Social Traffic is the Brainchild of Simon Ford (BEd)
Simon Ford is a serial entrepreneur, who has used the internet as an advertising, communication and delivery platform to grow his businesses in Australia since 1995, and throughout a global marketplace since 2005. Simon advises Joint Venture Partners on building Marketing Funnels powered by Social Advertising, preventing mistakes and reducing losses in that area. His background in business startups, online marketing & event promotions, a degree in education, combined with a passion for pushing the envelope at the cutting edge, arm him with the tools needed to protect clients from costly mistakes. Simon U Ford is the author of multiple marketing related books, including “Social Traffic –– Marketing in the New Mediascape”;
“Written in 2007…. presents insights, tactics, strategies, insider tips and experience based programs for social media marketing”.
Social Traffic the book, was revered to be “The best book ever written on social media marketing” by Karin Boode and other notable people in the industry.
Simon Ford (BEd) has personally coached hundreds of business owners, each going on to become front-line exponents of cutting edge Social Advertising campaign tactics and strategies. Simon Ford has consulted with Fortune 500 companies as well as small start-ups, on building & optimizing Social Marketing Funnels that yield both dramatic and consistent growth. Highly driven with an infectious passion for taking ideas and developing them into companies. Having founded five start-ups, in a career spanning 30 years, and successfully building two into million dollar enterprises, Simon Ford has a proven ability to make things happen. Simon is experienced in directing private companies through successful fundraising efforts leading to trade sale and/or other acquisition events. A preference for working against the odds & committed to breaking barriers that break others, Simon sees opportunity where others see problems and loves the phrase, “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.” Preferring to put his money where his mouth is, Simon U Ford has founded a variety of different business models over 30 years, and still does today;
- Inner-vision, private inquiry agency
- Sabella Land, rural property development
- Sleeping With The Enemy, working traveler accommodation network
- Just Cruisin, special event promotions
- SWTE, university campus rewards program (software as a service)
- Social Traffic, Facebook Advertising Agency
Simon Ford has a unique & extensive repertoire of start-up business experience. In a league of his own when it comes to leveraging Social Advertising traffic sources, coupled with a remarkable skill of breaking down complex solutions into easy to understand information; “you will search far and wide for someone better equipped to help you reach your Social Advertising goals”.
Hello and thank you for reading this far. With 20+ years experience building and harnessing real world communities online and off, I have earned a deep-rooted insight into the dynamics of group psychology. My experiences have taught me the art of creating situations and scenarios that capture a collective power of individuals, and channeling it into a synergistic and beneficial outcome for the collective. It’s amazing how things start to fall into place, once you figure out how communities work. Today, I would like to share a few of these experiences with you to give you a peek into my past and why it has lead me to become a global thought leader in Social Marketing Funnels and Advertising strategies.
As an African Tour Guide I started out leading overland safaris out of Kenya, East Africa. This was where I first learned the importance of group dynamics. These tours hosted 18 people who each paid a good $12k for a one month tour to visit different sites in Kenya, Tanzania and the outskirts of Uganda. People usually came alone, or as couples and hadn’t met the rest of the tour group before joining us.
Visiting Wild Gorillas
We went deep into the a mountains that bordered Uganda, Zaire & Rwanda to visit the gorillas in the wild (of ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ fame). This was back in the days when Rwanda was at war, and Zaire was a refugee camp. Although I would agree that most of the people who came on this trip were already adventurous by nature, the interesting observation throughout my first 6 months was that the passengers either had the time of their life, or they would come back threatening to sue the company, because their experience was so bad. Because of the living arrangements, there was nowhere to hide, making the outcome all, or nothing at all. Everyone either had a great time, or everyone had a poor experience. I found this fascinating. It’s what got me really interested in group dynamics, leadership and the community building psychology.
I noticed certain people (let’s call them ‘alpha’ people or ‘natural born leaders’) were not secure in their own position within the group, resulting in sabotaging the group leadership, which resulted in a split faction within the group, that undermined the group’s ability to remain positive in trying (or even dangerous) situations.
The groups with the split faction would experience unhappy tours, whilst those without friction would have the time of their lives. In the beginning, every trip used to start with the risk of a pot luck – either the groups gelled wonderfully, or they ended up sabotaging each other.
Depending on the group dynamics, when certain people, that are used to playing a particular role back home, were put in the position of being a passenger, amongst a group of other passengers, amidst an adventure in a dangerous environment, they felt threatened. To counter this feeling I noticed these people would have a tendency to go against the establishment…
…against the rules and the tour leadership, to reinforce their need to feel in control.
Add a number of environmental challenges (like Malaria, an A.I.D.S. epidemic, blistering heat and water not clean enough to swim in) to that, and the magnitude of this emotion amplifies. Once I could see what was going on, I could find ways to fix the problem. As my mentor in business would always say to me:
“The population is made up of a few goats and a lot of sheep. Goats are animals that like to find their own way. Sheep like to follow the crowd. A Shepherd is someone capable of influencing a few goats, who can lead the sheep into following them.”
During the course of the time I spent there, I perfected ways of better managing this dynamic, which led to the last 8 tours (1 month each) ending on high notes, with fantastic group bonding.
A night before a tour, we’d have a dinner at a restaurant with games, activities and trust building exercises that helped me identify the alpha males and females within the group. I got these people on board and made them each responsible for different roles – big roles such as handling money, taking care of food, managing the firewood and packing the truck.
By turning these people into leaders within the group they would gel and support the tour’s leadership, rather than exercising their natural urge to lead by going against the tour and my leadership. All other factors were constant – the same gorillas, the same landscape, the same truck, only the group dynamics were different for each tour.
Other guides didn’t have my leadership program in place, which resulted in their tours remaining hit and miss in the outcome – I did, because of my interest in harnessing the group dynamics. This factor alone was what kept me motivated, and as I just mentioned, 100% of my tours in my final year ended with a 100% approval rating from all of my punters, which was unheard of before.
“Sleeping With The Enemy” (SWTE)
I brought this understanding back to my home country and built an accommodation network of properties for working travelers and backpackers called Sleeping With The Enemy. It started with nothing and was built into a network of 15 properties with 30-40 backpackers living in each of them at any given time.
This was a very competitive market, with every other accommodation operator (10,000 beds+ within 1 km square within the Sydney central area) fighting for a share of an extremely competitive market.
Instead of throwing ourselves into the competition, we turned the tables around by thinking outside the square and changing our business model. By the end of it our properties ran at 97.7% occupancy year round, with punters paying us a $250 non-refundable deposit to get on a waiting list for a bed in one of our properties in peak season, whilst the rest of the industry continued to fight over what they could get into theirs.
The difference between what we started to do and what other accommodation providers were doing was that we were building a culture. We started our own tribal language and everyone wanted to belong to “Sleeping With The Enemy”.
Simon Ford’s Unique Model
Anyone who wanted accommodation with us had to stay for at least one month. We had 30-40 backpackers in each building on their own – without any formal management, cleaners, or any other staff. We appointed one backpacker as a house captain to lead each house.
The industry was skeptic and even said that “I was crazy” – but I was out to prove the power of collective efforts and community. It was a big risk for us, but we knew that a lot of people used to stay for 2-3 months in hostels, that were set up for nightly or weekly accommodation.
We needed to build a place where the 180,000 longer term working holiday visa holders could call home, and we needed the stay to become an experience of its own. Here’s a video you can watch, shot in one of our 15 properties. You decide if we achieved the result we intended:
“Royalty” is how the House Captains were treated, because of the important role in keeping peace in the house, they played . They had DVDs, videos and TVs in their separate rooms. The idea was to win their heart and soul so that they could enforce our rules and policies on the rest of the tribe.
The houses were divided into zones that people shared as common areas, for which they were responsible for cleaning. We had everyone sign-in to our website and accept responsibility for keeping one common area clean, along with their bedrooms.
I had a team that would go down to each house 3 times a week for inspections. We built a scoring system where ‘clean’ zones got 10 credit points, ‘averagely-cleaned’ got 5 points, ‘acceptable’ got 0 points and dirty zones got negative 10 points.
People responsible for zones that accrued a net positive score at the week’s end could buy free stuff via the SWTE reward card – they could use it throughout Sydney to get cheap pizzas, beer and traveling coupons.
These companies wanted to advertise with us and instead of taking cash, we set up a reward card where advertisers would give free stuff to our lodgers, to earn them points that they could then spend to buy advertising with us. Remember we had 500 odd working travelers living in our properties for an average of 6 weeks, each one having lots of friends in town.
However, this reward/fine structure wasn’t the key element that gelled our households – it was the subtle peer-pressure that was formed to conform to the house culture. Based on the cleanliness scores, we’d have ‘Household Premierships’ each month. The collective scores of each individual within a property would be averaged into a house score that would fluctuate with every inspection.
Premiership winners were taken to a nightclub in a hire bus where on arrival, they would have confetti and champagne sprayed all over them by occupants of our other 14 properties, as though they had just won a “World Cup”. The House Captains would be immortalized on a wall of honor within each house, with their photos and the house rating under their captaincy.
Natural Born Leaders
The only way a natural born leader living in the house, whose loyalty we didn’t secure, could assert their instinctive leadership was to lead the pack away from our representative by challenging their leadership.
The way we dealt with this was by identifying natural born leaders early, through parties we promoted. Everyone wanted to go out where the party was going to be, the party was always found where the “Lead” personalities ended up. Through cross selling parties to our accommodation clients we were able to identify our next leaders months before current house captains gave notice.
We allowed house captains to select their own replacements for the job and instead of telling them who to pick, we trained them to identify the next natural born leader for their job. We instilled enough pride in the leadership role that each captain wanted to hand the reins to an individual who would uphold their legacy beyond their tenure. Departing house captains would groom their replacements 6 weeks out from their departure, to ensure each handover was smooth.
Real World Social Networking
This model gave us a dominant influence over the social lives of nearly 5,000 backpackers, through just 15 solid relationships with natural born leaders that carried influence over their 450 housemates. Because these housemates enjoyed a social network of on average 34 housemates each, they in turn influenced the social lives of close to 5,000 friends, and fiends of friends on any given night.
The natural transition of leadership, along with the culture built into each of the properties (each branded with names like “The Zoo”, “Aquarius” & “No 96”), helped us perfect a business model that many considered impossible to realize (30 to 40 backpackers living in 15 properties that had no staff on site).
Lodgers were expected to stay a minimum 4 weeks and were incentivized to stay longer, 2-3 months, through discounted rent.
We harnessed what was natural within a group dynamic allowing the unthinkable to take place, 30 to 40 – 18 to 27 year old’s, living, cleaning, cooking together under the leadership of people who were born to lead through a series of lieutenants loyal to the people they naturally respected.
We could never have forced 500 young people to behave themselves, coordinate their shopping and cooking, and cleaning their own properties this way through a rule book alone. The system worked out of respect derived from a natural pecking order we harnessed, by observing what came naturally.
When asked how we made it work I would answer;
“It’s simple, people want to live well, they want to do the right thing by each other, they want respect and want to give respect to their peers. They understood for this to happen in such a party environment there needed to be rules, systems and accountability for it to work. Our core function was to be an independent body that policed it. Our core value proposition was an experience our customers could not find anywhere else in the world. We simply provided the buildings, rules and a system that measured individual contributions towards their shared living community that we showcased so nobody could hide, everything was transparent. We published each housemate’s cleaning score (a reflection of their contribution) on our website after house inspections. By doing this, we turned cleaning into a competition rather than something to be avoided.
Our relationship with 15 socially influential people extended way beyond accommodation.
A Sydney hotel would provide dinner and drinks for my staff and our house captains every Friday evening.
This meeting became an exclusive ‘House Captains’ meeting where we would discuss issues in any of the properties and award cash bonuses to house captains who had led their houses into better than expected results for the week. It was also a time when my house captains became promoters.
We would ask them what events they would like to organize and through the collective influence of so many people the city became their oyster. By allowing them to take ownership of these events we were assured of their commitment towards making them a success.
Collectively, my 15 House Captains organized monthly fancy dress harbor cruises, club nights and dance parties for 500-1000 people – no invitations, just word of mouth passed down from myself, to the 15 House Captains, to 450 of their housemates, to thousands of upwardly social spenders, not savers.
As long as we held the loyalty of natural born leaders throughout these tribes, we could lead them to behave in ways that delivered value for all constituents proportionate to their level of social influence. By associating the social currency this generated with our accommodation brand we actually traded in people, selling people a unique experience facilitated by our other customers (people) and amazingly… it all came down to keeping their homes clean.
We ended up promoting events with a capacity for well over 10,000 party goers.
As our social network became better known for our ability to move so many people in such a small turnaround, every other promoter in town wanted to work with us.
Whilst our business grew massively, we continued to manage our revolving door of 15 House Captains and their lodgers the same way year in and year out, attracting a large following, and even larger events. Not once did we lose focus on the foundation of all our success, fifteen relationships!
The more successful we were the more valuable the role of being one of our house captains became. The more valuable these roles, the better caliber of relationships we commanded and the better caliber of people our inner circle of 15 consisted of…
…leading us to bigger and better deals with people prepared to pay big money to leverage our network.
Social Advertising Expert
What better way to exploit this underlying concept of real world social communities and the human dynamics that drove it than by scaling what underpins it all, using the internet as a delivery platform. The same community architecture was transferable online and although connections would never extrapolate like they do in the real world, growth is amplified by transcending distance and time without capital costs of funding tenancies in which people congregate.
Who are you planning to leverage as house captains in your Social Advertising Marketing Campaign? Influence our campaigns leverage to build trust equity in the marketplace.
Let’s meetup to discuss how you can leverage my 20 years experience to construct a Social Advertising Marketing Funnel strategy for your business.