Despite the obvious use of the word “social” in the term social media, many entrepreneurs forget that platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were not designed for business purposes. These sites and apps were designed for individuals to have a place to connect with the people they care about and to share their own stories. So how can entrepreneurs advance their brand and expand their influence on these platforms in order to grow their startups? To answer this question, we reached out to Cynthia Johnson who obviously knows how it’s done.
With a following of almost 2 million people across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat, Cynthia knows a lot about influencing, branding, and the art of storytelling. She was named one of the top 20 Digital Marketing people to follow by Inc. Magazine and one of the top 50 marketers on SnapChat by Mashable. In this interview, she answered some of the questions you’ve all been wondering about.
Q. Welcome to StartUp Mindset, Cynthia. We’re fans of your work. For those readers that are not familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself and your marketing and entrepreneurship background? Can you also tell us more about your current company Bell+Ivy?
First and foremost, thanks for having me; I’m excited to join your interview series. My name is Cynthia Johnson and I am a business advisor, keynote, author and CEO and Co-Founder of Bell + Ivy, a digital marketing and personal branding agency in Santa Monica, CA. Previously, I was Partner & Director of Marketing for RankLab, a digital marketing agency listed in Inc. Magazine’s Fastest Growing Private Companies in 2015. In July of 2015, RankLab was acquired by American Addiction Centers where I then worked as their Director of Brand Development. I am on the Forbes Agency Council, a member of the Young Entrepreneurs Council and have written for and been interviewed on topics such as entrepreneurship, brand management and digital marketing in publications such as Forbes, Huffington Post, Inc. and Chicago Planner Magazine.
As for Bell + Ivy, we pride ourselves in being expert storytellers, creating, advancing and promoting brands to achieve growth and lasting recognition. We aim to create thought-leaders and proliferate influence for enterprises in the most unique and effective ways possible. Our clients range from the technology, healthcare, entertainment and lifestyle industries.
Q. Any other projects you are working on that you would like to share with us?
I am publishing my first book in early 2019 with Penguin Random House.
Q. You have been named one of the top 20 Digital Marketing people to follow by Inc. Magazine, one of the top 50 marketers on SnapChat by Mashable, and you have a social following of nearly 2 million. What is one thing that has worked well for you in growing your followers and influence?
Growing your influence is about listening to people and deliverable something of value. You have to create a place where people can learn something, communicate, and feel like there is something to gain by paying attention to you. The truth is that everyone has influence – the more people you influence- the greater the responsibility and the more you have to work.
Q. Everyone who is serious about growing their social influence uses at least a few tools like Buffer or HootSuite. Are there any lesser known tools you would recommend to help manage and grow on social?
nTuitive.Social, BuzzSumo, and Cyfe. All of these tools are amazing for posting, research, and analytics.
Q. For startups in the survival stage of their business growth, what branding or marketing advice would you give to help them reach the success stage?
Start from within. Use your employees, your customers, yourself and utilize the internal influence that you have to get things done. Explain your company to a three-year-old and keep doing that in various ways until that 3-year old understands what you are talking about. Ask for help. Asking is the fastest way to get what you need. People are not mindreaders. If you don’t ask, you will never know.
Q. Where is digital marketing headed and how can entrepreneurs be prepared for what is coming?
People want to know your brand’s story. Honest, authentic, and real-time storytelling is extremely important.
Q. Many of our readers are not marketers but founders and entrepreneurs who started a business because they believed they could add value to the market. What advice would you give entrepreneurs who love what they do but are not skilled marketers?
Every entrepreneur understands the basic concept of marketing- they saw a need and they are trying to fill that need. That is what marketing is all about. Finding a way to communicate to the audience that your product or service is for and delivering it to them in the most effective way possible. The tactical marketing work should be left to your marketing team, but the marketing strategy starts with the business. Don’t forget why you started the business and always remind yourself of that when thinking about how to market it.
Q. We all know entrepreneurship can be difficult at times. How do you stay motivated and focused on your business and personal goals?
Mentors. You HAVE to have people in your life that you can call for advise who understand what you are going through, who understand you, and who understand that they are playing a mentor role in your life.