One for One: Social Media in Today’s Endless Conversation.
On a crisp winter day in New York City, Ted Rubin and I discussed Marketing, Social Media, and what it means to be a brand in a fully exposed world.
Marketers are all preaching buzzwords like authenticity and return on investment, but it’s Ted’s level of dedication to these terms that sets him apart from the rest. Whether it’s the honesty born from his East coast roots, or his earnest interest in, and early adoption of, social media; his firm stance in honest communication makes him someone worth listening to.
A speaker at this year’s MarketMix Seattle, Ted plans to elaborate on ROR – Return on Relationship™ – which is the idea that the world we live in is no longer about shouts and screams, but rather the kind of relationship building that comes from active listening on the part of the brand, and active participation on the part of the consumer. Having worked with the marketing world’s equivalent of a household name, Seth Godin, Ted’s resumé extends even further into impressive territory. Currently Chief Social Marketing Officer at Collective Bias, he has also recently held similar positions for OpenSky and e.l.f. Cosmetics. He currently serves on the Advisory Board of Taptank, Zuberence, OpenSky, Blue Calypso, and SheSpeaks.
I strolled into the restaurant and sat down to a man still heavily engaged in his workload. Turns out another interviewer had recently requested his time.
“I think a lot of people are interested in what I’m talking about, and I talk about it in my own way. What I’ve done has really rung true with people. I try to be really authentic. I say what I mean, I say what I think,” he remarked. This is something I personally love to hear from anyone at all, especially a marketer, and my attention was immediately caught. We delved into his incredible CV right off the bat and, unsurprisingly, we both identified Seth Godin as one of our favorite bloggers.
“Seth is brilliant. I met him in ’97. He started a thing called Yoyodyne, which was the first online direct marketing company. Believe it or not, we sold the first click-through, and this was before anyone knew what a click-through was.”
We spoke about his work at e.l.f Cosmetics, an innovative and higher-quality take on dollar store cosmetics. Ted cited his work here as one of his crowning career achievements.
“I was in charge of marketing for a company with no marketing budget, and you might say, why would you become the CMO of a company with no marketing budget? Because it was a challenge; something new. Anyone can take hundreds of millions of dollars and buy a bunch of ads, but you really have to use some ingenuity when you don’t have those kinds of budgets.” Eventually, a company representative pulled him aside and warned him of his use of social media. “’You have to start focusing on the important stuff’, he said to me, ‘when are we going to start direct marketing with these customers?’ And I said to him, ‘well, not now, because first we have to start building relationships with them.’ A lot of people didn’t understand that. They still don’t. They still think they can sell stuff in social.”
“We generated a huge amount of PR at e.l.f. We were written about consistently and we never, ever bought an ad. I built the largest social presence on the web for a cosmetic company, against billion dollar companies.”
His Twitter profile reflects a man who has a message to send, but also a lot of people to thank. Nary a retweeter goes unthanked, a task he executes personally. His interest in making an impression in the lives of others extends far beyond a Facebook like, birthday wish, or a retweet. Ted seems to genuinely have a knack for being extroverted, unafraid, and opinionated in the right way. In the digital age, Ted suggests brands take their users in stride, complaints and all, and recognize that every good conversation is two-sided. Given the infamous recent social media death spirals, I had to ask: do brands have more or less control given the accessibility of social media?
“Good question. I absolutely think brands have more control. It’s about creating conversations but also about admitting when you’ve done something wrong.”
Which brings us to this year’s MarketMix topic: Thriving in a Conversation Economy. Ted has mastered the art of digital eye contact. If we cannot be face to face, then we should do everything we can to create a digital equivalent. Citing Twitter as his favorite social network, Ted exhibits a fierce loyalty when it comes to his following. A follow should be proceeded by a follow. One for one. His social media mantra shows the talent of one who is savvy in his business sense, open minded in his adoption practices, and forgiving of human error. His love of smiley faces and human interaction suggests he is an uncannily personable marketer, which perhaps contributes to his tireless pedaling of the consumer’s right to choose, and the brand’s right to make a rebuttal.
Follow Ted on Twitter here. Register for MarketMix 2012 here.
You won’t be sorry.