Jason Falls is one of the most widely read and respected voices in the digital marketing and social media industries. A social listening and analytics innovator, he spends much of his time analyzing online conversations for consumer insights for clients of the Conversation Research Institute and consulting on broad digital marketing issues for a number of B2C and B2B clients. Falls shares his no-nonsense ideas regularly at ConversationResearchInstitute.
WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
I’ve always been a writer and when a newspaper column I wrote once was dropped by the paper, I continued to write it online for anyone interested in following along. That turned me into a blogger and my exploration and use of digital publishing tools grew from there. I did have the added advantage of being a broadcast major in college, so I knew video and audio editing and production skills long before video or podcasts were all the rage, so I’ve always dabbled in the various facets of it.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
I work on a MacBook Pro and generally use Google tools for organization. I take a lot of notes and do writing in Evernote, but may use Word or even Hemmingway to write more important, consumer-facing pieces. My research is done through a number of social listening tools but Brandwatch is one that I’ve been leveraging a lot lately. And my social media activity is generally done directly on the respective network (I primarily use Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn), though I do use Sprout Social to queue content and schedule posts.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE?
My set-up’s quite simple. A MacBook and an extra screen, plus Word, of course. I also use InDesign for editing for some of my clients. Oh, and I swear by my standing desk, which has changed my working life, as I hardly ever have back pain anymore.
WHAT DO YOU DO OR GO TO GET INSPIRED?
I love that question and have even done talks about how to do so. It’s different for everyone, but I personally love watching people. So I like writing from coffee shops with my headphones on listening to some upbeat music (usually rock and roll or punk) and just reading the room. If I’m stuck, I also like to listen to or watch stand-up comedy. Humor gets my brain firing and often leads to me writing some funny stuff for either myself or clients. I’m also a big fan of taking a mental break and either meditating or playing a silly game on my phone.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
That’s a tough one. I don’t have the memorization capacity for having a lot of quotes in my head. And I like such a variety of writing that it’s hard to nail down. I will say that I enjoy the fiction of Christopher Moore in an inordinately enthusiastic way. Good humorists get me, every time. I’m also plowing through a collection of short stories by Hemmingway now, so I also revert to the classics now and then.
WHAT IS THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
Figuring out how to scale conversation research. What we do at the Conversation Research Institute is take data from social listening platforms and analyze it using human brains and eyeballs. The challenge then is we don’t have enough eyeballs to do all the analysis we need to do quickly. Our testing with artificial intelligence has proven frustrating as the machines just aren’t at a quality level I’m satisfied with. So how do we analyze, say, 100,000 conversations — scoring them for topic, sub-topic, sentiment and more — in 2-3 days without hiring 20 people to do it? Tricky, that.
Is there a Product, Solution, or Tool that you think is a Good Match For Your Digital Publishing Efforts?
You know, it’s hard to not start with WordPress anymore. I have a client who runs a learning management system, online store, website, blog and forums through WordPress and the site runs rather smoothly. Now, if they went from a few thousand site users to a few million, I’m sure there would be problems, but for me, a good WordPress install and the right plugins and I can do a healthy amount of good for my audiences.
ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS JUST STARTING OUT?
Write every day. You can’t be optimal writing for other people or for money if you don’t consistently sharpen that tool. Don’t put it down. Even if you write a goofy limerick that only you see, write something new every day. Period.