So many people talk about influencer marketing and online networking. Few do it and even fewer do it well. When I was thinking about this topic recently I thought of someone who I believe has done this better than most.
This person I am speaking of is someone who has won the hearts of many of us in the social media community. He’s a special and genuine guy that has influenced his way in the “influencers” hearts. This person is Antonio Calero and I asked him to share his story here, on the very same blog where he wrote his very first guest blog post.
Antonio’s story is powerful, inspirational and emotional…but there’s valuable lessons throughout this article that you can benefit from greatly.
How Antonio Calero Mastered Online Networking & Influenced the Influencers
Follow your passion
My first baby was due to arrive in late September 2012, so when I lost my job three weeks before the due date, my panic was intense. I hadn’t worked at my current job long enough to receive a severance package that would give my family a financial safety-net, and our savings were minimal.
Obviously, I needed to find another job fairly quickly. To make things even more stressful, I felt guilty for having spent too much time during the previous two years acquiring a new skill that wasn’t in much demand back then: Facebook ads proficiency. A recurring thought I often had was, “If only I had focused in improving my professional profile differently…”
Earlier that year, I had launched my own blog with the sole goal of sharing my digital marketing knowledge with others. Because blogging was more of a hobby than part of a plan to build a self-brand or become a consultant, the logical thing would have been to re-focus all my efforts on finding a new job. Once the job was found, I would dedicate my time to it and my family. But, I was already too hooked on blogging.
By the time I lost my job, I was an avid reader of some of the industry’s most popular blogs. I admired many of those guys, not for their popularity or their earnings, but because they made a living by doing something they liked.
I wanted to be in that situation, too, someday. Not necessarily living off a blog, but working at a job I loved, in which my knowledge and experience would be appreciated by my company and by other people. I didn’t want my ego stroked, I wanted feel I was actually helping others with my knowledge.
Eventually I found a new job but, it was just another job, not one I was passionate about. Clearly this was just a temporary patch – not what I wanted in life. So, I listened to my inner voice and kept blogging, creating most of my articles in between diaper changes.
- Never stop following your passion. There may be times when doing what you like is really hard, but don’t let that stop you from chasing the opportunity to do what you love.
- Don’t misjudge any of your skills, because what seems to be useless today may be the key that opens the door to a great opportunity in the future.
Content comes first
I must admit that, although I’m a good verbal communicator (despite my accent), I’m not a natural writer. Each article I produced was hard work for me, and since I was underpaid in my new job, I couldn’t afford a copywriter or editor to check my grammar.
I wanted to publish the same volume of content as some of the other top bloggers, but that simply wasn’t an option. Instead, I committed to producing quality content rather than quantity. Whenever I chose a topic, I did a lot of research and created articles with as much detail as possible.
I wasn’t interested in being in the spotlight or getting highlighted by another website, I wanted to provide my few readers with interesting, valuable content. If I wasn’t able to give them as much content as I wanted, at least I could give them the best content possible.
That dedication to quality helped me a lot in this journey.
Some months later, I was seeking to improve my blog’s SEO by generating some backlinks. I approached a few big blogs, asking for an opportunity to write a guest article. One of those blogs was Top Dog Social Media.
To be honest, I was expecting a straight ‘NO’; after all, my blog was still very small and I didn’t have much content. And these were big players, right? Imagine my surprise when I received an email from Melonie Dodaro confirming they’d be delighted to have me publish on their blog.
The best part, though, was not being accepted as a guest blogger on a big website, it was the words shared with me, they had taken the time to visit my website and read some of my articles, and told me that the quality of my content was really good and up to their expectations. This was a big confidence booster for me.
Not only did my first guest article help further my career, it also put my name out there in front of other industry leaders/influencers (something I discovered some years later from several of those people).
- ‘Content is King’, but quality is more important than quantity. Whatever you decide to do, always focus on doing an awesome job.
- Do something because you like doing it, not to gain attention or money. Your first goal is to be happy about what you do, because if you aren’t happy, it’s hard to make others happy.
The importance of GOOD online networking
Something I had been doing from day one – most of the time unknowingly – was networking online.
My favorite blog was Jon Loomer Digital, and his articles are what made me start enjoying Facebook advertising. I became Jon’s main ‘online stalker’ and commented on every one of his articles – not to get his attention, but because I wanted to engage with what I considered to be great content.
Not sure what he thought about my never-ending comments, but it was clear that he knew I existed.
And that’s the key for networking.
Networking isn’t just knowing a bunch of other people, it’s creating meaningful connections with people to the point where they recognize (and remember) you.
And you do this by providing value without being annoying.
Spamming others, asking them to feature your article on their blog, making pointless comments to every piece of content they create, liking all of their social media posts… is not providing value.
I used the same networking approach with most of the blogs I was following. In fact, my online networking was taking up a fair amount of the time I had for daily activities.
- If you are really passionate about what you’re doing, networking shouldn’t be difficult – even if you are shy or introverted. If you struggle to engage in a conversation about a topic, chances are it isn’t the thing you like the most.
- Networking is key in life – not just in business; the connections you make must be meaningful and enjoyable for both. Don’t try connecting with people you don’t like because you think they might offer an opportunity; that relationship simply won’t work.
Be authentic, be humble
This brings me to another important point…and it’s something many people looking for fame or attention do all too often: I could have just commented on all those articles without reading them – but that wouldn’t have been right.
In my case, I wasn’t trying to get attention for attention’s sake; I sincerely wanted to engage in a real conversation with other people I admired who were also interested in the same things I was. If they liked my comments and replied back, that was a bonus.
Jon always replied to my comments. Other authors were less responsive, but I didn’t see this as a reason to stop commenting on content that I considered to be good.
I remember someone once suggested that I stop commenting on those blogs whose authors didn’t reply to my comments, as ‘they were clearly not interested in me.’
Worst advice EVER.
Who was I to pass judgement on or make assumptions about why people weren’t replying? Maybe they were busy, or perhaps they didn’t like my comments. It was totally fine with me. You cannot expect everyone to pay attention to you.
It’s worth noting that I didn’t spend time commenting on articles from top influencers who could have brought me big exposure, but didn’t seem to align with my own values. After all, I wasn’t blogging to get exposure. I was blogging simply because I liked blogging, so commenting on someone’s blog for the wrong reasons felt wrong.
- Always show your true personality and follow your core values. If something looks wrong – get away from it, regardless of the potential benefits it could bring you.
- Don’t judge others or make assumption about why they do certain things. Don’t seek attention or expect to be treated as a rock-star, because you aren’t. In fact, nobody really is.
2014 was really an AWESOME year for me.
In my personal life, I got a new job that somehow sucked as much as the previous one. This time the pay was fantastic, but the company didn’t listen to my advice or acknowledge my expertise. It was as though I was talking to a wall for eight hours a day. I didn’t feel valued and this was affecting my self-esteem.
I might’ve have ended up with depression had my blogging activities not brought in some clients now and then. Not enough work to make a living, but enough to keep my mood balanced.
I pushed myself harder, and kept asking big websites for guest blogging opportunities. And in a matter of a few months, lots of great things happened.
One day, the unexpected occurred. Ian Clearly from RazorSocial asked me to guest blog for him. This was not me reaching out to other websites, it was one of those top guys… asking me to write for his blog.
Again, this wasn’t so much about an ego thing (well, perhaps a bit), it was mostly about the affirmation that my content was getting noticed and appreciated.
Of course, I said yes, which led to a couple of things happening.
First, I developed a great online friendship with a cool dude.
Second, the article I wrote for Ian opened the door that finally put me in the happy place I am at the moment.
AdEspresso’s CEO Massimo Chieruzzi found the article and, after commenting on it (another example of authentic and genuine networking), contacted me on Twitter. It was just friendly conversation at this stage, with no allusions to business intentions, but I had clearly hit his radar. I also discovered a tool I loved.
Two more great things happened in 2014.
After having written guest articles for other websites, I was starting to get known in the industry so I decided to take a big leap of faith and asked Social Media Examiner if I could guest blog for them, too.
I was accepted! They asked me to propose a few topics, so they could pick their favorite. I suggested four topics, and three of them were accepted.
Could it get any better than this? First Ian Cleary asked me to write for his blog, then Social Media Examiner accepted me as a writer.
Well, it did get better…
At the beginning of each year, Social Media Examiner chooses the Top 10 Social Media Blogs, these are the same blogs I had been following for years.
I didn’t win that honor; my blog didn’t have much content and my articles didn’t have many comments. But I made it to the finalists.
Let me write that again. My blog was a finalist in Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Top Social Media Marketing Blogs list.
In other words, I was in the Top 20. I was competing against blogs like Jon Loomer Digital, RazorSocial and Top Dog Social Media. The same sites that had been my point of reference from the beginning. Isn’t it ironic?
Can you guess who called me on my mobile to bring me the good news? Ian ‘cool-dude’ Cleary himself.
Remember, all this was happening while my day job sucked more and more each day. It felt as if the Universe was sending me signs – and I am not someone who ignores the obvious.
With two kids to look after, I had a hard decision to make. But after receiving a push from my supportive wife, I did what it turned out to be one of the best decisions of my life: I quit my job and finally put all my energy into my blog – which by then had already become an online business.
- When success arrives, don’t change a thing. This is when you need to be even more authentic, more humble, and more passionate about what you do.
- Don’t ignore the obvious. If it’s clear that something isn’t right for you, get away from it. If it’s clear that you should follow a path, just do it.
Invest in your goals
I knew I needed to take advantage of this moment and make the most out of it – but how?
Right after publishing my first article for Top Dog Social Media, I had approached another popular website and made another great connection. This time my hero was Emeric Ernoult, CEO of AgoraPulse.
Emeric is probably the nicest person you could ever meet in your life, after your mum. He’s helped me (and many others) so much by introducing me to more people in the social media space. He’s been a great mentor and an awesome friend.
Around the same time my first Social Media Examiner article was published, I asked Emeric how could I take this moment to the next level. And his response was clear: I needed to meet all these people in person.
For the first time in many years I didn’t have a steady monthly income, so spending money I didn’t have on trips and events felt risky. But I trusted Emeric as if he was my brother and, following his advice, I went to San Diego to attend Social Media Marketing World in 2015.
This was just another great decision. Meeting people face to face lets you get much more done than you can with hundreds of hours of online connection. And since my online connections were already quite productive, you can only guess how good these in-person meetings were.
I was able to meet some of those long time, on-line connections such as Jon Loomer, Melonie Dodaro, Emeric Ernoult, Ian Cleary and the team from Social Media Examiner.
I also realized there were lots of other top industry leaders who knew about my content. To name a few: Mari Smith, Mike Stelzner, Donna Moritz, Andrea Vahl, Steve Dotto, and Jenny Brennan (who from the moment we met became like a sister to me and has been another point of reference in my life.)
I left San Diego with a lot of new connections, friends and business opportunities. In fact, three weeks after returning home, I’d already booked enough deals to cover the costs of attending the event.
Probably the most significant deal came from my friend Jon Loomer, who asked me to become part of the management team for his exclusive community of advanced Facebook advertisers.
Three years earlier I thought gaining my experience in Facebook ads had been a waste of my time. Now this very skill was providing me with a steady monthly income, and helping me build an online reputation.
- Investing in good opportunities is never a waste time or money. Be sure to choose the right ones.
- Whenever possible turn online relationships into off-line relationships, it’s off-line where the magic happens.
Opportunity knocks at the door
It wasn’t as though from that moment on everything was easy and I could just relax. I still needed to continue working on the same things that had brought me to that place: creating good content, networking, nurturing online relationships, etc.
The difference, for me, was that somehow the path was clearer now.
I was earning less than half the salary I’d made at my previous job, but my level of happiness was only increasing.
My main concern was making sure that I earned enough every month to contribute to the family income effectively. So, on top of all the activities I’d been doing, I needed to look for clients all the time.
And, there was still something I hadn’t accomplished yet: booking speaking engagements.
Public speaking is one of my passions. I had spoken in public multiple times, but always about things I wasn’t much interested in. Now, I was finally in an industry I loved, but not getting speaking gigs. However, I was happy in my new self-employed life, so this was the least of my problems.
But then, the opportunity of a lifetime knocked on the door: Armando Biondi, AdEspresso’s COO, asked me if I wanted to join their company.
And that’s where the circle closes.
Those years I spent teaching myself the (not so) “useless skill” of running Facebook ads; the commenting and later friendship with Jon Loomer; all the guest blogging that put my name out there; the article about Facebook Advertising Tools for Ian Cleary; the connection to Massimo the article brought; the time spent maintaining and nurturing all those relationships…
It finally all felt into place: a brand I loved was asking me to be part of their team.
I had just one concern. I was scared of losing the work-life flexibility I had as a self-employed business owner. I wanted time to keep blogging, to maintain all those connections I’d made, to get speaking gigs, etc. None of this seemed to be a problem for AdEspresso. Could it be true?
There was only one way to find out. I had to accept the role.
- Every single action you take will bring you to a new place and new situations. Many times, it’s hard to see how all these things might connect, but trust me: they do. So, make sure that your actions are always positive, and that you always act for the right reasons.
- Being passionate about what you do, being authentic and being humble does pay off. On the other hand, chasing fame, popularity, or faking friendships because of a perceived benefit are risky ways to pursue happiness.
The journey has just started
Now, here I am in what I consider the best professional moment of my life.
I’m working for a company I loved way before they asked me to join the team, creating something big, feeling appreciated and valued, and developing good friendships.
I have the flexibility to work remotely and spend time with my kids. I have an amazing team of colleagues.
I can keep blogging.
And I have been called to speak at different events all across Europe, including speaking at Social Media Summit Ireland in 2016 with Ted Rubin, Brian Fanzo, Melonie Dodaro, Ian Cleary, Steve Dotto, Jenny Brennan, Vikki Taylor (and many others), all of which I can now call personal friends.
I’ve scored what I consider my DREAM JOB.
Seven years after starting to learn a new skill that I wondered many times if it would be a waste of time. Five years after losing my job while having a baby on the way. Two years after deciding to quit the corporate world.
Mission accomplished? Happy ending? Is it the end of the story? Absolutely NOT!
There’s much more to do.
I am in the process of writing a book and launching a video series.
I need to return to my blogging activities – which I paused several months ago. I’ve set a goal to speak in the US and/or Canada. I want to see all the projects we are currently developing at AdEspresso come to life. I want to create new amazing projects.
On top of this, AdEspresso was recently merged into Hootsuite, and this can only mean one thing: more amazing opportunities. More things to do. An endless road ahead.
Someone said once that life is not a destination, but a journey.
So far this has been an amazing journey. But there are many more connections to make, so many articles to write, and so many more dreams to achieve.
This article is just another step in the journey. I want to thank Melonie Dodaro for reaching out to me and asking me to share my story here.
Antonio Calero is a social media author, speaker, and the Head of Marketplace Services for AdEspresso, a SaaS that simplifies optimization and reporting of Facebook Ads.