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Dan Schawbel: 'You Have to Spend More on Marketing than Content'

Connecting with Bill Sobel

Dan Schawbel has been called “the millennial version of Tom Peters” — a consultant, writer, columnist and public speaker known for his energy, influence and ideas.

Schawbel is a young man with a long resume: he's the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm, the author of two bestsellers, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future and Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success and a columnist at both Time and Forbes.

He's been featured in more than 1,000 media outlets, from “The Today Show” on NBC to “The Nightly Business Report” on PBS, and has spoken at some of the world’s most prestigious companies including Google, IBM, Time Warner, CitiGroup, McGraw-Hill and Siemens, as well as some of the most notable schools … Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and MIT. 

He was named to Inc. Magazine's 30 Under 30 List in 2010, the Forbes Magazine 30 Under 30 List in 2012 and described by BusinessWeek as someone entrepreneurs should follow on Twitter.

Why should you care? Because he understands social media, personal branding and that ever elusive millennial workforce, among other things.

'Personal Branding Czar'

Thumbnail image for 2014-29-April-Dan-Schawbel

Schawbell said one of his core beliefs is that to be successful today you have to be accountable for your career and take charge of your life. And one of the keys to success is knowing how to promote yourself.

Sobel: I was honored that you asked me to provide a quote in the first book you wrote in 2009. Since then, you've moved from Boston to New York and have re-invented yourself again. Can you tell us a bit about Dan Schawbel, then and now?

Schawbel: I worked for EMC for three and a half years when I graduated college and had three different positions during my time there, including the company's first ever social media position. This was back in 2007 after I had started a blog, magazine and video series. That eventually caught Fast Company's attention, and after a profile, I was hired internally for the social media job. The experience of creating my own job at a Fortune 200 company inspired me to write Me 2.0, which eventually led me to start my company, Millennial Branding.

My original business model was personal branding coaching for individuals and social media consulting for small businesses. Eventually I lost interest in those things, especially with the sheer amount of competition, which undercut me for similar services. I made the transition a few years ago to workplace research and consulting, with emphasis on generational dynamics. The new book, Promote Yourself, along with major clients helped me make the transition. I'm also now partnering with Career Edge, a group of experts selling a solution to embed a career curriculum into higher education.

Sobel: You are one of the first people I know that really pushed the notion of a personal brand. Tell us more about that.

Schawbel: I started blogging in 2006 under the name "Driven to Succeed," which was my take on how to navigate the employment world from a recent graduate perspective. In 2007, I turned that into and continued to write ten to twelve posts per week. A few years later, as I was expanding my services, I brought on an editor and twenty contributors that blog for it. Today, we get more than 3,000 visitors per day and our content is syndicated by the likes of Yahoo, AOL, Entrepreneur Magazine, Globe And Mail, Fox and many others. In 2006, if you had a blog, you could be found because there was a lot less noise. Today, you have to spend more time on marketing than writing content if you want any readers. You also have to be ten times better today than you would have in 2006 because of the competition for eyes. 

Sobel: Your recently moved your business from Boston to New York City. Why? 

Schawbel: It's funny because most people thought, due to the nature of my work, that I was already living in New York City. Three years ago, I was asked to go to both CBS "This Morning" and CNN in a single day and lost both opportunities because I wasn't already in New York, ready to go into the studio. This was the first moment when I really considered moving but it took a few more years because the timing wasn't right. I found myself going to New York every month for client visits. Finally, I made the move. It's an obvious career and social move for me. For my career, this city reflects all the areas of my business and personally. I have a lot more friends who moved to New York than live in Boston.

Sobel: In a recent article you wrote for, you talk about YouTube as business model and interviewed Taryn Southern, who was part of American Idol season three's Top 50. How are people like her and YouTube in general changing the way we market our companies and ourselves?

Schawbel: It's not as much about the platform but more about the content and the amount of effort you put into marketing your show. Taryn is smart because she partners with other YouTube sensations to cross-market. By doing this, the other audiences get to know her and a percentage subscribes to her channel as a result.


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