Wow Zach, This Blog is Lit!

Oh, hello there. How are the 1293 people who read this blog over the last 31 days blog doing? If you have been a regular reader of ZachBussey.com, you know this unusually quiet for me. Over the past 6 years, I’ve generally published a lot more frequently than ‘monthly’. As I sit here with the ‘Add New Post’ page open for the 30th day in a row and nothing getting done, I thought… just write you idiot! So… that’s what this is. If it’s tough to read, I’m sorry… it’s a flow of consciousness. This post will also likely be deleted in the new year and is acting more as a placeholder until then haha.

There are two questions I want to address… and make no mistake, this is just me asking them of myself haha.

  1. Am I still writing?
  2. What’s next?
  3. Also, add in a tl;dr

Am I Still Writing?

YES! Lately, I have been writing more than ever. At the beginning of the year, I made a concerted effort to find a focus for my personal blog. After some deliberation, I realized that my passion was for social media, marketing, and influencers. It’s always been something I wrote about for many years but it was mixed in with the ‘lifestyle content’ that I created. The one problem I was finding pre-2016, was focus… I am a person who is terrible at focusing on ONE thing. I am a Jack of All Trades… so when the year started, I realized that if I wanted to find focus, I needed to get rid of the content that didn’t fit. Thus the lifestyle content went away.

Scotch Camp. October 5, 2016. Caledon, Canada. (photo: Vito Amati/Ryan Emberley Photography)

After finding focus, my business as a writer exploded. You see, lifestyle blogging has never paid my bills. Instead, I’ve always freelanced creating content about various topics for clients. Since focusing on social media and influencers, the demand for my writing spiked. I’ve also been doing a couple speaking gigs here and there, again on the topic of influencers. Doing these things is great, but it does drain the inspiration pool when I’m creating my best stuff for major sites that are paying me. Where I *DO* find writing inspiration is GuyMaven.com, which has largely become me reviewing tech and gear.

Casey introduced me to a tool called Grammarly that edits and tracks your writing on Google Chrome. Over the last month, I’ve averaged 31,000 words per week. If we’re talking about 500-word blog posts (the average blogger post length), that’s 62 of them. If we’re talking full out 3000-word essays, that’s 10 of them… a week. Granted, some of that is emails and Tweets, but the lion share is writing articles for clients. So am I still writing? Yes, a lot. And some of the projects I’ll be able to share soon because it’s the kind of content you would normally read here.

What’s Next?

In addition to writing, I’ve been falling more and more enamored with YouTube. My personal channel has gone through the same thing my blog did – finding a focus. That focus has been BEST LABS, a series dedicated to finding the best of things in a comical, entertaining and silly way. It’s not always serious but it’s definitely resonated with an audience. It’s still random enough to keep me engaged with it, but not so random that it’s just a mess without focus. I also launched a YouTube channel for GuyMaven, where all of my unboxing videos can live instead of them being on my Best Labs channel. Creating a consistent message is so crucial on YouTube.

I also want to revamp this site to deliver more tentpole content that is easily found, launch a small paid product that I’ve been working on, and make a section to better see what I’m up to. There’s also an outside chance that I turn all the written content on this site into video based content moving forward… would you watch a video on blogging? Haha.

That will likely all come in 2017. But first, I need to focus on TECHMAS! Yes, my 2nd annual Tech unboxing + giveaway series is back this year and this year is going to be even bigger. Some really incredible brands already committed, and a few final ones being discussed right now. Make sure to subscribe to this email list to be alerted when it goes live!

tl;dr

  • I write a lot for clients about social media, YouTube and influencers.
  • I write lots of reviews and previews over at GuyMaven.com.
  • I created a YouTube series called BEST LABS about finding the ‘best’ of things on YouTube.
  • I created a YouTube channel for my unboxing videos (and possibly reviews).
  • Will ZachBussey.com be active again? Probably, but not until the new year.
  • Techmas is making a return!

Influencer Seppuku

Influencer Seppuku

They say that any press is good press, and up until the advent of social media (and the social media influencer) I think that adage held true. But social media changes things. Perhaps it’s that you can destroy your life in a single tweet and the media will gobble it up. Regardless, Influencers have a different set of rules where good press is GREAT press and bad press is TERRIBLE press. I want to share a little story before I get into what this post is actually about…Media Piece

Back in late 2010, I was emailed by a journalist from the Wall Street Journal – she was doing a story about Klout, and my name had come up when she was searching for an expert. We had a little back and forth because I needed to know what the intent of the article was as there was a tiny bit of curious wording. She got me on the phone and put my fears to ease about the article. I gave her a long detailed interview about my experiences and this new concept called ‘influencer marketing’. I was excited to be sourced as an expert by the Wall Street Journal!

And then the article came out… “Wannabe Cool Kids Aim to Game the Web’s New Social Scorekeepers”. I remember the sinking feeling of that headline, and then reading the article only confirmed my disappointment. It painted me as the headline ‘wannabe’, instead of someone who was experimenting too see the cause-effect of these new tools. Most know me as quite the experimenter. On Twitter I lamented about the headline, and I never shared the article on Facebook. Yes, it was cool to see my name printed in the Wall Street Journal… but it wasn’t good press.

Yesterday, I read an article called “No More Likes: Are the Days of the Style Influencer Numbered?” and later changed to “Peddling Influence”. The article is directed at style/fashion influencers, but the overall piece is a commentary on every content creator. I certainly cannot argue the fact that the article is very interesting and well written (credit to Anya Georgijevic), but it is certainly not good press. It’s especially bad for one blogger quoted as the expert who commits what can only be described as influencer seppuku.

I have known Jay DeMaria aka Jay Strut’s name for years now – he appeared on my Toronto Twitter Influencers list, and despite our lives being vastly different we often find ourselves at the same events and, ironically, media pieces. All that said, I’ve never met the guy. I assume, like I do of most people, that he’s probably a nice person which gives me some hesitance in even writing this. But I’m not one to bite my tongue when I think there’s a lesson to be learned. I think he just made one of the biggest mistakes of his life – he admitted to the world that any brand that works with him… get nothing in return:

“There isn’t one guy in this whole restaurant that’s going to my website and saying, ‘Oh, I’m gonna wear those tights, that low tank top and that gold chain. And women aren’t coming to my page and saying ‘Yes, I want to look like that tomorrow,’ … But, there are aspects of me – the freedom I have in my expression, my attitude towards things and my overall aesthetic – it’s not relatable, but it’s relatable.”

The author adds ‘He doesn’t sell clothes; he sells the fantasy’. It is the most unbelievable quote I’ve ever read from an influencer. Here is a guy that is given luxury products… to promote; is flown to foreign destinations… to promote; and is paid well enough to buy a condo through gigs that are… to promote the brands involved. Meanwhile he’s admitting that he has no influence over anyone’s purchasing decisions. It’s exactly why influencer marketing is getting such a bad wrap lately – you’re paid for a service you can’t deliver.  “Jay Strut is flown around the world to hype up designer labels, but even he’s questioning the future of social buzz.” You’re right, it’s over.

It’s Influencer Seppuku

The article goes on to discuss the recent Digiday ‘anonymous social media exec‘ tirade, makes reference to an article that talks about how Toronto fashion bloggers are garbage titled “Sophie Grégoire Trudeau vs Wannabe Influencers“, and then mentions Justine Iaboni’s post called “The True Cost of Blogging“, which offers the only counter balance to an otherwise lopsided ‘influencers should be paid in yogurt’ article. As if the authors bias wasn’t evident enough, she closes by saying she’s going to be ‘sticking to her day job’, which she should remember is in journalism.

Digital Seppuku

Make no mistake, influencer marketing is about generating a return on investment. I do think that a lot of influencers charge too much and deliver too little to the brands they work with. I think it’s especially true in the beauty/fashion/lifestyle genres where the supply is excessive. It’s also not entirely their fault – brands/PR/marketers are still trying to figure this all out and as such, play a bit of a guessing game in determining who to work with and what the ROI of working with them is. Experimentation leads to a LOT of mistakes.

But I also think that all WORK has a price tag attached to it. Bloggers are still offering a service – content creation/promotion through their own channel. EVERY creator HOPES that millions will want to read and then buy the product mentioned. It doesn’t often turn out that way, but the intent and desire is for it to be a huge success. No creator is trying to rip anyone off, especially not the brands taking a chance on them. As such, it behooves the creators to only talk about the great things they have done, improve their social and traffic numbers, and do their best to create great content.

There world of influencer marketing is still in its infancy, and much like a child learning to walk, it takes time to find footing. But through all the weird partnerships, over payments, ineffective content, brand deals that didn’t make sense for the influencer and all the other mistakes being made, slowly we’re all starting to figure it out. Once we get through this rocky phase, those that survive and can actually deliver value will thrive. Until that point, creators need to keep putting their best foot forward – and try not to tell the world how non-influential you are.

When Your Influence is Written About in Books…

Influence

One of the projects I don’t talk often about was my 2013 social media experiment “A Sponsored Life”, where I lived an entire year using just social media influence as a tool for survival. Despite the experiment being one of the most ambitious things I’ve ever accomplished, I don’t talk about it. I’m not very good at being proud of myself. I feel guilty when people say nice things about me. A friend once said something very poignant about my self deprecating sense of humour… “You like to put yourself down because you worry you’re not relatable. But the fact you think that, makes you more relatable than the self deprecation humour does.”

I suppose there is truth in that, but I still downplay my successes. The few times I have talked about my big wins, I often get hit with ‘humble brag’, or ‘blogger life’, or those that insinuate I haven’t worked hard enough. It’s a terrible mindset because it creates a kind of negativity spin that encourages me to avoid being successful. I’m trying to break that habit and start being proud of my accomplishments. If I can influence myself to enjoying my successes, perhaps I’ll be more successful. So, if you see me start to talk about them… understand I’m NOT trying to boast/brag about them… I’m just trying to actually appreciate myself and the work I put in.

Influence Zach Bussey

My Influence in a Book

I write this with the intent of starting today… because what better day to start than one when you learn you’ve been written about in a book. Page 194, the opening paragraph of Chapter 11 in a book called “A Companion to Celebrity“:

Zach Bussey InfluenceIn January 2013, Canadian blogger Zach Bussey began a year-long effort to live an entirely sponsored life. He cleared all his belongings out of his apartment and attempted to live solely off the perks he generated by his social media influence alone. Bussey offered different promotional services, such as special dedicated blog posts, twitter mentions, Tumblr images, and YouTube videos to those brands and companies who would provide him with products or perks. While many people have used their bodies to promote products and services, Bussey appears to be the first person to offer his entire life as a platform for marketers (Bussey 2013). Zach Bussey embodies a new kind of worker subjectivity that has emerged from the data stream: the SMI, or social media influencer.

It’s weird when I think back on that project because I have so many conflicting thoughts on it. On one hand, it gave me insight into the world of influencers before it was what it was today (or perhaps I was just on the forefront of what it is today), but it also forced me to live it on an extreme scale. My one massive takeaway was that trying to live that world exclusively was soul sucking. Spending each and every waking hour talking to brands/marketers about how I could sell myself was hard. The content I created wasn’t great – but it was necessary to survive. And survive I did.

I had fully intended to write a book about the experience shortly after the project had concluded (and in fact, have all the notes from what that book was going to be about) but now I’m thinking of maybe chopping it up into a bunch of blog posts considering it’s 2.5 years later at this point. We’ll see I suppose, but in the meantime, it’s time I start priding myself better in my successes.

See What Facebook Thinks You Like

Facebook Thinks Ads

Ever been curious about what Facebook thinks you like? Sometimes their ads are dead on and it scares the hell out of me – while other times, they are so off base that I don’t know how they got that idea. One thing is for sure, Facebook is getting smarter and starting to track us more than ever. They have rapidly been working to improve and expand their tracking of users for a variety of reasons. The main reason is money. The better that Facebook knows you, the better they can monetize you.

In years past, the most obvious ways for them to learn about you was from the data you personally shared. Every time you mentioned a brand, or talked about something, or liked a page or shared an image, they could collect data based on that to learn. After nearly 10 years of tracking your content and conversations, they have a pretty clear picture on who you are. However, that’s not enough and Facebook is actively seeking and developing more (quietly) invasive tracking programs.

Facebook Ads

Facebook Thinks I Like Swamps…

All that said, they still have the years of information that they have collected already to base their ads on. In order to see what Facebook thinks you like, all you need to do is visit the ad settings and preferences option found here. On that page, you’ll find ad categories sorted into 13 different categories which include:

  • Business and Industry
  • Education
  • Family and Relationships
  • Fitness and Wellness
  • Food and Drink
  • Hobbies and Activities
  • Lifestyle and Culture
  • News and Entertainment
  • People
  • Shopping and Fashion
  • Sports and Outdoors
  • Technology
  • Travel, Places and Events

Under each category, you can see the individual things Facebook thinks you like – in my case, 276 different topics that range from Fido to Canon Camera, to Toronto Raptors, to Poland, and so much in between. In some cases, I understand why they think I’m interested in those things, in other cases… I have NO idea how they got that idea.

Some of the least accurate things Facebook thinks I like include the City of Bacoli, Grails, Ben Hill Stadium, Guy Berryman, Swamp, Bumblebeet, and B2W… mostly because I have no idea what any of those things are! But I am curious – what does Facebook think you like? Leave a comment below with some of the oddest things that Facebook has you pegged for!

Struggle

Right off the top, it’s important to know that I’m writing this in a somewhat depressed state. I’m frustrated, annoyed and feeling fairly down about a lot of things – so if it reads like a crazy person wrote it, understand that it might as well have been. I’m just having a rough 2016 and writing feels like therapy to me. I wrote recently about Brand Grudges, another ‘personal therapy’ post and while it did help clear my mind, it was only the tip of the spear.

Social media is a great tool for communication – but it is a horrible tool at being real, especially when it comes to ‘influencers’. In the world of content creation, the people who put out the happiest, (PR) friendliest, and colourful content seem to be living the best lives – they go on great adventures, attend exclusive events, get to test the latest products and just get to experience great things. This week, I went to a party at the Skydome and received offers to attend other events. I shared some of those things publicly, as is unofficially required in the relationship between (content) creator and PRovider. As a result, what people get to see is the amazing stuff that I get up to.

What you don’t see is that those things are some of the FEW good things in my life right now. Going out to an event where I’ll get to enjoy myself with friends and can leave my wallet at home because there’s an open bar/free food is the highlight of my week/month. Even in writing this, I’m being careful not to share too much of my current plight. Not because I don’t WANT to share it, but because I just know this world. Oversharing personal/private things, while it seems transparent and open to anyone reading, ends up being used as a weapon against you. The world of content creators has little room for honesty because your content is an escape for others. Everyone has the shit they are dealing with, so they don’t need to deal with yours.

Behind the scenes though, I am regularly questioning what the hell I’m even doing with my life. I’m trying to figure out my direction, trying to figure out how I get to that next step, trying to figure out how to move up in the world… and every time I feel like I have a direction and start working towards it – I start questioning what the hell I’m even doing with my life because the results are not coming. I question whether I should just take a job at a call center, or go stock shelves in a grocery store because while they will do nothing to advance my life, they will offer some stability/routine. But that feels like giving up on all the work I’ve already done – so I get motivation to recommit to the path I’m on, until I then compare myself to others and see how great they are doing… and again I question myself. And the cycle just keeps repeating itself over and over and over again. It’s a crushing mindset to be stuck in. Every success I have is mired with doubt that it won’t last longer than a day.

Ultimately, I know I shouldn’t complain – I can pay my rent (this month anyway). I have a great family. I have great friends. I am not sick. I do get opportunities to attend events where I don’t need to pay for drinks. I do get to work with great brands, and write, and interact with people online. I don’t have a terrible life… I’m just not anywhere where I thought I would be at this point. I try to keep a positive outlook on life, I try to remind myself that things take time and that if I keep working, the success will come. But it’s hard.

I feel like I’m walking in deep mud in the middle of the night… making progress but not moving fast enough to see the difference. The harder I work, the deeper the mud gets in front of me. Perhaps it’s perception or my own doing or it’s just this hard for everyone but no one shares that…. hell I don’t share it – because everyone has problems, everyone struggles. I just wish life would show me a light that would confirm I’m on the right path… because walking around in this darkness is getting tough.

Brand Grudges

Brand Grudges

This is such an insider topic, that I don’t even know if anyone is going to care about it. In fact, I’d say it’s deeper than insider – this topic is one that is probably more exclusionary than anything. You are going to read this and if your initial reaction is to eyeroll I TOTALLY get it! That said, I still want to write it. I started blogging in the first place as a kind of therapy that helps me clear my mind and put a topic behind me. Whether I click publish or not… that question is unanswered. (Unless you’re reading this…)

This whole topic actually ties into when I started blogging and what I initially wrote about. I started this blog as a personal place to write whatever I wanted to write. I had no plans for it ever being something that would result in being paid, or sponsored content, or anything else. It was just MY place to write about anything I wanted to. Time has a way of changing you. The former content was different – it was more personal, featured some curse words and very infrequently dipped into what some (and myself on occasion) would call controversial. I have grown as a person since then, but every now and then I just need to get something off of my chest – and this is one of those times.

I hold grudges. I used to hold them against people, but I’ve grown as a person and no longer have any towards individuals. I get that people make mistakes or may unintentionally hurt you or intentionally try to hurt you or disrespect you or a variety of other things. I get it, and I stopped caring about it as much. It still bugs me, but I let it slide and move on with my life. I’m less forgiving when it comes to brands these days. Let me explain… (again, I get if your eyes are starting to roll!)

Controversial

I genuinely love to help others be better at what they do, offer advice, insight, suggestions etc.  I do it to a fault and it will soon come an end thanks to the advice of a new mentor who said ‘you need to start charging for your time, your expertise is far too valuable to be giving away for free’. But, up until recently I gave away everything – all my insight, suggestions and research. As such, I’ve become a secret weapon on content creators in Toronto (and to some extent Canada). I have PR people who ask to pick my brain on the regular for suggestions on new influencers, email addresses for specific bloggers, and who I would recommend working with on sponsored campaigns. To date, I’ve given all that away. In exchange, I get access to office rumors, gossip and other info about influencers in Canada. It’s interesting, but it’s never very directly useful.

Now what IS useful is when that information is about me. On a near weekly basis, I hear that my name is brought up in a meeting to talk about a product launch, or writing work or a sponsored content opportunity at a variety of different PR/brand meetings. That kind of information is GREAT to know, keeping your name at top of mind is crucial to any creator. But with that said, 25% of the time, I also find out that there’s a ‘BUT’ attached to it. That but is generally one thing – controversy. “They love your content but the boss thinks you’re too controversial,” I hear this too often and it drives me mental. The last time (besides this post?) that I wrote anything controversial was in 2011. Do you know why the bosses/account execs think I’m controversial? They haven’t read anything I’ve written since 2011 which is usually right around the time they were promoted to their current roles. They hold on to an antiquated notion of what I do because they don’t need to be on the ground reading any more.


I know the names of these bosses who have this opinion on me and all it takes is a LinkedIn search to confirm that almost EVERY time, you see they were “PR Rep” 20xx-2012, followed by a title change to something higher up 2012-current. I know writing this changes absolutely nothing – but it speaks to one of the BIGGEST complaints that influencers had about PR people. The survey I conducted of influencers had a section about what PR could do better:

  • “Work with newer bloggers/influencers.”
  • “I have found most PR companies have their “go to” list.”
  • “PR seem to be 5 years behind creators.”
  • “They only work with the same people.”
  • “Try different influencers.”
  • “There are more bloggers than 10 in Toronto.”

I could go a lot deeper down this rabbit hole – I could talk about the brands/PR that have asked for something with the promise of paid campaigns coming… to never deliver. I could talk about the PR company with over 100 employees that has me blacklisted because I had the nerve to give a bad review about a product they sent me (literally the week after posting the review, they canceled the talk they had scheduled me to come in to their office and do – and never contacted me again, until I found out the blacklist from someone who started working there). I could talk about the brand that’s such star effers, that it’s gross – literally the tweets make me cringe. Or the PR company that pay cash for people to tweet – knowing they have fake paid followings, but ‘the brand just wants to see the numbers, not engagement’. I hold grudges against these brands. If they approach me in the future, I’ll give them the ‘grudge’ rate – and they’ll decline and I’ll maintain my grudge against them. Much like how some of these people hold onto their ‘controversy’ grudge about me.

I COULD go a lot deeper into all those things…. but I won’t, because I don’t create controversial content any more. Time has a way of changing you.

The Problem with Influencer Platforms

Influencer Platforms

Let’s talk candidly about influencer platforms and their role when it comes to crossing the bridge between brands and creators. I have been working on a series of posts on making money as an influencer, and as part of that, I wanted to look at and review these platforms. After looking at more than 60 different platforms, I’ve got to say – there is a major problem here. It’s the kind of problem that’s only feeding the negativity surrounding influencer marketing right now, and it makes me feel like there’s going to be a bubble pop of sorts in the not to distant future. To sum it up into a sentence: Influencer platforms serve everyone, but deliver nothing to anyone

That’s a big, bold statement but with the way influencer marketing is being done right now – I question how long it can last. I recently wrote a response to the anonymous social media executive, who spent an entire post laying into influencers like they were the worst people in the world. I’m beginning to wonder if his critique was meant to target influencer platforms instead, because if so – I start to agree. Let me try to lay this out…

Who Do Influencer Platforms Target?

In order to properly diagnose the problem, we first need to decide where the role of influencer fits in the marketing mix and who should be handling them. Creators (influencers) by their very nature are creatives – they spend their days creating new and unique things, and as a result, they have built up a following of people who trust their content and opinions. That audience is valuable to any brand wanting to get their product purchased. However, creators, more often than not, are not business minded. Most didn’t create their platform with the intent of making money, but as more and more brands want to work with them, they, naturally they want to be paid for it.

This is a lazy influencer creating lazy content - but it's also because of a influencer platform.
This is a lazy influencer creating lazy content – but it’s also because of an influencer platform.

The de facto responsibility of handling influencers has fallen into the hands of Public Relations specialists (PR). It seems like a reasonable fit – they have experience dealing with individuals who create content on a daily basis (journalists and media outlets) and know how to get real business results. The problem with PR is that they have been dealing with journalists (or taught to deal with them) for such a long time, that they think the same tactics work with creators. Unlike journalists who are paid by their outlets, creators want to be paid by the brands they will be representing. It’s a natural monetization step, and it’s one that is fair and makes sense. Creators take a great risk when working with brands, so they don’t want to take that risk for free. PR, on the other hand aren’t always equipped with budgets to pay influencers. So we run into a problem – wanting to be paid, but no cash.

Who has the money? Marketers. They have money to spend on ads but lack experience when it comes to dealing with influencers. They are used to rate cards and media buys, not egos and audiences. So, step in the influencer networks who try to enable the ones with cash to get their hands on influencers. The result is a consistent buffet style platform – here’s the influencers, give us cash and we’ll give you some numbers. But influencer marketing is far different than AdSense or pre-roll commercials on YouTube – it’s personal and if done incorrectly, is immediately ignored. Audiences aren’t stupid – they recognize an ad the minute it pops on the screen and quickly tune it out. These influencer platforms don’t really care about the content or the results as much as they care about the money. According to a friend who works for one of these platforms, they add on as much as 100-200% when talking to marketers – if an influencer wants $1000, they’ll sell them at $2000-$3000 and pocket the difference, and if the engagement rates are low they boost them with paid views/engagement.

I suppose it’s not all doom and gloom. Influencer networks are seemingly trying to do something of value. Money going into influencer marketing is good. Creators getting paid is great. But the current execution is rather poor. To get better results, there first needs to be an overall agreement that PR people are best suited for the task of working with creators. They have been on the front lines since the beginning and they are getting it more than anyone else – the relationships are there. Secondly, their role needs to be backed with marketing budgets creating a kind of hybrid PR. Instead of letting marketers buy influencers ineffectively, putting those budget behind PR directed campaigns is going to be key to getting major results. GOOD influencer marketing isn’t a ‘here’s cash… do something’ kind of thing – it’s collaborative and involves planning/feedback. Lastly, CREATORS: Don’t sell yourself for the first dollar thrown your way – you’re creatives, not cheap escorts. You’ve spent years building something real (presumably), so respect the time you’ve put in and the audience that loves your stuff.

Influencer marketing can work for everyone (brand to creator to audience), and in the future I think we’re going to see it done exceptionally well. But what is abundantly clear to me is that these influencer platforms are unlikely to be the ones to enable it – they just don’t get it.

We Are All Irrelevant – It’s Great!

irrelevant

I originally titled this post “Irrelevancy is Right Around the Corner”, but as I wrote it I realized that it wasn’t true. We aren’t about to be irrelevant – we are irrelevant. No matter what you do, whether that’s blogging or community management, or creating YouTube content or stocking the shelves at a grocery store. The reality of life in 2016 is that we’re all working on a model that has been done better by something else. We’re just holding the place for the inevitability of whatever that is that can do it better. It’s a great thing! I know that sounds contradictory, and it is – but you’ll understand why shortly…

  • Blogger – If you’re a blogger, you’re a dinosaur in the content creation model. Yes, you have an audience and a voice, but you produce content at a snails pace. It may be quality, but there’s not often quantity. Sites with multiple contributors do your task better – they drive more traffic, make more money, and have a better chance to change the world than you do. Plus, we now live in a world that produces much richer media such as audio and video that better tells a story.
  • Community Management – Hate to say this, but you’re an operator with fewer phone calls. You act as the go between between the brand and the potential buyer, sending out content and documenting messages sent to you. Software is getting smarter, and much like how operators have been replaced with automated systems, social is going that way too. Already we’re seeing brands implement automated systems (that appear human) on Twitter.
  • YouTuber – Much like a blogger you’re fighting a war with changing algorithms, and TV production teams putting out more (and better content) than you can. Late Night Shows/Buzzfeed/Content Production Houses can pump out content that gets millions of views and the subscribers to match thanks to full production teams. How do you compete with that? The saving grace is that we’re just reaching the base of the mountain that will be digital video over the next 5-10 years.
  • Grocery Clerk – The day is coming where you’re gone, with stores having shelving systems that stock themselves (from behind the scenes). Cashiers are almost ready to be fulled phased out, replaced by self serve counters at retail stores, even at banks and restaurants. Many grocery stores run on bare bones staff, just enough to keep the shelves refilled as they run out and the lines not excessively long to checkout.

Self Serve Checkout

You see, nearly every current job is already irrelevant. There’s some new system that can do a better job than us at whatever we do. The only thing holding that new system from being implemented is usually the economics of it – replacing a staff member at $50K a year, for a system that costs $30K a year to operate/maintain but drops efficiency by 20% may not make sense initially, but as it’s perfected and the price drops – goodbye staff. This is a GREAT thing. Irrelevance is a sign of progress – it means we’re moving forward, innovating and developing as a society. Irrelevant jobs being replaced by better systems frees us to up to do better things. Your potential doesn’t just stop, unless you allow it to.

Avoid Becoming Irrelevant

The only way to effectively maintain your relevance is by reinventing yourself constantly. Learn new skills, develop new talents, figure out new programs, and get your hands on the latest technology that interests you. You’ve always wanted to learn to code? Learn it. You’ve always wanted to figure out how to edit video? Do it. You’ve always wanted to experiment with solar energy? Experiment with it. The worst thing you can do is nothing. We live in a world where we all want a new smartphone every two years, so what makes you any different? You’re a two year old smartphone right now… what’s the plan? You can do something or you can do nothing. Doing nothing is being comfortable with what you are now. Comfort is the enemy of growth. It’s the enemy of progress. Your relevance is well within your control, but it’s not just going to come to you.

So rather than spending the weekend binging on a TV show, might I suggest trying out something you’ve always wanted to learn. It can only serve to improve your life.

 

Addendum: The point isn’t that you can’t be successful blogging, YouTubing, Community Managing or whatever other thing you want to do. It’s that you can’t find something and then stick with it forever without growing, innovating, evolving and improving. Stagnation is a recipe for failure.

Air Canada Embarq Partners with Creative Influencers

Air Canada Embarq

Air Canada Embarq is a new crowdfunding service designed to assist potential travelers with the cost of said travel. Embarq works a lot like any other crowdfunding sites but with a different intent. If you’re wanting to travel, you can create a profile, share the details of your potential journey and then seek out the financial help from friends, family or even strangers. The idea being that once you are fully funded and head out on the journey that you share that experience through images and updates with your backers. On the funders side, you can give any amount over $25 (up to a max of $10,000) towards the desired goal. Once fully funded, the traveler receives the funds in the form of an Air Canada eGift Card that they can use to apply to the trip. Air Canada takes no percentage cut through the crowdfunding process.

While the launch has been quiet so far (the first campaigns appear to have been posted around January 12th), it’s clear they are about to ramp up efforts to promote the service by partnering with some creative influencers across Canada. Toronto based Instagramer Stilez (Robbie) is one of those influencers who is heading out on a journey thanks to his partnership with Air Canada Embarq. His Instagram account, which I regard as one of the best in Toronto, is a visual masterpiece for anyone who’s a fan of street photography, urban exploring, rooftopping and symmetry. At the end of the month, he’ll be heading to Tokyo, Japan to capture the city by foot, by boat and even, by helicopter and you’ll get to experience it all via Instagram.

Stilez isn’t what you would consider a traditional influencer in that he is actually very private – you would be hard pressed to find a photo of him. It’s his passion for photography that has made him and his social presence influential. I think there’s some great lessons to learn from Stilez, so I connected with him to learn more about the trip with Air Canada Embarq and how up and coming Instagramers can improve themselves.

A photo posted by stilez (@stilez) on

Q. Of all the places in the world you could travel to, why did you pick Tokyo, Japan?

Stilez: My dad loved Japan, growing up and even in my teens, he would say that we need to travel there together one day. The city is insane, futuristic but there’s huge history there too. It’s always been on my mind. He passed away before we were able to actually plan the trip though. Now, I have this opportunity to actually go and visit the place that captivated my dad. I’m just very excited to be part of the Embarq launch, there’s a lot of really unique ways that I think people are going to use the service in really positive ways.

Q. How did you get into photography? 

Stilez: By accident really. I was able to take really good photos on my phones over the years, starting with the iPhone 3G and sharing them on social media. When Instagram started, I was quick to jump on it and share my pics. I used to see other accounts posting these amazing pictures, and I wondered how they managed to capture them with their phone. Later, I learned they were taking pictures with a DSLR and transferring them over – and I was like, wow that’s genius! I still shot primarily with my phone until an opportunity to use a Nikon D750 came about last spring, and that changed everything for me. Now I’m slightly obsessed with photography. (He continues to shoot on the Nikon D750).

A photo posted by stilez (@stilez) on

Q. What’s your process for finding the perfect shot?

Stilez: I’m trying to break the habit, but I tend to shoot symmetrical things. Vanishing points, leading lines, it’s cool and pleasing to the eye but I want to do more. The rule of thirds is something I’m learning more about. I’m very street and architecturally oriented – that’s what I look for.

Q. Any advice for up and coming Instagramers?

Stilez: I know a lot of local ones and they all want to know the secret on how to grow their audience and get paid gigs. There is no secret. It takes time to build your reputation legitimately. If you want to take it serious, focus on the art of photography, practice nonstop, study & learn from others, find your style, and learn to edit in post – once those things are tight, people will notice. Also, use the right hashtags, tag the right accounts, and you’ll slowly start to grow. The reward is worth the time & effort.

A photo posted by stilez (@stilez) on

Air Canada Embarq Partners with Creative Influencers

Stilez isn’t the only creative influencer that Air Canada Embarq is partnering with. One of the first people to use the platform is a London, Ontario based musician named Johnny Sherritt aka WOLF SAGA. His goal was to visit Australia and connect with local artists there. To celebrate the launch of the platform, Air Canada footed the bill to send him and a filmmaker (A.V. Helm) down under. The resulting experience was documented in the short film below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPm_R5pc4_g

Last Thursday, I shared a quick status update on Air Canada Embarq on Facebook to see what people thought. The reactions were mixed and that sentiment was echoed on Twitter as well – some felt like there were certainly benefits to the platform while others felt like it was furthering the ‘millennial’ idea of ‘getting what you don’t deserve/haven’t worked for’. I think their launch video may be the one thing that contributes most to that negative sentiment with the opening line of “travel should be an inherent right”. However, the platform is surely going to be (and already is being) used in different ways.

Of the roughly 200 active campaigns, one that stood out was Jeannine Jure, a university student who is using the platform like a savings plan. With hopes of heading to Costa Rica upon graduation, she contributes a bit to it after each pay day (and looks like a family member tossed a little bit into the pot as well). Other ways I can see it being used include: group gifting for birthdays, weddings or Christmas; a way to earmark fundraising efforts in the case of emergency travel such as in the case of disasters; I could also see it being used by creators as a way for their audience to be part of their adventures (travel vloggers/bloggers especially). That said, there likely will be a large contingent of “I want to travel, someone help me with that” posts as well, time will tell how it evolves and grows. You can check out Air Canada Embarq here.

Merit vs Popularity: Academy Social Award Nominee

Academy Social Nominee

Yesterday, my friend Jenn, sent me a message congratulating me on my Academy Social Award nomination, with a link to the site where the nomination was posted. Curious, I checked it out – assuming it to be a joke site of some kind. On checking the page, I was indeed not only nominated, but a finalist for an Academy Social award in the category of “Voice Pioneer – An innovator whose content, voice and ambassadorship has the capacity to start a digital movement.” The award is down to three people – myself and two others. That said, I still wasn’t sure what it was.

What I found was that the Academy Social awards are part of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, and the award nomination came in partnership with Jones, Bell Media, IPF, Telefilm Canada, Canada’s Media Fund, Cineplex, The Ontario Government and the CBC. The committee that ends up selecting the finalists include YouTubers like Andrew Gunnarolla, Matthew Santoro, media/ad people like Sarah Bobas and Jarrett Sherman, and even Emmy and Cannes award winner James Milward. By all accounts, the Academy Social award that I have been nominated for is a legit thing backed by business and industry experts. I must admit I am honoured. It is ALWAYS nice being recognized for something you are passionate about – in this case, my YouTube channel. Whether it was vlogging over the last year, or my Techmas series, or (hopefully the reception towards) my new series launching THIS WEEK, the amount of work that goes into creating content that I am proud of is no small amount. So getting feedback that people like it (in the comments) or, in this case, with an award nomination, feels great.

Academy Social Nominee Zach Bussey

Now, there is only one problem that the Academy Social awards have – and it’s a decision I understand, but disagree with on a fundamental level. Public voting. Right now, the voting is open for the nominees to solicit votes from their supporters, the idea being that the more people that vote, the more exposure the awards will get and also indicate who can rally their fans to do things. I get it, I know why they are doing it – it’s marketing. BUT, unlike contests or giveaways… I personally feel that awards should be based exclusively on merit and not popularity.

Merit vs Popularity and the Academy Social Award

As such, beyond this blog post mentioning it, I won’t be actively encouraging anyone to vote for me. Not because I don’t want to win, believe me, I HATE losing – so winning is all I ever want to do when it comes to competition, but because I don’t want to rally/ask/beg friends, family and fans to do something that won’t have a positive impact on the world. My days of trying to win popularity contests are over. Instead, I’m doing what I would do for any kind of good news… write about it. If exposure is what Academy Social is looking for, this is far better exposure than it would be if I were to spam people asking they vote.

Zach Bussey Social Media

Now, it should be noted that the end winner will be selected based on four categories – Quality/Originality of Content, meeting Two other Criteria Groups, Engagement with Audience AND Number of Votes. So, while I may get a zero on number of votes, my hope is that the merit based criteria propel me to victory. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too – I’m just thrilled to be able to say “Zach Bussey, Academy (Social) Award Nominee.”

Finally, I want to offer big congrats to the fellow nominees within my own category Megan MacKay + Casie Stewart. As well as all the nominees JusReign, Carmilla Series, Devante Burey, Melissa Maker, Michael Rizzi, Tanya Zhang, Alexandra Grant, Garrett Tonge, Tasha Leelyn, Andrew Huang, Aimee Davison and Kaitlyn Alexander! For most, I’ve known about them for some time – but this has introduced me to a couple new ones! Congrats to you all and best of luck!

PS. Let’s do a collab on my new series – did I mention it’s launching THIS WEEK? :)

Bubble Hockey Night for Sick Kids

Bubble Hockey Night

Sick Kids Foundation is hosting a fundraising event that they are calling Bubble Hockey Night, wherein 64 teams will compete head-to-head in teams of two to be crowned as the bubble hockey champion! The tournament/fundraising event takes place on Monday, February 22nd, at Steam Whistle Brewery from 6:30 on, and there are a variety of ticket options available. You can join as one of the 64 teams to compete in the March Madness style bracket for $1000, or $500 plus $500 in donations, or you can attend as a spectator for $125. All of the proceeds from the event go towards the Sick Kids Foundation.

It’s at this point that I want to express that Sick Kids has not compensated me for this post – rather, I do this because it’s the one charitable organization that I literally owe my life to. I’ve told the story on the blog over the years, but to give the quick recap… I needed open chest surgery when I was only a few weeks old to save my life. Ever since, I naturally have a very big soft spot for them because, well, I’m still here. So naturally, if I can ever help to promote their fundraising events, I am more than willing to!

Perks of Attending Bubble Hockey Night

That said, the Bubble Hockey Night is slated to be one incredible event. Get this, not only will Darren Millard and Ron Ellis be there, but Wendel Clark will also be attending the event as well, and best of all, this is an OPEN BAR event with a premium whiskey tasting, hors d’oeuvres, live entertainment and prizes for those attending as well. I mean, if I needed to say any more after Wendel Clark and Open Bar, then I clearly don’t know my audience. (Haha.) In all seriousness, Sick Kids is great organization that is rated A- by CharityIntelligence.ca, which grades charities based on their work and results, so you know your money is going directly into life saving initiatives for those of us that deserve a chance at life – kids.

If you want to learn more about the event, check out the website here or if you’re not interested in attending, but still want to make a donation you can do so here.

Sick Kids Bubble Hockey Night
Date: Monday, February 22, 2016
Time: 6:30 – 10:00
Location: Steam Whistle Brewing – 255 Bremner Blvd, Toronto

Huge Mistake Made with Shaquille O’Neal

Zach Bussey and Shaquille O'Neal

There are times in life when you realize that making a  mistake is actually the best thing that can happen to you. Maybe not in the first hour, or day or even week, but as long as you learn from the mistake, it can be a positive thing. This is especially true for influencers because unlike many other professions, there are no clearly defined best practices. There are good suggestions, but nothing set in stone. Instead, due to the personal nature of the ‘influencer’, you just have to kind of wing it as you go. So, that said, when you happen to have a major mistake – don’t think of it as a negative thing, but rather an opportunity to advance your experience and your future content. I want to share a little story that happened to me last week.

On Wednesday morning, I received an email from Courtney (not her real name, but easier than saying ‘PR person’) who has rapidly become my favourite in Toronto. Courtney and I had first worked together during my Techmas campaign, and she sent me an email that read the following:  “Hey Zach, wanted to reach out to give you an exclusive opportunity to chat one-on-one with former NBA All-Star Shaquille O’Neal on Friday!” I will admit, that over the last five years I’ve received some incredible opportunities but this one definitely stood out as one of the biggest (pun intended). I wasted no time between her sending it and me replying “YES!”

 

We’ve slotted a five-minute interview for you to chat with him. Note that given his limited time commitment, we will only be offering 3 media interviews at 5 minutes max. – Courtney

The opportunity to chat with Shaq would occur at Best Buy and was presented by Monster. The only caveat to the opportunity was that I needed to incorporate the brand into it. There’s always a trade off to opportunities – when working with brands, you should always expect to offer value to them. It’s standard and if you want to continue to get opportunities you need to play ball. I should note at this point in the story that neither Best Buy nor Monster have compensated me financially. Moving on.

Now the tough part began – what would I ask Shaq and how would I incorporate it into my content? My first thought was to just interview him on what he thought about tech. Perfect, done. No, not perfect, not done. That’s a terrible idea. It’s boring. It’s throwaway content. It’s literally what 95% of bloggers would have done given the opportunity – not because they aren’t creative, but rather the blogger world has become lazy. Boring, press release written, sponsored content that ultimately ends up being throwaway noise is the standard these days… but NOBODY IS READING IT.  That’s exactly what I’m trying to get away from – having fallen into that trap in 2015. The problem with giving yourself the mandate to create GOOD content, is that it’s not easy. It doesn’t come ready for you to publish. Instead, it requires you to sit down and think creatively to come up with something new, exciting and interesting that people WANT to consume.

Mistake Made with Shaq

With that, I immediately turned to the YouTube series that I’m working on for my channel. I’ve been developing an idea for months now, and it’s only really come together as a complete idea in the last couple weeks. The base formula of the main series wouldn’t work with Shaq under a limited time constraint, but it made the most sense to try and pair the two. I stressed about it. I didn’t sleep over it. My mind was running on overdrive trying to come up with ideas! At about 5AM, the idea came to me – it was good, it would fit with the series, I could do it in 5 minutes, it would be different, unique and a lot of fun! Now, I just needed to plan my audio, camera, questions, props and then practice it a couple times. This is where a mistake would be made.

A Mistake Teaches Better Than Anything

The morning came, I didn’t sleep well, but I felt readyish. I went down to Best Buy and checked out the space. Two outlets would go before me, which meant I was the last one of the day – not the best position, but I wasn’t complaining. The first outlet selfishly took about 15 minutes to conduct their interview and now the talk among Shaq’s PR (not the PR I was connected with) was there might not be any more time left. I jumped to make my case – I only needed 3 minutes, and I was ready to go. Shaq’s PR agreed, but with the understanding I needed to be quick. I set up my camera and three audio recorders immediately.

As I sat beside Shaq to do my interview, I was nervous – not only because this was a massive celeb (again pun intended), but because I rushed to set up, I was in unfamiliar territory, with a new idea I’d never tried before, I was on limited sleep and I was rushed to get the interview done. I asked my questions and tried to be as natural as possible, adding my own humour into the mix. I felt good about it, I didn’t think it was my BEST work, but it wasn’t terrible. You wouldn’t have been able to tell that I was as nervous as I was. Shaq also clearly enjoyed himself too, which was a huge relief! At the end of it, Shaq basically bear hugged me from our seats as I thanked him for his time.

Shaq Monster Canada
Image credit to Monster Canada

I breathed a sigh of relief and happiness – everything went well. That moment of relief and happiness was short lived, a mistake was made. The audio came out well, but the video… the video did not. There is only 16 seconds of video – you see me sit down beside Shaq, I do a quick intro and boom the footage cuts. Argh, what had I done? What mistake did I make? I spent a day trying to figure it out and finally diagnosed the error – I didn’t format the SD Card to the camera. Huge mistake but it’s one that will teach me never to make it again.

Rather than look at this as a failure, I am treating it as an opportunity for growth. Not only have I learned more about my equipment in the last 24 hours than I have in the last 24 days, but I also proved to myself that I can perform under extreme pressure. Best of all, after reviewing the footage and the audio, while I may not be able to put together the BEST episode I could, I can still put together a pretty solid episode of my series. One that I can look back on and say “There was the big mistake where I learned more about myself and my video equipment than any other moment on video.”

To nicely wrap this up – I’d love to hear the mistakes that YOU’VE made, and how they taught you a lesson that helped you grow as a person or as an influencer. Oh, and Shaq was kind enough to sign a brand new Monster Superstar Bluetooth Speaker (that Best Buy provided), and I’d like to give it away to someone! If you want a chance to win it, head on over to this post on GuyMaven where you’ll be able to put your name into the digital hat!

Superstar Speaker Signed