S: In this episode number 123, you are going to learn about the magic of repurposing in your social media marketing. Write once, use many. You’re also going to learn about bootstrapping a business and creating a memorable brand for it. Our guest today is Laura Roeder. She’s the founder of Edgar, a social media automation tool designed to prevent status updates from going to waste. Laura has given talks at conferences like BlogHer and South by Southwest and has spoken about the value of independent entrepreneurship at the White House. She’s also appeared in Forbes, Fast Company, Mashable, CNET, and other major publications. Laura, it’s great to have you on the show.
L: Thank you. I’m happy to be here.
S: First of all, let’s talk about Edgar and what spurred you on to create a social media automation platform?
L: Before I launched MeetEdgar, I was doing social media training for entrepreneurs and MeetEdgar is actually a software that does for you the system that I was teaching. Basically, before people started talking about Facebook reach, I noticed how low it was. I was looking at my stats and saw, man, on Facebook, on Twitter, you’re getting often 5%, maybe sometimes, 10% of your audience who ask to be there, who’s following you, sees anything that you posts. 90% of your followers aren’t seeing it yet the way most people handle social media, they’re coming up with the new social updates multiple times a day, every day, for the rest of the time. It really doesn’t make sense to create that much brand new content every day when 90% of your audience or more is not seeing it. It really makes sense to repurpose this so that more people can get a chance to see it. That’s exactly what Edgar does.
S: This is a really key point. We’re wasting a ton of resources on social media because we’re not getting the reach, we’re just creating stuff that’s going to a tiny sliver of our entire audience. When we’re creating something, we’re creating for the entire audience, thinking it’s going out to the audience and it’s going out to a small fraction.
L: Yeah. Most people are so guilty of this with blog post. You spend hours and hours writing new blog posts. You push it live. A lot of people literally send out one social update as soon as it goes live. Maybe, they’ll send out a few the first week, if they’re doing a little better and then most people never posts that blog post again on social media, which is crazy because the whole idea, the reason we’re all doing online marketing is because we’re expecting new audience to come in everyday and of course, even our existing audience, they’re not diligently making sure that they’re refreshing our blog every hour, reading every piece of content in its entirety. No one’s paying as much attention as we are. If you’re spending all this time creating content, don’t waste it. Social media is such an amazing platform for spreading it but you have to know how to do that well.
S: Right. Each platform is different. If you repost let’s say three times about the same blog post on to Twitter, that’s fine, whereas if you do that on Facebook, that’s not as good.
L: Well, no. I will definitely recommend that people repost the same blog post three times on Facebook. I mean, I guess it depends on what timeframe you’re talking about for those three posts.
S: Okay. Let’s talk about what are the similarities and the differences between the platforms in terms of reposting or repurposing the same content piece multiple times.
L: The important thing to remember about Twitter is it’s still largely chronological, meaning you see all the Tweets from everyone you follow in order. Twitter does have a section on the top, the in case you missed that section now, which operates much more like the Facebook algorithm, where they’re choosing the content they think you might like, which is how Facebook works. It’s not chronological. You’re not seeing everything from all the people or pages that you follow. Facebook is deciding what little sliver of content anyone might want to see. It’s important to think about that with your posting strategy because people miss you for different reasons. On Twitter, a large reason that people miss your stuff is because they just literally weren’t online that same five minutes that you were. People sign on to Twitter for a few minutes, look around, if your Tweet didn’t go live in those few minutes, they’ll probably miss you. They’re probably not going to see it. It really makes a lot of sense to post multiple times a day, make sure you’re covering different time zones. If for example you’re in the U.S. and you have audience in Europe, that’s a big thing a lot of people miss. A lot of European people are maybe seeing little or nothing or in Asia, on opposite time zones, where on Facebook, you need to dig in more to the factors that make Facebook increase your reach, make your post show up more, which really the bottomline on that is engagement. Facebook likes to see that people are engaging with what you post. The more people engage, the more Facebook shows your stuff.
S: With Facebook specifically, isn’t it more of pay to play game because if you are posting from your page, it’s going to get buried. It’s not going to even hit 10% of your audience, just maybe going to hit like, I don’t know what the percentage, maybe it’s 2% to 3%. It’s really, really small unless you’re paying in terms of Facebook ads. What’s your take on the organic versus the paid side of Facebook?
L: You just have to know what your reach is. My expertise is really on the organic side. I’m not an expert in paid Facebook ads and organic still has reach. Like you said, its low and you need to know what it is. Every business, it’s super easy to go into your page and see exactly what your reach is. Facebook also shows you for every post what your reach is, which is cool because it makes it really easy to start looking through and observing which posts, which types of content are getting higher reach and some with higher reach generally will raise your reach over all. What’s so tricky about Facebook is they change their algorithm constantly and they don’t even have the same algorithm that applies to everyone. Different types of pages have different algorithms that weigh different things. An entrepreneur can get really obsessed in trying to find the perfect mix. It’s good to read our MeetEdgar blog, read best practices, but really the best thing that you can do is notice what’s working on your own page. Facebook ads are definitely a great strategy for getting more reach, but dude, you can still use Facebook organically too.
S: Sure. Would your profile fit into the mix as well? I would think so. For example, if I want to post on Facebook something just organically not boost it or do Facebook advertising with it, I’d also post it to my personal profile, which will get a lot more organic reach with my friends and followers versus my page, which tends to get buried because of Facebook and their algorithm, they want you to pay. In terms of your strategy, you have a mix of pushing stuff out via pages and also via Facebook profiles.
L: We don’t use profiles for our marketing at MeetEdgar. People can decide different ways they want to do that. My point of view, it depends on the business, we’re a software company, we’re not a consultant or something like that. If you are a person that’s much more representative of a business, sometimes your leads and customers will friend you on Facebook, on a personal profile, but what you need to watch out for is that you’re not promoting to your actual friends on a personal profile. The reason you don’t want to do that, it’s not just about annoying your friends, but it’s also just because it’s poorly targeted marketing. I’ve seen people that have a local business that are using their personal profile to promote that local business when of course a lot of their friends don’t even live in that city. It just doesn’t make any sense target wise. If you’re using a personal profile to promote, the upside is that yeah, the reach is way higher on a personal profile than it is in a page. The downside is you want to make sure you’ve built that profile as a marketing tool from day one. You can’t advertise on it. You have a limit to the people you can friend, although more people can follow your profile even if they’re not your friend. I would say personal profiles are an area where you really want to tread lightly and really consider if that’s going to be a core part of your strategy moving forward.
S: Yeah, that’s an important point. For me, as a consultant, I’m an SEO consultant, it makes sense because I had thought of using Facebook for marketing from the beginning and a lot of the friends I have, I have thousands of friends but there is of course that limit of 5000 on Facebook, and many of them are industry people, friends I know from the SEO world, from online marketing, and so forth. Still, I’m very careful to not blast out a lot of stuff about SEO because I do have friends and family in my profile, in my friends group. If I’m trying to educate them on SEO, that’s not a good fit so I’ll pick something like a TV appearance. I’ll post that to my personal profile and say, “Hey, I was just on Good Day Sacramento. Check out my clip and let me know what you think.” That makes sense, but maybe my post about SEO 101: How to Get Your Website to the Top of Google, not such a good fit, more for a page not for a profile.
L: That makes sense to me.
S: Yeah. Let’s talk about some of the other platforms. We talked a bit about Twitter and Facebook. What about Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, and some of the other platforms out there?
L: I would say Instagram is one that a lot of entrepreneurs have their eye on right now. It’s a really fast growing platform and people are spending a lot of time on Instagram. It’s becoming more popular than Facebook. Instagram is really challenging from a marketing perspective. The biggest downside of Instagram is you can’t put a link in your post, which you know, they know what they’re doing, they’re making sure that marketers do not ruin Instagram, but we’re trying our best to market on Instagram. You can put links in stories now if you’re verified on Instagram. Instagram definitely works best for very visual type of companies. If you’re an e-commerce and you sell something that is nice to look at, that’s generally going to be the biggest win for Instagram or if your brand pertain to lifestyle representation, where you can have celebrities on Instagram showing a physical representation of them using your product. It’s pretty hard for something like us, a software company, it’s hard to take a photo of them using Edgar. Instagram, I think it can be really valuable for those types of companies that do have a nice visual representation, but you really have to watch the ROI there because what Instagram wants you to do, I mean what they’re really pushing you towards now are these stories, which is video content that expires after 24 hours, which as you know, I’m a believer in repurposing the idea of creating content. That is never repurposed and just disappears after 24 hours. It’s a real challenge for marketers. You really have to make sure that you’re company has the bandwidth to be able to take on that type of content creation.
S: Right. That’s something I agree with you on. It seems like a total waste to put stuff out there that’s going to evaporate in 24 hours. I was never into Snapchat for that reason and I’m still not. Also, the Instagram stories is not something that I want to invest time in nor do I recommend it to my clients. What are you doing in your company in terms of Instagram marketing? Because it is such a different thing when you have an intangible, like a software as a service.
L: We do have a presence on Instagram that we launched last year. We plan our post ahead. We do repurpose our content for our Instagram post, which are often a little helpful quote from our blog or sometimes photos of our team. It’s a place we feel like you know what, we want to go ahead and lay a little groundwork there. We’re not going to spend a ton of time there. It’s not going to be a huge driver for us but I think Instagram, like all the platforms, will evolve to be friendlier to marketers. I think we’re already seeing that. They just released an update to their API that’s allowing a few tools to actually schedule to Instagram, which you never could do before. Before, you could just cue up a post that you wanted to send, but you still had to go to an app on your phone and hit send when you want it to send it. Instagram is finally getting a little more flexible on that although they’re still a lot of constraints for their program there. I anticipate in two years or so Instagram will be much more friendly to marketers and then our company will have our follower based there and a groundwork laid there.
S: Right. With this new API, does that mean that Edgar can automate posts to Instagram or not yet?
L: Not yet. The API is still really limited. They’re mainly releasing it to enterprise companies for now. It’s only for business pages. You can’t use hashtags. It’s not really useful yet for the average entrepreneur but the fact that they released it, to me, it’s a great sign that they will keep moving in that direction.
S: Right. How about Pinterest? Because that’s in many ways similar to Instagram in terms of it’s very visual and if your software is a service or you’re an intangible sort of business, a consultant for example, would be hard pressed, they might think to leverage Pinterest.
L: Yeah. Pinterest is definitely more favorable towards visual companies although the cool thing about Pinterest is unlike Instagram, it really can drive a lot of traffic because when people are poking around on Pinterest, I think they’re very often clicking through, to the source if they want to see more content like that. It’s definitely an obvious homerun for anything that, interior design, or fashion, or anything that looks nice that people would want to pin. I have seen some freelancers and businesses like that have some success with doing tips and tricks and making really nice-looking branded content if they have because there are a lot of entrepreneurs, and small business owners, and freelancers, and craft businesses, and stuff like that on Pinterest. If you have that type of audience and you can make content for them that looks very nice and pinnable, I think that can be one way to drive traffic, but in general, it’s definitely more for those visual types of businesses.
S: I’ve played a fair amount with Pinterest and as a consultant, it’s a little outside of the sweet spot for me, but I’ve gotten a decent amount of traffic and it tends to be more evergreen so I like that aspect of it. By providing helpful resources and things that are conveyed powerfully through visual means like for example, infographics or inspirational quote type images and things like that then, that can be a good fit. For example, I curated a whole bunch of really great infographics, which is relevant to SEO and link building because you can get some great links by having great infographics. I have a nice big list and visual display of great infographics on killer infographics pin board. It can work. I think it can work. It’s just that it’s a pretty different paradigm. What’s your feeling about Snapchat? I’m guessing I know what it is but we’ll just quickly cover that one. What about Snapchat?
L: It’s not really compelling for marketers anymore unless you are marketing for teens. In the beginning, people are like, “Who’s going to be on Snapchat?” They’ve found their place in the market now and it is young people. Unless you’re a huge brand and that’s your market, you really don’t need to spend time on it.
S: Great, Yeah. Gary V. was so bullish on Snapchat. “All of us marketers, we need to be on Snapchat.” I’m glad I didn’t listen.
L: Yeah. No one knows how these things are going to go. He went on early. He was wrong on that one. He tried on some others.
S: He’s an investor in it too. He does have a vested interest in telling its benefits. What about LinkedIn? Because this is a very big network for businesses especially if you’re B2B. You guys are B2B, I’m B2B. Where does LinkedIn fit in to the ecosystem for your company in terms of your marketing and then for your clients?
L: I think LinkedIn is a dark horse right now because they are thriving some really significant traffic that a lot of businesses are missing out on. I was looking at our stats recently and sometimes, we drive more traffic from LinkedIn than we do Twitter, which really surprised me because we do not spend any dime on LinkedIn at all, and I personally am really active on Twitter but we, of course, use Edgar for our company. The cool thing about Edgar is if you have content, you could just check the box, just send it to LinkedIn, which is exactly what we do, we’re not on there actively but it’s like yeah, we might as well check the box, send our content to LinkedIn. People are clicking on it and people are reading it. I think that’s because LinkedIn, they know they’re falling a bit behind in the social network thing. They’re trying to catch up so they’re giving your content a lot of visibility. If you haven’t logged in to LinkedIn lately, you might be surprised to see how much feeds are a prominent part of it and it’s just not as noisy as other networks because I think a lot of people just dismissed LinkedIn a few years ago. They have also their own blogging platform that is a great place for publishing original content or just republishing your content and yeah, make sure that you’re posting links to your stuff. Using a tool like Edgar, just automate it because people do see it and click on it.
S: Right. Is the automation purely with the microblog posts or you use Edgar to post to LinkedIn Pulse and do an entire blog post?
L: You can’t use Edgar to do a Polls article. It’s the feed of updates where you’re linking to other people’s articles or your own site.
S: Is there a tool that does LinkedIn Pulse articles?
L: Not that I’ve come across but I also haven’t researched that so I’m not sure.
S: Yeah. I think this is an underutilized areas, these polls. Many marketers are just not taking it seriously. “Oh, we’ve got our own blog. Why would we post it there?” Like Medium. That’s a place if we didn’t have our own blog. I don’t agree with that. What’s your take on using Medium and polls to repost your blog post from your blog for example?
L: We repost everything on Medium and now that I’m talking to you, I don’t know why we don’t do it in polls, so thank you. We’re going to start doing that too. I think it’s a great idea. That’s a good strategy. We’ve just seen no downside from reposting on Medium. It’s not a huge traffic source for us but it shows off every month and it’s just why not? It’s another way to get your content out there.
S: Do you have a separate domain dedicated to your medium presence or is it just hanging off of the medium.com domain?
L: Our MeetEdgar blog is on medium.com I think, because weirdly, they give you less options if you have a hosted domain. Everything has to be in your own publication, which is annoying because you can’t get that syndication from publishing other people’s publications. Then, I sometimes blog on lauraroeder.com, which is a hosted Medium blog.
S: Got it. Okay. Any other platforms that you want to mention that are worth paying attention to or giving any time to?
S: Okay. Certainly not Google Plus.
L: Yeah. I think that’s important to say because these trends come and go with new platforms. It’s been a quiet period for the past six months or a year. For a while, it felt like there were so many new ones popping up especially Meerkat, Periscope, and all the video ones that ended up being shut down or going nowhere, Vine. I think it’s great as an entrepreneur to remember that you don’t need to be an early adapter because we’re looking for where the crowds are. It’s like we’re talking about with Snapchat. If you were an early adapter on Snapchat, that didn’t really pay off for you and now that Instagram is becoming larger, it’s not too late. If Instagram is a match for you and you want to get on Instagram, great! Start your account today. These networks don’t have some rules that, “Oh, unless you are the first to 100, you’re never getting any followers again.” It’s just important to remember as a marketer, you actually want to be late to the party because I’m like, “I’m going to wait till my audience is there and then I’m going to start posting. I really don’t need to post ahead of my audience.”
S: Yeah, so true. There is one social platform that I’m very bullish on, that we haven’t talked about yet and of course, it’s a very different content so it’s not easily repurposed. That’s YouTube. YouTube is the second largest search engine. It’s also a massive social network because of the social nature of it, with favoriting, likes, dislikes, and all those sorts of gamification that goes with the social networks is there on YouTube. Do you see any opportunity to use social media automation with YouTube?
L: That’s a good question. We kind of forgot about YouTube. I think what’s interesting about YouTube is it gets underutilized because video is more difficult to create than other types of content It’s just more expensive. From what I’ve seen, bad video is not going to do very well on YouTube. Now, good doesn’t have to mean expensive. We’ve all seen some of the most popular YouTube Channels are like kids unboxing things.
S: Yes. Playing Video games.
L: Yeah. It doesn’t mean there has to be a high production value but it does mean, what’s not going to work on YouTube is like, “I created this really boring slideshow with quotes from my latest blog post just to try to put it in video format.” It’s not going to rank. It’s not going to really do anything. Our company definitely does not leverage YouTube. We have a little bit of content on there and not a lot and it’s because we haven’t decided to go full on into video but I think if you do decide that you’re going to allocate budget to creating great videos, YouTube can be really powerful because for that reason, it’s not as crowded as other platforms because a lot of brands just don’t want to allocate the resources there. But like you said, it’s a very popular search network. You can build a great following there, of people who are subscribing to your videos and looking for your next video. I think it shouldn’t be overlooked by entrepreneurs.
S: Yeah, I would agree with you on that one. One more social network that I don’t spend a lot of time on, but I think is pretty cool and it was cool enough that it got acquired by LinkedIn and that’s SlideShare. See any opportunities for repurposing there?
L: Yeah. It’s like what I just said, wouldn’t work on YouTube but it does work on SlideShare. People aren’t really going to watch videos of slide presentation most of the time, but breaking your content down into slides on SlideShare is a really easy way to consume a content and of course, people are definitely always looking for a faster easier way to consume the contents. I think that can be something that is a pretty easy experiment to run. Take your top 10 most traffic blog post, turn them into SlideShare, link them, now that it’s on LinkedIn, you can make sure that it’s linked to your LinkedIn account so that someone might see it and see if that’s worth your time to keep doing in the future.
S: Great. Your repurposing strategy might include for example, you start with top 10 list blog posts, you create a SlideShare deck from that, you might create a little one or two minute teaser video for YouTube, for Facebook Live, for Instagram Live, etc., you might also create a visual inspirational quote type image for Pinterest, and maybe for Instagram as well and microblog posts for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. Let’s kind of walkthrough a repurposing strategy that would fit for a company such as yours with an intangible product.
L: You just did a pretty good job.
S: Let’s go through some specifics. Let’s pick a few examples of your most awesome content pieces and how you repurposed it.
L: This is actually something that we’re diving into right now because we haven’t had a great just clear checklist in the past. That’s a project that our marketing team is working on right now. Making sure we do this really consistently because I think, like a lot of companies, we’ve been doing that thing where it’s half hazard. If we have extra time, we make a graphic to go on Pinterest. If we have extra time, we make a graphic to go on Instagram. We’re trying to get a much more streamline to process. One just little taste of something that we have put into action for repurposing is Facebook Live videos are something that can really help increase your reach and they get a great reach not just when you’re live. When I’m live, I might see maximum of 30 people watching. I’ll do like five minute videos, but they’ll generally get actually thousands of reach, thousands of people, after the fact. Facebook really wants you to do that. They really like that content. One little repurposing thing that we’re doing now is every Wednesday afternoon, I have my set time that I go on Facebook Live. We experiment with that a bit. We found we have the most audience on Facebook. We’re trying out Wednesday afternoon for now. I just read through our latest blog post, they’re publish on Tuesday or Wednesday, and I make little notes that I hang up behind me in the video. We can link to one of these in the show notes, where I just literally, if there’s four points in the blog, I just write out those four points on giant sticky notes so there’s something to look at and something for me to point to in the video behind me and then I just take a few minutes and I just verbally go over the post. I don’t write the post for the company. I just read them. I just repeat what I just read and that’s been a great way to repurpose our content, increase our Facebook reach and get more eyes on our content.
S: Great. You do that every week on Wednesday?
S: Alright, cool. When did you start doing this?
L: I think we’ve done about three or four now.
S: Okay. I’ll include a link in the show notes to one of these examples. In fact, if these are posted on Facebook Live, Facebook allows you to embed videos like YouTube does. I’ll include a video embed in the show notes. Awesome. Let’s say that you have a podcast or that you are on a podcast like you are right now, what’s the repurposing strategy there? Because there’s some great opportunities and not so great opportunities. Some of the biggest podcast around are trying to leverage YouTube and falling flat. They’re getting five views on a podcast episode that they published on YouTube because nobody wants to watch an audio only podcast, which just has a still frame or has essentially some little effect where you’re seeing the waveform of the audio the whole time.
L: Yeah. I think what podcasts really could do a lot more of is taking interesting little clips that are 30 seconds up to 3 to 5 minutes or so. Hopefully, if you have a good podcast, there is a little two minute segment that’s really actionable or really inspirational and you can easily turn that into a video. I mean, one, if it’s short enough, if it’s 30 seconds, I think you can get away with something like just showing a still of the people talking or maybe you want to do something where it’s like word art that’s happening of the words, which is just easy to get created on Fiverr, and then publish it to YouTube, to Facebook, to Instagram and also, send it to the guest. I have been a guest to a ton of podcast, when they’re done, people send me the link but no one has ever, ever sent me a little video of myself talking on the podcast. I would absolutely publish that to our social networks because we’re always looking for content too. Your guests are looking for content.
S: That’s a great idea. That sounds like a lot of work though. I might not do that with our interview.
L: Somebody who’s listening, somebody will do that. That’s the thing right? These are all choices for how to allocate our resources. It’s okay to say, “That one’s not for me.” But you just want to be aware because you can end up, maybe someone listening thinks that sounds too time consuming, but then maybe they’re wasting a bunch of time on Instagram that’s not getting them any traffic anyway. Maybe you should just stop doing Instagram altogether and do this podcast snippets strategy that will actually get you some traffic.
S: Yeah. That’s a great idea. Is there a tool, I’m sure there’s must be, in fact, I think I’ve seen one before, that makes these videos that you see all over on Facebook and other social platforms, where there’s a lot of still images but there’s animated text effects and it’s telling a little story but it just seems like a very cookie cutter.
L: Yeah. That’s why I would recommend really using some cheap labor instead of a tool because the tool, obviously, your videos are just going to look the same as everybody else who use the tool, where you can go on Fiverr or you can go on Odesk, actually get something that custom created for you but is still really affordable.
S: Right. Do you happen to know of the names of any of these video tools?
L: No, because like you, I haven’t really seen any of it that I’ve been blown away by.
S: Alright. Let’s talk about getting verified because you mentioned there’s some perks if you’re verified such as on Instagram, you can add links in the stories if you’re verified but not if you’re not. How do you get verified on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter?
L: On Instagram, the stuff changes all the time so I’m hoping that I’m not saying anything that’s out of date. The last time I checked on Instagram, there’s no process. You just have to hope that someone on Instagram thinks that you have enough followers to be verified. A lot of people try to contact someone that they know on Instagram to ask. It seems to kick in after a certain amount of followers but it’s not an official thing of once you have 10,000 followers or whatever, you’ll be verified, which is really frustrating for marketers. On Facebook, they have that, I guess that’s for a personal profile, where you can be the official person.
S: You can get verified as a person with your profile or with your page. It’s one or the other. You can actually choose, say, “I want my page to get verified instead of my personal profile.”
L: Yeah. That one, they have a form on the site and you just fill out the form.
S: Have you gotten verified on any of the platforms?
L: I think I’ve been verified on my Facebook page but I think my Instagram account is not.
S: How did you get your Facebook page verified? Did you fill out the form?
L: Just filled out the form.
S: Cool. You’re not verified on Twitter though?
L: No, I don’t remember.
S: Okay. It’s hard to get verified to Twitter. Finally, I just got verified last year but yeah, I had applied multiple times and it wasn’t until I worked with, actually a past guest on this show, on one of the Twitter episodes, I need some help getting Twitter verified and he helped me and now, I’ve got the big blue check, which is really cool.
S: Yeah. I don’t have it on Facebook though. I really want it on Facebook. Any of you listeners who can hook me up and get me as Facebook verified, that’d be awesome. Let’s talk about some more business-y type concepts because of course, you as a founder of a startup that’s grown and gotten some great success, I think you get a little jaded along the way/ The startup culture, and everything is a different world and then the BC world and everything, I don’t know what’s your experience is with investors in that but I’d love to just take a few minutes and hear a bit more about the good, bad, and the ugly of a startup culture and the investment world, and all that.
L: Our company is definitely outside of BC culture, startup culture. We haven’t raised any money and we found that we’re not very popular with the institutional world because we’re following a different model. What’s always funny to me is we’ve never been able to land press in any of the tech blogs. We’ve never gotten any coverage, which is funny because sometimes, they’ll have articles like, “So and so just did an accelerator where they got $50,000.” For a company that hasn’t launched yet. I’m like, “Why wouldn’t you cover our company?” It’s a very insular world. The world that we see, institutional money is all about you lose money until you’re the company is funded by fundraising and not by customers. I’m just a big believer of proving your worth as a company by making sure that customers are willing to pay for what you’re offering.
S: You’ve been around for how many years?
L: We’ve been around for, it’ll be four years this summer.
S: That’s awesome. How did you fund it initially? Did you borrow money from your parents? Did you take all your savings and use that? Did you just start really scrappy and work out of a cardboard box for a number of months until you started making money? How did that work?
L: We used profits from my previous business. I referenced that I was doing social media training before this and that was a very profitable business. We just funnelled the extra profits from there to launching MeetEdgar. We also work with unpaid founders, my husband, Chris, is the one who built the initial version of the tool and he was not paid for his time for doing that. Obviously, that was a huge cost savings, if you can have a piece of software built for free. It was a combination of some unpaid labor and funnelling the profits from a successful business to a new business until it could support itself.
S: Was there a moment where things just started to really take off for you guys? Like you got some huge new account, or you got some press, you got a TV segment or something. Was there a moment?
L: No. The business did well early. We actually hit a $1 million in annual recurring revenue at like 11 months after launch. The business grew quickly and did well but it was never due to one event. We never had a huge influx from one place. The growth was quick that first year, but it was also very even month over month.
S: Okay. I’m dying to hear some story about, I don’t know, going out there and doing something really cheeky and outside the box that got you a huge influx of accounts.
L: I think it’s a good story to say that didn’t happen even though it sounds boring because I think it’s good for entrepreneurs to know how rare that is. I assume you’ve been building you’re SEO business over many years. You have a lot of referrals from customers at this point. That’s how businesses happen. That’s how businesses are grown and I think sometimes, we have this fantasy, as entrepreneurs, of like there’s going to be that moment or that instance that’s going to change everything. The downside of that is you’re chasing that hope of that one thing rather than putting in that just boring hard work day after day. The types of strategies that we’ve been talking about on this call of repurposing your content, making sure that you have it on Medium, and Linkedin Pulse, and SlideShare. It’s not as good of a story as we rented a blim and then we got a bunch of customers, but it’s much more likely that slow and study work is what’s going to bring big success to your business.
S: Yeah. I think if you’re more willing to be outside the box and you’re thinking and then, your actions, you’ll attract more success and a faster growth curve. For example, I’ll share my brief origin story. This was in the 90’s, a long time ago. First of all, I dropped out of my PhD Program and I was up to my eyeballs in student loan debt. I didn’t have any money to start a company. I didn’t even have money to afford to go to a conference to network and that’s just a $2000 conference called How to Market in the Internet, IQPC. I talked my way in as a volunteer. I was volunteering. They gave me the job of a mic runner and so I’ve got the microphone and I’m realizing that gee, I know a lot more than the people up on stage, the panel of “experts”. I have the mic so I start chiming in. It was really cheeky and I was like 24 years old. I didn’t really know any better but I’m glad I did it because I got a whole raft of business cards from people. They’re like, “Wow, you know more than those “experts”. I want to work with you” I got two huge accounts that day, both worth over $500,000 over their lifetime in terms of revenue. I would’ve like, “How would’ve I grown my business?” That was like getting seed capital. That was like having investors without having to have investors. I was also uninvited from coming back and volunteering on day two by the conference organizer but I’m so glad in retrospect that I had done that because that launched my business really in the first couple of months. The irony of all irony is that the same conference organization, within four months, invites me to speak at one of their conferences, How to Market Educational Programs on the Internet and chair that particular conference. I was a chairperson, a general session speaker, and a post conference workshop speaker in this one conference. That launched my speaking career. It’s a fun origin story but not everybody will have one moment they can point and say, “Yeah, everything took off when I did that thing.” But if you’re more willing to step outside your comfort zone, all growth happens outside your comfort zone. I really want our listeners to get that. What would be an example for you where you stepped outside your comfort zone and something fantastic happened?
S: The brand is a big area, where we’ve done that, which I think has been a big contributor to our success. We have this whole persona around Edgar. We always call him he instead of it. Our customers, actually, when we would read reviews that our customer’s would write, so often, they would say, “I’ve got a new man in my life. I’ve got so many new to tell you about.” We actually started making Edgar is my boyfriend stickers, which was totally created by our customers and they’ve found really funny, and they really love it. I remember when we first were deciding, “Okay, we’re really going to do this thing. We need a name. We need a brand.” Like I said, my husband, Chris, built the software. He’s a programmer, not a marketer. I’m the marketer. I told him I had this whole idea of like, “Let’s call it Edgar and Edgar is going to be a little character and people are going to identify with it and it’s going to be really fun.” Chris was like, “No.” He’s like, “It’s going to be like Clippy. It’s going to be so annoying. Everyone’s going to hate it. That’s a terrible idea.” I’m just like, “I think It’ll be fun and I think we can pull it off.” Now, apparently, we stumbled on a bit of a trend because now, there’s other companies that are named things like a person’s name, but when we launched, it seems super weird to have a software that was called Edgar. It was very quirky and very noticeable. We took a leap there having a name and a brand that was very different from everyone else in our industry and that definitely paid off.
S: Yeah. That’s awesome. I love the programmer mindset where it’s just going to be just like Clippy. No, nothing is like Clippy. Clippy is the devil and thank God he’s dead. He’s never coming back. There’s going to be nothing like Clippy. hopefully, ever again. You got these stickers Edgard is my boyfriend. That’s really cute. What are you doing this days in terms of personifying your brand and creating that cult of personality around Edgar?
L: We just have a lot of fun with our marketing and our graphics. When you’re listening, if you want to go with scroll back through our social feeds and see what we were doing in early February 2018, we just ran a giveaway that was a Valentine’s Day themed giveaway. There’s just a bunch of weird graphics like octopus tentacles swirled around a wine glass and a box of chocolates except it’s filled with shrimp instead. We had a lot of fun with the octopus and under the sea theme, and it allows us to create a lot of weird, relevant stuff.
S: Just for the record here so our listeners know, Edgar is an octopus, because this an audio only, they’re not seeing the logo right now. This is awesome. Thank you for sharing that story. Let’s talk about some of the ingrained cultural stuff in startup world that you don’t believe in. I know you wrote a blog post about this. MRR, Monthly Recurring Revenue is not something that you believe in. I’m guessing that MAU is also not something you believed in, Monthly Active Users, that’s such a key metric that folks in the startup world focus on to try and get the next round of funding. Let’s talk about that.
L: First of all, I just don’t want anyone to be, “What? She doesn’t believe in MRR. What does that mean?” MRR is obviously an important metric and one that we track. I wrote I post about why MRR is a vanity metric, which means you’re MRR, you’re Monthly Recurring Revenue and your cash flow are actually not the same, which I didn’t know before I got into the SaaS world, Software as a Service, that’s what SaaS stands for. I thought your Monthly Recurring Revenue is how much money you collect every month. It turns out that’s just an estimate of about how much you get in every month but some months are a lot higher and some months are a lot lower so you have to do a lot more with your cash planning than just saying, “Oh, Monthly Recurring Revenue, if you don’t want to run out of money.” The MAU one is really interesting, Monthly Active User. You’re right that that’s not a big one for us because what that implies really is free users because companies that are trying to be acquired and get a ton of funding, often the strategy they take is to say, “Okay, we have millions of users but those users aren’t paying.” Some of our biggest competitors, Buffer is one of our biggest competitors. they have a free plan that has maybe millions of people on it. It must have millions of people on it. In that sense, they’re a much bigger company than us and they do have more revenue than us. They started earlier and they’re further ahead, but they’re supporting millions of free users, that’s a very expensive proposition. For us, as a bootstrapped funded company, we really want paying customers. We don’t have this difference between free users and paying customers. We only have paying customers. We don’t have inactives. You either pay for the software and you use it or you don’t use it and you cancel it. It’s much more straightforward.
S: Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. I have an episode on this podcast where Jared Spool talked about all these different vanity metrics, all these different metrics that are not helpful, even conversion rates and I was very surprised by some of these. It was Jared Spool. That episode, listeners, if you’re interested, it was a great episode with Jared, it’s episode 18 so it’s one of the early ones. First of all, I want to really emphasize that point that you made, Laura, about Monthly Recurring Revenue does not equate to cash flow. This is such a key, key concept. Businesses live and die by cash. Cash is king and there are different kinds of cash. That’s a distinction I didn’t get until learning from Keith Cunningham at a Business Mastery event that Tony Robbins put on. There are three kinds of cash: F cash, O cash, and I cash. The king of kings for cash is O cash. O cash is operating cash. I think that’s something that everybody who’s in business needs to start separately tracking because F cash, financing cash, if you get some financing from the bank or whatever, that helps prop you up and profitability is great but profitability without operating cash is you’re on the death now. If you’re just on F cash, surviving, then that money is going to run out and you don’t really have a business that’s sustainable. I think that’s just a keypoint I wanted to reemphasize. Let’s talk a bit about your competitors and then we’ll wrap up. Pretty much everybody has heard of Buffer, I would guess, and Hootsuite would be another competitor and there are multiple ones out there. What are you doing to differentiate yourself from the competition? Because they are such heavy weights.
L: We’re actually a really fundamentally different tool than Buffer, Hootsuite, because Buffer and Hootsuite, neither one can recycle your content. The reason I created Edgar is because I was using those tools and I had to copy and paste my content into them over and over again. Before Edgar, what I would do is, I had a giant spreadsheet of all my social media content and then every week, I would have to copy and paste it into a publishing tool like Buffer or Hootsuite. They were really revolutionary at that time they were created because the whole idea when they were first created was, you can plan your content ahead of time, you can put it in this one tool, and it can go out to more than one network. At that time, that was a big innovation and that was great but now, social media has evolved beyond that where I think entrepreneurs need something more sophisticated. With Edgar, you have a library of your content. It’s all categorized so that you have categories for your blog posts, for your promotions, for other people’s content that you want to share, and then you create your schedule based on those categories, so you tell Edgar, “Okay, send out one of my blog posts twice a day, seven days a week.” And then, Edgar just goes into your library and pulls those for you. It takes out all that busy work of manually putting all your content into the social media scheduler.
S: Yeah. That’s awesome. Have you gotten invitations from any of these big competitors like Buffer, Hootsuite to open up your books and just maybe entertain a possibility of getting acquired?
L: Oh, that would be a confidential information but we’re not going to be acquired by Buffer, Hootsuite anytime soon. I can tell you that much.
S: Yeah. That’s a cheeky question of course. We’re about out of time here. If folks wanted to try out your awesome software, is that an option?
L: No, actually.
S: No. A lot of people do have these free trials for a week, or a month, or whatever but you don’t believe in that. Why is that?
L: It’s something we’re always testing. It’s something that we’ve tested before and it wasn’t as successful. For us, just as an overall funnel, honestly, email our support team, they’ll give you a free trial if you ask but that’s not our main funnel. My theory as to why it didn’t work well for us is because Edgar is a tool that you really have to set up. Like I said, you create a library and then Edgar sends from that library. You really have to devote an hour to setting up the library and then you can grow it more overtime. The hard thing about a trial is that it’s very like poking around type of mindset. That’s what we do when we’re trialling software. With Edgar, you really don’t see the value until you’re saying, “Okay, I’m committed to using this tool so I’m going to do social media.”
S: Right. Another phrase I love to repeat is, “When you pay, you pay attention.” That goes for software, it goes for information products, online training and so forth. You get it for free and you never get around to it. That actually happened to me. I got a free trial of Edgar a while back and I didn’t actually dedicate the time to getting it set up and I never actually really tried it. I know. It’s sad.
S: Because I’ve heard such good things about your tool and then I was bombed when the trial run out. What’s the URL for folks to go have a look at Edgar and consider signing up?
L: Its meetedgar.com and I do want to add that the reason we don’t have a trial, we just have a generous refund policy instead. If you pay for it and you don’t use it, just send us an email. We don’t want you to pay for a tool that you didn’t actually use. We do that in lieu of a free trial. Instead of getting a free trial, go ahead and signed up so you actually get the value and be committed. If you find that it’s not for you, we’ll just refund your money.
S: Awesome. Alright. I love that it’s meetedgar.com, another cool personification of the Edgar brand rather than everybody else doing Edgar app and all that. You’re doing it differently. That’s awesome. Listeners, go check out Edgar at meetedgar.com. Laura, what is your blog URL if they want to read your blog?
L: It’s my name lauraroeder.com.
S: It’s lauraroeder.com. Awesome. Thank you, Laura. Thank you, listeners. This is Stephan Spencer, your host. We’ll catch you on the next episode of Marketing Speak. In the meantime, have a great week.