By @SimonCocking

Interview with Richard Santoro @richysantoro, described as an entrepreneur, digital strategist & growth hacker. Using social media, online marketing & SEO to help grow businesses. Passionate tech & startup advocate.

How was 2014, what went well?

2014 was an interesting year for me personally; I exited from a startup that had sucked up my life for almost two and a half years. Leaving was a tough decision for me, as I had originally conceived the core idea for the primary business which was in the financial services- information space. However leaving freed me up to take a month off and reevaluate my own goals and perspective before going back into the corporate world where I joined Dow Jones as a Marketing Director.

Within 2014 I managed to complete two book projects I had been working on. One of them is self published on Amazon: A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO RUBY ON RAILS: Big Thoughts, Less Code – Where I help people to master Ruby on the Rails framework with no prior experience.

In addition to my books I also published several courses on the teaching platform UDEMY, ranging from entrepreneurship and how to startup and monetize your own business, through to social media marketing and traffic generation for your business.

Anything you’d do differently?

There is a lot I would do differently, like kicking off a few of my projects earlier last year. As a self starting entrepreneur it’s tough because you have to wear a lot of hats, my biggest challenge has been time. Specifically last year, not having enough of it. I worked my day job in the startup, which often spilled over into evenings and weekends. Biggest mistake that many startups and those entrepreneurs make is to work every single hour they have thinking it’s going to take the business forwards.

That’s a huge error, you need a good work life balance, you need time off and to walk away so you can put everything into perspective and come back to the problems with fresh ideas and new thinking. I see so many entrepreneurs mess up and startups fail because they think they need to work harder and longer when in fact they should be working smarter not harder. Thank goodness for Tim Ferriss The 4-Hour Workweek, game changer!

Plans for 2015 and the future?

Busy full time with my exciting position at Dow Jones, we launched the Barron’s brand into Asia last October 2014 and switched on the pay-wall in the middle of January 2015. My role as Subscriptions Marketing Director is to grow a subscription base and audience in the APAC markets, build brand, content engagement and product distribution through our subscription model. It’s a revenue bottom line.

Now is a great time to be based in China, Hong Kong with things like the Shanghai-Hong Kong Stock Connect which is transforming financial investment across the border, the continued strength of the RMB and various Asian countries producing new startups and pushing business innovation forward I am glad to be based here for the time being.

Personal projects, I am doing some speaking and a number of conferences on Social Media and Online Marketing, I will be speaking in Shanghai on the 20th of July covering “What is Content Marketing and how do you use to it to drive Sales.”

I love coaching and training and will be doing a number of workshops, I do Pro bono consulting, I enjoy working with startups, SME’s and entrepreneurs to help them test their model, validate their assumptions and get their business from concept to launch. Naturally I provide a lot of support around Technology, Marketing and revenue model and sales which are my three biggest strengths. Other things I can help with is how to pitch and present. I have been involved in corporate sales and marketing most of my professional life so its relatively easy for me to stand up in front of strangers and deliver a compelling story, most people simply aren’t comfortable with doing that or just don’t have the experience standing in in front of a room full of strangers and selling an idea, product or service, let alone asking for money (fund raising.)

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My Blogs are a big part of my personal life, I write and research almost daily and have two highly trafficked blogs, Entrepreneur Ideas and Social Media Authority both are free and I provide loads of How to’s and mentorship pieces on entrepreneurship, stating up, growth hacking, online marketing and social media. I hope to continue these and potentially spin one off into something bigger.

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What’s your background, what led you into what you are now doing?

I have always been into computer games, I used to have a Sinclair spectrum back in the old days before moving on to Sega and Nintendo. I always loved gaming and originally wanted to break into that industry.

My background therefore is Computer Science, Web Development and Design. I grew up in London, UK where I was born, after high school and went on to study graphic design at college and then attended West London University to Study Computer Science and Web technology. After finishing Uni I went on to develop games for the Sony Playstation and eventually formed my own company Piranha Media which I ran for 5 years before exiting with a successful trade sale. The internet was erupting in the late 90’s and I was one of the first to have access to the Microsft Network or MSN in the old dialup days.

I have been fortunate enough to also study marketing from my CIM at the London School of marketing and work at several blue chip and corporate firms in my career, including Microsoft, McCann Worldgroup, Haymarket Group and Dow Jones. All of these roles have incorporated sales, marketing and operations within the media and digital space.

What do you enjoy about how you currently work and the type of work you do?

Finding solutions to problems, getting things to work. In marketing for me it’s the conversion getting a lift in the campaign and nailing the result by taking the user or prospect on a journey that is fulfilled with the appropriate CTA “Call to Action.” For business I enjoy putting a plan in place, A/B testing of assumptions, analyzing analytics and data and then fine tuning. I love Eric Ries who was a big mentor for me, I read all his books and even connected on Linkedin after being chosen to help market one of his kickstarter campaigns for his last book launch. I think the lean startup is a great principle, I also love Steve Blank’s work and methodology.

In my day to day work, one of the most fulfilling things is the colleagues I am privileged to work with, Dow Jones is great international company with some very talented people. I work with journalists, editors, publishers, technology experts and marketers. It’s a dynamic mix and it’s all about the team not one individual. My work spans the UK and US besides Asia and I am often on weekly calls with international teams.

You have a great following in twitter, is this part of how you do business (guessing yes) – how has it helped you?

(Laugh) yes twitter, well you know I am growth hacker, the first person who coined that phrase was Sean Ellis who actually follows me on twitter along with dozens of other influential names in blogging, marketing, tech, finance and the startup scene. The reason I got big on twitter was actually an experiment. I was experimenting with social media growth techniques and blogging (inbound content marketing) about two years ago when I was trying to find a good content platform for my last startup and look for a more cost effective or organic way to generate traffic to the website and product pages.

With my background in web tech and marketing it was easy to test what was working and also learn from other successful social influencers how they were able to generate such a large following and quickly. Therefore I tested and refined my technique and now have, well, a massive following over 700k. In my latest course I actually train people just how I did it and how they can use social media like twitter, Linkedin Facebook or G+ to grow their business and revenue online and become an authority in their space. My latest course is called: Social Media Marketing Master – Become An Expert in Easy Steps.

How much time does it take to stay on top of your social media digital footprint? Where else are you active as well as twitter?

Using my techniques it’s on semi autopilot, the key is good selective manual posts and a mix of automation tools. Its actually possible to manage and maintain several accounts successfully with my system and approach again all in my course and revealed for the first time in my over the shoulder video training: Social Media Marketing Master

Blogging, who do you follow / like what they do; Neil Patel, Blog Tyrant, Ted Rubin, none of the above or others?

I love Neil Patel, he is one of my mentors, we originally connected on LinkedIn. I also enjoy John Lee Dumas, “Entrepreneur on Fire”, again another mentor of mine and connected, I took his pod cast class, which is amazing. Jon Morrow the ex editor of copy blogger now runs his own blog “ boost blog traffic”, he is the blogging god, he helped train me, I attended several of his workshops and writing courses we regularly have a monthly call. I read Sean Ellis’s startup marketing blog, another great one is Derek Halper from Social Triggers. Oh and Cameron Herold who has helped me so much in business, through his mentorship and calls. Finally good old Yaro Starak from Entrepreneurs Journey a great blog and inspiring reading. One other person I follow is Les Brown the motivational speaker. He is one of my connections and helped encourage me to make a big change in my life when I left my startup.

Top tips to companies trying to do well on social media?

Sure there is a mixture of tools that can give you a head start, a good content plan and the right balance of automation. I have written up two extensive articles that cover these tips and steps for business:

Not all Irish companies are convinced of the value on inbound marketing, and having an online strategy – do you spend time articulating why there is value, or just focus on those that want to develop one?
Sure I do provide insights and help to “educate” those business or individuals in a business about the benefits of inbound marketing and social media. One of my articles “How To Become The Go-To Person In Your Industry On Social Media”.

This covers why each business needs to have a go to person that is the expert and on social. I also wrote a supplemental guide in an eBook to help businesses to building up their social media authority across the most popular social media platforms that are found today. You will learn how to set up your pages and increase your online presence throughout these platforms.

Once you have established yourself on these platforms you will then learn how to automate posts so that you can spend less time working on your social media network and more time on the content and other strategies that are necessary for improving your online presence. Ultimately to Reach More People And Increase Revenue Using The Power of Social Media.

Being a big user of social media, how do you manage life / work, and online / offline balance?

Simple turn it off and tune out. I have a wife, young kids and our family dog is a Doberman, with all that in check you have to simply turn off the mobile and shut down the computer. Honestly for anyone struggling with this you must read Tim Ferriss, The 4-Hour Workweek, a good selection of hacks and process to crate time for yourself. Balance is everything, health and family must always come first over business!

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