Joel Comm Interview – Top Selling Internet Entrepreneur
You can either listen to the interview above or read the transcript below, I hope you enjoy the interview and make sure to follow Joel Comm on twitter!
Today I’m here with the super successful Internet entrepreneur; Joel Comm. Joel has been online making money for over a decade now from all sorts of business ventures including a gaming website, which was sold to Yahoo!, a best selling book, a best selling iPhone application. And now, he’s showing us how to create a powerful following on Twitter with his recent book, “Twitter Power.”
If you would like to learn more about Joel Comm then you can check out his personal blog out here!
Let us know a bit more about you. What makes you tick? Have you got a family?
Yes. Married 20 years, got children, live in northern Colorado, which is on the front range of the Rocky Mountains, and absolutely love it.
As I mentioned in your introduction, you’ve got a new book called “Twitter Power.” Do you want to tell us about your book?
You know, social media is really changing the way that people interact online. In the past, for interaction you would have to go to live chat rooms or message board forums. They were great for networking with people, but social media and Web 2.0 have brought along a more immediate sense of interaction, and, especially, none have reflected this more than Twitter. In 140 characters or less, you are able to put a message out that’s visible by everybody who’s following you, and it’s amazing how quickly you can get people to respond to your tweets. Of course, the larger your network, the more responses you have.
For example, just this morning, I put out a tweet asking for small businesses that are using Twitter. I’m getting ready to film for a national TV network here in the States, and they wanted some screenshots of some small businesses that have recently gotten on Twitter.
I put a tweet out there, and dozens and dozens of responses came back from people. It’s just such a great way to get information. What we’re discovering is that Twitter is definitely social, but social is the basis for all businesses, and all successful business are built on relationships.
So the book, “Twitter Power,” really focuses on how businesses of all sizes, from small to the megacorporations, can leverage the power of Twitter to build relationships, to enhance their brand, and to grow their bottom line.
So what should business owners and website owners be doing when they come on to Twitter?
Well, the first thing they want to do is to sign up with a user name that accurately reflects their brand. For me, it was a no brainer to select joelcomm, because that is my brand. But for some companies, they might want to have their company name and the brand. For example, Comcast, a cable company here in the US, goes by comcastcares. That’s their brand online. The megashoe store, Zappos, their brand is zappos. So, depending upon what your brand is, you want to pick an appropriate name.
Then you want to upload a profile picture. I like bright, happy, smiling faces. I think that we like to see smiling faces. It connects us even more with the person on the other side of the account.
Since Twitter is all about relationships, I think it’s a good idea. It’s not a must. You know, there are very few things that are mustdos on Twitter. There’s a lot of flexibility, which is why they let you upload whatever picture you want to.
But I like smiling faces, and I like to create a custom background. Twitter’s got a dozen standard backgrounds that you can select from, but that’s all they are is standard. They give you that real estate on the screen to be able to put up more information your company logo, your blog address, any other social media sites you’re using.
Basically, you can design your background any way you want to, and I recommend that businesses do that.
Then, once you’ve got that done, you’re ready to jump in and start using Twitter. The way that I recommend people do that is by using the most valuable part of Twitter, and that is their search tool. Interestingly enough, as of this call, the search box does not exist on the main page of Twitter.
You have to scroll down to the bottom and click search, and then put in your keyword which relates to whatever your niche is. Then you’re going to see the most recent tweets that have been broadcast on Twitter that have your keywords.
Well, these are the people that you want to begin interacting with and engaging with. You do that by simply replying to one of the tweets that have been put out there, maybe follow that person. If you bring value to the conversation or say something interesting, they’re more likely to follow you back. That is how you begin to widen your circle of influence on Twitter.
Then you simply rinse and repeat. Do the same type of activity again and again and begin building relationships with people who are interested in whatever your main focus is. You’ll start building those relationships.
Is that how you were able to build a following of nearly 50, 000 people on Twitter?
Yes, it really is. One by one, because you can’t follow people in chunks. I try to put value out there. I try to be somewhat transparent in my tweets and give people valuable content they can use. I try to post interesting links. I try to retweet when I see other people posting something interesting and pointing out other people that should be followed. When I run across an interesting news story, I’ll post those. Something I’ll post inspirational quotes. My tweets really run the gamut, the full spectrum, of personal information all the way to business. I just try to seamlessly blend it together without much planning, because Twitter is just another thing that you do during the day that becomes a part of your life.
I want to take us back a couple more months. I want to talk to you about your iPhone application that you developed called iFart. How did that all come about?
Well, we have a special research and development department down the hall in our office. It’s called the men’s room. No, no. I’m teasing.
When the first iPhone came out, I was immediately hooked. I knew I had to have one, and I said, “This is the future, and this is ‘Game Over’ for the rest of the cell phone industry because Apple’s going to dominate now.”
My employees that work with me, they agreed. When Apple announced that they were coming out with the software development kit for the iPhone, we knew that we had to develop applications. We knew we wanted to, and it was a great opportunity to get in on the beginning of something we thought was going to be huge.
So we pulled into the conference room, and we began whiteboarding a number of ideas. We just filled that whiteboard in no time. So many ideas for applications, way more than we can accomplish with our limited resources and talent that we have on board.
But one of us, and I cannot recall which one of us it was, came up with the idea for a digital fart machine, and we thought it was funny. We realized that it wouldn’t take that much to develop it, and if we were to combine the app with some clever marketing, that we could get attention. Boy, did we ever get attention…
You sure did. What was the success like? How many people downloaded it?
I don’t have the exact numbers, but I think we’re somewhere in the range of 450, 000 right now. Michael. Wow! And how much did that make you?
Well, it’s $0.99 per unit, a buck a unit. Apple keeps $0.30, so you can do the math there.
I’m going to take you back even further now, and go back to your Google AdSense days. You’ve got a book out called “AdSense Secrets.”
The actual book, there’s an ebook called “AdSense Secrets, ” but the physical book that’s been in the stores for the last few years is called the “AdSense Code.”
Brilliant. You’ve made a whole load of money with Google AdSense. I mean, should people still be using Google AdSense?
Absolutely. I still am. I may have made a bunch of money with AdSense, but what really excites me is the fact that I’ve helped a lot of other people make a lot of money with AdSense. It’s been very rewarding because I still get testimonials on a regular basis from people who are reading my book. We actually put the ebook, which is the most current version, out available for free on my website, at AdSenseSecrets.com. I certainly invite anybody who would like to give that a read to go ahead and download a copy.
Brilliant. I’ll make sure to include that in the interview writeup. What is your top tip for making money with Google AdSense then?
Well, it comes down to content, right? You want to make sure you’re putting up quality content and building a website that people will actually want to visit. If you’re creating content, then there’s always going to ways that you can monetize that content. Google AdSense is just the easybutton thing to do. It’s the easiest thing to put up, but there’s many ad networks and banner networks and affiliate programs, intext links. There’s a lot of ways to make money.
So the main thing to focus on is, don’t think, “I want to build a site that makes money with AdSense.” Think, “I want to build a site that people are going to want to visit and come back to and bookmark and tell their friends, et cetera, et cetera.”
If you do that and you focus on building quality content, the revenue’s going to take care of itself.
Exactly. I mean, I always tell all my readers, “Blog about your passion, and the money just comes.”
You mentioned you have a book and an ebook. Which one have you found more beneficial to yourself? Which one is more profitable? What are the benefits of both?
Well, they’re different. You know, the ebook has sold a lot of copies, and just most recently, we’ve started giving it away and we have some other offers for people when they download that. You don’t write a physical book to make a lot of money with it. Creating a physical book is really all about branding yourself. There’s certainly a demand for the topic, and there’s nothing wrong with selling books, but, really, the credibility that having a published book lends to you is phenomenal.
I sold thousands and thousands of copies of the AdSense ebook, and I got some attention for that. But when I had a physically published book, all of a sudden, the media begins paying more attention to you.
I would recommend people, whatever their field everybody’s got a book in them. I recommend they do a book, and that becomes a leveraging tool which enhances your credibility, remarkably so.
Of course, now I’m on my third book. It’s no longer as much credibility as branding and increasing visibility. But it still does help.
Thanks for that. Last year, I actually got the opportunity to meet you at Yanik Silver’s Underground Online Seminar event in Los Angeles. We got a chance to play a bit of blackjack and chill out. I want to know, really, more about what makes you tick. What are the benefits of living your life over getting a nine to five job?
Well, there are no benefits with a nine to five job, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never been great with working for other people. You know, I think that’s by default. When you’re entrepreneurial, it’s hard to When you work for other people; you tend to point out better ways of doing things. When you’re in a more corporate environment, well, people don’t like being told better ways to do things.
That’s actually very frightening to them. So I found that, for me, it’s always been best to work for myself. I’ve got the entrepreneurial bug. I can’t imagine ever working for anybody again. I love the freedom of being able to go to the office if I want to. I love being able to have a big vision and build a team. We’ve got 28 people that work in my office, right now.
I love to pull in talented people that are passionate about what they’re doing, and build a team that works together and does so much more than we could ever dream of, if it was just a handful of us. That’s what we’ve got right now.
I figure if we’re creating quality products, and we’ve got a happy staff, then we know that that’s going to spill out to the customers. We’re going to bring value to people’s lives. That’s the bottom line. We want to create content and products and services that are actually going to make a difference for people.
Especially now, with the recession taking place and people need answers. We’ve figured out how to do this thing, so if people will pay attention to the material that we put out there, I think that they’re going to be a step ahead of those that are really struggling.
Brilliant. You just mentioned a recession. A lot of people are losing their jobs. A lot of people want to earn a second income. What’s the best thing to do when you come online for the first time to make money online? What’s the number one thing you should learn to do?
Well, you kind of answer it a little sooner. If you just look at doing something, then you might be coming at it a little backwards. You’ve got to figure out what it is you’re passionate about first, because that’s going to dictate more what you should do than just looking at what opportunity exists out there. There are dozens and hundreds of opportunities, but you’ve got to make sure that what you’re doing is the right fit for you. You’ve got to make sure that this is something that you could really throw yourself into, and that you’re going to go all the way with it.
Because if you try to pick up something that’s just a moneymaking opportunity and you get frustrated because it might not be happening as quickly as you want it to, you’re more likely to give up if it’s not something that’s near and dear to your heart.
But if you’re passionate about it, those obstacles, you’re just going to bowl them over and keep moving straight ahead, because you’re heading towards a goal.
So, depending upon what that passion is, that’s really your starting point. Depending on the answer to that, my answer could be, “Start a blog. Put out content.” It could be, “Write an ebook.” It could be, “Create an information product or video.” It could be, “Jump into social media with both feet.”
It could be, “Create a physical product.” It could be to create a service or a members site. It just totally depends upon which direction you want to go.
All of those are legitimate opportunities. In fact, I’ve worked in all of those areas and have found success.
So, you’ve been online for a long time now. When did you first come online?
That’s the World Wide Web, but technically I’ve been online If by online, you mean dialing in to a remote location, I’ve been online since 1980 when I bought my first computer, which was a TRS90 Model I, and I bought a modem…
Yes, I know. It’s probably before you were born, right?
It had a 300baud dialup modem. I remember calling in to BBSes, Bulletin Board Services, even back then. I was on America Online in version one. I was probably in the first quartermillion people that were on. I was on Prodigy, CompuServe, Delphi, GEnie, services you probably haven’t heard of, and way, way back. So, theoretically, I’ve been online for 29 years.
When you started making money online, when was that?
The first year that I launched my website, really, was when I got entrepreneurial using the Internet. That would have been 1995. Michael. Brilliant. You’ve been online for quite a long time now. Do you see yourself being online for a long time more, or do you want to retire someday? What are your plans?
I think retirement is a myth. I have heard of some people that go in and out of retirement. I don’t want to be one of those people that just sits on a beach or plays. I want to produce. I want to do something that actually makes a difference. I think that the idea of just taking your money and going and having fun, unless you’re doing something philanthropic with your money, I think you’re wasting your life. You’re wasting opportunity. You’re missing chances to change lives and to make a difference.
So I don’t know that I’ll ever retire. As for, will I be online 20 years from now? Well, I would imagine we’re all going to be online, but will that be my core business? I really have no idea. I find myself reinventing myself every couple of years, maybe even every year.
I like to do things that I haven’t done before. Building websites, I’ve done that. I’ve sold websites. I’ve done the ebooks, and I’ve conquered the information marketing genre. I’ve built member sites. I’ve done iPhone applications. I’ve written books. I’ve spoken from the stage. I’ve filmed a reality show.
I’m not bragging. I’m just saying, I’ve done all these different things, and I want to keep coming up with new things to do that are going to interest me, that I can be passionate about, and that are going to meet the goals.
Basically, the way I sign my emails, I don’t know if you’ve seen them, Michael, I sign my emails, “Do good stuff.” That’s kind of my motto. I want to make sure that what we’re putting out there is good stuff for people.
I couldn’t agree with you any more. Someone once told me, “You’re not a true entrepreneur if you look to retire. Any true entrepreneur is going to be at it until they die.” My next question is, do you model yourself on anyone? Who do you look up to?
Who do I look up to? That’s a really good question. I’ve been asked it several times, lately. You’d think that I would actually have a really good answer. I think I pick up bits and pieces from people. I don’t really have, on earth, heroes, so to speak. I think I see people as just people. I don’t put people on pedestals, and I can respect things that they’ve done.
But what I really look for in people is character, is a person that is honorable, that’s honest, that really seeks to do good things, make a difference in people’s lives.
I’m not impressed by celebrity. I mean, it’s cool when you get a chance to meet somebody that maybe you’ve seen on TV or listen to their music. But what I’ve come to realize is that people are just people.
I don’t like when people treat me like a celebrity. If I’m at a conference or something, and I walk by, and I hear somebody whisper, “There’s Joel Comm!”
I’m like, “Well, yes.” I’m just a guy. I’m living my life. I’m trying to do good stuff. Because I’ve had some success in the public eye, people tend to put you up on a pedestal, and I don’t like that. I don’t belong on one. The success I’ve had, I feel blessed to have attained it.
I think it’s there for anybody if they’re willing to pursue their passion. If they’re doing what they were made to do, it’s hard to not succeed at it, because it’s what they were made to do.
You mentioned that you’re just an average guy. Do you think most of the successful Internet entrepreneurs are just normal guys [that] like a pizza, have a few beers?
Well, yes. I know most of those guys. Definitely, the second book I wrote, “Click Here to Order, ” I’m not sure if you’ve read it or not, but the whole idea behind writing that book was to show that regular people, who have had struggles just like the rest of us, have gone on to do really great things on the Internet and with their lives.
I mean, Armin Morin was a vacuum cleaner salesman. John Reese was deep, deep, deep in debt before he found success. I sold encyclopedias, and was a former disc jockey. We’re all just regular folks.
Even the big stars that we see out there, the Hollywood actors and the Grammy awardwinning musicians, everybody is just people. Some people have gotten out in front of the rest of the crowd and get a lot of attention for it, but they’re no more valuable or no less valuable than John Q. Public, who hasn’t gotten the attention and is more anonymous.
We all have the potential to effect a positive change and make a difference. Whatever our lot in life is, that difference can be significant, if we just apply ourselves to doing the things that we are really good at doing and that we’re passionate in.
I couldn’t agree with you any more. I’ve got a quick five questions for you, just to finish up the interview. What is the best advice you’ve been…
Probably the best advice I’ve been given is to pray often.
If the Internet had not existed, what do you think you would be doing?
Oh, man. I’d probably be a radio DJ or talk show guy, something like that. Because I had done radio before. But that would be really sad. Don’t depress me.
What do you like best about the Internet?
I love the way that there’s just so much opportunity to connect with the whole world. It used to be, if we wanted to have a business, we would think very local. Run an Internet business to mow lawns, to be a DJ at wedding receptions in the area. You know, it’s all very local. Now, we reach the entire world with our business. What an opportunity.
Exactly. What do you like least about the Internet?
I don’t like the infiltration of pornography via the Internet into our families, into our homes. I think that our children are losing their innocence at a much, much younger age, because they’re being exposed to so much more. It’s a crime. It’s very sad.
Thanks very much, Joel, for the interview. Are there any personal or business plans you’d like to share with us before you go?
You know, we’re actually getting ready to ramp up our next service. We’ve spent the last 18 months building a mobile messaging service for businesses called TextCastLive and getting ready to roll that out here in the States. I’m pretty excited because, again, it’s a whole new arena, and we’re doing something we’ve not done before.