SXSWi 2010: Chat with author David Meerman Scott

The convergeance of social networking, marketing, and public relations

From South by Southwest Interactive 2010: Sometimes the traditional ways of doing public relations and then measuring the effects just don't cut it in new media. Maybe ROI isn't the best measure of everything. Hear what David Meerman Scott thinks.

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Scott Laningham (scottla@us.ibm.com), developerWorks Podcast Editor, IBM developerWorks

Scott LaninghamScott Laningham, host of developerWorks podcasts, was previously editor of developerWorks newsletters. Prior to IBM, he was an award-winning reporter and director for news programming featured on Public Radio International, a freelance writer for the American Communications Foundation and CBS Radio, and a songwriter/musician.



23 March 2010

developerWorks: This is a developerWorks podcast. I'm Scott Laningham. This week I have an interview with Web marketing blogger, speaker, author David Meerman Scott. We've talked to him in the past, and this is kind of a catchup interview a year later.

(Editor: To discover what new resources are available this week in developerWorks and My developerWorks, jump to the end of this interview.)

Listen to this podcast.

Follow David Meerman Scott on Twitter or on his blog, WEBINKNOW.

World Wide Rave is about creating triggers to get millions to spread your message for you.

The New Rules of Marketing and PR explains how to tell your story directly to the buyer.

And as the man said, Google "viral marketing" and you'll find DMS.

Here now is my interview with David Meerman Scott, author of World Wide Rave and The New Rules of Marketing and PR. I ran into David at South By Southeast Interactive last week here in Austin, Texas.

Scott: Hey, Scott, how are you?

developerWorks: Good to see you again, man.

Scott: I know, it's been a year.

developerWorks: We talked a year ago, and back then about your book World Wide Rave. Now, are you still talking about that, or is there something even more ...?

Scott: Well, World Wide Rave came out in March of 2009. We actually launched it at South By Southeast 2009. And I did some really cool things to launch it. We made it free on ...

developerWorks: I remember that.

Scott: ... on Amazon Kindle. And Kindle was pretty new at that point. And it became the number one business book on Kindle for the year which of course it was free, but that's pretty cool.

developerWorks: That's a big thing, yes.

Scott: And then the other thing I did to launch World Wide Rave which is a book about viral marketing. The other thing we did was we did the first ever tweet-up to open up a stock exchange. So I had a change to ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange, which is really cool.

developerWorks: Oh, how exciting.

Scott: But they said I could bring 50 people if I wanted to and I'm like, who the heck am I going to bring to New York City to open up the stock market. And of course, I had tons of Twitter friends.

developerWorks: So you just worked it out that way?

Scott: I tweeted it and on March 30th, there were 50 of us and we all simultaneously tweeted the opening of the stock exchange. First time that's ever been done.

developerWorks: Was that a first-come-first-serve position in the 50, is that how you did that?

Scott: Yes, I did. I tweeted and said first 50 people to send me an email are in. It took about an hour to fill the slot, so it was pretty cool.

But what I've been working on most recently is I completely updated my book The New Rules of Marketing and PR. And that's my motion popular book; it originally came out in 2007. It's about how online marketing is really about just publishing content. That's what it's about.

You know, rather than thinking like an advertiser, organizations should be thinking like a publisher, create some YouTube videos, blog posts, e-books, charts, graphs, photographs, podcasts ... there you go ... all are creating content. So the book originally came out in June 2007 and I needed to upgrade it because at that time Twitter didn't exist.

developerWorks: It's changing so fast.

Scott: Facebook was only for students, you know. Everyone thought Second Life was going to be the biggest thing in the world. So I had three pages on Second Life, nothing on Twitter. I have one sentence on Facebook. I completely updated it and that came out in January of 2010. So that's now the second edition of the new rules ...

developerWorks: You could probably pick some topics like the ones you write about and update those books annually for the foreseeable future.

Scott: Well, you know, I'm talking about that with my publisher. This stuff moves so quickly. And so one of the problems with publishing books, unlike what we're doing right now which is instantaneous with podcast, is with a book I have a six-month lead time from when I finish the last sentence until the book appears in a store. It takes six months ...

developerWorks: That's an eternity in this world.

Scott: It's 100 years in Internet life, right? So I finished the manuscript for the second edition of The New Rules of Marketing and PR in July of 2009 for a January 2010 publication date. I did not include Foursquare. And I looked like idiot for not including Foursquare because that's what everyone is talking about now. But, you know, seven or eight months ago they weren't talking about Foursquare. So that's how quickly things change.

developerWorks: You think the iPad is going to help the penetration of the e-book thing and all that?

Scott: I think it will help, but I'm not sure what's going to happen with the iPad. The iPad is really interesting, but it seems to me it's kind of a cross between and iPhone and a notebook computer and I have a notebook computer and I have an iPhone.

You know, when I travel around and I'm just walking around I've got my little iPhone and when I carry a bag, I carry my big notebook. I don't know that a hybrid is going to be all that ... interesting.

developerWorks: You don't want to hold the iPad up to your head and you don't want to be one of those geeky guys with a Bluetooth piece hanging in your ear all the time?

Scott: So I'm not sure. It will remain to be seen. We'll see what happens.

developerWorks: Speaking of earpieces, have you seen that device, I'm trying to remember what it was, but all these tables people are dropping their flyers and there's an earpiece POV, WiFi-connected, video camera and microphone so you can do live streaming media.

Scott: As you're walking around.

developerWorks: As you're walking around.

Scott: Where is this all heading?

Scott: No, I haven't seen that. Wow, that's really, really interesting.

developerWorks: People will be a full-time 24/7 commercial I guess.

Scott: Well, you know, I'm all about using these tools and techniques for marketing and PR purposes. And I'm sure there's going to be a use for that. I mean, imagine, I'm just thinking out loud ... imagine you're an extreme sports company and you do skiing gear or something. That would be kind of cool.

You could arm a whole big bunch of people and the person who captures the coolest ... I mean, there's all sorts of, I can think of ideas, but in many cases some of these things seem like really cool technology looking for a problem to solve.

And ... but I do think that as a marketing and PR idea that there is so much interesting things going on. I'm most fascinated right now with GPS-enabled wireless devices and how companies are reaching out to people to locate them in precisely a particular point.

I have been floating around and checking on Foursquare and using a new service called Layer which I'm a big fan of. It's an iPhone app. And because it's a mashup of where I ... they know where I am because of my GPS location and content delivered by a company at precisely the right time that it makes sense to deliver it to me ... that's really interesting to me. So ...

developerWorks: Yes.

Scott: You know, I checked in at Buffalo Billiards two nights ago; it's just right down here on 6th Street. And as I checked in it said "a message for you." And I clicked the message and it says "if you check in five times at Buffalo Billiards you get a free shot and a beer." I thought "that's pretty cool, you know; they know where I am, I just checked in, it's an interesting way of reaching people."

developerWorks: Have you heard about Ushahidi.com?

Scott: I have not.

developerWorks: I had a neat conversation just a little bit earlier with Patrick Meier from that company and they're doing crowdsourcing crisis location work ...

Scott: How interesting.

developerWorks: ... where like when Kenya had the big thing with the elections and then of course, Chile and Haiti, helping locate people. That's one of those kinds of uses of this technology that has so much promise.

Scott: It's really, really interesting. So gosh, I wonder what's going to happen next year when we talk. [LAUGHTER] I mean, holy cow.

developerWorks: Is there a question or two that you find coming up more often than not to you?

Scott: The biggest question I'm asked every single speech I deliver I'm asked this question, I'm frequently asked it, the first question is, what's the return on investment for social media marketing? That's the most important ... that's the most popular question.

developerWorks: How do you answer that?

Scott: Well, I say I have a couple of cynical answers. I'll give you a cynical answer first.

developerWorks: Okay.

Scott: What's the ROI of putting on your pants in the morning, you know? [LAUGHTER]

I mean, so first of all I talk a little bit about what that phrase, return on investment, means. That's a phrase that is a sort of an MBA-kind-of-term that was invented to decide whether a company should invest in a machine, you know: "Should I invest in $5 million worth of brand-new IBM mainframes in order to run my data center?" And I need to calculate the return on investment, of that investment.

So then marketers started to use that phrase as a way to measure marketing. And in many ways it was possible because you could measure, for example, a direct mail campaign. You know, you could figure out that it's going to cost us $100,000 to send out, you know, 5,000 direct mail pieces and you could figure out how many business reply cards came back and then figure out how much revenue that generated when those people closed. And you could figure out the ROI on that.

But what we're talking about with social media is communications. And it is impossible to measure the return on investment of communicating.

I mean, I shouldn't say it's impossible. There's ways to measure, but it's not the traditional ROI sort of measurement.

I mean, I know many-many-many companies that have telephones in their offices. I've never heard of a single one calculate the ROI of those telephones.

And to take that metaphor a little bit further, I know many-many companies that arm their employees with either a BlackBerry or iPhone or some similar type application paid for by the company. If it's not every employee, maybe it's all the salespeople. Maybe if it's a big company that's a thousand or even 10,000 salespeople in the company. That's got to be a huge investment to give every single one of them a BlackBerry.

And I put this challenge to every company I've spoken with who quizzed me on had this ROI of social media thing: "Like what's the ROI of 10,000 BlackBerrys at your company?"

No one has ever provided for me the calculation on that, so why are we held to the calculation of a return on investment for doing a YouTube video, a series of YouTube videos or having some great content on blogs or doing this podcast?

developerWorks: You said what's the ROI on having the phones. What's the ROI on answering the phones?

Scott: Right.

developerWorks: You know.

Scott: I mean, exactly. I mean, it's how we do business. And you can choose not to have a telephone in your office or you can choose not to have a front door at your store and you can choose not to be active in communicating with your customers the ways that they want to communicate. But that becomes a choice, not a calculation.

developerWorks: Right. This year versus last year, different things, exciting new thematically than last year and kind of where you think it's headed for next year?

Scott: What's fascinating to me, I'm so excited about it, is this has gone mainstream. You know, in 2007 when my book, my New Rules of Marketing and PR book first came out, people were really resistant to these ideas. And there were pockets of people who were doing it but they were small pockets in companies.

Then in '08 ... more people. In '09 wow ... there's some serious stuff going on here. Some great examples going out. I mean, IBM is doing some wonderful things, for example. And then, now in 2010 it's mainstream. And that's thrilling, you know, for somebody who writes marketing strategy books to have the stuff that you talked about when no one was doing it all of a sudden be mainstream is pretty thrilling.

developerWorks: Now, what's the best place for people to find you?

Scott: So my full name is David Meerman Scott. You can Google me and find me that way. My books are available in any online book store, physical book stores, and most countries actually around the world now which is pretty exciting.

And then, you know, if you forget all of that, go to Google, type in the phrase viral marketing. And our e-book I wrote called The New Rules of Viral Marketing has been downloaded over a million times, will pop up on the first page out of six million hits for that phrase. And if you forget everything else, Google the phrase viral marketing. Find my e-book on that front page and that's a good way to find me.

developerWorks: That's how you get to the books. You're on Twitter.

Scott: Yes, Twitter. D-M-S-C-O-T-T, DM Scott on Twitter, yes.

developerWorks: David, great hooking up with you again.

Scott: Thanks, again, Scott.

developerWorks: And I hope we see you next year, too.

Scott: Absolutely. Good to see you.

developerWorks: Again, that conversation at South By Southeast last week in Austin, Texas with David Meerman Scott. I'm Scott Laningham, this has been a developerWorks podcast. Talk to you next time.

What's new in the developerWorks community?

But first let's check in with dW Newsletter editor, John Swanson. Hey, John.

Swanson: Hey, Scott.

developerWorks: How's your week going?

Swanson: Not too bad, not too bad. Getting the newsletter up and running. But I know, Scott, that you are a technical whiz and that you rarely have any problems with your technologies.

developerWorks: I don't know where you heard that from, but that's just not true. [LAUGHTER]

Swanson: But on the rare occasion that you do run into a problem where you just can't figure out the answer and you can't find anybody in your office to help you out, what do you do?

Well, one place you can turn is the developerWorks forums. And this week I'm singing the praises of the developerWorks forums in the developerWorks newsletter.

developerWorks: Excellent.

Swanson: The forums are a massive developer community that can help you find the answers to your problems. Or, if you're feeling generous you can go to use the forums to help somebody else who's having problems.

The developerWorks forums, in case you didn't know, get over 660,000 visitors a month and these forums cover everything from AIX to XML. There's scores of them out there.

And forums are just one more reason to check out the My developerWorks community because as the community grows, it just keeps getting better and better.

So that's really what we're focusing on and of course, we're also focusing on all the great new resources, including the new Cloud Computing Resource Center.

developerWorks: Excellent. John Swanson, Editor, developerWorks newsletters. If you're not subscribed already, you should be. It's a great way to stay up to date with what's new and hot on the Web site each week. Thanks, John.

Swanson: Thank you, sir.

developerWorks: And now for the new items this week featured on the developerWorks home page:

Find it all at ibm.com/developerworks.

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