Our latest Content Champion interview features Tim Staples, the multi-talented co-founder of innovative marketing agency Shareability.
Introduce Yourself & Tell Us About Your Business
My name is Tim Staples, I’m an Author and Entrepreneur. I’ve started several businesses but I’m probably best known for co-founding a company called Shareability that has created some of the most breakthrough marketing campaigns of the last 5 years. If you’re on the internet you’ve likely seen some of our work.
Like this one where we put Ronaldo in disguise:
People are going to think that I’m crazy!
Click here to check out my new brand at ebay.com/roc
Posted by Cristiano Ronaldo on Monday, 3 August 2015
Or this one where we celebrated a dog family Christmas:
Or this one where we took on the school system with Prince Ea:
I JUST SUED THE SCHOOL SYSTEM !
Posted by Prince Ea on Monday, 26 September 2016
Over the past few years our videos have racked up over five billion views and 35 of them have landed on the front page of YouTube, which some would say is statistically impossible. More importantly we’ve driven massive sales and growth for our brand partners big and small.
I just launched my first book called BREAK THROUGH THE NOISE: The 9 Rules to Capture Global Attention published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. In it I outline my nine rules to break through the noise of the internet and create highly shareable content that will drive meaningful growth for your brand.
What's Your Backstory & How Did You Develop The Idea For Shareability?
Growing up I thought I was going to go into advertising like my dad, who ran an agency in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. So when it came time for college, I enrolled in the Journalism School at the University of Missouri where I dreamed of being a copywriter at one of the advertising behemoths.
When I graduated, I actually had a job lined up at Leo Burnett in Chicago but at the last minute I took a big detour and went into the sports business.
I joined a company called The Marketing Arm in Texas, that represented athletes from the NBA and NFL like Scottie Pippen and Reggie White. It was quite a different road. I learned firsthand the power of athletes and celebrities to shape pop culture.
After a few years, we sold the company to Omnicom, and I got to work closely with major advertising agencies like BBDO, DDB and TBWA. I saw the good, bad and ugly of the advertising business up close. It was not what I expected! It was clear to me that marketing was an industry that was ready to be disrupted.
From there I took a big leap and moved to Los Angeles to start my own company. Over the next decade I connected brands with some of the biggest celebrities in the world including Rihanna, the Kardashians, Jamie Foxx, Ryan Seacrest, Miley Cyrus, 50 Cent, Steve Nash and Usher.
At the height of this period, we took over a $20M beach house in Malibu for the summer and hosted 40 celebrity events in 60 days. It was crazy.
This was ten years ago right when social media was exploding and every day I saw the power of social media and these celebrities connecting directly with their audience. They didn’t need a network, studio or record label, just a laptop! I literally got a view of the future unfolding in front of me and I was hooked.
That experience started a 5-year journey for me into digital content and social media. I turned away from my successful celebrity business and went all in on the internet. We did some really interesting things in those days, but it was too early to make any money and it almost bankrupted me.
There were some dark days, but I stuck with it and eventually caught a break when I partnered up with Hollywood agent turned producer Nicholas Reed to market a documentary film he had produced called The Lady in Number Six. We used YouTube to create massive buzz for the film which went on to win an Oscar.
And from that moment Shareability was born. Not too long after that I found myself face to face with Cristiano Ronaldo and then things really took off….
Why Did You Decide To Focus On Content & Digital Marketing?
Once I saw the future of social media there was no going back. Twenty years ago, television shaped our culture, but today culture is undoubtedly shaped on the internet. So to succeed in the new world, I knew that we needed to master the language of the internet – social content.
Describe Your Content Marketing Resources & Team?
We’ve built out our company around three main divisions – a Story Group, a Content Studio and an Engagement Team. Our Story Group figures out what is shareable about a brand and crafts and tests the story that will connect emotionally with their consumer base.
Our Content Studio then translates that story into the language of the internet producing content for all of the major social platforms from 4 minute videos to still images and everything in between.
The Engagement Team uses tech and data to scale that messaging and drive people to take action.
We do everything from strategy to content production to distribution and conversion in-house.
How Do You Use Content & Digital Marketing To Attract & Retain Customers?
Content/digital marketing is our core business so it is at the centre of everything that we do. We’ve built a process that is part Hollywood and part Silicon Valley.
The Hollywood side is all about creating emotional connection and how to tell stories on the internet. In my book, I outline the “5 Shareable Emotions” that we’ve used time and time again to create strong emotional connections that draws people in – they include Happiness, Awe, Empathy, Curiosity and Surprise.
The Silicon Valley side of our business is all about scalable engagement, essentially using tech and data to drive a message as wide and impactful as possible.
How Is Your Business Doing Today & What Does The Future Look Like?
It’s a great time to be a digital centric company and we’re certainly benefitting from that. As a Silicon Beach native, our focus has been on building a scaleable marketing “machine” which means that we’ve invested heavily in people, process and technology as opposed to an agency or consultancy approach that focuses on billable hours and early stage profitability.
Even so we’ve had a fair amount of success to date, we achieved eight figures in revenue in our third year of operation and now in our fifth year we continue to grow and have reached profitability for the first time. So we are now in position to leverage the benefits of the scale that we’ve built and move into the hyper growth period of our company.
We are also in the process of creating an incubator to launch our own direct to consumer brands in partnership with major celebrities. Things are definitely getting interesting!
Have You Learned Anything Particularly Helpful Or Beneficial Running Your Business?
The biggest lesson of the last five years is that the digital world is a non-stop hurricane. My partners and I joke that we don’t like going home from the office at night because we know that everything will be different when we show up the next day.
Just when you think you’ve mastered a certain content format or some clever algorithm hack, everything changes and you are back to square one.
My advice is to embrace this hurricane and set up a culture of constant evolution, one that thrives on being nimble, that makes quick decisions and celebrates a test and learn approach.
Big companies move slow and struggle with change so this means that innovation will always come from the hustlers who are doing the work on the ground.
This is why it is a terrible time to be big in the marketing world, the behemoths are just too disconnected and set in their ways to keep up with the speed of digital change. This dynamic grants you a unique opportunity – if you put in the work and roll with the changes, you can stand toe to toe with the Goliaths!
What Have Been Your Most Influential Content/Digital Marketing Books, Podcasts Or Other Resources?
There have been a few books along the way that have helped shape my world view around digital marketing.
Purple Cow by Seth Godin made me think about what makes a product or idea special.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout taught me how to think about product categories and differentiation.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss taught me about dealing with some of the tough situations and hostile people that entrepreneurs will inevitably face.
Do You Have Any Digital Marketing Advice For Other Entrepreneurs Who Are Just Starting Out?
Here is the simplest advice I can give when you’re thinking about digital marketing – focus on value. Most people focus on themselves and project outward, successful content starts with the audience and provides them what they want. To start, ask yourself these two basic questions:
- Who do you want to reach?
- What would that audience consider valuable?
Once you’ve figure out the answer to #2, spend your efforts giving them exactly that. Your audience will love you for it. Once they love you, then maybe you can ask them for that dollar in their pocket….
Where Can We Go To Learn More About You & Your Business?
- Tim on Twitter
If you have any comments or questions on this fascinating interview, let us know in the comments below…