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Do Entrepreneurs Need College?

Marketing interview with Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian and Steve Huffman founded the social bookmarking site reddit shortly after graduating from the University of Virginia. They sold it a year later to media giant Condé Nast. You’ve seen the movie, that’s kind of how Facebook got started as well.

Alexis Ohanian

Alexis Ohanian

So, to answer the question posed in my title today – yes, college is very important as a vehicle for entrepreneurship, but not because the case studies used in Marketing 101 teach anyone how to launch a product. College for the entrepreneur has always been more about community and connections and learning how to try stuff out.

That’s why coworking spaces, startup villages, mentoring programs and incubators make so much sense for the aspiring entrepreneur.

For this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast I spent some time with Ohanian to talk about his recent book – Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed.

Ohanian has become a bit of a poster child for the under 30 entrepreneur set. In less than a decade his business accomplishments would make up a pretty solid career.

What I like most about his story though is that he’s thrown himself head first into causes that excite him (Stop SOPA and Mister Splashy Pants) along the way. That, I think, is the real promise of no permission needed. In fact, he describes himself as a start up guy with the aim of making the world suck less!

He’s currently on something like a 150 stop tour that includes a great number of stops at colleges where he is spreading a message of hope and inspiration and advice for how to take advantage of the opportunities present right now.

Today, anyone with an idea and some timing can disrupt an entire industry. Today, anyone can sit at a keyboard or draw stick like figures that incite a movement or create a business where nothing previously existed. Hugh Macleod of Gaping Void takes on the lunacy of work through what some might call doodles and millions join his community.

Allie Brosh shares her simple drawings and amazingly dry sense of humor at Hyperbole and a Half and writes about very real things like her very real battle with depression and routinely draws thousands of comments with each submission. Her book Hyperbole and a Half was an instant best seller!

Like so many other institutions the higher education system in this country is under assault. The same permissionless innovation that allowed Ohanian and Huffman to create reddit is poised to tear down any industry that won’t tear itself down and embrace the fundamental shift in the way people learn, create, build and grow.

I believe we are headed into a generation where entrepreneurship will be the defining attribute of society.

7 Pay-Per-Click Advertising Options That Are Not Google or Bing

Pay-per-click advertising (PPC), when used correctly, is a very powerful way to drive traffic and conversions.

pay per click advertising options

photo credit: alles-schlumpf via photopin cc

The used correctly part includes effective targeting and testing, writing compelling ads, creating compelling offers and managing the bid and budget process in the most cost effective manner.

While the Google and Bing PPC ad networks are the most popular options, smart advertisers also choose to round out their offerings with other options to both capture viewers that aren’t captured by these networks and lower the overall cost per conversion through other channels.

The following seven options should be considered and tested as you build your lead generation platform online.

1) Reddit ads – Reddit is currently the hottest social news sharing site and their ad offering is somewhat unique. You target your ads based on interest and not demographics and ads include user engagement features such as voting and comments. Get your ad right and this network can generate targeted leads.

2) YouTube Video Targeting– Okay I guess this one really is Google, but not exactly AdWords. With the YouTube Video Targeting Tool you can put your ads in specific video channels or even specific videos. You can choose from a variety of formats.

3) StumbleUpon Paid Discovery – StumbleUpon is a unique social sharing site that offers visitors without a click. StumbleUpon users simply stumble to your chosen page. The service delivers lots of low-cost visits, but the trick has always been to convert with a very simple and engaging call to action.

4) Twitter Promoted – Promoted Tweets are ordinary Tweets purchased by advertisers who want to reach a wider group of Twitter users. They are clearly labeled as Promoted when an advertiser is paying for their placement on Twitter. The Tweets can be targeted to search terms and specific hashtags. Advertisers have been reporting good results in terms of targeted conversions, but also in terms of social metrics such as increased followers and influencer scores.

5) Facebook Advertising – Facebook’s targeting is as effective as any platform and for that reason offers some unique opportunities. If you’ve built a large fan following the sponsored updates option can be a good buy with a compelling call to action.

6) LinkedIn Advertising – LinkedIn advertising isn’t for everyone as it’s predominantly a B2B platform and if used too broadly gets very expensive. The most effective use I’ve seen is narrowly targeting user niches based on keywords or titles in profiles.

7) 7Search – 7Search is a 2nd tier network and does not act as a replacement, but rather a great addition to help advertisers gain traffic from the 10% of traffic that Google and Bing don’t have. Savvy PPC bidders can find some real bargains here for long tail kinds of terms.

Once you’ve created content that converts, compelling calls to action that get people to click and an ROI on bids on the big networks, it makes perfect sense to start exploring other options to lower your cost per acquisition and gain greater exposure.