Working for free kenny soto

Accelerating Your Professional Growth By Working For Free

Working for free has its own value

Since 2015 I’ve been volunteering my time at SCORE NYC, a federal nonprofit that helps small business owners with free & confidential business advice. Through my two years of experience volunteering my marketing services, I’ve begun to see the value in working for free.

As I reflect on the lessons gathered from my experience, I invite you to consider finding ways to give back to your community. Hopefully, this article will convince you that it’s worth your time.

 

Working for free helps you learn faster

Ever since I’ve graduated college, I’ve been obsessed with self-education. How do I take control of my professional growth? How do I increase my value to the people I currently work with and those who I will work with in the future? How do I fan flames of my curiosity on a consistent basis? These questions have plagued me for quite some time now, and I’ve begun to realize that through my volunteer experience, I’ve been able to find suitable answers.

Professional growth (as far as my limited perspective allows me to define it) is the rate at which your acquire new skills and knowledge that brings credibility to your personal brand. We all have a personal brand associated with us, and we have to find a balance with both promotion and actually creating value for others. I find that my professional growth continues to accelerate because I work for free.

It’s easier for me to put myself in situations that challenge me because the cost of investing in me is just the other person’s time. Because I’m not charging anyone for my services, I can experiment more and find new ways of approaching my craft. This is allowing me to build a body of work that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise. Also, by consistently practicing my craft, I am finding ways to expand on ideas that I learn through reading, podcasts, and video. The best way to learn something is ultimately by doing it.

Related: Creating Your Own Curriculum For Self-Education After College

 

If you work for free, you’ll realize if the work actually makes you happy

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has a fear of working in a job that doesn’t bring enthusiasm and more importantly, brings forth curiosity every day. To be great in our work, we must first start off with making sure we’re happy while doing it.

Is the grind worth it? I believe this answer can come to you faster if you give yourself some time to do the work for free (with the ultimate goal being that you eventually get paid for the value you provide).

I run the digital marketing program for SCORE NYC, primarily because it allows me to truly know if I want to do marketing in the future. If I don’t enjoy doing this now, how can I possibly enjoy it later? As time goes on, my learning curve in this subject will begin to plateau, and I will need to put in even more effort to continue. It’s important for me to know if I want to invest a decade doing this, before I actually do so. I believe that volunteering your services for a year can help all of us in the process of finding what we love to do.

Worst case scenario, working for free allows you to taste a lot of things. It gives you the opportunity to see where your talents lie and remove the illusions you may have about your skill set.

 

Working for free helps you build your network (faster)

Another great perk of volunteering your time is that your list of contacts grows at a faster rate than if you were to charge for your services (or just relying on your 9-to-5). I’ve become a big believer of delaying gratification if it leads to more significant gains in the future. However, even if you’re not getting paid with money, you can still find ways to bring value to yourself, both in education (as previously mentioned above) and in meeting people you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

The barrier of entry is met with less resistance and friction from others when you are providing your services for free. People will be more receptive to what you have to say and contribute because they will be judging your value based on your commitment to helping them. Of course, price does play a factor on judging someone’s skill but, as a young professional, I find it appropriate not to have a price for my services right now.

It’s a means to end if I can meet people that will help me 5, 10, even 15 years from now. Just keep in mind, you still have to be good at what you do to maximize the value that can be extracted from your interactions and your growing network. You can certainly volunteer your time but, people will discontinue your working relationship with you if you are wasting their time and can’t bring results.

Related: The Best Networking Tip For Young Professionals: Host An Event

 

Doing the right thing always pays off

I understand that working for free isn’t always practical. We all have obligations and responsibilities that must be met. However, if you can’t volunteer your time now, try to make an effort to do so in the future.

Giving back to your community has many benefits, but the ultimate one is the gratification that comes from helping people. At the end of the day, no matter the industry and the role you play in the teams you are involved in, the exchange of value will always be prevalent. There’s just a distinct sense of gratitude you find from someone you helped out of the kindness of your heart says thank you, as opposed to it coming after the exchange of money.

Again, I’m not saying that working to get paid is a bad thing. Just consider adding some time to volunteer into your schedule. I can guarantee that you’ll gain something from the experience.

Click here to subscribe to my newsletter to get more articles like this one: SUBSCRIBE

Kenny Soto Expand Your Network

The Best Networking Tip For Young Professionals: Host An Event

Why networking sucks

I can still remember the most awkward greeting I ever gave someone at the first networking event I attended in 2014.

Person: “Hi there! My name is…”

Me: “I apologize for saying hi…uh, my name’s Kenny Soto.”

Needless to say, nothing came from that exchange.

Networking can be tough, especially for young professionals who are just starting their careers after graduating college. We don’t have a list of accomplishments that we can use to impress notable veterans in our respective industries. The reason most of us are going to networking events is so we can find job opportunities, so coming up with a reason as to why someone should care about us can be difficult.

This year I’ve discovered a sure-fire way of getting the attention of people who can help you grow in your career. This networking strategy has been staring me in the face for quite some time now, and it is easy to pull off. It is all about hosting an event.

 

The advantages of hosting an event

In most scenarios, networking events that I have attended follow pretty much the same format:

  • 30 minutes of general meet and greet
  • A panel or roundtable discussion
  • Q & A for the speakers
  • Closing remarks
  • 15 to 30 more minutes of general networking

 

Whether or not the event has a panel discussion or question and answer period doesn’t matter. What matters most is that during these events there is a set agenda that is followed so that everyone participating can benefit. But do you know who always benefits the most from these events? The host!

When you’re the attendee, you have to make it your mission to go up to others, shake their hands and introduce yourself. When I first started off, my general approach was to meet as many people as possible (which was definitely the wrong approach). If you’re naturally introverted, just attending the event is a hassle. However, when you’re the host no matter what your objective is, it will be much easier because people will naturally want to speak with you.

There will be no friction or awkwardness when greeting others. The attendees came knowing the objective of the event was designed for their benefit as well as yours and if the event is an enjoyable one, they will be more than happy to speak with you.

 

How to set up an event

You want to make sure your event goes smoothly so you can focus on your real objective: meeting people who you can build professional relationships with. To start off, consider who you want to attend your event. This will be a crucial part of your strategy moving forward with both planning your agenda and marketing your event online (more on this below).

Think about who you want to meet, and how you can bring value to them. If the event isn’t beneficial to all parties involved you risk having people avoid any future invitations you send out.

You don’t need to plan your event alone. You can find other like-minded people (who also want to grow in your field) to help you. If you’re in a position where you can’t speak on a particular topic, search on LinkedIn and Twitter for an individual in your space who is also looking to expand their network.

Planning an event takes a financial investment on your part so the more people you have involved, the less the burden will be. If you can have 6-10 colleagues chip in for the venue, food, and speaker fees, the planning will be much easier.

Another concern I usually have when hosting any workshop on digital marketing (the main topic of each event that I host) is finding the right venue. Before committing you want to review the location in person. I suggest that you come with a checklist of everything that you need for the event so that it goes smoothly.

Some questions you may want to consider are:

  • How many people can the venue hold?
  • Is the lighting appropriate for the type of event you’re hosting?
  • Is the venue difficult to find?
  • Do other networking events happen simultaneously at this location?
  • Can food be served at the location? Is there a place to store food?
  • Who is in charge of clean up? Are these services charged separately?

Certainly, there are other variables to take into consideration but, these are some of the questions I wish I had asked myself and my team before committing to venues when I first started hosting events.

 

Marketing it the right way

After you’ve made your full-proof plan to get your event underway, the next step is making sure people come. You want to utilize multiple platforms such as Facebook events, Eventbrite, and MeetUp to get as many people exposed to the event as possible.

If you can, I suggest having a budget of $150-200 to do some Facebook advertising, targeting people who fit the criteria of who you would like to network with (use this handy guide from Buffer to get started). A simple way to set your targeting parameters is to focus on location, age range, industry, and job titles. I wouldn’t go so far as to include interest targeting when you first start off.

Make sure that if you have any guest speakers, you ask them to promote the event on all of their social channels as well. You want to utilize whatever audience(s) they may have to gain free exposure.

When providing the description of the event, always tie back your messaging to what attendees will gain from the experience. They will all know that one of the primary reasons they should attend is to network but, there has to be other benefits besides that. Consider what they will learn from attending, that is always a great place to start. Lastly, always add some verbiage that asks your audience to share the event with their friends and colleagues. Perhaps your event will be beneficial to their friends as well.

 

Following up with attendees

After your event, if you were a good host and attended to your attendee’s needs, you will have gotten more contacts than you can count. It is important to prioritize who to follow up with, within a 24 hour period. Who introduced themselves to you that can you can build a relationship with?

My approach is to always think about what’s the best way I can provide value to the other party? If I can’t find a way to be useful to the person I’m following up with, I don’t bother sending them anything more than a, “let’s stay connected on social media,” or “I hope to see you again at our next event.” You want to make sure you’re maximizing your time after the event, ensuring the people you follow up with can give that return on investment that you’re looking for.
Hosting an event does take more effort on your part but, if you don’t do it alone and with careful planning, it can expand your network and help you create genuine relationships over time. And you have a greater chance of avoiding the awkward greetings that come when you first start off.

Click here to subscribe to my newsletter to get more articles like this one: SUBSCRIBE

Marketing Yourself

Marketing Yourself to Your Coworkers On LinkedIn

One of the best ways to leverage LinkedIn

I have been asked by my friends numerous times, “What’s the point of using LinkedIn?” Most of my contemporaries have just recently graduated from college or are now seniors.  And we haven’t been taught how to leverage LinkedIn effectively. When we are introduced to the social network at career development seminars, most of the time we are given surface-level advice:

  1. Add the information on your resume to your profile.
  2. Connect with people you know.
  3. Have a professional headshot.

The issue with this advice is that it doesn’t help you to understand how LinkedIn can be used to propel your career forward. Over the past year, I’ve certainly seen the benefits of using LinkedIn. However, I’ve noticed the only reason I’m starting to see the benefits is that I’m actively contributing content on a consistent basis.

 

The main reason I use the platform is that, through the act of distributing my content, I’m not only promoting myself to future employers — I’m also building my reputation as a useful asset to my team.

 

Having a focus on promoting yourself to the right people

As someone who has officially gained employment through LinkedIn, I can say that this platform is very instrumental in my daily life. But the power of the platform doesn’t only reside in helping one land a job. It can also help when trying to propose new initiatives to your team; this is immediately apparent if you’re a new employee. Generally it would take months to get your at bat, but with this strategy, it took me weeks.

I’ve discovered that the quickest way to establish your unique value as a team member is to showcase your talents to your team both in and out of the office. That’s why LinkedIn is so useful.

The origin of this idea came from a book I read called Experiences: 7th Era of Marketing by, Robert Rose & Carla Johnson. The authors discuss the importance of creating an internal content marketing strategy. The purpose of the strategy is to build a narrative out of the company’s mission so that employees stay connected with the brand. I found that another way of interpreting this is to leverage this strategy to create a narrative of, “Maybe this new kid knows what he’s talking about.” Creating a narrative out of your mission to help the company succeed (and how you can do it).

 

Ways to begin your self-promotion

The content you create should not be focused on what makes you special. If you have to tell your teammates that they should pay attention to you — they won’t take you seriously nor, will they take your ideas into consideration. What you have to do is put a focus on the ideas you want to propose. At the very least, you can highlight the things you are currently learning within your industry.

You can do this by creating written articles via LinkedIn Pulse, or you can create a video/audio content and host it on your personal website. Regardless of what format you use, keep in mind that you also don’t need it to be long form. Most the articles I write tend to be around 400-600 words. Ideally, if you’re creating content in video or audio formats, they should range from 2-5 minutes. The goal is to make the content you’re promoting to your team to be digestible. This works across all fields and industries under the condition that your coworkers are on LinkedIn. If they aren’t, then you can always use the alternative method of creating content and deploying paid advertising through Facebook (but, that may be more intrusive since the platform isn’t used by your team for business purposes).

 

The added benefits of having your team consume your content

The end goal in all of this is to create a conversation. Through consistent distribution of your ideas, your mission should be to have your team become curious about what you bring to the table. Although there is no I in team, finding ways to promote yourself in an altruistic way can help further your career in a faster way. And quite frankly, I find this method to be more palatable than having to compete for attention in person.

This process shows its effects over time. It took me three months to start getting noticed by my team members (as of writing this article) but, the reason I continued despite not seeing any immediate effects is that content strategies always take time to work. At the very least, when you share your original content on LinkedIn, you not only are promoting yourself to your team — you’re also sharing that content with other members of your network. This can lead to conversations that can provide new additional insights into what’s going on in your field. I have seen for myself that when new people see my content, the conversations created help me to find new topics to write about (and it helps me find new ideas I can share with my team).

LinkedIn is not only a platform for showcasing your resume. It’s one of the best tools to help you showcase your ideas to the people who can help propel you forward in your career. Start thinking of ways to express what you know and what you’re currently learning. If you can create new conversations with your team, you’ll be in a much better position to start new initiatives and grow faster in your career.

 

I’m always looking to learn more about how others are using LinkedIn to grow in their professional lives. How are you leveraging the network? Do you think this strategy applies in all scenarios? Leave a comment below so that we can start a conversation. And feel free to share this with a friend!

Click here to subscribe to my newsletter to get more articles like this one: SUBSCRIBE

Kenny Soto When Is It Okay To Post A Comment?

When Is It Okay To Post A Comment On A Social Post?

Interruption marketing still happens — here’s how to avoid it!

This is an Instagram post I made for the #DubChallenge (one of the many challenges that have gone viral in the past year), with a comment by a brand at the bottom of the conversation who intrudes and doesn’t build a relationship beforehand. The perfect example of bad marketing.

How often does this scenario happen: you post a meme, inspirational quote, amusing family video, etc. and some random brand likes the post? Does that annoy you? For some of us, it doesn’t. How about when that profile follows you? I personally pay no mind to it. But, what does bother me is when a brand comments on a post without taking the context of both the post and our relationship into account.

The challenge marketers have today, in regards to marketing on social media, is figuring out when is the right time to start or join a conversation with a lead. If you’re in B2B or B2C marketing, it still stands, if you can’t provide a meaningful way to connect online — don’t engage with the user. Commenting is all about timing.

How to build a relationship, the right way.

The issue that has to be discussed is, “when is it ok to post a comment?” The timing is specific to your audience. Aiming to be as granular as possible is ideal, but not always feasible. If you don’t have a team of people helping you promote your products and services online, you can’t necessarily track all of the interactions you have with your potential customers and current ones. There are many tools out there, such as CrowdFire & Buffer, that can help with this but — you always risk being inauthentic when using one of these automation tools.

One example of how tools can cause a risk for your brand not really connecting with your audience when you schedule your social media posts. Not all posts are created equally, and not all of them should be scheduled without getting a feel for what’s currently circulating on social feeds for the specific day you plan to schedule your post. Taking the time to consider what is relevant to your audience at any given moment pays dividends over time, as far as attention and engagement go. That same consideration should be taken into account when commenting on any posts your leads and customers are creating and sharing.

Push notifications are a double-edged sword.

The ability to have one-to-one relationships with our leads and customers is both a blessing and a curse. We take for granted our audience’s ability to ignore us if we try to communicate with them in a way that clearly shows you didn’t put too much thought into the conversation. What’s even worse is if they block your account or share your mishaps with their friends (ruining your reputation with other potential customers). The easiest way for a brand to leverage the use of comments is to first consider the timing of it, “is it an appropriate time for the user to get a push notification right now?”

Not all users have notifications turned on for all the comments they get, but for those who do, making sure you have conversations that are both timely and interesting is what should be the core focus of your social media marketing strategy. The example shown earlier in this article is one of many instances in which I have been rudely interrupted by a brand I knew nothing about. Instead of taking the time to look at all of my posts and finding some point of relevance to start a conversation (before even selling me something), they decided to give a quick one-line pitch, with the hopes of me visiting their site. That isn’t how you get my attention.

That comment shows that they didn’t take me into consideration, they are playing a numbers game. The number of comments you deploy to engage with your audience isn’t what matters, it is the quality. It sounds cliche, but it’s the truth.

Questions to think about before starting or joining conversations.

Think about how you approach sharing content with your friends and family and how you take into account what to comment on. That same approach should be used when you are engaging with your audience through your brand. Below are some questions to consider before engaging with your audience:

  • What time of day is my audience most active and is it appropriate to comment on their posts at that time?
  • What are the parts of my audience’s daily routines that my brand actually has relevance to?
  • Am I selling them my services/products with the comment or should I be selling content first in order to engage them?
  • How long have I been following this audience member (and vice versa)?
  • What action do I want to take after this conversation? Is one conversation enough to have them take that action?

If you have fallen victim to brands commenting on your posts with nothing of value or substance I’d love for you to share your story in the comments section below. Also, if you feel like there should be other questions that need to be taken into consideration, please share them with me.

Recommended articles:

  1. Clicks vs. Comments: An Easier Way For Lead Generation on LinkedIn (4 min. read)
  2. Emoji Marketing: Why you should take it seriously
  3. The Internet Is High School: Personal Branding & Influencer Marketing

If you found this article useful, click here to subscribe to my newsletter: SUBSCRIBE

The internet is high school

The Internet Is High School: Personal Branding & Influencer Marketing

Where do I sit?

With sweaty hands I walk, thinking about how I make a good impression. Who do I sit next to? What will they say when they see me? Will they like me enough to sit next to me tomorrow? All of these thoughts spun around my head as I entered my high school’s cafeteria for the very first time. Ah, the woes of a freshman — trying to make a mark in a war of popularity, gossip, and food fights. Not much has changed in the last decade.

Social Media will always remind me of high school. 

I find myself today, like many people within my age group, trying to make something of myself as I enter my professional career. I still have that sense of yearning, of wanting people to acknowledge me. Except now, the environment in which I deploy my tactics of grabbing people’s attention have nothing to do with finding my table amongst a sea of acne-filled teens (the cause of many existential crises back then).

Today, I try to grab the attention of my peers and professionals within my field on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn (Twitter as a platform has died for me already, I’m not too confident in its survival as a company).

These social channels we use are the new tables in the cafeteria. Each has its own group of people, speaking in a different context from the rest. These social channels — much like the social environments we found ourselves in during our high school years — are full of gossip, misinformation, great stories, and the occasional fanfare of congratulating your friends on their accomplishments. And the popular kids of today (social media influencers), instead of getting all the superficial attention that goes away right after graduation, get paid over $200k just to make a 6-second video.

How is this relevant to you?

Whether you’re like me, just starting your career trying your best to stand out from the crowd, or a seasoned veteran in your field — attention is vital to your professional growth. I’ve used personal branding to constantly grow my clout in my “tables.” The practice of promoting what makes me unique as a potential team member online, has paid off for me and continues to do so to this day.

Your goal doesn’t need to be becoming the next YouTube sensation or billionaire entrepreneur to consider personal branding as an important part of your life. If you are just looking to get a new job or a new promotion, producing content on a consistent basis can help you tremendously in the long run. Personal branding, if taken seriously, can lead to opportunities of becoming a social media influencer. Using influencer marketing can give you other chances to grow your brand into an asset that pays itself over time.

Consider personal branding and influencer marketing as ideas that can be applied to all professionals within any industry. Anyone who can grab the attention of their peers has a strategic advantage over those who don’t.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter: eepurl.com/by4v59

What can we learn from social media influencers?

Influencer marketing and cultivating your personal brand go hand in hand. Think of influencer marketing as one form of how to use personal branding in your career. Your brand can align with other companies marketing campaigns because of the communities you engage with and that can lead to an alternative means of income. But as mentioned previously, even if these are things you don’t want, influencer marketing tactics can help you in your career.

One other example is using your personal brand to market your ideas to your coworkers outside of team meetings. Producing content and sharing it with them on LinkedIn can give you other opportunities to engage with them in meaningful ways. It certainly puts the conversations you have to offer in a less competitive atmosphere, fostering a higher quality of collaboration amongst you and your team.

How did I use personal branding & influencer marketing tactics?

I’m a firm believer that there are no longer any barriers between you and the celebrities and inspirational figures that you follow. If you want to talk to your favorite football player, a local politician, or celebrity — you can through the computer in your pocket. Keeping this in mind, the way I’ve personally used influencer marketing by experimenting with one tactic that influencers use to grow their audiences in a meaningful way — starting conversations.

We often forget that the foundation of social media is all about being social. What I’ve been doing currently, is reaching out to ad agencies I consider to be leaders in the marketing industry, not to get a job or to pitch them a partnership, but simply to learn from them. I’m not asking them to consume my content; I’m asking them questions relevant to their work. These questions lead to meaningful exchanges that have allowed me to grow my following, specifically on LinkedIn, by over 100 people in just seven days.

I’m personally still learning how to use my personal brand to propel myself forward into a meaningful career. As I continue to discover different ways to incorporate influencer marketing tactics (and other marketing strategies) to help me gain new opportunities — I invite you to consider the idea that popularity contests aren’t always bad. Especially because if you win, there a lot of great things that come from it.

Author’s note: I purposefully decided to avoid giving a list of influencer marketing tactics so that I can create a separate article about it in the future. Stay tuned.

If you found this article useful, click here to subscribe to my newsletter: SUBSCRIBE

Recommended Articles:

How to Get a Job at Google: Answers From an Ex-Googler.

How to Use LinkedIn to Get Interviews

The Beginner’s Guide To Influencer Marketing on Instagram

doing spec work kenny soto

Getting a Job After College, Spec Work is The Best Method

What is Spec Work?

I’d like to preface this article with where this idea came from—Gary Vaynerchuk. I have been following Gary for exactly over a year now, and one of the very first doubts about him came when he talked about doing spec work (free services) for people. This work is supposed to be for the purpose of business development and expanding your network.

Spec work is any kind of creative work, either partial or completed, submitted by designers to prospective clients before designers secure both their work and equitable fees. Under these conditions, designers will often be asked to submit work in the guise of a contest or an entry exam on existing jobs as a “test” of their skill.”

I decided that instead of just taking what he said and accepting it, that I would test it for myself (which in retrospect, is what he wanted his viewers to do when he talked about the subject in the 1st place). The story below is how it all happened and how it can help you if you’re still in college or just graduated, and you’re looking to grow in your industry.

Finding a need and getting the client.

Now, this article focuses on the context of my particular skills—skills in digital marketing (SEO, web development, and Social Media Marketing) that I used to get spec work. Although this may not apply to all industries, if your skills map to working on being creative and providing services for a client that don’t require a license or specific certifications, this can work for you. The first step I had in this process was to find a customer that needed my help. I knew from the start that I’d be doing this work for an exchange outside of financial compensation, perhaps a referral to a job after college or something else.

While I was at my college’s local bar, Grill On The Hill, I felt the need to have more of my college friends become more aware of what the bar offered. It was an excellent place that was just starting out, and whenever I went, there were a lot of locals but, not enough college students. One evening, while hanging out with my fraternity brothers, I saw one of the bar’s owners outside. I walked to him, introduced myself and what I do, and told him that I would market his bar online—for free.
Obviously, there was a catch. I was still figuring out what that would be myself—when I was pitching to the owner. Several days later I was hired as the bars digital marketing consultant with a small monthly budget to do Facebook marketing and to create their website with the help of one of the bartenders there. It was my second time creating a website and creating any paid media on Facebook.

What did I get in return from the experience?

Besides gaining valuable experience in doing Facebook ads (the bar was my second client at my time), I was able to learn more about my craft holistically. I began to understand that marketing doesn’t work without tying your campaign goals to actual business goals that drive revenue—it’s not enough to promote a bar’s event to everyone then, making sure you promote it to the ideal customers (people who spend money and drive revenue). In return, besides getting experience, the bar gave me a free beer (and occasionally a free meal) once to twice a week for eight months. This showed me that even if you aren’t making an income for the work you do for someone, there can always be an exchange of equal value for said work. That’s the main message I want to drive home, especially for college students, doing work someone doesn’t necessarily need to equate to you making money.

The hidden value in working for free

It is often taught that the work we do has to produce an income, but it doesn’t. Work can help you build your network. Work can help you expose yourself to new ideas and possibilities. Instead of focusing on monetary gain, focus your job for skills-based learning. It’s because of my experience working at Grill on the Hill that, it gave me the opportunity to see what marketing services I could pitch to my college and try my hand at making them my first paid client (you can find out more about that story here).

I’d love to know your thoughts on this article. Do you think work should only be done for monetary gain/income? Have you done similar work in exchange for services, experience, etc.? Let’s chat in the comments section down below!

If you found this article useful, click here to subscribe to my newsletter: SUBSCRIBE

Recommended articles:

  1. 6 Reasons An Unpaid Internship Is Absolutely Worth Your Time
  2. How I Got Employed After Two Weeks Of Graduating College.
  3. How can college students leverage social media to get interviews at startups?
No degrees of seperation Kenny Soto

There Are No Longer Six Degrees of Separation

What introduced me to this concept.

The idea of the Six Degrees of Separation was first introduced to me in a book by Malcolm Gladwell called, The Tipping Point. In it, Malcolm talks about three types of early adopters one must build relationships with to bring a product or service to the mass markets (the mainstream). Of the three types, one of them has the particular ability to leverage their networks to spread general news via word of mouth called connectors. I was then reintroduced to the idea of connectors in Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow when he mentions super-connectors in the film industry and how they leverage their networks not only for themselves but, for other people as well. Being altruistic with your network helps build it faster. The more you help others below you grow to be even better than you, the more attention you gain during longer periods of time (this is how I interpreted Shane’s chapter on the subject).

The six degrees of separation as I see it.

The six degrees of separation is a concept closely related to connectors and super connectors, the idea that you can know and potentially be introduced to anyone in the world by the maximum separation of 6 people within your network (everyone and everything is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world). For example, someone I know on my Dad’s side of my family possibly has 3-4 friends that they know from their friends, who just so happens to know President Barack Obama. At max, it would only take six introductions for me to have an encounter (however small) with President Obama. But, after careful thought and thinking about how this idea can be challenged, a couple of months ago (around early 2016), I had a conversation with my mentor in which I mentioned that I don’t believe these degrees of separation exist anymore, and here’s why.

The Internet is an environment with 0 degrees of separation.

I’m currently reading The The Intention Economy: When Customers Take Charge by Doc Searls, which is about how customer relationship management systems (search Hubspot or Salesforce for examples) don’t truly help businesses have relationships with customers/users. For this to occur, customers need their own Vendor Relationship Management systems. In a chapter titled, “Net Pains,” Doc Searls quotes Craig Burton, a Senior Analyst with Kuppinger Cole, who describes the Internet as:

“…[A] world we might see as a bubble. A sphere…The distance between any two points [within said sphere] is functionally zero, and not just because they can see each other, but because nothing interferes with [the] operation between any two points (page 102, Searls).”

Sphere diagram

Because of the Internet, if I want to contact Obama, I can now just go on Twitter and tweet at him directly. Now, the chances of me getting an actual response from him are dismal, but, if I wanted to contact any other person in the world—I still have the ability to do so if they have access to the Internet.

Why I think this change is important and must be discussed further.

The majority of us now rely to some degree, on the Internet and its protocols for our work. The ubiquity that the Internet provides for us to communicate conveniently with anyone, about anything, regardless of geography is astounding. It’s what allows us to do business across the globe and spread ideas and content like wildfire. But, I still believe that we have continued to hold onto old self-imposed limitations (that’s what they are at this point) regarding who we think we can and cannot contact. We can speak to anyone we want today; that’s the main point here.

Keeping this in mind, I believe we should begin thinking about all the new opportunities we are not currently exploring—regarding meeting new people and exposing ourselves to new ideas. Let this article serve as a short rant that should compel you to create a list of five people you’d love to talk to about anything—and then, contact them! You’ll be amazed at what might happen.

If you found this article useful or interesting, click here to subscribe to my newsletter: SUBSCRIBE

How Landed My First Paid Account as a Consultant at 22 Kenny Soto

My 1st Client as a Digital Marketing Consultant at 22

Believe it or not, I was able to convince my college to hire me. I’m not talking about work study, being a bookstore stockboy, or being a research assistant for a professor. I’m talking about closing a deal for thousands of dollars. In this post, I’ll provide some back story as to how I was able to have the opportunity to even come up with the pitch, the pitch itself, and the lessons learned from the work. As a small disclaimer, as a student I respect my university tremendously—as a consultant, I learned from them what it means when people say large organizations are “slow.”

It all starts with finding a need.

How did I come up with the idea of even pursuing this pitch? It all started with accessing the problem my college had—we had severe budget cuts during the fiscal year. The only reason I was privy to this information was due to my role as student body president. During the first few meetings with school administration during my last academic year in college, I learned that our college, along with other CUNYs, hadn’t met their goal that the Board of Trustees set for getting more students.

The lack of increase in tuition was one of four factors that contributed to the millions in budget cuts that we’re going to occur. After sitting down and actually contemplating on why this particular problem was occurring, it dawned on me that I should check out the college’s social media & paid search marketing efforts. Low and behold, they weren’t launching any paid ads or producing content of any value to potential students or the parents of those students. This was my in, the opportunity I was looking for.

Devising the pitch.

Coming up with something of real worth to present to school administration wasn’t easy. It took me two weeks just to have the stones even to share this idea with my Fraternity brothers for feedback. After carefully thinking about what I learned from both my internship and doing pro bono digital marketing for a bar near campus (I still got something out of it, free food and free beer which wasn’t a bad deal if I do say so myself) I came up with a 43-slide deck for my presentation.

The reason why this deck was so long, and by all means I don’t recommend doing something this long for any presentation, was because I knew I wouldn’t have been taken seriously (at the end of the day, I’m too young to be taken seriously for anything right now). If I didn’t make sure I showed both school admin and the marketing department that not only I knew what I was talking about—but, that I also put it into the context of their specific needs, none of this would have worked. Also, I had already assembled a small team of two other student government members that would help me in my efforts; this increased their confidence in my ability to not only create a sound project but, also execute on it.

Negotiating the price.

The two most important lessons I gained from the overall experience was:

  1. Always write the service contract yourself.
  2. Bid high for a high price.

If it weren’t for a close friend of mine, I would have left a considerable amount of money on the table. I believe the main reason why the college administration agreed to pay my team and me as much as they did, was because the labor was relatively cheap in terms of industry standards and we wrote the whole contract ourselves. It also helps that they didn’t go through the hassle of signing it but, that’s beside the point. If a client is willing to pay you without signing a contract for whatever reason you still want them to do so, it puts both of you in a position where each party is fully committed to each other’s success. I believe this was the first sign that there was only going to be so much we could have done for them.

The challenge I’m glad I faced early on.

The biggest challenge with working for any big client as a digital markeitng consultant is this—the internal communications process is slow as hell, meaning that you’re going to have to plan at least two weeks ahead to get anything approved for launch. I lacked experience in this one aspect of doing digital marketing consulting; I didn’t anticipate that the one deterrent to my success would be not preparing for slow communication in between tasks. Although, I wasn’t successful in fully executing on the marketing plan I was at the very least, able to show the importance of why their efforts should be focused primarily on social and search advertising and not on subway or television ads.

Other lessons I learned were:

Your client, regardless of their size, will want all reports on a consistent basis. It’s important to let them know early on that marketing is a marathon and not a sprint. Metrics don’t improve overnight. You want to at least report on new ideas you’re working on so they can add their insight into the mix.
Have a dedicated team member to set up phone calls for Q & A whenever needed. If you’re this person, you have the hardest job. Client retention is key to recurring income. My biggest regret is not giving enough attention to thinking about building a long term relationship with my college so I could have had them as a client after I graduated.* Your team’s size should reflect the size of the account.

This is something I’ve debated with my colleagues for quite some time now. I still believe that we could have done a better job if we had at least three to four more students on our team. A team of three college students wasn’t enough to solve the problems a big institution like my college had.

Moving forward.

In the end, although I wasn’t successful in the execution of my first account, I at least learned how to get one. That experience has proved invaluable as I continue getting new clients and building my team at digiquation.com, the startup I work at now. Whether it’s in digital marketing or any other consulting practice, it never hurts to start early. Regardless of your age, there is something that you know; that is intrinsic in the experiences you’ve had that can be of value to a client. You just have to figure out how to successfully communicate that—and then have the team and knowledge to execute the plan you’re being paid to do.

*The experience gained from this one part of my collegiate career was the most valuable by far, and I am forever indebted to the City College of New York for giving me a chance to help them. If you check their Facebook page now, you can see the ads they are launching to get more attention. A special thanks to Tammie and Safiyyah, without your help, none of this would have been accomplished.


If you found this article useful or interesting, click here to subscribe to my newsletter: SUBSCRIBE

Recommended articles:

    1. How I Got Employed After Two Weeks Of Graduating College.
    2. Emoji As a Professional Language
    3. A Digital Marketer’s Most Important Asset: Their Curiosity
The internet so far kenny soto

My Thoughts on The Internet So Far

A quick comparison between the Internet and the WWW.

There is a difference between the internet and the world wide web. The internet connects hardware with other hardware, and the WWW is a system that allows us to share content and information to be distributed in that connection.  I did not know the difference, nor did I care, before realizing how important understanding the difference was. I always used to interact with the world wide web without much thought about what I was doing or how it affected me.

The first social media I was on: Sconex.

Sconex

First, there was Sconex*, a way for my cousins and me to check out older high school girls and try to speak to them. We didn’t have a specific goal in mind; we just loved the idea that we could talk to these hot girls and not have to be honest about our ages (yes, I am guilty of being a catfish in my early days). We were just ten-year-old boys experiencing puberty and the internet all in one jumbled mess. Then MySpace came along and even more of my time was consumed by connecting with friends from school at home and talking to random strangers (and I’m sure at least three of them were thirty-year-old dudes in basement). It never occurred to me that my generation was the first to experience human interactions on a screen, daily. The first generation to have our attention become a commodity (no one was walking with televisions in their pockets).

From the age of three years old, I had a huge beige Dell desktop computer, not realizing how lucky I was to grow up with the technology that to this day, people who are in their seventies are still trying to adapt to.


*If you want to see old websites that are no longer online, check out Archive.org. It’s the Wayback Machine…


Becoming aware.

I first started to observe my ignorance about what a computer could do when I entered college. I studied computer literacy in high school but, it was mostly just learning how to type with two hands and how to use Microsoft Office programs. What I was really ignorant about was the culture of entrepreneurs and technologists who were (and still are) making millions and billions of dollars off of our use of the internet and the web. I always wanted to discover what their secret sauce was and how could someone like me could have a similar impact on society.

It wasn’t the money that intrigued me; it was the mere fact that someone from Boston could make an app that connects over one billion users in today’s age and no one even bats an eye. There are only two things besides that app that have over one billion users, water, and air (I’m talking about Facebook just in case you didn’t get the reference). I decided to take it upon myself to find a class or a mentor that could teach me—the basics of the digital world and how it affects our society. Cue the internship I took last year in digital marketing.

“We pay with our information and most importantly, our attention.”

I learned some of the most alarming and exciting things last year. Things such as our information is being collected—think Pokemon Go and how Google Maps now knows the inside of almost every building now or how Snapchat and Facebook now have the largest collections of facial data from all of us. We are being sold to on a consistent basis, and we are no longer just consumers of content, we are, “…hamsters on a wheel,” as Seth Godin would put it. We willingly input data and information into websites and apps and have the faintest clue as to how they are using our information. There is a reason we use most of these apps for free. We pay with our information and most importantly, our attention. Same goes for Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or any email newsletter you’ve had to subscribe to and input information into a form. There’s also pixels and cookies that allow these companies to track you online… However, even if we are becoming more aware of this fact, that people sell our privacy and attention now, no one is bothered it. No one bats an eye.

How do “they” make their money from our mass consumption?

We have become the products. Mark Zuckerberg isn’t a billionaire just because you use his platform to check out cat videos. He makes his cash by selling your information to advertisers like Taco Bell, who want to sell things to you. The same goes for Jack Dorsey who owns Twitter or Evan Spiegel if Snapchat, who has every fourteen to twenty-eight-year-old in the palm of his hand. With the information I’ve obtained over the past year, it has occurred to me that we interact with these tools but, don’t know how they work, why they exist, and how they affect our daily lives.

I couldn’t imagine a day in my life where I could not search for something whenever I wanted to. It’s a scary thought but, I rely on Google and so many other platforms for my daily activities. What would happen to me if I didn’t have access to them anymore? Questions such as these have led me to believe that these tech giants control our lives. Not in a dystopian or morbid way, more like, “This is super cool, and I aspire to be like them.” Even though I make sure my phone is on airplane mode whenever I am asleep—I’m pretty sure data is collected if it isn’t.

What can we expect moving forward?

The impact these platforms have on us is tremendous. However, they have also have given many of us opportunities we (my generation) couldn’t even dream of in the early nineties. We now have micro-celebrities on Vine and Instagram, who make around ten grand a month by just posting ten to fifteen-second skits and having sponsors paying for ad space. We have Youtube stars such as PewDiePie, NigaHiga, and Smosh, who make millions each year by creating quality content for their fan bases. Just by connecting with their own communities they are able to obtain a ton of cash from advertising revenue alone (imagine the contracts they get for corporate sponsorships). Then there are the video game enthusiasts on Twitch that make roughly five to nine thousand dollars a month by having other people just watch them play. The entrepreneurs who have created these online platforms have not only made money for themselves but, have helped others to do the same and also to have an impact on the world. That is what makes me passionate about the web and makes me want to learn more about how we interact and use it. I can only imagine what will happen once we start to interact with virtual and augmented reality. I wonder how that will affect our lives on a daily basis.

The entrepreneurs who have created these online platforms have not only made money for themselves but, have helped others do the same and have their own impact on the world. That is what makes me passionate about the web and what makes me want to learn more about how we interact and use it. I can only imagine what will happen once we start to interact with virtual and augmented reality (Pokemon Go is just a preview). I really wonder how that will affect our lives on a daily basis.


If you found this article useful or interesting, click here to subscribe to my newsletter: SUBSCRIBE

Recommended articles:

  1. The World Wide Web Is An Extension Of Our Minds.
  2. Why Computers Are Desperate for a Redesign
  3. WHY MILLIONS OF TWEENS ARE USING MUSICAL.LY… AND WHY IT MATTERS

Also, if you want to see the first website ever made check out this link. It really shows how much progress we’ve made over the past two decades.

Kenny Soto Futures For Students

Kenny Soto Launches Futures For Students

I’m Creating A Non-Profit!

FFS is a 501(c)(3) organization created in direct response to the growing number of lower-income underserved students that are graduating from New York City colleges with little or no Digital Marketing education, knowledge or abilities – critical skills in the modern workplace. These are the skills that lead to employment in the Digital Economy of the 21st Century.

FFS is a Digital Marketing Academy that is focused on storytelling across multiple digital platforms. We teach our students to use insights gained from analytics to drive optimized results across Digital Media.

Our rigorous program trains students to be marketing technologists capable of marketing themselves and organizations in the digital economy. Our program imbues them with the knowledge and confidence that they can compete with anyone graduating from elite private university marketing programs.

At FFS, students learn from doing. As they progress they become more deeply involved in an experiential work environment involving teamwork in support of other not-for-profit and other local underfunded small business clients and across FFS’s Written, Podcast, Video, Social Media and Live Streaming platforms. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that research analysts and marketing specialist jobs are expected to increase by 32 percent between 2012 and 2022—this is almost triple the national average of 11 percent predicted for all other occupations.

The reason we are creating this academy is to solve this one problem: college students not being able to get jobs after graduation. We want to, at least, make the job application process more manageable and allow our students to have the opportunity to showcase who they are.

Here’s where you can lend to our company and find out more information on how you can help: https://zip.kiva.org/loans/17666/i/t4rm

Page 1 of 3123