30 One-Sentence Lessons from Social Media Week NYC 2016

Social Media Week New York 2016 took place from February 22-26 and I was lucky enough

Social Media Week NYC Comedy Central
Social Media Week NYC Comedy Central

to plant myself in NYC and soak in all the social media wisdom I could.  Here some of the tactical lessons I took away from Social Media Week NYC 2016:

  1. Get really good at using Facebook Pixels to target your clients and prospects.
  2. People who aren’t yet raving fans of your company shouldn’t receive offers on social media, warm them up with inspirational, funny, or wildly informative stuff.
  3. Worrying about your follower count instead of your follower engagement is like worrying about sales and not worrying about profit.
  4. The internet is no longer about how to get people to come to your site, it’s about how do you bring your company to people.
  5. The best way to get your company in front of people is by creating excellent content, and posting it on social media where if your content is good enough people will trade their time for paying attention to your company.
  6. Focus on one social handle per social media channel (1 Twitter handle, 1 Instagram handle, 1 Facebook page) and make it really good, don’t divide your attention between multiple handles.
  7. Comedy is the #1 thing that works on social media.
  8. For the first time in measurable history, more people associate themselves with their sense of humour than any other aspect of their personality (more than their ethnicity, religion, educational background, citizenship, etc).
  9. Instagram can be slightly edgier than Facebook because the demographic skews 5-7 years younger.

    Social Media Week NYC Panel
    Social Media Week NYC Panel
  10. Don’t automate anything besides collecting analytics.
  11. The Wall Street Journal has 26 individuals on it’s social media team, CNN has 40, Mashable has 18.
  12. The use of ad-blockers is increasing at a rate of 65% per year (and getting faster).
  13. In a 2-3 year period it’s reasonable to think that websites will not be able to make money with banner ads because of the use of ad-blockers.
  14. The four marketing P’s (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) are being replaced by the 4 E’s (Experience, Value Equation, Everywhere, Engagement). NOTE: the “E’s” need some explanation, email me at taren.gesell@gmail.com for clarification.
  16. Buzzfeed has had the best success creating content that doesn’t drive people back to their website, rather they do the best with content that is meant to only live on social media (NOTE: It is speculated that Buzzfeed is worth $1.5 billion dollars).
  17. Square videos and photos, on average, generate the largest amount of mobile screen real estate.
  18. Buzzfeed says that using people and faces in their videos, as opposed to products only, always works better.
  19. Sharing content is now done on a more intimate level with just several close friends who would like the content, as opposed to posting the content publicly for all followers to see (Ie. “Oh I bet Chris, Dave and Pat would really like this article.”)
  20. The majority of videos watched on Facebook are watched without sound.
  21. CNN startup subsidiary Great Big Story cares very little about designing his website for desktops because more than 80% of their traffic is mobile.
  22. 360 video today is where YouTube was 7 years ago; lots of people are searching for good video but very few people are creating good video.
  23. If you’re looking at your traffic stats and wondering what “Direct” traffic is: it’s social traffic from mobile social apps.
  24. 70% of social media sharing is “Dark” and will not be attributed to social media web traffic because it appears within “Direct Traffic”.
  25. 50% of all traffic that comes from social media will be buried within “Direct traffic”.
  26. A Shareable brand = BEING DARING + BEING UNIQUE
  27. There is no reason to be sitting in brainstorming about what you think your customers might like on social media, Facebook already knows the answer so start testing and retesting with small campaigns and seeing what your customers respond best to.
  28. Social media allows tiny social media focused companies to compete with mega-brands who have “buy an NFL stadium money” (Ie. You can be damn sure Gillette is worried about Dollar Shave Club even though it’s less than 1/100th the size).
  29. The pinnacle of advertising used to be the Super Bowl which cost over $10 million dollars and was either a smash hit (in which case your ad would be lumped in with all the other smash hits) or it was a spectacularly expensive failure, if you were to spend $10 million dollars on a social media campaign you would be almost assured success.
  30. Social media has unlimited scale; if you spend more you will be guaranteed to have your content distributed to more people, the same can’t be said for traditional media.

    Social Media Week NYC Fear of Being Offline
    Social Media Week NYC Fear of Being Offline



How Snapchat Will Change Small Business Marketing in 2016

Taren Gesell Snapcode
Taren Gesell Snapcode

Mark my words, 2016 is going to be know as The Year of the Snap and within the next year it will become far more mainstream.  

Snapchat will soon pivot from an app traditionally known as a fun “photo texting” app for teenagers and people who want to send disappearing photos of their private parts, to a service that the mass market will adopt as a fun way of communicating and a meaningful way for companies or individuals to build brand equity and a meaningful connection with their consumers.

Now, I’m going to focus on the last comment and how it can help people in business. 

How people were glued to TV in the 50s
How people were glued to TV in the 50s

PREAMBLE: Attention is the currency of this generation.  Fifty years ago brands advertised on the radio, television, in newspapers, or even on billboards because there were so few options for consumers to entertain themselves with (remember when there were only three channels?).  Today, can you think of the last time you actually payed attention to a TV commercial if you couldn’t PVR your way through it? How about radio; do you ever listen to commercial-free satellite radio or listen to podcasts instead? And billboards: for goodness sake, look to your left and right the next time you’re in traffic, I can almost guarantee one of those two people will look at their phones once within a minute.  How can billboard advertisers claim that drivers are looking at their signs, drivers aren’t even looking at the road! 

How People Watch TV Today
How People Watch TV Today

What are people paying attention to? Their phones.  Whether it’s surfing the web, using an app, or connecting with friends on social media, people are spending more and more time staring at their phones.  They’re now spending huge amounts of the time that they previously spent looking at traditional advertisements, looking at their phone in some way shape or form.

How can businesspeople benefit from this knowledge that eyeballs are increasingly being pointed at phones, and specifically how does this relate to Snapchat? Simply speaking, where attention is money follows.


  • Twitter: Twitter isn’t dead but Twitter has a massive attention issue.  Early on the culture of Twitter became about following massive amounts of people who you likely had no personal connection to.  This now plays out in most individual’s Twitter streams being far too “noisy” for those looking to advertise or build a brand on Twitter to be able to effectively cut through the clutter. 
  • Facebook: Facebook is an excellent medium and far from even reaching it’s peak.  That said, Facebook makes brands or individuals pay if they want to build a following on Facebook. So unless you’ve got a bundle of cash to build “Facebook Likes”, this might not be the best option for all businesses.
  • Instagram: Instagram has huge amount of attention paid to it, in fact I would go so far as to say that as of writing this article in January 2016 Instagram has the highest amount of attention paid on a per post basis.  That said, Instagram is becoming noisy with A LOT of people on it, and because it is so heavily based on users simply viewing photos and not interacting with other Instagram members that it is hard to build deep connections with passionate followers.

I would go so far as to say that I would much rather have 1,000 watching my Snapchat Stories, than 100,000 following me on Twitter because if 1,000 watch my Snapchat Story I can almost guarantee that nearly all of those 1,000 people are actually consuming (ie. watching) my content.


snapchat founder evan spiegel
snapchat founder evan spiegel

Snapchat is dominating the attention game right now. Beyond that, Snapchat is dominating the authenticity game right now.  

Snaps (which basically are just photos and videos) sent directly to one of your contacts on Snapchat, or Snapchat Stories which are available for all of your Snapchat followers to view, only last 24 hours and then disappear.  This disappearance means that people on Snapchat become addicted to viewing each and every Snap that is put up on Snapchat; because they don’t want to miss it.  In other words, there is a HUUUUUUUUUUGE amount of attention being paid to Snapchat.  And remember what I said, where attention is money follows.

Also, Snapchat snaps and Snapchat stories have to be taken within Snapchat; they cannot be shot with your camera app then customized, filtered, edited, etc, to make you look better than you actually did in the original picture.  This results in Snaps being very raw, authentic, off the cuff.

Here’s how I think it will help change business: Snapchat will level the playing field between marketing Davids & Goliaths.  Big companies might be able to outspend small companies, but small companies can always out-authentic and out-creative big companies. Snapchat gives small companies a medium with which they can build deep, lasting, authentic connections with end consumers at a fraction of the price of advertising in traditional mediums.  Small businesses who want to build a business that competes with large companies will be able to succeed more often than they were able to in the past.

Why is Snapchat able to help small companies and individuals more than other social media services have in the past?  First, Snapchat has a lot of attention being paid to it. Second, Snapchat is authentic.


People LIKE brands they TRUST

Consumers BUY from those they TRUST

So here’s the bottom line: if you’re a small business or individual looking get an immense bang for your marketing effort buck, while at the same time building genuine connections based on trust and respect with your consumers YOU NEED TO GET YOURSELF ON SNAPCHAT.


Thanks for reading everyone! If you want to connect and follow my triathlon training, life married to Kim Babij-Gesell, and life as social media grand poo-bah you can check me out on Snapchat at “ARaceTaren” or downloading my Snapchat Snapcode at the top of the article.


10 Lessons from Steve Jobs, The World’s Most Visionary Asshole

Steve Jobs Holding iPhone
Steve Jobs Holding iPhone

I just finished reading the incredibly well done 600-page Steve Jobs autobiography, which I surprised myself with by ploughing through the book in about five days. I absolutely could not put this story down. The bedroom, the dinner table, the couch, the *ahem* bathroom was all fair game, this book is officially red flagged Seinfeld-style.

Steve Jobs was one of the most visionary people in history, yes history.  Forget being prophetic in the 20th/21st century, or the tech industry, Jobs created product after product that completely disrupted existing industries and he created these products without any market research, doing so on his own gut instinct of what consumers wanted.  Few people in history have changed cultures around the world the way Steve Jobs did.

That said, (albeit I obviously didn’t know him personally) Steve Jobs might also be one of the rudest people I have ever read about.  He was rude to family, disowning his daughter and claiming he wasn’t her father (despite a paternity test confirming otherwise) for nearly the entire first ten years of her life.  He was rude to friends, refusing to give his best friend Daniel Kotte who became employee number 13 at Apple any stock options because he felt he wasn’t worthy of them.  He was rude to coworkers, calling many of their ideas “shit”, “the worst thing he’s ever seen.” And on and on and on.

The book portrays Steve Jobs in his early years as visionary, but hampered by his rudeness.  Midway through the book (and Steve Jobs’ life) the writer elegantly, without my realizing it, pivots Jobs’ salty demeanour towards more of a salty-but wildly effective style of management that became the key driver of saving Apple from certain bankruptcy.

Steve Jobs with Macintosh
Steve Jobs with Macintosh

By the end of the book you realize how effective Steve Jobs was in his career, and how his leadership style -asshole and all- was critical in shaping the world we now know today.  Here are of the most important takeaways I had that anyone can apply to their careers:

  1. Great Products over Great Profits.  Steve Jobs’ was obsessed with creating “Insanely Great” products; he cut no corners, spared no expense, and demanded an unbelievably high standard of perfection from his team. He did this while launching Apple and creating a billion dollar company, and he did this same thing when saving Apple in the late 90s.  This lead to the products that have shaped our culture: the Macintosh, the iPod, the iPhone.  He openly criticized focusing on profits first as mid-80s to early-90s Apple CEO John Sculley saying “Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money.  It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything: the people you hire, who gets promoted, what you discuss in meetings.”
  2. Be Yourself, Even if You’re an Asshole.  Jobs knew what he was good at and he did it extremely well, even though that meant that he was really good at being rude in order to focus his company on creating only exceptional products.  Never, throughout the hundreds of pages of the book do you get a sense that Steve Jobs was trying to be something he wasn’t (as source of inner turmoil for many people).  Jobs said “My job is to say when something sucks rather than sugarcoat it.” As the author says “Polite and velvety leaders who take care to avoid bruising others, are generally not as effective in forcing change.” I don’t mean this to say that you should try to be an ass like Steve Jobs was, but you should be honest enough and create a culture in your company where you can be candid, even if it might hurt someone’s feelings.
  3. Draft and Retain Only A-Players. A great deal of Steve Jobs’ focus was spent wooing stars from other companies to come to Apple, then weeding through the team members getting rid of those who weren’t outstanding.  He said that he learned through his ownership of Pixar that A-Players only want to work with A-Players, and he created two-multi billion dollar companies (Apple and Pixar) built on getting A-Players then getting those A-Players to work like superstars.  Steve said that many managers, for financial reasons or perhaps because they’re threatened that A-Players will take their job, focus on getting B-Players and trying to get A-Performance out of them, which simply doesn’t happen because you develop a B-culture and any A-Players who are in such a company become discouraged by the ragtag bunch they’re stuck with.
  4. Build One Company and only ONE COMPANY.  This sounds stupid, but when you think about it the way that companies are typically organized is stupid.  Companies typically have divisions, cells, business lines, industry focuses, whatever you want to call them, each with their own planning, budgeting, targets, systems, often competing with the other divisions within their own company for resources.  Steve Jobs organized Apple in such a way that each and every decision maker knew what the rest of the company was doing, he did this so that they could collaborate and work towards the one single goal of making Apple -not their division- successful.  Current CEO Tim Cook explains, “We don’t have ‘divisions’ with their own P&L (profit and loss), we run one P&L for the company.”
  5. Tell Market Research to Kiss Off.  Steve Jobs rarely, if ever, did market research to find out what consumers wanted.  Rather, he saw where people’s desires and habits were trending and he drove towards creating “insanely great” products that met consumers at the exact time they were ready to adopt those products.  Think about it, no one knew they needed to operate a computer that had a graphical (picture based) user interface or a mouse before the Macintosh came out, nobody knew they absolutely needed a cell phone that had millions of different downloadable Apps with which they could use every day.  To quote Steve who was quoting Henry Ford (damn quotes get points across so well) “Our job is to figure out what they’re going to before they do.  I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse. People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” This is certainly true when creating wildly innovative products and services.

Those five tips are very big picture, but Steve Jobs also had several habits that I find to be excellent useful tidbits of day-to-day Steve:

  1. YOU decide when meetings start.  When the Pixar team, which at the time was a division of LucasFilm, was negotiating the purchase of Pixar with Steve Jobs they had a plan to seize control of a meeting by having their CFO walk into a negotiation meeting late.  At the time the meeting was scheduled to start the CFO, LucasFilm’s most critical person in the negotiation, as planned hadn’t yet arrived.  As the Pixar team sat there grinning and thinking about how they were taking control of the meeting from the “Great Steve Jobs”, Steve proceeded to start the meeting without the CFO present, seizing power for himself and making the CFO look like an idiot for not being on time to such an important meeting.  Beyond being rude, being late to a meeting might cause you to lose your power in that meeting.  If you’re running a meeting and people are late, start anyway, if your time is valuable enough to be in a meeting it’s important not to waste that time by waiting.
  2. Powerpoint is a crutch for people who can’t think. Besides believing that Apple’s “Keynote” presentation software was much better Steve Jobs hated Powerpoint presentations, often stopping them just several slides in.  I’ve often thought that presentation slides were a helpful way of organizing my thoughts to get my point across.  Steve Jobs saw it a different way, and now I do too: “I hate the way people use slide presentations instead of thinking,” Steve said, “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides.  People who know what they’re talking about don’t need Powerpoint.”
  3. Have fun.  This seems simply, but for all the seriousness and brash rudeness of Steve Jobs he still had fun.  In 2010 U2’s Bono injured his back, having to cancel his world tour.  Days later he received a package from Steve Jobs which contained, among other things, a DVD box set of Flight of the Concords and a note which read “Pain Cream-I love this stuff.”.  Flight of the Concords is one of my favourite comedy shows of all time, and it’s probably one of the most pointless and silly.  Even the laser focused Steve Jobs had time to love Flight of the Concords.
  4. Be Charming. This was one of Steve’s most incredible qualities.  Within the same meeting Steve Jobs was able to tell someone their idea was a “Piece of shit,” or “The worst thing he’s ever seen,” only to follow those harsh comments up with a rousing speech that motivated the employee, who he just ripped to shreds, to work hundreds of hours of overtime and accomplish things they believed to be impossible.  Motivation, inspiration, and drive go a long way in leading a team.
  5. Make Your Business and Your Products Romantic.  Think a chunky brick-shaped cell phone is romantic? How about a  glorified USB stick? Probably not, but Steve managed to turn the iPhone and the iPod into cultural icons.  If you’ve ever purchased one of these items you can probably clearly remember the feeling of that suction-cupped “WHOOSH” when opening the box they came in. Or the strangely satisfying feeling of peeling off the wrapping that protects the screen.  Steve understood that experience and perception is everything. He took meticulous care in designing every single interaction an Apple customer would have with his company, and the result is a very clearly distinguishable Apple experience that has developed a cult-like following.  No matter how basic you think your business is, think about how you can make the experience your customer has with your product or service unique to you.

Steve Jobs QuoteWhile Steve Jobs himself said that he could be an ass, often using it to get out of doing things he didn’t want to do, he learned over his lifetime to use his drive, focus, and candidness to direct a company into creating amazing products and services.

Two days into the book I found myself saying to my wife Kim “Steve Jobs sounds like a real idiot, he was an ass and missed the boat on a lot of things.” Just two days later I was enthralled by the unique thought patterns Steve had, the incredible way he saved Apple from the brink of bankruptcy to create the world’s most valuable company, his openness and honest behaviour even when he knew it didn’t make him extremely well-liked.

apple logo and steve jobs
apple logo and steve jobs

By the end of the book I was so emotionally invested in Steve that I shed some tears (which I normally only do while watching a movie where a dog dies to save it’s master, that always gets me).  Those tears are a microcosm of how Steve Jobs captivated the world, not just creating neat products that we use day-to-day, rather his products straddle a line between utility and emotional connection that we wouldn’t feel if it weren’t for Steve Jobs.

New Year, New Job, New Website, New Post

taren gesell new year resolutions 2016It’s now 2016 and this is a year of change for me. Starting on January 18th I’ll officially have left the glamorous world of finance, and be entering the Mountain Dew Code Red-fuelled world of technology as the Social Media Director of Mobile Nations (parent company of iMore, Android Central, Windows Central, and Crackberry).

Now that I’ve left the over-regulated financial services gig my social media muzzle is off. What does that mean? That means that I can spew whatever life musings I have to say on any media I want to say it on: lucky you!

With that said, I’ve created this website for several reasons:

  1.  To act as a landing page from which you can be shipped off to all the different venues I put out content online.
  2. A homepage from which I can be contacted.
  3. Finally, as a place where I can spout off long form content about whatever I damn well please.

The first two items above need no clarification, just kick back and let your eyeballs feast on the visually-delicious social media content I put out on all the mediums I link out to, and if you want to reach me for any reason just hit the “Contact” button that I’ll be (hopefully) building on the main page.

The last item from above might deserve a little more context.  Here are some off the cuff thoughts about what and why I’ll be posting here:

  1. Having gradually lost my passion for finance and subsequently followed my passions for endurance sports and social media, I learned (and am still learning) a lot about the process of finding a more fulfilling ways to spend your 9-5 life.
  2. I believe that anyone -read that literally as ANY-EFFIN-ONE- can make a living (albeit some livings will be better than others) pursuing their passions as opposed to following the standard “get job>work at job>get promotions>save money>retire happy” formula that is the norm in our society.
  3. Over the course of 2015 I tried, and failed, to get into several elite-MBA programs in the US.  While I was ultimately unsuccessful I found the process of applying to these schools immensely introspective, but it also taught me a lot about how young people can
    1. Set themselves up for success if they want to pursue a typical path to business success through schooling and
    2. Who should say “Screw it” and never even think about following the typical path of success.
  4. Posting takes a crap tonne of time, time that I don’t want to spend writing, re-writing, editing, filtering, wordsmithing, blah blah blah. Because of this I’ll be writing the majority of the posts off the cuff with as little pre-thought as possible.  All authentic Taren, all the time…terrifying.
  5. Swearing, hmmmmm. Haven’t decided how careful I should be about that.
  6. Suggest topics for me here, on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, wherever your little heart desires.  I can be reached everywhere at ARaceTaren.

That’s all for now, I’m off to breakfast with the triathlon gang.  Have a tremendous 2016 everyone!

YouTube Video Vlog.001 to kick off 2016: