Episode 219 – Riding Social Videos and Media to the Future
Steve Shallenberger: Welcome to all of our podcast listeners, wherever you may be in the world today! This is your host, Steve Shallenberger, with Becoming Your Best, and we are delighted to have a special guest with us today. He’s been on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List and he’s the founder of Chamber Media. Welcome, Travis Chambers!
Travis Chambers: Hey, I’m really happy to be here! Thank you!
Steve Shallenberger: We’re so excited to have you! Before we get started today, I’d like to tell you a little bit more about Travis. As I mentioned, he is a Forbes 30 Under 30 lister and the founder of Chamber Media. This is a 30 person growth and video agency that has tripled the revenues of four multi-million dollar DTC companies, driven $300 million in tracked revenues and garnered 400 million views across Facebook and Google channels. Way to go, Travis!
Travis Chambers: Hey, thank you! I put on my helmet, and I try really hard!
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, well, that’s not easy to do, and we’re excited to hear more about it. Well, for the benefit of our listeners today, Travis, tell us about your background, especially including any turning points in your life that may have led you to where you’re at today and have had a big impact on you.
Travis Chambers: So, I had a very tough mother – super tough! One of our employees is a marine, and he was telling me about some of the things they do in the Marines, and I said, “That sounds a lot like my childhood!” I’ve had a very generous kind father who mentored me – he was a Senior Director at Monsanto. He took roundup from a $50 million brand to a one billion dollar brand at the sales role. Sadly, he’s got Parkinson’s and cancer now, from exposure to that. I basically had a mentor my whole childhood – he would have me in conference calls for shareholder meetings for this huge conglomerate and tier sales pitches and stuff. So, I really got mentored really well. And then, when I was 26, I was kind of climbing the ladder like he taught me to do, which is what he did – working 70 hours a week or so, and he got cancer and Parkinson’s, and he got both of those from roundup, so his job was killing him, literally.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah.
Travis Chambers: I had a daughter around that point, and that’s when I said, “You know what? I’m going to stop climbing this ladder and I’m going to go build one and make this ladder how I want.” So that was six years ago. It was the first time I told him “Hey, dad, I really think entrepreneurship is my way to go.” And he said, “You know what, son? I never wanted to guide you that way, but now I’m just looking at what’s happened to me and what I’ve gone through, I think that’s the way to go.” So, I had a lot of that kind of privilege in that regard.
Steve Shallenberger: That’s a great background! What a mix, isn’t it? Having a good, strong, focused mom and a dad that can be an inspiring mentor – all packaged into one. Great going!
Travis Chambers: I know! I own both a lot, that’s for sure!
Steve Shallenberger: I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area, as we were talking about before we got going. My wife is from the Southeast corner of Idaho. She was raised on a big ranch there, and they had a huge Monsanto factory and man, I’ll tell you, it’s a controversial company, but a huge company and they have pulled a lot of stuff out of the earth there and have huge mounds – we’d go by and watch the molten dumpings of the tailings, and those are mountains right now of what they’ve created. It’s very interesting, and your dad was right in the middle of that. Quite a run!
Travis Chambers: It’s so weird because they saved millions of lives in third-world countries from crop failure, but then they slowly killed millions of people in first-world countries due to exposure. My dad’s got a lot of smoking-gun emails of cover-ups. He’s in a class-action lawsuit. I don’t know if he’ll live long enough to see it, but I think the day of reckoning is going to come for him.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, let’s shift the subject here a little bit. How did you get into social media ads? So, as you chose your company and the area where you wanted to be an entrepreneur, what led you down this pathway?
Travis Chambers: I always was interested in video – do you remember those VHS cameras that we all had in the ’90s?
Steve Shallenberger: Sure!
Travis Chambers: I used to duct tape that on the top of my helmet, and we’d go make motorcycle movies with it. I broke one of those – I got in pretty big trouble for that; that was a whole summer of work to pay for that. I was always into video, but then I was told to go the short route, so I went the short route, I went to journalism and around the time, I was about to graduate in journalism – public relations; that industry just completely died. The Internet killed it off. Fortunately, I saw the writing on the wall, and I said, “I really should go into digital marketing, because journalists are not making anything, they’re all losing their jobs and I always kind of wanted to be in video and being into creative.” There was only 2% of all ad spend in the United States, at that time, in 2009, on digital – so it wasn’t a clear path that this was going to become a big thing, but I put all my eggs in that basket and I’m really glad I did because just last year, digital spending overtook TV, radio, and print, and interestingly enough too, what just happened last month is consumption of media on the internet just overtook all non-internet media consumption. So, our business has kind of grown at a similar trajectory as this internet media consumption overall has grown.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, it’s an exciting field! Tell us how are companies using social video ads to grow?
Travis Chambers: Yeah, so, it’s so new, and it’s changing all the time. What we’ve seen is, when companies really know how to make good video ads, they can get a lot of really good performance there. You’ve got a lot of companies now that are spending millions of dollars a month, even mid-sized companies that aren’t even in the Fortune 1000, they’re spending millions a month or $500,000 a month in ad spend. We’ve really studied and figured out what kind of video ads you need to make in order to get performance. The old way is, you drive traffic – you get the cheapest traffic you can, you get as many people at your website as you can, and hope your website can convince them. But the truth is, people don’t like to read; they really want to see video and clicks are more expensive than views. And so, what we found is by having anywhere from five to 20 different videos running in your ads, you can get a lot better performance out of those efforts.
Steve Shallenberger: Right. And so, it sounds to me, Travis, like you’ve got some major companies out there really spending a lot of money each month, on ads, and that video really makes it more interesting and attracts more attention. And so, it’s not just one video, there are multiple videos that are helping increase awareness. Is that what you’re saying?
Travis Chambers: Yeah, and I can put some numbers to this. This is not theoretical. So MRCOOL is a do-it-yourself AC unit. It’s a great product, and it takes about four or five hours to install. On average, these units cost about $1,500 and that’s a hard product to make interesting. We made some videos, really funny, entertaining, fast-paced videos, and we were able to take them from $10 million a year, all the way to $40 million a year, and we’ll probably take them to $60 or $70 million this year, in our third year. We took a supplement company called Transparent Labs, once again, a very flooded, saturated market in the supplement space – we took them from $2 million a year to $12 million a year, two years in a row now. And we’ve got dozens and dozens of those case studies. And what’s so interesting about those two examples is they didn’t have really any other significant marketing efforts other than our video ads.
Steve Shallenberger: Right. And what does this mean to the smaller shop – the smaller company that may not be yet expanding funds in this area, but it’s something they ought to consider? How can they ever afford to get into this?
Travis Chambers: So, you’ve got to have the inventory runway to do this. I would never recommend a company getting into it unless you’ve got about $4-5,000 to put into ads, because the economy’s at scale there, the machine learning in Facebook needs enough data to really optimize. And so, if you could save up $4-5,000, you can make really good video ads on your iPhone; you don’t need to have high-end production equipment – you just need to be very resourceful, very creative. I would recommend if you’re going to spend any money on creative, spend it on a writer – a really good creative who can concept and write for you, and if you’re really tight on money, have them write you a script that’s low budget, and a whole bunch of them and shoot that on your iPhone. It doesn’t matter if the audio is good, it doesn’t matter if the resolution is good. All that matters is the story and how compelling your sale and your pitch is, and then go and run those ads. If you’ve got a good product, if your website is structured correctly to convert, you’ve got a pretty good chance at being able to start getting that going. You may not be profitable at first, but if you can get your money back, you can reinvest that and continue to grow that effort.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that is great advice for our listeners! So, what you’re saying, Travis, is even if you’re a startup, or if you’re a relatively new company, and you’re getting established and really trying to grow your brand, there’s a place for everybody, there’s room for everybody in this approach.
Travis Chambers: There is room for everybody. Now, if you’re just teeny, if you’ve got a few thousand dollars of inventory, you only have a few thousand dollars to put into ads, and you’ve got no creative, I would not recommend it. If that’s the case, I would probably do Google Search first, because there’s already people who are looking for your product. I would do the more organic grassroots efforts – I would focus on an organic social media following on Instagram, try to get some reach on Tik Tok – it’s a really easy place to get a lot of views right now – YouTube Channel, do some trade shows if you’ve got to, go do some markets, hit the pavement and really grind it out.
Travis Chambers: I just talked to a company a week ago – they make lotions and candles and stuff – and I’m telling you, they’re doing about $400,000 a year in revenue, just traveling with some shows. Now, they’ve got money to do Facebook ads, because they have grinded it out the same way that it’s always worked. I mean, the founder of Red Bull went to events and trade shows himself for a whole year and a half before he started to really get anywhere. So, you’ve got to start somewhere and you’ve got to have at least enough money to have the inventory in ad spend to really give it a good effort. If you’ve only got a few thousand dollars, you run a really high risk of not getting enough money back and not getting enough optimization going where you could just lose a few thousand dollars. So, you want to have enough momentum to really make that work.
Steve Shallenberger: I love your advice, Travis! That’s great! That’s going to give a good starting point for anyone. And so, what’s a good budget to sustain? I know it depends on the size of the company, but let’s say someone’s getting into this $5,000 a month. Is that $5,000 seed money to get going and then reinvest or how would you approach this, presuming you have the inventory and some funding?
Travis Chambers: So, do you mean as far as how do you get started?
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, sure.
Travis Chambers: Yeah. So, I would take five to $10,000, give yourself four to six weeks to use that money. So, you’ll be spending somewhere between $300 and $600 a day. Make sure your website is converting very well, make sure you’ve got at least 2-3% conversion rate on your website – I would highly recommend paying a CRO consultant to let you know that your site’s good enough, where it can perform.
Steve Shallenberger: Tell our listeners, what a CRO is.
Travis Chambers: CRO is Conversion Rate Optimization.
Steve Shallenberger: Awesome! Okay.
Travis Chambers: So, hire a consultant to really evaluate your website, to make sure it’s converting well. You need to have a good email drip sequence for all your customers that come through, and then, whatever you’re spending in ad spend, you need to have two to three times of that ready in inventory. So, if you’re going to spend $10,000 on ads, you need to have $30,000 worth of inventory ready because the industry’s standard for conversions when your ads are working, is about 3:1. So, for every dollar you spend, you get about $3 back. If you can do that, and you’ve got more than a 50 or 60% profit margin on your product, then you’re in a good scenario, and you’ve got a pretty good shot at doing that well. Now, if it’s not working out for you in the first few thousand dollars, that means that you need to work more on your targeting or you need to work more on your creative. Another thing that’s very helpful too, is if you start out with an email list of at least 1000 people who are customers – that will feed Facebook’s engine faster than about anything else that you could do.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, awesome! And just a couple of quick questions: one is, you talked about how important it is to have a good copy and a good writer. Where would you recommend that they find that? And then, I’d like to get to the services that your company provides in just a moment, but you mentioned that a few moments ago and recommendations on that and on the CRO.
Travis Chambers: Yes. You said, “copy“, correct?
Steve Shallenberger: Yes, copy. You said one of the first things to do is have a good writer for good copy, and then from that, you can create, I presume, your videos or whatever.
Travis Chambers: Yeah, that’s the most expensive thing in creative. People really get caught up in the production equipment when it comes to making things. For some reason, they think, “Oh, I can’t do this because I don’t have the equipment.” Well, you know what? There’s something very big that happened about 15 years ago, called the DSLR. That’s these cameras that came out. Thirty, 40 years ago, Spielberg and all those guys, they were all shooting on film; George Lucas was one of the first to shoot on digital. Now, about 95% of featured films are shot on digital, on cameras that cost far less, and on a post-production process that costs probably 10% of what it costs to produce films. So, the truth is, the smartphone that you have in your pocket – the iPhone 10, 9, 8, 7 – you’ve got probably a more powerful device here than a lot of movies have been shot on.
Steve Shallenberger: Wow!
Travis Chambers: Apple has got a team of 400 engineers who work around the clock just tuning the coloration of this camera that you have in your pocket, and most of these iPhones have a 4k resolution option as well. So, invest in writing before you invest in any type of camera equipment or anything. You can get a lighting setup on Amazon for $150; you get a couple of these pop-up lights – it’s just a light bulb with a little filter on a box. That’s all you need. If you’ve got good lighting and an iPhone, invest in writing, and if you’ve got a really good creative, a really good writer – there’s a lot of really good ones out there – for a couple of thousand dollars you can get them to work anywhere from two to five days, on just creating concepts for you. And you can also go on UpWork, too. There’s people overseas who can make content, for really cheap. So, that’s another option to get creative for your ads as well, if you don’t want to do it yourself.
Steve Shallenberger: Travis, what’s your recommendation where you can find these talented writers?
Travis Chambers: I would look on UpWork. Another one is to look in your community – go on Facebook, and look up filmmakers groups. For example, we’re in Utah, and there’s a Utah filmmakers group there, and there’s tens of thousands of people in that group. Now, not every area has resources like that, but if you go in there and you say, “Hey, I’m looking for writers. This is what I’m paying” then you can kind of go through and evaluate a lot of those people. But yeah, you can look on UpWork – they’ve got ratings there of ad writers. So, there’s all sorts of different ways to find good writers and creatives.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, tell us just for a moment what your firm provides.
Travis Chambers: So, we make social video ads that are very scalable and we do ad buying as well. So, we’ve done over 100 anchor videos – those are large production videos, like Dollar Shave Club style videos – but then we also have a team that makes monthly video content, really premium content – kind of like live-action BuzzFeed style stuff – unboxings, product demos, side-by-side comparisons, testimonials – all the things that you need to really get an ad count to perform. What’s happening right now is Facebook ads are getting more expensive and the targeting is getting easier and easier over time, because of Facebook’s AI that they’ve built. What that means is, creative has to be really good now to get performance and that’s the quickest way to win.
Travis Chambers: We took every single ad that we’ve made over the last six years, we put it into a library called “The Brain”, and we categorized it by its performance and what type of ad it is. And we have been able to name about 100 different types of ads, so we can look at an account and we can basically diagnose what kind of creative is missing, what kind of creative needs to be there and then go and make that on a monthly iterative basis. So, that’s what we are: we’re half film studio, half ad buyers.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay. Alright, great! And they can go to your website, and you help them get going, don’t you?
Travis Chambers: Yes! Yes, indeed. We work with companies of almost all sizes. So, we’ve got pretty much something for everybody.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, so as companies and groups start investing in this type of effort, what does the future hold for social video ads? What are the legs? Where do you see this going?
Travis Chambers: I think in about five to seven years, you’re going to get to the point where you can run ads almost at the push of a button; you’ll upload an email list, you’ll push a button, and Facebook and Google will do everything for you. So, I think that the role of an ad buyer is going to change dramatically in the future and the reason is that YouTube and Facebook wanted to be as simple as possible for companies to advertise. They want their algorithms to do all the work. So, that’s going to happen. What that means is, a majority of the work in this industry is going to be on creative, it’s going to be on writing – and this goes in line with what all the futurists are saying: robots are going to replace quantitative jobs, and the creative jobs will still be left. And that’s what I’m saying – this thing will turn very robot-heavy, very soon, and the poets and writers and comedians are going to all still be in business because they know how to make things that robots can’t make. And that’s where we’re staking our future in; that’s the biggest change I think it’s going to happen in the next five to seven years.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, that’s fascinating! And so, you may have already talked about this, Travis – how do you approach the creative process and figure out what to make?
Travis Chambers: Yeah, so there’s all sorts of tricks that you can use for creative and to really figure out what to make. One of the best ways is to look at what your competitors are doing. There’s a website that you can go to, it’s the Facebook Ads Library. If you just go on Google and you look up Facebook Ads Library, you can go search all of your competitors and see what kind of ads they’re running and run an analysis on that. You can’t really see what ads are working, but the truth is, if they’re running ads, there’s a good chance that they’re working, and so you can kind of analyze and decide what to make. But, as a general rule, we have found that there are seven foundational ads that almost every account should have. And I’m going to go ahead and pull those up if you want.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, great!
Travis Chambers: I can go through what those ads are.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, super! That’d be wonderful.
Travis Chambers: So, I’m going to list these out really quick and then, if you want, I can dive into what these are.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay.
Travis Chambers: So you’ve got:
– a spokesperson anchor video;
– a product demo;
– social proof;
– closer ads;
– case study;
Travis Chambers: So, a spokesperson anchor video is like the Dollar Shave Club video. They were one of the first ones to do it – them and Old Spice – where you’ve got a really compelling spokesperson who’s telling you to buy, he’s entertaining, and he’s keeping your attention. The next one is the product demo; this one’s pretty self-explanatory, I think. I’d say side-by-side comparison is usually the most powerful type of ad – and in each of these buckets, there’s a good 10 to 20 different types of ads you can make within these. #3 is social proof – this is where you’re putting together all of the press features, any customer reviews, your star rating, anything you can have that really validates and gives you credibility. You want to put this into this ad.
Travis Chambers: #4 is the closer ad – you want to have an ad that’s for people who went to the checkout cart and they bounced. So, like a reminder ad. You may want to run discounts with a closer ad, you may want to run a progressive discount: 10% at seven days, 15% at 14 days, 20% at 21 days. If they hadn’t bought after 20 days it means they’re on the fence, you might as well get them in the door. The fifth one is a case study – this is showing before and afters is showing success stories of how this has worked for people. #6 is lifestyle – this is beautiful stuff. So, think about what Prada or Gucci would run. This is beautiful, this is what life you live, this is the identity you have. And then, the seventh is unboxing – that one is showing the product showing up at the door, showing you opening it, trying it on, using it, whatever. Those are the seven foundational ad categories that we have found every account pretty much should probably have.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, that’s terrific! And how do you use these together? Do you use them progressively on the social media sites or once somebody gets into your funnel, you’re using them in the funnel, or how do they work together?
Travis Chambers: So, usually, you want to find out which of these works best with prospecting. So, the spokesperson anchor videos typically work the best because they’re very entertaining, they’ve got better writing, higher production value, they’ve really gotten people’s attention. Once you get someone to watch 10 or 20% of your video, then you can retarget them because they’ve basically told you that, “Oh, I’m interested in this.” So, those often are really good for what we call prospecting. That’s the very first touchpoint. Then after that point, you’re trying to just figure out which other ads to run. And so, you’ve got to figure out – you could try these different ways – what is your second touchpoint? Is it a testimonial? Is it a side-by-side comparison? Is it a social-proof video? And then, usually, the third touchpoint you want to run is usually those closer ads and those case studies – it’s stuff that’s really quick, very compelling, just trying to get you to take that action. So, it’s a matter of really trying to figure out where all these work together, which just requires a lot of trial and error and a lot of testing.
Steve Shallenberger: Okay, well, that’s terrific! And what are the social media platforms that companies should focus their attention on?
Travis Chambers: So, usually, you want about 60 or 70% of your spend to be on Facebook; you want about 20 to 40% of your spend to be on Google – Google Search and YouTube – and then the rest you want to put into experimental categories in other places. That may be Pinterest, Tik Tok, Bing – any of those other platforms. What I always tell people is you want to treat Facebook like TV. Facebook is the one social platform where people are going there to see baby photos, they’re going to see what people from high school are doing. So, you’re able to kind of interrupt that experience just like a TV commercial – you can reach a broad level of people. Facebook has data on who everyone is; Facebook knows their credit card purchases, they know where they travel, they know where they’re going on vacation, they know whether they own a house or not, they know if they’ve got kids or not. I mean, it’s really creepy. Facebook’s got more data than anybody, and so, you could target people based on who they are, and not necessarily the actions that they’re going to take. And then, YouTube and Google is where you can reach people based on what they’re searching, based on what they’re interested in, what kind of videos they’re watching, and they really work together. The more you spend on Facebook, the more you’re able to spend on Google.
Steve Shallenberger: Got it! Okay, great. I noticed you didn’t mention LinkedIn.
Travis Chambers: LinkedIn is a great place too. LinkedIn is definitely a place for B2B. We invest quite a bit ourselves into LinkedIn. And so, it’s very expensive, and they don’t have retargeting yet, but evidently retargeting is about to come out. So I think LinkedIn is going to become much more popular as time goes on.
Steve Shallenberger: Alright! Well, this has been a fascinating, terrific interview today! Any final tips you’d like to leave with our listeners before we sign off? It’s been great!
Travis Chambers: I just say, you’ve just got to put pen to paper and just go for it! If you even look at our own ads we’ve made, they’re pre-thrown together, but thrown together is better than not doing it. And I imagine that’s one of the characteristics in your book: people who self-actualize, they take action. Done is better than perfect.
Steve Shallenberger: Yeah, you got it! Alright, Travis, this has been wonderful! How can people find out about what you’re doing?
Travis Chambers: You can go to www.chamber.media; you can also follow me on LinkedIn – I’m just Travis Chambers on LinkedIn; I’m very active there. Those are probably the two best places.
Steve Shallenberger: Well, great! Thank you, Travis, for being part of this show today! It’s been so innovative, productive, stimulating, and inspiring. So, way to go!
Travis Chambers: Thank you very much!
Steve Shallenberger: We wish you the best in all that you’re doing! To all of our listeners, never forget that every single day you are making a difference! As you focus on simply becoming your best, maintaining this mindset, building your skillset, that is exactly what happens and you bless everybody in the process! It’s been great here, being together with Travis! This is Steve Shallenberger with Becoming Your Best Global Leadership, wishing you a great day!