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Episode # 62 - The Future of Marketing: CJ Todd & Julian Tiongson

We're taking a look inside our own marketing department to hear from CJ and Julian. They have brought an innovative approach to Near Me and have become indispensable parts of the team. We'll discuss Julian's zero-to-hero Twitter strategy and CJ's success with building an engaged audience for StokeShare

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 Follow the guys on Twitter to get social media tips! 

CJ: @cj_todd1

Julian: @julian_tiongson 

Radsquatch: @radsquatch

StokeShare: @StokeShare


Adam: Hi everybody. Today, I have the pleasure to talk to two very good friends of mine. They started off as interns here at Near Me and have become an integral part of the Near Me family. It’s not often you get to hang out with a couple of guys who came in fresh off the boat as it were, straight out of school looking to get some work experience and then end up becoming such an integral part of the marketing team here at Near Me. It’s been a pleasure working with CJ and Julian. And today, we’re just going to go over a few questions that I have for them both so that they can relive some of their experiences over the last months that they’ve been working here at Near Me that I think you’re all going to get a lot of value from because it’s focusing around using social media and how to hack marketing as much as possible.


We’re going to be referring to in particular two things. We’ll talk about Julian’s zero to hero approach with his Twitter followership. He’s left me in the dust. Within six months, up to about 10,000 followers, all legit ones apparently. No buts, right? And CJ’s going to talk about what he’s been doing with StokeShare and some of the amazing things that he’s being able to build up around the Radsquatch persona and the social media outreach and just building a community around that marketplace at StokeShare. We’re also going to talk about some other things around Instagram, Facebook ads. We won’t go into the detail today but I can assure you this is going to become a regular part of our podcast where both Julian and CJ can share their experience, learnings and also open up questions to you, our audience, so that you might have some questions that you will post in the Comment section of the blogpost that will accompany the podcast and challenge them on some things that they can go and research. So think of them as an extension to your own marketplace business whether you’re using Near Me or not because these guys are going places. And I just want to be able to give them a voice here with The Crowd.


So let’s get started. CJ, Julian, thanks a lot for being first of all part of the team and being on the podcast.


Julian: Yeah. It’s great to be here, Adam.


CJ: Yeah, definitely. Thanks for having us.


Adam: So we’ll jump straight into it. And let’s talk about firstly some of the hints that you got from our friend, Golden Ashby, who’s part of the team here and helped set you up in a course towards growing and using Twitter as a means to grow audience and as a marketing tool. He’s put a blogpost out there, The Golden Rules and Secret Source to Twitter Growth, which we’ll put a link to and talks about some techniques and tools that can be used to grow your engagement particularly around Twitter. Julian, can we just get your rundown? Give us the blow-by-blow approach to how you went from zero to 10,000 legitimate engaged followers on Twitter.


Julian: Yeah, of course. So essentially, I started in about November, new to Twitter, didn’t know how to work it really. So CJ and Golden kind of showed me a few things here and there, how to engage with people. And then Golden actually shared a little tool that he had which is known as Crowdfire. It’s not really well spoken in marketing, I should say. It’s kind of like the dirty little secret that they have. Essentially, it helps you get organized with your Twitter followers. It keeps track of your followers, unfollowers, inactive following and most importantly that I use is the Copy Followers and Keyword Follow feature. What better way we can get Near Me out there with using this tool.


So for my approach, I started with following big companies such as Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, Social Media Examiner, Hootsuite, Social Media Today. Those are just the few accounts that I follow. And I kind of just went through their followers, kind of targeted entrepreneurs, sharing economy advocates, social media marketers and people like that because I feel like those people can connect really well with Near Me, not necessarily that will jump on the platform with us but just to reach out, get some information from them. And then I kind of just got in a rhythm with it, started doing it every day. And I guess now I’m here.


Adam: That’s awesome. And I know you – there are two points I just want to hone in on. You mentioned dirty little secret and I guess maybe that’s what everybody points to when they think, how come you’re getting more followers than me? You’re cheating somehow. All is fair in love and war in social media when it comes to growing an audience. And as long as you’re able to get to the right people and engage with them and you’re offering value, honestly, who cares? There’s no such thing as a dirty little secret when it comes to tech because if you’re not sharing your knowledge, somebody else will. So it’s all about sharing the love. Thanks for highlighting that. Now, the other point being that you follow TechCrunch and a few others. What would you suggest to our marketplace owners out there as far as how they can find out who they should be following to connect with? Because not everybody is going to be into tech.


Julian: Yeah, definitely. So I kind of went through – I didn’t go for necessarily the big CEOs, all those top guys. I kind of went for in the medium, maybe a couple of thousand followers. I see that they have been engaging with others. For me, being an intern and kind of new to the space, I look for people that were actually sharing their knowledge and helping others out. So my Twitter account actually through Crowdfire has an auto-DM feature so I kind of just did a little spiel in there and I’ve actually gotten quite a few people responding with helpful resources, people to follow and just interacting. Going back and forth with them has helped out a lot.


Adam: So that auto-DM, that’s the automatic direct message. So when someone follows you, you’re prompting them with a question or a thank you? Just explain that a little bit.


Julian: Yeah, yeah, of course. So the auto-DM, essentially mine, I just did a short little introduction. Hey, my name is Julian. I’m a marketing intern. Just looking for more resources for inbound marketing specifically. Are there any links or people you can share with me? And I’m quite surprised with the results I’m getting. Gotten quite a few people that are sharing. The first time, they share something and a week later, I get another message from them with another link that they found. So it’s been very helpful. And it’s kind of what the sharing economy is all about.


Adam: Absolutely, yeah. That’s the ethos. It’s don’t hold on to your secrets. Everybody’s got something to share and give and ensure that the person next to you can grow and learn. And by sharing out as you’ve done these tips now, it comes back to us. It’s the law of reciprocity as they say. CJ, you’ve done some pretty cool stuff with StokeShare, StokeShare being a client of Near Me of course. Tell us about how you’ve approached the marketing of StokeShare because it’s a different angle.


CJ: Right. So being a really lean startup, we had to get pretty creative in how we market our brand and how we demand brand exposure. So we came up with the idea of a mascot for StokeShare. And his name is Radsquatch.


Adam: And just a quick one. So StokeShare, just explain quickly what StokeShare is about.


CJ: Yeah. So StokeShare is a peer-to-peer marketplace for rental of action sports gear. So think of it as Airbnb but instead of apartments and condos and houses, it’s kayaks and surfboards and camping equipment and other outdoor gear. So we use Radsquatch as essentially another outlet to connect with people, gain followers and really tell the story of StokeShare.


Adam: He’s the ultimate outdoorsman really, isn’t he?


CJ: Well yeah. He’s Sasquatch’s radical cousin. So it’s interesting because I’ve noticed from my personal Twitter account people really like to reach out to someone that’s an individual, that’s a person. And with a brand, you don’t so much have that. You have maybe your logo as the profile picture and you have a nice header picture with something that really talks about your brand well but they don’t have that personal contact. So Radsquatch became this account that was somewhat personal. He’s kind of a person but it really allows me to connect with people on a personal level and then also guide them towards the brand, guide them towards StokeShare, promote the stuff that we’re doing at StokeShare on another account to essentially new people that hadn’t followed StokeShare. And so what I do from my personal account is I market myself, I market Near Me and I market StokeShare. And what I do with the Radsquatch account is I market him as this kind of fictitious cool creature that people can really identify with and then also I market StokeShare. So it’s become this web of marketing on Twitter that I use all of my accounts to pretty much market all of my other accounts.


Adam: So cross-pollinating but also creating a persona around this fictitious character but someone that is responding to its audience, you under that persona. It gives you a little bit of poetic license to be a little bit different from what you are normally. I know you’re very serious when you come in to the office. But suddenly, you put on the suit and it’s a different guy.


CJ: Yeah.


Adam: And you’ve even been able to engage with some television spots off the back of that as well.


CJ: Yes. So I mean, if you’ve ever seen him around San Francisco, he demands attention. He’s a big hairy guy. I’m not as tall as I’d like to be to pull off Sasquatch’s character but –


Adam: But you’ve got the hair down pat anyway.


CJ: Got the hair, got the hair. And he’s got a really crazy face. And I dress him up in branded StokeShare clothes or I wear a Giants hat and people notice him. And in marketing, that’s I think the hardest part. It’s to get attention from people. And I have people coming up to me to explain to them what I’m doing which makes it a ton easier. And I’ve had spots on Giants Postgame Live. I’ve been invited to be on a couple of podcasts. Radsquatch really, he’s just a likeable character and kids love him and adults love him. And I think Radsquatch kind of connects people to their inner comedian and really gets them engaged with what we’re doing and the brand.


Adam: Yeah. And it aligned so well with the brand too because of that fun outdoor nature that the Sasquatch, Radsquatch has. It definitely is a well-placed mascot. Brilliant. But also these things don’t come easy, do they? Like people say hey, there’s this secret sauce to growing 10,000 Twitter followers. Sure, there are some tools out there. And hey, I’m going to create a mascot and I’m going to walk around town. I mean, on those hot sunny days, it’s hard work. It takes work to build and maintain a connection because at the end of the day, you’re still building relationships with people. And unless you nurture those, unless you put in the effort, it’s not just going to fall on your lap magically. Sure, there are some tips and tricks and secret sauces that you could apply. But at the end of the day, things take time to nurture although Julian, I’m still blown away by your 10,000 legit followers in the space of time. Yeah, so I’m still blown away by that.


What are some of the other things you guys, that you’ve been doing? Just to open the floor. I know that there’s Instagram. There’s – what is that thing? The kids are on it these days. Facebook, Facebook ads. There’s Snapchat. There’s Pinterest. Julian, what are some of the other ways that you or other mediums that you’ve come across could be helpful to people who are launching into marketplace whether they’re an entrepreneur or a large enterprise brand?


Julian: Yeah, definitely. Like you mentioned Facebook. Facebook’s huge actually. I currently have made some campaigns but they have not gone live yet. So stay tuned and we’ll see the results from that. But Facebook is huge from the online training that they have on there to help you do advertisements and marketing on there. It’s said about 1.6 billion people log on Facebook every month. So that’s a huge market that we have yet to tap into. And really, anybody can go on to Facebook and create ads as long as they’re willing to spend a little money here and there. But I think that’s something that we can leverage definitely to our corner in the future.


Adam: I think what we’ll be doing in a future podcast is to actually take people through what we have done as far as our video advert inside Facebook and how you create those, how you do targeted audiences, etc. So look out everybody in a future podcast and blogpost on what CJ and Julian are going to do around Facebook. But sorry to cut you off there, I just wanted to sow some seeds on some of these other mediums. What about Instagram? Is there something that maybe businesses are missing out on from not being on Instagram or Pinterest or Snapchat?


Julian: Yeah. Well, Instagram is huge. Like CJ said it’s all about getting people’s attention. With us, it’s a little more difficult than say Radsquatch. He pops out at you. So for us, we really have to create an image that we can share with our followers. But Instagram recently changed their algorithms. So everyone’s feed is more targeted to what you like, who you’re following. So I think that works in an advantage for companies. They’ll get a higher ROI on their feeds and what they’re putting out for the companies.


Adam: So on that point, CJ, how do you know where your customers might be? We’re talking about some social media outlets but for some marketplaces that are more B2B, LinkedIn might be the place to be, writing articles. Can you touch on that?


CJ: Well, Adam, I think anyone’s clients can be anywhere at any time. For companies that are B2B, I feel like Twitter and probably LinkedIn would be the best for them. So here at Near Me and even with StokeShare, I’ve found the most value being on Twitter, the most connections with partners and the most connections with people that can help us build our brand. For other companies that might be B2C and have an easier time representing themselves visually, they might find visual platforms like Instagram or Pinterest more valuable because they can tell their story through pictures a lot easier than a SAAS company like us can. But I think that those visually representative platforms also give anyone the opportunity to connect with their customers because it can give kind of a window into their day to day and visual representation kind of makes a more emotional connection than I think 140 characters can.


Adam: And well now, with the embedding of video inside of Twitter tweet, you can get that initial eyeballs to the text and then people can click through and watch a video right within the Twitter feed.


CJ: Sure. But in that case, you’re limited to a 30-second video whereas on other platforms, you might be able to push through a little bit more content.


Adam: And that’s a good point. I think with people’s attention span being so short that the initial hook whether that – and that’s why we see all this link bait type, da-tada-tada, you won’t believe what happens next. Oh damn it, now, I have to click through. People are getting immune to that type of thing. So as always, trying to get somebody’s attention is getting harder and harder and harder generally speaking. Although if you do focus on a particular niche and people are looking for information relating to what they need to do right now, you can still engage. And those 30-second videos, all those 100, short text message can get their attention and then hopefully the 30-second video takes them through to another call to action. And it’s getting that conversation going that’s the most critical point. And by the sounds of things, it’s what both you and Julian have been doing. It’s eliciting a conversation. And it’s not about a call to action that says buy now. It’s the soft sell. It’s hey, what do you do? What is the problem that you’re wanting to solve? How can I help you? Would that be the right frame?


CJ: Exactly. And I think – do automated Twitter messages really need to be crafted in a way that’s not pitchy, that entices that initial conversation to happen? So what I’ve used for my personal account – I’m a Sport Management Masters student at USF. So I’m really interested in the ways that the sharing economy can solve problems in youth sports. So my initial message when someone follows me is hey, I’m CJ. I’m trying to find an intersection between sports and the sharing economy. What are your thoughts? Here’s the link to the article that I just published. And that gets people thinking about it that might not have thought about it. And then they read the article and then they reach out to me. Where from a business profile, it might not be as personal and it might not be as well received but regardless of you sending an automated DM or you using Crowdfire app, you really need to have frequent and engaging content so when someone comes to your profile, they see that you can add value to them and that you can maybe provide some solutions to some pain points that are happening.


Adam: And what I’m thinking as I hear you guys talk about this as an entrepreneur, as somebody who got a business, a startup, that’s wearing 10 hats. The listeners might be thinking oh, that’s all good and well. I don’t have time to engage with my audience. I don’t have the time to go and put on a suit and go around the street. Well, you don’t need to because there are interns and exceptional guys like Julian and CJ and others who are ready, willing and able to become part of your startup and even for brands. I mean, just because somebody’s got a known brand doesn’t mean they’re very good on new ways of communicating with their customers, their clients and their channel partners. I think what I would say as a business owner is that it’s imperative that you do connect with interns. Get out on Craigslist, Twitter even. I mean, explain guys how you became part of our team and by an internship, I guess this is rolled out over, longer than the typical internship. And I hope you guys got as much value from us as what we’ve gotten from you. But definitely connecting with people who are wanting to gain experience can help a startup do the things you are talking about without having to do it themselves. So could you talk on how you became part of this team from both of your experience? Julian, if you want to lead off and then CJ. And then we’ll wrap up.


Julian: Yeah, of course. So I’m a student over here in Cal State-East Bay in Hayward. I actually got an email about this opportunity. They gave me a list from a website called Wayup. They had a whole list of intern opportunities. And this one kind of just popped out at me. Being a Marketing student, I thought it’d be perfect. So I filled out a quick application, got a phonecall, did an interview in person. I came to Near Me, spent about an hour there. I liked the environment, very family oriented. Everybody was – I just felt that we had each other’s back when I was there. So I thought it was a great fit for me. And the next thing you know, eight months later, I’m here.


Adam: And you’ve gotten value back? I’m asking you this because you’re going to say yes of course because there’s nothing else you could say other than that.


Julian: Oh yeah, definitely, definitely. There are a lot of things that I’ve learned that aren’t taught in college especially with social media. It’s a fairly new avenue compared to what colleges are teaching. I’ve taken a few courses here and there but really the hands-on social media marketing and the customer service, sharing economy, that sort of avenue is not taught in the books very well. So it’s really great to interact with real people on Twitter and around the brand and getting that startup I guess feel for everything now that’s kind of the new wave of business.


Adam: Awesome. CJ, how did you come across us? I think it was something a little different from where Julian came in. And I have to give a shoutout to Angela Baldwin and Kevin Cohen who were part of the team originally that have moved on to new things. I want to say better things but they’ve moved on to new things. And they were part of the team. I think you engaged with them initially. Tell us that story.


CJ: So I think I had a pretty interesting path to Near Me. I initially started working with StokeShare in the infancy of their startup. And it was more self direction there. I had to do a lot of trial and error to see what was working and what was not, what was driving people to the website, what was probably a waste of my time. And so I did call Angela quite a bit. I sat on the phone with her and talked about marketing strategy and talked about social media strategy and what would be the best way to boost our SEO and to get us noticed. And then I saw a tweet from Near Me. And it said we’re looking for interns, marketing interns. And I said oh, maybe instead of sitting on the phone with Angela once a week, I can just go work at Near Me as well and learn all this really awesome stuff from them and carry it over to StokeShare. And so I thought that if this marketplace developer could enable such a great brand and a thoughtful and a passionate brand to exist that must be the same passion and message that they’re sending at Near Me. So I couldn’t have been more spot on. I’ve learned so much here. And just the amount of support that you and the team have given me has been great. And I think that speaks to the power to Twitter also. People are using Twitter in ways that I don’t think Twitter was meant for which is really exciting. And I’ve been here for nine months off of a three-month agreement. So I love it and I’m invested in watching Near Me go viral.


Adam: Awesome. Right answers, guys, by the way. I’ve just renewed your internships. All right. And seriously, everybody listening, I mean, as I said there are people out there who are hungry to help you and your brand go to the next level. And they may not be from a many-yeared digital marketing, experienced marketing person. They’re fresh off the boat if you like who are hungry, ready to do what it takes to help your brand connect with your customers and clients. So I highly recommend getting out there and working with people who are keen to learn, provide value both ways. And that’s a win-win. I think I want to give a shoutout to Sylvia as well and Golden of course who we referenced at the start of the podcast. But Sylvia has been a fantastic part of that team doing copywriting and helping out with article writing. You can check out our blogpost for her work as well as Prianca and Rachel and Rebekah who were previous interns with the team who’ve gone on and doing amazing things in their next iteration or their next chapter of their professional life.


So it’s been awesome. And guys, we’ll wrap it up at this point because I know we have lots and lots more to talk about. We’re going to talk about advertising strategies and Facebook and using LinkedIn ads and content marketing. We’re going to talk about video as an important strategy for marketing as well as we experiment with those mediums. We’re going to share that. So everything we do, we say here in Near Me, everything we do, we are going to commoditize or we’re going to write a how-to and give that away. Giving away our intellectual property as far as what’s worked and what are the techniques we used for marketing is critical for our success because if our clients are successful, we become successful. The only thing we won’t be giving away is our intellectual property around our code base. That’s a whole different business model. And we look forward to your feedback. So Julian, CJ, fantastic, guys to have you part of the team, part of the family here at Near Me. I hope everybody got lots of value. We’re going to ask everyone to leave comments against the blogpost that will accompany this podcast. And any final thoughts, guys?


Julian: Yeah. If anybody has any questions or comments, I’d feel more than happy to reply and talk about what we can do to get your marketing on track.


Adam: Yup. These guys are going to be the future of a lot of very important and strategic marketing initiatives in the future. They already are and that’s only going to grow. So we’re very happy that they’re part of our team now and they’re willing and able to be part of your team as well. So ping those questions off. I look forward to the next podcast and sharing more wisdom and knowledge, guys.


Julian: Yeah. Me too, Adam. Thank you.


CJ: Yeah. Thanks, Adam.


Topics: The Crowd Podcast Interviews


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