I first started following Steve Bartlett’s career about a year ago.
I stumbled across an explainer video of his on LinkedIn and was impressed by his ability to succinctly narrate social trends in a way that his audience could relate to.
Zero jargon, a decent helping of stats and a strong opinion that you couldn’t help but find yourself agreeing with. IRL, he’s exactly the same.
Fan girl central
When I first saw he was talking on our humble Isle, I immediately bought a ticket before swiftly ensuring everyone I knew had heard he was a-coming.
Skip forward to the evening in question (hosted in the amazing Gaiety theatre #ceilinggoals) Steve began his talk, starting with his roots.
Steve Bartlett, a history
Originally from Botswana, Steve grew up in Plymouth and demonstrated a flare for entrepreneurship from an early age. No real surprise there, but what I (and I imagine others in the audience) hadn’t appreciated was Steve’s struggle to get where he is today and his years on the breadline.
We’re talking a diet of cornflower and water mix as meal replacements for months on end. He spoke of hunger pains so bad they drove him to scavenge through leftovers from the local takeaways in Moss Side.
Despite his determination, Steve wasn’t afraid to quit what he knew wouldn’t serve his purpose. He quit school, he quit uni after one day (literally: one day) and he eventually quit Wall Park, his first company that gave him priceless business experience and the confidence to propel himself forward to whatever was next. To quote Steve, ‘there was no plan B. It was succeed, or it was succeed.’
A few things stuck in my mind from his hour or so talk.
Number 1 – never fall into the trap of thinking that anyone cares about you (or your brand) as much as you care about you. They don’t.
Number 2 – if enough people do something, it will influence others, no matter what the activity. We are all micro influencers and I mean, all of us. Your mum, your mates, your boss – we live in a world where consumption of information is so constant (yet so disposable) that we’ve never been more open to influence. Even in a world of Fake News.
Trigger + traction = influence
A classic example Steve gave of this influence was Rex Secco.
Sit tight, this story is mental. A day before Steve was due to talk at SoccerEx, (a huge European football conference), he and 4 others from Social Chain decided to carry out an experiment to show (with the right recipe) just how easily people can be influenced – as long as you trigger a reaction.
For, against, love, hate – who cares, if you’re creating opinions and generating conversations, you can influence. The worst thing you can do with your social presence (or any presence) is create indifference. A result where people could literally take or leave your content, and to be honest, a position a lot of brands probably find themselves in. Even the good ones.
Take Red Bull for example. Their marketing doesn’t aim to sell energy drinks. Their marketing and their whole ethos is about pushing boundaries that provokes emotional reactions. In turn they happen to sell a shit tonne of Red Bull, but that’s not their leading marketing objective and probably never will be.
Anyway, back to Rex Secco. Steve and the gang wanted to prove a point. They wanted to prove THE point, so they set about creating a buzz about ‘a new 16 year old player Arsenal had signed for £34m.’ He was called Rex Secco (anagram of SoccerEx) and given fake (and terrible) goal stats to cause the divide (queue people in the ‘against’ category) but they also released (fake) videos of him scoring amazing goal after amazing goal (queue the ‘for’ crowd).
With this, conversations started happening. The nay sayers could not stop tearing poor Rex to shreds, the fors couldn’t believe you hadn’t heard of this new kid on the block called Rex Secco. One Liverpool fan even Tweeted that he’d been following his career for years and “my god, hopefully one day we’ll sign him.”
Reminder: this was a completely fake player that did not exist.
His photo was pulled from Google images, his videos were of some other player and everything else was made up. Everything. Yet still people were talking and soon enough, Rex Secco was the number 1 trending topic on Twitter. The BBC covered his transfer and the Daily Star waded in on the breaking story too.
The next day, Steve spoke at Soccer Ex and started by sharing his excitement over the buzz around Rex Secco. (“Have you heard about him??”) A few members of the audience chimed in (for & against, natch) and as the chatter died down, eyes turned to Steve and soon enough, he set the record straight to a flabbergasted (and probs mortified) crowd.
What got me the most about this anecdote Steve shared was that it was just another day in the office. Just one of the many bonkers ways he has created viral content in minutes. (His personal best is 26 mins, FYI).
‘The social media illuminati’
Today, Steve is CEO of Social Chain, a social media agency he set up less than four years ago and counts Nike, Coca-Cola and Boohoo.com as its clients. Worth an estimated £6m, the business is due to IPO in 2019 by which point it will be the worlds leading agency, overtaking the incumbent which was established 15 years ago.
During Steve’s Q&A session, which to be fair to him lasted a good 20 mins, (Manxies couldn’t get enough) we got to learn more about what makes Steve tick. He admits he doesn’t make enough time for his mates, his future goals are to make education establishments less ‘fish climb this tree’ and AI/ innovation was a huge talking point too.
Innovation is your friend (not enemy)
To summarise some of his answers: Like a steamroller, innovation is unstoppable. When something comes along that makes our lives easier/better, there’s no room for sentiment. It will take over, replacing all in its path, and as Steve bluntly pointed out, it will cause job losses. Customer service bots will replace call centres and driverless cars are happening. Esports, a sport which gamers play Fifa while others watch, (yep it’s a sport) is due to take over popularity of the Premier League. Everywhere you look, innovation is happening and the sooner you roll with it, the less likely you are to be replaced.
In conclusion, this was a fantastic event. Steve is one of the most engaging speakers I’ve ever seen and there is no doubt he is the authority on influencer marketing and social media.
I’ll leave you with my fav Steve tidbit…
If your audience is indifferent to your content and social presence (and could not give two hoots about your brand) – change it up.
Put yourself in your customers shoes and ask ‘would I care about this?’ If the answer is no, then you’re asking too much of your audience.
Consider a more relevant message and approach. Ask questions and provoke sentiment.
Once the conversation has started, influence will follow.
If you’d like to be kept up to date with all things Gefachella, be sure to join our Facebook group here.