Name: Chris Neto, CTS
Position: Market Development Manager
Company: Starin, A Midwich Company
SCN: Tell us a little bit about your career journey and how you got into the AV business.
CHRIS NETO: After I graduated college with a bachelor’s degree in communications with a concentration in radio and television, I started my career as a video conferencing installation technician for a small video conferencing company. That first job was all it took—it convinced me that I wanted to stay in the AV tech business. I embarked on a career journey to learn as many roles as possible. Consistently evolving and growing over my years in this business, my roles have included project manager, sales consultant, on-site engineer, technology manager, end user, consultant liaison, and my current role as a market development manager at Starin.
SCN: You’ve made it clear that you don’t have a marketing background. What got you interested in the subject?
CN: To clarify, I mean that I don’t have formal marketing training. I gravitated toward social media as a result of an impending layoff from a pharmaceutical company in 2008, as many were losing their jobs. Rather than turning to traditional job boards, I instead developed my profile on LinkedIn. In doing so, I was able to find and connect with a network of AV professionals through posts and articles.v
When my time at the pharma company came to an end, I had already secured a new role at another company via LinkedIn. My farewell post on LinkedIn to my co-workers caught the eye of an AV publication's editor. She asked me to write about my job search for her magazine, since so many others were in the same boat back in 2008. That article launched my presence on Twitter because readers wanted to connect with me and discuss the story. In a nutshell, that success started my journey in social media, and the marketing knowledge came as I learned how best to grow my brand.
SCN: How did you learn to become such a successful marketer?
CN: I spend a lot of time watching, reading, and learning. My approach was cautious and slow because I wanted a business career focus from the start. I have to laugh now, but prior to my first tweet, I pored over online material and books about Twitter. I wanted to understand from the get-go how best to leverage Twitter.
I was seeing how social media and personal branding were closely intertwined, so I stopped researching how to tweet and jumped into books about personal branding. I did not see a hard line in the sand where marketing and branding started or ended so I kept reading and experimenting online.
As I built my online social presence, I used word-of-mouth to build my brand, and over time, organically, I built a presence and was fortunate to connect with many like-minded AV people.
SCN: Why is social media such an important part of branding?
CN: Social media is the voice and presence of your brand. If you successfully market your brand, over time, you will build a loyal following—not just follower count, but real people who feel connected to the brand. Just like a friendship, you have to spend time with people to add value to relationships. Social media allows me to do that.
SCN: In your opinion, what’s the different between personal and corporate branding?
CN: What you see online is uniquely me. I created my persona around my skills, talents, personality, passions—and even quirks. It exists separately from any corporate brand. There is consistency of personal brand across all social media channels, including LinkedIn, which serves as the center of my brand. There you will find my story: who I am, the road I traveled to get where I am today, why I can speak to certain topics, what qualifies me to be a subject matter expert, and the proof/credibility/certifications to back it up.
The corporate brand is traditionally established by company leadership and is usually run by a marketing department.
SCN: Why is personal brand important?
CN: Your personal brand is a representation of who you are. Your brand shows what you care about, what you’re good at, how you do your job, and what values you bring to the table. Jobs will change, but your character never will. Your brand will follow you through your career as you progress through your journey. It’s your unique story.
SCN: How do you measure your social media success?
CN: Social media success, to me, is measured by engagement. The more I interact with and help others, the better. A lot of social media pundits have very little engagement and rely solely on follower count to sell themselves. Just to be clear, a tweet that is solely broadcasted out is not engagement. Engagement is two-way communication, and it’s vital to building your presence and becoming a valuable part of the online community. Don’t get me wrong, I do track my metrics weekly. It’s the only way to communicate back to corporate that social is working. I also use it to inform topics selections and items of interest to publicize.
SCN: What drove you to start #AVintheAM, the industry’s Sunday morning Twitter chat?
CN: #AVintheAM started in January 2018 by accident with me taking a picture of my coffee mug, saying good morning, and then answering a question about the use of Amazon’s Alexa in the corporate space at 8 a.m. The following Sunday, I woke up and again took a pic of my coffee mug and said good morning, which prompted the response on Twitter, “So what are we chatting about this week?”
Within weeks, I had organized the chat under #AVintheAM. I started using a logo to identify the chat and the rapidly forming online community. By June 2018, the #AVintheAM hashtag became the fifth most used hashtag at InfoComm, and we jumped to number four at last year’s show
SCN: With over 15 million Twitter impressions in the last month, there’s no doubt #AVintheAM has been successful. Why do you think it’s so popular?
CN: It’s the community that drives the Sunday chat. I’ve tried different things like announcing the conversation topic ahead of time. The online community didn’t like that, saying they liked to be surprised by the topic and questions. Some folks wanted to start later, and the community again said no. Starting early allows our friends in Europe to kick off the discussion, broadening the global appeal.
My best guess as to why it has been successful is that, as moderator, I listen more that I chat. Not every topic is a home run, but the people in the chats will take it as a conversation starter and branch off into other areas, and that’s okay, too.
SCN: How can individuals get more involved in digital conversations?
CN: Set some expectations about what you want to achieve. You can be a lurker who says nothing and uses social media for reading and observing—that’s called social listening. If you choose to create a profile for business, then commit to that early and align it with your brand values. Set up a routine. Reading, commenting, liking, and sharing are the keys to being engaged. If you can publish your own content, that’s even better.
The more you engage, the more you will get out of the community. My best advice is craft your online presence around who you are. Set limits and boundaries to what you want to share and when. Most of all, be consistent. Consistency with original posts and quick responses is key to building your online reputation.
SCN: Anything else you’d like to add?
CN: I didn’t go into social media expecting anything in return. I never expected that it would one day have me seated next to some of our industry’s finest on a panel, or on a plane to London to broadcast a show. This didn’t happen overnight, and 10 years later I’m still watching it evolve. Initially, I gave up a lot of time to build my online presence, and now it has become second nature to me.
To stay relevant in social or in my career, it is important to keep my knowledge and AV skills sharp. I work for a company that encourages education and career development, and I use that as opportunity to learn and then transfer that knowledge to our vendor partners.