Q&A with  Steve Yanor 

We’re not too formal around here. So we’ll just give you the answers to questions people ask.

Sky Alphabet is a weird name. What gives?

There are a lot of companies that struggle with awareness. But if you’re a public company and you lack awareness it’s a primary concern. So I thought combining the concepts of alpha and beta would make sense to CEOs and CFOs. And then I stuck my initials on the front. Except my initials are SLY not SKY. But at the time I thought SKY sounded better. Now I’m not so sure.

AlphaBeta sounded too much like alphagetti the spaghetti so it was shortened to Alphabet.

About 6 months after we got the skyalphabet domain, Google announced it was changing its name. To Alphabet. What are the odds?

But even weirder is that another company by the name of sky alphabet registered a “.net” two weeks after we did. The internet can be a weird place.

So for a long time Sky Alphabet was only a URL. No operations. Nothing. The Google announcement really took the wind out of our sails! It wasn’t until July 2017 that we decided to take on Google and incorporate the company.

Originally Sky Alphabet was supposed to be Sky AlphaBeta, an AI-driven investor relations consultancy.

Mashups are great but an AI/IR thing was a little ahead of its time.

Digital marketing is not social media marketing. There’s a big difference between earned and paid media.

Why start a social media agency in Vancouver?

I was freelancing for agencies and I could see that many of them were successful with digital, but nobody was doing social. Or at least doing social the way social is supposed to be done. Most of the agencies are just hiring social media heads now. They’re way behind they curve. Social media is hard. It’s a long-term payoff and everyone is chasing the short-term views or whatever on YouTube but that’s withering.

So I started writing a social media plan and the numbers really jumped out.

You could see that SEO budgets are starting to shift into social media. Even paid digital media budgets are starting to slide into social. So I decided to pull a Gretzky and go…

Go where the puck is going to be.

Yes. At the time (Aug 2016) I really had an internal conflict about starting a social media business. For starters, I believed Twitter was by far the superior marketing platform for small and medium businesses. I still do. But a lot of people thought specializing in Twitter was crazy.

“We’re still the only Twitter agency in Canada”

About a day after I decided to offer social media for Twitter I got a phone call from an old friend of mine. I hadn’t talked to him in 20 years. He called to ask me if I knew anyone in social media because his person left to work for Facebook.

I told him: yes I do know someone. But I only do Twitter!

Now we do 11 social platforms but Twitter is the cornerstone. It accomplishes the holy grail of what modern audiences want. Search and data are two important aspects.

What’s around the corner?

Who knows? Everything is unpredictable. If things go the way I want I see setting up shop in the land of opportunity and hiring 20 or so of the brightest minds in data science, audience development, SEO, coding, content marketing, communications strategy and a bunch of creative generalists. Maybe a lawyer or two.

There’s a huge side of data with social. That’s the opportunity. And that’s where we’re going. We just finished coding our first audience development tool using python. It’s called MAGNET. It’s fantastic.

In many respects social media marketing is still in its infancy. But the process of tapping someone on the shoulder and relating to them is as old as the pyramids, probably older.

There are probably cave paintings of people tapping each other on the shoulder — hey: there’s a hungry lion in that bush!

This awareness action is what social media boils down to: tapping the right people on the shoulder and having an ongoing conversation with them. If they feel like it. You have tread carefully. If you’re a brand, time is your best friend.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions about social media?

If you think of social media as pre-marketing or “pre-sales”, you begin to see the possibilities. If you see it first as a sales channel then you are headed into the danger zone. Social media is a pre-sales channel. It’s a touchpoint. It’s where you rack up points for being a good brand and a good online citizen.

Consumers are spending more time on social but they’re not spending time talking to their friends. They’re spending time reading the news or chatting with people they’ve never met. People are really comfortable with that. But along with this trend of talking to anybody random is that they’re also spending a lot less time with Google.

People are searching on Twitter and Facebook now. Google search is too outdated. No one wants results that are a day old.

Search is moving to social. That’s a huge opportunity.

Our slogan is “social media is smart media”. Social media is smart because it is natural. It is semantic. The happy face is the most primal form of online communication. Hitting ‘Like’ is an automated thing for a lot of people.

Of course this doesn’t mean social media is a panacea. Look at what’s happening with Snapchat. Growing pains.

But that’s because the audience on Snapchat is too young. And Facebook is much too saturated. It is unclear whether Snapchat can tread water long enough to generate free cash flow. It is interesting to watch. They are failing much larger than Twitter ever did.

Those are two reasons we favour Twitter and Instagram. And LinkedIn. LinkedIn is great.

Twitter and LinkedIn have the most desirable audiences: college educated, wealthy, loyal. All the things that brands clamour for. The investment in developing an audience on both Twitter and LinkedIn is worth it. Twitter has exceptionally low CPMs and hopefully it will stay that way. I have my fingers perpetually crossed. When I say cost per thousand I am referring to organic CPMs which is the reason why no agency specializes in Twitter because the audience development side of the business is brutal. But we have the tech and experience to do it.

Having a good Twitter account really sends a signal that a brand knows what it’s doing.

Especially in the small business space — lawyers, dentists and all the occupations and startup categories where there is loads of competition — mortgage brokers, investment advisors, accountants, decorators, real estate agents, home security firms, plumbers — for all of these everyday categories Twitter is perfect. Perfect.

The thing that most people don’t know is that a platform like Twitter gives you direct access to anyone that follows you through a secure email channel. What a great feature. So you can rely on that when you’re ready.

A lot of people make the mistake of sending these direct messages: thanks for following me and so on. Keep your powder dry. Wait for the right opportunity.

There are some pretty big traps out there. Social media is a public forum. But if you’re clear about your goals a lot is possible.

Do you want to improve your search results? Use social. Do you want to improve your reputation? use social. Do you want to get a bunch of information out that will ultimately build the value of your company? Definitely use social. So there is a long list of use cases that most people haven’t considered.

Any recommendations?

We recommend a content calendar so that the big events throughout the year are well served. As the years pass you get better and better at really punching the big events and augmenting them with programmatic audio or something extra. Social works really well when there’s an additional component, like outdoor advertising.

It’s also a good idea to keep really good paperwork: KPIs, strategies, records of your postings. Experiments are a must.

Where does Twitter fit in with thought leadership?

Thought leadership is crucial for any business. I don’t care if you’re a winemaker, plastic surgeon or personal injury lawyer, people who are buying from you are making decisions based on 5 or 6 data points. Using Twitter and the other social channels is an absolute must if you intend to truly be a thought leader.

I love the recent example of Tinhorn Creek which was a BC winery purchased by Andrew Peller for $30M. Here is a case where Sandra Oldfield is the #1 ranked CEO on Twitter in Canada witth 16k followers. I asked her: “has Twitter made a difference to your business?” She said “absolutely.” And two months later she’s holding a cheque for $30M.

Twitter is powerful. All the important people are on Twitter. It can be a difficult platform to master, but that’s what we’re here for.

 

Steve Yanor is the founder of Sky Alphabet Social Media Inc. (almost known as Sly Alphabeta). With a background in investor relations and corporate communications, he was one of the world’s foremost authorities on IPO marketing. Until 2008, Steve worked as a marketing consultant to investment banks and CEOs, and directly participated in $45 billion worth of capital raises through dozens of international IPO Roadshows. In 2014 Steve published his first book “Roadshow: The Marketing of Corporate Finance.” He started Sky Alphabet in the summer of 2016 and incorporated the company in June 2017.