The Forbes "600 Under 30" List
Social Proof, Why It Matters, and How To Leverage It To Grow Your Business
I have a love/hate relationship with Forbes.
On one hand, I literally found love through the Forbes 30 Under 30 summits.
My fiance Tara and I connected through a Facebook Group for alumni of the event in Philadelphia hosted in 2015.
In between love and hate, you have indifference.
That’s how I feel about my time as a contributor to Forbes for about 3 months.
While I appreciate the opportunity to leverage the brand name and social media promotion that comes with contributing to a major media outlet, I did not particularly enjoy my editorial overlords and felt more like a cog in the machine than an individual with a unique voice and stance on the world.
That’s why I have my own free and premium content for you here on Substack.
Now, when it comes to what I “hate” about Forbes…
…and I’m being a little tongue-in-cheek here FYI, so don’t “at” me…
But if I’m being honest, I don’t like the current Forbes 30 Under 30 lists.
Forbes 30 Under 30 | The Annual List Saving The Forbes Media Empire and Printing “Social Proof”
Not sure if you’ve noticed, but there are actually SIX HUNDRED people selected for this honor every year.
There are 20 categories, for which 30 people are selected, so that’s “600 Under 30”.
Forbes actually has separate 30 Under 30 lists for different geographic regions (what you see being shared online is actually just for the release of the “North America” list.)
Therefore, each year THOUSANDS of Millennials get to plaster their new street cred on LinkedIn, Instagram, or (if they’re smart) as passive links at the bottom of their email signature.
I hate this because, for Forbes, it’s brilliant.
(At least in the short term.)
Every December, Forbes gets thousands of the most influential, connected, and promising young people to tweet, share, buy physical copies of the magazine, utilize Forbes-branded website badges, and other display the social proof of being featured in the annual Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
Then, Forbes gets companies to sponsor the list.
Forbes goes further and sell expensive tickets to massive conferences hosting tens of thousands of other entrepreneurs, media members, and corporate representatives for Forbes-branded events with marquee performers and speakers.
Not only that, but the print magazine experiences a boost in sales at the end of every year, and then companies look to work with Forbes thinking they’ll get a “pulse” on the “next generation” by attending these conferences in Philly, Boston, or wherever…
…when really all we want to do is see our friends and PARTY at these conferences.
This business model is literally saving Forbes in the short-term when magazine sales, ad revenue, and other income streams are tanking along with most other traditional media businesses. So, they are MILKING IT, and it’s working (for now).
But how long will the party last when Forbes is printing social proof like the US Federal Reserve prints fiat currency?
Social Proof | A “Necessary Evil”
Personally, I’d rather focus on growing my business or serving clients than chasing media coverage, social media shoutouts, and vanity awards.
The ugly truth about how we influence our fellow humans, signal our value, and display trustworthiness is by establishing social proof.
Regardless of your industry, “social proof” (like being in the Forbes 30 Under 30 lists) gives you credibility.
Social proof lets other people (i.e. potential clients, partners, vendors, other purveyors of social proof, and even your family and friends) know that you have some level of either integrity or subject matter expertise, or both, before they ever talk to you.
Social proof can include things like:
Speaking Opportunities (at major companies, associations, or conferences)
Credentials (i.e. worked for this political administration, or worked at a major company with an impressive-sounding title. College degrees can also fit into this bucket of social proof, especially if you studied at places like Harvard or Stanford)
Accomplishments (i.e. what you’ve actually accomplished such as “co-founded Slack, took our company public, and sold it to Salesforce for $28B!)”
Association with other Super-Connectors
Most of the time, if you're featured in media outlets like Forbes, Fast Company, or Harvard Business Review, your Ideal Clients already view these as “trusted” sources of news to show them who is an expert, who is a leader, etc.
If you're able to get featured in those outlets, you can leverage all the inherent trust that everyone else has with those media outlets.
Same thing with getting on a TEDx stage or a TED stage.
People trust the TED organization and know that they constantly provide value.
If you can find the speaking opportunities, press coverage, awards, credentials, and other “social proof” that your industry finds noteworthy…
…you can increase your prices, command more Ideal Clients, and beget more social proof in the future, further building the House of Cards that is your “brand”.
Get The *Right* Social Proof, Then Get Back To Work
I can’t deny that social proof is valuable.
I’m happy for those who are featured in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
But, what are my friends and colleagues going to DO with the coverage?
How are they going to LEVERAGE that social proof to grow their businesses?
That’s what I want for you.
I want you to establish meaningful social proof and then get back to serving your clients, generating more revenue, and increasing profitability for your business.
The reality is that over 10,000 people have appeared on the Forbes 30 Under 30 lists since they started doing these campaigns in 2010.
For the books I’ve written (such as the upcoming How To Build A World-Class Network In Record Time), I equate this to being an Amazon bestseller.
Certain people may find this credible, but I know as an author that this isn't very credible, to be honest, because it's easy to game the algorithms and make yourself appear like you're a best selling author, when in fact you're not.
If you're able to get on the New York Times bestsellers list, or Wall Street Journal list, those are a lot harder to achieve. That’s why I describe myself as an “award-winning” author instead of a bestselling author. It helps me stand out from the crowd.
When it comes to establishing and leveraging social proof, think about your target relationships.
What “social proof” will your Ideal Clients most admire?
What “social proof” would comfort potential partners of yours?
What “social proof” can be displayed in your marketing campaigns?
Better yet, think about the ways you could leverage the social proof you've already built up for yourself, but haven’t recognized or displayed as valuable.
If you need more social proof, make a short list of opportunities you might need to chase down and earn in order to give yourself and your business more influence as you are trying to meet your Ideal Clients, partners, mentors, vendors, etc.
Then, send those cold emails. Or ask for warm intros.
Do whatever is necessary to QUICKLY get your “social proof” and then get back to marketing, sales, customer development, client success, operations, etc.
Then, next year, you too can be one of the 600+ people in the Forbes “30 Under 30” list.
P.S. - some of the world’s top companies, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs have hired me to help them with marketing strategy, establishing and leveraging social proof, promoting books, launching crowdfunding campaigns, reworking their messaging to better address the needs of their Ideal Clients, and more.
If you’d like some help, whether it’s a day of strategy together or even just a couple hours of coaching/consulting over Zoom to “rent my brain”, let me know!
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Jared Kleinert is the founder of Meeting of the Minds (motm.co), as well as a TED speaker, 2x award-winning author, and USA Today's "Most Connected Millennial".
Meeting of the Minds curates "super-connectors" and subject matter experts as invite-only attendees to 3 day summits in places like Napa Valley, Bermuda, and elsewhere, as well as “deep dives” such as this Marketing and Biz Dev strategy & implementation workshop. Members of the MOTM network include CEOs of 7, 8, and 9-figure businesses, creators of globally-recognized brands and social movements, New York Times bestselling authors, founders of pre-IPO tech unicorns, c-suite execs from Fortune 500 companies, and others.
Jared's career began at 15 years old when he started his first company, and took off at 16 while working as the first intern, and then one of the first 10 employees, for an enterprise SaaS company called 15Five, which today has raised over $40M and has almost 2000 forward-thinking companies as monthly recurring clients.
Later, Jared would become a delegate to President Obama's 2013 Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Malaysia, write multiple books including the "#1 Entrepreneurship Book of 2015", and speak at TED@IBM the day before he turned 20.
As a highly-sought after keynote speaker and consultant, Jared’s clients range from organizations like Facebook, Samsung, Bacardi, Estee Lauder, IBM, Cornell, Berkeley, AdAge, and the National Speakers Association. His insights on entrepreneurship, networking, marketing, and business development have been featured in Forbes, TIME, Harvard Business Review, Fortune, NPR, Entrepreneur, Mashable, Fox Business and more.
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