Waves Social Podcast: Leveraging Data and Insights to Inform Marketing Strategy with Charlie Grinnell, CEO at RightMetric
The Waves Social Podcast is a podcast for social media marketers, digital advertisers, and modern entrepreneurs who want to stop chasing the tide and start making waves online. The hosts Mitzi and Mike sit down with the tastemakers and strategic minds behind some of the most engaged communities and up-and-coming brands to uncover the methodology behind their seismic impact.
Our CEO Charlie Grinnell was a recent guest on this episode, where they discussed various topics including his background and how he got into marketing, the potential of external marketing data and how it can help brands optimize their marketing activities, and how marketers should be thinking about their area of the business during this challenging time.
Below, find a full transcript of the episode.
Mitzi Payne: Charlie, thank you so much for being on the show. We're so pumped to have you.
Charlie Grinnell: Thank you so much for having me, you guys. I really appreciate being here.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah, it's going to be fun. You've had some really interesting roles in your past and even right now, can you give us a bird's eye view of your career trajectory and how you got to where you are now?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely. So I'm a university dropout. I'll start with that first and foremost.
Mitzi Payne: So is Mike actually.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So I-
Mitzi Payne: Shout out.
Charlie Grinnell: Shout out, stick together.
Mitzi Payne: To drop outs.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So I originally... I grew up in Vancouver and I was a football player actually growing up through high school and I ended up taking a football scholarship to UBC here. And in my first month of school there I was actually in a really bad car accident with a drunk driver. And so I ended up dropping out of school because I had to have back surgery and that sort of thing. And I had a lot of time to sit on the couch and at that time I was kind of on the track of "Yeah, I'll go, I'll get a degree maybe I'll go to law school." I think I was interested in policy and economics at the time, and maybe law school was going to be down the road if I was smart enough.
Mitzi Payne: Hmm. Nice.
Charlie Grinnell: But once I dropped out of school, I had a bunch of time to sit on my parents' couch and figure out what I wanted to do. And I'd always had actually an interest in video production growing up. Friends of mine were in video production classes in high school and they were shooting skateboarding videos and that sort of thing. And I was interested in action sports. So as soon as I was on the couch, I ended up buying a little camera from, I think it was Future Shop at the time and started watching tutorials online on how to film things and edit things. And that just kind of snowballed into a career in video production. So I ended up doing that for I think almost five years. And while I was working in video production, that's kind of when social media and the internet started to become a thing this is like 2010 to 2011, 2012 around that time and I was just fascinated by that.
Charlie Grinnell: How social kind of just exploded and there was this whole new world, so to speak. And so I really wanted to get involved in that. And so while I was creating all these different videos, I started to notice a pattern in that my videos were just getting put online. It wasn't, "Hey, you're going to make this and it goes to a DVD or it goes to a theater." It's like, "Yeah this is going on YouTube or this is going on Facebook or Vimeo or whatever it was." And so I was like, "Huh, I need to know more about the distribution side of this stuff." And so yeah, that's kind of what spurred that. I ended up actually taking an online certificate course through Hootsuite and Syracuse university about social media and social media strategy.
Charlie Grinnell: I did some online courses through UBC and the digital analytics association. And then I also did a three month certificate program with Simon Fraser university in digital communications. And so that was more so just like ticking the box being like, "Yeah, I have some schooling about this stuff." Because you can't go get a Bachelor of Internet or a Bachelor of Digital.
Mike Payne: Of YouTube.
Mitzi Payne: I wish.
Charlie Grinnell: Exactly. Right? I was like, "What were the courses that exi... right, there wasn't the brain station or those sorts of digital skills centers." And so yeah, I was kind of looking for the more traditional thing that I could just kind of throw onto my resume because I was self conscious that I didn't have a degree. As I was working in video and I had kind of done that schooling around digital, I started talking to people and I actually ended up landing at an agency here in Vancouver called Invoke.
Mitzi Payne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charlie Grinnell: It was founded by Ryan Holmes, Dario Meli and David Tedman. And that's where Hootsuite came from. So I went there, I was there for only a handful. I was there for six months and then Red Bull ended up calling me and I ended up moving to Toronto to work on the digital marketing team there. Ended up doing five years at Red Bull, three and a half years in Toronto, almost a year in Austria at the global headquarters. Then I moved from there to Aritzia to lead social and now I run RightMetric.
Mike Payne: What was it like getting that first call from Red Bull? Was that a brand that you always aspired to work at or was it just like, well this opportunity came of nowhere, I'm going to try it?
Charlie Grinnell: Yes. So I had been doing film work for Red Bull and so that's kind of how I knew them and I had always kind of been expressing interest to the people that I was working with there. The marketing folks who I was making videos for. Oh, and I was kind of talking to them and nerding out, so to speak, about learning more about that. And yeah, I just kind of got this random call one day and they were like, "Hey we have a spot. You have this video skill. You also understand digital. We'd love to kind of add you to the team." And so it was definitely a brand that I looked up to and still do to this day. I would argue that they were one of the companies that really brought content marketing to kind of the forefront of how to do it.
Charlie Grinnell: I can't tell you how many times there's probably in presentations of like and the world leader, the thought leader in this space, Red Bull, because they did this, this and this. So for me to be able to join that company, I learned so much and I think that's a big part of who I am as a strategic thinker now and a marketer is I was just able to work with so many smart people and be the dumbest guy in the room and just kind of soak it up and I really, really owe a lot of what I've been able to go on to do because of my time there. Because it taught me a different way to think. It taught me... I was able to meet so many great people and work with them after that.
Mitzi Payne: Such a great strategy.
Mike Payne: I'm really curious because I feel like in a way you're kind of both sides of the brain. Like you're a creative, you started out in video, but then you're also a data guy. You know obviously RightMetric is built all around data. What's that like? And do you think your aptitude on both those sides helps you to be a better marketer and leader or which ones of those play more into marketing or leadership?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so I would say absolutely it has benefited me. I think about that word creative. And I said this even when I was making videos. My girlfriend is a designer and I have friends who are incredible illustrators and I have friends who are incredible photographers. When I was actually doing 'the creative side of things' with a camera, I was more interested in the settings. So it was like what frame rate am I shooting? What codec like that sort of thing. And so-
Mitzi Payne: So the data side.
Charlie Grinnell: Almost like the data side. I just wanted to know what were the inputs that I could get to create the output that I wanted. So if I want something to look a certain way, this was like the camera settings that I needed to know or this is the way I needed to edit it. But like I am definitely not... you would puke if you saw my handwriting. I do not view myself as a creative person. But I think what was really interesting... this is just pure dumb luck, was as I had the skill to know how to use a camera and edit stuff and do very, very basic motion graphics. As soon as social media kind of started to rise, video was right there. So there were a lot of social media managers who were seeing how well video was doing on all the platforms and they don't have a background in video production.
Charlie Grinnell: And so whereas with me, I had Adobe premiere on my computer, I had a DSLR that I could rip out with, go shoot something myself, edit it myself, and then chop it up and put it out. And so that was, I think, something that really benefited me throughout my career and still being able to kind of play translator between the different camps, being able to speak that production language as well as speak that distribution language. So yeah, it's interesting having both those backgrounds. I think it definitely has benefited me and I think when you combine two skills like that, that's what allows you to stand out. And I think that I was just lucky that those two skills happen to align with where the world or the internet was going at that period of time.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah. So in layman's terms, can you explain what RightMetric does for marketers and what's the problem that you're trying to solve?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely. So the way that I can explain it best is we're a digital market research firm. So what that means is we provide audience and competitive insights to brands. So our goal is to empower marketers to make better informed decisions by providing them with a holistic understanding of everything that's happening outside of their four walls. And so diving in a bit deeper to that, when I sat on the brand side, I had access to a ton of internal data, right? So I could see what our performance was on our website. I could see how our social was performing, but I felt that I didn't have a clear picture of everything kind of outside. And what we noticed was the problem with how you understand everything outside of your four walls is, it's expensive, it's slow, it's manual, it's fragmented.
Charlie Grinnell: There are so many different drawbacks with it. And so what we were set out to do is can we solve this by pulling in a bunch of different data sources about an audience into one place and then just organize it into essentially cheat sheets for marketers so that they can just stay informed with everything they need to know happening outside of their four walls so that they can continue to refine their strategy. And so it's really like right now if you're only looking at the data inside your organization, it's like you have one eye covered. And by working with us you're able to kind of uncover that second eye and have a holistic view of what's actually happening outside of your organization related to the audience or the customer that you're trying to reach.
Mike Payne: Man, this is so intriguing, especially for us, I think from the agency side and I think for my own selfish curiosity, I just want to know, obviously I'm assuming this is positioned more towards brands?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Mike Payne: But is there a different type of portal for agencies where you can see like multiple clients and kind of manage it all from this one hub?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so not yet is the short answer.
Mike Payne: Make it for me dude. Make it for me.
Charlie Grinnell: Okay. Yes, I'll get ready to work on that. Sorry.
Mike Payne: Thanks, man.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so it's definitely like we've seen a lot of appetite there. I think for us, we're a two year old company and so we wanted to really go out and see... essentially validate the market and spend two years working with people to understand what are the challenges that marketers are facing. And once we started to service enough customers, we realized that this was something that was occurring over and over again. And once people saw had that holistic view, they felt more empowered and more confident in the decisions that they were making and in the strategies that they were building. So I feel like that's kind of where we're at currently. I would love to at some point turn it into something that agencies could use.
Charlie Grinnell: I'm not a developer, so I don't know what that looks like and maybe there's a way to do it with no code, who knows? We have worked in the past with other agencies, like we do collaborate and I think that for us, from our side of things, we've actually been asked a lot to do execution work. So we'll go away and we'll look at them, provide all that insight and then they go, "Great, can you activate this and do this for us?"
Charlie Grinnell: For us, we think it's important for us to remain that unbiased third party. So we don't have skin in the game, we're just going to tell you what we're seeing out there. And then from that, depending on what we think that you need based on what we're seeing from the data and from the behaviors, we can then go, "Okay, if you're looking for this and this is the way you want to go, go talk to this agency and that sort of thing." So we do that a lot. But I think that there is something there in the future for agencies. It's just we're a small six person team. There's only so many hours in the day.
Mike Payne: Yeah, we're a six person team too. And I even noticed that you said you turned two years in March. Our company actually turned two years in April, so-
Charlie Grinnell: There we go.
Mitzi Payne: They're twins.
Charlie Grinnell: They're twins.
Mike Payne: Got a lot in common here.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely.
Mitzi Payne: I love what you said about having a cheat sheet and I think every marketer who's listening right now is like, "Zing, I want to cheat sheet. What is the potential that a brand has when they know that they have the right data and they can translate it into the right strategy to reach their audience?
Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So really good question and I think it's taken us two years to essentially articulate this. And it was funny because we actually came up with the name... my co-founder, Evan and I, when we came up with this, we chose the name RightMetric. We were like, "Yeah, RightMetric." And then it took us a while to figure out what RightMetric was going to become and then where we actually landed we were like, "Oh yeah, that name actually makes a lot of sense." In terms of what the potential is for brands, I think the way that I think about it at the very macro high level is over the last decade we've witnessed a transformation in how companies just use data in general and that's outside of marketing, but also obviously within marketing to help them drive business decisions. So whether it's sales and marketing CRMs, data collection and storage, like Google Trends, there's no shortage of tools that have empowered professionals and in our case marketers to be able to act on data about a company and its products.
Mitzi Payne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charlie Grinnell: But what we've found is that internal data is only half of that picture and we think that there's a massive opportunities for brands to be able to utilize this data-driven insight from external sources, which will help them reach a larger audience, which in turn should help them outmaneuver competitors. So in terms of the potential, I just look at it as like you're driving with one eye covered, uncover the other eye and you'll probably be a better driver or a safer driver or a faster driver. However you want to kind of continue that metaphor. We just think that there's so much potential there because you're just getting more information and you have more context so that you can be feeling more confident with what you're doing.
Mitzi Payne: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Can you give us an example of what an external data point would be? Because I think... I mean I'm even thinking about our brands that we represent and what kind of data we're reporting on for them. And yeah, you're right. So much of it, it's all internal. So I need to retrain my brain to even consider the external what, what is that even?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So let's use a content example because I think that'll be one that can help kind of illustrate this in the easiest way. So let's say you are a brand who is trying to reach people who are interested in yoga. So what we're able to do is we're able to go out and cast a net essentially and pull in all of the content that is related to yoga. So whether that's videos on Facebook, YouTube, whatever, all the different platforms, we pull all of that content that is being enjoyed by people who are interested in yoga. We pull that into one place. And then what we do is we look at all of that content and we establish a benchmark. So we draw a line through it. And so that's where you would look at average video views. Average engagement rate, all those different... average watch time, all those different metrics that you would look at.
Charlie Grinnell: We draw a line through that. We establish, okay, what is the average? Anything below that average we toss out. We don't really care. Anything above average, our team of analysts then start to cluster things together and we start to see themes. Okay, these types of videos tend to perform well. These types of photos tend to perform well, and then what we're able to do is we put that into a cheat sheet that gets sent to a marketer each month. So when we say, "Hey, these are the four types of content that we're seeing as resonating with this audience," what we've been able to do is go out and look at the entire audience, see what else they're watching, back it up by performance data, and then serve it up to them in a bite sized way to be like, "Hey, you could think about jumping on this train and creating content like this or this could help your creative brainstorming session," or something like that.
Mitzi Payne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charlie Grinnell: So that's like one example of content. Another thing could be looking at the ads that other brands are running and how much they're spending and looking at that over time. So okay this brand has been running this one ad for the last eight months and they've been spending this amount and they've been generating this amount of traffic and this amount of impressions, one of two things either happening, it's either working or they're asleep at the wheel. And so that's a great way where you can start to look over the fence so to speak, and not necessarily copy them, but just get an understanding of what's working and what's not. And are there little things that you could pull into your strategy that you could deploy that might allow you to make some extra sales, reach some more people, whatever the overarching objective is.
Mike Payne: That's super interesting. You got my wheels turning here and I've got many questions. But one thing that I was curious about before we got into this question that kind of ties in is I'm hearing some really interesting data points externally that we're pulling in, but are you able to pull in any like more qualitative elements from outside and turn that into data? Kind of like what types of positive responses are you getting or what? What do people have to say about you or I don't know. Rough examples.
Charlie Grinnell: Absolutely. Yeah, so basically what we do is we actually start with quantitative and then our analysts do the qualitative on top of it. So the example that I give about content of pulling in all those different pieces, that's the quantitative stuff where we pull it in. The qualitative is where our analysts are looking as humans and going, "Okay, these are some of the patterns that I'm starting to see and these are the specific trends that we're seeing that a human is able to see in a computer, isn't able to see yet." We actually have an article about this on our blog that talks about how we break it down. I would point the listeners to go check that out because it's a long post that my co-founder has written that explains just this specific thing.
Mitzi Payne: Nice.
Charlie Grinnell: In terms of the qualitative stuff. Yes you can absolutely. We have social listening tools and that sort of thing and that's actually how we operate. So in terms of how the sausage is made so to speak, we work with over 30 different data tools and partners and where we sit on in is we pull all that into one place to be able to do all the aggregation and the analysis and finding the insights and then packaging that up. So it's not actually us with our own software doing it. It's our team of analysts using our strategic frameworks, using the best in class digital intelligence tools if that makes sense.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah, I love that you're saying... you're making sure people know that it's a human doing it, that it's not just AI or a computer software, because I think coming from an analyst lens and an actual person who's evaluating comments and stuff like that, I think that's really important. And we can make sure that we link the blog post and the show notes for this episode.
Mike Payne: Yeah, definitely.
Charlie Grinnell: Cool. Yeah, and I think the one thing I would just add on to that is I'm a big believer, yes, you referred to me as a data guy, but also a creative. I think that I'm a big believer in that the best marketing is art and science, right? It's a balance between art and science. And so when an analyst is sitting there looking at stuff that might not seem that artsy, but the insight that you can generate from the data, which would be the more science thing can be very artsy and can really help drive creativity and guide creativity. I think it's important to point that out because I think a lot of people are like, "You're just a... you're like a data or die kind of guy." And that's just definitely not who I am or how I roll. I do see the value in having both of those things and it's really around this idea of informing intuition.
Mike Payne: Yeah, definitely. I think we've kind of been observing that too, where, especially on the paid social and advertising side, I think it kind of went away from creative first to more so being just about analytics and optimization and targeting strategies. But I think we're seeing a return to creative being the game changer. And not to say that it's only creative, but now that we're all good at optimizing now that we've figured out some targeting that works, it's the creative that really separates the brands that win from the ones that don't. And I think the way you articulated it is even better than that in the sense that you have to find that nice balance between the two or else you're always going to kind of be spinning your tires.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah. That's where the magic happens.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I completely agree. And I think that this idea of... I almost feel like data has also kind of made marketers scared to fail because some people become so reliant on like "It needs to have this row as, or it needs to have... we need to generate this specific number."
Mike Payne: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: It's almost like I feel, and I don't necessarily have proof of this, but I think that it feels as if some people are hesitant now because they're like, "Oh, if I can't exactly track it, maybe I don't do it." And I think where I'm coming from is yes you can get into those things where it's like X equals 10 and that's the stuff that you can look at. But I also think that there's a way that data can help be directional. And I think that's where we play is, I'm not going to tell you X equals 10 but what I'm going to tell you is based on the group of people that you're trying to reach, here's what we've seen at scale, how they behave. We've seen this over a sustained period of time. Take with it and do what you will. But if you're going to be brainstorming some creative ideas on how to reach this group of people, here's some data backed proof of how they behave.
Mike Payne: I love it. Another question that just is popping into my head from all this is a specific to some, again of our context with our clients. We've been trying to think about not just the low hanging fruit or blatant lay to target an audience, but what are their fringe interests and how can we find them in those places? And often potentially because they're smaller groups that way. Then it could also end up being cheaper to find them there.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Mike Payne: Can you, through RightMetric, can you tell us about what our audience is interested in other than like the meat and potatoes, like what are their fringe interests or where are these other places that we can find them?
Charlie Grinnell: That's literally exactly what we do.
Mitzi Payne: Money.
Mike Payne: Sold.
Charlie Grinnell: So that's exactly what we do. Basically, the way that we look at an audience is... and I'm using air quotes here, we look at an audience, so I'll use yoga again. So let's say we're trying to look at a yoga audience. The way that we look at that yoga audience is through 'related entities'. So that would be other websites they go to, other brands they engage with forums that they chat on, all these different things. And what we're starting to see is, okay, where are they spending their attention outside of yoga? Just because someone's interested in yoga doesn't mean that they're thinking yoga 24/7 right?
Mike Payne: Exactly.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: There's 24 hours in the day. What else are they interested in? And so that's what's really powerful, I think with what we do is we can show you, "Okay, yeah, here's the other things that they spend time doing." And that can be really interesting for creative brainstorming, whether it's what content to create, is there an event that we could run? Is there co-marketing? Like it actually does go outside the world of digital once you start to apply it in different ways. So yes, absolutely. And we think about that a lot is "Yeah, this person is interested in yoga, but they're also really interested in this other thing and Oh by the way, that other thing would be really easy for you to tap into as a brand."
Mitzi Payne: Hmm.
Mike Payne: Oh, so cool.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah, you might get a direct phone call after this from Mike. We're going to switch over to content for a second and we've heard it said that "Content is King". Do you agree with this statement?
Charlie Grinnell: No, I disagree.
Mitzi Payne: Show done.
Charlie Grinnell: Like boom. Like mic drop. I actually disagree with that statement and I have a bunch on this. So there's definitely two camps here, right? There's the content side of people and then there's the distribution side of things. I think I see both sides and I think that it is something that now over the past... I feel like when that statement happened, when that statement was first said, you know what, five, six, seven years ago, I don't know the exact date, but I feel like that was kind of the thing back in 2015 is like "content is king". That's what you would see at like the marketing conferences. And now I think over the past five years we've seen it swing to distribution. So let me give you an example. And so I think the first thing to acknowledge is like there's no shortage of content, but distribution is why things get big.
Charlie Grinnell: And so I think I saw some stat where it was something stupid, like 100 million photos are shared on Instagram each day-
Mitzi Payne: Damn!
Mike Payne: Yeah, I believe that.
Charlie Grinnell: ... or 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. We're witnessing a content explosion. And actually I read a book about this. There's a book called Hitmakers by this guy named Derek Thompson and he's a writer for the Atlantic. And basically the book is about the science behind why things get popular. One of the things that he kind of calls out in the book, is he's like, "When we go back in time, we look at the most successful songs or shows or films," and he kind of looks at everything. A lot of them failed over and over again until they found distribution. And so with that principal, he used an example in the book. I actually went and found another example of this and it was actually the film, The Shawshank Redemption. Are you guys familiar with that?
Mike Payne: Yeah, for sure.
Mitzi Payne: Oh, big time.
Charlie Grinnell: Okay, so The Shawshank Redemption, like when it was released in 1994 it got a really positive acclaim. I think the critics were like, "Oh this is amazing." It got an Oscar nomination and I looked into how much it cost to produce. It cost $25 million bucks to produce, but it actually only made $16 million at the box office. And the last time I checked, when you make a movie you want to make money, so-
Mike Payne: Definitely.
Charlie Grinnell: ... losing $9 million bucks is probably not ideal. What was interesting was that distribution actually saved the day for this film. So after doing a bit more research in 1995 Warner Brothers released it on VHS and it became one of the top video rentals a couple of years after that, TNT bought the distribution rights and it aired it through TV, movies and that sort of thing. And then in 2018... this is from a presentation that I did awhile ago. In 2018, it was listed on the American Film Institute's best 100 movies of the past 100 years. And the number one film on IMDBs Top 250 List.
Mitzi Payne: Wow!
Charlie Grinnell: So where I'm going with this though, The Shawshank Redemption was the same film when it was released in theaters to when it went mainstream as a TV movie. And the difference is distribution, right? So in my opinion, content isn't king, "content with the right distribution is king". And so I think by focusing on distribution first, marketers are forced to consider the behaviors of an audience that they're trying to reach and aren't just able to make art projects. And I know that probably sounds like a very bold thing, but if the content was the same content, it hadn't changed, but it only caught on when it had the right distribution, and that's when it went big. The distribution is the key point. You can have a great piece of content, but without getting it in front of anybody, nobody's going to care. That's where I stand on that side of the fence. I don't know if you guys agree or disagree with me, but it's definitely a hot topic that comes up a lot.
Mike Payne: We're all hot takes here. So thanks for laying it down. Speaking of distribution then, can you talk about what's your preferred distribution channel right now or any one specifically that you feel is outperforming the other options out there?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so if I was going to say two platforms jump out to me. One is LinkedIn and I think the other is TikTok and so-
Mike Payne: Wow, interesting.
Charlie Grinnell: ... definitely like two ends of the spectrum there, right? So maybe I'll speak about the TikTok one first. I am not on TikTok, I have a bunch of friends who had started to get on TikTok and make silly videos while we're all living inside here. And so that's been pretty funny to watch. I think both of these platforms, what they have in common is they're both able to get a disproportionate amount of views and reach. And so with how content is discovered on TikTok, you can have people who have 50 followers and generate millions of views because they have a video that pops, right?
Mike Payne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mitzi Payne: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charlie Grinnell: And I think the same thing actually is on LinkedIn. And I can give my own example. So maybe... you guys have inspired me. Maybe I'll make some TikTok dance videos after this.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah.
Mike Payne: Oh.
Charlie Grinnell: Just kidding. Nobody wants to see that. But my LinkedIn example, so I have around 3,800 followers on LinkedIn. I'm not a LinkedIn influencer by any means, but a month ago was our two year company anniversary and I posted a photo of my co-founder, Evan and I, and that post ended up doing 25,000 views.
Mitzi Payne: Wow!
Mike Payne: Crazy.
Charlie Grinnell: So, 3,800 followers, 25,000 views. I don't really know another platform other than TikTok where that could happen.
Mike Payne: Definitely not on Instagram.
Charlie Grinnell: No, definitely not on Instagram. Even Facebook, right? Snapchat like I don't know. So I think those two platforms are something that are very interesting for me because of that disproportionate amount of input versus output. And so obviously those have to be linked back to your business and the type of objectives you're going. For me running a business, LinkedIn makes sense. TikTok nobody wants to see my dance moves, so that doesn't make sense.
Mitzi Payne: I don't know man, you don't know until you try.
Mike Payne: Do you have a favourite TikTok sound that you would go with first for a dance?
Charlie Grinnell: Oh no. I don't know if I have a TikTok... I think the big one right now is the Drake's slide. Is that what everybody is doing?
Mike Payne: The Toosie Slide?
Mitzi Payne: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I haven't actually had time to dive down that rabbit hole, but since it's a long weekend now, maybe I will.
Mitzi Payne: There you go.
Mike Payne: We're expecting it now, man. Make sure you send it to us. We'll put it in the show notes.
Mitzi Payne: No we won't do that dude.
Mike Payne: Bringing it back to marketing from all this TikTok fun. You had mentioned that we're all at home right now and creating things and having opportunities to experiment and so I just want to kind of press into that. Given the crisis that is obviously causing this work from home and self isolation. I think there's a lot of uncertainty in our industry that's clear. Budgets are being cut and sadly some companies aren't going to survive. None of us really know what's going to happen or if they'll ever get back to normal. So can you just comment on how marketers could or should be marketing during these uncertain times?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so I think there's a handful of things here. I think the first one is pausing and I think that when something like this happens you have to hit pause just to kind of catch your breath, make sure that there aren't things that are going out the door that are already pre-scheduled or that sort of thing. Pausing and I think reading the room are the two things that you would do first. I haven't really actually seen many examples of a brand kind of screwing that up. So I think that's good news. If you guys have examples, I'd love to hear it because I always love seeing marketing fails. It's a guilty pleasure of mine. In terms of what to do next, I think if there are cuts that need to be made, you should be taking a really deep look at that and understanding, don't just cut everything and I think be strategic with how you're cutting.
Charlie Grinnell: I think that a lot of people's first instinct is probably to go to the revenue generating channels. And I think that instinct is correct, but it's also important to balance that with not eroding some of the brand and community efforts that you're invested in. Right? And so it's this mix between brand and performance and so there isn't a number, I can't say it's like a 50-50 balance or a 60-40 balance. I think because there are so many other factors depending on where the business is in terms of financial side of things, what industry, what product they sell, all those different things. But I think what I would say is the best marketers have that balance of art and science, but they also have that balance of brand and performance. And that's kind of what makes great businesses. So when you're sitting down looking at what you're going to cut, keep that in mind.
Charlie Grinnell: Don't just sway to one end, keep that balance. That's one of the things that I would say. The other thing that I would say is it's never been more important to listen. And I think that might sound like a cop out answer, but there's so much that can be uncovered by listening to audiences and consumers. I think one of the problems that's being exposed here is that a lot of brands haven't invested in building the infrastructure that enables them to understand how their audiences or customers or consumers are feeling. And so there's a Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffet quote, right? And it's like "Only when the tide goes out, do you see who's been swimming naked." And I think that's happening in some businesses right now, but I think also for marketers, if they don't have the infrastructure in place to be able to understand what's actually happening with their existing customers or within the market or the industry that they're in, that's really tough. Right?
Charlie Grinnell: And they're going to have to play catch up to be able to deeply understand that. Because right now it is such a touchy, sensitive time. You have to be considerate and empathetic towards different people who are going through different things. And the only way you're going to be able to navigate that as if you have a map. But if you don't have a map and you're not able to kind of look before you leap, you run the risk of making a mistake. So that's kind of how I would approach it and recommend brands to approach it and I think the only final thing that I would add to that is it's never been more important to focus and I think that as we continue to move forward from here, I feel that marketing as a function of business is going to go under the microscope more so than ever before.
Charlie Grinnell: And so it's really, really important for marketers to learn more about the business side of how their function plays into an organization because that'll suit them to be able to go under that microscope and defend the value that their function in their part of the organization is bringing to the organization as a whole.
Mitzi Payne: That's great advice. So reports are showing that social media and website traffic is up, but it doesn't necessarily mean that people are in the mood or even have the resources to buy. How can brands and marketers be strategic about the attention that they do get and should they focus on like selling? What do you recommend? What kind of data are you seeing?
Charlie Grinnell: There's the macro trends that have been widely reported on, right? Internet usage is up as a whole. Entertainment is booming, video chats are booming, travel and tourism sites are down, right? Like I think everybody... those are publicly available things that have been and been widely reported on. I think sometimes I would go back to what I said about pausing. Sometimes the best thing a brand can do is be quiet. And I think that a lot of people go, "Oh, I'm a marketer, we need to show that we're busy and we're doing things" and sometimes not talking says a lot.
Charlie Grinnell: And I think that there are people that do that in life, right? Sometimes the silence is, is the answer. And so again, I think it depends on the specifics of it. But yeah, without going down a rabbit hole of different specifics. That's what I would say about that. In terms of one of the things that I wanted to ask you guys actually, are you guys on Houseparty yet?
Mitzi Payne: Oh yeah.
Mike Payne: Mitzi has been going ham on there. I downloaded it and then I got annoyed with how many notifications I was getting and so I've just kind of avoided it.
Mitzi Payne: I'm the Houseparty crusher. I have friend that's in-
Charlie Grinnell: Same. I feel like everybody is.
Mitzi Payne: ... It's so fun and I feel like people want you to crash their Houseparty because if they didn't they would lock it. So dig in.
Charlie Grinnell: Yup, for sure. So, we were actually looking at some data around this, I think about a month and a half ago. I think one of the stats I saw they had 77,000 users on it. And then I think last weekend they had 55 million users just on Android alone.
Mitzi Payne: Wow!
Mike Payne: That's crazy.
Charlie Grinnell: So, they've had some crazy growth... and I know that like two Fridays ago I was trying to pull a Mitzi and go and crash a bunch of house parties and the app actually went down for like two or three hours.
Mitzi Payne: Whoa.
Charlie Grinnell: Because they had so many people on it.
Mitzi Payne: It's probably because I was doing the same thing.
Charlie Grinnell: You, me and everybody else in the world.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah, totally.
Charlie Grinnell: But I think what has been so interesting with that is it's such a simple thing, right? That functionality exists everywhere else. But what I was so fascinated by when I got on, and I agree with what Mike said about the notifications just kill me, but what was so interesting was how you can start crashing different house parties if you're only friends with one person. That as a network effect fascinates me where you can be friends with one person and that person's in a room with six other people and then I can just join in and then, Oh I just touched their face to like add them as a friend. And that compounding network effect is something that has just been the internet nerd in me is fascinated by that network effect. And I wonder how the big dogs, i.e, Facebook, Snapchat, whoever are going to take that and build that into their product.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah. It kind of has virality built into it.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I love it.
Mitzi Payne: That's very interesting.
Charlie Grinnell: I'm addicted.
Mike Payne: Yeah. Nice. I haven't even thought about it really, but I mean, you're intriguing me. I'm interested in maybe just going on and finding some new people, but just testing that theory, really putting that networking to work. But maybe you can add it to your list with LinkedIn and TikTok if it's that easy to find new people.
Charlie Grinnell: I don't know. Maybe I should just always have an unlocked room and just have people surprise and delight me.
Mitzi Payne: Yeah.
Mike Payne: Yeah. And then just like get them into your funnel and sell him something.
Charlie Grinnell: There you go. Hit me on Houseparty, those listening.
Mitzi Payne: Nice.
Mike Payne: Nice. I kind of want to bring it back to video because I had more questions about that so I'll hopefully it's okay if we circle back towards what we were talking about at the beginning, but I want to get some value from the work you did around Arc'teryx, even NBC sports and Nike and your time at Red Bull. But I'm curious because obviously RightMetric kind of tells you or the brands using it, what content is performing well? Can you tell us some of the data or the learnings you're getting about video, whether it was from when you were producing it yourself or from what you're seeing behind the curtain that at RightMetric?
Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So-
Mike Payne: What type of video performs well?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So the type of video that I was creating varied depending on the brand. So I'm an action sports guy. So there was a lot of action sports videos, but there was campaign launch stuff, there was teasers for shows or films, there was all types. I think every industry or audience that you're trying to reach is different. But some of the things that I think I've learned... and this was more I thought as a filmmaker it was important to learn how people were using the platforms, right? So if my video is going to end up in a news feed, how am I creating that video so that someone in that news feed who loves scrolling is going to stop and watch it. And so there's a couple of things I can point out here. So the first one is, the first three seconds of a video is so critical and if you're going to have any chance of stopping someone's thumb from scrolling through, those first three seconds are so important.
Charlie Grinnell: It's the first thing that people see. And so I think that as a video producer was a really interesting learning. And that's something that I, sitting on the marketing side was constantly trying to communicate to the video producers where they would typically have a slow establishing shot and then it would go into... and they would do like typical film school like story arcs, right? Whereas now when you're dealing with someone who's scrolling a million miles a minute, you need something that's instantly going to catch their eye and pull them in. And so first three seconds, this is super, super important. I think what we were seeing was that sound was optional depending on the platform. I think that's coming back now with the rise of different headphones. So whether it's with AirPods or whatever wireless, that sort of thing. I think a lot of people are spending more times with headphones in so having sound on is something that people are more and more doing on the go.
Charlie Grinnell: That said, I think subtitles are a really great way to kind of tell deeper stories in a silent environment. Right? One of the examples that I always give was I watched a video, it must've been three, four, five years ago. It was a Facebook video and I think it was by CNN or somebody and basically what they did was they took photos of old Navy ships and warships and then did The Ken Burns effect, the pan and scan and then over the bottom they put this like just a fun fact about them. And I kind of saw this video and I kept seeing it over and over my feed and finally I watched it. It had something silly like 50 million views and I was like, "This video actually sucks in terms of production value, but I watched the whole thing. It pulled me in and so I was like, "Oh, what did they do here? Okay. They used photos. The first photo was like a really... they color corrected the photo to be really bright, brilliant. It pulled people in. It had a really interesting stat," and so I thought that was using subtitles to tell a more complex story in a shorter way and silently was really interesting.
Charlie Grinnell: I think also optimizing videos for platforms. So the rise of vertical video, I actually remember there was a time when I was working at Red Bull, my last project at Red Bull actually I was in Madrid, Spain at this thing called Red Bull X-Fighters, which is where they have a big bull ring and they set up a motocross track, freestyle motocross track and they do back flips and all those different tricks. And so I ended up taking a camera with me and I took this big fancy camera and I actually held it vertically and I was literally... people were literally photos of me because they're like, "Look at this goof who doesn't understand how to hold his camera properly." But the joke was on them because we were shooting for our Instagram stuff and our Instagram account, it was bigger than the TV crews that were going to output something there.
Charlie Grinnell: And I always thought that was so interesting was like we are shooting specifically for the distribution channel. We're not cutting it in post. And yeah, that was something that I thought was really, really interesting is optimizing for the platforms. And I think the last one that I'll say here is this concept of unpolished authenticity. And so what I mean by that is... when you used to watch the news five, six, seven years ago, you would never see an iPhone video on the news or like a Skype video on the news whereas now it's become more socially acceptable. They were like, "Oh we got this clip from a body cam of a police officer or someone who is in the storm with their iPhone," and they put it up on screen.
Charlie Grinnell: And I think we're starting to see that... well we have started to see that and now it's normal is it doesn't matter about the quality necessarily in many aspects it matters what's actually on the screen and what's more real and authentic. And that word authentic kind of makes me want to puke because I feel like marketers have ruined it, but it's a way that describes like it can be like "Blair Witch Project" style if what's happening is actually interesting.
Mike Payne: You talked a little bit about your time at Red Bull and I want to dial in on that for a few minutes too.
Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike Payne: Can you talk about major lessons you learned during that time? Obviously that you would have been at the beginning. You mentioned just being kind of the dumbest guy in the room and learning so much and just taking a lot in. Obviously you weren't dumb, but you were just around a lot of really bright people. So share some of that wealth of knowledge with us in a few minutes.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so man, it was a blur and I was so lucky to work there. I think that what was so unique to me is when I was at the global headquarters in Austria... how big was our team? Our team was like 25 or 30 people there on the social team, so that says one thing right there in terms of the size. But what was so cool was that we had... I think we had 10 or 15 different nationalities on the team and so I joked and called us the UN because you had people like the office that I sat in, there was an Italian guy who sat beside me. There was a guy from Malaysia who sat across from me and there was a guy from Spain who sat kitty corner to me. It was kind of like a pod of four and I'm like, "What other company would that happen in?"
Charlie Grinnell: And then on top of that we could sit down as a group, there might be a group of 10 of us sitting down to look at a video or look at something to do with social. And me, the Canadian guy has a different opinion than a guy from Brazil or a woman from Australia or a woman from Poland. And so that I think was so unique was being able to... how are things interpreted through an international lens that was like so fascinating for me because I was born and raised in North America and Canada. And so that was something that I took away and it gave me I think a wider perspective so that would be the first thing. The second thing was how social works at scale. And so what I mean by that back I left the company in 2017 we had around 400 social media accounts with 100 million followers across all those accounts and at the time we had close to a thousand people, employees or freelancers who could publish on behalf of Red Bull in some way, shape or form.
Charlie Grinnell: And just seeing how that machine works in terms of setting up the social management tool, setting up different rules and permissions, how the reporting was set up, just understanding how that beast operates taught me so many lessons about how to structure teams, how you should be looking at all these different things. There's just so many of them. And so I think that's something that I took away and it's helped me with RightMetric. It helped me in other roles, so I think those are really the two things. It's that global perspective and working at scale. Now while scale isn't necessarily applicable to most businesses having 400 social accounts with 100 million followers. I think it's just how are you setting up that governance and organization so that you can be effective in your efforts, make sure that things are able to happen quickly and I think that organization is a big part of that.
Mike Payne: Just sitting on the global perspective part quickly. Can you talk about how that perspective affects how you actually execute on social?
Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Mike Payne: Practically?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so I think for me what that really taught me was how wrong I am all the time.
Mike Payne: Interesting.
Charlie Grinnell: I think what I mean by that is just because this is my perspective or my interpretation definitely doesn't mean it's right. And I think that's what was always so fascinating was seeing other people's reactions to the same thing that I was looking at. And that's a really great way... once you start to see that and kind of lean into that, you start to be able to put other people first. And so I think that from a marketing perspective... a lot of people always go, "Well what do you think we should do?" And I always write back and ask "what is your audience doing?" "What do your customers think about that?" It doesn't matter what Charlie thinks about that unless Charlie's your customer, but maybe I'm not. And so I always kind of flip it back to be like, what are the people thinking? And so I think that understanding and looking through other people's perspectives at something similar is something that I took away from that.
Mitzi Payne: Amazing. I do want to ask you, because Red Bull and Aritzia are kind of two total polar opposites in terms of even targeting and type of content. Besides them being completely different industries. Can you tell me about in terms of practices for social media, what was the main difference between how you manage that?
Charlie Grinnell: So number one, I think objectives are fundamentally different. So that was a big thing for me. Just understanding what are the business objectives that we're trying to optimize for. The second thing I would say is just because a tactic or a strategy works in one industry does not mean it works in another industry. So what I mean by that is when I was at Red Bull, video was crushing it for us. But whenever we did video at Aritzia, it didn't seem to perform as well. We also saw things like certain types of posts. I would never do a link post at Red Bull, a link post on Facebook at Red Bull. Whereas the link posts on Facebook for Aritzia at the time seemed to do pretty well. And so that kind of surprised me. I think that it was interesting because you have your own internal version of like a cheat sheet like, "Oh this is what you do on this platform, this is the best practice for this platform."
Charlie Grinnell: And then you go into something that's completely opposite or a different industry and you realize how you have to start again. And so I think again that goes back to the importance of listening, looking, understanding your customer or the audience that you're trying to reach and then building it out from there.
Mike Payne: Love that observation. And I think the idea of not just getting into auto pilot with what works on what platform is really cool and important for people to hear. And on that note, could you give a few tips for brand managers around effectively using organic social and maybe to be more specific, what are some practices that need to die on social media and what are some things that marketers should double down on?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so I think the one thing that I would point out here is that I think when social media first started, it was a piece of marketing and now it's across the entire organization. So it's used for sales, it's obviously used for marketing, it's used for customer care, it's used for HR, whether it's recruiting or employee advocacy. It's used for investor relations. And I think that has been an interesting growth spurt that social has gone through, right? Because it used to just be like, "Yeah, go over there and like write some tweets," and now there are so many different things that social can be deployed as. And so I don't necessarily think there's the one best way to do things. I think it goes back to that overarching business objective of what you're trying to achieve and then understanding, okay, what are the best platforms for me as a social media manager to invest my time, my resources, my budget, my team's time, whatever that is and how that contributes into that overarching objective.
Charlie Grinnell: So I don't think it is that one size fits all. I think it's kind of this top down approach that I'll quickly kind of talk about here. So this idea of taking a business objective, translating that into a digital objective, then translating that into a digital strategy, which then has digital tactics and then metrics that you measure. And so if I take like an example through that, let's say the business objective is maximizing sales, great. We want to maximize our sales. The digital objective would be like, okay, assuming we sell through our website, we need to drive qualified traffic to our website. Okay, cool. Now the digital strategy, how do we drive traffic to websites in 2020? Okay, probably Facebook or Google, maybe some Instagram for the sake of this example. Let's use Facebook. Okay, the digital tactic, what are we going to use? Are we going to use video link posts? Are we going to use carousel ads? Okay, sure.
Charlie Grinnell: How are we going to measure that? Are we gonna use clicks? Are we gonna use click through rate? Are we going to use site traffic conversion rate? What is it? And so I think by starting that top down and making sure that things are linked together and that you can tie back the tactics that you're doing up the chain to how it contributes to the overarching business objective. That's something that I think is really important for social media managers to know and marketers in general, right? Like during this time. I think that's the way that we're going to have to work as we move out of this. Based on the comments that I said earlier about how I think that marketing is going to go under the microscope. It's never been more important to make sure that what you're doing goes up the ladder and contributes to the business as a whole.
Mike Payne: Yeah, really, really tracking that return on investment, whether that's sales or something else, but that's all articulated in the goal is what you're saying?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, exactly.
Mike Payne: Awesome.
Mitzi Payne: Cool. All right. This has been so good. We're going to jump into our second last question here that we'd like to ask every guest. What brands or individuals do you think are making waves online right now?
Charlie Grinnell: Oh, such a good one. I had a lot of fun actually going through there. There was a bunch that I was looking at. I think one that I really love is Netflix and I think that they just do such a great job of taking long form content and then putting it on social to drive viewership. I think what I'm always really interested with them is also how they niche down their accounts. So what I mean by niche down their accounts, they have an account called... I believe it's Strong Black Lead and it talks about... it's a theme account that's based on shows and content that has a strong black lead actor. And so I thought that was a really cool way of niching down into different communities. It's amazing that a brand like that is able to do that because I think the social media nerd in me thinks about the operations behind the scenes, who's running that account, the content you're creating, all those different things.
Charlie Grinnell: I think it's so smart and it's just been cool to watch that from the outside and also enjoy a lot of that content. So I think Netflix is a big winner for me. I just recently finished Tiger King-
Mitzi Payne: Oh, man.
Charlie Grinnell: ... over here and-
Mitzi Payne: Oh, my goodness. We need a whole other episode just to talk about that.
Charlie Grinnell: ... I know that, I feel like that needs like a PhD thesis or something.
Mike Payne: We're not qualified.
Mitzi Payne: Maybe we need to start a podcast, a walking podcast or whatever. Every watch podcast.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So I heard there's a new episode coming out. I think it's in two days from now, April 12th there's one more episode. So...
Mitzi Payne: What?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, April 12th I think. And it's like an after show.
Mitzi Payne: Ah, oh my gosh.
Charlie Grinnell: So add that into your to do list.
Mitzi Payne: Definitely.
Charlie Grinnell: But yeah, I think Netflix has done a great job. There's another guy on Instagram that I follow and his name is... I'm just going to pull it up here on my phone, so bear with me. His name is Pablo Rochat, I'm probably not pronouncing this right. Pablo Rochat and he's an art director and his account on Instagram is so interesting. And basically what he does is he kind of plays with like different optical illusions in the feed. And so it's hard for me to probably explain it on the podcast, but I would recommend it's Pablo.Rochat, R-O-C-H-A-T on Instagram. He's a very, very talented guy and he's kind of building content that's related pop culture. It's related to meme culture and Instagram and that sort of thing. And that's another one that I really get a kick out of.
Mitzi Payne: Love it.
Mike Payne: So the last question that we have is about what you're currently working on in that. Feel free to get granular on this because we know that RightMetric is your thing but more specifically, what are you personally working on right now? And then ultimately where listeners can connect with you.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, so obviously working on building RightMetric as a solution for marketers, that solves a challenge. In terms of me personally, I'm trying to do more stuff like this. I'm an awful writer, so I'm trying to write a little bit more content. I'm trying to share some of the experiences that I've had. I do that on LinkedIn, so LinkedIn is probably best to get at me. I actually have a URL that points to my LinkedIn profile, so if you go to connectwithcharlie.com that'll just take you to my LinkedIn account. We're also going to be doing a ton of blog content, so RightMetric.co/blog is where you can find our stuff there. I'm actually in the process of starting up a podcast. It's called Measure What Matters. I haven't released any episodes yet, but it'll be on our blog once it goes live in a little while.
Mitzi Payne: Exciting.
Mike Payne: That's awesome, dude. You're a busy man.
Charlie Grinnell: Just trying to keep all the balls in the air. We have all this extra time now that we've been spending inside, right?
Mitzi Payne: Yeah.
Mike Payne: Yeah, I've got to make the most of it.
Mitzi Payne: Awesome.
Mike Payne: Well, thanks so much for being on the show with us today, man. I think there's a lot of great takeaways from this conversation and our listeners are going to love it.
Charlie Grinnell: Thank you guys so much for having me. I really appreciate it and excited to see where you guys go from here as well.
Make your digital strategy bulletproof.
Get insights like these, customized for your audience and competitors.Learn about Research-AS-A-SERVICE →