Haegwan Kim (HK); Today I’m going to talk with Renee Blodgett, who is the founder and CEO of Magic Sauce Media and the Editor & Founder of We Blog the World.
Renee Blodgett (RB); Thanks for coming all the way from London to San Francisco.
HK; Why and when did you decide to be an entrepreneur in the field of social media?
RB; It’s an interesting question. I never made a decision to ‘become’ a social media entrepreneur – social media just came. Openness and new tools hit the world by storm, and unless you embraced it, regardless of what business you were in, you weren’t going to succeed in the long term. So, I had to be there and embrace I did.
HK: Do you have any routine on a daily basis to improve your business and life?
RB: Great question. There are a number of things, but for one, I proactively do four to six personal and professional development activities per year. And that can come in the way of conferences or events; or just trekking up a mountain and being silent.
HK; How have you promoted your works as a specialist of social media and as a CEO?
RB; It’s a way of thinking, and it’s a way of being, meaning it’s integrated into my DNA. Everything I do has a promotional element to it, whether its attending an event, doing a blog post, sending out a tweet or helping connect two companies together.
When I sit next to someone on a bus, I constantly engage and interact with people, I also think about how I might be able to help them. Can I connect that person with one of my clients? Can I connect that person with somebody I know in the industry? When you’re out there and trying to engage and connect with people, then you’re really providing true value.
HK; You also created We Blog the World, which is a platform where people around the world can post and share their own thoughts and value. Why did you start this?
RB; Because it had to be done. As an avid traveler and as someone who has lived in 11 countries, I discovered there was really no place on the web where you could go and read about exactly what you wanted on a particular topic that you were passionate about. There’s lot of niche sites that you can go to and read about cars or food and wine, or read about Argentina travel, but there’s no central place to go for just food and wine in Paris…..I’d have to sift through too many sites and Google isn’t a good filter for that.
So I thought about all the amazing people that I knew around the world and countless other people, that they must know and I thought isn’t this an extension of what I do already? So why not extend it. Not through a social network but through a blog platform. I envision people who are participating and contributing – they’re all telling their untold stories about what they’re passionate about and through their voices, they’re going to connect with each other and provide even more value to each other and to the network as a whole.
HK; Was there a demand or was there a request from others to make We Blog the World?
HK; So you just wanted to make it happen?
RB; I think that’s part of why a lot of entrepreneurs do things; they do it because there’s not a solution that solves a specific problem they want solved or a product or service that must be created. If it’s not there and they’re passionate enough about it, they set out to make it happen. So, I had to build this – I love to write, I love to travel, I love to connect people together so it’s a perfect venture for me. Remember that it’s not just about travel: it’s about culture, it’s about new ideas, it’s about innovation, it’s about creativity and it’s global.
HK; What are your thoughts on what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur?
RB; I work with a lot of entrepreneurs and CEOs. When I think back to when I’ve done it right and when they do it right, it boils down to the same thing: Don’t Lose Sight of Your Vision. What often happens when you start your creation is that it’s all too easy to get lost along the way, because a venture capitalist says no, you need to do it this way or someone else interferes or plants doubt. Or, six other chefs in the kitchen come and say “that’s a bad idea.” If you really believe in your vision just, you need to cut out the noise and just stay focused on your vision. Take a look at this analogy: if you’ve ever played squash or tennis, you know that after you hit the ball you go back to the center of the court – dead center. Here you can eye where your competitor is going and know where to next hit the ball. The same applies in business: if you’re constantly chasing the ball, or chasing after yet another idea that someone throws your way, you lose sight of your vision. You have to remember to come back to center and do it again and again. Here you can stay grounded and from that place, you’ll stay focused and move towards your goals and more importantly, your vision.
HK; What is your first vision?
RB; My vision for Magic Sauce Media came out of the fact that I felt that PR, Marketing and Communications in the new ‘open and always-on’ world, was broken. It broken with the onslaught of social media yet it didn’t need to be broken – social media is just another avenue to tell your story. It has opened up countless places to tell your story and do it in an authentic way. If only the industry looked at it as an opportunity rather than approached it with panic……
Let’s look at traditional PR101: you sat down, looked at all of your target audiences which included media. You spent time and learned what they cared about, you read their work and you paid attention to how they thought – from this place, you reached out and established a relationship which you nurtured over time. With social media, it’s no different – it’s just more transparent than it’s ever been in the past.
HK; What is your perspective on the next big thing on the web?
RB; We’re being hit with a lot of things on the web right now. The thing that keeps a lot of people awake at night is privacy on mobile devices and on your social networks. Also, the explosion of geo-location services. I just saw a survey the other day that rougly 30% of people who are prolific on social networks fear a loss of privacy. They say the early adopters and the social media folks are less concerned about privacy, but at the end of the day, it’s affecting everyone and we don’t really know what the implications are going to be in the long term. Whether we’re talking about geo-location services or social networks on the web or our mobile phones, all of it impacts our privacy. The other is augmented reality, because that’s coming sooner than we can imagine.
HK; You are known as a social media specialist. How can we optimize the power of social media?
RB; Consolidation and getting rid of the silos. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m hit with yet another invitation to yet another network. Something could hit the market tomorrow that will make Facebook look like the fax machine. We don’t really know.
So, I think it’s important to constantly monitor the stuff that’s coming out, but I also believe that we need to consolidate the services we use regularly so we can become more productive with what we already use. HootSuite is a good example. They consolidate all of my feeds into one place so that I can look at my LinkedIn and my Facebook and manage four, five or six Twitter accounts if I need to at any given time. We can also view the analytics in some of these tools as well. We need to encourage engineers to stop over-engineering. Simplify, simplify, simplify and make things easier for us to use. Consolidate and just make us more productive rather than add more and more features. At the end of the day, we need tools to sift through the noise and cut out that noise.
HK; As social media develops, our communication is becoming more and more open and at the same time complex. How we can overcome the cultural difference between them?
RB; I think this is one of the most exciting things about social media. When I was a child, I had to pick up a pen and paper, and send an old fashioned letter – I had well over a 100 pen pals around the world so for people like me who love to communicate and engage with people from diverse cultures, social media tools and platforms that allow me to communicate quickly and easily is the Holy Grail. Skype has been the Holy Grail.
Some say that blogs are dead, but there I think there will be a return to more in-depth thoughts after our brains become too saturated with a world of 140 characters or less. Finding global voices you can connect with and then reaching out to them will help break down barriers. You’re likely going to connect on something that you’re both passionate about and that’s powerful. This is another reason why I developed We Blog the World. I think instead of focusing so much on our differences, we should focus on the things and ideas that bring us together and that we’re passionate about. This approach and way of looking at the world is going to break down barriers.
HK; What is your definition of success?
RB; There’s so many good answers for that question but I’m going to go with the answer in my gut. The first thing that came to mind was inner calm. By inner calm, I mean inner calm in the middle of the storm. If you’re faced with a crisis, get grounded. When you’re grounded, a funny thing happens – the crisis dissolves and goes away. When things are exploding around you or the company is in trouble and you’re facing a financial crisis, get to a place of inner calm and stay focused on what you want to achieve. Return to your vision and this will also bring you the inner calm you need to be successful long term. Being in this state will make you not only successful in your professional life but your personal life as well, because at the end of the day, if you’re not successful in your personal life, there is no sustainable success.
HK; Do you have any advice for those who are struggling to find a solution to being successful?
RB; Talk to everybody, no matter where you are. Reach out, have a conversation, even if it’s a short one, and find out what that person’s about – and what they care about. Bottom line – you just never know what kind of connection you can make. There’s always a student and there’s always a teacher, and sometimes when you think that you’re the teacher you actually end up being the student instead. So I think it’s really important always to have an open mind, because you can learn from everybody.
That’s number one. Number two: Build a team, I’ll call them angels and I don’t mean angel investors. Find a financial angel, meaning someone who advises you on your financials. Find a spiritual angel or advisor, and find the best one out there – don’t cut corners. There’s no point reinventing the wheel find out who is the best in a particular category, and go to that person or someone who was directly trained by them.
Lastly, in order to be successful you have to be grounded. There’s a really great book: The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz, which was originally designed for sports athletes, and a lot of their ideas have been also applied in business. It reminds you to go back to centre and re-ignite yourself – take time off to give yourself more fuel when you’re about to run out. When you’re constantly going 6,000 miles an hour and working 20 hour days, you’re always on ‘burn,’ and have no time to refuel yourself. Only when you refuel and recharge can you be any use to anyone including yourself.
So I would say talk to everyone; build a great team, including an incredible set of angels/advisors and make sure you refuel.