Episode #203 – Scott Ayres On Killer Social Media. Opinion-Free Practices Based On Testing & Data

by John McIntyre

Scott has had a diverse career.

From a minister…

to shipping cars purchased online…

to a bounce house/waterslide business…

he’s experienced in many fields.

He became the top user and most knowledgeable about one of his favorite online products.

When gas prices hit the roof, the owner of the company brought him onboard full time.

He helped drive their blog to among the very top social media blogs.

He co-authored the Facebook All-In-One book for the famous “Dummies” series.

In January of 2017, he came on board at Agora Pulse to start the Social Media Lab.

They get to the bottom of social media tactics and strategies…

taking on gurus and “best practice”advice all over the interwebs.

Today, Scott is bringing what they have found here…

to the McMethod Email Marketing Podcast.

Are you committing these social media SINS?

In this episode, you’ll discover:

  • Will using a LinkedIn hastag get you more impressions? Scott put it to the test.
  • How to figure out exactly where your audience hangs out.
  • Scott destroys what Instagram goo-roos have been teaching for year? Have you been a victim of this advice?
  • Compelling data from Scott’;s (former) bounce house/inflatables business.
  • The social media success story of Gerald and the Colossus pizza.

Email Marketing Podcast Episode 152


Intro and outro backing music: Forever More by CREO

David Allan: Hey everybody, we’re back for another edition of the podcast I’m David Allan – it’s probably been a while like you’re
listening to this I won’t get into that right away but today we got an exciting guest who’s gonna talk a lot about social media his name is Scott Ayers from the social media lab and the parent company Agora pulse Scott welcome to the show.

Scott Ayres: Hey thanks for having me on.

David Allan: Yeah I think this is gonna be exciting because
as people will find out it’s been a little hiatus here for the – you know
marketing podcast and we’re getting back at her and you’re the first guest to sort of restart things post summer and so maybe let’s give a little your backstory. How did you get into social media and sort of you know take us – take us up to where you’re at now.

Scott Ayres: Man, it depends on where we start I think when social media first came out back and held myspace days I was addicted to MySpace and then from a business perspective you know I I guess this was probably on a 2007 2008 I started working in the auto transport business I moved cars for a living mainly like people who bought in sold cars on eBay or auctions and stuff and a guy named Gary Remy who I still remember I lived in Houston at the time he came in our office was hoping it was the SEO and stuff he’s like hey you guys got to sign up for this site called LinkedIn and we’re like what is that and he’s like sign up for and you get tons of customers from it you just got to connect with people and so I sign it for LinkedIn and sure enough I got addicted to it I mean this is so cool because iPhone I can talk to people and I can get a lot of business from I saw the business value of it and then fast forward about a year and a half and I started my own transport business from home you know shipping cars you know instead of having the split Commission’s kept it all myself but got all the headaches so and so I dove in completely with Facebook and Twitter because nobody in that niche was really doing much in that and discovered that I could get more than 50% of my clients via Twitter and Facebook and not to spend any money on that was just connecting with people and through that process the fun thing was and how I kind of moved over from the transport business into this I started creating there was a product called fanpage engine back in those days that was if you familiar with Facebook pages a usability those custom tabs they called them they had his product that was real simple didn’t require any coding you could create these customized pages for people to have on their business page so I started using their tool to make my own pages on my own my
Facebook page and then started selling I’m like doing the service for people and started doing blogs and videos and tutorials about how to use their product and they got David Foster on the company
he reached out to me is like man you know more about our app than we do and he said can you write some blocks for Zoar and then can you do some training videos for so for a couple months I
started doing training videos for him and blogs for him and then he’s like hey you want to help out with customer support and like yeah sure you know I’m doing some side during that run of my
shipping business I think it caught the economy collapsed and that’s when that’s when fuel prices went to like I’m in Texas and so for us normal fuel price was like two dollars a gallon went to like four-and-a-half five dollars a gallon and no one was buying cars for
one and nobody we could get them shipped either and so it right about that time you know they was like hey once you come work for me full time and somebody sure I didn’t know what that minute I’ve been the typical you know have a nine-to-five kind of a job and for all my life and so I started doing social media for them it started being their guy to blog and in

within a couple of about a year so our

blog went to the top 10 list for social

media examiner’s top social media blogs

which was a big deal and so through that

process I worked for them for a couple

years and then I’m working for another

app company called post planner I’m

doing the same sort of work you know the

the blogging that I must have written

face book all-in-one for dummies through

that process and got our blog at the top

of social media examiner’s lists again

and then about a year and a half ago or

so January 2017 I came on board at Agora

pulse just to do this project we call

the social media lab it’s pretty

interesting yeah I could go even further

about what I’ve done before that which

would blow your mind but

and for this we’ll leave it at that yeah

former minister turns social media so

this is where you’re at now you came on

board with Agora pulse at the Social

Media Lab and this is the constant mag I

get questions being in marketing I get

questions about social media all the

time and I don’t really consider myself

even that well qualified to answer some

of them beyond my rare few exploits on

my own maybe start talking about what

should people be doing I mean it’s

constantly it seems like a constantly

shifting sand you know of like what’s

hot what’s what’s not and the different

algorithms are changing constantly of

course and you know what should people

be doing if you’re there this is a small

business owner listening to this right

now or should they start on what sort of

shot stuff should they be looking to do

well that’s that’s a convoluted question

right you know for one for what we do at

the lab just to kind of throw it out

there we knew our goal is to go out

there and and test all the different

social media tactics that we hear from a

lot of the Guru’s a lot of brands are

trying or just people questioning

wondering if this works or not

we can’t test everything there’s some

things that you can’t quantify and get

good data on so we don’t bother testing

a lot of stuff on based on sentiment or

real hard to test right but I can go out

there and run a test like I just

published a test today on LinkedIn

hashtags dude does those using a hash

tag at least one on a LinkedIn post gets

you more impressions and our results

came back yes they do

compared to the same exact link post

they got about twenty nine percent

higher impressions when we added last

hashtag to it which tells me people are

using hashtags on LinkedIn right and so

there’s stuff like that we can test that

are pretty I would say use is they’re

very time-consuming like right now I’m

working on a test on Twitter on about

five different Twitter accounts it’s

gonna end up being about fifteen hundred

tweets I’m gonna have got a schedule and

go through into the process sometimes

too daunting but our whole goal is just

to try to figure out ways to you know

bus those missed and talked about those

things that people are saying is true

and sometimes they’re not and then given

data to back it up and try to pull out

opinion as much as I can which is really

hard for an opinionated person like

myself but I try to pull it out on all

the blog posts where we want to say this

is the data and sometimes we’re shocked

by it and sometimes I’m absolutely wrong

on my hypothesis right and I have to

kind of you know eat crow and say well

that didn’t work but and that’s it and

here’s the data and the science says and

I think that’s a better way for a small

business to go back to your question you

know I think for one you you’ve got to

figure out and this isn’t something you

know I’ve tested because it’d be hard to

test could your business gonna be

different but you need to figure out

where your audience is if your audience

is not an Instagram audience don’t be on

Instagram if they’re not a Twitter

audience don’t be there they’re not a

Facebook audience so don’t be there heck

your audience might be on Google+ still

who knows and so you’ve got to find out

what that is for you I think most

businesses feel the the obligation to

hop on every social platform there is

and they run themselves ragged trying to

keep up and they end up doing a poor job

with all of them instead of just being

really good at one of them so that’s the

first thing I was saying you would test

that probably by doing zip if you’re a

local business do the zip code search on

the different sites see how many users

are in that area or try to run an ad on

one of those sites and see what kind of

target market you get when you do your

whatever your perfect target market

looks like that’s how you’re gonna know

if it’s the right platform to you so you

want to look at that and then you know

from there it’s just it’s trying

different things to see what works what

kind of what sort of content resonates

with your brain it’s not gonna be the

same for every brand like for example I

for the last five years I had a side

business running do it written bounce

houses and water slides and stuff cool

in Texas because that was written him

anyway right but it was kind of funny to

do that process I did it for five years

acts they just passed the business over

three weeks ago to my brother he’s been

working with me the entire five years

and it made sense to finally just move

on from it let him run it

and so I noticed through that though

that you know there were certain things

on social media that worked for me that

didn’t work on other sites like for

example on that bounce house business

posting links to my product was horrible

no one cared no one clicked on them you

know I didn’t get any traffic attending

engagement but boy I post a picture of

some kids smiling on a water slide the

thing would go viral in my world but I

do the opposite software the links are

do great for us photos are just kind of

me sometimes

you know on Facebook you know people go

like well okay great yeah you posted a

photo of your team good for you you know

it’s not it’s not as there’s not that

close of a connection for agar for a

company like that so you got to figure

out what that is for you and then kind

of run with it from there like Instagram

for example and we get a some data set

from the second but on Instagram for

that local bounce house business I even

though I had 5,000 or so followers on

this account I worked really hard on it

for five years I didn’t get any business

from it at all I mean it’s just I got I

got some you know vanity metric likes

you know and some ancillary type

engagement but no one was you know

messaging me or calling me from

Instagram saying I want to rent a bounce

house but about 80% of my business and

we did six figures a year eighty percent

of our business was coming from Facebook

and so the rest of it was google it so

meant when I passed the business on my

brother the other day I’m like for one

you’re not yeah I’ll give you the

Facebook page which has you know six

seven thousand likes and I spent a lot

of money to get to that a small town

it’s only eight thousand people get that

many likes I said yeah I’m not giving

you the Instagram account though for one

it’s a waste of your time and two I want

to use it for something else

so I stole it and change the name to

something else so I could continue to

use it for testing so yeah that was a

fun little experiment so that that whole

thing for me it’s been an experiment the

entire five years kind of see what works

what doesn’t work what I’ve found for a

local business I don’t know if you’re

mainly your listeners or local

businesses or our small businesses or

what I’m finding that that Facebook live

is is gold for a local business

and a real prime real-life example and I

talk about this guy all the time a

friend of mine named Gerald owns a pizza

joint in my town and he created this 28

inch around Pizza called the Colossus

giant pizzas literally literally the

blur the Box barely fit in the back of

my suburban that shows you how big it is

and so he said I know exactly and it’s

about seven pounds just with pepperoni

and cheese on seven pounds and he said

he wanted to do an eating contest and

see if somebody could eat that pizza in

an hour and if they did they got the

pizza for free they got a t-shirt they

got their picture on the wall blah blah

blah and the pizzas about 60 bucks and

and still Mike Jarrell dude you got to

go you gotta go live on Facebook he’s

like I don’t know how to do that I mean

he’s a guy that was annoyed with

Facebook you know he didn’t want to pay

for ads and I was sure I might you’ve

got to run a Facebook live so I’m

literally like 30 minutes before this

starts I’m texting him how to go live on

Facebook and so he hops on his phone

goes live on Facebook and if for his

pages got about 22 hundred likes kind of

put it in perspective and he’ll get

decent and gave me you know 30 40 likes

on post that sort of thing and in 13

minutes maybe 50 or 60 of us were

watching it I was watching from home it

was like 7 8 o’clock at night and all of

a sudden after about that 15 20 minute

mark you know there’s a hundred people

there’s 200 people 300 people 400 all

set it jumps like a thousand I think the

max live was about 2,500 people watching

it Wow

and they were watching it from around

the globe it wasn’t just locally there

was people from France from from Ireland

from the UK all around the United States

watching this guy and this little podunk

town in Texas try to eat this giant

pizza so the right people saw it and

somehow Facebook’s algorithm saw that

and notice hey this is trendy and it’s

just hot and so they started showing it

to more people the cool part of the guy

didn’t eat the pizza he ran off camera

with like a minute left and no vomit

look who that wasn’t on camera and

Gerald’s phone died

you know right after that he was texting

me later like this was awesome the video

get about I think total about 12,000


was massive for a little brand like that

but where’s the ROI in that yeah it’s

great didn’t people watched it the next

day the local news station contacted him

and said hey can we send out one of our

reporters and do a live remote during

our morning show for two hours and let

him try to eat that pizza massive free

advertising I mean massive free

advertising form the guy and of course

he got he ain’t less of the pizza in the

our former former football player he

couldn’t he couldn’t but the thing I

told gentlemen you got him now he keeps

doing him he does those lives every time

he doesn’t get 10,000 12,000 views every

time but he’s got a couple hundred a

couple thousand and it’s kind of created

this you know momentum for him now that

he sells that pizza like crazy and it

all started because he did that Facebook

live he pushed the button went like I

didn’t know what he was doing didn’t

cost him a single penny you know to do

it and now he’s seen you know huge

dividends on doing that one little Act

so that’s I mean I haven’t that’s not

even a test on the lab but that’s just a

little personal thing that I’ve seen you

know real life happened that went golly

I wish would I’m pulling his dad

actually to look at and see what it’s

done to his page because I am actually

an admin on his page I said you guys

make me an admin your page so what

should maybe you do well let’s talk

about Instagram if you don’t mind like

I’d like to talk about Instagram because

I have another business myself and I use

Instagram I’ve tried to start my page

and just I had a page but I did like you

know put some work into it here the line

over the summer and I’d love to hear

more about Instagram it seems it is you

know it’s one of those things where you

know the the avid user the typical user

and Instagram has been younger or people

who just want to post you know their

coffee and their lunch and you know

activities and all that stuff but

there’s tons of stuff on the business

perspective that you know are huge value

Instagram stories are awesome especially

if you gather your audience as

Millennials you want to leverage stories

like crazy but some things that we

tested that you know all the

quote-unquote gurus have been teaching

we’re pretty interesting first one that

was probably the biggest one that I had


and that really was scared to publish

this it all got done cuz a lot of my

friends in marketing have been teaching

this for years and I even reached out to

him today so you know I’ve tested this

and I you know this isn’t working and so

what a lot of marketers have been

teaching a lot of people over the years

is when you use hashtags put them in the

first comment instead of leaving them in

the post because it makes the original

post look kind of ugly you know because

you’ve got too much text and people

don’t want to see the hashtags I know

you’re being you know mr. spammy

marketer by using the hashtags so they

people have been struck people for years

to kind of hide those in the comments

hide those in the comments and there’s

even apps out there that you know

circumvent instagrams official API and

we’ll put the first comment in for you

even though they’re breaking instagrams

API by doing it right and so a lot of

people been doing it for you I used to

do it I’d always go back and put it in

the comments because you know you want

to look pretty in a sense you know on

for two users and so we tested 30

hashtags you know in the original post

and in the same 30 hashtags in the

comments would you know on different

posts to kind of see which one you know

might do better in the end and here’s

the interesting here’s here’s the data

likes were 9.8 4% higher when we put the

hashtags in the original post so right

there alone the engagement was tired

when I just left them in the post and

then the here’s a more important part I

thought reach or impressions or however

you want to call it on Instagram was

twenty nine point four one percent

higher when we just simply put the

hashtags in the original post instead of

going back and putting in the comments

yeah it’s 129 percent mass if it had

just been like H percent I’ve been like

well that’s almost a wash but 29

percents a big deal and so I mean I went

back and tested it twice just to make

sure because I mean I literally I won’t

name their names but there was couple

people on like God is influential is

gonna be ticked off at it because

they’re friends of ours but they have

courses on this stuff and I’m like okay

but it’s yeah it’s true and you got to

go with the data on

anything in life you got to go by what

the data says not your opinion on it and

so what happens here and the reason this

became a thing is a couple of reasons

you used to be you saw a lot more of the

text when you’re thumbing through

Instagram on your phone right now you’d

only see about three lines and then it

goes to the dot dot dot more and you

have to tap on the more to open up the

rest of the post so you don’t see the

ugly block of someone’s texts because

Instagram isn’t want that user

experience they want you to focus on the

photo not necessary the text so that’s

changed for one so if you put it far

enough down below the fold if you will

you know what no one will see it anyway

the second thing was you know you rewind

a couple years ago instagrams algorithm

you know on the explore option with the


if you if you did whenever you put your

hashtag in is it would show back up at

the top of that explore option so if I

posted something you know right now and

then let’s say 30 40 minutes out our two

hours I don’t know what the time would

have been you later I come back in and

post bunch of hashtags in the comments

boom that post gets surfaced back at the

top of the Explorer option for that

hashtag I mean that is a Instagram

realize it’s like every other social

platform they realize that marketers

like me have you know trying to or

getting around their algorithm and they

said oh wait a minute

let’s don’t do it anymore so now it that

explore option on your on Instagram is

based on the time the post was made and

so it doesn’t matter when you put that

hashtag in it’s not going to push it

back up to the top like it used to so

it’s when you put that post in so you

want to get it out there as soon as you

can and then and make sure it shows up

in that explore option that someone’s

searching for you know pizza is in

Dallas or something I don’t know it’ll

show up now I got pizza on the brain

right I say that with my chick-fil-a so

I mean that’s how that Explorer feed is

working now and I think that’s why we

saw the results we did because there in

a sense you’re penalized if you try to

go back and do it later because you’re

getting around the algorithm you’re

working around it are trying to so now

you’re not rewarded

for that the other thing to think about

too with hashtags this and we’ve done a

lot of tests on hashtags because it’s

such a people know they’re good but they

don’t know what to do is I’m a lot of

times hashtags are not for your existing

followers so it doesn’t matter if you

use it for your existing followers are

going to see your content based on it

they’ve engaged with you before or not

so if they’re engaging with you it

doesn’t matter what the content part of

it says the hash tag is not going to

resurface it for them hash tags or on

any of the site where it’s LinkedIn

Facebook Twitter or whatever hashtags

are for people searching with that hash

tag to hopefully find your content and

get exposed to it may become like you

follow you whatever so you got to kind

of keep that in mind with the hashtags

and your strategy on them so you know

the whimsical ones are funny maybe but

they don’t do any good hash tag that was

fun there’s no one searching that was

there searching you know social media

SAS tech marketing tips you know they’re

searching for that sort of stuff you

know motivational whatever it might be

they’re searching those hashtags so

that’s what those hashtags are for and

so you got to use those right so that

was a big one on Instagram that I mean I

tell you what I got so many I got a

couple of the emails going are you sure

yeah wish it was different but it’s not

but it makes it interesting well that’s

so that’s important part though I mean

that like as people listening to this

podcast a lot of people are freelance

copywriters and people who employ

freelance copywriters and you know in

the direct response world this is

exactly the important part yeah media is

like we want to know not what we think

works we want to know what actually

works yeah and you can only get that

through testing exactly I mean if you’re

not testing you know you’re just you’re

taking the advice and it’s just advice

from someone else who maybe it worked

for them but it is it’s not gonna work

for everybody so that’s why it’s what’s

been really cool with this project is

and I call it project it’s my full-time

job so it’s not going away but but the

lab that the cool the cool part of it

that’s for my boss the way he didn’t say

why was he on that podcast

but the thing with the lab we try to do

is not just test on you know a software

company’s page we’re testing on a bounce

house business we’re testing on a

personal profile we’re we’re testing on

you know a pizza business or you know

someone who’s selling digital products

we’re testing on multiple kinds of

accounts and then averaging those

numbers together that kind of give us a

trend otherwise what happens in a lot of

those tests that I’ve seen other people

do you know let’s and I’m not picking on

anybody I’m just saying like so say

HubSpot while your users pretty

listeners probably know HubSpot yeah

let’s say they run a test on just their

account and it gets some really cool

data maybe it’s you know hundreds of

pieces of data but it was only on their

type of business so unless you you are

that sort of you know inbound marketing

type company it may not apply to you all

right that’s real important kind of for

me to always have that cross section of

different types that way I can give an

average and then kind of go from use it

average for my conclusion so that’s

that’s a really big deal for me so tell

people you know as we wind down here

tell people how to get a hold of you and

like maybe you know where to go to

listen to the social media lab and

here’s some more this fantastic data

that you are accumulating yeah anywhere

you listen to podcast is search for

social media lab you should find us

we’re on all the different you know

podcast platforms as far as our website

you can go to

gora pulse comm forward slash social

media lab we kind of decided beginning

not to do a separate brand we think of

this for us the social media lab is all

about you know getting out some great

content and but see somebody’s missed

but it’s also a branding move for us so

we kind of by word I kind of equated

till we get a room in the house a small

room on the house and Agora polls so

Agora pulse com4 slash social media lab

you can see all the different

experiments based on the topic so you

can go directly to the podcast from

there and anywhere on social we’re

basically at Agora polls and if you

tweet us it’s always me pretty much that

does offer social media because I’m also

a social media manager

awesome that’s usually me that’s

engaging and if anybody has you know

some sort of dying question or something

they’d love is he tested we’re always

open to taking you know ideas from

people and if we run with one of them

we’ll always mention you in that test or

have you do it along with us

that’s excellent excellent think you’ve

given out just pounds of valuable

content and you busted some you know

some myths that have been perpetuating

this industry for a long time which I

really enjoyed and it’s been a real

pleasure having you on Scott thanks for

coming on the show yeah thanks for

having me on and a good talking to you

we’ll have to circle back you know maybe

you’ve got something you want me to test

and we’ll circle back on it yeah

absolutely and for everybody else listen

to this and you know welcome to the

email marketing podcast which is started

again after the lazy summer so to speak

and we’ll be back again with another

exciting guest hopefully someone is

insightful and as scientifically driven

as Scott

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