If you were lucky enough to join us this week for Dial Up, you'll have gained an insight into the mind of Steven Bartlett; CEO, Youngest every Dragon's Den panellist, and wearer of great hats.
But if you were busy, and some crimes can never be forgiven, we've compiled a list of his biggest predictions for this year. Don't say we don't treat you right. Let's jump in.
1: Steven is Bullish on LinkedIn.
“When my friends say they’re launching podcasts and blogs, I say that they’re stupid”
LinkedIn is very different from other platforms. You don’t need millions of followers, you just need the ability to provide insightful, useful, B2B content.
For the business he’s launching next week, a new exciting venture called thirdweb with Gary V and Mark Cuban, there’s a channel hierarchy. This consists of the first layer being LinkedIn. You need to conquer this platform, by getting your business up to a certain “cadence” of producing content on LinkedIn, and being compelling on the platform.
People still don’t take this seriously, he says. Just like business’ approach to social platforms in the past, there’s still an idea of social as frivolous, as less serious. But as a means of reaching clients and other industry leaders in a single dashboard, LinkedIn is a constant and prevalent touchpoint. It provides constant access in an informal setting.
It’s like the early Facebook days in terms of reach, of exponential growth being entirely possible, something Stephen was saying about LinkedIn four years ago. What LinkedIn is providing now is amazing reach, at a reasonable price. And every single year it goes down.
But at some point, LinkedIn will become more effective at monetising reach. When it does, it will become like Facebook, where it's harder to reach any of your audience, and it’s expensive.
“The timeline will get saturated, and they’ll run out of inventory in the timeline, and they start selling it. But until then, make the most of it."
I wouldn’t use anything else…if you do LinkedIn well enough, you can build an unbelievable business”
“I never had a sales team. We only did personal branding.”
“Personal branding, speaking on stage, and basically LinkedIn. But we did it at a very high level”
All this stems from Steven's ability to understand community. He acknowledges and analyses existing groups, where they live online, and how they interact and grow. And community has never been more important than now.
When he started, it was all about building public communities, building followers. The big shift over the last ten years has now moved from the building of public followers on Facebook, to dark social private communities. Brands that understand this, and try to capture this opportunity today, will own the future of social media, according to Steven.
But what does this mean?
“Reddit,” says Steven. “You’ve seen what's happening on Reddit at the moment in terms of communities. Discord. Discord wasn’t a thing two years ago, now all of my companies that are in this building today are moving communications over to discord.”
“I’ve got a telegram group where almost 10M people follow me, that I can text everyday. There’s no middleman deciding how much reach I get there”.
People are choosing privacy, people are choosing anonymity. That’s a macro shift, he says. There's a move from the days where every message between friends was posted on their wall, for the world to see. Brands need to understand this shift, and develop strategies that keep this development in mind, of private, close communities.
“I would love to see a brand build up their community on discord or telegram”
2. On the retro potential of email
“Email still works…everyone has a newsletter”
He continues on the move away from ‘old’ social media. When he launches his new business this week, he doesn’t plan on a Facebook page, nor an Instagram page. Instead, he wants to focus on these bespoke, inward-facing communities, utilised so efficiently by Web 3.0 and Blockchain spaces.
“We’re launching on Discord. We’re launching on Telegram. We’re going to do a load of things on LinkedIn. The Twitter page will be a bit of an afterthought. That’s the future.”
But Steven isn’t just looking forward, he’s looking backwards.
“Email still works. Which is pretty phenomenal”
Email has gotten more important in the last three or four years, than it was 4-10 years ago. When social reach was reduced, marketers took communications into their own hands. A link between the more decentralised social approach of Discord and Telegram, possibly.
“Having a million followers doesn’t mean you can reach a million people.”
Cue the rise of the newsletter. “How many people have a newsletter now? Everyone has a newsletter; everyone has a podcast or a newsletter now. But they didn’t 15 years ago”
Email has made a resurgence. Spam filters improved, newsletters have become higher quality, and loss of organic reach on social became the norm. Plus, there’s a desire to actually reach the people you want to reach, without the interference of an algorithm.
“I hold email in high regard. It’s a crazy thing for a social media CEO to say – don’t make a Facebook page, or Instagram page. But make an email newsletter”
“It’s gotten to the point where, in a few years’ time, I’m going to start advising mail. Sending physical mail.”
Now, that's retro.
3: On Web3
“Web3 is where everything becomes decentralised. We don’t need to rely on Amazon. We don’t need to rely on banks”
But Steven’s big prediction is around blockchain and NFTs.
But why does he think web 3.0, blockchain, and NFTs are so interesting?
“We’re seeing this tremendous desire, and opportunity, to shift to a more decentralised world for brands and creatives.”
So, this decentralisation isn’t just a case of cutting out harmful algorithms or middlemen, but can offer an entirely new economy for creatives.
There's an opportunity to bypass the traditional ways creators and influencers have made money in the past i.e., brands, agencies, and advertisers.
The reason digital creators haven't been in full control of their careers in the past is due to this; creators have often had to represent brands, or act in certain ways, to maintain their income.
Content creators may have millions of followers, and plenty of influence, but they'd still have to bend to the companies that fund them. This means they're not fully in control of their own image, brand, or personality.
So, next up:
4: On tokenisation, and social coins
“You can now own the thing you create…I can now tokenise my community.”
“That means if you’re a ticketing company, if you’re a fashion brand, if you're an entrepreneur, if you’re a creator, you can now own the things you create”.
The creator economy has enabled individuals to create digital content that utilises blockchain technology. This could, number one, alter what the financial landscape looks like for these creators, and number two, make it possible to earn a lot of money on a single piece of work alone.
Peter Yang believes that, with NFTs, creators won’t have to deal with intermediaries who can take control of content rights, as well as their visibility and a percentage of earnings.
Platforms like BitClout have sprung up out of all this excitement. Over one seven days period the site saw 4,000 NFTs created, with 7,000 bids made, and 2,000 sold. BitClout self-describes as "decentralizing social media."
But what does Steven think?
“So, for me, instead of having followers, who are just numbers on my Instagram, I can now tokenise my community”
So, he can develop a Steven Bartlett token or card, drop it for free, and everyone who gets one gets special access to him and his content. From special messages, to royalties on the money he makes, his followers can benefit from supporting him directly, in the specific way they’d like.
“It’s like you betting on that future”
It’s about owning the things you consume, and benefiting financially from the things you consume. And Steven thinks this’ll cause a massive shift.
He’s talking to the most forward thinking brands about NFTs, and is planning NFT drops for them.
”Don’t think about it like art. Think about it like removing the middle man”
What is the only way you could get a membership to something was through a very limited amount of NFTs? Think of the popularity of Bored Apes. You don’t get invited to those exclusive parties without your very own ape-self.
It’s all about “authenticatable scarcity”, he says. You can check there’s a finite number of them, and this will drive the price up. And every time one is sold or moved; the brand will take a cut. For Steven, this is the future of ticketing, art, music, and events.
“[Gary V] is sure the reason he’ll be able to buy the New York Jets is because of Vfriends”, not because of any other business venture, says Steven.” He’s turned his followers into NFTs”
His warning: don’t be left behind. Like the companies unwilling to start social media pages, if you don’t take the initiative to learn about these disruptive technologies, you will be left behind. Go and fail early in the space, learn from it, and be ready when this all comes to a head.
“Web3 is where everything becomes decentralised. We don’t need to rely on Amazon. We don’t need to rely on banks. All of my money is now in De-Fi, on the blockchain”.
Interested in social coins, tokenisation, and the creator economy? Then check out our next Dial Up with content geniuses Joe Pulizzi and co-host Robert Rose, coming up on Wednesday. Click here to register.
Number Five: On recruitment
“You are a recruitment company, and this is a talent war”
“I wish someone had advised me on hiring really great talent. I thought success would come from my own ability. But in a business, you don’t touch most things.”
At the start of his businesses, Steven would hire “just anyone”. He believed that the success would come from him; his team second.
The first day he hired someone amazing, everything changed. This made him reflect on everyone else in the business. Every success comes from your people, from the contributions of your team. So, hiring talent becomes the backbone of your company.
The quality of your talent will be the single biggest prediction for your outcome…you are a recruitment company, and this is a talent war”.
Who have you got up front, who has your competition got up front, he says?
“Who have you got in defence?”
So, it's bizarre that companies focus on other things other than the people. You should be looking to constantly be hiring, looking to replace employees with someone better, he says. Without the best team in place, everything else will suffer.
Hate to miss out? Well, you can catch marketing legends Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose's sesh on demand, right here! 👈