Tim Lewis: In this show, I’m introducing a new person who I’m taking through their book-writing journey. Niklas Myhr, who is a professor of social media. In fact, he is the number one rated person on Google when you type in, “the social media professor.”
Tim Lewis: He teaches social media in a university in California. I’ve been privileged to meet him quite a few times at conferences. When he was over in a conference in London speaking, he looked me up, and asked me for advice about writing a book. And I’m like, “Well, you might as well come on the show.” So, with no further ado, let’s go over to the interview.
Tim Lewis: Hello Niklas. Welcome to the show.
Niklas Myhr: Thank you. Thank you, Tim. I appreciate it.
Tim Lewis: So, you have got yourself into a position where you have run a crowdfunding campaign for a book. That’s my understanding. And you’re gonna be soon going into the process of actually trying to get that book created. Is that correct?
Niklas Myhr: That’s correct. I’ve been having a good experience with a platform called Publishizer that I know you’re familiar with, as many of your listeners, I raised $6,000 for my book on social media marketing, and I’m quite excited about that. I have, my book process is in motion and I’m getting serious about getting this out, 2019.
Tim Lewis: I understand, also, because we had a conversation in London about this, that this isn’t actually going to be your first book, is it?
Niklas Myhr: No, actually, it’s going to be my second, unless you count my doctoral dissertation as a book. That would actually make it my third. Most people don’t read doctoral dissertations, and maybe I should sell it on Amazon. Who knows. But anyway, my first book was written five years ago in Swedish with a Swedish co-author, and was also about social media marketing. But this would be my first solo author book in English.
Tim Lewis: Let’s take the very big picture and say, what are you trying to achieve with the book, and what is the book gonna be about as far as you’re aware?
Niklas Myhr: For me, it’s a way to package both the things I teach in my classrooms at Chapman University where I’m a social media professor, and as an external speaker to audiences, to actually compartmentalise different ideas, examples, and theories to bring the best of what academia can offer and combine that with case studies in the real world that I think illustrates what works and doesn’t work in social media today. The specific focal point will be to built it around a customer journey from a social media standpoint. So, I name it The Social Customer Journey, because too much emphasis has been focused on automating things, and making things happen with a magic button, etc. Sometimes social media is hard work, and I’m gonna emphasise the human aspects of using social media to actually build real relationships, which is sometimes not scaleable. Sometimes not possible to automate.
Niklas Myhr: But still, I’m not negative towards using tools in automation or CRM or whatever, whenever it’s appropriate. Finding the right mix at different stages is the goal for me.
Tim Lewis: Is it gonna be more a practical book? Or is it gonna be a theoretical one, as in are you gonna have experiences for people to do at the end of it, almost like an academic book? Or are you just gonna have it as like, this is my theory about how social media marketing should work?
Niklas Myhr: I would say it’s gonna be more of a big picture book, in the sense it’s gonna be inspirational with case studies and see what you can learn from a strategy standpoint, more so than having a detailed checklist for the settings of a specific platform’s tool. But that being said, what I’m planning to do is have resources available on an accompanying website where people can actually check up resources and recommendations and tips, and things that people share with me, as well, so this becomes sort of a living organism.
Tim Lewis: At the moment, what kind of state is the book in? I mean, have you got some sort of plan, or even a rough idea of what the book contents gonna be, or is this mainly in your head at the moment?
Niklas Myhr: No, in terms of my process, it’s not been as systematic as you probably with several books in the bag has been, but what I have been doing is sorting things into different buckets.
Niklas Myhr: So, the major categories would be basically dividing content into different pieces based on a customer journey, meaning from the discovery phase, that you have a problem, to the way that you screen and evaluate options and create a shortlist, to the stage where you evaluate which one you’re really gonna go for, and perhaps even fall in love with a brand or experience that you go so far to share it with others, and build a loyal relationship.
Niklas Myhr: Within that context, I have both writings, transcripts from my talks, and research articles that I’ve collected, and now the hard job is to basically compile that into legible chapters in a more structured way.
Tim Lewis: Just off the top of your head, I know this is a difficult question. How much of the book is going to be reprocessing basically existing material, and how much is going to be brand new stuff that you’ve got to write?
Niklas Myhr: Much of it will stem from things that I already process, learn, read, and speak, and teach about. So, in that sense, I don’t expect that I will make major new discoveries in my writing phase that would take another year or two, or a dissertation. But, instead I basically consider the life I’m living as research in its own right.
Niklas Myhr: So, my job is to package that to make it relevant for a reader of a book. So, the content will be new to the extent that I need to phrase things differently from book audience as compared to a speaking audience, and perhaps summarise some of the inspiration sources I get because a book, even though it’s sort of a big task, it is still not indefinite in terms of size. You basically have to package things and basically make it appetising for a reader in order to not review a whole research stream, for example. What is relevant and what can a practising manager take from this, what are the takeaways, and still come across as credible in the sense of building upon some viable theories.
Tim Lewis: We talked about this briefly in the pre-chat but, what would you say is the target market for, the people you’re writing this book for? Who would be the ideal person for you to be happy to buy your book?
Niklas Myhr: This is a book that I would love for it to be read by management teams, specifically focused on marketing communications. It would be CMOs and marketing managers. But also at the CEO level where executives need to be familiar with how the digital world, and social media in particular, presents new challenges and opportunities for brands to actually make sure that they are relevant in today’s marketplace.
Niklas Myhr: But beyond that, I think that the theories that I present will be relevant also for middle-managers, and people in agencies that wanna get another fresh take on things that they sometimes have discussed before, or even practised, but maybe they can see examples from other businesses and industries that they have not encountered that can actually bring them ideas in order to be relevant in their business and daily life.
Niklas Myhr: When it comes to entrepreneurs and start-ups, I have a lot of students, as well, that come out of Chapman University. We have got an entrepreneurship centre, and I stay connected with many students. Many of them come to me for advice in order to, what do you get started to build a presence for a brand new name of a company, and a product, that is the coolest thing since sliced bread that they always have. And that I’m always cautious to not dismiss the ideas because I might have the next Mark Zuckerberg in my room, in my office, and I don’t want to be like the guy who rejected The Beatles, from that record label.
Niklas Myhr: So, I try to keep an open mind and give them advice. When it comes to social media for them, I think, they have to go through a process, as well, in order to be ready to be engaging with an audience, the prospective audience, and build it up. I always try to emphasise to be a little bit patient, because these entrepreneurs are often extremely impatient, and that is perhaps one takeaway for that type of audience, that it’s not gonna happen overnight if you’re gonna build genuine customer relationships, or relationships with people in general. Which might benefit them not only for this start-up that might fail, but also for the next one. If they build true relationships with people, that’s gonna carry over through the next venture, as well, is my strong belief. That’s what I try to emphasise.
Niklas Myhr: Finally, I’ve been invited to speak at public sector events, and many of the theories that I talk about for business are highly relevant also for a public sector organisation, a city government agency, I’ve been speaking to in different countries, because even though they don’t sell a product for profits, they still sell ideas and try to have people implement certain policies, or follow regulations, or take advantage of opportunities. They also have to go through the same process in terms of building awareness, and trust, and having people become loyal, and spread word of mouth.
Tim Lewis: So, let’s change the subject completely, ’cause I like doing that. In terms of your work patterns at the moment, ’cause I know that you have my tendency of never starting these things, really. So, have you got some bandwidth in terms of your time as to when you’re going to get this book completed? I mean … I don’t know, not being a professor, I don’t know the kind of like, your timetable, but have you got a few hours a week, or maybe an hour a day, or something like that where you could be doing this as a task? Actually getting this book process kicked off, and also finished?
Niklas Myhr: No, it’s an excellent question, and I believe that I’m very much in the batch processing mode. The fortunate thing is, for example, I never teach on Thursdays and Fridays, and that is a prime opportunity that I’m trying to earmark dates where I’m actually gonna disconnect and actually suit down and process things to get serious about the writing process in big chunks of time.
Niklas Myhr: But I’m also inspired by people like Chris Brogan. He basically shares his book-writing process as being taking advantage of every 15-minute gap he’s got in his calendar waiting for, picking up a kid at a soccer game, or whatever it is that you actually have all these pockets, if you have the right tools readily accessible. It might even be Google Docs on your phone that you’re actually, as long as you have specific writing goals in your outline that you actually can take charge of.
Niklas Myhr: I’m also experimenting with various tools for transcribing audio and making sure that that makes sense, and this workable materials. So, using all these gaps when I travel as a speaker, as well, I often get a hotel night lonely in a room, and that is another opportunity to do things that are requiring you to disconnect from your daily disturbances.
Niklas Myhr: When it comes to longer sessions, I got really serious about finishing my doctoral dissertation by having my wife book a trip to an island outside Cancun in Mexico. That was at a time when that island only had 14.4 kilobits per second connection on the Internet café where she allowed me to go 10 minutes a day. So, I think that I’m struggling like many others in terms of not always shutting off connectivity. I believe that I need to do that, maybe not full weeks, but at least in four-hour blocks that I need to schedule in my calendar.
Niklas Myhr: I was inspired by a book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. He is an academic who is going cold turkey on social media altogether. I’m not ready to go that far, but I believe that I want to use social media for what it’s good at, staying connected with people such as yourself, and spreading my message, and following others, but not do it 24/7. But actually go more like a gear box, on, off, on, off.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, I’ve started to do that recently where I’ve turned off virtually all my social media and notification. I still look at my apps a lot. I’ve taken it down to even where I have the little numbers on the apps, and even that was a temptation because I’ve always got notifications. I’ve always got some. So, I’ve taken them off and it has helped, and I’m noticing the screen time app on my iPhone, it says, “Your time is 70% down,” or whatever.
Niklas Myhr: No, but I think it’s true that you can get tactical, or technical tools, just the availability of them could be distracting. Just the fact that you have a phone near you, even upside down, and it presents a temptation to lift it up and check it, and that would reduce your bandwidth on the task at hand. So, I am aware of these tendencies, and I actually do manage some of these, and I teach my students some of these, as well. The Pomodoro Technique is one favourite. You have an egg timer, the Pomodoro.
Tim Lewis: 25 minutes, isn’t it?
Niklas Myhr: 25 minutes, and then take five-minute break, and then 25 minutes, and then another five minute break. Then maybe take a longer break, but sometimes I get more done in three Pomodoros than in for a workday, if I truly focus on one task. I actually had a variation of that before I heard of the Pomodoro Technique. When I did my doctoral dissertation I bought a chess clock, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with chess, that you can actually have a button on each side, and when you have moved your piece, you press one button, and the clock starts ticking on the opponent’s side. I usually set, when I worked on my dissertation, a chess game at 120 minutes apiece, and my goal then would be to press my side when I was working hard, and then when I was goofing off, I would press the other side. When those 120 minutes had expired, I wanted to win the game, so I was more focused than goofing off. That often meant that I became way more focused and beat that goofing off side.
Tim Lewis: Well, and one thing I would say from my experience with book writing and just work in general is, when you’re talking about these 15-minute periods of time, I would use them for more of the, well, you’re going through something you’ve already written and you’re knocking it into the shape that you want. I would use the longer periods of time, preferably together, for writing any of the new stuff. Simply because, if you write your book in 15-minute periods over six months or something like that, it’s gonna be so much harder to edit it, because you’re likely to be repeating yourself, and it might be weeks between your quarter of an hour bits.
Tim Lewis: I think actually for book writing … Well for me, I mean, admittedly it could be different for other different people, and I’m sure it works Chris Brogan, but I think the more you can write in one go, and the more you can write in a shorter period of time, you just keep in your head more mentally everything that’s going on in that section. It makes the book better because in your mind, you’re keeping all the points together. Also, it makes it easier to edit it afterwards, both on your side, and for whoever’s editing it.
Niklas Myhr: No, I think that’s good advice based on experience, and I think you’re right that you can do some of the housekeeping items in the shorter spurts, and perhaps some of the corresponding administrative work, and promotional work, are things that don’t necessarily require the same uninterrupted long blocks of time. But for coming up with new ideas, I think, get comfortable with staring into a wall and waiting for the ideas to come, and I think it’s important lesson. Sometimes I get my best ideas in the shower, and I wish I had a note board in the shower. Sometimes I have to run out.
Niklas Myhr: I think that I toyed with the idea of buying an old fashioned typewriter and locking myself in a room with that and actually just hearing the productive noise of clattering keys, and then basically pull out the piece of paper and scan it into optical character recognition, get it into Word after the fact. But that might be a process I haven’t experimented with. Do you know anyone has tried that?
Tim Lewis: No. I mean, my opinion of that kind of process is don’t do it. But it’s like with May King Tsang,on our show. She was talking about handwriting a book, and I was like, “Well, if you really want to.” But she gave up on the idea, because you don’t realise how much more productive new word processors and computer technology is even than a typewriter. Because, and again, with writing first draughts I say you want to be doing as little self-editing as possible. So, just almost stream of consciousnesses.
Niklas Myhr: Thank you. I would love to get an old fashioned typewriter, but I’m good at procrastinating by reading reviews of various book-writing tools, and I’ve read a lot of them. But now I committed to using Scrivener.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. Scrivener is the one that I use. I mean, there are other free alternatives, but Scrivener’s fairly cheap anyway, and I like the way that you can … It’s got each section as a different, almost a blank page, because one problem using something like Word is that if you’re having to scroll up and down all the time, it’s very easy to get distracted by what you’ve already written. With something like Scrivener where it’s got it’s separate separate blocks, and you can drag them around, but you’re only looking at that section. And also Scrivener’s very good for word counts, as well, so that’s good if you’re setting a target.
Tim Lewis: When I’ve done NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing event which they have in November, that’s like 50,000 words, and that’s where Scrivener comes in really useful.
Niklas Myhr: Yeah. I like the tool, I haven’t got 100% committed to it yet. One specific problem I have that where you may have some advice is that I have loads of notes and research on background in Evernote, but in Scrivener you have a research section other than the actual manuscript. I haven’t committed to pull in all the things that I think might be relevant into the Scrivener interface, but I’m working cross-platform on two different screens, which might be not ideal.
Tim Lewis: Yeah. I mean, I don’t use that functionality in Scrivener, really, the whole … Well, I’ll say that I have used the non-writing section for keeping character and other, but this is more for fiction. But, I mean, you can just cut and paste it in it, once you get it right in Evernote, into your document and then tidy it up there, and forget about the research in Scrivener.
Tim Lewis: I mean, there’s lots of tools and things for that, but I mean, I’m not entirely convinced that’s where it’s best used, really, of Scrivener. But some people love that functionality.
Niklas Myhr: No, I can see why it’s useful if you commit to it. But if you do it half-heartedly it may not be useful. So, it’s maybe either, maybe use some key reminders or outline notes, but maybe not every article that I think might be relevant.
Tim Lewis: Exactly. Okay, so it sounds like you’ve got a lot of idea about what you’re doing. Now, I’m going to ask you a question now. When you think that you might be in the position to get your first draught finished?
Niklas Myhr: I actually think that, if you push me on this, in February 2019. I’m gonna say that if you talk about the draught that is not yet in the printable, sellable format, but a draught that can be shared as a working manuscript that is finished from a writing standpoint.
Tim Lewis: Yes.
Niklas Myhr: That would be the goal to have that done before the fall semester begins last Monday of August, so that would be, okay, so August 26 I when my fall semester begins. So, I would certainly set that as a target to start working on the next phase which is the packaging and marketing, et cetera.
Tim Lewis: Well, yeah, and editing. Didn’t you say to me that you already have a cover for the book or something along those lines?
Niklas Myhr: Yes, I actually used 99designs for that to put up my crowdfunding campaign site, and it looks so good, so people actually when they see that on my presentations as a slide, they actually think it is a book that exists. I have to point out to them that, no, this is a pre-sell event.
Tim Lewis: You’ve got the cover.
Niklas Myhr: It looks real legit, and I actually love the way it came out for just a few hundred bucks. It was like 100-something contributions from around the world and I picked a winner from Indonesia. Had a good experience with that because it made me package my thoughts in terms of how to position the book. Even though I still get some feedback on the subtitle, I may actually make some adjustments on the subtitle, but the main title, The Social Customer Journey, and makes a lot of sense with that cover.
Niklas Myhr: Just coming up with a full title and the cover is sort of a stressful process in its own right. I’m not saying that I couldn’t make modifications to the cover. I got the Adobe Photoshop files and if I have a graphic designer that can help me perhaps figure out how to twist and tweak it, but at least I have a primary design that I like.
Tim Lewis: I think we’ve got enough for this first episode. I’ll probably get back to you sometime in April, probably, because I’ve got a March full of international adventures in the US, so yes, I’ll get back to you, and we can talk again in April and discover how much or how little you’ve actually done in that time period.
Niklas Myhr: What is the average outcome when you do follow-ups? Have they done more than they said, or less than they committed to?
Tim Lewis: Almost universally less. But there is an element of guilt and accountability that comes into people when they go on the show that means that they do something. That’s the main thing, I think, with anything with book writing is that in some ways, it doesn’t matter if you’re behind schedule. It’s just the fact you’re making progress because books, especially, are something that people give up on a lot, and they really shouldn’t. I mean, I tried writing books for years before I actually wrote my first book. The thing that helped me was writing a plan and writing as fast as possible to get that first draught finished, because once you’ve got a first draught, for whatever reason, even though I find editing one of the most tedious processes ever known to mankind, you feel like, well, you’ve got it. So, you’ve got to get the project finished.
Tim Lewis: You’ve done that a bit with the Publishizer campaign, but having some sort of deadline for each phase really helps. Even if you miss it, because you might miss this August 26th deadline, but you might hit the end of September, for example. Even with that, that means you will still be able to get this book out in 2019.
Tim Lewis: Yeah, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not behind the next time we talk. But on the other hand, yeah, it’s good to have targets and things to work on, anyway.
Niklas Myhr: No, I appreciate your input, and also the accountability partner aspect of your podcast. I’m sure it has served other people well as I hope it will serve me. So, I appreciate your interest.
Tim Lewis: Well, it was great to talk to you today, Niklas.
Niklas Myhr: Thank you, Tim. Appreciate it. Say hi to London, and I hope to see you soon again.
Tim Lewis: Okay. Well, thanks a lot for being on the show.
Niklas Myhr: Thank you.
If you like this show you might like Meet Ben Roberts, Making TEA Right Book Decision with May King Tsang and Crowdfunding with Ryan Hanley