An Interview With Social Media Maven and Digital Nomad Chris Brogan

  • July 21, 2009 by Corbett Barr
  • 7 Comments

airplane-flying-high

If I referred to Chris Brogan simply as “Mr. Social Media,” plenty of people would guess who I was talking about. Chris has been blogging since 1998 and his blog is now one of the worlds’ 100 most authoritative blogs, according to Technorati.

Chris writes, speaks and consults on how businesses can improve marketing and PR through the use of social software and community platforms (like Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, etc.). He is president of New Marketing Labs and has a book coming out later this year called Trust Agents about how to tap the power of social software and networks to build your business.

If you’re interested in being able to work from anywhere, Chris is a great resource. He’s a real digital nomad. He recently teamed up with Citrix Online to create a new blog for digital nomads and road warriors called Work Shifting.

Thanks to Chris for agreeing to do this interview. Here’s what he had to say about being a digital nomad and about how social media can help people create a better lifestyle.


Barr: You’ve been called one of the original digital nomads. Tell us a little about your lifestyle, and how your career supports it.

Brogan: I’m now president of a small social media marketing company. We work with big companies to show them how to re-humanize using the latest web tools. I travel a lot for this business, because oddly, it’s easier to show people in person how these web tools let one build relationships virtually. Because most of my customers are at the far end of long airplane rides, my entire business has to fit into a laptop and live on the cloud. It works rather well for me, because of how I work (odd hours and random bursts of passion). My team is similarly configured. We work in the cloud.

You got involved with social media long before it was such a buzzword. You’re now respected as an expert in the field. How did you see the social media trend coming, and how did you become such an authority?

Don’t laugh too hard. I didn’t see it coming as much as I knew that it was always there. From the moment I first got a computer (1984), I knew that these tools were exactly what I needed to connect with people who didn’t live on my street. It’s been the same way ever since. Truth is, I can’t figure out how businesses have been successful without these tools, and I’m sure they feel the weight being lifted from their shoulders since embracing them.

How am I an authority? I work hours and hours and hours a day trying things out, applying them to projects, and seeing what comes next.

Readers of this blog are interested in creating and living their dream lifestyles. How can social media help people live a better lifestyle?

Social media lets people connect from anywhere in the world and demonstrate their humanity. If your lifestyle designers in training want to live the good life, they’d best be ready to be human at any distance. Being “one of us,” for example, is a way to ensure that people know you are there because you’re part of a community and not just to sell something. Make your own game, for instance, refers to how you can’t just follow along with what’s come before, and now these tools have come along that empower such experiences.

What types of new career options is social media enabling for creative people?

These tools allow people to build their own genuine marketing and PR outreach experiences without the aid of a huge agency or old-fashioned approaches. Social media, when applied well, makes for a direct connection between a business owner and their prospective audience.

How do you think social media will make it easier for people to become digital nomads or self employed?

Social media tools don’t empower self-employment. They’re tools. But they do give people the ability to consider how they communicate. I can workshift right now from anywhere, because my team and I use both Twitter externally and socialcast.com internally. We use all kinds of cloud tools like Google Docs and a host of other products so that we don’t have to share space, don’t need an IT department, and we can just function at all the various places on the world.

It always seems like you have dozens of simultaneous projects going on. A lot of my readers also have many things going on at once. How do you balance everything, and how do you know what is important to focus on?

Balance and focus. Wow, you’re asking all the hard questions today. I’m not very well-balanced right now. My physical health could be a lot better, as could my stress levels. I’m not sleeping enough. The reason is that I’m getting lots of big opportunities thrown my way and not saying no enough.

I balance by working on the biggest projects I can possibly take on, and then I farm out all the others to people who could use the work. I figure that if I can take on the big challenges, then I can write about what I learn, share the best stuff with everyone, and that’ll move everyone further down the field. Seems fair, eh?

photo by The Shane H

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


Think Traffic is now The Sparkline. Click here to check it out.

Or View The Archives

Nate July 21, 2009 at 1:58 pm

Great interview, Corbett. I love Chris’ blog and I’m a huge fan of the work he does. I like how he talks about social media being a variety of tools. People talk about social media in the context that it’s some kind of set business plan. It really comes down to how you use the tools and which ones work best for your particular situation. Once again great interview!

Corbett Barr July 22, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Thanks, Nate. Social media is definitely misunderstood in some circles, and has been pitched as some sort of get rich quick scheme. In reality, social software really is just a set of tools to help you communicate with people in new and more effective ways. Chris really gets that, and that’s probably why he’s in such high demand.

J. D. Bentley July 22, 2009 at 10:19 am

This was a great interview. I loved this line:

“Social media lets people connect from anywhere in the world and demonstrate their humanity.”

Too often people talk about social media as if it supersedes real community. It drives me crazy. But this is a definition I can get behind. Social media as a demonstration of humanity.

Thanks, Corbett and Chris!

Corbett Barr July 22, 2009 at 11:43 pm

I definitely agree. It’s an extension of real community, not a replacement for it.

Colin Wright July 22, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Lots of good insight here (because of the solid questions and solid answers)!

There’s some keen insight right at the end, too, about balance that particularly jumped out at me. Being able to say no to even large opportunities when you know it’s not in your best overall interest (meaning health and wellness as well as professional) is something that most of us could probably stand to work on a bit.

Good stuff guys!

Corbett Barr July 22, 2009 at 11:47 pm

Figuring out how and what to be working on is one of my biggest challenges. Since Chris seems to be juggling so many different projects, it seemed appropriate to ask. I’m glad he brought up physical health as part of that balance. It’s easy to put aside certain important things in life and tell yourself that it’s only temporary because of some important project. In too many cases though, the situation ends up getting way out of balance or even becomes permanent.

Andy Hayes July 25, 2009 at 3:37 am

Great interview – always nice to see two people I respect having a good blether!

Comments on this entry are closed.