Generator Ep. 008 – Brian Simpson

In this episode, Maine-based portrait photographer Matt Stagliano interviews Brian Simpson of Definitive Brewing Co. With over 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Brian has worked as a Food & Beverage Director in Boston, NYC, and several locations in Maine. From the Plaza Hotel in NYC, to the Roger Smith Hotel, to Newbury Street in Boston to Definitive Brewing Company, Brian has an incredible wealth of experience and is as down to earth as you can get. He is also a long time social media specialist and discusses the very early days of Twitter and how he has used social media to create an exceptional experience for all of his guests for over 15 years. The conversation covers his views on creating community, setting expectations with customers, and all of the comparisons between the world of Hospitality and Social Media. You're going to love this conversation.

Audio Version

Video Version

Transcript of Generator Ep. 008 - "Serving Up A Hot Dish Of Social Media"

Matt Stagliano 0:00
Hey friends, welcome back. And I’m really excited about today’s episode. My guest today is Brian Simpson. Now Brian and I have known each other up here in Maine for the better part of a decade. But we found out that we were both managing restaurants and nightclubs and bars in Boston around the same time in the late 90s. So it’s really just kind of strange that we wound up in the same place at the same time. Brian has an incredible resume in the food and beverage industry in hospitality. He’s run countless restaurants. He’s built countless teams. But the interesting thing about Brian is that he’s also a social media guru. So he has been on social media and using it in the hospitality industry since the early days of Twitter, so 2008 ish. And in this conversation, we talk all about that, and especially how companies are using social media, are they using it correctly? Are they not some of the things that he has done to generate interest in his projects, and it’s just a really fun conversation. It’s also the first time that I’ve had a guest here in my home to record an episode of generator. So we’re sitting in my kitchen, there are dogs walking around, but it’s a really, really fun conversation. I know you’re going to enjoy Brian, he is never at a loss for words, and nor am I and I just love sitting down. What you’re about to hear is the exact types of conversations that we have over coffee once or twice a week. Now we’re just going to put it out there for you. So I hope you enjoy it. Let’s get on with the show.

So here we are. You’re the first guest in the kitchen version of generator. I’ve never, I’ve never set anything up in here. I have no idea how it’s gonna sound. So everybody that’s watching this or listening to this. Just take all the technical stuff with a little bit of a grain of salt, because I don’t know what I’m doing. However, Brian Simpson, my guest, you do know what you’re doing. Thanks for coming in. Do you do this all the time? Oh, yeah.

Brian Simpson 2:20
I set up video equipment and audio and kitchens all the time. Yeah, yeah. This is awesome. This is great. I am used to doing crazy things all the time. So this is perfect.

Matt Stagliano 2:30
We’re here at the end of the ski season. Things are starting to shut down. It’s becoming muddy. Right. And it gives us a chance to kind of look back at everything that we’ve done. How’s your season been?

Brian Simpson 2:39
It’s been a great season. Yeah, good snow, good people. Lots of visitors to Sunday river. So you know, great team of people. It’s our second year up there this year. So it was a it was a great season for us at definitive. Yeah. Definitive brewing. Yeah. over last year, you know, we opened last year, so it was all figuring it out. This year. We were on cruise control and the guests were there and Sunday job making snow you know, if you get storms, so it’s been a good season. But yeah, now it’s time for some grass to start showing through some of the snow. I think soon you might

Matt Stagliano 3:09
lie in Yeah, I talked to everybody else all across the country. And they’re like, oh, yeah, the tulips are coming up and the grass is green. And I’m like, we just got a snowstorm last night. We got another five inches. I’m not. I’m not loving this. I just want winter be over. Right done with it.

Brian Simpson 3:23
And we love it. Right. I mean, that’s why we’re here. We want winter. We need winter. I think the area you know thrives on winter. But when it’s over, it’s over. Yeah, we’re ready without a

Matt Stagliano 3:34
doubt. All right. So give everybody a little bit more of your backstory, right, because the more I’ve gotten to know you over the whatever, 1314 years, I’m fascinated that every time we talk, there’s something else I learned about you like oh, yeah, I did that. Oh, yeah, I was here. Give people a brief kind of synopsis of how you got started in the restaurant business or social media and community building, all that sort of stuff.

Brian Simpson 3:58
Yeah, born and raised in Kennebunkport area. So restaurants were always my life. You know, my first job was 12 or 13. Washing dishes down in Kennebunkport, then moved on to literally doing everything there is to do in restaurants, started working at some of the hotels in Kennebunkport, so just started fine tuning everything I did within hospitality. It wasn’t like I was being taught that stuff, other than just learning it through working, being one of those guys that did everything in the restaurant at the hotel. So is that progress? You know, as you get older, and you got to be a little more responsible. I started just branching out work in bike shops. I was a bike racer rode bikes spent winters in Colorado Springs to training center for a couple of seasons through high school. And still working in a bike shop. It was very much like working the restaurant, same thing. You’re still helping guests, right? It’s still front facing, you’re still trying to feel them out with not every person wants the same meal. Not every person wants the same bike. So it was all these little teaching moments as I came up through and eventually moved Boston, you know, and worked in the restaurant industry down there for 10 years, moved to New York City and helped reopen the plaza in 1998. And, or 2008. I’m sorry. 98 When I moved to Boston in 2008, to New York and the plaza, still, you know, to me, I’d like alright, I’ve reached the pinnacle. I’m at the Plaza Hotel, I’m a food and beverage director, this is awesome. But then this thing, I love this thing. I got cancer, bad 13 tumors on my spine. So going through cancer, I started using this thing called Twitter. You know, it was real, new, real, I don’t know different from everything that was out there as texting, but live to everybody. And I found some wine people on there some people from Napa Gary Vaynerchuk, which has crossed the river and jersey. And I’m like, literally sitting there and chemo one day, and I thought, wow, hotels and restaurants need this. We can talk to people before they come while they’re at our place. And after they leave. It’s a whole open line of communication with the social media. So when I got out of the hospital or got done with chemo, went back to the plaza for maybe a week, and just sat there and just they they didn’t want me I had put on a blog that I had called shaken and stirred which was just a new posts about cocktails and their origins and recipes and whatnot. I put on the just on the header of that was a tumbler at the time that I worked at the plaza and they said I need to take that down. Because it wasn’t associated. And I’m like, Well, this is not the place for me to be working like because this stuff is so important. So I left there went to the Roger Smith hotel and was hired as their food and beverage director. But in the interview, the owner, who’s a sculptor by design, James Knowles, asked me what I thought about Web 2.0, because on my resume, I had my Twitter handle. So I’m like, Okay, this is going to be interesting. And we just we started going and from there, you know, it grew. It grew huge. And we can touch on more and more. But from there, that’s really where it brand stuff. That was the succession to, you know, the leading up to it was social media, when I started using the tools wasn’t how can I be good at Twitter? It’s how can I do what I do, and just expose it differently? You know, I used to, I used to use a thing called My lobby voice that if somebody walked into the lobby of the hotel and asked a question, you’d answer it, you wouldn’t just walk away from them. I said, I’ve always followed that same rule for social media. If you have a social media account, and you’re in business, and somebody says something to you, you have to respond, right? You got to get back to them. So that’s, that’s what we learned. And we didn’t do anything. My friend Adam and I, which we can get into some more later, doing the social media to hotel, we weren’t learning how to do social media, we were just taking what we did. Adam was a videographer and photographer combined thinking what I did in social media and what he was doing, and just exposed it. You know, when when Xerox copying machines came out, you know, people at the schools or people in the office, they weren’t copy specialists, you weren’t hired to make copies. It was just a tool and a way to do things, right. So the social media stuffing, people confuse it with it’s a, it’s a way of doing business. It’s not it’s just a way of really exposing your So that’s been my like, super fast trail from growing up in Southern Maine to Boston to New York. And now and now back to Maine and being being involved in the social media component in some way.

Matt Stagliano 8:21
God, you brought up the term web 2.0, which I completely forgot about. I remember I was working for Cisco Systems at the time. And all of that was coming out Twitter was coming out and right, you said 2008 is when it’s yet to catch on, right? Seeing that grow. I dismissed it early on, I was just like, there’s no way I can do anything in 140 characters. I just didn’t understand it. I didn’t want to use it. And there really wasn’t too much of a replacement at that point. Besides Facebook, I think was kind of out around the same time and maybe Foursquare, right? A handful of those like early on apps. The thing that I loved about back then even though I didn’t use Twitter, the fact that it was about connection, it was about explanation, there was this innocence to it, where, oh, we can go on and be happy and talk to different people and get answers feel like a community. And over the years, right here we are 15 years later. And social media for me is marketing, its advertising, right. And it’s just another channel, which is why you have your social media managers that are really just a marketing role more than anything else. And we’ve taken the community out of social media, we’ve taken the social out of social media. And I know that most of the people that I talked to have no idea how to approach it. And one of the things that I’ve always loved about talking to you is that you’ve always been about fostering community rather than just being like, hey, we’ve got this cool new widget, or we’ve got this beer or we’ve got this you know, this meal that you’re gonna love. You’re more about creating a community that understands the experience they’re going to have, rather than just the product. Is that, is that accurate? Absolutely.

Brian Simpson 10:05
And I think the way you create that is by bringing more into it than just your product, or just your vision of it, right? You know, when you share things on social, obviously, user generated content, I think is the best, you know, it’s, you got your bot, you know, you got your earn, you got your the user stuff, it’s just so real. And it’s them, they will share it, you know, the best thing I think I can do is when you see somebody, whether it’s at a restaurant or hotel, and you ask them, Hey, can I grab a picture of you and your dog, you have a Twitter handle? What’s your Twitter handle, we’ll post it. And when you post it from your business account, but you tag them, it makes them feel over the world important, you know, just because it’s like, Oh, my God, a business, tag me. And you could take a random picture of a random employee in a hoodie with a dog and say, Okay, great. Or you can take a real guest, then when you share that, they’ll share it to their people, right? If you just share your own stuff to your own people, then that circle gets real small, real fast, where these people will share it to people you don’t know. And then they say, Oh, wow, you know, Timmy was on the deck at this place at Sunday River, we’re going to go check that place out, you reach people that you’d never reach, just throwing your own stuff out there. So that’s, that’s where people miss it. It’s important to mark it and to use it like a tool that way. But I think too many people have just turned it into a an advertising channel. And it defeats the power of

Matt Stagliano 11:32
people often look at social media. And they forget that Facebook is different from Instagram is different from Twitter is different from any other social app at all right? You’ve got all the different truths social and veero. You have to know the audience that is on that for you to target your messaging correctly. Sure, right. 100%. So where do you where do you sit? If you can if you could briefly summarize, from a layman’s view, how you view Facebook versus Instagram versus Twitter and how you use it. Like what audiences does he see on each one of the platforms? And how do you address that

Brian Simpson 12:10
Twitter has just become a mess. And again, being you know, sound old, being one of the first like 1000 people I think that was on there. It used to be really easy to pop on. And hey, I’m going to Chicago any friends out there have any recommendations for a place to eat? And you get some people telling you some cool stuff now? Hey, I’m going to Chicago Why the fuck you going to Chicago? Cheeses you know what I mean? But it used to be like more and now it’s there’s so many people in there and the bots and all the so to me Twitter’s a bit of a mess. But I still my account that didn’t drop I think there’s still maybe savior, their Instagram I see is literally pushing content. I think it’s the best place for photos and quick videos and quick, easy, digestible fun. You know, when everybody’s looking at it, they’re looking at it at you know, in the bathroom, at the coffee break, like at their desk when their boss thinks they’re working. So it has to be quick, it has to be easy for people to digest it. And you get a lot of followership. And I don’t think you get a lot of strength and powerful relationships from it, then I think Facebook goes that next step further. And I find Facebook is very communal. You know, I don’t know if it works nationally, like if you were to do a national campaign on Facebook, you might miss a lot. But I find like where we are in the Bethel area team, Bethel, Sunday river enthusiast, some of these local groups are very strong and very powerful. And it’s it’s almost like a town hall meeting. And I find that there’s a lot of power in that the Sunday river enthusiast I find to be a very productive group. People share Lost and Found things trail tidbits, babysitting housing, that’s awesome. That’s the way to me social media can be positive. And there’s an admin in there, right. So that’s a huge part, I think, to social media is weeding out the garbage. Right? You don’t let just anybody into restaurants and stores if they’re causing trouble and stealing and being idiots. Same thing with social media, I think having these groups that are controlled, makes a huge difference. And they become powerful. Your messaging becomes more powerful in them. And

Matt Stagliano 14:11
there’s a I think Facebook has that communal energy because of groups, right? Something that that Instagram doesn’t really have, but you’re able to segment out your tribe for whatever you’re into. Right? You can do that on Facebook, but you called it a town hall. I call it a shit show. Because there’s not good moderation in there. What are you going to get? You get 100 people in a room together and you throw out one divisive topic and there’s no one a moderated, what’s going to happen, right? There’s shouting, there’s division. There’s all these things. That’s the Facebook group. Yeah. So unless you have strong rules, strong community, strong respect and tolerance of each other, not acceptance, but tolerance of each other. I think it can be a really powerful tool and I know that a lot of photographers and videographers in my industry, use groups Do you communicate directly with clients, their VIPs, whatever works really, really well to keep that engagement and the brand strength there? Most people don’t do it right. And let’s like Let’s call a spade a spade. If you’re trying to run the same stuff on every single social media platform, you’re doing it wrong, because you’re not thinking about what the end is. There’s no purpose to what you’re doing. There’s no story. There’s no anything, right? So it’s really important to understand who’s on the other end at each platform, you’re not going to send the same thing to a Facebook group, as you would do it. Tick tock,

Brian Simpson 15:36
sure. Right. Yeah.

Matt Stagliano 15:36
And well, God knows that might not even be around very long, right? Going back to the Roger Smith days, right, in the early days of Twitter, and not so much the social media, but you guys did some guerrilla level marketing, right, and using the platform to find out where people were, and then going, and basically inserting yourself is that right?

Brian Simpson 15:56
Yeah. Well, you know, we were, you know, Adam, his family was part was owners of this hotel, and I was coming in as a hotel person, and he had his skills with videography, and whatnot. But we weren’t social media people. We weren’t bloggers at the time. You know, we weren’t, we weren’t digital people. We weren’t programmers, which was where a lot of that group was coming from. They were coming from like the CES crowd, right. That’s who was sort of getting into the digital side. So we knew as a hotel, which had no business in digital, that we needed to insert ourselves perfectly. So we started to go to social media events, we’d go to Huffington Post events, we’d go to all these things. And then the flip side of that, we started saying, Hey, we have space, let’s host these events. You know, so Mashable had their holiday party at our hotel, the Foursquare guys did a launch at our hotel, all these things, we put ourselves in the middle of it, we learned from people through osmosis, literally, by being in the same room and just listening and watching and hosting them in and getting them food and drink. And it put us on the map. And you know, Adam, and I ended up speaking around the country at conferences from South by Southwest to BlogWorld. In Vegas, we spoke out in Vienna, in Los Angeles, and we weren’t, you know, as funny to us, because we were just doing what we’d always done. It was just around this new platform. So it exposed it to a new audience. You know, people were I found that we really cracked through and this is when Twitter was really on its game was I’d wake up at four in the morning sometimes, and I’d see somebody from England type, you know, hashtag going to New York City for Blog World, looking for a place to stay. I knew we’d succeeded when before I could respond. Other people that already responded, oh, you got to stay at the Roger Smith Hotel. Are you going? Oh, you gotta be It’s the social media Hotel. Like, that’s, we didn’t do that on purpose. Our goal wasn’t Oh, come see us. It was yeah, we’re trying to figure this out with you. We have a blog post. We have a blog, we have a YouTube channel, we have a Twitter account. We had all this stuff going and it we just seamlessly fit in. And it just made sense. It’s just a communication tool.

Matt Stagliano 18:07
How quickly did you see other hotels jumping on? Immediately?

Brian Simpson 18:11
Immediately, as soon as we started talking at conferences, and people were sending like their, their marketing people, you know, their their CFOs are going to these things like how can we use and then they see these two guys just like randomly up there in hoodies talking about what they do and how they do it. And these literally companies, you know, Hyatt and whatnot, trying to figure out how are these guys blowing us out of the water? We were showing revenue stuff to like, monetary we monetize, like, here’s how many things, here’s how many people booked? Here’s what we did for it. It was the other people. I have a few people that thank me still to this day, because they have jobs and social media at hotels. Well, it was it was almost it was free. You know, it didn’t cost you anything to have a Twitter account. If you already had your messaging, if you were and that was the one thing we did it Roger Smith, the owners were supportive of us, Adam and I made sure that the head of every department had an iPhone. And you know, the the woman I’ll never forget the head of housekeeping like Well, Brian, what do I need an iPhone and a Twitter account for what am I going to tweet? Like, you don’t have to tweet anything, but you need to watch it and listen and see what others are tweeting. Because nine times out of 10 people staying in a hotel room are putting up pictures of it. Oh, you know, so we didn’t we didn’t silo ourselves out as social media people. We were just the people trying to promote the restaurant in the hotel, the art in the hotel, the music venue, all the stuff the hotel had to offer. We were just trying to use social media tools to best explain it and expose it in the best the ultimate way was when someone would stay with us and share a video. You know, I have stuff from Chris Brogan and iJustine and Gary, all staying there all posting these long videos about Well look at this hotel. And, you know, we didn’t do that we just opened the door to it. And we we let it happen. We allowed it to happen, right? That’s the corporate stuff back then was real tricky, like, Oh, what’s this? Who’s that? Who’s saying what? They were scared, you know, corporate companies I used to love actually listening to bankers, lawyers, insurance companies, medical people, I used to love listening to them talk about social media because of their restrictions. So it’s like if they can do, how are they breaking through, you know, what kind of content as a bank have to do social media and what kind of restrictions on what it’s doing. So you can learn all of how they do it, and then you can take a piece of that to your business side?

Matt Stagliano 20:42
Well, you know, I’m a huge fan of Donald Miller in the building a story brand method, right, where he basically takes the hero’s journey, and says, no matter what your business does, could be bankers, lawyers, hotels, photographer doesn’t matter. Whatever your business is, it’s not about you. It’s about the problem you solve for your customer. It’s about showing them what success looks like, and what’s going to happen if they don’t buy your product and how negative their life is going to be. Right. So in that the business owner acts as the guide. It sounds like everything that you were doing on in those early days was just that just exposing, hey, we’ve got this amazing product over here that’s going to make your stay better. That’s going to alleviate some of the things that you have to do in town. We’re just going to make it all about your experience. And most companies don’t get that right there. Mee Mee, mee, Mee Mee i and then they fall flat, because customers are just kind of like, yeah, you’re great. You’re one in a million though, what are you going to do for me? Do you find that you’re still focusing on solving the problem in the experience? Or do you focus more on products and selling based on whatever the company that you’re with? Right? So let’s take definitive brewing, for example. Do you focus more on new beers that are coming out new meals, new locations? Or are you focusing on the experience that people are going to have their right what’s kind of been your approach towards that no matter where it is, doesn’t have to be definitive, but

Brian Simpson 22:19
no, but with definitive it’s a good one because it’s definitely two pronged I think, you know, from from the brewery itself in Portland, they do a great job of new release stuff, like really cool professional shots of cans and beer in the splash of fruit and very visually appealing for Instagram in that crowd, right. It’s perfect. What we try to do up at Sunday River, especially because we’re at a ski resort, the brewery you know, inside we’ve got pool tables, arcades for kids adult arcade game from racing and pinball, giant, 30 foot windows that look across it 90% of the Sunday river resort. So the bigger part for us is that vibe, like we really want to try to get pictures, we got a great one the other day, our bartender sold like $300 worth of merchandise to this huge family. And you got them all depose, you know, they’re all holding up their hats and their hoodies in their sweatshirt. That picture blows away any picture, we could have done them all of just our product on the wall, right? So to us, it’s a it’s a feeling it’s a vibe to overuse a word, but you know, it it is it’s that when you come here, kids, dogs, boys night out girls night out families, we got you, like we’re not segregated into anything, we will will sort of tailor our What do you want to do? Come on, and we can help you get there. So it’s really we try to express that vibe, you know, in that. That’s what we convey in person. So that’s what we need to try to convey online as well. We don’t do it. Well, we could do it a lot better. But there needs to be just I think lifestyle. If you’ve, if your product is just that if you’re if you’re going to bring your friends somewhere and they’re like, Oh, why we’re gonna go there. Oh, wow, really cool. Bartender. After we get our drinks, we can play pool. And then there’s they got the game on 75 TVs? Oh, cool. Okay, that sounds like a good place to go. Right? So I think every place needs an identity and you need to be able to sell that truthfully. You know, that’s the big thing this this past year to get into an ops piece. We’ll get rid of hostesses servers, we get rid of them all. If two bartenders, you walk up their signage, grab your menus, order all your drinks and food from the bar, sit anywhere you like. That’s our expectation and we meet it. You know what I mean? So that we don’t promise that we’re going to do anything that we don’t do. We promise you come in, you go up there, you get your food and your drink, and it’s gonna come out really fast. And we crush it. We absolutely, but that’s what we’re about. You know, we don’t we don’t poopoo places that do take reservations and our higher end, that’s what works for us. So that’s really what we need to sell. I wouldn’t try to sell a picture of four people eating off of nice plates with forks and knives, not what we do. We need to show chaos. You know, it’s loud. It’s crazy. It’s but a room for everybody.

Matt Stagliano 24:58
And the great thing about If that as you’re actually just through the phrase of, we’re gonna get you your food quickly, right, you’re not a fast food place people are coming in to sit down in order, and often you but the fact is, you’re solving one of the biggest things, especially in a resort town like this. People don’t have a lot of time, or they’ve got their kids in, don’t want to spend a ton of time in a restaurant, they want to get back on the slopes, or they want to go out and do some other things. And you’re saying, hey, come in, it’s not going to be white glove service, but it’s going to be a great experience, we’re gonna get you in and out. It’s gonna be delicious food, great beer, but we’ve removed all the inefficient parts of the business so that you can have a better time. Yes. So that I have to believe that in the Yelp crowd that could have gone really badly, or really, really well, because you’re the only one in the area that is doing something like that. So can you talk a little bit about how it’s been received by people not only on in the restaurant itself by folks that are attending, but how it’s been received online? And what that’s done for the business?

Brian Simpson 26:10
Sure, yeah. It’s, the switch came naturally over last summer, you know, just with business being a little slower to ski resort in the summer, we were down to just bartenders, you know, working that way. So they’d make the money. So we started this little bit of a system order through bar will bring your food, and then we perfected it, and it, it works for us. And it works for the guests in the sense that we, we don’t want to over promise. And you said it before with the with the three types of or multiple types of social media, from Instagram to Facebook, they’re all slightly different, right? Well, the way we need to run our business is going to be a little bit different. So we can push people through you know, it can’t they can’t all be sit down reservations, right? So are the best way for us to most efficiently put enough people through and make the money to pay the staff is to do it the way we did it? i From the beginning, I really almost every day asked my bartenders here, people upset that they have to bust their own tables if we don’t get to them. Or they’ve got to go grab their own napkin or like, no, no, they love this concept. Because the key and this translates into social media is just tell the truth, tell people what’s up, and they will fall in line. As long as you deliver that I dropped food multiple times at tables, run it out from the kitchen, set it on the table and coming from fine dining over all my years, it goes against everything I’ve ever done. But I with a smile before they ask for silverware and stuff, I’ll point to a table, there’s a couple stations in the bar in the restaurant area, and say, Hey, if you guys need forks, knives, napkins, any side plates right over there, you can help yourself, grab them. And they thank me like, Oh, that’s awesome. I basically just said, Go get your own shit, but with a smile. And they thank me for it. Because what I did is I told them, it was okay to go over to that table and to grab those napkins and knives and forks or whatever you may need. It’s not a it’s not for us, it’s for you guys to use. So you set that expectation. And it’s perfect. You know, we’ve had no complaints over this system. We didn’t get a bad Yelp review last week, we don’t use any paper, you know, paperless system. So we can send you your receipt via email or text million other ways. And this person, this person was a guy complained that he couldn’t get a receipt we sent out we’ll text it to you. He’s like, Ah, forget it the next day on Google one star review that just said, Try getting a receipt from these people. Okay.

Matt Stagliano 28:34
It’s really not that difficult.

Brian Simpson 28:37
That’s difficult. But yeah, but in the scheme of things, the system has worked really well. And I have been last year I threw a ton of labor at the business because I didn’t want online review blow ups. I didn’t want the local groups getting, you know, we went last night and it was a failure. So we through lots of labor perfected that. And now we’re 67% down in labor this year. But we’re smoother, you know, we’ve perfected it. It’s a it’s a better crowd. Crowd I say the team. It’s smaller. And this is the best analogy I use the other day was like you and me driving down across country, we’ll figure out the radio station, right? Well, between the two of us, we’ll figure it out. Same with the messaging in a restaurant or any business, the smaller your crew, the easier it is to get that messaging and the buy in then extends to the guests. So with a small crew, the guest service is awesome. The amount of mistakes that these bartenders make on their orders is minimal versus servers that are all over the place. You and me driving cross country in a bus of people trying to figure out what radio station is going to get much harder. So the more people you add to your team, you know, five servers, two bartenders, two hostesses, you add all that in, the messaging gets diluted. It’s not nearly the quality. It’s harder to wrangle it all in and make sure everybody’s saying the same and the right thing so the smaller crowd has worked. And again, I think that works with social right you don’t don’t Just spit stuff out, figure it out, figure out like we we didn’t just downsize because there wasn’t the people out there, we did it. So it would best suit us and the guests this is, you said this before too, this is what’s best for the guest or the product is delivering? Yes, it helps us. But the more it helps us, the more in the better your experience is going to be I watch. My one of my things, my litmus tests in a restaurant is just look around at the staff. If the staff from the kitchen to the dishwasher to the bartenders are smiling, I don’t have to go check on every guest, right? They’re happy if you see people mad and fighting and getting Clicky. And this girl’s against that girl, and the guests are feeling that too. So you know, we tried to tighten it down. And social media can do the same thing, think the more efficient you are with your messaging, don’t dilute it. Don’t just put pictures because you feel like I haven’t done one in 24 hours, I need to do one. If you don’t have a real message to send don’t don’t send one, spend your time figuring out what your message needs to be in the next post.

Matt Stagliano 30:59
Therein lies a few different topics. One, you’ve automated the process to the point where it gives you the freedom to think about how to solve the real problems that come up. Right. So you automate things, you let people get their own silverware, you bring out food quickly, now you’ve got a little bit of wiggle room to think about, okay, well, if a problem does arise, we have a fryer that goes down or the bartender passes out or something, you now have a lot more room to just solve that problem. And everything else is self sufficient. Whereas if you’re running a really busy bar, or restaurant or huge Facebook group, if you’re not messaging correctly, you’re not setting the right expectations, you spend more time putting out the small fires. And that takes away from the overall experience. But I love what you said about having a message and setting the expectations up front, you’re very clear when people walk through that door, what they’re going to get and how it’s going to be great for them, for sure. To translate all that to social media, and how companies are using it. If you’re not putting your story out there and telling people what to expect, they are going to make up their own stories about what you do and how you do it. I know that I run into this a lot of the time because I’m not cheap. I am expensive. But there isn’t a person that spends $1 with me before they know exactly what it’s going to cost across the board. Right. And I let them self select if they want to go through with it or not. But I’m also very upfront setting those expectations of okay, it’s going to cost you three, four or $5,000 for what you’re talking about. And if they say that’s too much, okay, well, here’s some referrals to people that are going to help you out professionally, at a different price point perfectly fine, I want you as the customer to get what you want. It might not be with me. And that’s totally cool. I appreciate the opportunity. However, there’s plenty of people out there that can give you exactly what you want. I’ve actually had people that happened recently, I referred a woman who was down in the Cape Cod area. And so that’s five hours from where we are. And she found me through some of the ads that I run on Google. She loved the style. And wanting to know, she had a photographer that took care of her family for years for generations. And he passed away recently. And so she said, Would you be able to recruit recreate an image in his style for my latest grandchild? Because I have the same picture of every grandchild throughout the years. Can you do that? And I was just like, without a doubt. First, I’m sorry about your friend. That was awful. It must have been amazing to have someone like that for years. Yes, I can do it. But um, five and a half hours from you. So here’s someone that is 20 minutes from you that I know personally does an amazing job and is going to help you out and specializes in children. I don’t specialize in children, right? You take what you know, you understand that this isn’t going to be the right fit. You solve that person’s problem anyway. And what are they going to say about you? Yeah, he couldn’t do it. And he helped me while he was awful, right? No, they’re gonna say Wow, thank you. Now I actually got an a follow up email that she’s going with this other photographer was a great fit. It’s very easy. She doesn’t have to drive 10 hours round trip to take one picture. Yep. Right. So you’re helping people you’re setting expectations. You’re weeding out what types of clients you want the types of people that you want to help and in the social media world is very similar. You put your story out there you tell people what they can expect from you. I don’t do kids. I don’t do newborns. I don’t do weddings, engagements. That That saves me a whole lot of hassle. Yeah, from telling people No. I want to tell People, yes, I want to make them feel good about coming to me. So in the world of social media, what I see is so many people just throwing shit at a wall, hoping it sticks, no plan, no storyline, nothing to connect, no matter how authentic you may be nothing to connect the person to your brand name. We were also having this discussion before we pressed record about the storylines that you weave in and out of these businesses. How do you go about that?

Brian Simpson 35:30
I’ve always been a story fan. And this goes back to way before social media, one being a bartender, and I still think I want to write a book about the analogy between bartending and social media. I found early on the I would sell the most wine from the person who came in and trained us the best on it. And then there was usually a story, right? So whether it was the artwork on this bottle was the winemakers daughter, or the vineyard was bought from the money that the grandmother, whatever it was, if you had a story to tell someone, it was less about explaining the technicalities of the grape and the balances of the pH and the sugars and all that stuff is not for your average person. But the story about where this came from. Oh, that’s cool. That’s so the storytelling I found early on. And then the same thing, any bartending, you know, as you’re making somebody a drink, oh, oh, Irish coffee. Oh, well, you know, it started here, there. And this is story story story, it engages people, it makes them feel better. I forget what the exact quote is. But it’s very famous about, you know, if you want someone or people to help you build a boat, don’t give them tasks of cutting wood and chopping trees and doing it, explain to them the value and the joy of the ocean, then they’re going to build your boat, because they want to go experience the joy of the ocean, right? So same with any product, just tell the story of it, don’t lie, don’t embellish. Tell it with what it is. And people are gonna get that they’re in the other pieces. Do I think that any businesses don’t think that you can please everybody, you know, in the restaurant world, I assume that 10% of the people that come in every single day are going to be upset. I just assumed that you know, not that we’re slacking or it’s impossible to guess what everybody else’s expectation and wants and needs are. But if we set ours, we can always go back in that, like you said, no one’s gonna get mad. I read, you referred them to another photographer who helped them out. But you can’t get mad, right. But that’s, that’s social media. To me. That’s if you did that online. That that is what becomes that what you did is a nice referral and good business, right? If you had done all that publicly on a Twitter chat, or on a Facebook thread, that’s social media that’s selling other people’s stuff telling other people’s stories, because then yours will connect and doing it the right way. You know, in New York, when we were trying to work with hotels that would always say, Well, hey, this hotel is doing this and this, we want to do something like that. Stop looking at what’s already been doing. What’s your clientele, what’s their bracket? What’s their, you know, economic status. Okay, cool. What magazines do they read? What watches? Are they buying? What cars are they buying? Figure out what other stuff? Don’t just push your agenda, push that lifestyle piece? That whole? That whole experience in you? You know, I don’t I don’t do children in the wedding. Awesome. So you know what you’re gonna get with Matt. And it’s probably going to be super professional. You know what I mean? If somebody did all these things, I’d be more leery about it. Like, how good are they at all of these little pieces where what we do at definitive this year, especially was we said, Here’s what we’ll do. You come in, you order your food, we’ll get it to you. Boom, boom, boom. And we’ve done it all year long. And I promise nobody does it quicker. And with the smiles, because it’s a small little team. We did 90 people, 90 people two weeks ago, off the menu. They walked in the door at 605 90 of them. They wanted a buffet, I told them no, and not upset them. He’s like, Well, we usually go to this other place and get a buffet. And that’s how we’ve done it over the years. Like, I’m not setting up a buffet, I’ve got a beautiful kitchen in the back, we’ll make the food have your people come in order what they want, we’ll zing it out. Within 40 minutes, everybody’s food orders were in within an hour everybody had eaten in an hour, 90 people. I mean, we filled the entire upstairs. But we made the call. Here’s what we can do for your group. Well, we don’t want that guy down the street go to the other place. Well, you don’t want our business. No, I absolutely want your business. But I don’t want to give you a bad experience and doing doing what you want isn’t going to fit with us. Which means it won’t be a good experience, you know? And so that’s where sometimes people do especially in our industry, I think people that aren’t seasoned in it are way too quick to cave because they think the customer’s always right or that they should do it because it’s worth the buck. You know, I don’t do coffee or dessert at my place and I’ve gotten into fights with people like how can you not do coffee and like I don’t do coffee man like I don’t do dessert I want you to eat and leave. Eat leave. Have you beer great, is that a coffee machine literally takes up half my kitchen. You need four different creamers, all the sweeteners, decaf, regular cooking cups, saucers, spoons, like, and when I explain it people like oh, yeah, that’s a lot. Yeah, it would eat away at what we do so well, which is get you burgers, fries, poutine beer, views of the mountain, you know. So I think anybody no matter what you do, don’t try to be everybody in social media, I think people try to let stuff leak out that maybe isn’t true. And they try to embellish, which will really bite you in the ass when that client shows up. Whether it’s for a photo shoot, or a meal, or whatever it’s for social media allows you to tell your story. But you shouldn’t go too far overboard.

Matt Stagliano 40:55
This is where the social media platforms have perfected things, right? They feed you information, stories, post, whatever it is, based on all this data that they collect on you doing everything they’re collecting data on you and I right now just sitting here doing nothing. So they’ve perfected the art of serving you up the things that they know you want. Things food and beverage is not that much different. I remember working in Boston when I was at the wunderbar. And and The Big Easy and some of these bigger clubs, that everything was about the person’s experience. Sure, but I knew when I was running the door at some of these places, or if I was managing that you can tell right off, if this is the place for them or not. And sometimes it’s like this, this isn’t the location for you, you’re not going to have a great time you got two little kids with you, it’s you know, it’s a punk bar, you’re not going to have a good time in there. So knowing your audience, knowing who your customers are, where they reside to their is on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, but understanding what you need to tell them on that platform to make them understand your story. So long as you show them the value of what you’re providing. If they don’t see that, or you don’t tell people up front, there’s no way that they can understand. And again, they’re going to make up their own stories about what you do and how you do it. What I see a lot with small businesses, especially in my industry, it’s Oh, I do boudoir and newborns in real estate and commercial in portraits. And like, you cannot specialize in all those things. If you call yourself a generalist, and just a general photographer, that’s fine. But understand that the clients that come to you are going to be really disparate. And you may not be able to develop a consistent clientele, because you don’t have a voice. You’re just a thing that provides a service, you’re walking photo booth, for a lot of the photographer’s that do business like I do. It’s about connection, getting in deep with your client, understanding what they need, so you can craft an experience for them. It’s not about mini sessions not about getting in and out quickly and making a couple of bucks. You don’t go to Smith and Wollensky because you need fast food. And you just want to get in and out and get some chicken tenders. Right. It’s not why you’re going there, you know that they’re going to give you an amazing experience. And I think a lot of small businesses forget how to do that. They don’t know what their messages, they don’t know what their story is. And certainly their staff doesn’t buy into the mission, the story, whatever you want to call it. And when you have that it’s just hoping for the best hoping people come in and like what you have. Yep. But they’re not going to certainly go away and be like, you have to go to this place. You have to go to Brian spot. They’re gonna say yeah, it was fine. Right? Not memorable in any way, shape or form. It seems like you’ve intuitively always kept this kind of authentic stay in my lane thread, but always focused on the customer experience. What’s the most creative thing you’ve ever done to bring people in the door?

Brian Simpson 44:20
I’ll tell you something we did. And I won’t say it was like maybe the greatest promotion, but it’s something cutting edge, right? This was probably 2009. We brought a bunch of we tweeted something out in New York and said, Hey, we were coming up with some new menu items for the new menu. We’d like to have some local Twitter people come in, we’ll feed you it’s on us try some of the new items and whatever you guys decide, is the best out of certain categories. We’ll put them on the menu. And we had people come in they did it. They were tweeting stuff as we went. And literally when we did our new menu, two of the items said as chosen by the people of Twitter in New York, like and people with Like what what is What do you mean and it but it got the conversation going people that didn’t know what Twitter was meaning Twitter, they people were choosing that and we explain it started conversation. But it also those 10 people that showed up thought it was amazing. We did it a few more times, stuff like that is what attracted our attention with Gary Vaynerchuk. And he came and did a whole week of Wine Library at our hotel. We were just looking to do stuff that weren’t necessarily hugely impactful in a numbers way but more unique. More than uniqueness to it. I mean, we we brought we were known for our bacon, Roger Smith the hotel so there was actually like a hashtag social media bacon for a long time we just known for our bacon, we went to BlogWorld in Vegas, and we literally cooked up a bunch of our maple. So bacon, wrapped it in tin foil, put it in our carry on, brought it out, walked into like a 500 person auditorium. We walked in the back door and Chris Brogan is on stage. He’s like, I think the Roger Smith boys are here. That’s definitely bacon I’m smelling like, but those little things we knew, bringing bacon, that Vegas thing was gonna it was gonna resonate. It was gonna hit right because that was part of our little. It’s, that to me is what keeps stories going. You know, like, you can tell a great story like, okay, cool. But in our world, especially we have a business and online that story can’t end people. What’s next? Where’s the next part? You know? So that was a that was a continuation piece of a story.

Matt Stagliano 46:26
You’re creating social proof. Now, right? So that whole experiment that you do with Twitter and having it be like, you know, voted on by the people of Twitter of New York, all you’re doing is saying don’t believe us? believe these other people that you don’t know yet, right? Because you’re going to look at us and think that we’re trying to sell you something right, which we are. But it’s very clear through you know, report after report after report that comes out that people will listen to their friends more than they’ll listen to whatever advertiser so you were just doing that in a different way. You are creating social proof, right?

Brian Simpson 47:02
My friend Chris Brogan wrote a book called trust agents and it was all about trust and that stuff and your community is I used to exact example I used all the time. If we put a giant sign at Roger Smith’s window of the restaurant said we have the best Bloody Marys in New York. You’re gonna walk by and go man, maybe if my buddy man messages you and says they’ve got the best Bloody Mary’s in New York. Now we’ve got the best Bloody Mary’s in New York, according to your friend Matt. And maybe now you boom, boom, boom, right? That’s That’s what social media is all about. And it doesn’t matter. You don’t need a million. That was one thing that Gary taught me Gary Vee early on taught me. If you’re he’s like, there’s, there’s an audience for everything. And I forget exactly what he said, but it be stuffed pandas. If you have a Twitter account for stuffed pandas, somebody out there is going to follow you and be equally intrigued. That’s all you need. You need that one other person who’s equally invested in your thing. He’s like, Yeah, then it scales and it scales but don’t get lost. And I think that’s what happens in social with auto followers and all that people get lost on. I need followers, any numbers, that you said it about the photography as a restaurant owner? I’d rather have five guests tonight that all gave me $1,000, then 100. That all gave me 50. You know what I mean? It’s that quality over quantity?

Matt Stagliano 48:22
Yeah, I think the numbers game is what a lot of people play, and they fail at over and over because they think it’s about getting 1000 or 10,000 Sure some of the platforms put in limits. I know for YouTube, I can’t do certain things until I get I can’t monetize until I get 1000 followers, right. But I think where a lot of small businesses go wrong is they feel like they have to address everybody nationwide. They feel like they have to get the most followers that feel like they have to be a huge brand. And that’s not it, you need to get people that are rabidly a fan of what you do. And that doesn’t have to be 10,000 people, it can be for people. But as long as you’re talking to the specific audience that loves what you do, it’s not about the numbers game. I forget who it was. And I would I would love to credit them but my brain is mush. I’ve got two brain cells in a cage match and they’re neither one is winning. Someone had said, treat your your following as a private little community, talk to that small community. So if you have 200 people in a group, just talk to them. Forget about getting any more people just talk to them. What they’re going to do is create that social proof for you to bring other folks into the fold. And it’s going to be people that are truly interested because they’ve listened to their friends, and they will come and invest the same way. The bloody mayor is a perfect example. Right? If you told me you have to go to DelVecchio, Lowe’s and get this Bloody Mary. Yes, I will absolutely do that. I won’t even look for any other restaurant in the city. Because you told me and I trust you, when you’re chasing numbers, you can’t possibly create that type of social proof. Right? For a small business. I’m not talking Nike, I’m not talking Adidas or anything like that. I’m talking about, you know, your mom and pop Bed and Breakfast, small brewery, a photography studio, whatever it might be. You have to talk to a much, much, much smaller audience and make it intimate. Yep. So that they feel like they’re part of this journey with you, rather than just being sold to or talked at. Definitely, that makes sense. You’ve

Brian Simpson 50:32
nailed it. Roger Smith, we discussed this, I will never forget the meeting. We were trying to figure out how to get more guests. How do we reach California? How do we reach all these places that people fly to New York? Well, I looked at the table of the people I was with and said there’s 9 million people all around us. Let’s start there. You know. So we started in New York, just putting out messaging, putting out talking to social media people talking to the other companies that we knew had people that traveled, you know, coming from especially Silicon Valley. We didn’t try to reach them. We reached the people reached our neighbors. We reached small. And then they did the heavy lifting. They pulled those people Oh, you’re coming for this common? Oh, yeah, we met Adam and Brian from the Roger Smith, you should go stay there. We didn’t try to reach out big we we just stayed within our little community of people we knew and let them do the work after the fact. Right. That’s, that’s what it takes, you know, especially especially with the hotel, you know, but we couldn’t have, we could have done ads and sponsored posts and stuff for London, and you know, all Chicago, all these different cities, but it’s just talking about a shot in the dark, versus let’s engage people locally. Let’s we’ve got a little restaurant and bar, let’s have local people come over and have dinner. Let’s have them up on the roof deck. Let’s have them talk to Mr. Mr. Noles, one day, we did some of the most basic things, but we did it at the hotel, we had people come to us, and then they would post stuff and invite their friends. I mean, like you say that with your woman with your analogy to Cape Cod, you know, we tell people we might not be the place for you. I know some podcasts that were coming that needed a million plugs, and I knew what they were going to set up be like, we’re not going to work for you Come on by for a drink, but don’t stay here. You know, and that goes a long way for being honest, right? Being honest with your it’ll, eventually that comes around. And eventually that works for you.

Matt Stagliano 52:30
The honesty and the authenticity that people strive for. A lot of times, even if their intention is good, and even if they are honest and authentic, they lack a certain level of professionalism. And I don’t know, right now where that balance is between professionalism production value, call it what you will, and, you know, just take me as I am like, and I’m not saying lie or be inauthentic. I think if we’re business owners, and we’re putting our products out there, and we’re trying to get customers, there’s a certain base level of professionalism that needs to be there. What are you seeing most people do these days incorrectly? What are your thoughts on that,

Brian Simpson 53:15
as someone who’s worked corporate, you know, and I’ll start it from like, the physical side of things, and then we transfer it over to like the online piece, but I’ve always been a fan of dress, you know, present to the room, you know, and fit. I’ve lost a lot of that along the way, as I’ve realized that me working this restaurant up here in a hoodie and you know, hiking pants, still the same knowledge as me and a three piece tailored suit at the Plaza. And my people up here don’t care, right. So that to me, it’s all about the fitting in and the genuine fitting in being comfortable around the people you’re trying to sell to or be in a community with, I think is hugely important. And not lying about it. Not over embellishing. I think that happens way too much that they take me as I am. Almost goes the other way too. Oh, no, this is just me. But that’s not just you know, you can tell when people are taking it too far. In my line of work. There is a perception physically, dress, what you’re wearing, how you look how your hair looks. You know, I’m always in a hat. I messaged you before I came over for this. Is this on film. Like do I have to wash my hair? Like what am I what am I walking into? I said I’ll show up like I usually do, which I did you know. But for me if I was gonna go run a restaurant in Boston right now just like this. Dude, what are you doing? Like, just get back from the weekend? It wouldn’t work right? I’d need to put on some khakis put on some nicer shoes, get adjusted up a little bit, no hat, cut the hair, whatever. Because your messaging needs to be that to the people you’re selling to. It’s not about you. Like you said before. It’s about the people you’re selling to But up here this outfit running a brewery at a ski resort. Perfect. I fit right in. If I was wearing khakis and a button down in a tie, I’d look like an idiot.

Matt Stagliano 55:10
Yeah, I know for me, right. So I was corporate and I was like suits and all that, that doesn’t work up here. And over time, you know, working at home and doing my own thing. And being a photographer, I have jean jackets in several different colors, because that’s as close to his suit as I’m ever getting again. But it fits not only up here, it fits my brand and what I do. And I think regardless of what type of business you’re in, or what type of clothes you wear, it just does come down to you. Are you comfortable in your own skin? Right? Are you able to put your own insecurities aside and focus on what’s best for the customer? Yeah, that’s it.

Brian Simpson 55:48
I get torn on presentation and yourself and all of that stuff because knowledge is knowledge especially especially up here. You know, you could run into somebody in the store who’s got the nastiest looking pair of pants and shirt about to fall off his back then you find that he owns like the largest logging company in Maine you know what I mean? So I think that’s where the listening piece in the telling your story properly comes into play. You know like you don’t have to sell yourself as something you’re not and then dress a part to be be be genuine and it will come through. pat myself on the back a little bit. Dana Bolin camp wants it Sunday river. I was the general manager there and people you know in other resorts I had seen had like their, their position name like on their nametag like what they did. And I you know, a lot of people were asking around the restaurant. Oh, what’s this? Who’s that? Blah, blah, blah. Servers always coming to me, I need to manage the manager. So I thought, Hey, we should put who does? What on the badge that way customers know who to Hey, your manager, you can help me. And greatest compliment I ever got from Dana. Dana just looked at me like, Dana. Well, he has an end of the mountain president, President of mountain. He and he had lots of dinners and would entertain it, you know, Camp restaurant. It was me. It’s like Brian, do you really think people have any problem realizing that you run this restaurant? He’s like, just the way you walk around it. He’s like, everybody in this restaurant knows you’re the person that runs it. And I was like, ah, yeah, it wasn’t what I wore what I did. It was just the caring. It’s the and that’s a caring, right? It’s the touching. It’s the helping, it’s the being involved, not just looking like you’re doing it, but actually doing it is what matters. And you’re you people, your team sees that. And I think from any messaging, you know, if you work for a company, I’ve seen it from current company, some of the stuff we put out with beers and releases and embellishments or whatever of time. If you’re messaging and your marketing department or whoever, your social departments putting out these messages, and your team is reading them and going. This isn’t us. We were not going to do you know, so you’ve got to be honest all the way through. So you get the buy in all the way through. That’s not just something you can switch on and off me like, yeah, we just posted that. But yeah, do this over here. Sure, that messaging transcends. And it’s important that you’re, I mean, your team is looking at that stuff, too. They’re looking at what you’re posting, because it’s them, you know, they’re, they’re part of that, right? They tell people where they work and what they do and who they are. And that messaging needs to be, needs to be in line for everybody. You know, you can’t sell your team is you can’t sell out your team. You got to pump them up, if anything,

Matt Stagliano 58:27
and they’re going to be your biggest advocates big time right. Now, as I tried to figure out how to land this plane over the next 15 minutes or so, where are you seeing the pendulum swing? Right? We started with innocence right in the early days, and now became like super hyper marketing every year being sold 24/7. And there seems to be this movement back towards the center ish. As we look at the past 20 or 30 years. Do you feel like we’re moving back towards just having innocent good conversation? Or do you feel like people are just becoming savvier marketers of themselves? Is there inauthenticity in that? What do you see is kind of the future of people interacting on these different platforms?

Brian Simpson 59:15
I think that people will slowly start to go back to smaller groups, at least that’s my hope. You know, luxury travel, cars, all these different genres, right? I think that those groups in better moderation and maybe, you know, within other platforms, like we talked about earlier, Facebook groups are good, but moderation becomes the issue of the sticking point. Maybe Twitter or Instagram or the next one has something that’s a little more group oriented. You know? I think that I think Airbnb is a good example within the lodging segment of the world, right like there’s a used to be travel agents that you went to and they booked your trip like it was some secret how Buy an airplane ticket than it was online travel. Okay, cool, at least it’s all here. Now everything’s so siloed out that I really think something like an Airbnb, like, oh yeah, I don’t, I don’t travel like that anymore. Here’s how I travel, I go to this one app that I’m really in tune with. And I trust because I’ve stayed at multiple Airbnbs. And I’m going to use that resource for my lodging, I think that that could soon come into play with auto buying. But anything you do, I think these more just more finite, like, smaller groups of you don’t need, and I’m guilty of it. I’m guilty of way too much information, my river of shit is way too strong, right? If I just click off and unfollow a bunch of stuff that would clean it up. But I do think that it is become so messy, that eventually I think it’s got to clean up and I think come back to smaller circles, I think about my grandkids. And what I’m trying to teach them as little boys, is not to be perfect not to do everything right and not to watch what you say, but just be kind, find something you like, do it. Don’t worry about what your friends did or doing do your things you got a lot in front of you. And I think that’s what social media is really, it’s fucked to the world up in perception in that, you know, one kid sees what this kid got? And then why can’t I have seven Playstations? Mom, you know, I find that social media needs to dial it back. And it needs to just get more responsible in how it’s used. Do you think smaller groups I, I’m sure they’re out there. But mom groups I know my daughter is in some mom groups with the schools, I find that stuff to be useful. I think stuff like, I think Twitter is done. And I’m on it. And I watch it and I jump in once in a while. And it’s just it’s become so big. And there’s so many bots and trust, we’ve lost, I’ve lost trust in it. When I could look through my thread and knew 99% of the people. Cool. Now it’s just it’s just too much. And I think social needs to reel itself back in, I’d like to see it continue to grow. I’d like to see the next generation of people utilize it in a more realistic way. You watch the videos that are out there now and it’s mind boggling how much fake information is out there. You know, so I find the trust of social media has been disbanded a little bit. Well, everybody’s

Matt Stagliano 1:02:25
Gouverneur now, right? Everybody’s a guru, they, you know, they write one or two things on chat GPT. And now they are an expert at you know, hedge funds, whatever it is, right? There’s this movement in especially in the photography community of bookings are slowing down, right. There’s a looming recession, things are changing. Photographers are starting to panic and go, What do we do? What do we do, and there’s this new influx of education, new influx of educators of all doing the same thing. It’s kind of this gold rush thinking that I can just, I can just say, I’m an educator, I’ve got all this free time, and the people will come, you haven’t spent any time building any of that trust up to that point as to why someone should come to you as an educator. There’s no story behind what it is you’re teaching, there’s no value, there’s no social proof or anything like that. We’re on looking right now is like tick tock. I’m looking at AI, I’m looking at what are the tools that people are using in different ways. YouTube, for example, is great for education. You can look anything up on YouTube University, right? So I learned how to do any of this.

Brian Simpson 1:03:33
Yeah, last time, I ran out of oil and had to redo my furnace. Oh, YouTube video, boom. And there’s

Matt Stagliano 1:03:37
some guy out there. He can’t speak worth a damn. But God, if he doesn’t know what he’s doing, and you follow it, and you get it done. You’re like, wow, I don’t ever need to call a plumber again. How do you think I did this house? Brian? Right. But some of the stuff on YouTube just takes for ever. Some people, you know, will make a 45 minute video when it could have been done in a minute and a half. Yep, enter tick tock. Yeah, right. So now tick tock has taken this condensed, I want to learn something I want to see something new, and reduce the time limits to now what one, three minutes, whatever it is. But people are using that as a resource to learn new things to find new things. I know I do. I save stuff all the time. I’m like, wow, that was a really cool Photoshop tip. Or that was a really cool thing to do with music. Like, let me just save that. And I go back to it. As tools come and go. We’re starting to see people use them in ways that they were never originally intended. Right? Tic tock was just kind of like, let’s show off. Let’s dance. Let’s lip sync. And now it’s an education resource. Yep. And I think that’s where the older generations, right? The ones that aren’t throwing out a hip, or you know, slipping a disc trying to do a dance, where they’re saying, wow, there’s a lot of cool information here. I can use this kind of the same way I use YouTube, but I can scroll a lot faster with all these tools out there with so much information now. Where do you think Other people’s behaviors are going, what is it that folks are looking for in social media today? What is it that it’s missing that people are looking for?

Brian Simpson 1:05:10
Good question. I think one I think people use it as a shortcut a lot. Right? I mean, entertainment, but then a shortcut, just like you said, it would have taken forever to figure out how to do plumbing versus a quick video on YouTube. It’s weird. We talked about living up here in the rural part of Maine, I find a lot of it’s fantasy. And I don’t mean fantasy, like dragons and witches and stuff, but just the way people live. And I think the the way other people’s lives are exposed, I think that the smaller the groups, the more beneficial people are going to define social media for them. Like, like up here, I think people use it a lot to live vicariously, right? We’re up here in the romaine. A lot of people don’t travel very much. So they see all this stuff, but they’re really not getting the real, actual experience of sitting on that beach or being in that plane, right. Kind of like Goodwill Hunting. You know, when that part was talking about, well, have you ever seen it you’ve ever sat on that plane or smelled the Louvre or been to these places? I think that the the new social media stuff I think, too many people rely on as an end all, they see what looks to be like, easy success. Oh, this guy told me he just posts these videos every day, he makes $50,000. And I’ll sound old when I say this. And for someone who uses it and does it for a living and he’s about to do even more of it. I think it’s become a giant mess. I really do. I think that there’s so much out there. And there’s so much embellishment and distrust. Again, I keep bringing up that trust piece. I’ve got a tattoo on my arm that says trust and that Chris Brogan paid for were at South by Southwest. And I was like, if I get trust put on my arm after your new book, will you pay for it? I saw him later that night, and he gave me money for the tattoo. But I think that that trust and and being an older person, I see some of the stuff and there’s just so much more garbage online that I think that people are trying to use it and make it more valuable. Like me, I love LinkedIn. You know, I love going into LinkedIn because it is more professional, still a little spammy with some of the stuff but I’ll read posts in LinkedIn, I know there’s probably some value behind them, I find a lot of the other tools are a really literally a mess. I don’t think you could go to a CEO of a company right now and try to show him tic toc and sell him on the values of it. I think it’d be really hard because he’d go home. And his daughter would say or his son would say, Oh dad, tick tock, look at this funny thing was this guy doing it. And immediately he’s you’ve lost them. I think that there’s a there’s a divide there. There’s a crossing over. And I think the generational gap is finally moving on and out of the workforce. But technology is never going to never go backwards at this point AI like you talked about is going to start doing a lot more stuff for us. So I don’t know what people want out of social media, I think what they expect out of it is just happiness. I think that’s that’s the sad part is people just think, oh, this should all be just happy. You know, and you see, I still have a few friends that I hang on to that post. And then they then they post sad things because not enough people like their posts. So what am I doing wrong in my life, and it’s like, Oh, my goodness, you know, just get away, step away from the social media, I get sucked into it. I’m glad I got to come over here and do this today versus my normal standard daily routine of stuff, we all get stuck in these habits. And I think social media creates even more of them. People wake up, and they do this. And then they’re going to the bathroom and they have a meeting and they’re at a stoplight and everything is happening. It’s like, stop, just slow down, slow down, do your thing, you know, contribute what you have, you know, you can’t do all the sports, right? You can’t own all the toys and do all the sports all the time. Same thing here, like pick a few things that you want to follow that you want to be engaged with. Pick the right ones, and it still happens today. And I still get mad at it. And I’ll still say it when people either say hey, we put a sticker up somewhere check it out or follow us on Facebook. Okay, why? So any any platform anything that’s moving forward? My first thing always now is just why? Like not that I’m tired of it. But hey, follow my YouTube channel. Why? What am I getting from follow my YouTube channel? Because next week, I’m going to do a thing on a thing. Oh, oh, cool. Okay, yeah, I want to see that thing. I’ll follow you for that. But it’s turned into pyramid scheme me. Gross, weird lot to offer. But a lot of a lot of garbage.

Matt Stagliano 1:09:18
I’ll make the food and beverage analogy for social media, as you were talking about is if you were to go into a high end bar, Martini Bar, Bourbon bar, whatever. And you sit down at the bar and you order your Blanton’s and you’re sitting there but you look down the bar, the other 50 people and it’s as if we go to every person, what are you drinking? How good is it? What are you drinking? Then you go to the next person? What are you drinking? How about you just sit back, relax and enjoy your drink. You know and just enjoy that be present government. I like that right? I think that’s kind of where we’ve gotten to is we’re so inundated by all this that we forget how to just be with our own thoughts. We forget how to be present with the people around us. I mentioned this on When I was out in Vegas at WPI, you’re always having meals with different people or grabbing drinks. So it wasn’t any one particular group that I was with. I saw this a lot, rather than just engaging, talking to people, you’re kind of half listening and kind of looking at your phone, and just hold on one second. And what did you say? And, yeah, it takes you out. So not only are you not interacting Well, online, you’re not interacting well in person anymore. So if that’s how you’re treating the people that are your friends, right, what are you doing to your clients? Yeah, you know, social media tools are never going away, AI is only going to make it more efficient, you have to create more shit. I’m going to use as much AI as I can in my business, but I understand the nefarious side of what it’s going to be used for. And it scares the shit out of me. But I think you’re going to see more and more people coming back to real interaction. I would love to see more live interaction platforms. During the pandemic, I started doing a lot more of this on clubhouse, right, we’re doing with the artists Forge. We’re doing a daily one to two hour podcast, where we talk about all sorts of things daily for a year and a half. But the best part about it was we would have 20 3050 people in the room at a given time that all wanted to interact. And in that was the pure value of that platform. And that was why I was all in on clubhouse was you have this instant feedback from people that were interested in what you were doing. The asynchronous nature of everything else just doesn’t give you that same feeling help. We’re recording this right now. I can’t look at comments on the screen, they can’t redirect the conversation. So it’s asynchronous clubhouse was great, because you can have that instant interaction. The trend that I’m seeing is people wanting to interact with something live. If I’m going to spend my time, I want it to be worth it. I want to feel like I’m part of that thing. Sure. I know for me, when I let stuff out, I try to make it a bit more interactive. I try to have that story. I try to make sure that people are getting some value from it not just hey, here I am with my cool new thing that you can’t afford. Right? Right to make you feel bad about you. This is what I got. I’m so much better than you. I don’t want to do that. Yep, helped me figure out how to get better. So I can make my information for you better, what is it that you want? Making it about the crowd, the listeners, the fans, whatever it is, making it about them? Not you

Brian Simpson 1:12:38
big time, the reality piece is crucial, right? I mean, mostly what I do, whether it’s luxury hotels, restaurants, whatever, I said this at a conference once somebody said, You know what, what is your main goal at Roger Smith hotel with your post, you know, like to get people to stay here, you know, until someone wants to send us money to not stay here. The goal is always heads in beds, always. But the messaging isn’t heads and beds, right. The messaging is storytelling, but the end goal, nothing I used to love more than being in my office and seeing somebody tweet out. They just checked in and walking downstairs be like what’s going on? I’m Brian, I’m the Twitter Oh, holy crap. Like I want to actually used to sitting on our roof deck, smoking a cigar doing some work. And he put a post up a little picture said, Man, it’d be great if the sun wasn’t so bright out here. I literally got up from my desk, walked, grabbed an umbrella, walked out the door to the roof and just walked up behind the guy and put the umbrella in the middle of the table is turned around. He’s like, That’s social media, there has to be at least in my world, there always has to be that real component, which is probably why I’m more of a naysayer of how it gets a little messy and slow garbagey because to me, the end result I want I want to see people, I want to shake hands, I want to see that you’ve experienced the hot tub, the restaurant the check in whatever it is, we want to see that experience from you.

Matt Stagliano 1:13:57
And the you know, the interesting thing I just came up with one more analogy. And this can probably be one of the final ones between the food and beverage and hotel industry, hospitality and social media is you’re trying to get heads and beds, right? You have a certain capacity of the hotel. You can only fit 1000 People in the hotel at a given time. You can talk to more people, but those 1000 people are your captive audience that you need to treat really well. Yes. treat these small communities like gold. You don’t have to please people that are just going to book at the highest or the plaza anyway. Right? Why even go after them? Right? Focus on the experience that the people are having with you, your product, your service, whatever it might be focused on that. Right? Because when you’re listening to the guy that says it’s too sunny on the roof deck, and you come and fix his problem. He’s never gone to another hotel. Right? Right. He’s not New York. He’s gonna go to where he was treated. Yep. Really, really well. He was listened to he was valued. Yep. Right. And that makes all the difference in

Brian Simpson 1:15:00
The world but you want real life analogy. This is perfect. So and I had a few people at the bar laugh at me the other day, hopefully the person on the phone didn’t hear crazy Saturday night, the bartender picks the phone up. I’m like, Oh my God, and like to go, Hey, Brian are we doing to goes, and I literally yelled, so people at the bar, probably not the best thing. But me being me. I was like, you know, I don’t give a fuck about anybody at home, we have a bunch of people in the building that we’re going to take care of first. And people at the bar kind of chuckled and laughed and saw me and like her. Okay, funny. But they were like, That’s awesome. They said, That’s awesome. Like you said, don’t worry about the big and all of who you want to reach. Yeah, you always want a little more of the puzzle, right? Or the pie. But most importantly, who’s already in your group? Right? Who’s already in front of you? I can’t these people all got out of their condos, and they’re in my building. They come first, somebody on the phone cool. You want to buy food from us? Fuck you. We got people in the building that are more important to us right now. And that’s the message and the team accepts that like in hot food, priority over everything else, you know, prioritizing stuff. And I think that’s what people need to start to do it with all of these things. Prioritize the messaging. So what’s next for you? Launching right back almost going backwards. 10 years. We’re gonna be starting work with my friend Adam real soon out of spherical out of New York City, and doing a bunch of different things from social to launching a new component of his business called compass, which is going to be a little bit more lifestyle and a little more, giving back. A little more philanthropy, some traveling and doing some fun stuff like that. So it’s great. Yeah, getting getting back in staying in the digital world. But getting back into it a little a little differently right now and going to get out of the food and beverage thing.

Matt Stagliano 1:16:43
Awesome. Thanks for being here, man. I’m glad we’re able to do this. I know where the two Muppets in the in the balcony, Statler and Waldorf most of the time and solving everybody’s problems, but it was awesome to finally kind of dig into the social media stuff.

Brian Simpson 1:16:54
We could do this for weeks. You know,

Matt Stagliano 1:16:57
I think I have enough coffee in the house to take care of that. And we certainly would never run out of words. No. So that’s on the agenda. Alright, so I’m gonna bring you back at some point. And maybe as you get into spherical and we could talk about compass and do that. So thanks again. Man. I appreciate you being here.

Brian Simpson 1:17:13
Honor, Matt. Thank you, man. Appreciate it. I’ll talk to you soon.


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Generator Ep. 023 – Focal Points – Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud

This is the first episode in a sub-series of Generator called “Focal Points” where Maine photographer Matt Stagliano speaks with Jonny Edward, a commercial and portrait photographer, as well a top-tier educator based in Denver, Colorado about a variety of topics.

“Jonny and I always have long deep conversations when we get together and we decided to start recording more of them. In this first Focal Point, we wanted to say the quiet parts out loud, and talk about struggles as a creative and occasionally feeling lost or uninspired. This is just the two of us working out our emotions and perspectives in real time. Totally unscripted and without a defined end point. It was wonderful to just sit down and talk this through”

There will be more topic explorations on future episodes of Focal Points so stay tuned for those!

For more on Jonny Edward’s photography and educational courses, please visit

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