David Meerman Scott on creating a World Wide Rave

David Meerman Scott, author of World Wide Rave, a top Kindle download on Amazon, joins at SXSW Interactive to talk about creating triggers that get millions of people to do your public relations for you.

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.



16 March 2009

developerWorks: I'm Scott Laningham at South by Southwest, Day two and half, I guess you would call this. And I have the pleasure of sitting here with David Meerman Scott, who is a speaker at the conference. And he spoke yesterday; I heard his talk. Author of the new book, World Wide Rave. David?

Scott: Hey, Scott, it's great to be here. Thanks a lot.

developerWorks: It says ... also it says, best-selling author of The New Rules of Marketing PR.

David Meerman Scott on creating a World Wide Rave

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Scott: Yes, and that one came out in June 2007. We did a paperback update in January of 2009. And then this book, World Wide Rave, just came out last week. So, March 3 — official date.

developerWorks: And it's smoking on the Amazon Kindle download charts, right?

Scott: Well, there's a good reason for that. [LAUGHTER]

Guest: David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott is an award-winning online marketing strategist, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, and seminar leader. He is the best-selling author of The News Rules of Marketing, and the new book, World Wide Rave. For more information, visit www.davidmeermanscott.com.

Scott: We made the book free on Kindle for a one-week period. And it was really exciting because my publisher agreed to do it, which I wasn't sure they were going to do it. I work with John Wiley, essentially one of the largest business book publishers. And it's really scary for traditional businesses to give stuff away for free.

And that's the point of this book, World Wide Rave, is the idea that if you create something remarkable, something worth talking about, something that people share with their friends and their colleagues and their family members, it can help to propel you. So what's interesting is that, "Hey — David Scott's got this new book. It's free on Kindle. Whoa, that's cool." And, hundreds of people have tweeted it on Twitter, some people have blogged about it, e-mailed.

developerWorks: Cool.

Scott: And it's been No. 1 on Kindle for, I don't know, about three or four days. So it's kind of cool.

developerWorks: So it's a rave. You're demonstrating what you're talking about in the book, right?

Scott: There you go. Exactly.

developerWorks: I know I talked to Chris Anderson from Wired not long ago about his forthcoming book, Free.

Scott: Free, yes.

developerWorks: And this really dovetails with that, obviously. Let's talk a bit about, one of the neat things I loved about your presentation was the multimedia piece, and folks from around the world holding up a poster of your book.

Scott: Yes.

developerWorks: And these core ideas that you're talking about, well, you say the rules of the rave.

Scott: Right.

developerWorks: Can we just kind of quickly go down that list?

Scott: Sure, sure.

developerWorks: The first one: Nobody cares about your products except you.

Scott: Yes, and that one's real counter-intuitive. If you're going to get someone talking about you and your company, you can't do it by telling them all about your products and services. Instead, you need to give them something interesting that they want to talk about, and typically, that's because you understand their problems, you understand their needs, and you can create something valuable online.

It can be a YouTube video, it could be a blog post, a chart, a graph, a white paper, an e-book, you know, a research report. But the problem is so many people were taught in marketing school and business school, and you know, on the job, the first P is product of the four Ps. So everyone wants to talk about their product, but that's not really a way to get people talking about you.

developerWorks: So you've got to give them a present to get them to talk about you.

Scott: People don't care about you and your products; they care about themselves. So think about something that you can create that helps someone, that solves a problem, that's remarkable for them, it's interesting, it's funny, it's outrageous, and then they'll share it.

developerWorks: In this case of your book on Amazon, the thing you're talking about was free for a week.

Scott: Yes. I mean, the book is $22.95 on hardcover. Regularly $9.99 on Kindle, and I forget the audio-book price, but you know, it's somewhere in between $10 and $25. And all of a sudden the book, is zero. It's free, absolutely free. Not even a single penny to get a download either to Amazon Kindle or to the iPhone app, and that's interesting. And people will talk about it. And what they're talking about is my book. But they're not talking about the book itself. They're not talking about the content of the book. They're saying, David Meerman Scott, a best-selling author's new book, is free. That's cool. That's what they're talking about.

developerWorks: What's another example. I mean, I assume that you're going to have folks that would argue, that would say, "Well, gosh — if it's a new car, I can't give that away for free."

Scott: Yes. No, of course not.

developerWorks: Or if I do, I'll set a precedent and no one will buy it.

Scott: Another example is sort of in your business, which is really interesting to me, is that for decades business-to-business technology companies have been giving away white papers, but only in return for an e-mail address or a business reply card. And I just think that's insane, to say, we are going to be something of value but the only way we're going to give it to you is if you give me something in return, which is your personal information.

And I have evidence from some research that I've done — casual research — that if you provide a white paper with the requirement of an e-mail address, you're only getting something like 5 percent or as low as 2 percent of the potential people will read it. A factor of between 20:1 and 50:1, more people will download a white paper or an e-book without any registration requirement whatsoever.

So what I suggest, and this is actually on our third row here, which is lose control. What I suggest is that you've got to create information and make it freely shareable, and lose control of it, which is really scary for a lot of companies, to say, "Yes. if I lose control of the message, I'm going to lose control of who is looking at it and, therefore, not require that e-mail address." And I think for businesses that are providing valuable information in the form of white paper, try removing that requirement and see what happens. I mean, for many businesses, all the sudden their downloads skyrocket and that many more people are talking about them.

developerWorks: Because they're after the interest right?

Scott: Yes.

developerWorks: They're not necessarily after, I mean, I'd love to have that personal contact information.

Scott: Sure, it's nice to have an e-mail address, but what you really want is ...

developerWorks: To get that message out.

Scott: Yes, yes. And here's something else that's really interesting, is that.... And you would know this, you're doing this podcast right now. Bloggers and podcasters, and people on Twitter, and people on Facebook and whatnot, are much, much, much more likely to link to something that has no registration requirement because they're giving away something for free.

And we, I'm a blogger myself, I almost never will link to something that has a registration requirement because I don't know for sure if the company on the other end is going to spam my readers or call them up and try to sell them something. So that's another reason why it's so important not to have these kind of, I call them virtual speed bumps, to your online information, because bloggers won't talk about it if there is a virtual speed bump.

developerWorks: Well, you know, developerWorks just decided to do this very thing with tutorials. I mean, for years, they've had the tutorials locked up behind a very simple registration. I think it's only an e-mail address, but it's something.

Scott: It's something.

developerWorks: And then they've gone — you know, we're doing all this push toward social networking, transforming the site into more of a home base for people to build their connections and their careers, and their knowledge base all at the same time and build a community. So in concert with that whole move, let's just get rid of the registration.

Scott: Yes. If you have any data on before and after in terms of numbers of downloads, I'd love to know it. It's fascinating stuff because it really is a remarkable difference for most organizations.

developerWorks: Now, No. 2 is no coercion requirement.

Scott: No coercion requirement. You know, for decades, the advertising business has — one of their techniques has been coercion. You know, free shipping, 20 percent off, act now, offer is going away. This kind of hype-ey kind of coercion-based marketing. And to get people to share your ideas and spread your stories, which is what a World Wide Rave is, you can't coerce people to do is.

They will do it if it's interesting to them, they won't do it if they won't. And you can't give them some special offer and they might do it once or twice, but ultimately, they're not doing it because they like what you're doing; they're doing it because they want the offer.

developerWorks: Going now to No. 3 — you talked about losing control.

Scott: Yes, lose control.

developerWorks: A little bit more on that, the open source movement is all about that.

Scott: Yes, totally.

developerWorks: But it's not about totally losing control, but it's about refining that whole sense of, what does control mean, right?

Scott: Right, right. And another one that fascinates me are the applications, the apps, the iPhone apps, the apps on other things. Facebook is another example. Software, for a long time, has been about, we control it. And all of a sudden, it's like, "No, throw an app on there, do what you want to do. Here's the API, go for it."

And I think that's an interesting thing. I mean, I write about marketing, and for me, the idea of something like a Facebook application or a Twitter application, I mean, sorry an application for the iPhone, is just really very interesting because all of a sudden, you can create something, like this one that I know of called Cities I've visited on Facebook. Five million people have it on their Facebook profile, and it took the guys at Trip Advisors two days to make it. Two days, to get something that's used by 5 million people.

developerWorks: Do you think that this is in many ways — about being in a time where our ideas about value and about monetization and all that is evolving in such a rapid and out of control way that it takes a lot of patience and trust to kind of see where it's headed, but not be afraid to go down that road because you don't know where it's headed?

Scott: I think we are absolutely a revolution. There's no question about it in my mind whatsoever. And you and I are both too young to remember this but, I think most people are now, but can you imagine the transition when television first came around? People, I've seen these old clips of television commercials from the very, very early days of television, and what they did was they made radio, and they just made a visual image of people doing radio.

And I think the early days of the Internet were really just people taking what they already knew. They knew television, they new print advertising, they knew direct mail and new forms [from a] marketing perspective, and then they applied those rules and techniques that they learned from Madison Avenue to the Web. That's why banner ads were so hot, that's why people did Flash animations and junk like that. But this revolution, we are here at South by Southwest, what's going on here is people who are taking the Web for what it has to offer and turning it into something that has never existed before.

And that's why I think we're totally in a revolution, and that's why I think in any business, whether it's music or film, which is other parts of the South by Southwest conference, or marketing, or information dissemination, or software development, that if you grasp this idea that there's a revolution, your mind is open to think in so many different ways than we used to think when it was just these closed units.

developerWorks: You know, an example of what you're talking about, that generational thing — I studied radio TV film production at University of Texas back in the early '80s. And I've been doing radio all these years and then working at IBM® and doing different kind of media. And as I'm getting into video and starting to pursue that, it's taking a few months for me to get rid of that old mindset of what the video is, to really connect with the grassroots viral nature of video on the Web and embrace it that less is more, and lower-tech is more, too.

Scott: Yes. In many ways. And shorter, shorter, shorter. I mean films, an hour and a half a typical film in a theater, or whatever, 22 minutes for a half an hour program. The YouTube videos that do well are way under 2 minutes usually. You know, sometimes 20 seconds, 30 seconds.

developerWorks: The next one, put down roots. What are you talking about there?

Scott: Put down roots. Put down roots is the idea that if you want people to spread your ideas and tell your stories, you need to interact with them. It's as simple as that. My grandmother told me if you want to receive a letter, you have to send a letter. So if you want somebody to talk about you on Twitter and Facebook, you sort of need to be on Twitter and Facebook yourself. If you want people to spread your ideas, you need to also spread other people's ideas. It's like a big interconnecting world. So put down roots is just this idea that they should participate, it's a partici-- ... I can't even say that word.

developerWorks: Participatory.

Scott: Tough one isn't it. World today, and that means you've got to jump in, you've got to participate, you've got to be a part of it. And then when you are, it's much, much more likely that when you've got something interesting to say people will help spread that idea for you.

developerWorks: Create triggers that encourage people to share.

Scott: Yes.

developerWorks: I'm really interested in that one, too, because up to this point this all cool stuff, but without those triggers, you know, you can throw up a blog, you can Twitter, you can do all those things but, what kind of triggers are you talking about?

Scott: So, when I thought about triggers, what I'm thinking of here is that many times something will spread without you wanting it to spread, or without you thinking it might spread. You know, if you do something silly and people talk about it. You know, there's a video of the CEO giving a speech and he accidentally picks his nose. And ah, ha ha, isn't it funny? So, but what I'm talking about here with triggers is when you want something to spread. And that's the idea of this: These ideas I put in this book is sometimes you want to create something that will spread because that's a form of marketing. And so a trigger is something that you kind of set up that you hope people will share.

Now, the outward manifestation is it could be a YouTube video, it could be a blog post, it could be a research report. There's all sorts of different things that could trigger people to share. But you need to think about who you want to reach, you have to write it or create it in the language of those people. There's things you do to set up that trigger, and then you throw it out there in a way, and kind of almost literally throw it out there in a way that people will see it, but then you have to let go and let it happen.

developerWorks: What's your favorite example of that?

Scott: Oh, my gosh, I have lots of examples of things that have spread like crazy. But you know, sometimes it's video. I mean, I like thinking of these things from the marketing perspective. I'll tell you the story of Lisa Genova. She's one of my favorite examples. She wrote a book, a novel, called Still Alice. She went to all the publishers in the publishers all said, New York publishers said, "No, we're not interested in this novel. It's about a young woman with early onset Alzheimer's disease." And so she says, "You know what? I'm going to put this out myself." So she publishes it herself, sells it on Amazon, starts a blog. The blog starts to take on, and get a lot of interest. And then she reaches out to the Alzheimer's Association and says "Hey, I've written this book. I'd like to send you a copy. I'd like you to take a look at my blog." They did. They loved the book, and they said, "How would you like to blog on our site?" We've never asked anyone to do this before. So she did that, and then a literary agent contacts her and says, "I think we can sell this to a big publisher." They signed, it sold for half a million dollars. This is after the big publishers said "No — you're not worthy."

She created triggers that encourages people to share. She created really interesting information in the form of her blog that people, family members of those who have Alzheimer's disease thought was valuable information. They spread it, she just created this trigger. And all of a sudden when her book came out in the new edition in January of 2009, it was a couple of months ago, it debuted on The New York Times bestseller list. I mean, that's really interesting to me.

Another real quick example is another person called [Erin Weed], and Erin Weed runs an operation called Girls Fight Back. And it teaches young women self-defense techniques — teenagers and young adults self-defense techniques. And her trigger is a really interesting one. She does two-hour sessions at schools, at colleges, at workplaces to teach women the self-defense techniques. And when she first gets the girls in the room she says, "Turn off your mobile phones," and they all go, Awww!" And then she teaches like one and a three-quarter hours, really fun, interactive self-defense techniques. And then she says, "Pull out your mobile phones" at the end. And the girls are all, "Whoa — cool. We can pull out our mobile phones." And she said, "I want you to film, take a couple pictures, take some video if you want, film your colleagues," she says, "busting moves, which is, you know, attacking the attacker." And they all do. She doesn't tell them what she wants them to do next, but they all post on their Facebook page. She's trained, Erin started her business about five years ago, she's trained about half a million girls and young women self-defense techniques, and her word of — I call it word of mouse, instead of word of mouth — her marketing techniques are just allowing these young women and girls to film a 10-second film clip, and then they post it up on Facebook and it spreads her ideas for her. I mean, that's an interesting trigger right?

developerWorks: That is very cool.

Scott: Yes, It's fascinating.

developerWorks: OK — the last one. Point the world to your virtual doorstep.

Scott: Yes. So, I mean, creating these things are really interesting, but ultimately, you know, if you have a business, you want to do some business. Sell something if you are an e-commerce site, if you are B2B, maybe get someone who's interested and you can alert the sales force to it. In my case, I want to sell a few books and get someone to hire me to speak. And so when you create these things, you want to have a URL, or a landing page, or a micro site, or somewhere that you point people. And we talked earlier about not having e-mail addresses to get a piece of valuable information, but once you have a piece of valuable information, within it somewhere, have a place where people can learn more. Have a place for people can register to become more interested in what you're doing. Have a place where people can actually buy your products and services.

And that's the pointing the world to your virtual doorstep so they can do business with you because, ultimately, when you provide something of value and you provide something that people spread, then they will want to do business with you. They will make that choice so you don't have to coerce them, and you've got to provide, make it easy for them to do so.

developerWorks: Do you think why the point where anybody that is spending any time on the Web at all, especially for doing any kind of business on the Web, or blogging, or all these things, that really needs to have that personal URL, even as a business card as a portal to drive people to all the other places they're doing stuff, that they can always say ....

Scott: Individual people?

developerWorks: You know, come to DavidMeermanScott.com, and then from there, you can find everything else?

Scott: I actually do think so. I think every person needs that, every professional needs that. And by the way, it's not LinkedIn. But I mean, LinkedIn this fine as a place for business networking, but it's a closed unit. And if you don't have a LinkedIn account, which I don't, or you have to friend people like Facebook. So what I recommend is if you have a site great, if you have a blog great. A lot of us don't. Get a Google profile. It's so simple. A Google profile, just go to Google, type in Google profile, sign up, it takes 10 minutes. And you can upload a photo, you can upload a bio, you could have contact information, and all of a sudden, you have a virtual place on the Web that you can point people. And there's a lot of people who, I mean, so blogging isn't right for everyone ,nd not everyone needs a site. But everyone does need a public place on the Web that you can point people to.

developerWorks: And one, like you said, that's not closed.

Scott: Exactly. That's not closed. I've got nothing against LinkedIn or Facebook, and I've got a Facebook account, but yes, it's a closed group, and I would want everybody to have something that's open. It's particularly true in this tough economy for job seekers — people who either are looking for a new job or who are a little worried perhaps about their company, maybe having a layoff that's coming.

It's so much easier to have a face to a name, to an individual rather than just a boring old resume. You know, "Who are you on the Web?" You know, "What have you done?" Pointing to some articles that people have written about you. Pointing to something that you've written perhaps, and you've got a Google profile or some other thing, a personal Web site you can do that with.

developerWorks: Have you found receptivity to what you're talking about here? I would think this would be a great place to be talking about it.

Scott: You know it's really interesting, I started talking about this kind of stuff, I actually started doing it in 1997, 1998. And the company I was working for, I was vice president of marketing of a company called NewsEdge, and the company was acquired by Thompson in 2002. And they fired me because they said we are not interested in this newfangled marketing stuff you're talking about here. And it was actually the best thing that ever happened to me. I went on my own and writing about this stuff. When my other book, The New Rules of Marketing and PRODUCTS, came out in June 2007, I was pretty early with some of these ideas. And a lot of people were very resistant — you know, people that are really into print advertising, TV advertising, and even Yellow Page and direct mail-style advertising. And people who are really into traditional-media relations — you know, contact reporters in trying to get them to write about you. I've got nothing against traditional advertising, traditional PR, it's all cool, you know, it's all part of the mix. But now, we're in March 2009. I don't even have to say what I do anymore really. People are like "Oh, yes." They get it. "Oh my gosh — creating something that people want to share on the Web. I'm into that. How do I do it? Whereas, just two years ago, I had to explain it, and then a lot of people were resistant. So it's really interesting because we talked earlier about this revolution, I think were in it, where the midst of it and a lot more people recognize that.

developerWorks: Mutual friend, Tim Washer, told me about you at ibm.com. What was your part in helping to bring about that cool video series that they did on Youtube?

Scott: Yes. So I had nothing to do with creating it whatsoever. That was Tim Washer's doing. He's a brilliant guy, by the way. So Tim, for some reason I found the video, I stumbled across it, someone linked it to me. I mean, it's all hazy right now because it was a couple years ago, a year and a half ago, whatever. And I really loved it, so I put it in both my books, both of the books about marketing I've written.

developerWorks: The ones that Tim helped produce, the one that ...

Scott: Yes, it's the art of the sale.

developerWorks: Office-type spoof of selling.

Scott: That's right. And it's just terrific. So I thought it was great. I started showing it in my keynote speeches all over the world. People love it, all over the world. I was an [Estonia] last week, and I showed it in [Tartou Estonia], I showed it last week also in [Rego Latvia] and people laughed hysterically.

developerWorks: Is it because they go, "I can't believe IBM did this?" Is that why?

Scott: No — well, a little bit of that. But it's the humor translates into all cultures.

developerWorks: Great.

Scott: So, and then Tim reached out to me and he said, "Yes, I'm the guy" — the handsome guy with the glasses in the art of the sale videos. So he and I then started an e-mail and eventually met, became friends I guess, and he was actually on a panel discussion that I put together a couple weeks ago as well. So yes, it's all been real good.

developerWorks: What's left here at the conference for you? You're just checking out different sessions and meeting people?

Scott: You know what, there are very, very few conferences is that I go to that I stick around. I speak at about 60 conferences a year.

developerWorks: Wow.

Scott: I have a collection of these badges. I keep them all, and I put them on the coat rack. And literally ,t's like a Christmas tree there's so many badges around this coat rack.

developerWorks: Cool.

Scott: And most of the time I come in, I do my thing, and I leave. This is a conference where a meeting people, I'm having some fun. I've connected, as you probably have to Scott, with probably 30 or 40 people that I know virtually. I know them on Twitter, I know them on Facebook, I know their blogs, whatever it is, and I'm meeting them in person. It's very exciting.

developerWorks: That's cool. Well, I'm really glad to meet you.

Scott: Yes, absolutely.

developerWorks: I appreciate your time. David Meerman Scott, author of World Wide Rave, and people can find it on Amazon.

Scott: Amazon.com, it's in all the bookstores now because it just came out last week. So, I was in a Barnes & Noble a couple of days ago, and they were all stacked up. It warms an author's heart to see the physical book in a physical bookstore. [LAUGHTER] But of course all the online bookstores have it.

developerWorks: My pleasure talking with you, and all the best.

Scott: Thanks, I appreciate it.

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