What is Socialnomics?

(Episode 1 of 2 with Erik Qualman)

What is Socialnomics?

Erik Qualman is a five-time best-selling author and keynote speaker who has performed in over 55 countries and reached 50 million people. He is the host of the popular Super U Podcast, and his work has been used by the National Guard to NBC Universal to NASA. 

Erik was also voted the 2nd Most Likeable Author in the World behind Harry Potter‘s J.K. Rowling. He is the author of The Focus Project, a book designed to provide solutions to the challenges of focusing in an unfocused world. 

In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss Erik’s book Socialnomics, Erik’s journey and lessons he learned in his career, and leveraging voice to text.


Erik’s book Socialnomics discusses the idea that our best clients, partners, team members, and employees come from word of mouth, but word of mouth has changed since the advent of the internet. Instead of being able to reach 50 people by word of mouth, we can now easily reach 5000. The book discusses how we can take advantage of word of mouth on digital steroids.

At the time Erik wrote the book, Myspace was the dominant social media platform, but Erik could see that it was just for teenagers. He knew that platforms like Myspace and Facebook would change the world.

Erik predicted many things in the book that have come true such as social media changing and influencing politics, but his core prediction still hasn’t come true. Erik believes that one day we won’t need to do research about the products we buy. 

If Erik just had another kid and is looking for an SUV, he will be able to see that 10 of his friends have bought a certain car and like it. Or if he just moved to a new area and needs to find a dentist, he’ll be able to see that 10 of his friends go to the same dentist.

Erik believes that one day a platform will be able to tell us what our friends and family have purchased and recommend products to us based on their purchases.

Erik’s Journey 

Erik started in the digital space as an intern about 28 years ago. From there he went to Yahoo then he became the head of marketing at Travelzoo, helping take that company from private to public. 

He wrote his book called Socialnomics over a decade ago, and it launched him onto a new path of writing books and speaking around the world. Eric became known as Equalman because his first initial and last name merged to make Equalman. At first, he resisted the nickname; he got sick of his associates making jokes about the name, but he eventually learned to embrace it. 

During a magazine interview, they asked Eric if they could have some fun with the covershot. They wanted Erik to wear some Clark Kent-type glasses, and they asked Erik if they could be bright green for their St. Patrick’s Day issues. Erik was happy to do it and didn’t think much of it beyond that.

A couple weeks later, he flew to Kenya to give a speech. The night before his speech, he was at a baby cheetah rescue shelter. The woman helping him asked if they could film him because they were putting a video together to help raise money for the shelter. Eric said he’d love to help, and the woman said, “Great, and when we’re filming, we’ll want to make sure you’re wearing your green glasses.”

After some questions, Erik learned that everyone in Kenya thought he wore them all the time. “I always thought [Equalman] was happening to me, and then . . . I realized, wait, this is happening for me,” Erik said. “Don’t do what I did, which is [resisting] my story for 15 years. Step into your story, or if you already stepped into that story, that first level of discomfort, just step further in your story, because long term that’s the most comfortable place that we all can live.”

Erik embraced Equalman and the green glasses, using them to differentiate himself. The goal isn’t to be like everybody else. We should use the things that are different about ourselves to stand out from everyone else.

Keep a File of Positivity

In his career, Erik has been able to reach 50 million people, but he said the greatest home runs are when someone reaches out to him on an individual level, telling him how much he’s influenced their lives. 

Erik said he likes to save these testimonials for tough days when his spirits are low. “Keep a folder of some positive vibes that come to you, whether that’s from a parent, or whether that’s from a customer. . . . It’s like a roller coaster life. You just want to make sure you’re on that [upward] trajectory long-term. But there are those days when you get those humps and those seasons—those can sometimes be years. . . . When I have that bad week, that bad month, I can pull on that as a resource.”

3 Lessons Erik Learned from Getting Caught in a Ponzi Scheme

Erik had the biggest mistake of his career when he got caught in a Ponzi scheme. Erik put a lot of money into this, most of his discretionary income, and he lost it all. At the same time, he was about to have his first child and start his business. It hit him hard, but Erik said he would do it again because he learned so much from it. 

Here are three lessons Eric learned when he lost most of his money.

  • If It Seems Too Good to Be True, It Is

Erik has several friends who work in the financial sector who also invested with him in this venture. Since Erik is in marketing, he didn’t understand all the financial aspects of it, but it seemed like a great deal. 

He asked his friends why it was such a great deal, why they were able to get 15%. It seemed too good to be true, but his friends explained it to him with logical reasons. After a while though, it was still too good to be true and Erik’s dad told him he needed to get out of it. Erik was told he would get a check in the mail with his money in it, but it never came. 

  • Invest in Ourselves

One of the other things he learned was to put his money into himself instead of other people. “You want to have a spread out portfolio, but at the end of the day, I realized I get a greater return if I invest in what I’m doing,” Erik said. Investing in ourselves can mean educating ourselves or putting money into our company.

  • Start Today

The third thing Erik learned is that if we are thinking of starting a business, we should do it today. “The best time to start your business was yesterday; the next best time is today,” Erik said. 

Logically, this would seem like the worst time for Erik to start his business. He’d just lost most of his money, it was during the recession, and his first child was about to be born. “It’ll happen; you get through it. You can’t see it in the moment, because when you’re inside that bottle, it’s hard to read the label. Looking back, it’s like, wow, what a great education,” Erik said.

Leveraging Voice to Text

With voice search, companies should be working toward perfection. We may never reach perfection, but if we are constantly reaching for it, we can constantly make progress. Voice technology should be able to recognize when we say, “Alexa, please reorder my same groceries from last week and have them delivered tomorrow.”

It should recognize our voice patterns, and it should also be able to recognize the context we’re speaking in. Erik was using voice to type a message in a business group text. They were talking about golf, and Erik wanted to say, “Jill’s great because she’s a fast putter,” but when it read the message back to him, it said, “Jill’s great because she’s a fast farter.” The technology should be able to recognize that he probably wasn’t talking about farting in a business context.

Key Takeaways

Thank you so much Erik for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:

  1. The internet has changed how we use word of mouth. We may be able to reach substantially more people through it.
  2. We should use the things that are different about ourselves to stand out from everyone else.
  3. We can save testimonials for tough days when our spirits are low to help us get through the hard times.
  4. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
  5. We may be able to get a greater return on investment if we invest in ourselves, rather than in others.
  6. The best time to start your business was yesterday; the next best time is today.
  7. We may never reach perfection, but if we are constantly reaching for it, we can constantly make progress.

Connect with Erik

To learn more about or connect with Erik:

Next Steps

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    About the author

    Nathan Gwilliam

    Nathan Gwilliam

    I help organizations navigate tectonic shifts that are transforming the business landscape, so they can optimize marketing, accelerate profits, and make a greater difference for good.

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