Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner: How Virtual Conferences Can Mean Real Revenue

I recorded all of the interviews for Leading the Learning Revolution for use as podcast episodes, and this is the first one I released.

In this launch episode, I talk with Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner, host of the Social Media Marketing Podcast, and author of Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition, and a big believer in the virtual conference business model. If anyone knows how to take content online and turn it into a successful business, Stelzner certainly does. Get your notepad ready, and listen in for some great inspiration and practical tips.

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Get the Show Notes

00:50 Introduction of Michael Stelzner, founder of Social Media Examiner, host of the Social Media Marketing Podcast, and author of  Launch and Writing White Papers.

Note: While I am thankful to everyone who agreed to be interviewed for Leading the Learning Revolution, I am particularly grateful to Mike for putting up with the numerous Internet and audio issues we had during the interview. We had to reconnect multiple times, and I also discovered afterwards that there was a short in my mic that created a lot of static. It took some work to cobble this together into a listenable podcast, but I the effort was well worth it!

01:28 – Discussion of the Social Media Marketing Industry report  and how it fits with how business works these days. (Note: This interview was conducted in the spring of 2012 survey as I was writing Leading the Learning Revolution. So, it coincided with the release of the report.)

03:10 – What about when education and knowledge is your business? Where do you draw the line on what to give away? Mike advocates giving away everything you can. Listen in to learn the lessons he learned from his white paper on writing white papers.

04:55 Remember: No one else can do it the way you do it. By giving away content, you are helping yourself stand out. If you give away high value content, your audience will be thinking “How much more will I learn if I hire this person, buy this program, go to this event…”

07:02 – Leveraging the expertise of others – like, for example, through this podcast – can be a key way to build your own authority and deliver value to your audience.

08:29 – Mike talks about taking a camera crew to Blog World at the time when Social Media Examiner was about to launch. He interviewed a number of well-known experts and these people, of course, shared links to the interviews, helping to build a huge amount of momentum for the launch.

09:00 Discussion of the Social Media Success Summit and virtual conferences in general. Mike has been doing online education for a long time and he learned along the way that selling one-off courses was challenging. Putting multiple sessions together into an event started to make a lot of sense.

10:50 – Broader trends helped spark the rapid growth of Social Media Examiner’s virtual events. Businesses have been cutting travel budgets; the cost of going to events is high when you take into account registrations fees,  time-off, travel, etc.  Virtual conferences can eliminate all of that, and also make it possible to reduce the reduce the registration price point. And because your audience is global, you can sell more tickets – and at higher margin to boot!

11:25 – Big virtual events have become the core of Social Media Examiner’s business model. Typically, 1000-3000 people attend and the events take place over a month, rather than the usual few days.

12:00 – Giving away great content on the blog draws people to the events who want to learn (Note: Mike is practicing what he preaches here.)

13:00 – Basically, “our mission is to educate.” says Mike. He discusses Social Media Examiner’s networking clubs. No membership fees. (Note: These have since been discontinued in favor of the Social Media Marketing Societysomething I highly recommend.) Mike again stresses giving everything away for free. Make money by selling the more advanced professional development opportunities.

14:00 – There is no formalized coursework or CE associated with the virtual conferences. The goal is just to bring the best minds together to teach. There is something in it for everyone: presenters do it for free – they want to be part of the movement and get in front of Social Media Examiner’s audience; attendees pay to hear from the best of the best.

14:35 – Mike offers his advice to those in the lifelong learning and continuing education business. It comes down to eliminating barriers to entry.

16:15 – What’s Mike most excited about right now? Video is a big opportunity. (The Social Media Industry Report reflects a high level of planned investment in this.) Video doesn’t have to be elaborate – even “spontaneous content” shot with a smart phone can be powerful.  Faces are huge. It’s hard to connect with someone deeply if you can’t see them. Video helps takes relationships further and deeper.

 

17:55 – Wrap up and sign-off. Be sure to visit:

Thanks so much for tuning into the Learning Revolution podcast. Please consider sharing with others by clicking http://www.learningrevolution.net/share to send out a tweet. I’d also be really grateful if you would consider doing a brief review on iTunes.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download | iTunes

The theme music for Learning Revolution is The Information Age by Anthony Fiumano, available on the Podsafe Music Network.

P.S. – Interested in virtual conferences? Be sure to check out the Tagoras Virtual Events Resource Center.

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