Home Automation Unplugged Episode #203: An Industry Q&A with Blake Urmos
In this weeks home automation show of Automation Unplugged, Blake Urmos, Founder of Low Voltage Nation shares the role of social media and the importance of using video to leverage a business.
This week's home automation podcast features our host Ron Callis interviewing Blake Urmos. Recorded live on Wednesday, February 9th, 2022, at 12:30 pm. EST.
About Blake Urmos
Blake Urmos is the founder of Low Voltage Nation, a community that helps its members develop a career path in low voltage and technology. Blake started Low Voltage Nation to connect with technicians and business owners through Instagram and a Podcast. Blake specializes in structured cabling, access control, and information security. He also founded Golden Booth, a high-growth tech company specializing in digital marketing, photography, and mobile app development.
- How Low Voltage Nation became the largest online community for the low voltage industry
- The role of social media and the importance for businesses
- What is Web 3 and where it's headed for the near future
- The importance of video in social media platforms, and how it can be used to leverage your business
Ron: Hello, Ron Callis here with another episode of Automation Unplugged. Today is Wednesday, February 9th. It is a little bit after 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time, and we're here for Show #203, and I have a special guest. I've actually had a number of people in my network telling me about this person for a while now, and I've also been watching him on social media from afar as he's been blowing up all over the low voltage space. As always, Automation Unplugged is brought to you by my day job at One Firefly. Let's get this party started here. So let's bring in my guest, Blake Urmos, founder of Low Voltage Nation; let me go ahead and bring in Blake. What's up, Blake?
Blake: Ron, Hey, we're here. What's up?
Ron: We're here! We did it.
Blake: Yes. How is it going?
Ron: I'm good, man. How long is your battery going to last?
Blake: Well, it's at four bars, whatever that means. So it's anywhere from 75 to 100 percent right now. So hopefully, it'll make it. I have a backup, but we'll see. We'll work through it.
Ron: You had mentioned to me that this is like a new setup for you. So what do we got going? Is this a new camera, new microphone, new computer? What's going on?
Blake: The main thing that's new is the new MacBook Pro. Actually, it's the 2020 version. It's the M1 chip, and I don't like it. They came out with the 2021 version that has the SD card port, the HDMI port, and it has like the mag little power thing. I never had a Mac before. I've never had a MacBook, this is my first one, and it's not a great experience. Premiere Pro doesn't export quickly; it crashes more than the PC. I'm giving it a terrible review right now, so that's where we're at.
Ron: I'm similar but different. I was a convert to Mac or Apple. Probably about, I'm going to age myself now, maybe about four years ago, four or five years ago now.
Ron: I was a lifetime PC person. When I finally switched to Mac, and I did it at the behest of my I.T. guy, he's like, "You can have so many fewer issues." I actually went with their product called the iMac Pro, which is the big 27 inch Pro version, you know, like a $6000 workstation. I found that that computer did not play well with the camera that I was plugging into it externally. I swear it crashed two or three times a week.
Blake: That's unacceptable.
Ron: It was a hellish experience. I brought it to the Apple Store, and they said, "Wow, I've never seen this before." I'm like, "Great, so I'm the guy that gets the computer that has the issue you've never seen before." They replaced the entire machine, and then I said, I checked, and then I also ended up getting rid of that camera. For a while, I just went with the Facetime camera.
Ron: All of my issues since then to the present have actually been pretty smooth sailing. I'm an Apple fan; I'm a Mac fan.
Blake: Which camera was it? Was it being plugged in with like a capture card, or what was the issue, really?
Ron: I was using, I'm trying to think of the brand in front of it, but it was the Brio.
Blake: Yes, the Logitech Brio.
Ron: Logitech Brio.
Blake: Yeah, how could you go wrong with that? It's just a USB camera; you just like Boop, and it works.
Ron: Well, it was USB-C. And it was right when the Logitech Brio was brand new, and I think it was a firmware issue. It would literally nuke my computer, and it was a nightmare. But all right, let's put all that behind us; no one wants to hear us rattle off about camera and computer woes.
Blake: You never know.
Ron: Let's go. So, Blake, tell our audience, Who are you? What is Low Voltage Nation?
Blake: So, yeah, I'm the founder of Low Voltage Nation. And if you can see my BICSI shirt, I don't know if you've ever heard of BICSI, but they're like the mothership for structured cabling. If you want to be a doctor, this isn't a BICSI commercial, but I'll get to the point here. If you want to be a doctor in structured cabling like fiber optic, copper, like you would get like an RCDD, they have credentialing; they're like a governing body for everything, structured cabling and low voltage. So what I was doing, kind of back up when I first started it, I was in the field doing structured cabling, access control surveillance, and I didn't really know what I was doing. Like I knew it needed to look good and needed to work. Obviously, I'm a big label everything document, do a nice cable management, but I didn't really know how to do it. So I went on Instagram and started following these hashtags like low voltage, structure cabling, network engineering, and there's like a ton of people already doing some really great work, so I started getting them on the podcast, The Low Voltage Nation podcast. So that's really the genesis of it, was me trying to get better at what I was doing, interviewing people, basically like, these are my mentors, so I created my own mentorship program. But then it just turned into this big community. So we used Slack as kind of like the central nervous system of Low Voltage Nation. But we're kind of like a digital marketing company in a sense because we produce so much content on the internet. So that's how we attract people. We highlight other people's work, get on the podcast. Facebook is a big one, LinkedIn is huge, and Instagram is a really big one. Got 35,000 followers on Instagram, so we bring people in, and we share their work, we provide them with the tools, the knowledge, you know, any type of training, mentorship. We connect them with resources, and we're kind of like back to the whole BICSI thing. We're kind of like a like a top of funnel, if you will, for BICSI, you know, like, "Hey, get excited about low voltage, fiber optics, copper doing good work and making the customer happy." That's how you would end up becoming like a credential holder for BICSI, or maybe you do your Cisco certification. So we try to help people, first and foremost, get excited about it because of a huge demand for these technicians for business owners to install this infrastructure. There's like a stat where the amount infrastructure that's built right now and we need to build all of that again basically, like that's how much in the next, like five or ten years. Everything's connected, so we need a ton of people to install this stuff. That's kind of my mission is to help people carve out a fulfilling career path in low voltage and technology. So that's what we started, and that's what we're here for. So, yeah, that's kind of the brief history.
Ron: For those that are listening to the podcast and you heard Blake's voice kind of sound distant there for a moment. He was looking behind him. He's got a sign behind him with his mission; ¨We built a community to help you carve out a fulfilling career path in low voltage and technology." I have on the screen here, again for my listeners, I have his Instagram page, you go to instagram.com/lowvoltagenation, and O-M-G man, you've got 36,000 people following your page.
Ron: This has to be the largest social gathering or following in a low voltage space, maybe on planet Earth.
Blake: It really is. There's other like bigger brands that have them, but these are like tool companies, like maybe like tools, but they're more electrician. There's a couple of other influencers that have pretty close to what we have, then there's like suppliers like cable, and connections has 40,000 followers. They do a lot of community building stuff, but it's mostly promo stuff. I do original content on the Instagram page, and then we share out like ambassador content, or if people want to showcase something that looks really good, we showcase it for them, and we get a lot of engagement. We'll get like 250,000 accounts reached on one post. It's becoming quite the central hub for a lot of low volts and their work.
Ron: Yeah. Well, it's amazing, and we're going to pull threads on all of that, particularly the power and importance of social media platforms for business and for the community. But before we go there, where are you coming to us from? Where are you physically located?
Blake: I am physically located in Nashville, Tennessee, Music City. It's becoming one of the tech hubs of the country. I think Miami and Nashville are becoming big players in that space. San Francisco that will never change, but people are leaving San Francisco, and they're moving here and Miami because we have cheaper cost of living and different kinds of ways of doing things which I love.
Ron: Where are you from?
Blake: I was born, so I was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and I'm still a Canadian citizen. People give me flak for that. I don't know; for whatever reason, Canadians are the punch line of jokes. I don't know why, but anyway, so I grew up in the states. I grew up in Greensboro in High Point, North Carolina. Then I moved to the Cleveland Akron area and lived there for about four years and froze my butt off for a little bit. Then I got back down south, so I've been in Nashville for about almost nine years now.
Ron: Got it, and how did you land at Live Voltage Nation? What's the origin story?
Blake: Low Voltage Nation
Ron: Oh, sorry, what did I say? Live voltage?
Blake: People make that mistake; people will say, "Live Nation," I didn't even think of like the confusion. So we say "LVN" it's kind of hard to say Low Voltage Nation; I stumble over it sometimes. What was the question again?
Ron: What was the origin story? Where'd you come from that led to this being where you landed today?
Ron: That's OK. I'm sure everyone listening does it regularly, including me, the host. Yeah, no worries.
Blake: Okay. So yeah, I was doing that. I was in the field, but I was also super passionate about taking the pictures of the final product and then doing the digital marketing side of things. I thought that was exciting. It's a passion of mine, and that's where Low Voltage Nation started; that's how I got into network engineering, structured cabling. And yeah, here we are. I do it full time; I'm Low Voltage Nation full time now.
Ron: How did that transition to full-time? How did that go down? Was there one day you just said, "I'm cutting the cord, and I'm leaving the day job, and I'm going to do this," or how did that happen?
Blake: I don't know if you follow Gary Vaynerchuk; he is always like, "just grind from nine to five at your day job and then from six to two a.m., work on your side hustle. Don't cut off your primary source of revenue. So I built Low Voltage Nation while working at that company. Then I got another company that was part-time doing cloud infrastructure consulting, so it was a part-time gig, remote work, didn't have to be on the road five hours a day. So I was able to make that transition from full-time technician on the road, driving around town for five hours and then trying to like squeeze in; I would go at six pm and do a podcast after work and then work all that night and build Low Voltage Nation. Just the community, not the monetization around it. But then, when I got the part-time gig, I had a lot more time where I was, and this is during the pandemic too, so it worked out great because the other company, I don't think they were doing installs during the pandemic. So I was able to make a decent amount of money doing consulting and then monetize Low Voltage Nation in the meantime and then eventually just cut the cord. Kind of slowly transitioned out of it.
Ron: What's your vision for Low Voltage Nation? And I see that you have the mission behind you, and you read it, and I read it. What do you hope to achieve? Like what is success?
Blake: So it's really about building the subscriber base. That's how we do cool stuff like go to big conferences; that's how we pay for stuff—so building the subscriber base to whatever. I don't know how many people are out there. I think maybe 20 30,000 people might be a reasonable number to have a monthly recurring subscription. So build that, and then we're actually working on some training programs, some fiber optic training programs, some really cool stuff around that. So that's a huge thing, so bill subscribers and at the same time build these other entities that train and then create these partnerships with maybe even One Firefly. Hopefully, that becomes a good partnership where we can recommend all these different companies to help the subscribers. Basically, that's what we're focusing on, the subscribers. The technicians and business owners get everything they need to be successful. So that's the overarching goal is provide the best, the best possible service, have it be ten times more value than what they pay for. That's it, just keep growing, keep making those deals and those partnerships and create a really cool community, which we already have. But I mean, we just got started, so we're making a lot of mistakes, making a lot of good moves. We're learning along the way, and it's been awesome.
Ron: I'm going to share my screen again here.
Blake: Are you going to share that Facebook group post?
Ron: I am going to share. I'm going to do that right now because I just thought this was so cool. You have a Facebook group, and I know there are people that are listening that don't even know what a Facebook group is.
Blake: Are they younger or older?
Ron: I think it's possible. I think there's certainly a possibility. So tell us what a Facebook group is, and then tell us how in the world you have 17,000 members of the Low Voltage Nation Facebook Group.
Blake: Yeah, Facebook groups, actually they became popular, maybe like eight years ago, I have no idea, but I do know that they are an incredible mechanism for bringing in people that already have a profile, everybody's on Facebook, at least our demographics is on Facebook, the younger generation, I don't think so.
Ron: They're on Tik Tok or whatever the new thing is.
Blake: Yeah, so that's a whole another story. So the Facebook group is basically just a big group where you can post pictures, videos, and ask questions. There are different modes where you can have, like a marketplace or a mentorship program. They have these different types of groups. This is a general group. We actually have two other groups, a Buy-Sell Group and then a job posting group. But this is the main hub. I started this maybe two years ago. Somebody at a networking event was like, "Hey, start a Facebook group." I'm like, "OK," so I started it right then and there. Then the rest is history. It just became the largest low voltage group on the internet, Facebook group on the internet. We heavily moderate it with eight moderators. So we try to keep the riff-raff out; that's nearly impossible. And the thing is, you want to keep a little bit of like riff-raff and kind of memes and controversy because that sparks engagement. Facebook loves pissing people off and selling ads to them; that's their business model. But we do keep it very heavily moderated, and it's 11,000 active people. I look at the stats for the last 28 days, and it's 11,000 out of 17,000 people that are active, and they're liking, commenting and sharing content.
Ron: There's so many posts on this group that, well, first of all, it's open, right? So you don't have to be credentialed or accepted in order to view the group?
Blake: I mean, we approve, people. So if they look like complete spam or like a new profile that was created yesterday, it's just like, "Oh, I don't know about that?" So we do deny people here and there. Then we boot people out quite a bit. You can view it. You can view all the content without having an account. I left it open for various reasons. People want to make it private, but I left it open, just an executive decision on that.
Ron: I think what's really fun is there's so much content here that everyone's posting about what they're finding out in the field, all the bad installs, all the bad ideas.
Blake: Yes, there are entire groups dedicated to terrible installs, like cable fail photos.
Ron: Where was the safety video? There was a hilarious video.
Blake: You gotta find that again.
Ron: Oh, wait a second. Maybe it is here. All right, remember, we have audio-only listeners, so what is the video that is playing right now?
Blake: OK, so I can barely see it, but my understanding is that it's a video that people would show their employees to get them scared, like really scared about safety. What's happening is it's different scenarios where people are losing fingers, they're being impaled by iron poles, this guy just got hit, a hammer, a nail with a hammer, and it popped up and hit him in the eye, and there's blood, guts, gore feet are being severed, blood squirting everywhere. This one, the manager, the plant manager, gets hit by like a gas tank and explodes. I mean, it's just over the top, but it scares the crap out of you, and it definitely drives home the message of safety first.
Ron: It's not funny, but it's so poorly done; this video is hilarious. I mean, it's really sad. I shouldn't be like; you're literally watching. Yeah, I'm not even going to describe it. You have to go to this page, folks, if you want to scroll down. There was a post made on February 6th in Low Voltage Nation Group; and you'll see the video, and it's pretty self-explanatory.
Blake: How many comments are on that video?
Ron: On that video? Let me go back to it. Twenty-six comments, forty-six people shared.
Blake: 46 shares; that's funny
Ron: 00:22:13.360 One hundred and eight reactions.
Blake: I would say that's about average. Sometimes we get like 200 and some comments on a thread, and these people are really helpful. I mean we have some of the top people like influencers and, you know, installers. They're really helpful. We encourage that mentorship and foster a healthy environment for everybody. We do it as much as possible. So, yeah, it's kind of like that overarching group where it's become this, the biggest asset for Low Voltage Nation, but we have a more closed-off like the paid workspace. I'm not here to promote that, really, but I mean, it's a really great group. I love it.
Ron: Go ahead and describe it. I'm giving you the floor. What is the paid group? What does it cost? What do people gain out of joining it?
Blake: Yeah, I guess I can plug it. Why not? So, it started as Slack. So it's a Slack workspace more heavily moderated, more focused. You know, we don't allow any memes or any type of hateful language; try to keep it clean. But we also get more focused support, so people will get priority support and call it gold support. So it's LVNGold.com. That's the landing page for it. So it's LVNGold. So you have the Low Voltage Nation free, all the free content across our social channels. But then, if you want to go gold, you can get discounts with suppliers. We're partnering up with training organizations to get discounts with them. We do mastermind meetings; we hold events, so there's a whole offer stack that we provide people if they join LVNGold, and we're actually redoing a lot of the community; we might switch it to Discord; don't tell anybody. Discord, it attracts the younger generation, and it's also a free platform. Whereas Slack, we have so many messages and all that historical data we don't have access to it. So it's either pay hundreds of dollars, if not thousands of dollars a month, for Slack, or we just move to Discord.
Ron: Again, there are going to be listeners that don't know what Discord is; what is Discord?
Blake: So Discord is like Slack. If you are familiar with Slack, well, Slack is group chat on steroids with channels. It's a very effective communication mechanism. Also, a time-waster, too, if you don't use it correctly. Very effective communication mechanism for companies like internal communication. But you can also build communities like big, large external communities where anybody can join. So Discord is very similar, but it's geared more towards like I think it started with like the whole Twitch and gamer ecosystem. So it's a way for people to get in and just post and chat. It's a community platform, basically, but it's free, and it's a lot more robust as far as I can tell.
Ron: So a lot of our audience are business owners or operators. They play some role within certainly the low voltage or the custom integration space. You, Blake, clearly have figured out the importance of the role of social media in your business and in your life.
Ron: 00:25:38.900 What's your opinion of the role social media should have for the folks listening? And give your opinion. I mean, what's your opinion on the role of Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn? You know, name some of the new ones. Curious to see what you say.
Blake: I mean, there is like the whole kind of the conservative movement with Gettr and Gab because these platforms are heavily censored, and they're very, you know, kind of left of center leaning. That's a whole another conversation, but there are a lot more popping up. The behemoths in the room are LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube is massive. Hit up all the channels if you can. Figure out a strategy to get in front of all those channels, don't spread yourself thin. For me, I spread myself thin because it's just me doing a lot of the content; I hire virtual assistants to help post here and there. But if you don't have a team, then it's going to be hard to target all those channels and then to answer your question. I mean, you're almost irrelevant if you don't get on social media. I mean, the pandemic has accelerated that quite a bit where people are just; they're constantly on these phones. That's all they do is endlessly scroll, and it's not great for society. So I feel kind of bad, recommending to distract people even more and trying to fracture their attention even more. But I mean, digital marketing, the more content you produce, the more eyeballs see it, and that's your logo, that's you in their inbox, that's you in their notification bar. It's marketing. The more you can get in front of people, the more stuff you can sell them and the more engagement you have. So it's crucial for business.
Ron: I think we could argue as marketers that the consumer or the folks out there that are maybe who we are trying to message to are on their phones. So we didn't cause that problem. But now that we know where they're at, it's a good idea to be in front of them.
Blake: Yes, yes.
Ron: I agree. There's this, and I'm going to take a path down. I'm going to do it lightly here. I don't want to scare our audience, but we're going to talk about; What are your opinions on this thing called Web3? So there's this thing called Web2, which is the internet as we know it today. And we, the users on Facebook, are monetized, and we're monetized by Facebook. What does that mean? That means that if a business wants to market to me and show up in Ron's newsfeed, they're going to pay Facebook money in the form of Facebook advertising, and we actually do a lot of Facebook advertising here at One Firefly. So we partake in that in terms of a business model and helping our clients gain exposure. But we're being monetized, we're using the platform, we don't pay anything for Facebook, but Facebook makes money by selling access to us. That's Web2. What is Web3?
Blake: Web3 is this; I guess the infrastructure is the blockchain, basically. And those that don't know what the blockchain is, I'm not going to go into the details. I probably can't even speak intelligently on it and explain it from a technical standpoint. But it's a distributed ledger basically where you can store data, and its distribution. It's kind of like the decentralization of like we're going from like Web1 to Web2 which is like centralized, you know, people don't want to manage their servers. So you have AWS and Azure and Cloud, you know, Google cloud computing and people love it. People love doing that. Now we're going back to Web1, kind of decentralized infrastructure, which is weird. But then there's all these different components to it. You have cryptocurrency, and that's a big hot topic. These kids are making millions of dollars on crypto. And then you had the NFTs, which people might think that they're JPEGs, you're selling is like artwork or whatever and seems kind of weird and silly. But there's more. There are smart contracts underneath the NFTs that could be applied to, maybe, like renting out an office building. I mean, who knows, the options are endless for this technology, but there's a lot of flaws with it. It's so weird right now, but it's one of the biggest buzzwords, and people are making a ton of money, and people are trying to shoehorn it into something it wasn't intended for, or they're just trying to figure it out, and they don't know what they're doing. So it's a really interesting conversation.
Ron: When did all this stuff show up on your radar? Big picture. Like, when did you go, huh? I keep hearing this. I'm going to start looking into it. Was it in the recent years?
Blake: I heard the term Web3, I don't know, Maybe like maybe a year ago when Gary B. started talking about it excessively incessantly. And then Marc Andreessen kind of like kicked Jack Dorsey out of the Web3 club by blocking him on Twitter. You know, it's just all this goofy stuff just kind of starts bubbling up on the heavy hitters in the industry, and then they come up with these terms, Web3. And then here it is. So maybe like a year ago, it kind of got on my radar.
Ron: I think Web3 is a little less intimidating than to call things cryptocurrencies or cryptography. I mean, cryptography, that's math, that's hard, that's scary computer science stuff.
Ron: But the advancement of the internet and calling it Web3, the marketer in me says, "that's really good branding." That's a lot more friendly. That's less intimidating.
Blake: Yeah, digestible. Yeah.
Ron: I mean, my super light for me is or not to go too far down the rabbit hole. But you know, I heard about this going back to 2015, approximately; I think that's when Ethereum came about. And I had a buddy that was right at the inception of Ethereum, and he started to mine Ethereum, and he started to invest in Ethereum. I remember going to dinner, my wife and he and his wife, we went out to dinner, and he was, you know, nerding out over this new thing, smart contract technology, which was an improvement over, in his mind, the bitcoin technology. And he's like, "Ron; you got to do this thing." And me, I was stubborn and focused, and I was like, "Nah, man, I'm running this business, One Firefly. That's where I spend all my time and energy. I don't have time for distractions." Well, needless to say, my buddy has made tens of millions of dollars.
Blake: That's what I'm talking about.
Ron: Getting into Ethereum early, and I didn't. I didn't really jump back on it until I had another buddy, and this buddy was on a whirlwind global tour to visit every country on planet Earth. And so he's visited one hundred and eighty countries, and he was all over social media, he was blowing up, and he was actually in a business group I used to be in. He's a marketing guy. He did marketing for lawn mowing companies. That was his jam, brilliant guy. He got in early to this crypto stuff, and he became made very early because he was an I.T. guy. His foundation was into IT and cloud computing. He started doing this marketing stuff, and he just got tapped into the crypto stuff early. It was curious. This thing wasn't dying. It just keeps coming up, and it keeps; it's like a whack a mole. Somebody goes away, and then three more pop up, and then you knock those down and then ten more pop up. Then it was 2017 for me, which is where I finally got bit, and I started going down the rabbit hole.
Ron: I've invested significant amounts of time and learning.
Blake: Time, yeah.
Ron: The more I've spent, the less I know that I know.
Blake: Exactly, that's when you know you've reached that kind of that pinnacle moment or that pivotal moment, really, where you're like, "Oh yeah, I don't know anything."
Ron: There's so much I don't. But what it does for me is it struck so much curiosity.
Blake: Yeah, exactly.
Ron: Am I willing to say that things will be different 10 years from now or 30 years from now than they are today in the way information moves around the planet and the way that transactions are completed and the way that banking is done, and the way that fiscal and monetary policy is managed globally on a macro scale? Yeah, I think things are probably going to be different. I think that's the reason I watched the Jetsons when I was a kid, I saw the 60s version of the future, and I'm like, "I think some of that's probably going to come true.".
Blake: We don't have flying cars, though. I think the Jetsons was like, what, 2020 or 2030 or something like that?
Ron: They may have missed it by a decade or two. We'll see. We'll see.
Blake: Oh, but to back up to like when I first heard about crypto, it was when Dogecoin came on. I heard about bitcoin, and I just ignored. I told my mom because I didn't have any money. I was like, "Hey, mom, buy a bunch of bitcoin when it was like three bucks." She was like, "that's stupid." She regrets it, but I started mining Dogecoin, and I was like, "Oh, this is cool, this is fun" And then my Doge wallet got hacked, and I was like, "This sucks; I'm never doing it again." So eight years went by. I didn't touch it for eight years because I got burned early on, and I was like, "This is silly." But that does go to show that there is going to be a huge; it's already happening, Crypto.com gets hacked. There was like a wallet that was like, two hundred eighty million dollars. Every week, there's somebody's wallet that's getting hacked and or something's getting hacked. Like one of these big exchanges. It's one after another. It's not going to slow down, it's going to get worse, and we got to think about that.
Ron: There's a YouTube video, and I'll grab it. I forget his name. It's Antonopoulos. Do you remember his first name? He's a big bitcoin education guy.
Blake: I don't think so, no.
Ron: He did a video on the cryptography of bitcoin, and I think we got your camera oop!
Blake: Keep rolling.
Ron: So I'll talk while you're you change your battery out. Folks that are tuning in or listening. Blake needed to... Oh, that was super quick.
Blake: I know I've had it. I had it ready. We're good to go.
Ron: You were armed and ready to go. All right. Well, it went black again. There we go. So anyway, he went over the cryptography around bitcoin. So the idea that a bitcoin cryptographically can be hacked, it can't. It's fair to say it's impossible. There's something approximately around every atom in the visible universe represents the number of variations within the cryptographic ledger for bitcoin. Short version is you can't hack it, but what can be done is that people can have poor security. I know you mentioned some of your career was in network security.
Ron: I think that's why the world is not yet fully ready at scale for this technology is because it requires a lot of self-discipline and a lot of management of these assets. Wallets can be hacked, or you can have a virus or malware or a Trojan horse on your computer, and they can watch your keystrokes and they can all sorts of weird stuff that can ultimately cause people to lose significant amounts of money.
Ron: But the cryptography within the, you know, the crypto asset itself often is pretty well protected. But that's above and beyond most people's willingness. They go, "Yeah. No, not ready, too hard." But that means that all these things are hugely and highly volatile. There's tremendous amounts of speculation, but in volatility, there's no pain, no gain. So that volatility means people are making ridiculous-sized returns, and that's some of the stories you've heard of, and I've heard of, of the people that you know; what is it? Last year they were a cashier at your local grocery store, and the next year they're driving a Bugatti.
Blake: These kids, I watched them on YouTube, and they went from the e-commerce space making millions of dollars, you know, just basically getting junk from China and selling it on Amazon or Shopify or whatever. And now they're taking like a lot of their profit, and they're investing in crypto, and now they're making even more millions, and they're like twenty-two years old. And they're just, yeah.
Ron: Well, what's interesting for me in the space where I operate, and I've built my career is in the integration space, is that many of my integrators, the technology contracting businesses that design, install and service these systems in homes and businesses, they're starting to see these crypto millionaires, this crypto rich, come through the door as customers.
Ron: I'm hearing more and more and more of that, particularly in the last three or four years. It's this new money that's coming in, and these people are generally very friendly to technology, so they want the latest technology in their homes.
Blake: Yes, they do.
Ron: You mentioned this concept of an NFT. An NFT stands for non-fungible token, but what is all the rage? At least of the last 12 to 18 months has been the JPEG version of NFTs, the images. Well, if you had purchased a bored ape for $1.2 million, people could go, "Oh my God, you're paying that much for a JPEG?" Yes. People are doing that. But now you want to display that in your home and your art gallery. So there's this whole world of digital art. I think that it's complex, and it's frothy, and it's scary, but it's here. I mean, do you think this is going to go away? Do you think this is a fad?
Blake: I think it's going to be a bubble. I think most of the NFT projects, like 99 percent of them, are just trash projects that don't have any utility. It's just like people are combining bored apes with like doodles or whatever. They're just like taking things that have already been successful and just like mashing them together, and people are buying them. I think people are going to get like, ¨OK; I got an avatar¨, Now, what do I do with it? The flexing can only go so far. I think it's going to evolve into other, more utility-driven things. So I think a lot of the like you said, the frothiness will go away and then it'll be a little more or it'll be regulated by the government and like, we won't really get to have all the fun and all the profit anymore. But it's such an early; I mean, I obviously can't predict it, I don't anybody can, but it's going to be interesting over the next ten years to see like where exactly this technology goes. And I don't know. We'll see. I'm going to be just kind of selfish. I want to make some money off of it, so I can take that money and put it towards my business that actually provides a valuable service.
Ron: It's all about delivering value. Amen! I'm curious, in your orbit, in your networks, in your communities. Are you hearing people talk about this or ask about this? Do you think it still hasn't reached that level of mainstream yet?
Blake: Well, it's a good question because I'm in kind of like different communities. You know, I have a whole like Nashville nightlife community. Then I'm like hanging out on Discord with, you know, a bunch of youngsters, and then I have the Low Voltage Nation community and the overlap of what you guys do and all these other verticals within that space. There's a little bit of chatter, but I think it might almost just be kind of an echo chamber of like you, me, Leo, and a couple other guys. I'm not too sure; I don't hear a ton of chatter. I don't see people changing. Actually, I do see people changing their LinkedIn profile avatars to an NFT, but those are people that have; I trade NFTs, you know, in their byline. So it's moving over to the LinkedIn kind of space, kind of our territory. But it's not like super. It's like early adopter right now in that space.
Ron: Jump subjects here and talk about and just in the course of preparing to go live with you, Blake, and here I saw you have numerous cameras. You know, this nice hardware that you're, and you swapped your battery super quick here for this show.
Blake: Yeah, yeah.
Ron: What role do you think video has in the marketing of the businesses that are tuned in? How should they be leveraging video? Where should they be leveraging video? Does the video have to be perfect or what does imperfect mean? You've been going live really as you've been blowing up and one reason you've been blowing up in my perception is you've been, you go live out on the walking down the street, and you talk to the camera and have a conversation with your community. So can you talk about your vision there?
Blake: Yeah, I think video's huge. I think it's still going to be a big player in the next five to 10 years. You don't need to buy... What I'm holding up right now is a $5000 camera thanks to a Shiba Inu token. I made a profit from it, but you don't need to buy the most expensive gear. Just get an iPhone. The iPhone 13 is an amazing camera where audio sounds good. The video looks amazing, but yeah, getting comfortable in front of video is probably one of the biggest, most impactful things you could do for your marketing. If you can speak to your audience, look at the camera and have a conversation where you know, just maybe you're showing something, maybe you're educating them on something, or you're at a trade show, and you're interviewing somebody like people want to see that people like that kind of like more voyeuristic. Like lower quality, I think the polished stuff it has a place like on the website, maybe, you know, but I don't want to go on LinkedIn and see this promo package. I'm sick of seeing it, and that's just me. Maybe other people like it, I don't know. But I think the authentic, good audio you need to have good audio; I think that's a really important piece. If you can get like a little lav mic or something and kind of reject the background noise, that's important, but I think video, I mean, it's why I was successful. I was willing to get on, it started with Facebook Stories, so I would just be in the field, "Low Voltage Nation podcast, you know, come on," just like yelling like an idiot. People thought it was funny, and I know it was educational because they would see what tool I was using in the field, and they would talk to different technicians that have different techniques. Then you would see kind of like the finished product. That authentic building the relationship with the audience, but just doing it is like people would make fun of me. I didn't care. I was like, I just kept doing it. It just kept doing it. I then went to Instagram, and then I started doing some YouTube stuff that I was doing the podcast. So it's just one thing after another, just getting better and better and better at it. It just resonates with people. I get messages all the time. They're like, "Man; you're blowing up. You're awesome. Like, Thank you so much" this, that and the other. It's all because of video, so to answer your question. It's very important.
Ron: To get a little technical on the platforms, and maybe we'll talk about Instagram. Instagram, going live vs. stories vs. reels. Is IGTV even still a thing?
Blake: No, they cut it. They just made it into the video. They just folded it into the video. But now you can do full-size videos or whatever, like vertical.
Ron: So IGTV is gone. Am I accurate? Are those the three forms of video that you can do on Instagram?
Blake: Yeah, regular video, Reels, Stories, Live.
Ron: OK, so four. What's the difference? Help educate me and our listeners. How do you think about those different? I mean, all within one platform as if people weren't self-conscious enough, "Hey, I need to be on Instagram." Holy bananas," I'm now learning I could be on video in four different ways on that platform.
Blake: So live is great. Live as long-form content, and obviously it's live. Live is very difficult; you need good bandwidth, you need to be engaging and to hold an audience, you got to do some planning for it. To live is a very, very tough nut to crack, but it does long-form, which in turn, you can post it as a video. So the video component kind of the live in the video component, the stored video kind of go hand in hand where it's long-form. The lives get a lot of great engagement because it pops up at the top. You'll see all those the circles, you know, and it'll be highlighted to be like right there, boom, where all the stories are, but it'll put the circle and the highlight and say "live" right at the very top of people's feed. It'll send them a notification too, like, "Hey, Blake's going live on Low Voltage Nation." So that's like a really good way to get in people's feeds quickly, get a lot of people and get engaged. People can engage live; they can chat with it, you can see it coming in, you can talk to them, ask them questions, and people can join your lives. So if you can get the live formula down, I think it's very, very beneficial. Reels are one minute max. So you can do 15 seconds, 30 seconds or one minute, and that's kind of their answer to Tik Tok. Basically, they didn't buy Tik Tok, so they tried to make Tik Tok. They didn't buy Snapchat, so they made stories. So that's kind of like their answer to those platforms. Reels are very successful. They tend to get more engagement, and they'll surface more in like the Explore page. Still, you also have the ability to add copyrighted music if you're just like a creator account or a personal account, but you can't if you're a business account. But you can add kind of like, you know, some like color to it by adding music, and you can do voiceovers as well. So it's a really cool way. If you're good at telling a story with video and chopping clips to the beat and chopping it to the punchline of a joke or something, you can really; you can get a lot of views. People start liking it, liking it, liking it, the velocity increases, and then you get on the Explore page and then boom, you got a viral video. So if you want to go viral, you want to really drive something home in a creative way? Use reels; reels are awesome. I use them quite a bit. Then the last video component are stories. Stories are little 15-Second little nuggets of information that you can put into Instagram, and then it'll notify people, again, those circles at the top of the home screen. It'll highlight your icon; it will highlight your avatar. People click on it, they can see it, they can react to it, they can comment on it. So it pulls people into a DM kind of situation. So if you want to slide into the DM's, stories are a great way to do that. You can also see who's viewed your stories. So that's like an ego kind of like dopamine hit. You're like, "Oh, he's looking at my stories. I need to make more content based on that person," you know, keep their attention so you kind of who to cater to. So that's a really cool way to pull people back in. It's also great for community building because you can tag up to 10 people, and then they can share their story out to you. So, for example, I would do like a follow Friday and tag ten people, and then they can share; I put the Low Voltage Nation logo right on there. They can share it onto their stories, so they see the logo, and they're like, "Oh, follow Friday, community building. Yay!" So it's videos and pictures on stories, but it's a really great way to build community and do little nuggets of updates for what you're doing throughout the day, and it lasts for 24 hours; that's kind of the difference.
Ron: So for the listeners that are going, "This all sounds really cool, sounds really hard, but maybe I'll go and figure it out. Why would I do it?" To the business owner community; Why would they do this? Who are they affecting? How is that ultimately helping them grow or scale their business?
Blake: It's a great way to give, produce authentic content that your customers want to see. It's how I vet a lot of people if I'm going to hire them if I'm going to bring them into the community, if I want to see their work and what they actually do throughout the day and how they interact with their community or their customers, then it's a very authentic way to see that. If I go on their Instagram and it's just a bunch of promo stuff, I'm like, "I don't care." These are stock photos; these are polished, it's not really engaging. But if you can capture that audience and they start engaging with your pictures, what you can end up doing, it's all tied to Facebook business manager. You can take all that data, people that commented or they viewed your stuff or liked it, and you can run ads to those people across both those properties, Facebook and Instagram. So it's almost like a community-building slash advertising kind of data mining platform. So I definitely use all the Instagram data to retarget people on other platforms. So from a business standpoint, it makes a lot of sense.
Ron: Got it. Tik Tok for anyone listening. Should they be trying to figure this out?
Blake: Tik Tok is just they're eating Facebook's lunch right now or Meta's lunch right now. I think Zuckerberg had a meeting and is like, "OK, we just dropped 25 percent in like the stock market, which is the biggest crash ever." Then Tik Tok is part of that conversation; they're like, "Holy crap, what do we do about this behemoth? That's a Chinese company that's probably influencing all of our children" They're showing people in China like how to be a good human being and an engineer. Then they're like showing the people in the U.S. how to be a moron and watch stupid videos of people falling off the roof. So Tik Tok, you can't ignore it. I mean, you can. I don't think it's a good business decision because of the sheer volume of people that are going to be your customers or are already your customers. For example, Shawn Repp, he is part of Low Voltage Nation, he's a huge supporter of it, but he's the number one influencer for low voltage. He just created a hundred thousand people, and he's had people sending him sponsorship money, and they want him to be an influencer, and he's met a ton of people. It's been life-changing for him as an individual, but he also works for a company. So they're going to get the ancillary benefits of him being involved in showing off because they do amazing work. Then for me, for Low Voltage Nation, I'll open up conversations with people about, "What size patch cable do you use or like? Here's are some tools, whatever. Do you like it?" And that'll drive all this conversation, and those people will see the logo. The Low Voltage Nation logo will get a million views. I've not had a million views, but we'll get there eventually. But that's a lot of views for the logo. So from a marketing standpoint, it's all about the logo and getting it in front of people. Would you agree? I mean.
Ron: It's about those subliminal plants. I always, anyone that knows me knows I do this often; I ask my customers when we talk about marketing concepts, I say, "Do you think this is good, helpful to your business or is it hurtful to your business?".
Ron: Usually, most things, because a lot of times I'll have business owners tell me, "I've never had to do that to get where I am." And I agree, and I said, "So equally, you've never had the benefit of this happening, so you don't know where you would have been if you were actually emailing your customers. If you actually had a website that was updated in the last decade or if you had," you know, and you could pick on every social platform, every marketing strategy, because it's fair to say that, many business owners just have a lot of demands on their time, and they haven't always had the time to stay the most up to date with, marketing tactics that are likely or strategically could benefit them.
Ron: So the idea that your customers or your people in your orbit see your brand regularly or see the projects or the quality of your work regularly, is that a good idea or a bad idea? I think most people if you framed it that way, that's probably a good idea. That probably might be helpful to them thinking of me next time they need some type of solution. Then when I get that sort of breakthrough in thinking with that decision-maker, then we can talk about, "Well, great. Now how do we do it? Do you do it? Do you hire someone local? Do we do it? Like, who are the people in your orbit that are going to help you accomplish this?".
Ron: Then we're having, you know, fun, energized conversations.
Blake: Yeah. What I've found is that building an ambassador program, whether it's your employees or people that just like your stuff and you can celebrate them, celebrate their wins, and they can be champions of your organization and your brand or whatever. But an ambassador program is a great way to get people that maybe you wouldn't even know that they're like stars on Tik Tok. You know, I had no idea that Jane, you know, back in accounting, is like, you know, she's got a million followers on Instagram. You just don't know. So leveraging people that actually know the platforms better than you do, you don't necessarily have to hire a marketing agency. Maybe the marketing agency is like the foundation, but then once you start getting in the weeds of stuff, then you start looking at people that actually know the ecosystem better than most.
Ron: I think. And we're going to get closer to wrapping up.
Blake: We could talk for a long time.
Ron: I think a lot of the social strategies that you're eliciting and that you practice, it's hard for an agency to do that for the business.
Blake: Right. It is.
Ron: Because a lot of that in the field, demoing the thing, explaining the thing, showing off the thing, reducing the quick on the cuff video. My team at One Firefly they're not out there in the field with you. So that's really the rub. It's how do you get the people within your team that are acknowledging these are really good ideas and practicing that content creation. I think that's the quandary. I don't have the answer to that, and I think you're you certainly are inspiring a lot of people to produce that type of content; you and your community and I firmly believe our industry is producing that content more regularly, combined with more polished and consistent marketing activities, leads to business growth.
Blake: Oh yeah. You need the polish if you're trying to get a certain type of customer or raise capital or have that look that you got your stuff together; you need that polish, in my opinion.
Ron: Yeah. Blake, thank you for joining me on Show 203 of Automation Unplugged plug. For those that want to follow you personally or they want to follow Low Voltage Nation. Give us all your handles. Where can people go to learn more?
Blake: Lowvoltagenation.com at the top has all of our social stuff. And if you just look up Low Voltage Nation on pretty much any social platform, it's going to pop up. But Low Voltage Nation.com is the place to go. There's not much going on there, except that social icons at the top and some stuff about us. But yeah, go there. That's the central hub for everything.
Ron: I'll give a tease for the audience here. You and I are working on some things and maybe some ways to collaborate, and we'll be talking about that stuff in the weeks and months ahead.
Blake: I'm really excited about that, really excited.
Ron: That will be a pure tease, and we'll leave it at that. But everyone should just stay tuned, follow our social handles, and we'll make that known. But Blake, it was great having you on the show, man.
Blake: Sweet. Thanks, Ron. Talk soon, man!
Ron: All right, folks. There you have it, Blake Urmos, founder of Low Voltage Nation. This guy has a lot figured out, and he's out there delivering value every step of the way and really trying to help his community. What's fun is that his community is similar but different than my community. So I'm learning a lot from him and what he's doing and how he's out there inspiring people and a little bit of that two-way sharing is going on—so more exciting things to come for all of you. Please stay tuned. I'm going to wrap. I know today we just went live on Facebook again, more hurdles with our LinkedIn connection, it wasn't quite cooperating today, but we will load the video; we'll load this post up on LinkedIn, so our folks on LinkedIn can check it out and stay tuned for upcoming shows. We'll be back next week. I've got a pretty loaded schedule. Guests booked out for the next several months, so definitely stay tuned. And on that note, I'm going to sign off, and I will talk to you all later. Thanks so much.
Blake Urmos is the founder of Low Voltage Nation, a community that helps its members develop a career path in low voltage and technology. Blake started Low Voltage Nation to connect with technicians and business owners through Instagram and a Podcast. Blake specializes in structured cabling, access control, and information security. He also founded Golden Booth, a high-growth tech company specializing in digital marketing, photography, and mobile app development.
Ron Callis is the CEO of One Firefly, LLC, a digital marketing agency based out of South Florida and creator of Automation Unplugged. Founded in 2007, One Firefly has quickly become the leading marketing firm specializing in integrated technology and security. The One Firefly team works hard to create innovative solutions to help Integrators boost their online presence, such as the elite website solution Mercury Pro.
Resources and links from the interview:
Blake can be reached directly by email at