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Embracing Social: Interview with Social Media Marketing Strategist Ted Rubin

Social Media is one of the key channels that brands can utilise to shape customer experiences and attitudes. Ted Rubin - leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators - is leading the charge for embracing Social Media Marketing. Evangelizing the term ROR - Return on Relationship  - since 2009, he believes ROR should be at the forefront when building a large member database. Savage Intel reached out to Ted Rubin to learn more about engaging your audience through Social Media.

 S: How has the evolution of Social Media as a marketing channel changed with legacy brands over the years?

ted rubinTR: Leaders are beginning to realize the need to get into the social sphere themselves. They might not share (although they should), but they should at the very least read other people’s posts and show that they’re listening. If you tell your employees that you want them to be social leaders, then you need to lead by example.

Leaders also need to empower employees to get on social channels – even during the work day. Don’t cut your employees off from social media. I know that Facebook can be a time suck. But look, I’m 58 years old. In the beginning of my career, if you wanted to waste time, you could find plenty of ways to do it. I used to go to the bathroom just so I could read a book. Leaders need to encourage employees to build their personal brand and influence. Do for others without expectation of anything in return and the authenticity shines through. If you show your employees that your primary concern is helping them grow, then they’re going to be that much more apt to support you in your efforts.

Business is very different these days. In 1980, most business dinners were a drag because they had to be entirely about business. Today, I love going out with my colleagues. We talk about everything. I want my employees sharing experiences and putting things out there, because a lot of the time your business colleagues are also going to be your friends on social media, get to know who you are, and feel that much more connected. A Network gives you Reach, but a Community gives you Power!

S: With Apple finally being on Twitter, many companies feel the need to replicate the same strategy – when can this be good and when can this go horribly wrong?

TR: Simple... really be there and it's great, engage, interact, support and you add true value and build your brand. It can easily go horribly wrong when you simply use it as a broadcasting channel, ignore outreach, and don't pay attention. 

S: Why is it that most companies see social more about pushing content and less about customer engagement? What are companies missing?

TR: Because they do not want to put in the time and effort. Social can be incredibly valuable, but it's hard work, and even scarier for old school ‘control the message’ marketers. To really make it work for a brand you have to allow people to think, talk, engage, and go outside the ‘lock and load’, ‘convince and convert’ model.  

S: Does corporate politics play a huge role in being social, if so why? What must CEOs and CMOs be aware of to be the change?

TR: Of course it does. Corporate politics plays a huge role in everything that goes on in most sizable brands. Back to the first question answer... leaders need to start jumping into social, and at the very least start understanding it as a user. 

S: Employee advocacy is very important in this day and age, but there are still so many companies out there who do a bad job, why is that?

TR: Because embracing Employee Advocacy means a complete change in corporate culture. It means understanding that employees value to a company goes way beyond the ‘job description.’ It means empowering them to build their personal brands and recognizing as a company you are better off building them up and keeping them down. It means recognizing the power of the collective... Networks Connect; Communities Care.

S: You're using the 'divorced dad' blog to help educate people about social media, why does this seem to work?

TR: Most importantly it works because it is truly authentic, it's it completely and utterly me, and it is sharing my pain, learning, insights and feelings demonstrating how much my struggle as affected me not only as a Dad and a person, but as a marketer and business person.

S: What is your take on millennials and the content needed to engage them? Are they really different from baby boomers and Gen X – or is this a time lapse in perception?

TR: Depending on where you get your marketing advice, or if you pay any attention at marketing conferences or just about every marketing newsletter, you might be reading a lot about a newly discovered species called ‘Millennials.’ We’re not sure what planet they came from, why they’re here, or what they plan to do with all of the shiny, high-tech gadgets that they’re constantly staring at. We just know that there are a lot of them, they seem to have disposable income, and we’d really like them to spend some of that income at our businesses. It’s just too bad that we don’t have any data or historical insight that might help us better understand the strange new creatures living among us.

If that sounds ridiculous, it should. Marketing will always evolve with the trends and technology of the times, but the core qualities of good business appeal to customers regardless of their generation (or their planet of origin). So lighten up… Millennials are not that scary!

They’re human, like you and me. There’s no doubt that Millennials, as a group tend to rely on social channels, research, reviews, and each other when making a purchasing decision. The thing is, so does everyone else who owns a smartphone and has friends. How you connect matters, but it’s really just an introduction. The most important thing is how you treat them after you’ve made the initial connection. 

You’ve heard these tips before, but they bear mentioning again:

   1 - Be responsive. Please! You can produce great content and share it in all the right places, but it won’t make an impact if you’re not there to continue the conversation. Answer questions, respond thoughtfully to criticism, and don’t be afraid to have a little fun when the opportunity arises.

   2 - Encourage conversation, rather than waiting for it to come to you. There are plenty of people sharing content on your favorite social channels, just like you. Some of it is really great! Find it, read it and join the conversation.

   3 - Be human. Automated messages and cookie-cutter responses often come off as insulting to the recipient – no matter their age. Why should they take the time to learn about your business, if you won’t take the time to learn something about them?

   4 - When in doubt, #JustBeNice. Mistakes last forever online, but so do positive moments. Handle a difficult customer with grace in a public online space, and you don’t just get a chance to win over the customer in question… you make a positive impression on anyone who encounters that conversation in the future.

S: And finally, Social Media has become as baseline as having a website these days, what is your number 1 tip for a marketer trying to push more social media adoption at their company?

TR: In looking at the way most brands and agencies are handling social, it’s obvious that they’re still stuck in ‘campaign land’ when it comes to working within social platforms. This misses the whole idea of what social is all about in terms of engagement and long-term interaction when it comes to branding.

Given that the idea of creating relationships other than with their brand clients is something completely foreign to agencies (they can only think as far as the campaign – it’s in their DNA), that’s not too surprising. It’s just unfortunate brands are so heavily influenced by their desire to hand things off to agencies. They just can’t seem to get the idea that the traditional model of “pitch-complete creative-launch-done-next” just doesn’t leverage the true value in the social landscape. You have to think beyond the short campaign and reach out into the future as well as across the entire marketing landscape.

The goal of any overall marketing strategy should be to think of ways to develop relationships by creating value, however, we’ve been trained to think in terms of campaigns. Email campaigns – television campaigns – direct mail campaigns – contest campaigns. But campaigns are just a tool for getting us there. If they’re just screams for attention to feed the shiny new toy syndrome, they won’t stand the test of time as far as branding, relationship building, trust and loyalty is concerned – especially not now. People are more distracted and stressed for time than ever – but they still want to engage with brands that consistently provide value over the long haul; a brand they know they can depend on when they need them. I’m not telling you anything new here, it’s just the way we’re built as people.

Social gives us the opportunity to converse with people in a way that can truly help us be that dependable brand that meets our audience’s long-term desires, if we just listen to that audience. Believe me, when you think in terms of how you can make their lives easier, more enjoyable, and less stressful rather than in terms of the ‘next initiative,’ you’ll be so much better off.

So rather than viewing social as just another media, look for ways to use it to its fullest. Create more and better content that truly engages people and creates lasting value. Be helpful. Be useful. Be available. Think of ways to increase conversation rather than affect conversion, and you’ll be surprised at the results.

Conversation is the ultimate Content... it's time to move from ‘Convince and Convert’ to ‘Converse and Convert.’

#RonR... #NoLetUp!

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