The Future of Digital with Brian Fanzo

#34: Brian Fanzo, digital futurist and host of the podcast iSocialFanz, shares his journey of building a massive online following and becoming a highly sought after speaker by being unapologetically himself.

This episode is jam packed with valuable takeaways as Brian talks about what’s no longer working when it comes to online business, why his podcast listeners give him the strongest hugs, and what the future of digital looks like in 2020 and beyond.

Podcast Episode Summary

In this episode, you will learn:

  • how he carved out a career path that unleashed his full potential and led to unimaginable opportunities
  • his unique ability to be agnostic to a brand that got him to present to tech giants
  • how he leverages his insatiable thirst for content
  • how to bridge the generation gap 
  • why the podcast is the most intimate medium in the world!
  • what the future of digital looks like in 2020 in the age of coronavirus

Quotables

I’ve always looked at digital and social media as so many opportunities to monetize that you don’t have to do it carbon copy, like what everyone else does. (11:04)

My view as a futurist is I’m a big believer in that technology is making the world a better place. (19:08)

I don’t believe social media or digital replaces what we do offline. But I do believe it gives us more opportunities and amplifies what we do offline. (19:23)

I turn down more influencer opportunities than I accept. A lot of that has to do with the fact that like, Hey, if it doesn’t match who I am, I’m not going to push it because losing the trust of my community for one paycheck has never been something I valued. (20:42)

Don’t make me watch something that I can listen to. (27:50)

I look at podcasting and I’ve put this out there. It is the most intimate content medium in the world. And to me that intimacy, that connection is so beautiful. It is…I think it’s beautiful because you don’t have to reach the world to make an impact on podcasting. (29:48)

I always caveat it with – social media didn’t make the world a worse place. It gave us access to bad things that people were doing for years upon years for us to expose it. (35:49)

When I look at this whole space, I think one of the things that’s interesting with the coronavirus is that I believe it’s reminding us that we are way more similar than we are different as humanity. (36:51)

When I look at the future of digital, I do believe we each have to own our place in making the world a more empathetic place. And we have the tools to do it. (37:30)

It’s our job to put ourselves out there to the world. (39:01)

We are a lot more alike than we are different. Our vulnerabilities for many cases are what connect us with people. (39:42)

Resources

Jay Baer: Youtility

Gary Vaynerchuk: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook

Connect with Brian Fanzo

iSocialFanz: WebsiteTwitterYoutubeInstagramMedium 

FOMOFanz: PodcastTwitter

BrianFanzo.com

LinkedIn

Ep. 34: The Future of Digital with Brian Fanzo

Brian (00:00):

I'm a firm believer that good people that are doing good things are gonna shine. The old school way of faking it till you make it selling unicorns and rainbows and products that don't exist and courses that don't solve any problems, they just lead to other courses that lead to other courses that, all of that is going to get exposed in this, in this near term. And people are going to be a little bit more tighter on their budget. There are gonna a lot more decisions. This idea of transparency is being now demanded by customers, thank God, like I think that's a big piece and I think that's exciting, right? We think about it from like a excitement part like if you are a good business owner doing great things, you are going to be rewarded.

Josiah (00:38):

That was Brian Fanzo, Digital Futurist and host of the podcast iSocialFanz. And in this episode he shares his journey of building a massive following and becoming a highly sought after speaker by being unapologetically himself. This episode is jam packed with valuable takeaways. As Brian talks about what's no longer working when it comes to online business, why his podcast listeners give him the strongest hugs, and what the future of digital looks like in 2020 and beyond. But before we start, I want to share a review that one of our listeners left us on Apple podcasts. Robert left us a five star review and they said: "It's not often a new podcast hits on all levels between content and quality of production. This guy knows every aspect." Man, thank you so much Robert, for taking the time to write a review and I'm so happy to hear that the quality we're striving for is coming through in the show. I really appreciate it. And for everyone else listening, if you wouldn't mind, do me a small favor and take a moment to leave a review for this show. It would mean so much to me and the team here at Content Heroes. Not only will your review help others find and enjoy the show, it also helps energize and motivate us to keep showing up and serving all of you the best we can. Plus, your review could also be featured in a future episode. All right, it's time to get to this awesome conversation with Brian. So let's jump in.

Announcer (01:53):

You're listening to the Content Heroes podcast where entrepreneurs, marketers, and creatives share how they build profitable businesses on their own terms by creating content online. And now your host Josiah Goff.

Josiah (02:09):

Welcome to Content Heroes, everyone. I'm here with Brian Fanzo who is a Digital Futurist and founder of iSocialFanz and I am very excited about this conversation. Brian, thanks so much for being on the show today.

Brian (02:19):

Thanks for having me. Excited for it. It's a, you know, a nighttime recording, which I always add weird contacts to podcast is kind of what I'm known for, but I enjoy like it's like the second, second wind or maybe my third wind of the day, but excited to be here.

Josiah (02:31):

Yeah, definitely. This is the quietest time because this is after the kids go to bed.

Brian (02:38):

Yes, I have that as well.

Josiah (02:38):

So before we get into kind of the meat of it, if you will, let's dive into your origin story a little bit because you've built quite a following online and an amazing community, but you don't have kind of the typical background and you definitely didn't take a typical path there. So let's dig into that.

Brian (02:55):

Sure, yeah. So I think you know, even the concept of you know, digital future as might be like, is that like, is he making up a buzz words? And I can actually tell you it'll make a lot more sense when you understand the random path that got here. But you know, I was a computer science major with a web design concentration out of college. I am a pager wearing millennial is what I refer to myself as, which just really means I was born in 1981 I'm right on the cusp of the millennial generation and it's kind of what I...

Josiah (03:21):

So do you still wear a pager or.

Brian (03:23):

So I wear one on stage. I have a purple one, but I do not wear one as regular. I converted to like Blackberry and then iPhone. But I do have one on stage and actually I have one of my healthcare clients is making me one that will actually light up every time someone tweets my username when I'm on stage. So like we're gonna add some like fun interaction to the pager, which you know, can't do that.

Josiah (03:43):

That's amazing.

Brian (03:44):

But yes, I graduated in 2003 couldn't get a job really in IT or in web that I wanted. Went and worked for UPS, actually delivering packages. Went union for like a year and a half and then thanks to buying milk at a grocery store, wearing my fraternity letters. I had someone offered me a cyber security overnight help desk job that was pretty much an 80% pay cuts. What would get me a clearance to work for the US government. And I live in Northern Virginia, which a lot of the gigs are here. And so I took that gig. I kind of knew that I loved the UPS gig, great shape, great money. But I knew I needed to get into it before it was too far out and I would have just been doing that what I was doing. And you know, interestingly enough as the story would kind of go, you know, six months into that role, someone within my team, the bigger team that we were working on in our contract, decided to quit with no notice. Our boss walked into our help desk and just said, you know, raise your hand if you can go to Korea on Monday. And I haven't had my hand up first. And he's like, do you have a passport? I was like, no. I was like, I've been on cruises but like I don't have a passport. And he's like, well you feel like you could go there and train this course? And I said, yeah. And so I got a same day passport, the next day on Saturday and I took the 13 hour flight to Seoul, Korea on Sunday. At the time I had manuals out trying to learn what I was training. And it was a four day cyber security course for the US military that were in Daegu, Korea. I like landed in Seoul, had never been out of the country, had to take like a high speed train South in Korea and God, they're Monday evening. And I taught the course for four days. I can tell you I was lunch breaks and after dinner, I was studying what I was supposed to teach these guys the next day. And it was an interesting space because cyber, there's a cyber security in 2005 like cyber security still isn't sexy today, but in 2005 no one was doing it. No one was even. But I was, you know, working with the military and I didn't have a military background. I was like that 1% of the contractor that didn't have it. But the shorter, faster version of that is I flew home after that first week of training and the government lead messaged my boss and pretty much said, we'll add four classes a month to the schedule of Brian's running them. And I was one of those things. I turned my Blackberry on and he was like, I think you're going to get promoted three levels above where you were. And I ended up taking that over the next nine years, building it out to a team of 32 people, ran a $19 million a year budget, train four classes a week every week, did two trips to Afghanistan, three to Iraq, 54 countries over those nine years. And it was a heck of a lot of fun. Grew my clearance to the highest level security clearance you could get and all of those great things. And I got promoted, our contract was coming to an end and I kind of had an epiphany of, I loved working with the military, loved working with the groups that I was working with, but I always had this like belief that I needed to, I wanted to make a bigger impact on the world. And my dream job since I was in college was to be a technology evangelist modeled after Guy Kawasaki and what he did at Apple or what Robert Scoble did at Microsoft. And against all of the wishes of my mentors and everybody else, I gave up my clearance, left the government cyber security space, got a job in another sexy industry, which is the data center industry, which is like the only thing that's not sexier than cyber security is data center. Then I was able to get my dream job, which was a technology evangelist, reported to the CEO dotted line to the CIO and the CMO. Heck of a lot of fun. The startup was growing. We were hiring 12 new hires a week in the cloud computing data center space. And I worked there for two years and 10 days and the company was getting acquired and they pretty much came in and said, what the heck is an evangelist? And we don't really understand what that is. And that was my kick out the door to start my entrepreneur career. So, you know, I left there and at that time in 2014 I got awarded from The Economist, the top 25 social business futures leader. And so they flew me around to IBM, Dell, these events as an influencer. I went to Ted Talks based on this social selling internal employee advocacy tool that we had designed at our data center company. And you know, even at that time, 2013 social media wasn't really my thing. I worked with a marketing department but I used social to connect with Pittsburgh sports cause I'm from Pittsburgh and I was like my whole attachment to be able to talk to my people. And 2013, 2014 I started to become a little bit more social, put a little more things out there. And so then after I left and became an entrepreneur, tried the marketing agency life for about six months. I absolutely hated it, was not for me and kind of did the influencer consulting work for about a year and then realized, you know, I presented at the Pentagon for cyber security at the data center. I spoke at AWS:Reinvent, VMworld, South by Southwest, on behalf of the brand and for whatever reason I didn't realize being a professional speaker was actually like a full-time job. Like I just didn't think that was something that existed. And so about four years ago I pivoted my business to about 60% speaking and then the next year it went to 90% and right now that's where I'm at. 90% kind of full time keynote speaker. I host a couple of podcasts, very blessed that you know, I invested in community, I've done a little over, you know, 3,500 live streams on like Facebook live, Periscope. That's kind of where I would say I kind of grew my brand the most, but that's why I became a digital futurist is I kind of was trying to figure out how do I encompass a random career of cyber security data center technology evangelist marketing and they labelly came up with those digital futurists and that's where we're at in 2020.

Josiah (09:02):

Man, that's amazing, Brian. You know what I love about that story and there's a lot of stuff that I love about it, but the big thing is all of that happened just because you were the first to raise your hand.

Brian (09:12):

Yep.

Josiah (09:13):

And I think that just, that speaks so much to the power of showing up and saying, I'm going to do this. I don't really know what it's going to look like. I mean that's how I did it when I started my business and with this podcast and all of that. And when you do that, things happen like they do. And I absolutely love that. So, I'm really curious about when you, you know, you got laid off and you were moving in, you said you moved into being an entrepreneur, you started with a marketing agency, realized that wasn't for you, where exactly did you go from there? Like how did, what was going through your head during that first year of your business trying to figure out what it was that you actually wanted to do?

Brian (09:54):

So interesting enough, and I'll be really honest with this. Like, I like my entrepreneur job that I had for the government. I absolutely loved. I loved working for an enterprise company. I loved the environment. We had a massive team. When I went and worked for the startup, I loved working for the startup. Like we were the startup that you read stories about, right? Like ping pong tables, free lunches, you know, shutting off email to inspire collaboration. Like we were like, I lived that for two years. And so I will always caveat by saying the entrepreneur journey for the last five years, hands down the hardest thing I've ever done, hands down the most lost I've ever felt, the highest highs, the lowest lows, you know, I felt, and that first year was a big testament to that because I was growing a big brand. I had this award that was allowing me to work with these giant enterprise companies. But when I figured out like the agency life wasn't for me, part of it was, well I don't like selling, which is an underlying piece of me and who I am, which is really bad because my dad is a candy salesman. And one of the best in the world and sold a global company to Mars candy. And like, I mean, I grew up with sales in my house. It just, it's not my personality. And so weirdly what I was, I'm a big believer in not only when someone tells me I can't do something, I like trying to prove them wrong, but I also am one of those ones that like, I've always looked at digital and social media as so many opportunities to monetize that you don't have to do it carbon copy, like what everyone else was. And I can tell you like 2014 I got paid for my first influencer gig and it was $10,000. And you know, that was before even the word influencer was, you know, good and then bad and then fire festival and whatever, you know, like, like it was, you know, I was getting, and most of the time what I was getting paid for was my ability to be agnostic from a brand. Right? So I would do, in one year I did 18 IBM events and I had Dell and HP and SAP come to me and say, we want to work with you but you have too much IBM in your feed. I was like, well I have IBM in my feed because they send me to these events. Like if you send me to your events and you pay for me to be there, like you don't pay for my opinion because I go to all of them. But I would amplify and share that same kind out there to the world. And so I was one of those people that I wanted to work with all of these brands and be the person that everyone told me I couldn't be there. Like, well you have to pick one or you have to niche down with these. And I can tell you in 2017, I spoke and was paid as an influencer on eight enterprise technology brands that most people would consider competitors. I hosted a Dell EMC world the same year where I hosted HP Discover and I took a live streaming event with SAP to the Superbowl and this was all in the same year. And so for me, I can like, if I look back, it was bandaid. I can tell you it was like sometimes I would say, Oh well you want me to sponsor a live podcast, pay me this money, fly me to this event. And then when I was at the event, I would find another sponsor to sponsor part of the podcast. And in the next event I would go to, they were like, well Brian, we don't want to pay for your opinion, but we'll pay for you to write three blog posts afterwards. And so like, I mean, those first two years before the speaking thing became, you know, where I was monetizing, it was a lot of packaging something together, knowing what my skillset was and really you, I build a community that was very November 2nd, 2013 I've committed to myself. The reason I know that date was my, I'm a mama's boy. I was talking to my mom and my mom was like, you seem burnt out with social media, like you're trying to get into it. She's like, I'm just curious. Like the thing that made you really great when you were younger was that you were unapologetically authentic. And her comment was you're not wearing a hat in your profile picture on your social media channels. And she's like, are you being yourself Brian? Like, I'm just curious. And of course like I'm like, mom, you don't know social media. Of course I'm being myself. Like, what are you talking about? And I remember hanging up and I walked into my bathroom with a Sharpie and wrote, be yourself on the mirror. And it was like that epiphany of like, Oh my goodness, like I'm spending all this time hating social media and digital and content. Because I was trying to tell the story that I thought other people wanted to hear when the easier path and the path that I've learned for myself has been a, be myself, own it. And November 2nd, 2013 that started in less than 2,000 followers at the time. Right, and within a year later it was over 100,000 and part of it was because I didn't have a goal to monetize that. It was really like Gary V's actually two books I read at the same time, Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk and Youtility by Jay Baer. I actually read both of them. I had one on like a Kindle. One on audible book. And I kind of embraced this idea of just being the utility and giving away content. Now, Gary became a mentor of mine a couple of years later and he would joke that I forgot the last part of his book, which was called The Right Hook. He's like, Brian, you're really good at jabbing. Just like you just don't know how to right hook, which is probably still like a, you know, an element of my business. But for me, I knew that these enterprise brands wanted to access to small business owners and entrepreneurs, but they like, you know, what does SAP, the average millennial couldn't even tell you what they are yet. They run the backbone of 84% of all Fortune 500 companies. Right? Like what is IBM like if it wasn't for Ken, for Watson being on jeopardy, like most people don't even know IBM was, the millennials wouldn't know they are in business. And so I had this fun ability to kind of sit in between and like they would literally pay me to sponsor just to have access to my community. Therefore I never sold a course. I never sold anything to my community. It was 1,000% giving. I was blogging, I was creating content for them and then monetizing it through enterprise brands. And funny enough, it's kind of my still my same business model. Even today, big brands, payment is speak and oftentimes I'm using data, and feedback, and conversations from that entrepreneur community.

Josiah (15:19):

Oh, that's great. That actually brings me to something I'm really curious about. What is your approach to putting together talks and in creating content? Because I, you know, as a digital futurist, I mean you have to have an opinion on things. And so are you one, are you kind of like just are you naturally an opinionated person but also like what, how do you go about forming, you know, taking these ideas and kind of taking this vision that you have and sharing it with other people?

Brian (15:48):

I love that question. I don't think I've been asked that question before in that way. So for me, my mom likes to say I came out of the womb talking and for those that are listening, like I always say, don't listen to this podcast at one and a half speed. I sound like Mickey Mouse, right? Like put it on one speed. I know I talk fast. It's been, it's, I've always been that way. But you know, for me the whole be yourself, like my mentality and I kind of learned this early on as I was sharing creating content. I've never been one to say I know everything and you don't know anything. I've never been one that wanted to be an expert. I've always believed that I had an ability to, shift people's perspective or provide a unique point of view. And that sometimes can get in the way, right? You can get imposter syndrome where you're like, well someone already wrote that blog or create that podcast. But one of the things that I've kind of learned throughout this process was that people really, they didn't care that there was 30 other YouTube videos talking about the reviewing of the iPhone 6 plus. They wanted to know what Brian's opinion was on it. Like my opinion. And I started to kind of own that idea was that not only did I have an opinion and I would say I'm an opinionated person, but I'm also someone that wants to please everyone, right? So I'm the person that has like that desire to, so I'm not one that will pick a fight. It's actually why like empathy is a big part of my overall mantra is I'm, I really enjoy being the one that can provide, you know, a well-rounded 360 degree view of something where a lot of us would look one direction. You know, I even play into that somewhat on like wearing the hat and the shoes and then and things on stage and most people are thinking I'm going to be on the millennial side where most of the time I'm trying to coach millennials on, you know, how to do things different with, you know, executives in that side of the fence. You know, I have tattoos. I'm a dad of three girls. I, you know, I grew up in a very conservative blue collar family, but you know, right wing conservative family there where I play not in that area. You know, I advocated for a lot of brands and so like really what I kind of have developed and it's been a lot of fun to kind of figure out as I've gone is that what I am paid for in all intents and purposes as a speaker, as a podcaster, as an influencer is my point of view and my way of presenting something. And so I can tell you, I don't ever, there hasn't been a day in seven years that I haven't had a content idea. Like there hasn't been one time where I'm like what should I create and I have to like, cause people ask me that a lot. Like how do you find that isn't the case. Like for me, and I will tell you I consume a lot of content, social media content. I spent 18 months studying TikTok for hours on end, interviewing TikTokers with no goal of being a TikTok star. I wanted to understand the psychology of that platform so that I could help other brands understand that psychology and integrating and what it works. And so that's really where it's at. I think it also is me being like a computer science kind of data geek. Like my, like in my spare time I would jailbreak an iPhone and I would screw around with my WordPress website. Right? Like I told you I spent over a hundred hours last month learning SEO just because I wanted to be able to understand the foundation of it. So that's the one on my team could execute on it, right? Like that's the kind of geeky level that I kind of live. And so that's kind of where that kind of comes together. And for me, the futurist concept and the reason like early on, like I was labeled a futurist in 2013 from IBM and I was like, I don't like that. Like people are like predict like robots are gonna take over the world and all this like crazy. Like we're going to sleep in nap pods. And, but when I think of it as like, my view as a futurist is I'm a big believer in that technology is making the world a better place, but it's about the harmony and synergy between humanity and technology. And so that's really where I focus in the futurist language is I don't believe social media or digital replaces what we do offline. But I do believe it gives us more opportunities and amplifies what we do offline. And so that's really the role I play in that. And so a lot of times, you know, it's funny, I spent many, I mean I've given well over 150 keynotes on how do I connect with a millennial generation. And it really wasn't a millennial talk. It was more of a mindset talk to say, this isn't a generational thing. This is a, you know, what digital has done is it's made us more connected, given us all a megaphone that we would all want. Giving us customers that have been more connected and more, you know, smarter than they've ever been before. Let's switch that, right? Like let's throw out these silly generations and let's, you'll start looking at it from a digital perspective. And so that's what I kind of get paid for it and to do now. But it's funny, it took me like, I remember it was like 2016, 2017 and I had this like, I think I might've been just got off a podcast and I was like, man, you know what, I really just get paid to share my view on everything. Like it's, and it's like the most beautiful thing there that it's like a dream, but like when you look back at it, you're like, I'm not even sure how that happened. Like, but part of it too is like I'm not afraid to stand up for my own values and beliefs. I do not. I will sign an NDA but I do not sign no compete clauses because I'm like, Hey, you want me to trust me? You're like, this is the trust I built. My brand is built on trust and so I think that helps as well because I don't sell out. I turn down more influencer opportunities than I accept. A lot of that has to do with the fact that like, Hey, if doesn't match who I am, I'm not going to push it because losing the trust of my community for one paycheck has never been something I valued. So it's kind of set me up to be very nicely in this like fun environment of sharing my view and and kind of riding it through there.

Josiah (21:01):

Man. I love that, especially with just the flood of influencers today who do the exact opposite of that. And man, I can't tell you like even even something as simple as like I'll go looking on like YouTube for reviews of like a backpack or something to carry all my laptop and all my gear in, which I still have not found the perfect like everyday bag, which drives me crazy. And I noticed like the reviews are always going to make me want to buy the bag because most of the time they would have made me want to buy the bag because that's how they make their money off of like affiliate sales, which I totally get, you know. But a lot of the times they don't talk about why you wouldn't want to buy the bag.

Brian (21:49):

Right, for sure.

Josiah (21:49):

And it's totally fine if you, you know, talk about, Hey, you should buy this if you know you're looking for this, this and this and not if you care about this, this, and this. Like I really value that. And I feel like that's where we're staying in line with that trust that you've built with your audience. But it's astonishing to me the amount of people who don't do that.

Brian (22:07):

And I think, you know, there's no playbook for influencers.

Josiah (22:10):

Totally.

Brian (22:10):

And you know, and I've gotten in arguments with influencers, they made a heck of a lot more money than me and we've been on panels together and actually a couple of my good friends that have a completely different business model and approach to it for, you know, than I do. And like, like one of my big things is that like I need to test out competitors before I'll say that yours is the best, right? Like, Hey, even if I love it, like I'm going to buy other ones so that I can actually believe, you know, Hey this is the best backpack I ever tried. It's the only one I've ever received, you know? And for me like live streaming gear was funny because as live streaming was kind of taking off, I mean I would get boxes, my daughters would be like, what is going on? And I, my address apparently had got posted on a Reddit form at one point. And I mean I got, I mean I was at one point, I had well over 400 tabletop tripods. I mean there's 400 and like let's be real, like it's a $16 product. And it was just because they were all sending it to me. But you know, funny enough for me, it was a lot of the times in the paperwork they would say, well Brian, we sent it to you because we know that you're not someone that bashes other things but you only talk about the ones that you are actually using. And I was like, well it's kind of cool that I have that right? And like, and that was part of me turning down jobs where I've sat with other influencers and they were like, if you turn down an influence opportunity, it's cause you're not a creative. Like every creative can turn every opportunity into their own message. And I was like, well I agree to disagree. And I think it's hard for influencers too because you see those faking it till you make it. You see those doing it the other way and getting rewarded over and over again. But I'm a big believer where we're at right now, especially where we're at right now. Like that transparency, that connection is more important now than it's ever been before. And so like three years ago, the idea of like just hocking whatever was sent to you, whatever it was giving you the biggest affiliate commission, I don't blame you at all, but I think 2020 and beyond, we're going to see a much, a much, not only stricter guidelines, but we're going to see influencers getting penalized from their community when they're like, dude, like you didn't test out anything else. And like it's the most expensive one. I'm tight budget, I no longer trust anything you're going to do and all of a sudden that's going to change. So, you know, it's one of those things where I decided to take the high road and not blame the influencer while at the same time, shake my head and sit on panels where I have no problem arguing. Like my good friend Shaun Doris, he's an amazing influencer. He does a lot in e-sports space now. I mean, Snapchat extraordinaire artist. But we've had some of the liveliest influencer discussions you've ever seen. So where people were like, we've got to break you guys up. And I was like, no, we just completely approached this game so different. But you know, at the same time, you know, as long as that community trust is there, you know, I'm a fan of those people.

Josiah (24:44):

Yeah, for sure. So Brian, I'd like to switch gears a little bit here and talk about your podcast, cause I'm always curious to hear, you know, when people are in the space that you're in, you've got a lot of channels that you're working with. Why add podcasting to that list and what has that done for your business?

Brian (25:03):

Oh, I love this one. This is so I, you know, I was diagnosed ADHD at 31 years old, so I'm medicated on Adderall. I know for a lot of the audience like, Oh, that makes sense. Like I, it's been in my blood forever, but I didn't have that like tap on the shoulder and tell me that what I was until I was 31. And the reason I said that out is that I didn't, you know, reading was always a struggle for me through high school and college. Even things that I wanted to read. And podcasting and audio content was my fuel for learning. Right? I'm pretty good at the multitasking element of, you know, working out or in the airplane listening to, you know, either educational or learning type of content. And so for me, in the data center company I worked at as well as the government, when podcasts were early, early days, I was listening to them, right? I was listening to them before there was even an app. I remember having to like have like a makeshift home button and that was on my phone to listen to. I actually remember at one point like emailing them to my international blackberries so I could listen to them like plug my headphones into my international Blackberry on my flights overseas. And so like I was such a fan, but I was overwhelmed by the creation process of a podcast during those time that I always looked at it. I was like, man, that is so cool. And you know, the shorter, long story of that is like my goal when I was a kid was I wanted to be a SportsCenter broadcast anchor. Right? And then I realized you had to be good at journalism, which required to be good at English. English was not my, grammar, that that world was never something that was great at. And so podcasting to me, I mean, I mean the amount of things that I remember pulling over on the side of the road, you know, in 2012, 2011, 2013 and like taking notes for a podcast that I'm listening to that I would then implement with my team. It was such like that, it was such a connection to me there. And so as the, it kind of morphed into some of these hosting platforms that came out. You know, I launched my very first podcast in February of 2013 so February of 2013 was when I launched a show called smack talk, which stands for social mobile analytics and cloud. Very geeky podcast. It's still out there in the podcast world. We do a special episode on that every month just to keep it going, myself and my old business partner. But for me, it's been fun to watch that world of podcasting grow. I went from one podcast to two. I then decided to launch my own solo podcast with no guests, which is the podcast I still host to this day, which is called FOMOFanz, which sends the fear of missing out fans because my last name is Fanzo. I play it a little bit into that space, but for me interestingly enough like podcasting was my own preferred way of communicating. Live video came out in 2014 I dove all into that. That was my preferred way of getting like so like my preferred way of consumption was podcasting. My preferred way of delivering content to my community was live video. Interestingly enough, I'm not a YouTube watcher and I'm not really a live video consumer because of just my personality. I am much more like don't make me watch something that I can listen to. And so I look at podcasting and I've put this out there. It is the most intimate content medium in the world and I will set the stage with that is that you know anyone that's read a book and they've made a movie of the book, what is the guarantee that the movie sucks, right? No matter what it is, the movie is never as good as the book. And the reason for that is the same reason why podcasts are intimate and it is because when you're reading a book, you as the reader get to decide the pictures and the visuals that you are visualizing. As a podcaster, when I'm telling you a story and even maybe when I'm talking about cyber security, you got to decide as listener what I look like, what that world existed. In the video space, the video creator determines what you're picturing. What's your visualizing. And so the disconnect there to me has always been astounding. And I always, you know, I'm kind of corny in this way, but I always measured it with people, fans on my podcast when they would come up and see me, they would give me a stronger hug than the people that were fans in my live video. Right? And it's weird like to say that, but like these people can look me in the eyes, but I was able to be intimately in their ear every week and they were crafting stories and messages and really going on this own journey with me being kind of like the narrator, not really the complete visual storyteller. And so to me that's always been a big piece. And so even when like my speaking business and they were like, Oh, you need a speaker video reel and all of these things. And I started to, you know, like I wear a backwards hat on stage. I wear bright tennis shoes. I'm not like quote unquote like the stereotypical speaker. And so one of the things that I realized was like my speaker age, I was like, well, maybe we need a cut like a video that's, you know, a little bit different. I was like, why don't I send them a podcast episode that is relative to their audience or to their industry? And they're like, why? And I'm like, because if someone listens to my podcast and they trust me, by the end of it, they're going to hire me. And so that's one of our models is that when someone, you know, Hey Brian, I was thinking about, you know, having you speak in the travel industry, do you have a podcast travel? Yes. Brian, do you have a podcast episode where you talk about regulated industries? I want you to speak on the healthcare space. Here's a, I sent him a podcast episode. And to me that intimacy, that connection is so beautiful. It is. And podcasting is still in its infancy. Like, even though like I listened to it since 2010 I've been on podcasts or since 2013 and I also think it's beautiful because you don't have to reach the world to make an impact on podcasting, right? Like when you look at like views on YouTube, it's a lot of drive bys, it's a lot of three seconds, it's a lot of random. But I will take any day a hundred loyal podcast listeners over a hundred thousand some of the followers that you get on social channels and it is because of that intimacy and connection. And I remember I promoted a link to Grammarly because I mentioned before I struggle with the grammar side of the house and I was like this tool, Grammarly is amazing. And I just kind of talked about it on the show. I didn't plan on promoting, it just came up and the team Grammarly reached out to me like what did you do? Like we just had 2,000 people sign up for the premium plan within like 24 hours using your link, like and like using your name as the referral. And I was like, I don't think I put it out. Like I remember I like went to Twitter where I have hundreds of thousands of followers. I went to all these gentlemen. I was like, Oh my God, I mentioned it on a podcast. Right? And it's like it's that trust. It's that intimacy that my community has with me. And I don't have a podcast on the front page of iTunes. I've never been a podcaster, but I can tell you, I mean I generate or I attribute well over six figures of revenue to my podcast every year for the last four years. And so that to me is part of it. And the, I'm launching a new podcast and for the reason I'm doing a new one is that I will tell you like the guest part of podcasting, you know, consistency is the number one thing, the guest part of getting a guest matching up calendars and schedules. I hate that. Like, Oh my God, do I hate that? And so I actually launched FOMOFanz from a very selfish place where I said, I want a solo podcast where I just talk for 35 minutes. I don't have to worry about anyone else's calendar. I can do whatever the heck I want. And it's, you know, I'm on episode 134 or 124 of that show right now. But I also realized, wow, I haven't had an interview show in four years. And because of that I'm launching a new show, which is very interview focused. But I also think like if you look at podcasting as a whole, the avenues that we can take people with our voice, even with like Amazon Alexa and like just, you know, the crime dramas, you know, I listen to the Aaron Hernandez documentary podcast after I watched the Netflix documentary and I was blown away how much, like how much stronger it hit me listening to the podcast versus that. And so like to this day I still listen. I have about 12 podcasts that are in my like, you know, I go to and check in. I don't listen to like 12 every week. There's only one podcast at the moment that I'm religiously listening to every single week. But that's kind of where to me is like, oh my, I just love this medium. I love being a guest. I've been a guest, I'm close to, my team was supposed to look it up. I'm close to almost 200 guest spots on podcasts, which I take a lot of pride in because like I've always been the one that says yes to being on a podcast because I do love the medium. And I also know that like when I started out the amount of people that said yes to me, it was so mind blowing and awesome that I kind of continued on that. But yeah, it's such a fun avenue. And I also don't think that everyone has to be a host. Like, you know, it's difficult. There's a lot things go on there, you know, even doubling down and being a guest on more shows and celebrating more shows like that value for people that haven't thought about that is so, so there and people are dying for guests on so many different shows that to me, podcasting not only the most intimate but it's my favorite one of all.

Josiah (33:07):

Oh man, I agree with you 1,000%. I mean we talked about this a little bit before we hit record. Like I started this back in October and I just so surprised how very, very quickly I fell in love with it to the point where I'm like, how can I just make this my, the main thing that I do. I love it. And it's funny, too, like you know, you started the FOMOFanz podcast so that you didn't have to deal with scheduling people and you can just talk for, you know, for 30 minutes. And I started the Content Heroes originally as just interviews because I didn't want to be the one talking cause I didn't feel like I had anything useful to say. I just wanted to like have great conversations.

Brian (33:46):

Yeah. It's funny. Right? And the beauty, we use the same medium and it got to establish both.

Josiah (33:50):

Yup. But I've noticed that, so back in January we started doing a second shorter episode. That is a solo episode just me because I noticed that like, as you know, I go back and listen to the conversations that we have before we publish them because I'm recording the intros and, you know, putting together with the team, putting together the show notes and all that stuff. And I'm like, man, I wish we could dig into that a little bit more because I know the audience is curious about that. I have a couple of stories around that that I could share as well. And so then that started to like really spark things and ideas to keep the conversation going. And so I said, Hey, you know, it's not about me, but I do want to keep the conversation going so I can get on and talk for 10 or 15 minutes about this and kind of add to it. So that's been the journey on our side as well. Man, so Brian, before you wrap up here, I'd really love to get your take on, you know, as a digital futurist, what should we be paying attention to in 2020 and beyond?

Brian (34:49):

So, you know, if you would've asked me this a month ago, I would definitely have a different answer. The coronavirus has disrupted the world. It's flipped the world upside down. It's forced us to work from home for those that haven't worked from home forever. I've worked from home from almost a majority of my career, you know, deal a little bit in two different offices. But so the world right now, you know, is a very interesting place. And you know, interestingly enough, tomorrow when we wake up, it's still gonna be a little bit different cause we're still figuring out how this is going. But one of the things that I think it's level setting things in a lot of different areas. And I think one of the places is, and it's really the soapbox, the thing that I want to, you know, you know, I firmly believe in this idea of digital empathy. The idea that we should be able to be more empathetic in this digital world and people should not feel alone. The suicide rates should not be increasing as they are. You know, mental health should be something that we are able to be open, and share, and help each other with. And I do believe we are moving in that direction. I believe a lot of the movements that we saw over the previous years with like MeToo, and a lot of the things that had happened, these were all tipping points that needed to happen. And you know, I always caveat it with like social media didn't make the world a worse place. It gave us access to bad things that people were doing for years upon years for us to expose it. And you know, we kind of live in this space right now where we have to decide when, and I think we've been trying to decide for the last couple of years. Interestingly enough, coronavirus is forcing us to decide that, you know, how do we live in this digital world where we're not able to give someone a handshake or a hug at the moment where, you know, social distancing a lot of these things. But how do we as society, as humans still grow, still innovate, still push forward. And I mean I'm an optimist. I'm one that loves to take things a little bit in review. And as I was watching this, you know, and it just like, it's crushing a lot of my fellow speakers business, right? I lost over the next 90 days, I had 14 speaking gigs. I lost all 14 of them in a matter of four days. Right? With the events canceling, you know, that was lost revenue. I have three daughters, I have, you know, spousal support. I pay for my ex wife. Like, I mean it wasn't what I planned. And, thankfully for me, the virtual digital landscape has been my stomping ground for day one. And so pivoting is where I'm doing now. But when I look at this whole space, I think one of the things that's interesting with the coronavirus is that I believe it's reminding us that we are way more similar than we are different as humanity. And you know, the virus isn't picking and choosing right? Celebrities to people with money, people without money, every race, every religion, all of those are impacted. And I believe that was part of what we kind of have to have a refresher on because we've been so divided. And there's a world that blamed social media and technology. There's a world that blamed millennials, there's a Republicans blame and Democrats, they're still religion blaming religion. And I think this, what we're realizing now is like, I mean the unknown right now is scary. But I also believe it's gonna open this new world. And so when I look at the future of digital, I do believe we each have to own our place in making the world a more empathetic place. And we have the tools to do it. Right? Video is the answer for a lot of this. Like how do you build trust? Like you've been able to, you know, we've had people catfishing and faking it till they make it online for years. But it's because we use social media and websites to distance ourselves from people. We are like, Oh we don't want to them to call us. We don't want them to come in our shop. We want them to go to our website, go into an email list, get more email. We want to inundate them on that. Like we really turned this entire medium into pushing people away. And over the last couple of years we realized that the core things to business - trust, relationships, word of mouth are still what drives success. And we kind of forgot that. I think or we allowed the digital innovations too make us believe that we didn't have to invest in that like we do. And I think now we're coming back to this new world, which I'm so excited 'cause it's to me is this idea that, you know, technology and digital won't fixed people problems. Like we have to fix people problems with people. Like I mean like that's one of the biggest problems I think we've always had is like, Oh my company doesn't collaborate. Let's buy a collaboration tool. Buy another collaboration tool is why another, okay, maybe it's not the tool. Maybe it's the fact that people don't like sharing information and we need to, you know, fix that thing. And you and I talked about that before the show on just like mindset and how people can embrace it. But I think as we move forward, this is probably the one that the most interesting trends for me and the book that I'm finally finished writing is called Press the Damn Button. And what press the damn button really means is that it's our job to put ourselves out there to the world. And so what I look at it from an empathy perspective is if I told you to change the world, we're like, yes, we should change the world, but we don't know where to start and change the world seems like a very big task and so where we almost go to, I'll make my own small changes and you know, screw everybody else. Well, empathy kind of gets that feeling, too. But I believe that shouldn't be the case and I believe that if each one of us tell our own stories, allow people to be empathetic to us. Right? I mentioned I was diagnosed ADHD five years ago. There's no way I'm admitting to that on shows. I now talk about it on stages around the world. I went through my divorce very much on social media sharing that journey of things that I was going on. And so when I look at this, it's about like, Hey, we are a lot more alike than we are different. Our vulnerabilities for many cases are what connect us with people. My ADHD is my superpower. Once I realized how different I was and how to tap into that. And so as I look at this, I think the coronavirus the world that being forcing people to leverage digital and you know it's going to require us to sell a lot less market, a lot less, really connect with people at a deeper level. And you know I've said if we know and we've heard it forever, like business is about trust, but what is trust really mean today when we can reach the world. And I think it still comes down to this idea is like let's stop trying to reach the world with every message, every landing page, every website. Let's start figuring out like who we're trying to reach, solve problems, kind of connect those dots. And I'm a big believer in like you might think like okay well he's talking about like empathy and like I think artificial intelligence is going to have a massively good impact in our world. Virtual reality, augmented reality, machine learning, like I believe these are all things that are going to automate and augment certain process and tasks so that we can continue to do what humans can only do, which is building that trust, which is that intimacy, which is that true connection. And you know, as the coronavirus was destroying my business and my first feeling was fear and then hate and then anger, the more I kind of looked at it and it's like, wow, a lot of these things that we were waiting to happen are just kind of being fast forward to, the amount of calls I got were like, Brian, I know you like wrote blogs and had podcasts episodes on working from home and doing social selling in like 2015 could you send me those now? Like I understand what you're talking about. And so I'm very bullish in this idea that, you know, video every year is the year of video because we have to look people in their eyeballs to build that trust. I also think live video is a great gateway for allowing that participatory feeling. But I also think of it as, you know, as marketers, I love talking for just raw marketing perspective a little bit is that we have to get back to the things that worked from the beginning. Like you know, influencer marketing is not new. Like people went to like the local bar because they ran into somebody on the street that said that bar was the best bar in town. Like that was the original influencer, right? So when I look at like the future and how like all of these technologies and all of these things are coming together, the thing that excites me is that I'm a firm believer that good people that are doing good things are going to shine. The old school way of faking it till you make it selling unicorns and rainbows and products that don't exist and courses that don't solve any problems, they just lead to other courses that lead to other courses that all of that is going to get exposed in this near term and people are going to be a little bit more tighter on their budget. They're going to a lot more decisions. This idea of transparency is being now demanded by customers. Thank God. Like I think that's a big piece and I think that's exciting, right? If we think about it from like a excitement part, like if you were a good business owner doing great things, you are going to be rewarded. But I will caveat it with this is that like my dad raised me and I'm a blue collar from Pittsburgh, you know you do your work, you keep your head down, you know your name is everything. You do not burn bridges. If you say you're going to do something, you do it and you let your work do the talking for you. And I can tell you all of those still are perfect examples except for the last one. If you are waiting to let your work do the talking for you in this day and age right now, you will be out of business very soon because there is a megaphone of social media and digital and search ads and all the things and those that aren't, it's awkward, it's weird. That's where press the damn button came from is like it's our job to tell our own story or we let someone else tell our story or we drowned out to the stories of others. And so my whole thing on, the reason the whole book excites me is just I want to inspire the great people doing great things to put it out there to the world. Because right now we're stuck with fake news, bad news, and corona news at the moment. And it's just because we don't have the good news and the good people telling the stories enough. And I believe as humanity, we will spend more time celebrating all those good stories if people are putting it out there. So I, you know, I'm a big believer, I do think this is going to be a disruption to our way of life like we've never seen before, not only offline, online, but like what does remote work look like? What are we doing with all these buildings when we all of a sudden realized that we could be doing a lot of this stuff without the overhead that exists? But I'm also a big believer that when we look back on it, this is the pivotal time where we as mankind, as womankind, humankind, came together, we realized digital connects us and gives us the opportunity to highlight the good people doing good things. Remember that we're more alike than we are different. And you know, together we can, you know, change the world. We just got to get through this virus.

Josiah (44:16):

I can't think of a better place to end it. Brian, this has been fantastic. I really appreciate you being on the show today. Before we hop off here, can you share with everyone where they can find you online?

Brian (44:25):

Sure. So I am on every channel. I don't recommend it for my clients. I'm there so I can be on every channel. It's under my personal brand, which is iSocialFanz. Letter i 'cause I'm an Apple fanboys or iPhone, iPad, iSocialFanz. So it's social and then fans - F A N Z or a Zed at the end. I'm on that on every channel. My podcast, of course, is FOMOFanz. My new speaker website is BrianFanzo.com. And just like I talk fast, I do create a lot of content on every channel. So I always tell people, don't feel like you have to follow me everywhere. Pick your favorite channel. It might be LinkedIn, it might be Instagram, it could be TikTok. Give me a follow there and reach out to me. I can tell you I've sent well over 200,000 tweets, you know, 3,500 live videos. I've replied to every tweet and crafted every tweet myself. That's the part of my job that I love the most. And so, you know, I appreciate you having me on, you know, someone that loves podcasting, that lives in the web space. We have a lot of synergy there. You know, a shout out to Neen James, I believe one of your previous guests. Neen is an amazing Aussie friend actually who I met thanks to live video who connected you and I and I think it was all meant to be. So yeah, thanks for having me on. And you know, I think down the road, maybe I'll have you on my interview show once we have that going.

Josiah (45:33):

That sounds great. So for everybody out there until we meet again, go be a hero everyone.

Josiah (45:38):

Hey everyone, thank you for listening to the Content Heroes podcast. I just wanted to take a second and let you know that we have some amazing guests planned for the coming weeks, so if you haven't already, go ahead and hit subscribe so you can make sure to catch every episode. And if you enjoyed today's episode, go ahead and leave a five-star review to help make it easier for other content creators to find and enjoy the show. Lastly, I'd like to invite you to join our Content Heroes Facebook community where you can connect with other online content creators to share, learn, grow, and have fun. To join the group, just visit contentheroes.com/facebook. Once again, that's contentheroes.com/facebook.

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