Guy Kawasaki, on how to best use social media, how to build a beloved brand, and why so much of success boils down to being lucky

Jason Hartman
Oct 4 · 13 min read

So many people believe that you can take a pig and you can add marketing and make it not into a pig. But it’s just not true. My view is the “anti-marketing marketing”, which is if you want to be good at marketing, find something good to market.


It’s my pleasure to introduce Guy Kawasaki. You’ve heard the name. Guy is an American marketing specialist, author, and Silicon Valley venture capitalist. He was one of the Apple employees originally responsible for marketing their Macintosh computer line in 1984. He popularized the word evangelist in marketing the Macintosh as an “Apple evangelist”. From March 2015 until December 2016, Kawasaki sat on the Wikimedia Foundation Board of Trustees, the non-profit operating entity of Wikipedia. Kawasaki has also written a number of books including The Macintosh Way (1990), The Art of the Start (2004), and Wise Guy (2019). These books are basically text books for academic institutions and startup companies and people in the tech world. They’ve been on the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Guy does over 50 keynotes per year.


Jason: It’s a pleasure to have you. So, what’s the latest and greatest? What are you working on nowadays?

Guy: Well, I just had two books come out, the Art of Social Media and the Art of the Start version two, so I’ve been busy trying to make a living, you know how it is.

Jason: Please tell us about the ‘Art of Social Media’ and what your thoughts are about it.

Guy: Yeah, I think social media is just the best thing that ever happened to entrepreneurs and marketers and yet I see it used so poorly. So this book has about more than 150 or so tips about how to optimize social media. I ensure you that there’s never been a better book about social media. :-)

Jason: What are some of the mistakes you see entrepreneurs making in social media ?

Guy: They don’t use it enough, they don’t repeat their posts, they don’t post frequently. An entrepreneur optimizing social media would repeat their tweets because you can repeat tweets, all your audience is not listening or watching at the same time. I also think every post, Twitter or whatever platform, should have either a graphic or embed video.

Jason: Yes any leader knows you gotta keep beating the drum over and over, right? Any tips on how often to repeat things?

Guy: Yes, indeed. I take most of my tweets and repeat them three times, so three times over 24 hours. I push the edge, but I have to tell you, I have looked at my analytics and I can either get x or I can get 3x, so it’s kind of a no-brainier, you want 3x not x, right?

Jason: So, three times in 24 hours for Twitter. What about the other platforms, do you feel the same with those?

Guy: No, I don’t feel the same way. I think you can get away with much less. So with Facebook, I probably post five or six times a day, but each one is different and I may post a similar promotion or something three or four times, but it looks different. You know, different graphics, different text. So on Twitter I’m talking absolutely identical posts 3 times in 24 hours. On Facebook I could do over a course of several days two or three times, but each looking different.

Jason: How do you respond to comments, especially critical comments? I think that’s a vital thing to learn.

Guy: Well with comments, it's good news/bad news, right. So, if you have comments, at least you’re being seen and people are interacting. It might not be the fan boy stuff that you prefer, but it’s better than being ignored. So, that’s data point number one.

Data point number two is, I think that you do what I call the ‘amateur boxing rule of social media”, which is you only go three rounds. So, somebody comments, you respond, they respond, and no matter what they respond, you drop it.

Jason: So don’t get sucked into the vortex. I like that, the three round concept. You shouldn’t get hung up on having the last word because on three rounds you can’t have the last word, can you?

Guy: No, you can have the last word and it doesn’t matter if you get the last word, because frankly nobody cares. People are not going to watch and follow the trend of 5–10–15 comments. The only person who might be following the whole thing blow by blow is the person you’re, you know, fighting with, and that might be some 16 year old kid anyway! So, I just, it’s not worth it.

Jason: So, don’t feed the trolls, right? Okay, so what about blogging? What about the integration of blogging and social media? Do you repost your blog posts?

Guy: Well, my test is that if it’s worth blogging, it’s worth promoting through social media to get people to read the blog.

I have a hard time wrapping my mind around the concept of- you went through the effort of writing a blog post, but now you don’t want to tell everybody to read it. I mean, I’m searching for a scenario where that’s true. That’s what I mean.

Obviously, I don’t mean reposting the entire blog post. I just mean that you tweet a two or three sentence summation and you point to the source. It’s self-curation, if you will.

Jason: Can you talk about getting more followers, socializing events, running hangouts, etc.?

Guy: Sure. So, for social media, it is a very powerful tool for also optimizing the impact of your events. Many people use social media to get people to events, but once the events starts, they drop the ball. Arguably, that’s the most important time particularly if you regularly run events.

So, what you want to do is provide so much attention and so much action from the event that next year people will say, “wow, you know, I have to attend this event because I really missed out last year”.

So that means you need someone at the event who is wholly responsible for social media, taking pictures, live streaming, and tweeting out great comments, great short quotes from speakers, selfies of people, you know, all this kind of stuff.

You want to make it seem like this is the most important place to be on the earth at that moment.

Jason: Yeah, live streaming is definitely hot. I mean, Meerkat and Periscope are getting a lot of play right now. Why is that? What do you attribute that to?

Guy: Well, I do live streaming a lot. I only do it when it passes a test. One test is I’m at an event, if it’s a speaker or a panel and people who are all over the world or don’t have the time or money to come to the event can see this, so I feel like I’m doing them a favor. I’m getting them content they could have not have gotten. So that’s one scenario.

Another scenario would be where I’m at some place that most people can not get to. For example, in April I’m going to the Porsche factory, so I’m going to stream live from the Porsche factory. I bet there’s a lot of people who love Porsche and love cars and have never been to the Porsche factory. So, it’s that kind of thing.

I see a lot of people Meerkating and Periscoping themselves sitting at a desk and they’re answering tweets and all that. I can’t think of something that’s more boring and more egoistic than that, you know. If Barrack Obama wants to do it, okay, you know? If Shaquille O’Neal was doing it, maybe.

But you know, Lonelyboy15 saying “tune into my Periscope and I’m going to be sitting at my desk”, what a waste of bandwidth.

Jason: Okay, well talk about the other kind of live formats, hangouts, webinars, Twitter chats.

Guy: I happen to love those. I love those because they’re so difficult to do well because you have to be very quick on your feet. There’s two aspects of that, one is mental. So, you have to be able to answer quickly, think quickly, come back at people quickly, so that’s one.

But for Twitter chats in particular there’s also the more mundane aspect of how fast you can type. There are people who can type fast and there are people who can come back fast, but there are not many people who can type and come back fast. So, that’s the challenge for a Twitter chat and for those kinds of things. I happen to love that challenge.

Jason: I want to ask you about the Art of the Start, which I just loved. Can you talk a little bit about “partnering”, because that is so critical and so complicated. I remember one of my grandmother’s old quotes, she used to say, “Jason, the hardest ship to sail is a partnership.” But on the other hand partners can be vitally important. The idea of complimentary talents, right?

Guy: It is a very difficult thing to do. I think the word and the concept is vastly overused. To me, the only kind of partnership that matters is a partnership where it affects your spreadsheet. So if you form a partnership and you don’t whip out excel and change something, like a cost went down or revenue went up, I think basically it’s a BS partnership. So, partnerships have to move the needle. It should not be just warm and fuzzy because the press is going to love it or whatever. If it doesn’t move the needle, it doesn’t matter. Don’t even bother.

Jason: How about things more technical like how to split up equity or, choosing partners, any ideas on that?

Guy: Everyone is so different, you know. I believe in the win-win theory. Not everybody does, and I’m not saying that the win-win theory is the only one that works, but I like to sleep at night. I also believe in karma, so that’s kind of my test. I think win-lose partnerships don’t work, or they may work, but die young. It’s got to be good for everybody.

I also believe that it’s karma. One day you may be an 800 lb bully and you can get a great deal, but the next day, guess what, there’s always an 8,000lb gorilla if there’s an 800 lb gorilla.

Jason: Marketing is one of your great skills, in my opinion. Can you tell us about positioning, pitching, branding?

Guy: Pitching, branding, all that stuff, I think just comes down to “a good reality”.

You know, if you have a pig and you put lipstick on the pig, what you end up with is lipstick on a pig. It’s still a pig.

So, the secret to Evangelism and marketing and branding and positioning is, don’t start with a pig. It’s very easy to Evangelize something that is great, it’s very hard to Evangelize a pig.

So many people believe that you can take a pig and you can add marketing and make it not into a pig. But it’s just not true. My view is the “anti-marketing marketing”, which is if you want to be good at marketing, find something good to market.

Jason: Very good point. What do you see out there nowadays in the tech world and the startup world. What are the things you love and the things you hate?

Guy: Well, obviously I went to work for a company called Canva. What Canva does is it enables anybody to create beautiful designs. It’s the democratizing of the design business and it is doing remarkably well. Thousands of people sign up for it everyday. So I’m kind of dedicated to that.

A couple of weeks ago I was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation, which is the entity that owns Wikipedia and so that is very interesting also. It’s one of the most important projects maybe for all mankind.

Jason: Do you think we’re seeing a lot of silly stuff in the last few years that’s going to be weeded out? Are we in another bubble like we were 15 years ago?

Guy: It’s very hard to predict what’s stupid and what is brilliant. It’s a very fine line and the only way you can really know is, after the fact, let’s just be honest.

If I told you that I’m starting a company to enable to send out 140 character text messages when you could already send out text messages and you had email and you had all that, you know, you’d say, well, Twitter is such a stupid idea. Well, guess what, not so stupid after all, right?

A few years ago we all thought MySpace would control the world. That it would be the operating system of the internet. Well, you know, MySpace kind of disappeared.

So how do you reconcile all this, that some stupid ideas really, really created humongous companies, and some smart ideas imploded. So, it’s just kind of a crap shoot. It is better to be lucky than smart, that’s my conclusion.

Jason: Talk to us for a moment some of your early days. I especially want to hear about Apple, and working with Steve Jobs. Any insights there that would be interesting to our listeners?

Guy: Apple was just fantastic. Working for Steve was a life changing experience. I wouldn’t change that for anything. He was a very difficult person to work for, but what a great experience. It was like working at Disneyland and getting paid everyday. It was fantastic. I would not be what I am if it were not for that experience, that’s for sure.

Jason: I was telling one of my clients who used to work at Apple about you being on the show. He said to ask you about a comment you made about marketing and the right brain and the left brain of Steve Jobs. Can you tell us about that?

Guy: Many marketers believe in focus groups and asking customers what they want and checking with them and all that.

Apple did not do any focus groups. The only focus group was Steve’s left and right hemisphere being connected. That was the Apple focus group.

I’m not saying every company can do it this way, but certainty it worked for Apple. So, when you have a brilliant dictator, it’s a very efficient company. The problem is that there are many dictators, but so few are brilliant. The dictatorship part is easy, it’s the brilliant part that’s hard.

Jason: Regarding a focus group, is it really the job of an entrepreneur to figure out what the customer wants before they know they want it?

Guy: Coming from the Apple school I would say yes, that’s how it works. But there are other kinds of entrepreneurial organizations. You could try to be a low cost provider, right. That’s another path. I don’t know if Target was, some brilliant insight as much ‘if we provide great selection and low prices, we’ll win’. How hard would have that been to see? So, the “Steve Jobs way” isn’t the only way.

But here’s the danger with all this kind of stuff. On the one hand it’s very dangerous to run your business based on anecdotal stories. The story of Steve Jobs, doesn’t take into account that for every Steve who was the brilliant dictator, there are 10,000 stupid dictators. So this doesn’t mean you should look at what Steve did and say, okay, that’s the way to go, because we don’t know what the statistics are. He could be seven standard deviations away from the norm. So you shouldn’t pattern your life against Steve Jobs, because you frankly are not seven standard deviations of visionary like he was. Lots of things have to work together for a Steve to be successful. You have to be at the right place at the right time, just as things are getting cheaper. There’s a lot of factors. In business, you can not control all the variables so it’s dangerous to learn by stories.

But on the other hand, if you try to create a scientific experiment in order to learn what to do, you will run out of time and no one is going to fund it. Can you imagine if you went to venture capitalist and say, “we’re going to take this and this kind of product and we are going to control for all the variables and we’re going to tell you which is the better path”, nobody is going to fund that. The scientific method is not suitable for business. So that’s why I guess it comes down to luck.

Jason: That’s a good point. On that thought, do you think that American businesses study success too much and failure too little?

Guy: Listen, the right thing to do is, always be consuming information, trying to digest and turn information into knowledge. Knowing full well that just because Steve did it this way doesn’t mean it’s the only way or the best way.

Also, you have to control for the fact that correlation is not causation. So just because Steve drove in the carpool lane and parked in the handicapped slot, that doesn’t mean that if you did, you’d be Steve Jobs. That’s correlation, that’s not causation. So, there’s a lot of things to think about.

Then, you know, the best strategy of all is be lucky. Not quite actionable, but…

Jason: I love it, yeah, not quite actionable exactly. Well, good stuff. Well, Guy, can you give out your website and tell people where they can find more?

Guy: So, my Twitter handle as you would expect is @GuyKawasaki and my blog site is GuyKawasaki.com. Very easy.

Jason: And on Twitter you’ll see posting three times a day :-)

Guy: Well, can I just tell you, Jason, if someone sees my posts three times a day, this says more about them than me. They need a life. They should not be seeing it. :-)

Jason: That’s a good point. They should have only seen it once or maybe twice.

Guy: Exactly or not at all.

Jason: Good point, So as a closing thought, we’re living in an amazing time technologically. It’s an amazing time to be in business too, because the cost of starting a business has just plummeted. There’s so many great tools out there, there are free or very, very cheap. Canva is a fantastic tool, of course, and it’s not very expensive. I think there’s even a free version. This is giving he entrepreneur so many tools to just be so innovative and create so much. What do you see for the future?

Guy: I tell you, as you say, it’s cheaper and easier than ever. You don’t have to buy servers anymore, you don’t have to buy tools anymore. You have virtual teams. Your marketing is social media. Maybe the best and only place you need to spend money in social media is promoting Facebook posts. So, it’s a great time and have at it. I don’t know what else to say. It is a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur.

This means that there is going to be more ideas and more companies. That doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s going to be more good companies and ideas, but at least there is more of a meritocracy where it’s not just the people who know the right VCs. Now at least more people can try.

Jason: Guy Kawasaki, thank you for joining us.

Guy: Thank you. Enjoy yourself.

Jason Hartman

Written by

Author | Speaker | Financial Guru | Podcast Rockstar

Authority Magazine

Leadership Lessons from Authorities in Business, Film, Sports and Tech. Authority Mag is devoted primarily to sharing interesting feature interviews of people who are authorities in their industry. We use interviews to draw out stories that are both empowering and actionable.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade