By @SimonCocking Delighted to bring you a fascinating and in-depth interview with Ted Rubin leading social media strategist, initiator of the return on relationship concept. Ted will be the key note speaker at Ireland’s Social Media Summit, March 1st/2nd.  

What’s your background briefly?

I like to say I got started in social media as soon as getting involved in this thing we call the Internet when I joined Seth Godin’s start-up, Yoyodyne, in 1997. Everything digital enabled sharing in ways never imagined before… so for me that is where it all began. Although I have always been social, and networking and building relationships, has been at the heart of what I do.

It was in 2008 when I joined e.l.f. Cosmetics that social marketing became the core of what I do every day. Social platforms were first starting to dramatically scale and I was fortunate to be at a brand where making it the heart of what we did seemed to be the natural way to go. We were selling to women, without which, in my humble opinion, there would be no social marketing; we were selling a fun aspirational product, cosmetics; and since e.l.f. was a family owned business there was no legal team to get in the way of my social experimentation. The brand thrived, we built the first aggregated social content site for a brand, and consumers felt like they were a part of the success.

I shifted to the title of Chief Social Marketing Officer after I left e.l.f. and joined OpenSky. For me the change was about an important shift in what I wanted to focus on, and how social needs to be a shell around everything we do. At Collective Bias where I was CSMO from 2011-2013, and am still a shareholder, in effect, the role was the same. Since Collective Bias is a socially focused company, being the Social CMO allowed me to make certain that CB integrated a social posture in all they did internally and externally. For other organizations, a similar role would most probably report to the CMO and be responsible for not only social marketing, but making certain social integration is thought through with respect to all other marketing, PR and customer service activities.

What inspired you to speak at this event?

That’s an easy question… Irish followers have been reaching out for a few years asking when I would be speaking there and imploring me to do so. But more importantly one woman, a woman who inspires me, was totally direct in asking what it would take to get me there for an event. Then got one started herself from scratch, gathered the resources, and made it happen. That woman is the indomitable Samantha Kelly.

Why it will be helpful for people to attend. What will they get out of it?

Social Media, Traditional, and Digital Marketers from all around the country, and hopefully further afield, will gather to hear accomplished practitioners talk about the latest tools, thinking and approaches in the Marketing and Social Media space. The speakers will share experiences, thinking and strategies to help you improve your Social Media Marketing and actionable tactics to implement immediately. There will also be a terrific opportunity to network with other professionals and perhaps even meet some speakers. I will be there for the whole event and hope to meet and chat with many face-to-face.

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Why is social media so important for businesses?

To many businesses, social is still a campaign-based tactic, viewed and managed separately from business operations. This is flawed thinking. Social media marketing needs to be woven into the fabric of all marketing and communications channels, and strategically managed from a 360-degree perspective. Why? Because social communication has worked its way into most aspects of your customers’ daily lives. There’s no way around it—people who frequent social channels want the companies they deal with to interact with them on those channels.

Social integration is especially important around customer service, where the disparity between the customer experience in the social media channel and the customer experience in the traditional channel is a dangerous chasm. The result is a mixed message around customer service—an area where none of us can afford to be unclear or inconsistent.

Your tips for people looking to do well on social media?

Here are a few lessons that never go out of style and all Social Marketers need to keep in mind:

You are NOT Your Customer—Do Your Research: One of the most important lessons every marketer should remember is to market to your target audience—not yourself. Yet how many times does your inner voice tell you “They’ll never buy that…?” Don’t spout information YOU THINK your market wants to hear. Listen to your prospects first—and social is just about the greatest listening tool ever invented. It’s focus groups on steroids! Use social media to listen to who your ideal customer is and what she wants before you start messaging.

Frequency Isn’t a Bad Thing: Social reach and frequency are tangential to good marketing, as long as your content is relevant to your market. How many times does a potential customer or partner need to see your message before they convert? You might as well ask how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop – remember that old TV commercial? Some will bite after a dozen licks; for others, it’s three—depends on where your audience is in a given moment when they see your message. And remember, you’re not just talking to one person here—you’re getting in front of your audience’s friends and their friends as well. The more the merrier. So do not forget about good ole “reach and frequency.”

Story is Important: Remember the power of storytelling, and use it in your communications. People can’t resist a good story. It’s an emotional connection bridge that is built into our human DNA. Social enhances it by allowing more consumers to share more stories about more of the products they see, buy and use. Another thing to remember about stories is that people are already having conversation about your brand, and you can’t necessarily control that. Companies who try to stem the tide of a bad story by trying to control the message find this out the hard way. However, you can INFLUENCE the kind of stories that are told about you by being involved in the conversation, transparent in your use of social media, and responsive to the needs of your customers, both online and offline.

With social media the bang for the buck can be enormous, but the results are hardly immediate and a long-term outlook is necessary. People respond to people best in one-on-one, face-to-face situations—that’s just the way we are. So when you try to automate that process and remove the personal connection, immediately there’s a wall between you and your audience.

People gravitate toward social communities to talk to each other, find out what’s going on, ask for recommendations for things or services we need or want, etc. So social engagement isn’t just about posting stuff; it’s about communicating with real people. Make a conscious effort to re-evaluate the word friend as you currently think of it the next time you’re on social channels. Look at your own online self and ask, “Would I want to be my friend?” Are you doing what it takes to be a real friend, or have most of your online relationships gone on autopilot or faded into the crowd?

In the future it is going to be critical for businesses to decide where they want to put their resources so they can maximize their ROI. Businesses that use social successfully will reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and importantly, increased revenues.

Without naming names what avoidable mistakes have you seen companies make with their social media strategy?

The biggest goal for any brand delving into social media should be to develop quality, productive relationships. That’s the bottom line. However, many brands still “don’t get it,” and consistently make mistakes that are damaging to them in social media and therefore damaging to their brand. In my opinion, there are four big no-no’s that not only kill those all-important relationships, but also tarnish your reputation:

1. Broadcasting:

Blasting out sales messages rather than listening and engaging has got to be the number one relationship killer of all time. Bar none. People hate to be sold—especially on social channels, where their main objective is to talk, get opinions, relax and have fun, or find answers to pressing problems. When a brand spends the majority of its time broadcasting, it’s a clear message to followers that they’re not interested in real, two-way communication.

Listening should be your first priority, followed by engagement. Don’t try to sell to people until you’ve earned their trust!

2. Taking Followers Offline to Resolve Issues:

If someone has a problem and comes to your social presence to try to get it resolved, the worst thing you can do is shunt them off to a customer service contact with a “form letter” response. Too often I see… “follow us so we can DM you,” on Twitter, or a quick move to traditional customer service channels on Facebook. People have an innate need to be validated—and “showing them the hand” is the fastest way to sour a customer relationship. Sometimes there are things that have to be resolved offline for legal issues, but the majority of complaints or requests for help should be addressed promptly and publicly in social channels. At the very least, if you MUST send them offline, do so in a friendly, personal manner. Address them by name, thank them for bringing the problem to your attention, and so on. Walk a mile in your customer’s shoes—how do you feel when you’re ignored or made to jump through hoops by a company you deal with?

Responding publicly has another important, beneficial, and cost saving benefit. Other people with the same issue, and you can/should assume there are many more, can receive resolution via your response, and see how you interact… and then make their own judgments about your brand character based on those interactions. If you’re doing it right, you will build brand advocates in the process, and when/if needed your best brand advocates will support you when they see that kind of open, honest communication.

3. Having No Brand Personality:

People who spend time on social media like to spend time with people—not logos. If you have a team of employees handling your social responses, don’t make them hide behind the brand logo when they interact with followers—give them a voice and a face. Ford did a great job of this with @ScottMonty when he was leading their social media efforts building his personal brand along with theirs. Scott interacted with followers as himself, not the Ford brand. This humanizes the brand and fosters good communication. Being able to see the team members behind the company and interacting with them personally makes a big difference in fan loyalty.

When a company censors its employees and doesn’t allow them to participate in social discussion surrounding the brand, it’s usually because they’re afraid of “what might happen if…” They’re afraid they’ll spend too much time on social or say the wrong things. These issues can be resolved with a comprehensive social media policy so all employees know how and when they can and should interact. Remember, your employees should be some of your best advocates, and a natural extension of your “public face.” You can’t do social right with employee censorship. Your people are your company’s personality. Let them shine for you. And… if you don’t trust your employees, maybe you have the wrong employees, or a business approach that will be difficult to sustain in this hyper-connected world.

4. Making Social a Direct Marketing Channel:

Can you develop a relationship with a piece of direct mail? A TV commercial? A newspaper ad? An email blast? Of course not! Yet many brands treat social as an extension of their direct marketing efforts—mainly because that’s all they know. They’re used to handing off their marketing to an advertising agency and having them run with it so they can get on with their day. They think in terms of ROI formulas, but falter when it comes to measuring the effectiveness of one-on-one networking and community building. If that’s you, don’t feel too bad—it’s a habit that’s been drummed into you and hard to break. But you’ve got to break it! Adopt a whole new mindset around social, and think in terms of building relationships and an emotional connection to your brand, or you’ll always be frustrated with your results. Remember… Social Media drives engagement, engagement drives loyalty, and loyalty correlates directly to increased sales. Return on Relationship™ = ROI.

Old marketing was dictation… new marketing is communication. Change from Convince & Convert to Converse & Convert!

Ted - London3 9.2015

Running your own business is also tough, how do you manage the work /life, online / offline balance?

I don’t, LOL !

Ok, seriously… I make choices. Because for me, in the social world I navigate, and my need to be constantly connected and responsive, it becomes a 24/7 thing. So, I integrate time for myself like working out, reading, socializing into it all… #wycwyc (what you can, when you can) and live with a #NoLetUp! attitude, perspective and mindset.

Who has inspired you?

My Mom and Dad were constant inspirations throughout my life with regard to family, friends, education, hard work, and unconditional love.

Ira Gibel was my Junior High and High School Wrestling Coach and Roz is his wife. Ira and Roz taught me about never giving up, loyalty to friends and family, and that learning never ends. I cannot express how much it has meant to me all these years.

Ira taught me that it’s never over. You know the Yogi Berra quote about how it’s not over until it’s over… well my coach, Ira Gibel instilled in me that it’s never over… there’s always another match, test, adventure, challenge… not even over after you die, because then your legacy lives on. I credit him, and Roz, a great deal with teaching, and instilling in me, the will, and never say die attitude that has allowed me to never give up and keep my daughters in my life, even when I was told to walk away by so many and the challenges continue every day even now when I am 58 and my daughters are approaching 19 and 21. Google Ted Rubin Divorce and you will understand.

I am incredibly grateful for my relationship with Ira and Roz, that it continues today, and cherish every moment I have with them. #RonR #ThisDadWontQuit#NoLetUp!

Anything else you’d like to add / we should have asked you?

For marketers thinking about approaching social and content marketing from a networking and community building aspect rather than a marketing and sales aspect can be very difficult. Brands need to attract customers, but breaking through the clutter is challenging. Every day brands and marketers are spending millions trying to get you to use, keep using, and share that you love their brands. But why aren’t they doing everything they can, and using some of those millions to do it (probably way less that they are spending on those marketing campaigns), making experiences with their brand remarkable. Opportunities to do this are given to brands each and every day and they simply, turn their heads, rave about their latest and great “campaign’ as if it were a military conquest, and pass up ways to really create customers for life.

2016 needs to be the year of doing what I call… Looking People in the Eye Digitally. The last few decades of marketing tactics have made us lazy communicators and I’ve had just about enough. Most often we don’t even pay attention to who we are talking to other than via the data we collect (and even that’s a maybe). In order to fix this and really start to benefit from the content we produce (both as individuals and as companies), we need to start get to know who our customers really, are, engaging with them, and building community. A Network gives you Reach… A Community gives you Power.

Brands, in 2016, and going forward… Standout by “LIKING” them BEFORE they “LIKE” you.


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