Sean Gardner: Keep an Eye on Content Trends

March 22, 2017

Sean Gardner, Co-Founder of the pioneering, Huffington Post "Twitter Powerhouses Series" and Forbes Magazine's #1 Social Media Influencer is one of our keynote speakers at the Global PR Summit New York, taking place from 8-9 June at the One World Trade Center in New York. 

Working for Apple Inc. right out of high school, Sean has delivered results for multi-national firms like Microsoft, Ford, Ultimate Software, Huawei, Marriott, and Silicon Valley Bank, and non-profits like World Vision and Charity: Water. He is both a board member and V.P. of Social Media for the World Communication Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the social media producer for financial powerhouse TwinStarCU. He has also been a digital volunteer for since 2013, and helps the U.N. Foundation promote and expand it online.

Forbes' #1 Social Media Power Influencer, he's also been honored as one of the world's top marketers, writers, thinkers and social good advocates. 

We recently chatted with Sean about his views on the current marketing trends, metrics and the power of social media.

Sean, first things first. How did it feel to be Forbes’s #1 Social Media Influencer in the world? 

It felt good. I am in a position where I can positively impact people lives on a daily basis through initiatives like #GivingTuesday. It is an honor to wake up every day and connect with people all over the world. I know that the Forbes honor has made much of that possible.

You worked for Apple right out of high school and also delivered strategies for Microsoft, Marriott Hotels and the Silicon Valley Bank. What is the most important marketing lesson you have learned in your career? 

When I was at Apple, one of my former managers said that marketing is about "selling the experience". I agree. Market share is important, but so is the satisfaction of the customer. So develop a narrative about your business and where it wants to go, and give them an experience. When you include the customer in your firm's vision, you win. In today's digital landscape, that's more important than ever.

Your book, the Road to Social Media Success, has been a bestseller. Looking at the current global trends, what do you think are the three most important things when it comes to success in social media? 

(1) Be willing to shake things up and go your own path. When I joined social media (Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn) in January 2009, I was told never "cross the streams" (cross-post) and don't build a Twitter following with people outside of my field. But I did, and I believe it has helped me greatly since Twitter, in particular, embraced the visual web in October 2013; (2) Keep a watchful eye on content trends. For years, I did links and quotes. And had success. But when Pinterest and Instagram infused new energy into social, I started posting maps, charts, image quotes and video, and my followers and connections on across social liked it. Test, test and test again until you find a rhythm that works for you; and, (3) Engage your supporters. There is a big discussion in social media right now about whether engagement really impacts your success. Let's use actors Will Smith and Tom Cruise as examples. When they go to a movie premier or any show to promote their work, you see them engaging people, saying hello, signing autographs, and even talking on the phone with relatives of people standing in the rope line. Like them, develop a routine of engagement. If done right, and consistently, it will pay dividends. I know it has helped me.
What are the biggest mistakes that companies make on social media? 

I would probably say that they treat it simply as a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday situation. But it is not. Social media must be tied to any initiatives designed to connect the company with the broader public. Though it is not possible to be on every platform, every minute of the day, firms have to be aware of the sharing and participatory aspect that customers are looking for. 

What is your advice to companies that want to grow their Twitter networks? 

Consistency! Be active on the platform. Reach out to your customers. But most of all, develop a voice for your brand through content marketing. 
Many of the success stories on social media are by big corporations. What is your advice to small/medium businesses when it comes to social media? 

The fundamental question any small business should ask is, "whose attention am I trying to get in social media?" Once you answer that, the platforms to use will become clearer, because some platforms are better for your audience than others. Pinterest and Instagram may be better for restaurants and clothing boutiques, whereas Twitter and Facebook might be better for small banks and credit unions. From that answer, you'll know who to target when you run online campaigns, and do activities in the community. Also, don't be afraid to use email. A robust email list could be the first step towards building your empire. It can work!

To meet Sean and 12 other international PR gurus from Lego, Nielsen, Sony Music and Pfizer, get your ticket today for the Global PR Summit New York. Make sure you register before March 31st to SAVE US$200! 


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