I am really pleased to interview Samuel Pavin, the marketing lead at ilab UQ Accelerator.
Samuel loves to help startups, small business and corporations to grow. With over 31K followers on Twitter, he is one of those guys who really love engaging with community. He is well known for being very approachable on social media and love to discuss brand strategies and digital marketing.
Q) To start with, tell us how did you started such a successful career in the digital Industry? What made you pick this particular career? Who motivated you to choose this career path?
Good day. It is my pleasure to be here. As far as the digital industry is concerned, it is not necessarily the career I chose initially. It is more of a career that chose me along the way. I studied foreign languages, applied to business and trade (Masters degree – a curriculum similar to business schools), and the “career” path was more sales/exports oriented. I started working right away as a sales assistant in a fleet management industry for 4 years.
Next, I moved to Scotland where I worked with IBM (European business partner programs). Finally, after two years I was offered a marketing role with IBM France and that is what actually started my interest in digital marketing and social media.
If I would have to name one person who influenced me, it would be Jean-Christophe Dichant, a colleague at that time. He was very involved in social media and definitely passed his love to me.
Q) While we are on the topic of exploring work experience, tell us about the highlights of your inspirational journey towards becoming a digital marketing professional and social media strategist?
The journey has been a learning journey. From traditional marketing and consulting for 250+ SMEs (within my IBM role) to growing my skills and scope by launching IBM’s initiative for startups in France (IBM Global Entrepreneur) in an intrapreneurial capacity. And being an intrapreneur meant, like in any startup-like environment, doing it all; including creating the marketing, strategy, messages, materials and reaching out to various audiences, first and foremost being startups.
So my digital and social media journey has been deeply intertwined with the entrepreneurial ecosystem – and all the latest tech and news in digital and social media. Since, I was helping startups, doing consulting and mentorship, becoming a strategist came naturally with requests from companies.
Q) Digital and social media marketing is already doing wonders. How do you see social media marketing in future? In your opinion, what would be the trends in social media next year?
There are a few obvious – and easy – takes like the continuing growth of digital. A lot of businesses still do not leverage digital marketing or social media and even more do actually have social accounts but with no defined purpose. There is still a learning curve and that will keep improving and growing.
Today, video is conquering the world and, in a similar way, has huge potential for growth – especially considering the progress of technology and what is coming with augmented reality offering new opportunities.
I also think that we may see an increasing trend leading to more personalized marketing. Even on social media, groups and communities are growing. There is also less dispersion over social platforms (people choosing some preferred ones, companies buying each other, some shiny new ones crashing, …). In a way, the social world is shrinking and it tends to get closer to what you would see in China with WeChat, one platform to do more or less everything.
We are not going to get to that point but Facebook are clearly aiming to build something similar by integrating their various platforms and new services (payment for instance).
One last question mark I have for now is about how smartphones are going to evolve (AR functionalities, new tech…) and the potential impact on digital.
Q) With extensive experience and skills in digital and social media marketing, how do you see their importance for startups especially e-commerce startups?
Let me say it, it is crucial for all startups and/or SMEs. Social media have actually facilitated the growth of startups. They have allowed smaller businesses with far less means to get their brand out there and compete with giants based on quality, creativity, service and interactions rather than stay lost in the crowd just because of lack of financial means.
Q) Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat are undoubtedly the most popular social media platforms. As an experienced marketer, how do you identify which platform to use to market a certain type of business? Can you give us some examples?
That is a good question, and actually a very important thing to consider for businesses. It does not make sense to be everywhere just for the sake of it. What matters is having a presence where their audience and prospects are. Now, without thinking too much, we usually know that if a business is targeting businesses (B2B), being on LinkedIn would prove more fruitful than Facebook. And the other way around if you are trying to promote a customer-focused brand (B2C).
I do not like to fit everything in boxes so what I have found out is that you can also find success by promoting a brand on a platform that is not necessarily the best initial fit. Why? Because if you do so, either you suck or you have to be bold and creative; in which case, you are most likely delivering engaging content.
Q) Failure is an essential part of success but not everyone is bold enough to admit! How do you see failures? What were the obstacles and hardships you faced while earning a name in the tech world?
Failure is part of our everyday. It is a learning process. We do all fail at some point. We all make mistakes. The main difference and a winning trait in people is to actually learn from these and not repeat mistakes. I faced so many hardships that it is difficult to pinpoint just a few. However, leaving everything behind and moving to Australia created a fairly big obstacle. I moved to the one part of the world where I did not have a network. Where I had far less “influence” than I did in Europe or, at a lower level, in the USA.
So I had to rebuild a network, and then, a reputation built on these foundations. Mind you, this is still work in progress. There is more to life than fame or money. That is life itself.
Q) Social media is all about hitting it right when needed. Can you mention five essential elements that are bound to be included in every social media marketing strategy?
It is about hitting it right at a certain time but that comes with experience. However, at a given moment, the timing, the hashtags, the visuals and/or the message is crucial. Leveraging the network and influencers would also play a crucial role in delivering the message.
There is also a dimension that is specific to the network(s) and audience you are targeting.
Telling an actual story on Linkedin, right now seems to be getting 10x more engagement than a regular post. At the same time, a simple image on Facebook may prove the winning trick.
Beyond the content, tailoring the message to the network will prove crucial.
Q) Content is often seen as the pinnacle of a good marketing strategy. How important is content marketing in your eyes?
Content marketing is something I started doing about 10 years ago so I would say it is truly important in my eyes. The main change has been that content has evolved in its present form over the years. Nowadays video is the golden goose of content, but podcasts are also making a comeback and a killing.
As for written content, my original sin, I have seen it go from long to short form and back to long(er) form. In any case, content allows a brand to tell their story (if they do it right) and differentiate themselves from the competition, position themselves as an expert, etc. Advertising in its traditional form is dying.
Customers do not want to be slapped by ads and billboards. They want to be talked to, they want a dialog. Hence content is crucial as a conversation starter, and social media is the medium to pursue the conversation.
Q) Being an influential person in the digital fraternity, what would you advise beginners who want to make it big in the digital marketing industry?
Well, there are 2 paths. One is bullshit, vanity metrics and cat pictures. That works very well looking at the amount of “influencers” out there.
The second path is actually the same as a brand’s. Build your personal brand on content. Show your skills, get out there and mingle with your peers. Our current world, and social media, have opened infinite horizons. You could talk to marketers in Japan, China or Peru and build your network and reputation. Grow your presence by focusing and delivering and, most importantly, keep growing your expertise and stay relevant.
Q) As an author and mentor, you must have gotten the opportunity to mingle with all sorts of people and I am sure you love that. Please share your experience about conferences, meetups and mentorship sessions. We would be glad if you tell us about people you have met, your mentorship sessions and any great encounter.
There are so many it is hard to pick one. But the key takeaway from events or meetups, even mentoring sessions, is to put yourself out there. Any public event proves valuable only if you can talk to people, make new contacts and generate opportunities or, at least, increase and improve your network.
The first step is to kick your own butt when you are a little shy or just feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of people around (in conferences or large meetups). The second step is to make a plan. Always prepare, again, especially for conferences with large crowds and little availability from speakers or attendees. Leverage the program, check social media for people going there and make a list of people you want to meet. Ideally engage beforehand, via social media, so you can then meet people you “know”.
As for people, I have met a lot so it is hard to pick some but to name a few superstars, I would say Diana Adams. She is a Queen of social media and a genuinely awesome human being. While we had been connected on Twitter forever, I only finally met Diana in person this year at the Huawei Analyst Summit in Shenzhen (China) – we are both Huawei Key Opinion Leaders.
Another inspiring person is Stefano Cutello. He is an entrepreneur, founder of Pastbook and the image of success through hard work. We actually met in Lithuania, in 2012, as we both were speakers at the event Silicon Valley Comes to the Baltics. Last, closer to home, I recently met a 17 years old entrepreneur, Scott Millar (BOP), while mentoring at a Founderfest event and I have only good words to say about him. Great person and work ethics – and, hey, running a successful business while in year 12 at high school.
Q) Good friends from the same profession are a pure blessing for everyone. Who are your friends in the digital fraternity?
Everybody is my friend 🙂 But to name a few, Diana of course, the likes of Adel (who you are interviewing too), Mordecai Holtz from Israel, Shaan Haider, Dubai, etc. It’s a worldwide gang of great minds and humans.
Q) Startup culture is flourishing globally and Australia is on the verge of becoming a startup hub. What are your views on this proliferation of entrepreneurial energy? Which recent Australian startup grabbed your eye?
Australia, compared to other ecosystems, is only getting started. I launched and led IBM Global Entrepreneur in France 7 years ago and Australia, right now, reminds me of France’s situation at that time. The Australian startup world is only learning to walk on its two legs 🙂
And that is awesome to be part of it – again. I am in Brisbane and the notion of startup hub truly resonates here as the Government and the whole entrepreneurial community are joining forces to build solid foundations and launch the rocket that is the startup ecosystem.
The acceleration I have witnessed – and been part of – is incredible and it is only the beginning. Australia has a tactical position in the Asia-Pacific region and the opportunity to become a dominant force in the future when it comes to startups but it also needs to take action now to facilitate and enable that growth.
As far as the question about startups catching my eye, the likes of Maxwell MRI, Microba, Movus or Redback Technologies are doing amazing things and growing at an incredible pace. I should also add BOP, not the biggest of the bunch but that is Scott Millar’s startup and, if only for the founder, one to watch too.
Q) Ok, enough professional talk! Let’s have a little fun round. I’ll hurl a quick burst of rapid fire dual-choice questions that means you need to choose one of the answers in a blink of an eye.
Instagram or SnapChat? Instagram.
Neil Patel or Seth Godin? None. But should I choose, Seth, definitely.
Tea or Coffee? Both, in large quantities.
Samsung or Apple? Huawei 🙂 I also have Apple products and Samsung is a strong never.
Reddit or Quora? Quora.
Q) Digital campaigns are made to go viral and this route – when successful – leads to a spike in traffic on websites. Have you had any bad hosting experiences as a result of viral marketing content? What do you think about managed cloud hosting solutions like Cloudways?
I did not experience actual issues myself – it takes being prepared for it – but saw quite a lot of companies face these problems. I think the word “managed” is the important one here. Cloud hosting is good but managed cloud is great, if done well, because it is a way for any company to get rid of the management and forecast problems. And focus solely on the business.
Having the capacity to add power on demand and as requested is crucial.
Q) Obviously, everyone desires some time to enjoy personal endeavours. What do you prefer doing in your leisure time? What are your other interests outside of the world of technology?
I live by the beach so I do enjoy SUP (stand up paddling) and sports in general. Being in Australia, we do also enjoy traveling around. It is amazing to see the diversity of places and landscapes.
Q) Samuel, thank you so much for the interview. Lastly,Can you show us your work desk because our audience will love to see how a digital influencer like you rolls at work.
There you go. That is actually one of my desks – at ilab, startup space and accelerator, at the University of Queensland.