June 14, 2022

S2E3 - Community Building in the Creator Economy with Jack Settleman

By Shane Madden and Whit Harwood

Founder of the Snapback Agency Jack Settleman shares his thoughts on what it means to be a fan-focused content influencer in the burgeoning age of the Creator Economy. From Web3 to community building, Jack helps illuminate what it's like to connect with a fan base on a 1-to-1 level.

Show Transcript

Shane Madden (00:01):
Hi, all this is Shane Madden

Wit Harwood (00:02):
And I'm Wit Harwood 

SM (00:03):
We're really excited to be back with season two of off the clock. The podcast brought to you by TBT Digital. TBT Digital is the full service vertically integrated digital marketing group of TransPerfect. The $1 billion language services and technology solutions market leader.

WH (00:17):
We're going to talk to some of the industry's thought leaders, movers and decision makers to discuss all things digital throughout the course of the season. So, let’s get into it.

SM (00:25):
Let's go. Hi everyone. Thanks so much for joining today's podcast. It's Shane Madden here from TBT Digital

WH (00:33):
And I'm Wit, and we're really lucky to have Jack Settleman here with us on the pod today. Jack is a creator, has been for years, and he's someone who I've gotten to know really well and has become a personal friend. And Jack, you, you started snap back sports years ago. I think when you were 18 or 19, you're a creator at heart. And we've talked a lot about the creator economy on this podcast. And in our last episode with Dana Weber, we kind of talked about the, we all have to move away from paid social as kind of a primary tactic and look to partner with creators and influencers across the ecosystem as a way to get more value out of at marketing spend. And we're just really excited to talk to you today. So thanks for hopping on the podcast.

JS (01:18):
Appreciate you for having me

WH (01:19):
No, thanks for joining us. And I just want to start a little bit about your background because I, it is unique and you know, there, we all know the 14-year-old who nephew of ours who says, Hey, I want to be an influencer when I grow up and you actually went out and did the thing. So what made you think when you're a freshman, sophomore at the university of Texas, that you had inherent advantage of making content and, and that you wanted to go out and be a creator yourself?

JS (01:48):
So I would say my intent was never to be an influencer by trade. I like the term creator a little more because I think we're all creators in our own, right? But my goal was to aggregate the best content and build audience from there. What I quickly learned was that people were following personalities. They weren't following brands. So I grew up watching sports center for two hours a day, but when I really looked at why I was doing that, it's because of the personalities like Stewart Scott and the Scott van pelts. And now you've seen, you know, a change in the infrastructure in sports media to where these brands are the focus. And I don't think a lot of people are really connecting with that. So, you see someone like Pat McAfee, who's an electric personality start his own show called the Pat McAfee show. And it's because people are attracted to his personality. So, it really came from a place of need and where I thought the trends were headed, but the intent was never, Hey, I want to be an influencer. I just thought that was the best path to doing so.

SM (02:53):
Hey Jack, it's Shane. Thank thanks very much for being on today's podcast. So a quick question on this, and again with alluded to this, but on the last part, we talked about the development or explosion of this creator economy. You arm a fourteen, fifteen, sixteen-year-old with an iPhone, and now they're an influencer, or as you say creator, so why do you think is the Genesis of the growth of this whole space?

JS (03:17):
I would assume it comes from being sold a product, no one likes to be sold anything. And so when you're creating in a specific space, I'll take myself, which is sports. I'm very familiar with all the tools in the sports space. I know if I want to sports bet here's the best place to do so I know if I want to watch games, here's the best place to do so. And there's a high level of trust when I've been creating content year over year, over year I've experience over five to 10 years. So, when I say here's the best product, I think that trust kind of comes along with it when you're advertising or marketing from a brand perspective, of course, you're going to push your own tools as the best. And so I think that's where the disconnect has been over the years. One of the, you know, one of our partners, buzzer, which I think does this in a really smart way, they push to games that aren't necessarily on their platform. That's going to create a ton of trust with the consumer saying, here's our tool, here's our product. It doesn't mean you necessarily just have to watch via us. And so I think that's where an influencer content creator comes in and says, here's how you can go do this. And it's because there's a high level of trust.

SM (04:33):
So Wit, this goes back, sorry to cut you off. This goes back. Do you remember the podcast we did last season with Jack Cone and where he is talking about developing communities and building communities through, you know, that, that level of trust and bringing them through the value chain. So, yeah, spot on

SM (04:47):
Also Jack, let's rewind it a little bit so that people know kind of the full story. You're you get on campus at university of Texas, you decide to start making content. What initial signs were you looking for that you were building an audience?

JS (05:02):
So this came all from a need. So my sophomore year at UT I was doing drop shipping and we were doing sports phone case companies partnering with athletes. But what I realize is we're paying these Instagram and Twitter accounts, thousands of dollars, not for paid social, but for what was effectively influencer marketing. And so I decided why not build that audience myself? And so Instagram and Twitter were super busy. And I liked the idea of Snapchat. Snap is the one social platform today that you actually have genuine engagement with your friends on the left side of the app. And then it's like any other social media platform on the right side of the app. And so that just made a ton of sense, combined that with vertical content, which we've seen on TikTok has become a major, major trend. So that's why I went to Snapchat.

JS (05:49):
It all came from once again, a need. And I just knew how to work the algorithm. I knew how to analyze the numbers. We would sell advertising, you know, a hundred bucks to a phone case company just like mine. And then we would take that and reinvest it into the account. The biggest disconnect in the influencer creator economy world right now is people don't understand the business side of the whole thing. And that's why we started our agency is because people are really good at creating content. They're excellent at creating audience, but they don't understand the value that they have to brands and products and can help monetize. And so that's another level where I grew up in a family business, we did beer distribution. And so we sold beer to the Ravens and Orioles and every game meant more beer sales. And so I think growing up with that innately in me is super helpful to understand the reason you're creating this content, building a personal brand is so that you can go and monetize that and build business accordingly.

SM (06:52):
So I have a quick question on that. And by the way, that's an amazing story about beer distribution. Good, good for you. Can you talk a little bit, and again, the extent of which you tell us, but can you talk a little bit about the economics of your business model?

JS (07:03):
Absolutely. So the majority of our revenue is coming from partnerships. So we partner with buzzer. I mentioned underdog fantasy is our gaming partner. We do a lot of content about going to games. So tick pick, who's a secondary ticket marketplace. They're our partner in that regard. So that's the majority of our revenue. Now we're starting to take some of those funds and repurpose them into original content, which we can then sell back to brand sponsors or on Snapchat or YouTube. You're paid for viewership on a CPM basis. So those are like the two cores of our business.

SM (07:41):
And right now, are you focused on specialized specifically on sports or is it across all mediums?

JS (07:46):
So snap back sports is, is generally focusing on the sports world. I personally have an amazing interest in crypto and NFTs and collectibles. And I think that's a really good understanding for a lot of brands too, is people do more than one thing. They do a million things. You can be a golfer, you can play basketball, you can play music, you can go to concerts, you can enjoy dinner with your friends. You can enjoy travel. So there's so much kind of in and out that goes with that.

SM (08:16):
So for our audience who are listening in today, what would you say Jack? The zero to one starting point is so you, you know, they manage a big brand. They're operating in multiple markets. They've probably they're digitally mature. They've probably focused a lot on search, whether it be paid organic, probably paid socials, and they're trying to dip their toe new avenues to, to generate further customer loyalty, I guess. What would you say? What would your recommendation be to those, to our listeners that, that are in that kind of situation?

JS (08:46):
I would say you have to lead with personality. So find someone who is an expert in the space, or really passionate about the space and fuel them with resources, fuel them with opportunities, connections that you may have for being that big brand, but really entrust someone to go and lead that and create a community around it. It's so important to create that community. And you can think off the top of your head, those top brands in the world who have done an incredible job who are marketing the product, the product for them, because they're so passionate about what it is.

SM (09:21):
And when you say them, you mean the likes of you. So the, the content creators, the guy, the guys, and gals that have been armed with the iPhone that are the influencers. That's what you mean by them, correct.

JS (09:31):
It could be that it could be a celebrity who is just really strong in the space. We've seen, you know, five celebrity tequila brands. And I think that goes to the creator economy of why are people, if you, if we can all create the same level of tequila, who are you going to buy from? Someone who's just a brand or a personality who you have trust, who's going to create content around it. Who's going to make it a fun social thing. That's where we're really seeing the split. And so we're working with this company called Pop Chew, who creates ghost kitchens around the country. And so we're launching a food brand. So, you're going to think, okay, it's time to watch football on Sunday. We're going to order food from them. Well, why would someone order from me or why would they order from their local, you know, chicken tender shop? They don't really, if the quality is the same, who are they most likely to order from? Are you going to order the LeBron James meal, or you going to order, you know, Joe Smoe’s meal, just because they make the same level of chicken tender? And I think that's where we're really going to see the personalities continue to develop and own the space.

SM (10:36):
I think one thing that's really interesting tying this all together for a second is Jack. You're talking about developing one to one relationships with your audience, right? And I think what brands constantly want to do is feel like they are getting closer and closer to the end user, to the point that a logo of positioning a tagline can influence how somebody thinks when you're talking about partnering a brand, partnering with someone in the influencer space. It, it really is about a brand knowing who their audience is, and then being able to find a influencer who can go out and talk to that specific audience. It, how do you go about thinking about in curating your audience in a way that then could be helpful and useful for brands?

JS (11:26):
I don't think we push them in a specific direction. We listen really, really well to what they want. So that's, I would say our biggest advantage is we're large we're million plus across all platforms, but we're also small in that I'm still seeing messages daily. Okay, here's the players. I want you to cover. Here's the trends that I want you to cover. And I think that's really important now you can't just build something because one person requests it. So there's a balance to that. But I think the gen, if you're hearing the same thing over and over again, shifting strategy and being nimble is super important.

You mentioned web three a little while ago, and, and you have made a very intentional effort to get into web three at an early stage. Talk to us a little bit about your discovery path through web three and how that's led to some really cool projects. And I think one of the themes that we've talked about a little bit this season on the, on the pod has just been how to make web three accessible for a common audience. And so talk to us about how you went from novice to, you know, now advanced web three influencer, because that's probably happened over what the course of the last 12 months.

JS (12:40):
Yeah. It's been a quick kind of come up, but I was, I was buying crypto for a few years. I understood the concept of it and like anything it's shifted over the years, I thought I was going to be able to buy a Starbucks coffee with Bitcoin. Now, today, I know that makes absolutely no sense in the grand scheme of things, but I discovered NFTs through NBA top shots. So dapper labs, huge valuation. They're kind of the pioneers in the space. They partner with the NBA and they release digital trading cards. I go to the site a couple times and it honestly didn't click for me, even though I had bought crypto, I am working in digital, I'm working in sports. And so after I finally purchased, one of the moments is what they're called. It just somehow clicked for me. And I think what dapper is doing to your question is they're helping me buy with a credit card.

JS (13:35):
I sign up with an email. You don't have to go through the process, which is more common now of getting a crypto wallet, buying Ethereum off an exchange send it. It's just way too much. And so what dapper and flow, flow is their blockchain. What dapper is going to do, it's going to onboard millions of millions of people, because they're used to, you don't need to know that you're buying an NFT when you buy a top shop moment. Right? And I think that's so pivotal. And so, like anyone who got into top shot, a lot of people then fell down the rabbit hole, what are NFTs, minting, buying, secondary market, all that stuff. But that's kind of the origin story. And I think it's going to be a lot of people's origin story as well.

So, when you get into top shot and after that, you get linked up with this group called Knight of DGen and Knight of DGen. I'm a part of the discord for those who are less familiar with discord, it's a public messaging service. There were some acquisition talks around Microsoft and they recently raised at a 15 billion valuation. I believe it was, it's an incredibly active and open internet community for lack of a better way to put it, talk about how you got involved with Knights of DGen. And then talk a little bit about kind of how you as somebody who's an active creator, went about promoting a web three community and trying to bring that to, you know, relatively nascent audience.

JS (15:04):
Yeah. So, Jared Augustine, he's the CEO of Thuzio, they throw events that integrate athletes and celebrities for businesses, and then Drew Austin who runs red beer ventures, Venture Capital Firm, they spoke to me and the hypothesis was, are there 10,000 sports betters who would enjoy being in a community together? And so if you go and look at any of the big sports betting social media accounts, they have millions of followers. So the easy answer was, yes, could we find 10,000 of them who would pay 300 bucks, which sports betting is obviously a higher net worth kind of activity. So 300 in the grand scheme of things wasn't that much. So the obvious answer was yes, they had a great artist on the project and I just genuinely believed in the team. So they brought me on as part of the marketing effort and because of my holdings in top shot, being a thought leader in the web three NFT space on Twitter, it was part of the process to promote it and then promote why, why is really the answer?

SM (16:08):
Why do you want to join this community? Why could this appreciate and value, which is a huge part of what web three is today, you're essentially betting on stocks in a company. You're buying an early IPO. You're investing early into these companies, investing. You obviously have the stock market for a lot of people, private investing, angel investing isn't a possibility. And so by the time you're able to invest in a company they've already raised four times, their valuation is billions of dollars. And if you supported, you know, Southwest since day one, you aren't actually going to be able to invest your money until 20 years down the line. And so I think that's the access that web three has given people is what excites them. You're investing in early stage startups.

SM (16:56):
So democratizing of, or democratization of financial decisions and providing greater economic security for those that otherwise wouldn't be able to get in. Yeah. It's super interesting. Web three creator economy, Jack, you definitely want to watch really interesting data points and, and insights. So yeah. Thank you very much for joining today's podcast. It's much appreciated, I guess, for any listeners that want to find out how to contact you. What's the best way Twitter?

JS (17:20):
Yeah. Twitter's great @JackSettleman. I'm trying to work on my TikTok. TikTok's the best distribution for anyone who's looking to get into the content game. All these other platforms they're super saturated and the organic search just isn't available. So, I think sharing, you know, what we're learning about the creator economy through our agency is going to be super fun over there.

SM (17:41):
I can, sorry. Can you remind everyone the name of the agency?

JS (17:43):
Snap Back agency.

SM (17:44):
Got it

JS (17:46):
So, it's kind of an offshoot of snap back sports just because it came from a need and we've seen a lot of success from it.

SM (17:52):
Yeah, man. Good, good, good stuff. Really appreciate you joining us today and good luck with everything. Thank you.

JS (17:57):
Thank you.