Inside Track: Barrett matches preferences with his job for a ‘good life’
A star on social media, the founder of Status Creative aims to take his company to the next level.
Jeff Barrett thrives on being an extrovert and forming relationships, yet he’s possibly best known for his Twitter handle.
Barrett has earned various awards and honors connected to his social media work, from Business Insider’s No. 1 Ad Executive on Twitter, to Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer and PRNewswire’s Earnie Award for Best Use of Video in Social Media for “The Grand Rapids LipDub.”
“It’s definitely weird being an extrovert who works online,” Barrett said, noting that these days, it’s not hard to display one’s personality and establish trust through technology.
The ability to work from anywhere has helped Barrett and his company, Status Creative, thrive in its first two years on a national level. Barrett said the company is poised to break seven figures in 2014.
Status Creative’s success is based on taking older, established companies that are willing to make a distinct shift in their public relations models and take a risk. He said the companies that choose to work with Status Creative often know their current approach is a little stale.
“We create that amount of attention it takes to get noticed on the Internet,” Barrett said. “We look at what are relevant, recognizable elements, and define a relevant reason to cover something.
“There’s tons of noise out there; it’s just (about) making it more noticeable.”
Although the way to create notice varies by company or project, Barrett has a preferred method. And it has worked.
“There are just so many outlets out there, and you have to do something to get noticed,” he said. “For me, it’s just by being as goofy as possible.”
His status as a Twitter star and running a successful public relations company took some time. As a young entrepreneur receiving lots of social buzz from viral videos, it required patience on his part to understand why the monetary “success” took time to build.
“Even if you kill it, it doesn’t go as fast as you want it to,” Barrett said. “It’s something they don’t teach in business school — and they should.”
As he has built relationships, he has begun to work with bigger PR companies on bigger social media projects, knowing his firm can expand the company’s knowledge and skill set.
According to HootSuite, more than 280,000 people call themselves social media experts or some variation of the term.
“It’s easy to give (someone) a title, but it’s hard to validate it,” he said. “A lot of it has to do with the quality of who you’ve worked with and the product you’ve put out.”
For Barrett, much of his validation comes from being named a Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer. He said those ratings come from a system that looks not at how many people follow you, but how many follow your followers. Still, he has well more than 120,000 followers.
“That was a nice form of validation from a reliable source,” he said. “That allows me to go to bigger brands, and they can see I know what I’m talking about.”
His biggest tip for using social media —especially Twitter —is to use trending hashtags creatively and to be vigilant in posts so followers know what to expect. He’s also not about ratios, so he likes to follow people back.
In person and on the Internet, Barrett likes to build relationships. That’s a good thing because his job depends on it, whether or not those relationships are ever put to use. Barrett said forming those connections should never stop because it’s impossible to say where a new relationship will lead.
“I like making connections with publications or clients, even when it might not matter,” he said. “It’s fun to try to make the connections — to find a way to connect the dots.”
It’s taken Barrett and Status Creative a while to create the right connections and see where they fit together, but they keep coming now. He drives those relationships not only through social media but through writing guest columns for The Washington Post and Mashable, which according to its website is “a leading source for news, information and resources for the Connected Generation.”
“Relationships are why I write,” he said. “It’s more than just personal branding. The articles help me meet new clients and push the agenda further.”
Although Barrett works from Grand Rapids, Status Creative has offices and employees in locations across the country and overseas. That’s the “beauty” of doing work that doesn’t require being tied down to a geographic location, he said.
Barrett might be in Grand Rapids, but he doesn’t like to focus on local companies or media. There are other companies and specialists who know the market better than he does, and he respects that, he said.
“The connections I have aren’t super-relevant to Grand Rapids companies,” he said. “There are plenty of established people that concentrate just on Grand Rapids, and I wouldn’t want to mess with that.”
As the technology becomes more familiar —and sometimes scary —it’s becoming easier to tell who is trustworthy on the Internet, Barrett said. That makes it easier to work with people across the globe. All the various forms of social media, along with Skype and other video chat sites, help establish and verify clients’ trust, he said.
Barrett got to where he is now by doing projects with friends. That included making the highly popular “The Grand Rapids LipDub” with Rob Bliss and Scott Erickson. The music video garnered massive amounts of national attention, and although it was a catalyst for his career, Barrett doesn’t see it as his big career break. “At the end of the day, you don’t want to be a viral video guy.”
Bliss and Erickson co-founded Status Creative with Barrett, but have since split off to do their own ventures and focus on their individual passions. Barrett is sticking with what he knows best, which is being creative with technology. It’s been a natural fit for him — as with many in his generation — because social media has become a way of life and he grew up with it, playing with social networks since Friendster.
Those skills translated to creating marketing campaigns for companies. Now, Status Creative is trying to switch its model from individual campaigns to having long-standing clients by putting all those relationships to use.
“You start with campaigns because you’re not around enough to be trusted,” he said. “It takes time to develop that brand. 2014 is about building those retained clients for this year and beyond.”
Barrett said he likes to focus on one thing outside of work each year. This year, he’ll focus on helping the Grand Rapids Young Professionals group promote its 10-year anniversary.
Splitting his focus isn’t the way to success, he said, and staying involved for too long with one organization can lead to stale ideas. But he did say some organizations — like LaughFest — hold his attention longer than others.
Barrett grew tired of not being noticed by large companies, so in 2011, he took the plunge into doing the kind of business he loves.
“It’s incredibly fun — that’s why I got into it. It wasn’t a monetary pursuit,” Barrett said. “It’s all about making your personal life and job match up. That’s the blueprint for a good life.”