Connecting with Bill Sobel

Chris Brogan is a lot of things … an author, journalist, marketing consultant, public speaker and "veteran of the social media revolution."

He's CEO of Owner Media Group, publisher of a digital business magazine called, not surprisingly, Owner. He's consulted for a host of companies, including GM, Coke, PepsiCo, Sony, Microsoft, Google and Motorola, and he's a New York Times bestselling author of eight books, including The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth, and Just Start Here 

But forget about all that for a moment. The thing it seems Brogan really wants you to know is that he's a nice guy. As he explains on his blog:

Biographies are really weird things. About pages. All that. You basically have to primp yourself up and act all pompous and important and make sure people know why you’re worth it. I’m a really approachable and nice-seeming guy. Never hesitate to introduce yourself to me when you see me out and about, okay? I'm nice. Promise."

And this nice guy finished first, too, at least on one of Forbes magazine's list of social media power influencers and Business Insider's list of people to follow on Twitter.

Playing to Win 

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Aside from nice, Brogan likes to describe himself as "the world’s leading authority on owning the game you most want to win." In other words, he says he equips owners.

Through events, courses and other tools, he tries to help people grow their capabilities and connections to get to "that next level of ownership," no matter where they are in the process right now.

"You might be the owner of a business, or just the owner of your cubicle with a lot of goals and intentions," he explained.

He has an admirable grasp of mastering digital relationships. Last year, in fact, he told CMSWire writer Virginia Backaitis last year, there are more important things than Facebook, Twitter, blogs and LinkedIn. "He who collects the most likes, followers or connections doesn't necessarily win,” said Brogan, “unless they translate to impact.”

Companies who are smart are creating concierge-like services in social spaces: they’re responsive digitally and they’re creating smaller places to gather. It's such an interesting perspective that we decided to ask him more.

Brogan is an interesting guy — and he shared his passion for all things social with CMSWire.

Sobel: Let’s move the clock back to 2007 when we first met in Boston at the Video on the Net conference. You were this young kid who had some great ideas and big plans. When I asked you about your blog, which you started in 1998, you said, “I had no business intent. I just wanted to share stories I’d written that the mainstream had no interest in publishing.” Can you tell us a bit about your journey?

Brogan: My blogging could go back even further, to the 1980s. I was using bulletin board services and later AOL to connect with people from places other than Maine, my home state. I realized all the way back then that these digital tools allowed us to build community around whatever interested us. If I wanted to talk about superheroes or muscle cars, I could do that easily. I was no longer tied to people who lived next door for my conversational discourse.

It took me until around 2005 or 2006 to start really gleaning that there was business value in all this online communications "stuff." That stuff eventually became social media and the like. I took a job with the visionary Jeff Pulver (co-founder of Free World Dialup, Vonage and Zula) and it was like being thrown by a rocket ship into the just-out-of-reach future. Every great idea Jeff had was at least two years ahead of its time, at a minimum. My ideas were just too new for the average businessperson to immediately accept as having tangible value. But eventually they did make that recognition. That's when I found myself working with everyone from GM to Sony to Coke and so on. That was fun.

Sobel: So you are "the world’s leading authority on owning the game you most want to win," and a host of other things. Can you talk about your current work?

Brogan: The work I've done most recently is to help equip owners. You could call it personal development meets professional development meets online communications savvy. The big goal in all this work is to help people understand the games they're playing in their lives, how to score those games and ultimately how to align their own personal missions with a way to execute and act on their intentions. This is the work of corporate citizens as well as entrepreneurs. This is anyone from the small business owner to the middle manager. Will people see that? Survey says, not as obviously as I thought they would.

Sobel: You also say your work is a blend of personal leadership, business strategy and actionable advice. It’s sales, marketing, personal development, health and fitness and sometimes a bit of technology advice. You've said, "I’m not a guru. I’m some nice guy who types and who can help you learn a lot." There are a lot of people who parade as consultants in this industry. What is your unique selling proposition?

Brogan: I'm great at connecting lots of disparate pieces of information, trends and extrapolations, boiling them into small and actionable bites, and then helping people fit those to their needs and challenges. I do this in a very personable and human-sized way, and I'm great at helping people see the people-focused way of doing this personably.

Sobel: You said you recently won a silly competition. You had to use a piece of uncooked spaghetti to spear six ziti noodles without using your hands. But you connect that with what you call your “Six Step Plan to Build Your Focus In the Moment.” Can you tell us a bit about that?

Brogan: Oh, it's a silly little detail, but what made it post-worthy for me was that I learned about the importance of focus. Let me ask whoever's reading this: How many tabs are open on your browser right now? What are you supposed to be doing right now? How much of your day's core actions have you worked on yet? To me, focus is one of those powerful opportunities to improve our game.

Sobel: Another blog post of yours that interested me is entitled How Do I Reach My Audience? In it you explain that people often ask you how to reach their audience. Your response: "First I tell them gently, it’s not your audience. Second, I tell them that reach is only part of it. Once they’ve seen you, they have to care enough that they’ll take a next step. From there, it only gets more difficult. But that’s okay. Challenge is good.” Can you talk about that?

Brogan: People need to be a lot more focused on how they can help others, and they need to be a lot clearer in what they offer. It's important that others know what you're there to do for them, and it's equally important that you sell it cleanly. People tend to get really messy with their offerings.

Sobel: Can you give our readers some pointers on growing their businesses?

Brogan: Start with a quality home base, a primary website built for conversion. Build interesting content that leads someone to want to take a next step on that home base —this can be a blog post or a newsletter post or something else. Guide people to this content via your social platform, through whatever else you earn via engagement. Repeat. It's a simple model, but without the sequencing, it doesn't immediately make sense.

Title image by Raul Colon.