It turns out Sam grew up in the Philadelphia area, and we have more in common than a friend. See what that is in this short conversation, not as short as his conference, and possibly as useful to you.
How did you get to Lenox, MA and to becoming an entrepreneur?
Sam: I actually moved here because I'm part of a global spiritual
movement called EnlightenNext! I know. Not your typical start-up story.
All of the founders of ThoughtLead wanted to create a business that
expressed our deeper sense of what's possible for human beings, and
where we live–in a community of like-minded individuals, all
endeavoring to create a better future from the inside-out–is the
bedrock of everything we're doing as entrepreneurs.On a more mundane scale, here's how I got started as
an entrepreneur: I was doing non-profit work in Boston, and had to find
a way to supplement my income. So I went to Google and searched for
something along the lines of, "Make money online." And that started my
now 7-year love affair with online marketing.
Your company, ThoughtLead, is designed around capturing
influence and delivering results for brands. I can see the tie in with a
conference on digital influence. Can you tell me a little bit about how
the idea was conceived and about the format?
: The idea was conceived on the way from Philadelphia to New York, in an
inspired moment between my business partner, Steve Haase, and me. We
wanted to do something that hadn't been done before and would help a lot
of people to increase their influence online.
And we didn't want it to
take a lot of anyone's time. So we had the idea for an hour-long
conference–the "shortest marketing conference ever"–and to get 60 of
the world's most brilliant social media minds, including, of course,
Conversation Agent's very own Valeria Maltoni, to share one tip on
Now that the event day has passed, can you tell us what
worked well, what you would do differently?
Sam: Getting 60 speakers to all share one 60-second tip turned out to be
a winner. From a promotional perspective, there were several tactics
that worked very well: providing all of our speakers with auto-populated
tweets to share with their followers both the day before and the day of
the event; creating a Twitter contest for one deserving up-and-coming
influencer to become the 60th speaker; and promoting the hashtage,
#influencer, to our email list on the day of the conference.
The main thing I'd do differently is to give
ourselves more lead time.
We hatched the idea on June 8, and hosted the
conference on July 6. That's not a lot of time to pull something off. Of
course, we wanted to do it as quickly as possible, and I think it ended
up being the right thing decision for our company. But next time, we'll
give ourselves far more leeway to align strategic partnerships and
sponsors, as well as creating a longer period of buzz leading up the
it go? Was participation aligned with your expectations? Why/why not?
Sam: It went fabulously well. Thousands of tweets, over 4,500 people
registered, nearly 1,000 Facebook fans–all in 3-4 weeks. The response
online has been overwhelmingly positive, which we're really happy about.
Part of the reason why we're so thrilled with the participation is
because it wasn't just "interested" people "checking it out"–those
involved, whether speakers or audience members, were spreading the word
I think there was something about the freshness of the
idea that really lit participants up, and there's not much that's more
exciting than seeing an entire group of people gush raw enthusiasm and
an unadulterated sense of possibility for the future. So yes, I'd
definitely say it was definitely aligned!
What piece of advice would you give to someone looking to earn attention
Sam: I would say to create a "meme." A meme is an idea that's passed on
from person-to-person, in a viral-ish way–I say "viral-ish" because I'm
not talking about getting one million people to watch a YouTube video.
Rather, I'm saying to create something remarkable–a conference, a video
montage, a podcast, a web TV show–that lots of people can get behind
and that improves the lives of the people you're trying to affect.In our case, we did that by creating an innovative
and fun format (60-in-60), talking about something people cared deeply
about (digital influence), branded it in an easy-to-repeat way
("shortest marketing conference ever"), and made it easy for everyone to
participate (one minute for speakers; one hour for participants).
So I'd say to create some kind of "media event,"
something that brings together leaders in your field, and then promote
the heck out of it. Don't worry so much about how long you've been "in
the conversation" or whether you're an "insider" or an "outsider"; just
create such an unbelievable amount of value, in an innovative, fun, and
spreadable way, that you can't help but get noticed by both leaders and
Of course, your motives should be good, and it
helps for people to like you (or at least respect you). But
fundamentally, I'd recommend simply to put on your "disruptive" thinking
hat and brainstorm some big ideas will that make the world a better
place and move your industry forward in some way, shape, or form.
Did you figure out what else Sam and I think similarly about?
Bonus resource: What kind of entrepreneur are you? Find out with Skip.