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  • Writer's pictureFrancisco Mahfuz

E71. Grow A Massive Social Media Following through Storytelling with Michael Kirsten

Below is an AI-generated transcript and therefore it may contain errors.

Francisco Mahfuz 0:00

Hi everyone, Francisco here. Just before we get started, I wanted to share something I'm really excited about. I recently launched the story powers bootcamp, a course that teaches you everything you need to know about how to find craft and tell stories that work. But it's not just an online course, because you get personalised feedback from me for all the practical activities in three hours of life coaching to work through any challenges, or focus on specific projects. So it's like if you bought a cookbook, but the chef came along with it. So go to story and click on Course, all the information you need will be there. So please check it out. And if you love the show, and would like to support us, you can go to buy me a forward slash story powers. I drink about five coffees a day, so any support would be much appreciated. All right on with the show.

Welcome to the story powers podcast, the show about the power of stories that people who tell them and why you should be doing it too. I'm your host, keynote speaker and storytelling coach Francisco mahfuz. My guest today is Michael cursed. After a long career as a marketing executive editor national teams executed multinational research projects and implemented the global content strategy across three continents. He is now the founder of human marketing, a company helping businesses create content and tell stories that resonate with other humans. Before I met Michael, I used to think I wasn't lucky in business for launching my keynote speaking career Early last year, but I think he had it worse because after 20 years in the corporate world, Michael was all set to finally take a sabbatical year and travel around the world. And then COVID hit. And if that wasn't enough, he's a football fan. And has just watched Germany get beaten in the Euros by England of our teams. The poor man can catch a break. Ladies and gentlemen, Michael, Kirsten. Michael, welcome to the show.

Michael Kirsten 2:03

This was a brutal reminder, my just say, refreshing memories that are already gone.

Francisco Mahfuz 2:15

I, I'm a football fan too. And I am Brazilian. And I have just watched Brazil lose the Copa America final to Argentina, Argentina had more than anything in 28 years. So yes, so yes, I mean, I'm happy for him. But I think at least on Germany's from Germany's point of view, you know, England is not your your sworn enemy, and they didn't even win at the end of the day. So I think it's last,

Michael Kirsten 2:44

you wouldn't believe I've watched the final together as a couple of English friends in an Irish Pub. So you can imagine how that turned out.

Francisco Mahfuz 2:51

I was taking part of football fantasy thing with a whole bunch of English people. And I really wanted to watch the final live, but I knew they were going to lose. And I just couldn't, I couldn't be the guy being really happy in a place for when they lost,

Michael Kirsten 3:12

I tried all my empathy on that night for all my empathy.

Francisco Mahfuz 3:16

Yes, in and I think, you know, to, to, perhaps not so smoothly leaders into stories, though, I find it fascinating how sometimes, the whole narrative of something like football can change the way we see it, because I, you know, England started the game very well, they scored the goal in two minutes. And for the first 20 or 30 minutes, they were clearly superior to Germany. So at that point, most of the people that I knew were saying, Okay, well, they're clearly the better team, they're gonna win. There's, there's no question here. And they ended up not doing anything else for the rest of the game. And then they went to extra time, they went to penalties, and they lost. But because the narrative started with them being so much better, I think the way most English people saw that, see, see that game now is that one of missed opportunity. Whereas if they had just been poor, in lost, you know, two, or three new or whatever, then they wouldn't feel that way. They think wow, you know, we came up against a better team. But a lot of the the ones that I'm speaking to because of how it was framed, to begin with, to them feels like a much worse loss than it was.

Michael Kirsten 4:28

I mean, it's all when we talk about storytelling, right? Everything was designed for the perfect hero story, right? 55 years of suffering of waiting for this one big moment. And if that's not up alone, you also play in front of your own home crowd in Wembley, after one year of suffering for the whole entire world. So the frame for this whole thing the story frame was like was this big, big fairy tire after a lot of suffering, and after he died Every time standing up again and trying to fight and finally you make it and then you then you rise from the ashes like Phoenix, right? And then they still can't do funnel penalties.

Francisco Mahfuz 5:15

Yeah. And the plot got significantly more complicated. And this is mostly what people have talked about since the end of the game, which was that for anyone who hasn't watched it, so England went to penalties. England has a history of never winning penalty shootouts. And then I think they were, they were ahead when one of the first people kid really was 19 years old, that came up to 21 years old Rashford came up to take a penalty, he had just gone into the game to take a penalty, because he's a very good penalty taker. And he missed. And the second guy who was brought on to take a penalty missed and the last one that had to score was a 19 year old kid who also missed in the three of them other than very young, are our soul black. So I said a friend of mine, as soon as that happened, well, first when they were the last one was chosen, like why is a 19 year old kid taking a decisive penalty. That just doesn't it psychologically, that just didn't make sense to me. But as soon as he missed, I said, I can guarantee there'll be headlines about racist abuse of this players tomorrow, because because that I mean, the fact that three of them missed and the three of them were black. I mean, you know, how idiots people can be, particularly in this subject, then there was no question about it, unfortunately, immediately happened the next few days that the headlines were all about that. I had a similar

Michael Kirsten 6:43

feeling when when it was override, it shows us the good and the bad about the societies we live in, right. I mean, on the one hand, you have really these these on racial abuse that that you see all over the place over, especially over the last couple of years rising and but you also had all the support the players got after not only from their squat, but from the Society for many, many people. But it's a tells us again, that the societies we live in are very fragile. And there is a lot of work to do. Still, I feel I feel sorry for the three young players. But on the other hand, you also have to admire their guts, you have to admire their their courage, that young age knowing what would happen they I think they knew very, very clearly what would happen if they gonna miss the penalty. And they still had the courage to, to go there. So yeah,

Francisco Mahfuz 7:32

yeah, no, I completely agree. And I think one, I mean, this is not a solution. In general, this is not a solution for society. And I think this is the podcast discuss. So societal solutions. This is Sara Lee. But one thing that those young players should do, which is the opposite of what you have done in the last few months, is they should probably try to stay as clear as they possibly can from social media. Because because I don't think these are these are people that are coming across this type of treatment and behaviour. In the real world. It's the social media world where where this, this this, this horrible people come out and make their lives miserable.

Michael Kirsten 8:12

It's very, it's very fascinating. I just saw a clip yesterday from Steven Bartlett about the topic, he spoke six months ago, even before the incident, the bad. And he said, it's about this whole social media phenomena, because it's not real, right? It hasn't. You can type something into on a platform, press Send and gently leave and there are no real life consequences. Right? You wouldn't walk up to a person on the street and abused them, because there would be real real world consequences coming with it. So independently from this incident, or this topic and society, I think there is there is something about the use of social media and how it how it's going to be used by some people. And I mean, there are discussions about how platforms are right now developing. I mean, you look at the whole Facebook thing and you ask yourself, is that really is that really the the core sense of a platform like this? On but yes, there is no, there is no real world consequence. And as long as these people are not being called out, we'll do that and face real world consequences and not only being banned from the platform, but maybe also enlisted by today employers. I think until we we've can't come up with a solution of this problem. We will have to we have to endure it.

Francisco Mahfuz 9:30

Yes. And when you talk about not no real life on your world consequences. One thing that is is interesting, I mean that that topic is interesting, based on you know, you and I talking about it because we are two people who have clearly seen real life consequences and very positive ones from using social media a lot. Yep. So So you know, for anyone who doesn't follow you on LinkedIn, you or someone who, how long is it now? Has it been a year that you've been not so not not as long right?

Michael Kirsten 10:06

On the platform since 2007, because I've worked in corporate right. And we use the platform by the time I worked for a recruitment company. So we use the platform either to recruit candidates or to get our world word out. But for my personal, from my personal point of view, for my personal account, and my personal brand, I started to use it in February. And so that's I played around a little bit in January, but with a systematic strategy and with a plan and, and use it as, as the platform where I build my business from February. Okay,

Francisco Mahfuz 10:45

so for, for anyone who doesn't or doesn't follow you, one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is because you are one of the few people that I seem to come across on LinkedIn. Which doesn't mean that that's everyone, because there's, I don't know how many 720 million people. Yeah, but but you're among the few people on LinkedIn, who genuinely tell stories on a regular basis, because there's a lot of people that love talking about stuff, hashtag storytelling, the vast majority of them don't tell stories, they will know what the story was if you'd beat them in the face. But one thing that caught my attention was almost every post for a while, seemed to be a story. And most of them are, most, if not all of them are personal. And I don't mean just personal. They're things you've lived through. Some of them are about work, but the vast majority of them don't seem to be about work. So Well, the first thing I wanted to understand a bit better is how deliberate is that part? The fact that most of the things you're talking about are not only personal, but they're not. They're not immediately work related. A lot of them are life lessons, but not necessarily something you'd go and say, Okay, I can see how that applies to my business, they their stories, but they're not necessarily business stories, as most people will define them. Yep, correct. Um,

Michael Kirsten 12:12

when I say I played around in January, a little bit on LinkedIn, one of the things that I was very clear about it was, I mean, I started following my business in, I thought about the business in January. And I started to build the foundations for it in February and then started in March. And I'm sitting here in my living room in Germany, in Hamburg. And I was aware that based on my experience, and what I have to offer, my potential audience is everywhere. It was very clear that from Hamburg, and the current day, and I will not reach them, when I sit on my balcony and scream at them stories, it's not going to work. So I had to find a platform where my audience is, and I decided that's going to be LinkedIn. And I made a very deliberate decision only to use LinkedIn for that. And that's how it started. And then on, then, what happened is my company's called human marketing, right? I mean, if you have you saying, Are you, the brand is human marketing, and you're not a human with a false advertising, I guess. And, and then it's awesome. But it's my personality, right? I have been, I've been through some things in life. And I figured out that I'm telling my stories on is helping people that I realised quite quickly when I started to tell some of those stories. And that they don't this he said, they are not mostly related to business, for sure. Not to mine them mostly related to me, but I'm also I am the business. You know, I'm a solopreneur. Of course, I offer service, I offer marketing, marketing services, especially if your content marketing and personal branding. But I'm the company, no one else. So that's, that's, that's, that's who I am. And that's the person you would work with. So I think you better know who you're talking to. And that's why I bother to tell those stories.

Francisco Mahfuz 14:07

The reason I the reason I ask that is because what I what I can't figure it out, and I'm not sure if there's a way to figure it out before if you had not experimented with that for a while is is. Okay, so this is what I'm thinking. When I started on LinkedIn, most of my businesses was focused on speaking and corporate training. And then although I knew that this is not necessarily the platform for that, it is not as if a lot of speakers are hired, because of the work they because of the things they put out on LinkedIn, I was mostly brand building, I wasn't necessarily trying to get business out of LinkedIn. So I tended to talk about storytelling more in the why of storytelling, in in the in the corporate corporate world or or in the world. So not necessarily applying it to to intrapreneurs or to small business owners or anything like that. And what I found was that I, you know, I created a brand and people recognise me as a story guy. But that didn't necessarily lead to any business. Because what people weren't doing is they weren't seeing themselves in the stories, they weren't seeing their own problems in my stories. So once once I switched around, and I thought, Okay, well, I'm spending all this time here, I might as well get clients through here. I switched the focus of the stories to be more about entrepreneurs and startups and people who could generally tell the stories and not hire me to speak in a company. And immediately, not immediately, but within maybe a month or so. I started getting inquiries as well, can you help me tell my story? That's essentially what inquiry I get. The mystery to me is, is your approach where you're not doing that at all, just a different approach that can work as well, when your stories are being as successful as they have been? Or if you did that, he would be five times more effective. So that's, that's what I do.

Michael Kirsten 16:07

No one knows. The thing for me, it's, let's start from, from a different point of view, it's, um, it just because it's a social media platform doesn't mean the rules from not from real life don't apply here. Right? So it's all about human connection, it's all about helping other people. So you wouldn't go to a stranger on the street who's waiting at a traffic light and yelling at them? Like, look, look, look, look, I have two services to offering Do you want to buy? You mean, this guy would look at you like, who are you? So you have to build a human connection first, before you can even go to later on to a conversation maybe about how you can help people and their business and how you build a human connection, you build it? And yeah, in a human way, you build it by starting a conversation and the conversation is not immediately about your business.

Francisco Mahfuz 16:59

Right? Let me let me get a definition here from you. Because you clearly love the word human, it appears very prominently in your company name and everything you do. So no, we we are fortunately, I think, not yet surrounded by robots who are posting I mean, there's plenty of bots, but this is a slightly different conversation. So what makes a conversation or marketing or the way you show up on a on a social platform like LinkedIn, human to you?

Michael Kirsten 17:33

I mean, it's all started with the intent, right? Are you? Do you understand who you are? How authentic you are even on the platform, right? Are you, for example, are you writing the way you talk, it starts with those foundations. But then it's also it's how you connect with other people. Of course, you can connect with them in a in a certain business way. Or you just be the authentic you are. In my case, as you say, I'm a very, I'm a guy who's telling his stories very openly, I'm not shy about who I am, I'm also not, I'm okay in my own skin. And that's how I reach out to other people. And I don't have an issue. Of course, I am a business owner, of course, I want to increase my revenue, and I want to get more clients on board. But that's not my first intention of being on LinkedIn. My first intention is really to be there to connect with other people and to, to have conversations with them. Because after after, to explain it to the audience, I was on ours. Obviously, I lost my job in the end of 2019. And as you said, my plan was to go on a on a trip, Thanks for the reminder, by the way, and then auto detecting and I tried to find a job for over a year, I was alone, and I was on just a pandemic, I was also isolating myself a little bit from the world. And for me, this is this is my new life is to connect with as many people are possible to learn what they are doing to have a chat with them. And then sometimes you got to find common ground for for working together. Sometimes they know someone would like to talk to me, but sometimes I know someone who likes to talk to them. And that's how I approach it at the moment.

Francisco Mahfuz 19:09

Yeah, it's interesting, because your approach seems to be more of a networking approach, then a ironically, content marketing approach. So you it simply seems to me from from a list from the outside and from the way I tend to understand these things that it's last. Let me talk about problems that you might be going through. Let me talk about how I got over this problems or how I get my clients over these problems. It's more about this is who I am. If you like who I am in, you need help with your content, then you're going to think of me, but you're not necessarily it doesn't seem to me that you're necessarily talking about how you use your content to for business, necessarily, in most of the posts you you put out

Michael Kirsten 19:55

No but I use my content, you know my posts on my content and that's That's the that's the case study, right. And obviously, if some of the posts they are most posts are personal, but they obviously they are a thought process when I write a post. And based on the experience I had over the last four months, I also figured out that some of the problems that I described that are maybe, or situations of my personal, they are also the simulations of many other people's lives, or they have been through and that's how they connect to the stories. They are not connecting to the story, because they're reading a story about my personal life, they are connecting to the story, because I describe something they have experienced as well. That's how it works.

Francisco Mahfuz 20:35

Yes, it's, this is the paradox that a lot of people, I think, misunderstand this whole idea that know, the story shouldn't be about you should be about your audience. Yes, of course. But the vehicle of the story is always you. So the audience relates to something you've lived through, because it resonates with them. It's something they're going through they have gone through. So So yeah, I think my, what I'm trying to understand is also that when someone thinks, Okay, I know this guy, Michael seems to be doing really well, his previous terms of engagement, I would love to have some of that. But when they talk to you, isn't there an expectation from a lot of them, or a fear from a lot of them, that they're going to have to be as personal as you are, when they are putting content out? Yeah,

Michael Kirsten 21:22

that's that's one of the first things I mean, I have done a couple of workshops over the last few weeks. For examples of some it salespeople. And they also to me, like I don't want to write in such a personal way. And I said to them, you don't have to, I mean, this is the whole thing, just because I do it. And it works for me doesn't mean it works for you. First of all, I don't even know if you're going to speak to the same audience as I do. If you're working in it, you're likely don't. But the framework is the same the framework is figure out who you are, figure out what problems you want to solve with the things you you produce, or yourself or you offer as a service, find your audience for it and find a way how to connect with this audience in the most effective way through your content. And of course, you don't have to be as present this is this is this is authentic me, that's who I am. But you don't have to you don't have to follow that path. If you are not comfortable with it makes no sense.

Francisco Mahfuz 22:19

So if someone is not posting things that are that personal, what what type of things are you more likely to suggest that they post it all

Michael Kirsten 22:29

starts with the audience, I still sometimes I'm still sometimes a bit stalked when when when I talk to people, and they are telling me about all these things, they, they they want to tell the world about themselves. And it's the same thing when you talk to companies about their websites, or social media presence, and what I always remind you, you're having an audience, right, you want to speak to this audience, the audience doesn't care about you, they care about themselves. So the first step I always do with my clients was people who want to work with me is try to remind them that in every part of their content, or their marketing initiatives, the first thing they have to have in mind, how do they speak to the audience, and what what stories they're gonna want to tell them. And if you don't want to tell personal stories, then tell stories about them and about their problems, and how they are able to overcome or how they can overcome that or how you might be able to help them with them, but always have in mind, it's about them. It's not about you,

Francisco Mahfuz 23:26

in the type of in the type of content that you that you are putting out, and also that you're helping people put out. How do you see the distinction between the strategy of your marketing and in the more tactical things? Because I think it's probably worth explaining to people who have no idea what I'm talking about? How in your experience breathing, then how would you? How would you separate those two things, the strategic to the tactical,

Michael Kirsten 23:54

I think the strategic thing is on it's important raging, need to understand what you're doing, why you're doing it, and what should be the final outcome, right. And therefore you need to have a strategy. And it starts, as I've said to you with with understanding who you are, what you want to sell, finding your audience, where figure out where they are, how do you have to speak to them, and then how you build a connection to them that leads to long term engagement. So that's the strategy. The tactic is on to show up every day. And I think that's that's where most people, especially on LinkedIn, are having trouble. So you start with these big Hooray, right? And you're going to start in the first one or two weeks, it can be quite exciting, maybe. But then when you have these, these, these expectation of short term success, and the success is not coming, then the most people are like, that's not working. Let's try something else. I just did the two weeks or four weeks, and I'm getting a bit bored. I also I don't want to spend two hours that day there connecting with people and thinking about what I write and liking other people. But suppose it's just too much the I find something else. And then they go to another thing, they do it again for two or three, four weeks, maybe two months, don't see immediate results. And they're like, trying something else. So the tactic for me is really like, take your strategy and put it into action, but do it consistently every day. And also understand that you have to have patience, and you have to have, you have to put in the daily work.

Francisco Mahfuz 25:21

You post, not only every day, but you did it every day for a very long time before you miss the day, right? Yeah,

Michael Kirsten 25:28

it's, um, it's, I also have to experiment for me, it's fun. I love that, right. And for me, I'm not struggling. I know many people struggle with coming up with stories and posting them every day. And I say to some people, it is not so much that you have to post every day. I mean, if you start with two days, the week, but you have to have, you have to have a strategy before you can start. So for example, for me, it was very clear. In January, I found a business known only to a few people over the last 20 years as the guy who works for Kelly, outside of that no one knew. So I have to create awareness for myself and for my new business and for what I do first. And that's gonna take a while to let the world know that I'm that I'm existing, right there is this guy and have a look who does that. So that's gonna take time. So then I decided to okay, how often do I want to post I for me, I decided then. And then but also, there's little things like I post for example, each every day at the same at the same time I post 3pm. Because I know my target audience is mostly in the US. And in the UK. 3pm is 2pm. In the UK, people are coming back from lunch breaks through be 3pm Is 9am in the morning, and in the east of the US people go to work. So that's mostly by their LinkedIn not not during their current day. So that's what I decided very early, and then I stick to it. And then then I also decide, okay, how do I want to approach it I, for me, it was key, I want to engage with the people who are commenting on my posts, I want to connect with the people who engage with my content. So but that takes daily work to do that. And, and I did it from February to May. And nearly every day I didn't do weekends for for a long time. I do it now from time to time, but only short stuff that pops up in my head. But the real results that the real number shift came after three months came in May,

Francisco Mahfuz 27:22

how many hours? Would you say that your spend on a database is between, let's say writing the post, if you're not writing them beforehand, when you're posting engaging, and all of that, how many hours would you say you spend per day?

Michael Kirsten 27:35

Before I say that I would like to tell everyone who's listening today do not have to do that.

Francisco Mahfuz 27:40

Already for the hills,

Michael Kirsten 27:42

because that's one of the things that I've workshop, because, again, if you're employed for a company, as all, or everything that matters is what you want to get out of it. As I say, I'm sitting in Hamburg, I'm a new business owner, we just started. And for me, LinkedIn is my number one marketing and sales to so it would be a bit stupid. If I say this is my only marketing and sales tool that I spent only 20 minutes a day on it, because that would mean I don't need to 20 minutes marketing and sales. So I spend, I would say three to four hours today, at least. And then when things explode. I mean, I had a few posts over the last three weeks who got luckily, some good engagement. But they have follow up consequences. Right. So in terms of comments, you're getting profile visitors, your DMS are piling up. So I remember for example, two weeks ago, I had a pretty good running post and my weekend was wrecked, because I spent nearly the whole weekend just just engaging with people and trying to answer emails and comments and this kind of stuff. And that's the approach that works for me.

Francisco Mahfuz 28:49

Yeah, I think that a lot of people don't quite get when they don't understand the time, either they don't understand the time it takes, or they don't understand that the time someone who's getting any type of real engagement on LinkedIn spans is very different than the time they spend. So I don't think I ever spent three or four hours like fully engaged with it. If I you know, post, if I take into account all the times I dip in and out, which is not even the most effective strategy, but it might be two to two and a half hours. But a lot of that time is very intentional. And I think people do look like I'm not on the feed. I'm not scrolling the feed.

Michael Kirsten 29:27

That's the whole thing. So what you're doing is and again, the purpose at the end of the day, you have said that rifle because I'm writing more broader posts about my personal life, but there is an intention behind it, right? Because as you know, as larger you're getting in terms of your followers, and as more of your posts are going to be seen. There's a likelihood that happened to me over the last one half months that people also see my posts. They haven't even commented on it or they haven't made them the good old lurkers right. And all of a sudden you're getting a DM from them saying like I've seen some of your posts and can we have a chat about work and that happened to me a few times over the last two weeks. So there is an intention behind it. But as you say, most of my time on LinkedIn is not on the feed, scrolling down, up. And if I do that, then it's mostly to engage with other people on their posts that I want to speak to. But it's mostly engaging with my audience and also connecting and networking with people on the platform.

Francisco Mahfuz 30:21

I find that very fascinating how, I don't know if it's a question of Ivan already it is, but how the, I wouldn't say the lurkers. But the people who might like your content, but not but don't comment on it seem to be more likely to approach you for work than the ones who appear all the time, there was a period of time you're I don't know, if Demeter like the moment I connect with someone sometimes like, okay, a senior like myself, I, you know, send connect request, and they immediately start talking to me about business. So it's one of those where they think the moment they feel, I don't know, if they, they got the courage to actually talk to you, they say they're interested, whereas the people that show up all the time, they're nice, it's a nice audience to have, and you can count on them. But they are not ones that six months down, the line will go, Oh, I've been commenting reports every day for six months, now I want to work together, that doesn't seem to be the case,

Michael Kirsten 31:16

they are still your tribe, they're still your audience, right. But as you said, they might not do business with you, right, but they just do it because they like your content, and they want to engage with you. But I mean, don't forget, we're talking about 740 million members, and on LinkedIn, only 3% are actively posting. So that means even though that of the 740 million members, I'm sure a couple of million day they have already forgotten their password and their account information, right. But they are the large number of members, they are on the platform, but they are not active. All right, the data is cool through things, they may even like sometimes something but they go through them right read. So if they go through, and they read some of your stuff for a couple of months. And and that's also part of marketing, right be in the be in the head of the people you may want to work with by the time they have to make a decision, whom they reach out who they want to talk to when they want to solve their problem. And that takes prep work, because you have to be in their mind. So therefore you have to know you, they have to see you, they have to understand that URL. That's that's how it works.

Francisco Mahfuz 32:27

Right. So let me take us back to more of the storytelling side of things. In this I find very, very interesting that if I'm not crazy, I read in one of your posts that when you were still looking for a job, and this would have been I think 2020 At some point in 2020. a headhunter told you that you needed to work on your storytelling. So what are you just not telling the right stories at a time where you just did not have a clue what you were doing? I mean, you German so I would understand if

Michael Kirsten 33:01

it's an extra two years in Australia, maybe I blame them for that, for my non German approach and something. Look, I was not like and I read your story, right? You were a storyteller from a very young age, right? You like to tell stories, I read your story about you standing in front of a classroom, we have a similar kind of experience from childhood, we were not both not the most coolest kids in the room. So I grew up in East Germany, in East Germany, a communist country and came here before the wall came down in the age of 13. In a totally new society, and I had years spent here try to find my place. So that really power of storytelling, right, I read your story. And I'm like, I know what this guy must have felt at the time. So you're already immediately connected. I spent 20 years in corporate man, you you've somehow unlearn those stories, right, because you're sitting in boardrooms, and you're talking about p&l budget cuts in email campaigns, and our KPIs and those kinds of things. You don't necessarily talk so much about stories. And so when I, when I left my job, I was also in a bit of like, I was 44. I wasn't didn't have identity crisis. So I didn't really know what I wanted to do next. I also unlearned a little bit, who you are 20 years in a corporation, right? You you then you have to figure out again, who am I? What do I want to do with my life? And that was one of the first headhunters I spoke to and I was unprepared. I had absolutely no clue what kind of story I want to tell. I've absolutely no clue on what are what benefits I could bring to a few champery. So he was talking to 20 minutes and Thanks, God, he was not one of the headhunters who would said like Well, yeah, thank you. We're going to put you in our database, not lucky. No. He was very honest with me and he said made you have some work to do, right? Your CV is shared. You really need to craft your story because your background is awesome, but you need to craft your story. And that's what I spent part of 2020 as well as really to identify who am I what I want to do next? But also, what's the story I want to tell to the people? And what what what's the story that it's truly about me. And that took some time to, to develop and to learn. And but then it somehow started to work a little bit.

Francisco Mahfuz 35:20

So one thing I was curious when when I heard that, I mean, sure I get the identity crisis, and I get how it's a big shift from from where you were doing to to anything else. But you worked in marketing for about 15 years. So was it just that storytelling as such? wasn't that big a part of the type of marketing you were involved in? Or was it just that when you became the product, the whole thing just became very confusing?

Michael Kirsten 35:51

I mean, of course, part of I mean, I was running the content marketing department for a company for a couple of years. And of course, there was also stories that we told, but they were not about me, right, they were about the candidates in the market about the change in the HR and recruitment industry. So but when you then when you do that, and you're wired to do that for a company, or solution or product that's not attached to you, personally, I mean, pays your bills and your paycheck. But then, after 20 years, you sit in front of yourself and says, like, who am I? Right? Because what's what's my story, and of course, in my case, and I talked very openly about it to a lot of people came together with the crisis I faced last year as a human as like everyone else was surroundings you're in trying to find the job and you're also in mud sometimes in an emotional fight rocky place where you don't really have the strength to be very analytical, very just tried to hang through today. And so but but then by by I think by By late summer, early October, when I started to make some changes, obviously, I also thought more about okay, what are really my values as a person as when I want to do this this thing on my own? So what what do I want to work on people I would like to work with as well. And how do I how do I craft my story around me as a person, because I'm a solopreneur,

Francisco Mahfuz 37:15

you said, when I started to tell stories, I really struggled. I felt I had no talent for it, and that my writing sucked. So I began to study writing techniques and how to draft a compelling story. I even tried to copy other people's styles, pathetic, you know? Okay, so, so. So what was, what was the breakthrough? Because you, you seem to have a very simple and direct storytelling style. So it was it? Did you read something from someone that the puzzle just fell into place? And all of a sudden, you you were able to ride the ride? Was it more of a gradual thing? How did you go from being someone who felt that you sucked to someone who clearly feels us? You know, it's a lot more comfortable with telling stories, because it's almost a daily thing now for you.

Michael Kirsten 38:04

I'd like to demo things at the beginning, I started reason to talk to people who are really doing well. And I just don't know, how do you do that? And as you know, there is a structure behind storytelling, right? There is there are some techniques that I

Francisco Mahfuz 38:20

feel yes,

Michael Kirsten 38:22

that can lead you to success. And if you if you use those kinds of framework sets in your stories, it's quite likely that your story is going to be a compelling one, if you connected with some elements that also work for humans, right? Emotion, personality, experience, change, this kind of stuff. So I talked to them. And they told me a couple of things, then I was reading a lot of posts, I was just studying other people and how they posted. And then I was, but what changed things for me is when I started really to write it. And I remember I started to write a couple of articles in December on LinkedIn, quite lengthy ones, as articles and they got very low engagement. I think Scott had a few friends who liked them. So I had at least some likes. And then in January, I tried for us to share some other people's stuff that we didn't work and then I mustered up the courage. And remember, the first story I wrote, or the first post that was more about myself was about a time in Australia was my daughter. And that immediately got more engagement than any of us have stuff I did before. And and then it's a matter of repetition. You know that right? If you do it every day, it becomes more easy from week to week, and you you're finding your style more and right now I think I know how to craft a story how to structure it, based on the message I want to send there, sometimes different structures are used. And, but with everything in life, if you do it for a consistent long period of time, you're getting better with it. Surprisingly,

Francisco Mahfuz 39:55

I think it's very important to clarify that your definition of you know How long you have practised it, and how long you repeated it for, to most people? I think a lot of people hear that and think, Okay, well, this is gonna take me a very long time. So if anyone hasn't caught on to that we put that into perspective. Again, as late as these January, you still weren't doing that you didn't really know what sort of your voice was or how to tell personal stories. And from let's say, February to now we're talking about six months or a bit a bit under six months, you've gone from being someone who fell chops totally sucked at telling stories, to having gotten a few million views on your content, did you have a post that got to give me about hundreds of 1000s of views?

Michael Kirsten 40:42

I had. That's a fascinating thing. I mean, obviously, I That's why I write all the time. It's not about numbers, right, that the intent should be a different one. But obviously, we are also we are looking at how our numbers are looking like and how far our engagement goes. Because that that's also a measurement for what we are doing. So I had in the last six months of 2020, I had, I think, 4000 views in six months, and in the first six months, now I have 4 million. So and then also that didn't start like this right. I wrote something out a few weeks ago about the first five months and showed my numbers to give people understanding, that's a progression. But obviously, as you know, when you have one or two posts who are really going a little bit out of norm, I would say that can change everything. So I had one I think that changed for me everything a week or two weeks ago who is right now at 1.8 million US and has over 20 to 29,000 likes that doubled my follower base, only that post from 6000 to 13,000. So when you look at numbers, you can see you can you can see the progression. And you're right, it doesn't take you years, right it can, it can happen in six months, I don't say it will happen with everyone. But I'm coming back to the conversation that we have before it will not happen after two weeks. They're all out after four. And you also as you know, and as many know, do that, you're gonna You also have the problem that when you had to go to a good running post that don't don't believe for a second, and from now on, it's all like a roses, and it's not going to you don't have to work anymore, right? You haven't

Francisco Mahfuz 42:21

made it. I've made it I'm a superstar. Now

Michael Kirsten 42:27

I think I think my next post had like 5000 ad like I think Lady likes, right and just but this is the whole thing that's thought and that's what I also talk to my clients is I tried to prepare them for the emotional part that this whole thing comes with. Because most of them they are not used to the fact to to put their neck out right for them, it's really hard to put their face in their name, to oppose, because they are concerned about judgement, what other people might think of them, they mostly start from a point of view, as I started that they think no one wants to listen to that stuff. No one is interested. And when you then go through the whole stages over the first couple of months, where you have a good running post, and then you have a couple of weeks, then no one looks at your your posts, and you have very few engagement, and you're getting disappointment and frustrated. And that's that's the time where a lot of people quit. And that's what I talk to a lot of the people I talk to about it my clients, it's also about emotional preparedness of what's going to come and that you also know, that's totally normal. That's not related only to you. Everyone who has been on this journey has been triggered. That's a totally normal part of it.

Francisco Mahfuz 43:35

Yeah. And I think that that is that is a very important point. And I think handling the emotion of, of business in general. But social media in particular, is is truly a challenge for a lot of people. But I think as a case study of how effective telling personal stories consistently can be, you know, there are not that many people that I know on LinkedIn that are a better case study than you are. Because from essentially nothing on LinkedIn, six months later, having millions and millions of views and having built a business. And I'm sure there's plenty of work to be done on the business side. But you as well, but the exposure you've got and the name you've built for yourself now is the question of turning those eyeballs into customers. But just the eyeballs alone for most people that is far beyond what they have and can dream of at the moment. And it hasn't taken you years to build that audience. It has taken you a few months

Michael Kirsten 44:33

and what's what's important what I'm telling everyone I speak to I'm a normal guy. I mean, I'm not like I'm not a rocket scientist, right, but I have what I have done what I told you, I made a strategy for myself. I knew that I needed to create awareness for a couple of months for myself and for the business that people know that I'm around. And that was my main goal. I mean, I knew the first three months I wouldn't convert it into a lot of business. I mean, like you'd love I did a little bit but I have prepared myself for a couple of months purely focused on building awareness to come to a point where people know that I'm in the market with their arm around and then to have time to convert some of this stuff into business. And I almost the same like many at the beginning in January, when I talked to some people about it were really well on that as well. And they told me what their journey was and how fast it can be. Then at some breaking point, I told them like, that's BS, I don't believe you at all it is you're making this up. But I made the same experience. I know two other people who made the same experience right now. But they have done what I think what we do and I have talked about, they did it very deliberately. And most importantly, they showed up every day. All right,

Francisco Mahfuz 45:41

and on that note, I'm going to, I'm going to start wrapping this up. Because, unfortunately, our little technical issues in the beginning, of course, there's a few of the videos that I had, I am not going to get I'm not going to give the opportunity, I'm not going to get the opportunity to talk to you if you're a Hamburg football fan as well. Because if you wore I'm actually wearing a gremio shirt by accident, who was a team that beat Hamburg in the Champions League in the UK, you're

Michael Kirsten 46:08

going to start you're going to end this whole thing started. Exactly.

Francisco Mahfuz 46:12

It's a two story thing. I'm going to wrap it at the beginning

Michael Kirsten 46:16

of German football.

Francisco Mahfuz 46:19

I think it's safe to say that most German football is not miserable, miserable, so

Michael Kirsten 46:23

it's just gonna watch rugby this evening. That's gonna be difficult, right? So

Francisco Mahfuz 46:27

if anyone wants to connect with you, LinkedIn is the most obvious place and if they want to check out your website is human dash Yeah. Okay, perfect. Miko. It's been a pleasure. Pleasure is all mine. Thank you. That was fun. Alright, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Take care of yourselves. And until next time.

I hope you enjoyed the show. And if you did, I'd love for you to subscribe and leave us a review or a rating on the Apple podcasts app. It's very easy. You open the app and find the show and scroll down a little and when you see the stars tab. I'd really appreciate it and it does help other people find us. And if you'd like to get in touch or find out more about what I do, reach out to me on LinkedIn or visit my website story

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