Ten Years In The Making is a weekly podcast on how to effectively grow a startup.
Adam Robinson: Tommy Clark, Head of Social of Triple Whale, five-minute summary of your career and how you ended up at the Whale?
Tommy Clark: It's super roundabout so I'll do my absolute best to keep this under 5 minutes.
Adam Robinson: Yeah.
Tommy Clark: But I would start...
Adam Robinson: I mean, you can take a little longer if you want but like don't leave out the good stuff.
Tommy Clark: Okay. Well, it started with me going to college and thinking that I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. My dream job was to be the team doctor for the L.A. Lakers. If that was my job, I was set. That was the cool.
Adam Robinson: Just operating on Kobe's knee. Did you grow up in L.A.?
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I grew up in L.A., Burbank specifically but still L.A. So, that was the goal at first. Was playing basketball the same time as well at a small D2 school in Minnesota. Got super into health and fitness. As I was a basketball player, I figured just figuring out ways to make myself better. Through that, decided I wanted to switch my major from pre-med to nutrition. When that happened, I transferred schools, stopped playing basketball, and also started up a fitness coaching side hustle, and that's where I got into marketing. I started an Instagram page, how to get clients, so I just started putting out really bad content that sucked. Looking back at it, it was terrible.
Adam Robinson: So, like, hold on. Let's talk about that. You had to put out really bad content or you just were putting out really bad content because you didn't know any better?
Tommy Clark: I didn't know any better. I just thought that was what you...
Adam Robinson: Right. So, it wasn't like you knew that bad content worked, and that's why you were putting it out.
Tommy Clark: No.
Adam Robinson: You were just putting out sh*tty content.
Tommy Clark: Exactly.
Adam Robinson: Got it. That's a great starting point by the way. That's like you talked to Daniel Murray. He's just like, "You just need to start doing it."
Tommy Clark: Exactly.
Adam Robinson: Like, you can't build the muscle unless you start using the muscle in general.
Tommy Clark: No. I feel like a lot of people overthink themselves out of creating content. What I think where I was lucky was I was just a little bit delusional and like didn't realize it was as bad as it was and just started posting. And eventually, I just did it so much that it got better and better but, yeah, you have to start somewhere. And most likely it's not going to be great.
Adam Robinson: Right.
Tommy Clark: But...
Adam Robinson: Okay. Moving right along.
Tommy Clark: Did that. I did that for like a year-and-a-half, two years. Got tired of the coaching side of it. Just same conversation every week but I really enjoyed the marketing side of it and figuring out how to get clients. So, then I stopped coaching and stopped that side hustle, started working part-time for a company in the health and fitness space doing content marketing while I was still a student. Did that for another year or so. And then from there, one of my friends that I met in that space referred me to a freelance gig running social media for DTC Newsletter, which is a media like they're a newsletter in the e-commerce DTC space. I did that for a few months and that's my current CMO, Rabah found me, slid my DMs like, "Hey, looking for someone to run our social media. Are you looking for a job?" It just so happened that I graduated school a month earlier, actually was looking for a job so timing just worked out. We hopped on like a 15, 20-minute Zoom call.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. And this was like...
Tommy Clark: Got that gig.
Adam Robinson: This was like earlier this year.
Tommy Clark: Yeah. This was January of this year. I got that job in February and just been off to the races since then.
Adam Robinson: Yeah.
Tommy Clark: I think I did a pretty good job of condensing that.
Adam Robinson: That was pretty good. That might not even have been 5 minutes, actually. It might have been like 3.
Tommy Clark: Overachiever. Love it.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. So, the e-comm newsletter, was that like a Nik Sharma type deal? Like, if you search Tommy Clark, that organization, the collective that you and Daniel are part of, comes up, what is that?
Tommy Clark: What do you mean? Oh, Workweek?
Adam Robinson: Yeah. What is Workweek?
Tommy Clark: Okay. So, yeah, that is... So, I write my own newsletter on social media strategy. By the way, subscribe to Social Files if you haven't already.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Go to Social Files. Subscribe. It's very valuable.
Tommy Clark: But that is one of the things I'm doing on the side. So, I have my full-time job with Triple Whale and I also write my newsletter and that's pretty much just showing brands how to grow on social media, proper social media strategy, like how to grow on Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, all that good stuff. Workweek acquired the newsletter so I write for them now and pretty much get a retainer to write my newsletter and they help me grow it through paid ads and run the operations. They run all the ad sales. I pretty much just write and get good content and they handle all the stuff that, one, I'm not the best at and, two, I just don't really want to spend a whole lot of time on it.
Adam Robinson: Yes. So, that's what Workweek is. It's like a stack of newsletters related to marketing or whatever.
Tommy Clark: Pretty much.
Adam Robinson: They're kind of doing the business ops and they pay you money and they let you just be the writer.
Tommy Clark: Exactly. There's like rev share. So, they do the ad sales. They keep a percentage. I keep a percentage. So, yeah, it works out.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. What was that e-comm newsletter called? I'm just, like, trying to find different places to advertise.
Tommy Clark: DTC Newsletter was like it was literally called DTC Newsletter.
Adam Robinson: Does it still exist?
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I think they just passed like 100,000 subs or not just passed but they're at like 100-something thousand subs.
Adam Robinson: Should I advertise in there if I'm going for the Shopify Plus crowd or is it not...?
Tommy Clark: I don't know. I think we tried advertising with them with Triple Whale. I'm not sure how it went but I think it's definitely worth exploring.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Cool. So, I found you because and I've told you this but I haven't told whoever's listening to this. I thought it was like so wild. Well, first I found out about Triple Whale through one of your investors that I was on a call with because if you're me, you get prospect all the time. You never answer any of them but this fund, Elephant, the guy Andy Hunt who started it, I'm like really good friends with his younger sister. He's a founder of Warby Parker, who's our biggest customer and I'm just like I've said hi to the guy before but like never actually talked to him about like what I was doing. And it's like so close to like the point he plays in that, it's just like I'll do a call with you if Andy comes on. And then Andy mentioned that he's like, "I'm not surprised like we were kind of seeing the type of growth you were doing in a totally different way." Like, we're only sending out cold emails from the Philippines and the rest was inbound. "And you guys were all on social media," and he's like, "I'm not surprised that you're getting this type of adoption because in this ecosystem of e-comm companies, like if something starts working, there's such a network effect, not in a traditional way but just like through the communication and how connected the people are."
Tommy Clark: Yeah.
Adam Robinson: And he's like, "Yeah. These Triple Whale guys like grown by 30,000 MRR a day and they just have like some guy tweeting about it." And then I look at Triple Whale and the founders aren't doing it because I was always under the impression that you had to be Russell Brunson in order to like really kill it on social. And I'm like, "I'm not willing to do that." And it was before I had a deep understanding of how you could have a social presence as, let's call it, just like a meme account, you know what I mean, as a person and not have it run your life. Because like, for instance, my buddy here, Daniel, like he's half Nicaraguan. He spends a lot of time in Nicaragua. He like met this girl, Nina fashion. Oh, wait. I don't have you on. So, I'm looking at the camera. So, he met this girl who's like the biggest fashion influencer in Nicaragua and like amazing girl just like you have to have so much if you have millions of followers and an e-commerce brand on the back of it in Nicaragua. You're playing in the NBA like something about you is like LeBron James but like it has to be your entire life. You know, like every time you go on the boat, it's like there is a 20-minute photoshoot to capture that and like you go back inside and like there is a photoshoot to capture that.
And like just marketing that lifestyle is what worked. It's what captivated people. It's what made people like buy these cool clothes that she was like serving as like an e-comm retailer for. And then if you don't really know how the machine works or whatever, you just look at that and you're like, "There's no f*cking way I'm going to do that to my wife and my family or whatever." Like, you don't see distance between like probably what Russell Brunson is doing and that, right? Like, there's no way this dude is like letting it ruin his whole life, right? He's like got too many resources for that topic. So, anyway, I start trying to track people down that might allow me to speak to someone at Triple Whale. And this guy, Andrew Schulz, was like, "You should hit this guy, Chase Dimond, up. Like, maybe you could just like hire Chase." You know, I don't know, right? And then I talked to Chase and it became very clear to me that like Chase is not on the market to be hired by a company OIC. He's like way, way, way out of your reach.
Tommy Clark: He's doing okay.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. He's like killing it so hard. But Chase is awesome and that's like the word everybody uses to describe Chase. And very quickly, he sort of, you know, he started demystifying how I could like create our presence in social a little bit but I still didn't really understand it. And then he hooked me up with like Max and then I sort of got in touch with Robin, like this, that, and the other. You know, ultimately it led to like, I'm like, "Rabah, you need to be doing what we're doing and I need to be doing what you're doing. So, like, let me come into your office first and show you what we're doing and give you all the lists and all the email templates, everything else because it's going to work because your brand is better than ours. And then you need to tell me what you're doing." And then I'm in your office and you're like, You kill it on LinkedIn. It's a low-hanging fruit. At the same time, I read this like Gerhardt, Founder Brand book. If you're a founder, you should read it. It's a very... It just articulates the case to build a brand as a person rather than a word. And then, yeah, we started talking about how I might strategically do this LinkedIn crap in like you've been coaching me and I have like 4,000 more followers in like, I don't know, what is it? Ten weeks. Like, it's amazing.
Tommy Clark: Something like that.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. So, I'm going to and just typical me. It's not just like, "Oh, I'm going to like chill out and do that." All of a sudden, it went to like two LinkedIn posts a day, two newsletters a week. I just at the beginning of this episode which probably get chopped out, I've been recording podcasts for four weeks and I have 11 one-hour episodes that haven't been launched yet but are currently in production. And I'm doing a once-a-week work in public where I'm like, "Oh, I changed the sales deck last week. Here's what I did." And then reporting back on it like, "Oh, we sent out 12 contracts yesterday at 30K ACV. This is really awesome." And like It feels like it's a little bit without direction right now but I totally get this idea of the Flywheel you described to me that, ultimately, like there's going to be so much that you can sort of throw out there, see what works, mix it all in like different platforms and everything. And I just feel like I get it, you know, like I get it and it's wild. So, like have you, when did you have a moment where you - was there like when you were just making sh*tty content, for instance, was that because you were bored? You know what I mean?
I feel like the essence of what I'm saying is like I have internalized the power of social media. When you started creating content, how do you internalize it or were you just like, this is what I need to do? You know, for some reason you kind of thought this is what you needed to do but you didn't know why or like the power of it or whatever.
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I mean, just looking around the space that I was in at the time like the fitness space, you look at on a fitness coach is they all have Instagram. So, I was like, well, if I want to be like them.
Adam Robinson: That's what you need to do. Yeah.
Tommy Clark: Probably do that kind of like how you are in a situation where you're looking at these founders like, "Oh, they have personal brands like I should probably do this."
Adam Robinson: Totally. I see how it would help me, right?
Tommy Clark: Exactly.
Adam Robinson: Like my exact thing I'm trying...
Tommy Clark: I think that's kind of how it started and then, yeah, it's through trial and error start to understand what worked. I'd binge-watched way too much Gary V content and just eventually figured it out. But, yeah, I just started out of just kind of looking around what other successful people in the space that I was in were doing and just thinking, "Why would I try to do something else? Let me just do what they're doing."
Adam Robinson: Totally. Are there any personality traits that you think you have that make you uniquely suited to like be Head of Social title? Basically, what I'm getting at is like if you're sitting here listening to this in college and you're like, "Should I have a career in social media?" Are there personality traits that would make someone more likely to succeed?
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I mean, outside of the basic personality traits, I think anyone in any field needs to succeed, like hard-working, all that stuff. I spend way too much time on the internet so I'm doing this anyway. I enjoy it. I enjoy consuming this content and figuring out why it does well and learning from these other creators. So, that was one indication. And also, I feel like I have a good balance of the art of it and kind of subjective nature of it because a lot of good social media content is just based on pattern recognition and vibes, for lack of a better term. You just kind of know what works but also being able to tie that back to business goals. I think you look at a lot of social media managers right now, these content creators in general and they go either, they go to one end of the extreme or the other. They're either super artsy and just want to do it for the passion and for the fun and there's no real tie back to business metrics or you have the other end of the spectrum, which you see this a lot in B2B and SaaS in particular, which is everything has to be tied to revenue today.
Like, how many links or how many clicks did this post drive? How many demos did this post drive? And both have merit but if you go too far in either extreme, you're going to end up hurting yourself, one being if you never look at business metrics whatsoever, well, like what's the point of all this? And the other being like you were saying a few seconds ago, you're doing all this stuff, you're not really exactly sure what it's doing business-wise but you know it's working. A lot of people when they start off with content, they expect it to turn into leads and demos right away. But I think what I've done really well is being able to bridge that and kind of land in the middle of where I enjoy the art of it and the subjective nature of figuring out how to do these creative posts and copywriting and all this stuff. But I also understand logically that it needs to tie back to business results. I think the best social media managers and the ones that get paid the most are the ones that are able to do that most effectively.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. I hear you. And one thing that like really resonated with me that I feel like when you speak to somebody who's like not a marketer about great marketing like I feel like if we had a conversation about Liquid Death, we would probably think similar things like most incredible brand I've seen, you know what I mean? Like, I just interviewed the founder of Soylent. Similar sort of brand name, right? Like just stopped me dead in my tracks and I was like that is incredible. And Liquid Death is like a million people competing for like the purity of their water and like there's this can that says death in a can, you know, like so awesome. And I think what you said about trying to figure out why the content worked like if I'm sitting here trying to give advice to a young person about anything in business, try to figure out why that worked. Like, whatever you just consumed, try to reverse engineer how it got in front of you because if you can do that, then you understand the system that got it there and you can put your own production into that system, you know, which is like, dude in this world, you're either a producer or a consumer and if you're a consumer, you're dead. That's my view. You know what I mean? You do not have a chance unless you're a producer.
Tommy Clark: Yeah. Now, it's interesting, though, and to that point, though, I think as especially in social, I think you have to be enough of a consumer to know what's going on.
Adam Robinson: Totally.
Tommy Clark: Especially in this field setting, that's where a lot of B2B content people kind of mess up a little bit is they don't spend enough time consuming content. They don't know what their audience is going to resonate with, and they end up just posting blogs that no one cares about and they're wondering, "Why are we not growing?" But generally, 100% agree. It's like you need to be way more on the production end of that spectrum.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. And you are correct for it's not either/or but like the point is the orientation. So, like here's a good way to put it and my wife and I, we like to try to, without succeeding, be like some type of responsible consumers, like sort of justify like this absurd, you know, and it's crazy right now, especially because you make a thousand purchases when you have a child. We had a child ten weeks ago, a thousand, right? Like, purchase decisions, I mean, there's repeat purchases in that. So, it's like it's just crazy but like she's a ceramicist and she's like, "I want to try to like produce an equal amount between the, you know, PR work that I get done for my clients and art that I produce for my friends and sort of followers. I want to be producing more than I'm consuming in this world in general. And I think that's like a really cool idea, you know? And if you sort of live that way, then you can't be broken. Like, if you sort of live that way and then like have a vague understanding of economics and like what different things are worth and why, then I think it's just like a really cool way to go through life. And then you can get to this point, which I feel like we're about to be in, where I have this incredible amount of leverage working for me.
You know, like all of a sudden and it has not been this way, like I would say the last eight weeks, my entire professional life has gone from me selling other people to it's flipped. Every potential employee I talk to is selling me on why they should start like every investor is begging me to get on the phone with them and pitching. You know what I mean? It's like every partner is, you know, it's just the whole thing flipped, and all of a sudden, it's like in this different but that was like, you know, this podcast is called Ten Years in the Making. Literally, ten-and-a-half years ago, I attempted to start my first company. And two months ago, it finally has this like crazy. Anyway, slightly unrelated.
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I think on that note too, that something when it comes to social and content that I think a lot of people don't realize is that you look at the numbers of the past eight weeks and like you're saying earlier, we've gone up by like 4,000 followers on LinkedIn almost overnight and getting wild engagement on posts and the podcast is crushing and investors long you, all this stuff. That's hard to do if you don't have that ten years of experience before. If you just start on LinkedIn thinking that you're going to blow up like that because I think that's what a lot of people do. Especially newer founders, they think they're going to blow up to 5,000, 10,000, etcetera, number of followers but they haven't done anything cool yet. Whereas like you, you've been doing this for ten years.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. It all works together. Totally. Like the current story in the name of our company and like the traction it's got and this and that and the brands. It's like all of a sudden, it's like, "Oh, I think the whole thing is like maybe this guy is worth listening to. And even just like the description of my name like CEO of Retention.com, like what? That's like pattern Interrupt right there, you know? Anyway, really, really interesting sort of thing to think about and I'm just like I see, I have another buddy who I worked out with twice a week at his house for the last three years and like, you know, ups and downs and rounds and whatever else. And he's like, "You're the hot girl now." He's like that's literally like it's eighth grade like you showed up and like you've got like boobs and hips and you got your braces off. Because I was telling him, I'm like, "Dude, my calendar is nuts now." And it's like people that I want to talk to that want to talk. You know what I mean? It's like it's just this crazy thing to manage. But anyway, moving right along here, would you say that you're like the best at any one platform or does social not work that way? You know what I mean?
Tommy Clark: I think generally I'm confident in any platform that I'm on I'd be able to grow a following for a brand or a personal brand. I spend the most time on Twitter and LinkedIn because most of my work is in the B2B tech space and it's by nature of the audience that's on those platforms, it makes the most sense for the vast majority of brands in that space. Like, with Triple Whale, we're on TikTok and we still are on TikTok but we really were going hard on it for probably a month or two earlier this year, and we saw lots of success. We had a video hit over 3 million views. We had several hit over 1 million. And from the outside, it looked like, "Oh, we're killing it like this so sick," but did it turn into anything business-wise? Not really.
Adam Robinson: Yeah.
Tommy Clark: And maybe if we played that game long enough, it would have but compared to the low-hanging fruit that is Twitter and LinkedIn, it just didn't make much sense and I think that's where most B2B tech companies are at right now. So, I just spent a lot of time on Twitter and LinkedIn. I also enjoy writing a lot more than I enjoy creating video content. I enjoy public speaking. I just don't really enjoy the editing side of it and that whole thing.
Adam Robinson: Yeah.
Tommy Clark: So, yeah, I spend most of my time on Twitter and LinkedIn. I would say I'm best at those but generally like you said, the principles apply across platforms and even across other modalities of marketing. I think it all goes back to copywriting at the end of the day like if you're good at copywriting, you'll be pretty good at social media.
Adam Robinson: Right. Yeah. Copywriting is so powerful, huh? It's like the video is such a rich medium because of like whatever you want to call it, like the subconscious facial cues that you get and like all that sh*t. But like, man, there is nothing like clear and concise written word. Like, there never has been, right? Like, the Declaration of Independence is like still, you know, we're talking about the right to bear arms like 300 years later, I don't even know. So, do you have any guiding philosophical principles about this whole area of study? For instance, Daniel Murray, interviewed him last week. His thing is like he's got two things he said. He says, "Try to keep things as simple as humanly possible," and then he also tries for LinkedIn specifically where he's grown his huge audience, he likes to give people a break. Anything like that, that's like this is my thing that I'm doing, you know?
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I think for any brand, you have to look at why should someone follow you? If you can answer that question very clearly, regardless of platform, whether it's Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, whatever, even an email newsletter like why should someone follow your content? If you can't clearly answer that with something that's relevant to your target audience, you're kind of dead from the start. And then on that point, I think especially now kind of like how Daniel said, give people a break, do like entertaining content. You have to think about why people are on social. They're probably not going on social media to check up on what the latest B2B SaaS company is posting on their blog.
Adam Robinson: Right.
Tommy Clark: Maybe, but the vast majority of people...
Adam Robinson: Probably not. Yes.
Tommy Clark: ...aren't going to be doing that. What are they going on there for? To catch up with their friends, to watch entertaining content. And if you make your content entertaining and catch their attention, I think instead of trying to stand out so much, try to blend into what your audience is looking to experience on social. So, like blend into the entertaining content and the stuff they're going to be consuming anyway. I think that's what we've done really well with Triple Whale in more like humorous content, especially on Twitter, like with memes and it's kind of like funny stuff in general. it's more in alignment with what people are going on social to do versus trying to like shove this square peg into a round hole and hope that it works.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. So, I think it's like know what people are there for and give them what they want.
Tommy Clark: Exactly.
Adam Robinson: You know, one of the things, you know, this LinkedIn stuff, right, like when you're like a lot of people don't consume enough, so they don't, you know, like my favorite thing is like I spent an hour on this one post about the thing that happened when I was speaking at Blue Whale when I'm interviewing the Pretzels.com guy and like I said what I did and it kind of like a humblebrag, like, had a lot of these elements where I was like, "Think this is so clever. It's going to do well," and like no one gives a sh*t. And then like you retweeted one of Daniel's, like it said, literally, like, "The purpose of marketing is to help sales," and it got 5,000 engagements. You know, like I was just like, okay, hands in the air. I don't know what I'm doing.
Tommy Clark: I mean to that point, though, I think there is a balance between those types of posts. So, obviously, the more simple stuff that is very wide appeal, it's going to have a better chance in going viral and really taking off like that but those posts that are more niche that are going to appeal to a smaller group of people but a more powerful group of people, I think, are also very beneficial. So, it's not all about chasing the... If it was about chasing the likes, we just post those tweet screenshots every single post of yours constantly and just run the numbers up. But at the end of the day, it's a business too and we need to make sure that people trust you as a person enough to buy from you because that's where that longer-form content comes into play but, yeah, as a social media manager, I can confirm that a lot of the times the post that do the best engagement-wise and likes and shares almost always the ones that take 30 seconds to post that you think like, "Ah, this is stupid," and it just goes to the moon.
Adam Robinson: Unbelievable. So, kind of on that note, kind of unrelated, so I've heard you say it several times. You said, "There are a couple of things I know resonate deeply with my audience so I talk about them in different ways all the time." So, what are those things and how long did it take you to realize that those were the things?
Tommy Clark: Yeah, it's a great question.
Adam Robinson: I can guess, by the way, because I like watch your stuff. I feel like I know what they are now.
Tommy Clark: Yeah. So, when it comes to my personal brand so for anyone who doesn't know, like I said, I write a newsletter about social media strategy, my main audience is going to be social media managers. And it's fairly easy for me to understand what those points are because I am a social media manager. So, there wasn't much of a learning curve there but I would say one of them is definitely being a one-person social team, having to manage a bunch of different platforms at once, very little resources, burnt out. That's one pain point that I harp on a lot. If you look at my LinkedIn, there's this one post that I post probably every two or three weeks every single time. It absolutely crushes. it's the whole idea of a social media manager isn't a graphic designer, they're not a video editor, they're not a TikTok creator so hire accordingly. One thing that I realized and this is true regardless of profession, so just think about this in terms of whatever target audience you're creating for, people love to be put in a position where they can vent without taking responsibility for it. So, they're not going to post that stuff on their LinkedIn because they're afraid that their boss is going to see it or someone that they're going to get hired by is going to see that and not want to hire them.
So, if you can post it without the downside and they can like it or share it, they still get to take part in that venting without having to take responsibility for it. I mean, that's one example. There's another example of like platform updates happening super frequently like it's overwhelming. But, yeah, generally anything harping on being overworked in a work-life balance stuff, being burnt out, people not understanding social media managers, which are all very valid things but it is kind of funny how you spot those patterns of what does well. And at the end of the day, like you're trying to grow an audience, I'm trying to grow an audience, it's like we'd be stupid not to lean into those things in ways that make sense. But, yeah, it is pretty funny.
Adam Robinson: Another one that I see is like the one that's like whose boss wants to see social media booking demos on day one or something to that effect. Like, what is this kind of f*cking, you know, it's like, I'm sure every social media manager is like...
Tommy Clark: Yeah. And that's a perfect example of one of those things where no one's going to post. Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. It's like in one way or another, they've heard, like, "So, what is this doing?" Right? And you're like, "Motherf*cker, like, you hired me and told me that I had like rope to hang myself with and now you're taking it away like, dude."
Tommy Clark: No, 100%.
Adam Robinson: Okay. So, turning to if you were a founder of an e-comm brand with real traction, which both of our brand audiences, I mean, my personal brand audience and then Triple Whale's audience are that, right? So, presumably, those would be the people who watch this because it's mostly them that I'm interviewing, what are your thoughts on building a personal brand versus building the business brand following?
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I think both are necessary. So, personal brand definitely helps, for obvious reasons, people because going back to what we're talking about earlier like why are people on social media? They're there to engage with people. I work in social media and I don't remember the last time I've engaged with a brand account from my personal account. I just don't go on social media to do that.
Adam Robinson: Right.
Tommy Clark: And if I'm not doing that, literally that's my job, someone who is just randomly scrolling with little to no thought is probably not going to do that either or not really incentivized to do it. So, in a lot of cases, especially if you're a brand that doesn't already have a lot of recognition, say if you're not like a McDonald's or a Pepsi or a Wendy's or whatever, any big name brand anyone would already know, you're going to have a really hard time growing a real brand social media presence from scratch without an influencer network without an active founder or not even a founder but without an active team just in general. It's very hard to do. So, if I were starting from scratch, if you have a great product and you just want to get out there on social, I would grow the founder's account on LinkedIn. You go to Twitter as well. I think Twitter is very valuable still to this day but I think LinkedIn is easier to get momentum from scratch just because it's still very early on the platform. There's still a demand for content creators over there. So, if you can post quality stuff, you're going to have a better chance of really growing quickly over there. So, I would grow on LinkedIn, grow the personal brand, still make the company page and set it up, make sure everything's all good. Because what you can do is after like every post from the founder's account, just comment from the company page underneath, "This is what we're doing."
Adam Robinson: Yeah. And people clicking.
Tommy Clark: This is what you're doing on your stuff. And if the founder's content's good, then people are going to get curious about what's Retention.com, what do they do, and they go click over to the company page. It just kind of grows by osmosis. And then eventually, once you get to a certain point, I don't know what exactly this number would be but say like 50,000 followers or 100,000 followers and you have this super strong personal brand on LinkedIn then consider putting more effort into native content for the company page, but you can get a lot of the way there just through having a strong personal brand. And assuming it's the founder's brand, you're not really at risk for like the founder's not going to leave, in most cases. I'm sure there are exceptions to that rule but it's not the same as a mid-level employee having a personal brand, which is still a valuable asset but there is that risk of what if they leave then you're kind of screwed. But growing the founder's personal brand is pretty foolproof and then from there, transitioning that into then growing the company page with dedicated content.
Adam Robinson: Which brings us to Triple Whale, who's not doing that. What are your thoughts there?
Tommy Clark: I'm trying to get Rabah, our CMO, on LinkedIn. This is a big initiative of mine, so hopefully, that will happen in the next month or two. I think that was more so by necessity of like this is the hand I'm dealt. What do I do with it? So, it's still very possible. And if you're in a situation so if you're a marketer watching this or listening to this and you're like, "My founder doesn't want to do this or my CMO doesn't want to do this," you can still grow a company page. It's still very doable.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. You guys have 20,000 followers right now. But what I would say, my observation on Triple Whale is like it's such a fun brand that it's almost like following a person or something. It's like not...
Tommy Clark: Even in my mind, that's exactly that's my thought process. That's literally my entire approach is I treat it like a personal account, especially kind of on LinkedIn, but especially on Twitter. And this helps because I'm also active on social, so people know that I'm the one behind it. So, it makes it a bit easier to build that connection but if you look at a lot of other SaaS companies in e-comm right now, that are trying to essentially run the Triple Whale playbook on Twitter doesn't quite hit the same because no one, like there's just not that connection. But, yeah, I treat it like a personal account. That's like my thesis behind the whole thing and why it works well.
Adam Robinson: And it is working. So, I heard this for the first time after I met you that there were like awareness platforms, and then there's your trust platforms and you need to like use the awareness platforms to like capture people and bring them in your trust platforms. Your trust platforms where like you get more depth or whatever. Right? So, the question that I have written down here is, are there certain things that you need to be doing in order to make other things worthwhile? Is the LinkedIn effort useless unless you have a newsletter or not?
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I don't think LinkedIn is useless. I don't think social is useless if you don't have a newsletter. I think it's worth even if you don't have a written newsletter, just having somewhere where you can capture traffic or use Retention.com and capture your web traffic.
Adam Robinson: There you go.
Tommy Clark: I got you sponsored.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Okay.
Tommy Clark: But have some way to capture traffic if you are growing an audience. I think early on, it probably makes the most sense for brands and founders to just focus strictly on social. And then once they get to a point where there is traction and there is clear demand for a newsletter or for a podcast to then start that because what'll happen if you do too much, too early? I think there are exceptions like I think for you, you just kind of did everything and were rushing.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. By the way, I have money to spend on it, too. You know, I have like a wildly cash flow-positive company and like I didn't care. Like, for instance, this podcast, I was thinking about it. I was like because Rabah is like, "Dude, start a podcast yesterday." That'd be the first thing I did. And then he talks to me. He's like, "No, man, like, do this one." I'm like I'm trying to think about how I would actually process what is necessary to go into a podcast from a production standpoint. And I was like, "There is no way I'm doing that with everything else I got." And then I was talking to this guy, Brad Weimert, who's got a podcast and he's like, "These guys will do it all for you and they're incredible. So, like they go through, they edit it all, they clip it up into video snippets that have quotes that go by them. They'll literally just like feed you everything to post on social media at some point." It's kind of like if you don't have someone doing that, it's not worth doing the podcast in the first place because if I didn't have those guys, all these recordings would just be sitting in the riverside and they never see the light of day.
Tommy Clark: 100%. Yeah. There definitely is a ranking in like prioritization that you should go through, especially if you're resource-strapped. If you have a wildly cash flow-positive business, then cool. Do everything.
Adam Robinson: So, yeah, exactly. Just make sure you have the right people doing it, but like do it all. Like, my thing was like I just need my life, as crazy as it's getting right now, I need to only spend like 2 or 3 hours a week on this and it needs to be Monday morning. So, well, aside from these podcast recordings, which I've allowed every other week like four people to sort of book on Thursdays. That's kind of like how I've done it, which is it feels busy sometimes but like it's very manageable. That's not a lot. For the amount of production that's getting posted right now, I think anybody would be like, "That's probably worth the two-and-a-half hours," because like the way we're sort of working together, it's like it's still my words, it's still like I'm doing a lot of video which gets, you know, like Mason will watch the video and then make it into a newsletter or whatever. Like kind of doing the same thing with LinkedIn. If I was just doing this myself like it would be all that I was doing and I still...
Tommy Clark: Yeah. I would just do LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn is probably the lowest-hanging fruit.
Adam Robinson: Totally. Immediately like Chase was like, well, Chase is full-time social media now basically. He's kind of like, I would say he's an advisor at his own agency but he's like the top of funnel for it through social media. But he's like, "I do three posts a day on both platforms," and they're thoughtful, right? Like, it takes a lot of time. Oh, another thing that when you were saying like people need a reason to follow you, what popped into my head was like, what Chase, this is so boss. It's like, "Follow me if you want to become a better writer." That is such a boss thing to say, you know? Like some of his posts are so, I mean, that's just the example of copywriting, right? Like that's so elegant. I'm not going to make a political comment here but like in the same way that if you were to objectively look at the words Black Lives Matter standing there, that is an impossible phrase to go against from a mental standpoint, right? Like, you have to be behind those three words.
Tommy Clark: Yeah.
Adam Robinson: There is no you. Of course, black lives matter. White lives matter. Green lives matter but you know what I mean? It's like follow me if you want to become a better writer. It's like a statement like this. Like, of course, I want, you know. There's not a person alive that would not want to become a better writer. So, it's like just this amazing hook, you know? So, what advice would you give explicitly to someone in college who wants to start a career in social?
Tommy Clark: Start a side project and use that as your initial portfolio, and then parlay that into freelance gigs or a job, whatever route you want to go if you want to do in-house, if you do freelance, whatever that looks like. But I would start with some sort of side project. For me, that was like my fitness side hustle and that's where I got a lot of experience and then I was able to parlay that into a part-time job, build more relationships, and everything just kind of snowballed from there. But if I was starting from scratch, I wouldn't wait on like getting a marketing degree and going like that whole route, getting an internship. You can do all that stuff but I think you can really expedite the process just by doing a lot of trial and error through your own side project.
Adam Robinson: Like, I talked to a lot of people that hire people who are out of college. And there's one thing that matters more than anything else. How many followers does this person have and how engaged is it? Right? Like, they brag about these people that they have in terms of their personal. It's like my TikTok grew. It's got 4 million TikTok followers, right? It's like that's what the bar is now, right?
Tommy Clark: Yeah. It is interesting because I think there is validity to that. But also, obviously, there are killer social media managers that don't have any sort of personal brand. But I think generally if you're just trying to get yourself in the door, yeah, having your own personal brand, it helps, not only because of the followers but you're posting your thoughts on Twitter or on LinkedIn or on TikTok, and you're giving people insight as to how you think about marketing. Like, for me, after I did the fitness thing, I did a little bit of YouTube stuff and was also posting on Twitter about like marketing and social media strategy. And that's just literally if someone wants to learn how I think on social media, they can either read my content, watch my YouTube video, and they have 95% of what they would need to know about me as a candidate and that's why I put myself in a position where I don't really have to look for a job. If I was ever looking for a job, I could just post on Twitter, "Hey, open to work," I'd probably have something in like the next week. That's not an accident.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. I'm trying to do the same thing. So, like, we've talked about this a bunch, like my two contact lines. I'm trying to build an audience of e-comm people who either are founders with traction or care about email. And I have separate content lines all about recruiting and like all about recruiting I have like three things going on. One, I made 11 episodes that I call the Join Our Team podcast.
Tommy Clark: Yeah.
Adam Robinson: Everything about what this crazy traction we have, my philosophies behind how we sell things, how absurdly valuable I want them to be, remote work, like all this crap that like you would never find out in an interview process. There would be absolutely no way. Before you got here, that like you would find out that this company was philosophically aligned that way. It's an hour of me just ranting. And I think that really helps. Like, every single person that we've hired has watched all of those. And it's kind of like, you know, they send them back the first one. Literally, it's just like Adam made this five-minute video, and then it's an 11-video playlist. And like if it doesn't excite them, it's not the right fit. If it does excite them, then they just got like indoctrinated. So, it's like this amazing sort of vehicle, like inbound sale. It's like the HubSpot inbound marketing model but like for a career. And I'm trying to do the same thing with the work in public. It's like giving people like a reality show that they can like sort of tune into and slow roll themselves into wanting to be a part of it. It's like if I just keep showing insane growth to people in these crazy things that I'm trying to do versus every other market participant, it's so audacious that like it will slowly just like build this movement around it. That's what I think.
Tommy Clark: 100%.
Adam Robinson: I mean, it's not original. Like, I'm not the first person to do it, but like...
Tommy Clark: It doesn't have to be.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, exactly. You know it works, which is why. Rock and roll, man. Well, I really enjoyed this conversation. I do two things to wrap everything up. If you could write one thing on a billboard for everyone to see, what would it be?
Tommy Clark: Don't make boring content.
Adam Robinson: Yes. The billboard might be boring, but don't listen to this.
Tommy Clark: Exactly. Exactly.
Adam Robinson: Cool. Final five. Favorite book?
Tommy Clark: Favorite book. I was going to steal yours and say $100M Offers.
Adam Robinson: Dude, it's so good. I hate the fact that I've written so much about it but I'm just doing so much right now, specifically, like I've totally changed how we sell everything after reading that book to both of the audiences that we have and it's working. Like, dude, we sent out, we have two trained reps right now. We just hired 15 more. We sent out 12 $30,000 average ACV contracts in the last 24 hours with two reps. I don't want to say it's all because of Alex Hormozi but like...
Tommy Clark: Yeah.
Adam Robinson: It's because I listen to that and I'm like, "This just isn't good enough." It's like our traction's fine but like I could do this in a way to where they would look at the pricing and they would be like I would be a fool to not jump on this right this second. You know, so it's like we're doing much larger. It's like the size of the buyer has been gradually. It's just our brands increasing. We know who the audience is, this plus guy or whatever. So, it's like we're kind of creeping upmarket but like at the same time, it's like we would have made more monthly money from these guys with this other deal, but like it turned into this thing. It's less dollars per month but like a for sure 14-month thing like that closes quicker because it's more obvious. You know what I mean? It's like there's not a question of like, well, what's the price per lead and like, is this going to work? And do I need to upgrade, downgrade? It's like, "Oh man, I'll do the scale plan. When's the onboarding call?" It's just wild.
Tommy Clark: For sure.
Adam Robinson: And it's crazy that books can do that, you know, like you can just get influenced by this person and it's like, dude, I never thought about it like that but like why wouldn't I do that? Like, I'm in a position to where I can make an offer that would be an absolute killer to these people. And I'm not doing it right now. Why not? Like, can I afford to do it? Yeah. Our gross margins are like 95%. You know what I mean? Like, it's software. You're selling air. But a lot of times it's not even raising prices. It's just like changing the perceived value in reducing the risk and improving time to value and like all that crap that he talks about, which is so fantastic. Anyway, sorry. Particularly passionate about that one right now.
Tommy Clark: I love it.
Adam Robinson: Yeah. Married? Single? Kids?
Tommy Clark: Single.
Adam Robinson: These single ladies.
Tommy Clark: 23. Single. Yeah. Anyone listening to this podcast.
Adam Robinson: 23 and single. Six foot six. Where do you live?
Tommy Clark: Austin, just like you.
Adam Robinson: Austin, Texas, yep. And then favorite vacation you've ever been on?
Tommy Clark: Man, I was just in Barcelona for a month earlier this year. I think that probably takes it. I don't know. Technically, it wasn't a vacation because I was working remote but I consider it vacation.
Adam Robinson: I studied abroad in Barcelona. It was great. you know, this whole remote work thing, like In this video that I made about remote work so like I don't want to hire people in Austin because like I have this great situation. Jasper guys, I'm friends. I'm really tight with Distel and Dave and I talk to them every day but like they're not coming by my office to like interrupt me and like talk about work, which is like so incredible for productivity. And so, I want to stay remote forever because I love this dynamic but like I don't want our people to be like backpacking in trying to work but like going to Barcelona for a month and having a place with internet where like that is such an enriching experience to your life that like I definitely want people just what's possible. I dreamed of being like a lifty ski bum and I was working on Wall Street. Can never do it. Finally, my life got to a point where I had a remote company and enough money. I did five years in a row in the winter in Aspen, and I rented this little condo next to the gondola. I skied 300 days like I had this great schedule. Work from like 6 to 9, ski from 9 to 12, you know, eat lunch from 12 to 12:30, work from 12:30 to 5, go out to a restaurant, do the whole thing over. Ski all weekend. Friends would come in town. I had an extra bedroom like incredible.
Like, we are living in a fantastic time that like you can do that. Airbnbs are set up to accommodate for all this. It's like it's awesome. I mean, the downside is like people are, I think, really... I listen to this great podcast which was like the scientific. There's so much data that the big companies put out during COVID about relative productivity so they're like office environment is actually horrible for some like engineers, open floor plans. It's like so much more code got written during COVID than during the open plan era. The spontaneous encounter is actually not that valuable. What is valuable to be in the same room is like deep creative work, proven, any sort of complex document that you're working through with two sides. Much better to be in person than like doing this whole like chain of whatever because of contingent. It's just like somebody takes too long and then that screws everyone else's schedule up. But the problem is everyone is feeling less fulfilled socially. But the dude's point is like, why is it the employer's responsibility to cultivate the social life?
Tommy Clark: No, it's not.
Adam Robinson: Right, exactly. So, like we got to figure out.
Tommy Clark: He got to do cool stuff.
Adam Robinson: Yeah, exactly. But like the people who will thrive in this next era are the people who cultivate their own social life and do all the other stuff like you're doing, you know, go to Barcelona, like go live in Aspen for five years, whatever. Anyway, fascinating conversation, dude. You live in a different world than I do and it's just like so fun to get into people's heads who are just doing something totally different. I mean, not totally different but I'm just like, what I'm doing right now, I don't even know what it is, but it's like not totally that. Anyway, great talk.
Tommy Clark: Thanks, Adam.
For founders starting or growing a social media presence, making progress can often be paralysis by analysis.
Which platform should you build on? What sort of content should you post? Should you focus on a personal brand or a business brand?
In today’s episode, Triple Whale’s Head of Social, Tommy Clark, answers all these questions — and a whole lot more.
Tommy also shares his thoughts on the most important skill for social media growth, why blending in might make more sense than standing out, and how he recommends content creators change their strategy after scaling past 50k followers.
If you’re looking to get clients and build awareness from social media — whether you’re established or building from scratch — this episode is for you.
Key Takeaways from Tommy Clark
- Tommy’s journey from fitness coach to full-time content creator.
- The one skill Tommy believes is most applicable to growing on multiple platforms.
- The main question Tommy thinks brands should ask as they try to grow on social media.
- The strategy pivot Tommy recommends after hitting 50k followers.
- Why creators might want to consider blending in as opposed to standing out on social media.
- How (and where) Tommy recommends growing a brand social media account from scratch.
- Should posts be designed for engagement or designed to drive business?
- The personality traits Tommy looks for in successful social media entrepreneurs.
- Where Tommy sees B2B content creators making mistakes.
- The two extremes Tommy sees from social media managers — and how he thinks the best managers balance the two.
- How Tommy went from putting out “content that sucked” to making social media his career.
- Building a personal brand vs. building a business brand.
- The advice Tommy would give to people considering a career in social media.
Tommy Clark | Doubling Down on Content Your Audiences Love
Tommy Clark Inspiring Quotes
- “I can confirm that a lot of the times the posts that do the best engagement-wise are almost always the ones that take 30 seconds to post that you think like, ‘Ah, this is stupid,’ and it just goes to the moon.” – Tommy Clark
- “A lot of people overthink themselves out of creating content.” - Tommy Clark
- “In this world, you're either a producer or a consumer. And if you're a consumer, you're dead.” - Adam Robinson
- Triple Whale
- Tommy Clark on Twitter | LinkedIn
- Social Files
- Daniel Murray
- Nik Sharma
- DTC Newsletter
- Andrew Hunt
- Warby Parker
- Russel Brunson
- Chase Dimond
- Founder Brand: Turn Your Story Into Your Competitive Advantage by Dave Gerhardt
- Gary Vaynerchuck
- Liquid Death
- Brad Weimert
- $100M Offers: How To Make Offers So Good People Feel Stupid Saying No by Alex Hormozi
- Dave Rogenmoser