hurt, but regularly producing great content is more important than posting each article at a particular time.

But remember, frequency is nowhere near as important as quality. Regularly posting crap content is a sure fire way to train people to ignore your work.

Set a standard for the quality of your posts and do not publish anything until you think it meets those standards. It’s hard to gain credibility online but it’s really easy to lose it.

Want to read more about how to publish consistently and not get burned out? Click here

In Closing

These are just some basic guidelines to follow. There are a ton of other things you can do to get your work in front of a larger audience, but the tips in this article are a great place to start out as a beginner. You won’t be held back by a bunch of technical hurdles, and it’s the easiest way to quickly grow your online audience.

Got any tips for growing an online audience or getting people to read what you write? Leave them in the comments below!

And of course, if you enjoyed this article, please share it with a friend. It’s the best compliment you could ever give me!

Is Medium Trying to Steal Your Blog?

Because it kind of feels like it to me.

 This post originally appeared on Medium

Medium-trying-to-steal-our-blogsContent, content, content…

It’s probably one of the most overused marketing buzzword of the last few years. And as far as I can tell, it will continue on that trajectory into the foreseeable future. Especially as businesses, marketers, writers and other individuals look for ways to stand out among the noise, and rush to claim their piece of online pie.

The online new media machine is devouring old media at an alarming pace. It seems that everyone is in a hurry to share their deepest, darkest thoughts online. Over the last 10 years it has become increasingly easy for individuals to build an online presence, but it has also become increasingly difficult for them to actually stand out from the crowd.

In this epic race for online space, businesses are building platforms with the intention of easily aggregating high-quality, user-generated content. Content that provides value for the reader and engagement (think advertising opportunities) for the site owner. Something Facebook seems to have perfected, even if their recent profits come at the cost of their credibility. However, no one has been able to replicate that process for long form content. That is, until Medium.

Businesses and online entrepreneurs have understood the value of blogging for a while now, but the average individual is discovering that it is also a great way for them to build their personal brand. As the freelance economy gains traction and remote workplaces grow in popularity, the importance of setting yourself apart online continues to increase. A robust website is no longer optional, and will soon be the ultimate 21st century living resume.

This is where Medium comes in, at least from a bloggers perspective.

Medium has built (in my opinion) one of the simplest, most user friendly, publishing platforms in existence. They have made it easy for anyone to get online and share their story. No need for any of the other trouble associated with building a website, just “here’s your digital notebook, hit publish whenever you have an idea worth sharing!”

However, what many do not realize is that the importance of building your presence online revolves around your ability to control not only the message, but the platform as well.

The purpose of having your own website is so that you can control how it looks and feels. You do it so that you can have control over how the user interacts with your story and hopefully to take them from one action to another.

Another reason for managing your online presence independently is that there is a growing need to own the search results for your name. You want to build your own individual presence because in a world where Google is the arbiter of information, you want them to know that your website is the bastion for everything you. Not your profile page on Medium.

Additionally, what if you want to monetize your presence? What if you decide to start selling a book or other product? What happens when your presence is on Medium and there is nowhere for you to insert a form, build a landing page or otherwise engage the audience you are working so hard to build?

You are after all trying to build YOUR presence aren’t you? I hate to imagine the thought of you working so diligently, only to end up helping some guys in silicon valley build their website instead of yours. And when you focus solely on a single social outlet as the hub of your online presence you are doing just that.

Now, I am not saying that publishing on Medium is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, I think it’s a great tool to use as you grow your presence, and considering I have had great success with Medium, it would be hypocritical of me to do so.

What I am trying to say, is that you should not (exclusively that is) build your brand around Medium or any other social publishing platform for that matter. You should build your presence around your own website and then use outlets like Medium as channels through which you drive traffic, grow engagement and build influence.

You need to build a content engine for yourself as opposed to feeding their future advertising machine. A machine they will eventually attempt to monetize and potentially leave you looking from the outside in at an audience you worked so hard to build.

They will use your content as the foundation from which fund their revenue model, drive advertising dollars or otherwise modify the platform in a way that will be beyond your control. (Facebook pages anyone?) What happens when it cost you money to publish or when they start letting people pay to get to the top of those subscriber emails?

I am not certain this is the direction they are taking the platform, but they have already made fundamental shifts in the way they share and allow you to curate content, and they continue to make changes that lead me to believe that they are moving towards a platform that might leave your wallet a little lighter if you wish to continue using it to share your message in the not too distant future.

Sure their subscription tool is great and their interface is clean but watch out, they might just be trying to back door their way into stealing your blog.

Wouldn’t it be a beautiful thing if I was wrong about all of this. Only time will reveal their true intentions, but I cant help but think that they are making their way towards a viable revenue model. Even if those movements are subtle.

I’m not certain about any of this, And I won’t tell you to stop using Medium, but I can tell you that if you are serious about building your blog, or any substantial online presence, you should be doing it with the fundamental understanding that it needs to be yours.

Medium should definitely be a part of your strategy but honestly, your website needs to be a platform which you can control. Something that you own. Not something that leaves you as a tenant to the fruits of your own labor.

So what do you think? Is Medium trying to steal our blogs? Or do I have it all wrong?

P.s. My entire argument presumes that you are using the web as a means to an end. If you just like writing for writings sake and just want a simple platform from which to publish your miscellaneous thoughts then Medium might be the perfect place for you.

Alfredo Lopez explains why all businesses are now media companies and how to effectively use that advice to drive your online social engagement strategy.

“All Businesses Are Now Media Companies”

Alfredo Lopez – Cofounder Social Chrome

Today’s generation of youngsters , the twenty and thirty-somethings (and all future generations for that matter), are hard-wired to seek out online content before doing business with anyone. Indeed, according to Marketing Land, 91% of people have visited a store after an online experience.

Promotions and discounts are no longer enough to drive new business. Think about it, do you ever see flyers any more ? What about that ancient book of golden scrolls we used to call the Yellow Pages? Exactly.

Business paradigms have shifted to include more parity and transparency for the consumer. Customers want to be engaged by your business. They want to experience your personality, and they want to see what other people are saying about you. In short, they want to be fascinated, not finagled. Fascination is magnetic, and is a key to attracting new business.

So, how exactly how do you attract new business with social media? Scratch your head no more, here are three proven techniques to do just that!

1: Transparency

Transparency results in trust and a deep sense of security towards your business which should be the main goals of any social media strategy. In today’s business world, transparency is absolutely vital. You simply cannot do without it.

Not too long ago, business folk, salespeople, and marketers had a big advantage: more often than not, they had more information than consumers. If you walked into a car dealership, the salesman knew more than you. If you went to the doctor, he or she knew more than you too. This eventually led to consumer mistrust.

With the advent of the internet, and sundry other modern communication tools and devices, there is now a surplus of information. This means that consumers often have as much, if not more, information than the salesperson. Transparency breaks down barriers because you are effectively letting people learn more about you, the way you work, and how you service customer needs.

Another important motivation for transparency is what bestselling author Daniel Pink calls non-sales selling. Let’s be clear. Being transparent, and setting up the systems and operations with which to be transparent, is an action. Specifically, we can qualify this type of action as non-sales selling.

Pink estimates that we spend around 40% of our time engaged in non-sales selling: influencing, persuading, and convincing others in ways that have nothing to do with anyone buying anything. So what is the ROI of non-sales selling? Trust. And there’s simply no substitute for that as we move towards a more transparent future.

2: Micro-Content

One of the keys to social media is microcontent; the smaller the better. Think of microcontent as a bunch of snapshots you take with your camera, or as small conversations that you have with your neighbor. There are two critical components that make microcontent successful: quality and regularity. Let’s unpack these concepts.

Several ingredients go into producing quality content. First of all, your content must be personable. There’s no point in producing content and sounding like an answering machine. That approach is going to make people feel like they are sitting in line at the DMV (why would you do that).

Take a look at your current content strategy: do you sound human, or do you sound like a bot? It makes a big difference.

High quality content evokes a human response in the audience. When you pair that response with a call to action, then you are well on your way to building a relationship and adding value for the consumer.

That’s the real power of social media: creating connections!

Consider what Coca-Cola has done recently with their “Share a Coke” campaign. They have been printing people’s names on their classic Coca-Cola cans. An example might say, “Share a Coke with your BFF” or “Share a Coke with Family” or “Share a Coke with Susie.” See that there? The Coca-Cola can is already a classic, but they figured out a way to use the space on the can to produce a piece of personalized content alongside the branding.

The result? Sales catapulted to the highest they have been in a decade, and I’m pretty sure there are a lot of happy Susies out there.

Another thing to consider is relevance. Remember: your content should not necessarily be about you, it should be about your audience. How relevant is your content? Is it tailored to your particular audience?  Much of the challenge in generating great content comes from identifying your audience’s personality and tailoring your message to their liking.

The first thing you should be doing is creating a buyer persona that outlines as much detail as possible about your target audience.

What do they eat? What music do they listen to? Are they creative? Rational? Educated? Affluent? Edgy? Conservative? Introverted? Extroverted?

After you have pinpointed your buyers personality, you can start playing matchmaker. That is, you can say, “Hey Mr. Audience Member, I’d like to introduce you to this content that is tailored specifically for you, wink wink.” Now you’re a matchmaker, and everyone loves the person who introduces them to cool stuff.

3: Fascination/Innovation

There are a lot things in the world that are not fascinating. Things like the post office, filing your taxes, washing your dishes multiple times a day, jury duty, getting a cramp on your calf while you’re running or just sitting on the couch. Your business, as its own media company, should not be on that list. Ever.

More and more, marketers are privy to the fact that we are in a post-information age. It used to be that information was scarce, and whoever had access to information had a distinct advantage. But that is no longer the case. Information is abundant, and available at the touch of a button.

So how do you stand out from the noise and guffaw when information is all too prominent? You have to be fascinating.

Businesses are adopting social media marketing at accelerated rates. In fairness, not everyone loves social media, but an astute business owner must at least concede that it is invaluable to the well being of his or her business. As we move into a future where all businesses are exercising some form of social saes strategy, the most successful businesses will not be those with  the same old social media strategies, but those who utilize social media in such a way as to be evoke fascination.

According to bestselling author Sally Hogshead, there are 7 triggers that evoke fascination. These are:

  1. Power
  2. Trust
  3. Mystique
  4. Lust
  5. Prestige
  6. Vice
  7. Alarm

I call them the 7 friendly wins and they should be your new best friends. Each one of them is a key ingredient in the recipe for your social media cake. Realistically, employing all of them would be excessive, but it’s important to at least be familiar with all of them. Try to employ them strategically and contextually whenever possible.  Your use of these concepts will make your business irresistible to consumers.

Ultimately, fascination is an instinct. In other words, we are not rationally drawn to fascination, we’re magnetically drawn to it for reasons that reason does not grasp. Nevertheless, this instinct serves as a catalyst for action and behavior, including the decision to buy.

It’s time to harness your most fascinating self. Now go fascinate.

A.R.T. = Attract. Retain. Transcend

Sales & Marketing as an ART? That’s SMART!

In this article I’ll walk you through the basics of inbound marketing while explaining a few keys principles that will help you take full advantage of your online sales and marketing efforts.

Let’s Get Started

The process of attracting an audience online and converting them into customers is evolving faster today than ever before and keeping up can quickly become a full time job.

When it comes to the web, you either learn how to do it yourself, or hire a pro. It has become so easy to build a website that everyone is doing it and honestly, I see no problem with that.

However, many of those people now want to sell you something and the internet is quickly becoming a flea market of monotonous content and online stores with lots of things to sell but no real value to deliver.

Sure, you can go build a website and install a store, but when it comes down to actually selling something then I think you will find that there is more to the process than meets the eye.

New School vs Old School Sales

So many people are stuck in the old school thought process of how sales and marketing should work. They have not taken the time to watch and study its evolution. A process which is speeding up daily.

They still focus on the grind of cold calling, door knocking and sales stalking. Not that these methods don’t work, but as times and technology changes, so should your approach to sales.

Related: Follow These 5 Steps to Design the Perfect Sales Process

Beware of False Social Success

It seems like everyone is a marketer these days, or at least claims to be. I find it funny when someone tells me that they are a marketer and then gives me a blank stare when I ask them what they think about companies like HubSpot, MOZ or CopyBlogger. So many people have jumped into the industry to become “social media managers” that I can’t help but roll my eyes when someone starts to tell me about how good they are at getting “likes” for their clients on Facebook.

Considering that Facebook has lost most of it’s value to marketers over the last couple years, I find it insulting that so many people want you to pay them to artificially supplement your social credibility. If numbers are all you’re after then there are a million places where you can buy fake traffic, but if you are really trying to set yourself apart, then forget about padding your vanity stats and instead focus your efforts on the the actual ART of online sales.

Your website, not social media should be the base of operations for everything you do online. Sure, social media is a good tool for engaging your audience but think of the networks as just that. Tools.

You should think of social media as the air conditioner in your sales car. Sure it’s great to have, but if it goes out, the car should still drive. So roll down your windows and learn how to survive on the open web. It’s easier than you think and it is considerably more effective for your online sales presence in the long term.

By relying on social media as the sole driver for your online business, you are really just building business for the network itself. Not to mention that a single change in the way those social networks work could leave you stripped of you of your ability to access that network or dramatically diminish your engagement in the blink of an eye. Don’t believe me, just watch the video below.

Instead of building your business on social media, your focus should be on making your website more social. Incorporate some of the stuff that makes social media so great into the website itself, and then focus on using social media as a distribution channel for your awesome content.

This way you are in charge of the platform, you control the data (subscribers, emails, platform, etc) and no one can get in your way.

Is it a little more difficult? Yes.

Can you do it? I think so.

Heck, look at what I’ve built and I can’t even type properly. Seriously. I use an advanced chicken peck technique. But hey, the words still read the same way.

So with no further delay, here they are. Three simple steps to master the ART of online sales. Think of it as the master key to your online sales lock! #YoureWelcome

Step 1 – Attract

Because you must earn trust from an audience before you can sell them anything.

The first step to selling online is to attract eyeballs. Sure you can do this with paid search and media buys, but these are all ad based marketing efforts. Yes, they can deliver an instant return, but only as long as you keep spending money to get it.

If we are going to progress as marketers then we need to start building long term online sales assets that drive traffic organically. Inbound marketing is the process by which you do just that, and learning how to blend original content with your paid advertising should be the first step in building your online sales monster.

You should be using your paid advertising as a tool to find out what is working and to hone in on keywords that are relevant to your conversion process. From there you should start to put together a plan that revolves around creating a library of relevant content for your ideal buyer. A resource for them to fully understand you, your product and how buying it will benefit them.

Don’t be afraid to let your story shine through when you start to work on a plan for your content marketing. Some businesses get so caught up in industry lingo and technical jargon, that they forget that their prospects are also human. They forget that most people just like a good story.

If you can find ways to combine your great products with some compelling online storytelling, then you are well on your way to online sales success. Just remember to jab a couple times before throwing that hook!

Step 2 – Retain

Because keeping customers is easier than getting new ones.

We all know that it’s less expensive to keep existing customers than it is to gain new ones so how come so few businesses are spending time marketing to their existing customer base?

70% of companies say it’s cheaper to retain a customer than acquire one

If you truly want to perfect the art of online sales, then it comes down to leveraging existing relationships and developing a plan for your current clients that is just as robust as your efforts to acquire new ones.

Most sales organizations work so hard to drive new sales, that they often leave their buyers on the edge of a cliff after they make a purchase. They give their buyers little direction after the sale and miss out on one of the most opportunistic times to bring that customer back around for a relationship building experience.

The customer has just expressed the ultimate faith in you as a business by buying your product. Their trust and emotion for the things you do are not likely to reach this level again without more work from the sales team. This is why it’s important to close your sales loop and have a defined plan to transition your buyer into the next phase of your sales process.

By inviting your customers into a more personal side of your business you make them feel comfortable with their choice and reassure them that they did in fact, make the right decision. You can then set them up for cross sell/up-sell opportunities, repeat sales, and more importantly, referrals. The holy grail of any sales organization.

You don’t have to look further than companies like Evernote, Apple, Amazon, etc. to see how they have created cults of customers who then become an extension of their marketing departments.

The only way to build this level of relationship with your buyer is to open up. To connect emotionally with them and to make them feel like they are part of your business family as opposed to just another revenue opportunity. It is up to you to create that connection and buyers are hungry for that type of sales experience.

Just think about how much you hate a crappy sales process and then put yourself in your buyer’s shoes. Would they be happy with your post purchase procedures? If not then you might want to spend a little more time working on retaining your existing customers before going out and spending all their money trying to get new ones.

Step 3 – Transcend

Because f#@k the competition!

So many businesses spend all their time worrying about and copying what the competition is doing that they forget why they got into business in the first place. They forget that innovation is the real driver in any business and that focusing on the competition too much can cause them to stagnate.

That is why you are in business isn’t it? To deliver value to your customers? To grow and build on your vision for how the things you do can make the world you live in a better place?

Why then would you spend so much time copying the competition as opposed to setting yourself apart from them. Why not try something new? Why not go out on a limb and share a portion of yourself that makes it immediately apparent to your prospect that you are different from everyone else they are considering for this purchase.

I’m not telling you to ignore the competition completely, just that you need to elevate yourself above them in order to stand out. This is something you can only do by being different as well as being better than the competition.

Throw some personality into your sales copy, tell me a joke now and again and make me think that there are actual humans working for you. Make me feel like your goal is to do more than just sell me something and I’ll be infinitely more likely to buy from you.

We live in a world where everyone is always trying to sell us something so when you actually make me feel like you care then you win. When you give me value before I buy from you, then you win again. And when you give me the resources I need to make an informed buying decision with no sleazy sales pressure, then you will most likely win me over as a customer.

In Conclusion

Just don’t suck. Seriously, we live in a world where we are constantly under attack from some sales pitch, so why not tell me a story instead? Why not tell me why you got into business in the first place? Why not tell me about your amazing employees and how they help you do what you do better? Anything other than just trying to cram your product down my throat.

All of these things can go a long way in the process of taking me from a shopper to a buyer, and they are definitely things you should be thinking about right now. Because whether you want to admit it or not, the social sales revolution is upon us, and if you aren’t careful, you might just get left in the dust.


Learn more about how life and sales are interconnected and discover how learning a few simple sales tips can change your life.

The history of Raymmar.com and why I am uniquely qualified to help you grow your online presence.

 Executive Summary:

Let me save you some time here.

There is no secret to building a brand online.

  1. It takes time and a lot of great content.
  2. It takes a good story and a willingness to open up and make yourself and yes, your product vulnerable to the world.
  3. It means sharing the story of why you do the things you do as opposed to trying to trick people into helping you do them.

Once you break that barrier, you can begin to build trust with your audience and turn your online presence into a revenue generating machine that can help you spread your message across the world.

If you are interested in learning more about how to do just that, click here and let’s talk about how I can help you optimize and grow your online business.

It Begins

Raymmar.com started out as just a simple online portfolio…

I was just starting out as a marketing consultant and trying to build a name for myself online. I bought a cheap hosting plan on GoDaddy, installed WordPress and bought my first theme. I had no development skills, and zero dollars to spend on any of it, but I was going to take over the world.

The site was pretty gross. At the time I thought it looked good, but a few friends told me they wouldn’t come back until I changed how it looked.

I was bombing my Facebook feed with requests for people to “Like” my page and to “check out my new website”. That is, until a friend sent me an article from The Oatmeal about how to get more Facebook likes.

To make a long story short, the article said to quit begging friends for Facebook likes and start creating content that they would actually like.

I had been so focused on trying to get people to my website, that I forgot to give them a reason to come in the first place. There was no reason for them to stay when they got there or come back if they did decide to visit. And even the few people who came had little to see, and even less that was worth sharing.

I set out to find a better theme, and then learn as much about blogging, search engine optimization and inbound marketing as I could. I wanted to learn everything I could about how the internet worked and I still had quite a few things to learn about writing words that people would actually want to read.

Starting to tell a story

I started trying to express more of my personality online. I started playing around with online memes and Infographics. I began writing more in depth articles (like this one about email marketing) and tried to understand the best marketing practices by actually practicing them.

I started writing articles about the town I lived in and wrote a couple stories about the incubator I was working in at the time. I was testing my writing abilities and trying to find ways to use local events to boost views and engagement.

I started sharing stories about being a broke entrepreneur, and the emotional struggles of giving up everything you love to go chase a dream.

I started sharing part of my personal struggle but not in an attempt to gain sympathy or pity from my audience. I did it in an attempt to inspire them. To show that determination, hard work and the willingness to fail fast are things anyone can learn and use to accomplish their goals in life.

I was able to convert my story into something people cared about. Something someone looking to find a place online would do well to learn quickly. My audience finally had a reason to come back. Now they were rooting for me.

But how to get to that next level? How would I shake things up or separate myself from the millions of other online bloggers?

“I know, I’ll start making videos!”

Said the guy who had never shot, or edited a video in his life.

I was watching some Vsauce videos and decided that I could do something similar and started to produce videos about politics and life.

My first video did pretty well online and I was happy with the couple thousand views it got but I wasn’t prepared for what would happen when I released my next video.

I published the rant on a Friday afternoon. By midnight it had 5,000 views.

Friends immediately started messaging me, telling me that I was crazy. Even some of my fellow content creators told me I had just ruined my career. They said I was stupid to put something like that out to the world. That even though I made good points, I had also made a big mistake.

The next day that video did more than 80,000 views. That Sunday it did 221,505 page views and another 77,007 the day after that. Then Facebook shut down the link. This was the first, but not the last time, that Facebook throttled my content.


Nigga Please video stats from WordPress


Not only did they block the post, but since my commenting system was connected to Facebook at the time, I lost the ability for people to comment on the post as well as losing the 900+ comments that had already been made.

Although the video got blocked from Facebook, I still got a big viral bump from it and it helped me build an early subscriber base. I now had a small group of people to update with new posts, and I had an article that was giving me some credibility with Google.

Over the next few months I kept writing and made a few more videos. Nothing took off like that first video, but I wasn’t worried. I now understood that the path to building a strong online presence would be slow and steady. It would be about testing and trying, tweaking and breaking, constantly evolving until the site gets to the point where people can’t help but spend time interacting with it.

In my mind, the goal was to build a library of evergreen content. I was telling beautiful stories and stocking the digital shelves of my website with arrangements of words that people liked to read. Available to anyone, at any time. This is the real key. Sticking with it. Sure the viral posts help but those will come eventually if you just focus on telling great stories and putting your best work out to the world.

Over the next few months, I set out to refine the website and prepare it for the next traffic explosion. In the process I connected with a group of people that asked me to come out to CPAC with them and be their on-air personality on Radio Row

broadcasting on Radio Row

From left to right, Benjamin Doherty, Raymmar Tirado and Lisa Mei! Broadcasting live from Radio Row at CPAC 2014

Raymmar On-radio-row-2

Raymmar on set with David Webb on the SiriusXM set at CPAC

Keep in mind, I have no formal training as a journalist, reporter or anything that even resembles either of those things. What about my radio experience? That hadn’t happened yet so I was a total rookie! But what kind of blogger would turn down an opportunity for that kind of exposure on a national level?

While preparing to head out for CPAC, I wrote and published an article titled 7 Reasons You’ll Never Do Anything Amazing With Your Life. It was not until a couple of weeks later when I looked at my web stats and saw that I was getting a thousand views a day, two thousand, three thousand and then one day 26,000 page views. Turns out that the article was going viral on Medium.

Million Views on medium

7 reasons article going viral on Medium

That month (February 2014) we did 1 million views on Medium alone and another 1.5 million in the following four months. We still do 20-50K views a month on Medium and while that traffic might not be directly tracked on my site, the hundreds of thousands of people who did come to my site from Medium were already highly engaged with my work. This means they subscribe at a much higher rate which is definitely one of the perks of being a top publisher on Medium.


The traffic from Medium fluctuated dramatically for the next few months

There have been other articles that performed well online. Namely this one, and this one. The exposure I got from these articles lead to being asked to become a contributor at the Huffington PostElite Daily, and a number of other notable online publications. All of which have gone a long way towards helping me gain credibility as a writer, but for me, the focus has always been on turning my website into the center of operations. The rest of these things are just part of the distribution mechanism but any aspiring web mogul would do well to make sure their website is the hub for all of their online interactions.

All of this exposure was giving the site a boost in search rankings which is one of the things that young blogs can struggle with. This past July, the website was showing up in Google search results hundreds of thousands of times per day. It seemed that we were not only gaining credibility with readers but with the search engines as well. And remember, this is all organic. There is no paid advertising behind any of this growth at all.


Showing up in Google search results millions of times,

All in all, over the last year (not including the Medium traffic) we did just under a million views on my personal website and gained more than 10,000 email subscribers. Sure the web traffic is still erratic and I am sure it will continue to be that way as it grows, but I drive regular engagement, have a steady base of repeat visitors and am regularly getting leads from all around the internet. All of which has allowed me to work from home and be my own boss.


Raymmar.com, year over year web growth by page view.

Making a confession

I do not have magical marketing powers or any secret tricks to teach you about how to be a better blogger. I can only tell you that the moment I started sharing bits of my personal story with the world is the moment that the world started actually listening.

There is so much noise online and so many people are always trying to sell you something, that most people enjoy it when someone is honest and open with them. They appreciate it when you share your goals and struggles with them, and I think that businesses can learn a lesson from all of this as well.

I think that businesses can learn a little something about lowering their shields, and letting their customers see the people that actually make them a great company.

Tell me the story of the immigrant CEO or the mom who created the product to help her kids. Tell me why you make the product, not why you think I should buy it. Let’s start making better products so that we can restore some level of faith in a sales process that has become completely perverted over time.

These last few years have been an interesting journey. They have taught me how to be a one man media mogul and showed me how to broadcast my message to the world. My web presence is now bigger than most of the media companies in my local market and I will continue to hone these skills until I pass each of them up alltogether. I will continue to publish high quality content and keep helping creative entrepreneurs and small businesses do the same thing along the way.

So if you have a business, product, or website that you are looking to build an online presence for, then I’d love to hear from you. Whether we do business or not, I love to connect with other people who are doing cool things online.

Anyway. Hopefully you have enjoyed this story and maybe you’ll even come back for another one sometime soon.


In this episode of RayDO, Raymmar is joined by Bryan Saxon and Joel Fenton, co-founders of FeedMe app for iPhone which is currently in early development.

In this Episode:

We discuss the decision to become your own boss and the process of going out and starting your own company. We try to decide what defines a startup,  and then break into our individual stories and events that lead us to do what we are doing. We also dive into the concept of design thinking, simplifying your value proposition and debate whether or not the process of “selling” has become obsolete.



In this article, Alfredo Lopez takes us through the misconceptions about social exposure and helps us see the true value of social ROI.

Don’t Ask: What is the ROI of Social?

While sales and numbers are important, I’ve come to understand that this may be the wrong question. We can get an insight into the flaws of this question if we ask it in a different way.

Instead Ask: What Is the ROI of Trust?

What is the ROI of trust? What is the ROI of establishing rapport with your customers? As Ted Rubin pointed out as far back as 2011, “If you want to continue to reach your market in this social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI (Return on Investment) to include ROR: Return on Relationship™.”

When you’re talking social you’re not necessarily talking dollars and cents, though of course that’s included in any bottom line. Instead, the language of social is the language of relationships, and that cannot always be quantified. What metrics would you use to measure trust? What analytics would be sound enough to illuminate the returns on successful customer relationships? These questions are worth asking, but the answers are not easily revealed.

Any social media strategy must calibrate itself not simply to drive sales and increase earnings (though it includes these), but also to build and maintain relationships. This is social media in a nutshell: building and maintaining relationships that originate online, which in turn translate into real world value. Any other understanding of social media misses the point. So how do you get a return on relationship?

Three ways to drive ROR

1. Shut Your Mouth, Open Your Ears: The Art of Listening

You may have heard of this. It’s what you should be doing when you are not too busy talking all the time Mr. Talker. The real art of listening takes place on two different levels, and they are very different.

On one hand, there is the listening to what was literally, physically, said. That is to say, the actual sequence of words that were put together and communicated directly.

For example, a client who runs an upscale restaurant in Manhattan might ask, “How’s the social media campaign coming along?” It’s easy enough to understand the outer meaning of this: it’s a fairly direct question.

On the other hand, there is the subtext, or reading between the lines of what was physically said. To take our earlier example, the client has asked about the social media campaign, but might secretly be concerned about something else, or might have another question which he is hesitant to ask.

It’s important to be sensitive not merely to what is physically said, but also to what is said between the lines. You may consider: How did they say it? What was their tone like? What was their posture and attitude like when they asked? What was their emotional state? All of these are important considerations and are also part of communication and listening.

So why is listening so difficult? Here’s a partial answer: we’re too caught up in our own subjective thoughts, feelings, and daydreams. Sound familiar?

When you truly listen to someone, you have to get rid of your own preconceptions and all the thoughts that you have bouncing around on pogo sticks in your skull. All the subjective thoughts in your head are just extra noise that drowns out what is being said. Try listening to your favorite song while at the same time running the blender. Our listening is usually like that.


If you’re preparing an answer while someone is talking, you’re not listening to them. You’re listening to yourself.

Just listen. Don’t prepare an answer while the person is talking. Just listen. Don’t think of how you spilled your drink at last weekend’s cocktail party because the speaker said something that reminded you of that. Just listen. You have to be empty. You can’t take in what someone is saying if you are full of responses, ideas, rebuttals, and thoughts.

Social is almost all about listening. In the past, advertising and marketing had a ‘me’ mentality. It was all about my product, my service, or my personal brand. In the social age, it’s now about others. It’s a conversation, not a lecture.

2. Ask More Questions

Asking more questions is a powerful way to build relationships because it is fundamentally an act of humility and openness. It says that you’re looking to connect, and that is at the heart of all things social. This is the exact opposite of the “know it all” who stifles all conversation because he “already knows.” That is being closed, not open. Don’t be that person. Nobody likes that person.

Asking more questions helps build relationships with your clients because it shows that you are curious about them. There’s an idea! Other people exist! Shocking, I know. I spent some time in sales, and there was one very powerful question that, more often than not, allowed me to establish trust and rapport with clients. This is because questions open doors and further the conversation. The question was this: “What else?”

Try it.

Notice what happens when you ask this question. Rather than having listened to someone, and then preparing a response or rebuttal, you are actually requesting more from that person. This surprises people (in a good way) because they feel that they are being heard and valued. It’s a way of saying, “I’m listening. Is there more? What else do you have for me? What else do you need? What else can I help with?”

Asking more questions is the difference between buying something and being sold. If you’re being talked at, you’re being sold. If you’re being listened to, you’re more inclined to buy and thus enter into a relationship.

3. Quality Trumps Quantity: Less is More

Quick, would you rather have thousands of followers on Twitter or a dozen trustworthy clients? Would you rather have four quarters or a hundred pennies? In social media marketing, it’s best to go with quality over quantity. Appearances can be great, and I don’t think anyone would reject thousands of followers on Twitter, or thousands of ‘Likes’ on Facebook. After all, popularity breeds popularity. But behind appearances, there are often latent conflicts, and it’s best to go with quality.

Quality clients and quality engagement on social media will grow your brand and ensure your reputation into the future. You might not be as flashy as you’d like, and you may not go viral anytime soon; but step by step, as you lay down the foundation for a sterling reputation, you’ll be glad you went with quality. This is an art more than a science. As Robert Pirsig put it, “Art is anything you can do well. Anything you can do with Quality.” Focus on tailoring your content to those that already love you (your dozen clients) rather than expending needless energy chasing numbers and ghosts.


Quantity, mere numbers, can be fool’s gold. Gary Vaynerchuk has echoed this thought when he says that too many companies are looking for the knockout punch (going viral, or any version of that) when instead they should be throwing consistent jabs to set up the right hook. So much time and effort is lost looking for the social media version of ‘El Dorado,’ when instead, strengthening your ability to listen, asking more questions, and valuing quality clients, sets you on the path towards social media success. And that is the true ROI of social.

Learn-more-about-COI-cta-11-2-14Subscribe-raymmar-cta Services-raymmar- tirado-ctaEarly- adopter-raymmar-cta

Brian Geery explains why the structure of your question is as important as the question itself. Whether you are in sales or not, I think we can agree, sales professionals should stop asking these 5 questions immediately.

Asking questions is an important part of the sales process.

And contrary to the popular saying, when it comes to being a sales professional, there is such a thing as a stupid question.

As a sales consultant, I interview salespeople and observe them on sales calls in order to write sales playbooks. For the “sales questions” section of the playbook, I prioritize and categorize the best sales questions for that specific sales process.

Along the way, I have identified these five questions as some of the stupidest, and surprisingly, most common. So without further adue here is a list of five stupid sales questions you should never ask again.

1. What will it take to earn your business today?

First of all, it will take you not asking this question because it automatically makes you sound “salesy.” You are a sales professional; it is your job to do the selling. If the prospect were going to tell you what it took to earn their business then they wouldn’t need you, would they?

Besides, you should know: to earn a prospect’s business your product or service has to be a cost-justified solution to a problem the prospect is currently facing. Oh, and it has to solve that problem better than the competition.

Instead, you should ask questions that elicit information regarding their problems and the consequences of the status quo. For example: explore the problem’s impact on time, money, personal aggravation, or the growth of the business. Then ask about the decision making criteria, cost justification data, and the competitive landscape.

2. What do you guys do? How long have you worked there?

First of all, have you met my friends Google and Social Media? You can easily answer these and other questions with proper pre-sale research. You are doing pre-sale research on your prospects aren’t you? While these are two different questions, they are both in the same category of stupid.

I often take inbound sales calls because it gives me an opportunity to do some reverse prospecting. I listen to the salesperson’s approach, take notes, and then reach out to the company’s VP of Sales with some ideas for enhancement.

I am continually amazed at how many sales calls I receive where it’s obvious the salesperson hasn’t even glanced at my firm’s website, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc. Even before impromptu sales meetings, a quick search can give you insight on the person or company you are about to meet with.

3. Who else is involved in the decision making process?

Maybe I’m splitting hairs here, but a prospect may hear this question as, “Since you’re just an underling, who should I really be talking to?”

Why not flip the question like this, “Who, including yourself, should be involved in the decision making process?” This way you still get the information you need without potentially offending your prospect.

The structure of your sales questions is very important and underestimating the value of a properly placed question can cost you dearly in a sales setting.

4. Are you familiar with _________?

There are a couple problems with this question. First of all it is a closed-ended question. This means you are making it easy for the buyer to give you a yes or no answer. But, is that question giving you any new information or is it even necessary for you to make the sale?

This question can also put someone on the spot unnecessarily.

For example: someone recently asked me if I’m familiar with Drupal. I happen to have a basic understanding that Drupal is software used in website development, but that’s pretty much it. If I answer “yes,” I’m overstating my knowledge of the technology, and if I answer “no,” I feel like a dummy.

I suppose I could say “a little,” but why would you leave it up to me to answer your question in the exact way you want it. This is a perfect way to lose all of your sales momentum if you get the wrong answer.

Asking questions during the sales process is important but sometimes it is more important to skip a question and just explain what you are referencing as opposed to placing a hurdle or possible objection in your path.

5. What’s your budget?

First of all, what should their budget have to do with your pricing. By asking this question, you instantly make the buyer feel like your pricing is dependent on their answer. You also have to remember that buyers are often liars. They feel you are trying to game them when you ask this question so they will often use it as an opportunity to game you.

They may feel that answering the question puts them at a disadvantage when negotiating. What if they have not yet set a budget and then you force them to give you a ceiling? Again, be careful about when and where your questions come up. Asking a question like this at the wrong time of the sales process can be a sure fire way to end up with a dead lead.

Instead, when the time is right, ask how they intend on paying for your services. Phrasing your question this way assumes the sale, puts the ball in their court to ask you about your pricing or financing options and otherwise leads you closer to the close.

It also opens the door to start talking about their overall budget and what part of it they might be willing to allocate towards your services.

Executive summary

Questions are an important part of the sales process, but stupid questions are a sure fire way to trip yourself up on that path to making that sale. Think about the way you structure and format your questions before your next meeting so that they are second nature to you when sitting in front of your next prospect.

What do you think? Did we miss any stupid sales questions? Got one that really bothers you? Leave it in the comments below!



Image credit

The power of mind over matter.

This is a short video about hard work and the illusions that we sometimes imagine when we see others succeeding or doing something we think we cannot do.

For so long I have pretended to be able to solve a Rubik’s Cube when in reality, all I was doing was looking for a specific set of patterns and then executing a memorized sequence of moves in order to make the cube whole again.

A skill that anyone could learn to do if they if they put their mind to it. However, any time I did this in public, it would appear that I was solving one of the most difficult puzzles known to man.

“They would never know my secret and the illusion of intellect is a powerful sword to swing.”

So often in life we give up on ourselves because we automatically presume that we are not smart enough, fast enough, tall enough or strong enough.Whatever the self imposed hurdle might be, it is usually set by we.

The individual has become weak and it is about time we started believing in ourselves again. It is about time we admit that we are usually the biggest reason for why we cant get anything done in life and then start doing something about that.

After making that realization, we can actually start to move past ourselves and towards success.

Video Script

I wrote the script for this video a while back and now that I bought my own camera you will start seeing a lot more content like this. Please share this with a friend and leave your comments below. 

This is my Rubiks cube…

I’ve had this Rubik’s Cube for more than 15 years.

Some people think that you can solve it by pulling off the stickers, but it doesn’t take too long to figure out that swapping the stickers isn’t a real solution.

When I got my first Rubik’s cube, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to solve it legitimately but then I discovered a little trick.

I realized that I could take the cube apart and reassemble it in the right order.

There! Good as new. No one would ever know the difference, that is, as long as I was alone when I did it.

So much for that little trick.

I was determined to find a way to solve the cube in plain site. I wanted to be able to stand in front of anyone and do something that no one else they knew could do.

So I went back to work.I spent hours trying to solve that damn puzzle, but I still couldn’t figure it out… until, I did.

I was searching for instructions online when I learned that there are a number of patterns that you can recognize, along with a series of moves that you can memorize, in order to solve the cube from any position.

I learned that there were turns and twists that would allow me to move a piece from one side of the cube to the other without disrupting the rest of my progress.

After a few months of practice I had it down cold, and for more than a decade I have let the world think I could solve a rubiks cube in under 5 minutes.

But why does any of that even matter? Who cares whether or not I can solve a rubiks cube legitimately.

What difference does it make when I am standing right in front of you solving it?

All that matters in that moment is that I can do it, and unless I’ve told you this story or you’ve watched this video, you’d simply think that I was solving one of the most difficult puzzles know to man.

So the next time you see someone doing something you think is amazing, something you think you could never actually do, I want you to stop and think about this story.

I want you to ask yourself whether they’re actually doing something amazing, something you are simply incapable of doing, or whether they’re just doing something that you are not willing to do?

Text on screen to close video

How hard are you trying to do the things you think you can’t do?



 Movement over money.

Sean Smith explains why connecting with your consumer is important in a digital economy and why customer convenience is more important than price.

Read the original article on Medium

It used to be an age old solution in business to build a bidding war with your competition.

The lowest price would win, because convenience was on a level playing field.

Price is not necessarily obsolete now, but it matters far less to our inter-connected society than it used to.

Businesses like Amazon are putting others out of business left and right. Most people point at their prices, but that’s not really the case. When you look at the ease of convenience their services like Prime bring — giving next day or same day delivery for any of their products while also being cheaper than most of their competition — the competition doesn’t stand a chance.

People don’t have to leave their house to shop. Think about that. That’s an insane notion that only became possible in the last 5 years.

People care more about their time now more than ever, because now we see the possibilities of the things we can do with our day. Our days are getting longer, because things are getting easier due to technology.

Businesses that understand this will thrive, those who don’t adapt or find their niche in this new age of convenience and demand will dwindle.

No longer does price dictate the outcome of our pocket, we decide based off of our time.

“People don’t buy products, people buy better versions of themselves.”

As Belle Beth Cooper said best,

Ev Williams even mentioned that the best way to build a billion dollar business now is to “find a business vertical that hasn’t changed in 50-100 years and find a way to make it easier using technology.” This could be applied to hundreds of verticals, even online publishing, which is far from an ancient medium. Take Medium for example, this lovely online publishing tool you’re reading right now. I write here because it’s incredibly easy, it’s beautiful, it’s interesting, and the exposure makes it easier to reach my audience.

Uber took the cab industry and turned it on its head, starting with a simple app and some part-time cabbies running on their system. Now it’s worth billions of dollars with no signs of slowing down. SpaceX obviously didn’t choose an easy vertical, but they were able to achieve what only government associations were able to do to date, to dock a cargo ship to the international space station. This gave SpaceX billion dollar contracts from NASA to keep their astronauts supplied on the ISS.

There are “disruptions” to be made in thousands of verticals, you need only find that unique approach, take out the steps for the customer, and innovate.

In an environment where people are trying to “optimize” and automate as much of their life, and success as they can, those who help them succeed in this ambition will succeed in business.

This doesn’t bode well for business reluctant to change, but for entrepreneurs ready to build better services, this is a ground breaking time to live in.

“We help take the pain away” — this may be one of the best selling lines I’ve heard in a pitch for content marketing. It’s honestly what people want, whether you’re doing marketing for a business, or easing the pain of people dealing with a cable company to cancel their service.

People want their pain to go away.

The supply and demand curve has warped, it’s been turned on its head.

We’re all better for it too, because when people stop thinking about money, and instead think about what they can do with their time, we all move forward.

Movement over money.

Trying to understand Medium’s recent reshuffle and breaking down what I think are 2 major mistakes.

Disclaimer: I am writing this story with a conflicted conscience.

You see, I’m the same guy who wrote this  — “7 Reasons Why You’ll Never Do Anything Amazing With Your Life.” An article that went viral on Medium.

It has more than 2.3 million views and been shared all over the world. It landed me access as a contributor to the Huffington post, Elite Daily, a CBS radio interview, and exposure on a number of other national publications.

The article hit #5 on the Medium top 100 list in March, #1 in April and #9 in May . It still gets thousands of reads each day, on Medium, as well as my personal website.

What I am trying to say is that my work on Medium has brought me national attention as a writer, I am a top contributor and a huge fan. Let’s not get carried away though, Medium did not write the article, I did.

I’m not listing these things to brag about my accomplishments, only to say that I think the recent changes to collections and article submissions on Medium were major mistakes.

Let me explain…

Up until these recent changes, Medium had done a great job of democratizing the creation and consumption of written online content.

Before the changes, Medium was a platform that allowed the content creator to stand solely on the credibility of their contributions. Something I admired and appreciated, especially considering I’m a budding blogger myself.

I loved the thought of a publishing platform where a person’s social standing was not a prerequisite for success. I was instantly addicted to the simplicity of the platform. I honestly saw it as a great “medium” by which to build my online influence and stand out online.

Medium’s publishing platform provided a solution that so many online authors are desperately seeking. In a world flooded with crappy online content, it was a place where words were king; a place where the sway of social swagger was secondary to actual substance.

Medium was a bloggers-blog! A place where content was curated and sorted in collections of categories as well as segmented by the individual creator. A duality of content categorization that is not presented in any other new-media model.

Medium was not just another stepson social network, wanna-be. This was the real deal. They had taken the best parts about blogging (the stories) and made them the centerpiece of their business model.

They stripped down all of the unnecessary elements, made it easy to use and then, they made it beautiful. On every device. No ads. No crap. Just content. Great content at that. It was on its way to becoming the holy grail of internet existence.

They were getting it all, so very, right…

But then they went and changed everything

They changed the way people contribute to collections and reconsidered the way collections work as a whole. They must have thought that their new solution would be better than before but this is where I think they made their first major mistake.

In my eyes, and the eyes of many others, these recent changes are a dramatic deviation from everything that made Medium so great in the first place.

I know no one asked me, and Medium is a free platform, so what right do I have to openly criticize it, but hey, I thought they needed to know that many of us, think they messed up. Even though I do still think they got most of it right.

You can read Medium’s explanation for making the changes here but I wasn’t sold. That being said, here are the two biggest mistakes and why they could have a big impact on Medium’s future as a publishing platform. 

Mistake #1

Removing the ability for articles to be included inside of multiple collections

Medium presented a unique value proposition to consumers of content as well as the creators. They provided something that was not available on any other social platform before it.

Readers could come and collect their favorite articles and present them in the form of a curated collection.

Other readers could then follow a collection based on its particular topic of interest or philosophy. Additionally, authors would submit their work to the collection’s curator for approval.

In my eyes, the ability to have an article in multiple collections was essential to Mediums ability to entice people to participate, not only as content creators but as curators of the individual collections.

Their model not only drew in the best writers online, but it also drew in the best readers along the way.

It allowed people who wanted to moderate a collection the ability to do so without necessarily having to write in it regularly. It also allowed writers to shop their words to different collections based on the relevancy of each article and the focus of any particular collection.

Some people just want to write & some people just want to read. Pretty simple really.

Limiting the ability for an article to appear in multiple collections is like telling a blogger that they cannot syndicate a post or contribute their content to another website.

It is a selfish social mechanism of content control that hurts the authors ability to share their work. It also limits the readers ability to consume the content from a source other than the author themselves or an affiliated collection.

Think about it like this. 

What if Facebook said you could not share an interesting post. What if instead they told you that the only place you could go to see that particular post was on the person’s profile page or on whatever business page they originally made the post. Odds are that people wouldn’t find your post, not as often at least, because it is only available in one location online.

Why wouldn’t you want the article to appear in multiple collections (think feed here)? Medium is essentially limiting the social sharability of each post by restricting where it will appear for users that are not already associated or connected to that post author or collection.

It’s either that, or collection owners now have to actively collect authors and somehow entice them to contribute to their collection.

Either way, it adds a hurdle to the submission process and removes part of the original social structure that made Medium so unique.

The new system might be working, but personally, I know I have been publishing my articles inside of my own collection. I even took my most popular posts away from other collections when I found out about these changes. I wanted to make sure that my top performing posts were pointing traffic back to my own collection. Something I am sure many others have done since the changes went live.

It used to be, that after I finished an article, I would go submit it to relevant collections. I would submit my article for review and the collection curator would either approve or reject it. It was a logical process and forced the author to seek out relevant audiences for their newly created content while not placing the requirement of being a regular contributor or even being connected as an author to that collection.

It allowed for a diversity of content inside of each collection that became a big part of what made Medium cool, or so I thought.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the thought of having multiple authors inside of a single collection, and the collaborative features that they have added are great, but why not let people submit either articles or themselves from the front end of each collection?

Read more about the submission process in Mistake #2 below

With these recent changes, Medium expects new authors to reach out and find a place inside of an existing collection in order to contribute any content to it.

It turned a system that was beautifully democratic and turned it into a system of clique based collections that are closed off to the average creator. It’s like content communism.

I can understand their desire to experiment with the social structure of their new online audience, but some of that social exploration was already happening organically. There was already a neat dynamic forming between the creators and curators and that dynamic social element was just plucked from the entire equation.

The question then becomes, “What long term effect does the removal of that social variable become to the progress of Medium as a whole?”

The new search for social collaboration is definitely something that an avid writer might set out to master but what about the average user?

What is a new user going to do when they find out that the only place they can publish on arrival is inside of a new collection? One that they must also build a readership for on their own. A problem they are probably already facing on their personal website.

At least if you (the author) build an audience on your website, you become the sole beneficiary of the audience you create. With the shift in recent strategy, Medium actually undercut the value they were providing you as the individual creator. Again, their product, their prerogative, but I really think they gave up on a huge value proposition here.

The ability to easily have your content shared among many different collections, was a huge differentiator from other blogging platforms. It is hard to think that such a large differentiator could be removed from the equation and not have some form of noticeable effect on their overall user base, sign ups, user activity and more.

I do not have any inside sources at Medium, but I have to wonder whether these changes will ultimately be revealed to revolve around some sort of monetization strategy.

There is, I am sure, some greater plan to turn this thing into a product, and I have to imagine that the guys who are pulling the strings know what they are doing. I just couldn’t help but ask some of these questions out loud and I am sure that other Medium users are wondering the same things.

I know that for me, part of the appeal when I first came to Medium was the way that collections worked. They were like mini magazines. Edited and curated by individuals who often happened to be great authors.

I think Medium might have underestimated the importance of the balance of power they created between the content creators and content consumers.

Which brings me to another question I’d like to ask the management team at Medium…

Why would you want content authors to curate their own collections? Why abandon such a unique social structure where authors had to compete at a certain level for relevancy inside of popular collections? Why remove the ability for curators to manage collections of other peoples work if that all they wanted to do?

By removing this feature, Medium minimized the role of the content consumer, potentially alienating a large portion of the people (readers), who attracted all the great writers in the first place.

I have to believe that many other people were fans of the original collections and how they worked because they were just that. Collections of great content. Submitted and screened as each individual saw fit. Every bit as much a creative expression of the individual who was curating the collection as it was the contributors inside of it.

Whether done with that as an understanding or not, that level of social interaction has been removed as a function of the Medium platform. A move that pushes Medium more towards mediocrity in my eyes.

If an authors only chance at getting published in a popular collection is to connect with the other authors of that particular collection, then new authors are immediately put at a distinct disadvantage over established authors on Medium. Something that is counterproductive to what Medium did by democratizing the content model in the first place.

It allows the authors who got in early and are part of established collections to gain credibility, while making it ever more difficult for new authors to do the same.

In the long run, I think this means that many new authors will end up starting their own collections and self publishing their work in those collections and then abandoning them over time as it becomes difficult to find collections in which to contribute and find readers.

We will watch Medium devolve from a platform where high-level, quality content, was a requisite for distribution inside of any collection, to a place where the established collections control the conversation and the majority of contributors will once again be left on the outside looking in.

If you ask me, (and I know no one did) this move creates a redundancy in the Medium article submission system (specifically by forcing new authors to publish in their own collections as a default) and by removing the incentive (by making it difficult and unintuitive) for anyone other than established authors, and people who got in during the early days, to see any real results from the platform.

Mistake #2

Removing the ability to submit a story to a collection in which you are not already an author

Another one of Medium’s value propositions, especially early on, was the social structure that began to form between the different creators and the curated collections.

Their efforts to democratize content was effective in the sense that it allowed everyone to become an independent arm in their own media machine.

And it was simple. Write awesome words, search for relevant collections and submit the article for consideration.

If you wanted to control a collection then you could, but if you just wanted to write then you could do that too.

Individual collections were just that. Collections of work that the individual curator found interesting. Things that they wanted to share with their growing community of content consumers.

Medium allowed people to separate themselves not only by weaving words into popular posts, but by collecting the words they consumed for themselves into sharable collections.

Medium was as much a social platform for readers as it was for writers and I think they lost sight of that with some of these changes. 

Each collection was a representation of the individual who was collecting its content. Each with a persona in and of itself. One that should have remained independent of their persona as an author.

The curator could choose to publish their own contributions inside of their collection or not. The author was not forced to have the content in one place and the reader was able to find the best stories in the collections that made sense.

If Medium is intending to become the arbiter of all its content, then I guess these changes would make more sense to me. Since they claim to be all about the story, you think they’d have kept it as easy as possible for people to find the stories they want. Logically this would be more likely with as many curators as possible.

All the authors care about is getting people to read their words, so you can see how these changes upset might have upset a delicate balance of power that was present early in Medium’s development.

I for one liked having to submit my work to individual collections. I liked having that real world buffer of relevance before someone actually read what I wrote.

As much as I appreciate the emails that Medium sends out on my behalf, it is not a service that I am unable to easily do on my own. Actually, it is something I do on my own. I do it because I like to build value in that subscriber list and because I get to build relationships with my readers. It’s pretty simple, I build a subscription base and in turn, I own those relationships.

In Medium’s new model, I become a collector of actionable data for them as opposed to myself. Sure the simplicity of their subscriber system is great, but what is the actual value of them managing my subscribers in the way that they have.

The first thought that comes to my mind is a monetization model that will eventually charge power-users for access to the audience they create on Medium. Much like Facebook has done recently with their pages and advertising model, medium could make it so that the audience you worked so hard to build is now out of your reach unless you pay them what they ask. Good for them, not for you.

So what is next? 

It is still early in the development game for Medium, as a social tool as well as a publishing platform. None of these changes are final or cast in stone, but their potential negative impact cannot be ignored.

I am sure this is not the last change we will see and I look forward to watching their progress along the way.

I guess they’ll either get it right or they won’t. As information becomes the currency of the future, the battle to control as much of that information exchange as possible will rage on. And by that measure, Medium is still quite powerful and well positioned to do something big.

I have to end this article by saying again, that I do appreciate what Medium has done up to this point, even considering these recent changes.

All I can do at this point is wait, and watch.

Oh, and write, but not submit, articles to any collection other than my own.

A comprehensive guide to creating, sharing and nurturing viral content online.

Listen and read along as we teach you how to build a strong organic online presence.

People ask me all the time…

“How do you get so many people to your website?”

They want to know what I have done to increase my online exposure and how I get such got such a large audience in such a short amount of time.

Most of what I have done has been trial and error and even now we are constantly experimenting with different formats of content in an attempt to perfect our art, but there are a few things we have learned along the way that can definitely help you reach your online goals.

In this podcast…

We talk about the process of creating, sharing and nurturing viral content in some serious detail.

I invited Sean Smith to join me in this episode of RayDO (pronounced Ra-di-o) Uncensored. Sean is a prolific writer and you can find his work on a number of national publications including the Hufington Post, 99U, Moz and Medium.

I suggest you take notes along the way, as we dive deep into the process of creating, sharing  and nurturing viral content. You should also listen to the entire podcast for a deeper understanding of our entire content conversation, especially since the notes below are just an overview of everything we talk about in the podcast.

As always, if you find value in the podcast, please be sure share it with a friend, subscribe and grab us on Stitcher. That way you can get all of our newest content first.

2:50 – Skip the audio intro

I always like to let you skip the intro so if you don’t want to hear the lead-in to the podcast just skip to about the three minute mark. Just remember, a baby squirrel will get run over by a car every time someone decides to do this.

In all seriousness, the beginning of these podcasts is where I briefly explain what the show is about and I also give occasional updates on what we are trying to build here at Raymmar.com. If you are interested in getting involved or want to know more about what we are doing then I suggest you listen all the way from the beginning.

4:00 – A quick intro to Medium

I have enjoyed some recent success on Medium (especially when my article reached #1 on their top 100 list) but I think they are changing some of the things that made them great. I am working on on article about why I think they might have messed up big time but I have also had some great success by sharing some of my posts on Medium.

I am not sure whether the changes they have made recently will affect their long term viability as a social sharing platform but I think you should know about it as a content creator because after all, finding new places to showcase your work is a big part of increasing your audience and building a viral presence online.

6:15 – Starting a blog

The race to stand out online is on in full force and most people are doing it all wrong. At this point in the podcast we start diving into the theory behind creating, sharing and nurturing the content in an attempt to create a continual viral presence online.

These strategies, although helpful when creating any content online, are not intended to help you get one specific article to go viral. The internet is a finicky place and you should worry less about creating individual pieces of viral content and instead focus your efforts on always putting your best work out there for the world to see.

Once you start driving enough traffic (assuming the site is interesting) people will start spilling over into the other sections of the website. What we are hoping to teach you on Raymmar.com is how to build a consistently strong arsenal of quality content and how to elevate your entire blog  so that everything you do has a chance at going viral.

8:05 – It starts with a title?

For me it all starts with the title. I get an idea and then it evolves in my head as a theory but I am never fully inspired until the title hits me. Sean and I both agree on the importance of the headline as well as why it is so important to think about getting the readers attention early on. On the internet, many people do judge a book by its cover so be sure that your blog titles are as thought out as the content inside of them or in the end you re really just wasting your time.

It would be like throwing a huge party and then forgetting to send out the invites. Not the proper way to plan a party right? So why would you take the same approach to creating your online content?

9:30 – The evolution of an article

Most great content is not a one and done proposition. In this part of the podcast we talk about letting the content sit on the shelf and why you should let your stories and simmer. I think it is important to throw down all of your thoughts and then sleep on your idea for a few nights. Then you can come back and clean up the content to make sure you are always delivering your “A” material. I do not know many people who do everything perfect the first time around so if you really want your content to go viral then you really do need to take your time and make an art out of writing your articles.

11:30 – The structure and flow of the article

Sometimes you should just spit out all of your thoughts and then look at them on the screen and work on the structure and flow of the article. Then you can start moving pieces around and assembling the article in the way that makes the most sense. The structure of your article is important and you need to hook the reader early, especially online.

Blogging Tip:

You should be telling two stories through the course of the article and also make sure you are formatting it properly for online distribution.

Story one: Should be told in the headlines and subheadings. Consider this the top level story. A fly by of your high level ideas if you will. People are really impatient online so you need to make your article easily skimable while also trying to suck the reader in and get them to commit to reading the entire story.

Story two: Should be the article itself. This is the long form version of your story. This is where you can dive in and let your work shine. The other benefit to formatting your content like this (besides the value that long form content brings you in the sense of SEO) is that it makes long form content digestible. You can deliver more information in one place and not overwhelm the reader with a page that looks like it was copied and pasted from an encyclopedia.

15:05 – Delivering value to the reader

In order for your story to have a chance at going viral, there has to be a strong story line. At the end of the day, if your story sucks then no one is going to listen, read, watch, etc. You should make an attempt to educate and entertain your reader while telling that story. Think about the stuff that engages you online and then try to mimic and copy that approach but be sure to make it your own along the way.

You can use metaphors and other creative writing practices to give the reader some creative liberties while reading your work. This allows the reader to make your story their own and it allows them to create the environment in which the story takes place inside of their own head. You allow them to paint for themselves the vision that you are trying to share and then you put yourself in the perfect place to entice the reader to actually share your story.

17:06 – Leave the story up to the reader

The point that we are trying to make here is that getting something to go viral online becomes more about getting the reader to attach their emotions to the blog than just writing something interesting. Most businesses, entrepreneurs, etc. just want to pitch their products on their blog, but they forget about connecting with their audience in an emotional way. They forget to give something to the reader in the form of digestible value before asking for the sale.

Business blogs would be well served to understand the concept of connecting with their readers and should strive to turn their website into a place where their customers come to not only hang out but learn from you. Think of it as if you were building an online lobby for creative thought.

19:33 – Reading is the ultimate virtual reality

People can immerse themselves in your words. When they watch video they see the exact vision of what the person who created the art wanted them to see. But, when you are reading someones words or listening to their voice, the reader gets to become the artist. This leaves you with a beautiful opportunity as the author, to connect on multiple levels with your audience. It allows you to reach directly into the heads of your readers and paint with your words.

You also have to remember that it takes time to build an audience and a following online. You have to be willing to invest the time and hone your skills as not only a writer but a self promoter of the things you write. No one is going to read your early articles so don’t feel bad when you publish something and no one reads it. It happens to all of us when we first start out. You should use this early part of your online development process to test your writing style and keep experimenting with different techniques in order to find out what is going to work best for you.

23:25 – Building Credibility online

You can expect to spend as much time online building credibility in what you do as you do creating and distributing your content. In order to have the best chance to stand out online you need to find people in your area of expertise and start sharing content, connecting and engaging with them on their websites, blogs and social platforms. You need to connect with your readers, not only through your writing, but inside of your interactions as well. Building real relationships with your readers is important to maintaining a viral presence online and you should make it a top priority to respond to all of the comments made on your website as well as the social media sites that you are active on.

24:50 – Become an expert

You have to know what you are talking about before anyone is going to listen to you online. It is easy for anyone to start a website but that does not mean that everyone with a website is an expert. You should make it a point to become the best at whatever it is you are trying to explain to your audience. You have to prove to them that you know what you are talking about by being able to do what you are telling them to do for yourself.

If you doubt yourself or are making things up as you go in an attempt to fill up space, then your reader will not only know that you are faking it, but you will also destroy any small amount of credibility that you might have built up until this point. You must believe in yourself but that does not mean you need to be a tyrant when talking to your audience either. You need to know that what you are talking about is right and then find creative ways to relay that to your reader.

26:15 – Having actual authority vs. thinking you have it

Finding credibility online and building an overall viral presence on your website becomes a process of getting involved in the existing conversations online. This is a piece that many people forget about when trying to build their own blog from the ground up. Whenever you want to get other people involved in your conversations, then you should look for places where people are already talking about the things you are trying to talk about and find a way to get involved in their conversation. Do not be so naive that you think people are going to rush to your website when to talk about what you want when they are already in the middle of that discussion somewhere else. Instead, you should learn how to hack those conversations and become someone that they look to for advice on the issue. Then you can start funneling that conversation to your website and separate yourself as a thought leader in that category.

34:30 – Getting involved

If you are a regular listener then please join the conversation. We have a lot of people who come to the site more than 5 times a month and I would really like to get to know those people better. I want to know why you come to the site so regularly and what we can do to make that experience better for you. Please take a moment to reach out and leave me some feedback about your experience on the site and with this podcast, etc.

We are really trying to make this about the consumer experience and we want to build it into something beautiful for our readers and listeners.

37:05 – Remaining a student

Make sure that you are always learning. You should always think that other people are smart too and that other people can teach you something you mifht not already know. You should become a sponge and then regurgitate that info to your audience in a way that they can relate to or understand. The best teachers are always learning and the beauty of the internet is that it can easily become a medium by whitch information can be passed from one person to another and that is helping all of us learn at a really fast pace. More so than ever before.

Podcast correction – In the podcast I mention that we have shown up more than 100,000 times in Google search results but that number is actually closer to 1.3 million. Turns out I had some filters applied to the webmaster tools and that was restricting the results. Talk about a great mistake! 

38:25 – A few final tips

Here is a link to the Gibbon.co learning platform that Sean was talking about at the end of the podcast.

As we wrap up the podcast, here are a few final thoughts from both Sean and I that will help you take some steps towards building a viral presence online.

Get in the habit of reading your writing out loud.

Seriously, this has been one of the best things I have done for my writing. It allows me to write as if I was actually speaking to someone which is important because when someone reads your work, the concepts could be entirely new to them. You cannot assume they know the things you know, or that they are thinking like you are thinking. It is up to you as the author to make sure that the flow of your work makes sense and reading your work out loud is one of the best ways to do just that.

Leave internal cliff-hangers.

When you tell your story, leave something for the reader to discover later in the writing. This will ensure that they remain engaged throughout the entire post. It can be difficult to learn at first but as your writing style matures you will get better at teasing out the hooks of the articles early on in the content and use them to drag the reader throughout your work in the exact manner which you intended. When you learn to do this then you can really have a chance at building something special online because it really does become about more than just reading a blog article at that point.

Get creative with the article structure.

Start from the end and then bounce around. Or in the middle then to the beginning. Don’t just think that your story has to go in chronological order. A little confusion for the reader is a good thing. Again, this is like leaving little hooks throughout the article. Things that draw the reader in and keep them around until the end.