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“To Be Successful You Have To Be On A Mission” With Neal Schaffer

You have to be passionate about what you do and be on a mission, that hopefully also helps others


You have to be passionate about what you do and be on a mission that hopefully also helps others. Staying laser focused is critical, especially with social media, because once you put yourself out there, a lot of different opportunities come your way, some for good and some not for good. Being able to navigate the business landscape, decide who you want to do business with and what your worth is in the marketplace, and making sure you execute on a long-term plan while pivoting with short-term changes in the industry are all critical for success.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Neal Schaffer, CEO of the digital agency PDCA Social He also teaches social media to executives at Rutgers University Business School, the Irish Management Institute in Ireland, and the University of Jyvaskyla in Finland. Author of three social media books, his 4th book coming out this year will be the ultimate guide to helping every business better leverage influencer marketing. If that wasn’t enough, Neal has spoken on social media in over a dozen countries over four continents — and is also fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I launched my career in Asia after graduating from Amherst College and ended up living there for 15 years. I was often in charge of launching new sales operations for foreign technology companies in Asia, and thus I had to not only wear a lot of hats internally as a Regional VP, but I also had to face business in an incredibly holistic way in order to be successful selling foreign technology products with no previous brand recognition to global consumer electronics companies in Asia. I believe it is this unique experience that has also given me a unique perspective on how companies can leverage social media.

Fast forward to 2008 when I found myself back in my native United States and looking for a job here for the first time! It was then I started to become a heavy user of LinkedIn after I realized its business potential as a networking tool during the job search and a sales and business development tool once I found my job. Unfortunately my employer, 3 ½ months after hiring me, decided to change strategy and eliminated my position. That was a huge slap in the face to me and helped accelerate my current journey by convincing me that I had to build something that no employer could take away from me. That was the beginning of my own personal branding efforts.

During the job search I had started to blog, and it was my wife who threw out the idea of writing a book. I never intended to become an author, but I ended up writing my first book on LinkedIn and online networking (“Windmill Networking: Understanding, Leveraging and Maximizing LinkedIn”) which led to local speaking engagements. As a result of that, in January of 2010 I had 4 local companies in different industries all reach out to me in the course of two weeks all wanting help with their social media. That is the same month I launched my social media strategy consulting company, and I haven’t looked back since.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?

Some of my funniest times in business were in China where I was responsible for sales. All of my employees were Chinese and I spoke to them in Mandarin. My boss was Japanese, and whenever I took him to meet executives at my clients who I had yet to meet, they would always speak Chinese to my boss, assuming that he understood it. Then they were shocked when they saw me translate the Chinese to Japanese. The look on their faces!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I actually consider myself an educator, in some ways following in the footsteps of my father, a former elementary school teacher. Whether I am writing, speaking, teaching, consulting, or executing on behalf of my clients, I am always educating those I engage with. I believe through education, companies can better serve their customers and professionals can better leverage the same social media for their own careers and personal brands. In a small way, by offering insight that I have gleaned from my almost decade experience in the social media industry, I have always been about educating others on how social media can bring good to their world and inspiring them to take advantage of the opportunities has for them, and in doing so, in my own small way, contribute to world peace 😉


If someone would want to emulate your career, what would you suggest are the most important things to do?

You have to be passionate about what you do and be on a mission that hopefully also helps others. Staying laser focused is critical, especially with social media, because once you put yourself out there, a lot of different opportunities come your way, some for good and some not for good. Being able to navigate the business landscape, decide who you want to do business with and what your worth is in the marketplace, and making sure you execute on a long-term plan while pivoting with short-term changes in the industry are all critical for success.

Is there a particular person that made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?

The thing that made a profound difference in my life was not a person but an event. I just happened to be studying in Beijing, China in the spring of 1989 when the demonstrations — and the aftermath of those demonstrations — sparked a lot of internal searching as to the meaning of life for me. Up until then I was actually an art history (!) major, but it was after that incident I realized that I wanted to have a career where I could interact with people from all walks of life, and once again in doing so, contribute to world peace by helping to bridge the cultural gaps that still divide us. I realized that being in business, ideally in sales where I could engage with all sorts of people, would give me that opportunity, and the rest is history!

So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now?

By far the project that I am most excited about is completing my 4th book, which will be on influencer marketing, tentatively titled “The Business of Influence” (https://publishizer.com/the-business-of-influence/). The time has come to re-educate that market on the democratization of influence and how every company should be tapping into the opportunities that emerge from developing relationships with influencers.

What are your “Top Five Ideas About How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” . (Please share a story or example for each.)

Product Review / Giveaways — This is one of the earliest forms of influencer marketing, but companies still want their products reviewed by influencers. You should be requesting money for the review, but you should also offer to do an additional giveaway to your community so that you offer value to them. It also helps you build up your email list by asking people for it in order to be entered in the giveaway. Having your community promote the giveaway can also help you increase the extent of your reach in social media.

Content Creation — Brands spend a lot of money trying to create content, but with the advent of influencer marketing as well as importance of visual social media, brands are challenged to create content that does not look like a brand and is truly audience-centric in nature. Influencers with robust brands are already creating content, so as an influencer, helping brands with content creation and amplifying that content through your own social media channels is a win-win.

Create an Online Learning Program — More and more people trust online learning platforms like Udemy and Skillshare as a way to learn a new or brush up on an old skill. An easy way to monetize your brand is to create your own online learning program to help others gain the expertise that you already have. Learning Management System platforms like Teachable and Thinkific have emerged to allow anyone to easily create an online learning program and then handles the selling and distribution of it.

Event Participation — Companies that put on events want to make the biggest bang for their event marketing budget and are increasingly inviting influencers to their events who can help amplify them at the least and even potentially host a panel or speak at them. Attending these events allows you to “sell” your offering to the brand and show your stuff while you develop a track record in working with them. It also often gives you a chance to potentially meet other new brands you can work with as well as other influencers that you can network and share information with.

Content Amplification — Brands often engage in influencer marketing to increase brand awareness and reach a targeted audience, both of which you as an influencer can help them with. One of the easiest ways to do this is to offer to share their content with your community, or amplify their content to your audience. This can be done in a variety of ways depending on the platform, from the Instgram Shoutout to the Sponsored Tweet to Sponsored Content on your blog.

There’s also a useful, real-word link shortening tool I use called BL.INK to unify influencer marketing or any marketing campaign you do across social channels so links can amplify your brand, give you visibility as to who is clicking on the campaign link, all while giving my audience a clear idea of what the campaign is all about. So, for instance, links on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn related to a recent social media webinar I did appeared as http://neal.social/free-social-media-webinar-july-25, giving the end user a branded preview as to what the link is about and why they should click it. My experience has been that this has led to an increase in Clickthrough Rate (CTR).


Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂

I would love to share a meal and chat with Ma Huateng, also known as Pony Ma. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Tencent, Asia’s most valuable company. Most notably, Tencent is the creator of the WeChat social media app that is probably the most technically advanced mobile messaging and social media app in the world right now, surpassing Facebook in terms of its rich functionality. I would love to better understand how he developed a culture and managed the innovation that sprung from that culture in developing WeChat, as well as his vision for the future of WeChat, social media, and China’s future impact on global digital media in general.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

I am at @NealSchaffer on every platform!

Originally published at medium.com

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