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Social Media Expert Interviews: David Meerman Scott


This week Giraffe caught up with David Meerman Scott, a marketing strategist, professional speaker and best-selling author of eight books. His book ‘The New Rules of Marketing & PR‘ has over 250,00 copies in print and can be found in over 25 different languages.  We’ve read it, and it’s awesome – a must read for anyone interested in marketing in the modern day.

David, tell us a little about what it is you do?

I’m a marketing strategist, advisor to emerging companies, best-selling author of eight books including three international best-sellers, and a professional speaker on topics including marketing, leadership, and social media.

I’m best known for The New Rules of Marketing & PR which opened people’s eyes to the new realities of marketing and public relations on the Web when it was first published in 2007. Six months on the BusinessWeek best-seller list and published in 26 languages from Bulgarian to Vietnamese, New Rules, now in its third edition, is a modern business classic. My popular blog and hundreds of speaking engagements around the world give me a singular perspective on how businesses are implementing new strategies to reach buyers.

I particularly enjoy speaking gigs outside the US. I was in Zurich last week, Belize the week before and later this month I am in Dubai. I’ve presented in 33 countries on five continents.

Tell us about the journey you undertook to get you where you are now? Where did you start?!

At the height of the dot-com boom, I was vice president of marketing at NewsEdge Corporation, a NASDAQ-traded online news distributor with $70 million in revenue. My multi-million dollar marketing budget included tens of thousands of dollars a month for a public relations agency, hundreds of thousands a year for print advertising and glossy collateral materials, and expensive participation at a dozen trade shows a year. My team put these things on our marketing to-do list, worked like hell to execute, and paid the big bucks because, well, that’s what one did as marketing and PR people. These efforts made us feel good because we were doing something but the programs were not producing significant, measurable results.

At the same time, drawing on publishing experience I had gained in my prior position as Asia marketing director for the online division of Knight-Ridder, at the time one of the largest newspaper companies in the world, I quietly created content-rich marketing and PR programs on the Web.

Against the advice of the PR agency professionals we had on retainer (who insisted that news releases were only for journalists), we wrote and sent dozens of releases ourselves. Each time we sent a release, it appeared on dozens of online services such as Yahoo!, resulting in hundreds of sales leads.

Even though our advertising agency told us not to put the valuable information “somewhere where competitors could steal it,” we created a monthly online newsletter called TheEdge, with articles about the exploding world of digital news. We made it freely available on the home page of our Web site because it generated interest from qualified buyers.

Way back in the 1990s when Web marketing and PR was in its infancy, I ignored the old rules, drawing instead on my experience working at publishing companies, and created thought leadership strategies to reach buyers directly on the Web.

Guess what? The home-grown, do-it-yourself programs we created at virtually no cost consistently generated more interest from qualified buyers than the big bucks programs that the “professionals” were running for us—and resulted in millions of dollars in sales. People we never heard of were finding us through search engines.

Wow. I had stumbled on a better way to reach buyers!

In 2002, after NewsEdge was sold to The Thomson Corporation, I was fired. My ideas were a little too radical for my new bosses. So I started my own business to refine my ideas, work with select clients, and teach others through writing, speaking at conferences, and conducting seminars for corporate groups. The subject of all this work: Reaching your buyers directly and driving more revenue.

Since then, many new forms of social media have burst onto the scene, including blogs, podcasts, video, virtual communities. and Twitter. But what’s the same about all the new Web tools and techniques is that together they are the best way to communicate directly with your marketplace.

How important would you say having a social media presence is for businesses these days?

Well, I think we talk too much about “social media” because it is a hot term. What I think has changed is that we can now communicate to our marketplace in real time. Social media are just the tools. Real time is a mindset.

In order to scale social, I recommend that we not using the word “social” at all and instead substitute “real-time”. When I talk to the same executives about “real-time communications with customers” they lean forward and want to know more. These are the same people who dismiss Twitter.

I tell executives that an immensely powerful competitive advantage flows to organizations with people who understand the power of real-time information. What are people doing on your site right now? Has someone just praised you on Facebook? Panned you on Twitter? Published a how-to video about your product on YouTube?

Executives understand real-time and are eager to implement the ideas.

What three bits of advice would you give a business that is taking their first steps into the world of social media?

Many marketers steeped in the tradition of product advertising naturally feel drawn to prattle on and on about their products and services.  But I have news for you. Nobody cares about your products and services (except you). Yes, you read that right.

What people do care about are themselves and how you can solve their problems. People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. Instead, create something interesting that will be talked about online. When you get people talking on the Web, people will line up to learn more and to buy what you have to offer.

Most online marketing is nothing more than an alternative channel for the PR department or product marketers to spew their “messages” and “product vision.” Yuck. To paraphrase Yoda from Star Wars, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” It is so difficult for people to get out of the marketing habits they’ve developed over the years.

1) You must unlearn the use of gobbledygook (world-class, cutting-edge, mission-critical, innovation and all those sorts of overused words and phrases) about your products and services. Instead start from the problems and needs of your buyer personas.

2) You must unlearn spin. Instead, understand that people crave authenticity and transparency.

3) You must unlearn interrupting people with “messages.” Instead, publish online content they want to consume.

What do you think the future holds for social media?

Real-time communications are the most important development in communications since the invention of the printing press.

The conventional business approach favours a campaign (note the war metaphor) that requires people to spend weeks or months planning to hit targets. Agencies must be consulted. Messaging strategies must be developed. Advertising space/time must be bought. Conference rooms and refreshments must be prepared for press conferences. Do you serve them sushi or sandwiches?

The real-time mind-set recognizes the importance of speed. It is an attitude to business (and to life) that emphasizes moving quickly when the time is right. Developing a real-time mind-set is not an either/or proposition. I’m not saying you should abandon your current business-planning process. Nor do I advocate allowing your team to run off barking at every car that drives by. Focus and collaboration are essential.

What is the coolest fact about Giraffes you know?

Their young stand up very quickly upon being born unlike humans that take about a year.

David is available to book for speaking and has several books that you can get your hands; and we suggest you do – because alongside having a no-nonsense outlook on responding to questions about Giraffes – he is also a real expert in this field. 

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  1. Thank you again for completing the Q&A David, we are sure it is going to be very helpful for our blog readers!