About Derek Andersen
Derek Andersen is the Co-Founder & CEO of Bevy, a SaaS product that helps companies like Salesforce, Atlassian, Asana, and Duolingo build virtual and in-person communities.
He co-founded Startup Grind, a community of 600 Chapters in 125 countries educating, inspiring, and connecting startup people. Since 2012, Startup Grind has hosted 10,000 events for more than 500,000 people.
In 2010, Derek co-founded Commonred which was acquired by Income.com. He previously worked as a product manager at Electronic Arts. Derek currently lives in Palo Alto, CA with his wife and four children.
“As video creators, let’s not be afraid to open our horizons to things we didn’t accept in the past.”
– Derek Andersen, Co-Founder & CEO at Bevy
Socialive: What is a key takeaway you learned from brands producing video content in 2020?
Derek Andersen: Don’t be static, be adaptable. We’ve seen lots of companies take a 180 degree spin on anything they thought was true pre-COVID-19 and do some of the most creative things we’ve ever seen.
Frankly, we’re seeing others that haven’t. People have been waiting it out or dip their toe in. You’re given the hand that you’re dealt. We’ve seen customers who did nothing virtually to doing hundreds of different events by April 2020. If you truly care about your customers, you’ll find ways to support and reach them. The best companies are the ones that do that before and after COVID-19.
SL: What do you consider the top video trend businesses should know about in 2021?
DA: Virtual events have blurred the lines between events that might have historically been conferences, webinars, field marketing, or meetups. The biggest trend I’m seeing is that the best brands are adaptable to the idea that you should no longer think of the constraint of your events the same way before COVID-19. Maybe you weren’t doing a field marketing event, but maybe you should now. Maybe a conference was unapproachable because it seemed like too much work, but maybe that’s exactly the right format. Everything is blurred together.
As event content creators, we have to be open to the idea that things aren’t the way we’ve seen them in the past. For us, we’ve been focused on our customers, and it doesn’t matter as long as we meet the needs of customers.
SL: What do you consider the top challenge for businesses looking to produce video content in 2021?
DA: We’re moving from a video overload year to maybe a year where we can go outside again, talk to neighbors, and hug family and friends. That’s incredibly exciting.
At the same time, hopefully we learned that we don’t need to get on a plane for everything. A few months before the pandemic, I flew to Ireland for less than 24 hours to speak and attend a friend’s event and then flew back to California. I was violently sick for the next two weeks and didn’t sleep. I hope we never go back to that world.
As video and content creators, we need to be prepared. It may be in person one day, and virtual the next. It may be live or recorded. Every week, every hour these things are changing. Let’s not be afraid to open our horizons to things we totally didn’t accept in the past.
I think 2020 was the most creative year I had personally, and I’m trying to figure out how to top that in 2021, but we’re going to have to because people are going to want to be away from their computers and out in the public. What can we do to keep them engaged when they are watching our videos?
SL: Will virtual events and experiences be the norm once the pandemic has passed?
DA: Hyperlocal is going to be very important, depending on the community you’re in — well vaccinated or not. I’m not going to get on a plane and travel to many events, but I might be excited to go to an event down the street. Have a way for people who are not able to access the event locally and give them an opportunity to be involved at a high-quality level.
I’ve been live streaming for ten years, and what didn’t work is the level of quality we had pre-COVID-19. You have to find a way to mix high-quality content with a good in-person experience. How do you balance both?
SL: What does a successful virtual event look like?
DA: If the content is great, people will stick around. We’ve done 15,000 events, and there’s no worse feeling than seeing people stand up and walk out.
The barrier to keeping people engaged is so much higher. We do meditation, magic shows, and feature animals — just to try and make it fun. No one wants to sit in front of Zoom. What can you do to recreate an experience you want to be at? Would I want to watch this? If no one’s paying me to do this, would I do this? Create an experience you would want to be at. Be thoughtful about the speaker experience, brand experience, and most by far the audience experience.
SL: How can businesses minimize digital fatigue?
DA: One of the things I love about Socialive is that it doesn’t feel like Zoom at all. Whenever I watch a Socialive stream or video, it feels so high quality like I’m watching television. I’m watching something that somebody put a ton of money and care into.
We’re all used to Zoom. I have three kids on Zoom all day long. But we’re also used to really good video experiences and have no problem watching Netflix on a screen for five or six hours. How do we recreate high quality, interesting, engaging experiences where I don’t have to show my video all the time but still get a lot out of it and enjoy it? There’s a reason why you don’t have a mirror at your desk — it’s exhausting. Turn the video off and try new mediums. Give users and your audience a way to relax and enjoy the show.
SL: How will virtual events impact B2B purchase decisions in 2021?
DA: Most of our customers are in the enterprise technology category. These products are complicated and expensive. You literally can’t use these products without hiring somebody to show you how to use it.
In consumer products, if I’m going to spend $5,000 or $10,000 or $30,000 on a product over the course of a year, I need to understand how to use it. A lot of times I can go to YouTube and see the branding and marketing videos, but how do we get our customers to help us tell that story on our behalf?
As somebody who is going to be hosting virtual events for my brand and company and who hosts virtual events for other brands, I am telling them and telling people who watch this, get your customers involved.
Just as you’re doing with me here in Socialive. I love the product, it’s amazing. Here I am talking about it and hopefully someone stumbles on this who is wondering if they should buy it or not.
How do you scale word of mouth? Getting your customers on video sharing that vision of how they have been successful with your product is the most powerful way to market. Video is the most scalable way to do it.
SL: Do you see virtual events presenting new opportunities to monetize video content in 2021?
DA: At Startup Grind, we’ve done 15,000 events and about 10,000 videos. We have tried all sorts of ways to monetize content. Frankly, I personally decided that the best thing I can do with the vast majority of content I have is to use it for brand building. With Bevy, I use it to sell the other products we have.
If your content is high quality, you can monetize it. We have some video content that we monetize around trainings, workshops, and getting certified. The vast majority of value I have found in the last ten years in video content is around building brands, telling the story, and using that to monetize around other ways you’re monetizing.
SL: Many businesses are looking into personalized video content and unique virtual event experiences to draw attendees. Do you think AI or any other innovations can help drive more personalized messages for targeted audiences?
DA: 2021 may be the year we have more human interaction than we’ve ever had. From somebody who has spent most of their professional career on building in person relationships with people, I can say there is no substitute for human interaction. So, what can you take from in person interactions and what can you do to bring that value into the video space? How can you do that at scale? It’s very difficult to do that.
Have you ever received a video voicemail from a sales or customer service representative that was customized for you? I have, but not very often because it’s hard to do. But those kinds of things matter and they stick in your mind, especially when you’re getting your brain spammed out every day, all day long.
My foundational principle is just be thoughtful. Put yourself in their shoes. Have empathy for the person you are trying to reach out to. They are a human being, and they have problems just like you and I do. What can you do to break through to show that you actually care? What can you do to break through and show that you’re somebody they would have a good experience working with and can trust. People see that authenticity, and if that’s through a personalized message, that’s great.
I received an email from an AE the other night, and it felt like it had been written for me. The bar is very low. If you can just raise the bar 10 percent, you’ll immediately stand out from everyone else.
SL: Will video replace other forms of internal communication in 2021?
DA: The mission of my community Startup Grind is to educate every startup in the world. 99 percent of that was in person. After a few months of cleaning my garage a few times and not knowing what to do with myself in February and March, I realized if I want to fulfill my mission and do things globally and at scale, the only way to do that is through video and with video. We’ve been creating video for 10 years and I didn’t fully understand it.
As I move ahead in the next few years, I’m trying to figure out how to bring in deep, personal, authentic, thoughtful experiences to customers via video. How do I deliver that in a way that they will be excited to receive it? There’s so much out there, so what can I do to stand out and have an impact on a customer’s life? It’s only possible with video. There’s no way I could ever achieve our mission with the help of video.
This is why I’m personally excited to work with Socialive. It’s going to enable us to create these experiences that we couldn’t create before. We couldn’t afford it, and we didn’t have the human power and expertise to do it. Now with a tool like Socialive, I can reach my entire audience in a beautiful, unique, thoughtful way.