We are now in the Age of Influence, where anyone can build an audience, effect change, advocate for brands and build relationships that make a difference. Ted’s years of advocating for Return on Relationship and more recently, How To Look People In The Eye Digitally, Ted shares his insights on what the cornerstones are for brands to build engaged multi-million member communities.
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Adam: Welcome to episode 64 of The Crowd. I’m talking to Ted Rubin a leading social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, brand evangelist, author and proud dad.
Welcome to Near Me’s podcast, The Crowd, bringing you interviews from thought leaders in the collaborative economy who’ll be sharing their knowledge, diverse real world experiences and stuff you need to know to help build a successful marketplace. I’m your host, Adam Broadway. Thanks for joining us.
In this interview with Ted Rubin, your ears are going to hear a smorgasbord of real world examples and advice for Fortune 500 brands and entrepreneurs alike. Leveraging off Ted’s years of advocating for Return on Relationship and more recently How To Look People In The Eye Digitally, Ted shares his learnings on what are the cornerstones for brands to build engaged multimillion member communities. Say that five times fast. Now that we’re in the Age of Influence where anybody can build an audience, effect change, advocate for brands and build relationships that make a difference 24/7, Ted talks, yeah, I needed one of those too, Ted talks about how brands who’ve lost control of their communities can reconnect and rebuild again instead of trying to outsource it through obsolete marketing strategies and agencies.
Well, hi everybody. We have the pleasure of talking to Ted Rubin. And we have caught up in the past. My good friend, Kevin Cohen, spoke with you last time. Ted, welcome to The Crowd podcast.
Ted: I’m excited to be here. It was a real pleasure talking to him last time. And Adam, I’m looking forward to talking to you. I mean, with a guy with the last name like Broadway, I mean, what could be better than that.
Adam: Well, it’s not very famous back in Australia but it seems that every town has a road named after me. So my kids are pretty happy about that.
Ted: It’s a big deal for kids. I mean, I remember when – I just remember the first time I went to this restaurant in New York, a really inexpensive like steakhouse and it’s called Tad’s, T-A-D-S. Now, my name is Ted but it was such a thrill. I insisted we eat there. My mom is like really? And every time we went to the city, that’s where I want to go back to.
Adam: I like it.
Ted: It’s cool for a kid.
Adam: It is. You’ve mentioned last time when you were talking with Kevin a new book. You were just on the cusp of launching it. It was How To Look People In The Eye Digitally.
Ted: Yes, sir.
Adam: What’s been the reception to that? I know there are some great reviews.
Ted: Well, the reception has been great. I write my books more to take ownership of a term and a concept than worrying about book sales. For me, it’s not about book sales. And maybe that’s because I don’t want to try to sell them and then they don’t sell and then I’d be disappointed. Or hopefully it’s really that authentically for me it’s I don’t like to go around begging people to buy my book and I don’t like to gain the system by having sponsors and events buy my book instead of paying me so it looks like I hit the bestseller list. So I just kind of let it go out there. And for me, it’s more about like owning the term Return on Relationship which is something that now that the book has been published a few years ago –and of course, it’s more than just a book. When you’re constantly talking about it, you build it in as part of your brand, you take ownership of something like that. And it’s the same thing with How To Look People In The Eye Digitally.
I mean, I coined that Return on Relationship. I adopted that phrase. I thought I coined it until I started doing research for the book and found that about seven years before I started talking about it a division of Deloitte had written a white paper called Return on Relationship that didn’t get very much reach or press but it did exist. So I changed all of my personal literature to say that I started using and evangelizing the term. But I basically take an ownership of it. When people hear the term Return on Relationship, they bring up my name. Even if the person on stage or in an article doesn’t, somebody else does. And How To Look People In The Eye Digitally is something that I coined. But again, there are Pete Bryant fans who like to say looking in people’s digital eyeballs. But that came from How To Look People In The Eye Digitally. And by writing the book, you take ownership of that.
And it’s the same thing with a lot of different expressions that you use or things you talk about. The more you use them, the more that people attribute it to you. So I’m really excited about the book. A lot of people have enjoyed it. I’ve also gotten a lot of speaking gigs out of it which is another reason to write books because it seems that people putting on events love to be able to say the author of the currently released blah, blah. So I have another book coming out hopefully in January just because it keeps you current and it allows these people to fill the need to have something to attach themselves to. And I’m not talking about the audience. I’m talking about the people that put on the events.
So it’s kind of feeding into that whole thing. Plus, it also gives you the chance to take something that you’ve written – most of my books come from blog posts I’ve written. I write about it. I tweet about it. I post about it on social and I just take all that content. I have an amazing editor named Apryl Parcher who manages to take all of that junk I throw together that’s here and there and actually make it make sense in a book format. And kudos to her because without Apryl there would be no books by Ted Rubin.
Adam: Yeah. Brilliant. And not to mention the fact that just writing, pinning down those thoughts is the start. And I think everybody has a book inside them, their life experience. They just don’t have that impetus to start to type.
Ted: Well, it’s the impetus to type. And like for instance, that’s not my talent. I’m a short form writer. I love that Seth Godin started this whole thing. A paragraph blog post is actually better than a long form because people have time to read it. Twitter kind of was manna from heaven for me because all of a sudden I could write 140 characters and get patted on the back for being able to express something in such a short space instead of somebody saying why didn’t you write more. And for me, like truthfully, I can’t write a book. I can’t sit down and go chapter to chapter. I just keep putting out content. And then like I said I’m fortunate to have somebody who’s able to put it into a book form for me.
And truth be told you mentioned something before we got started here about the fight I’ve had to keep my kids in my life which is something that has always been a part of who I am for many, many years. But more recently, I published a video about it that kind of takes it and brings it together with the other things I do in my life and how it’s been part and made me who I am. And at some point, I want to write a book about that. And for that, I think I’m going to need somebody different than Apryl who’s amazing but Apryl’s kind of very in tune with me from a business perspective. But for that, I need someone that can really help me tell a story. I can’t tell it to you sitting here. I can get all fired up but it’s going to be here and there and I’m going to jump off in different ways. And if somebody was reading it as a book, they’ll go oh my god, like I don’t even know what this guy is talking about.
Adam: Yup. An explosion in the mattress factory and it’s –
Ted: Exactly. So I think it’s not just the impetus to sit down and write. It’s either having a partner or an editor that can help you take your thoughts. I mean, first of all, I threw Apryl a lot of content in the form of blog posts, in the form of Facebook posts and all different ways I post. Then I threw her a lot of videos or podcasts. So like you and I can have this conversation. This might end up in Apryl’s hands if there is something in it to me that’s unique or it needs to be in a book. And then we get on the phone for hours at a time and she records it and uses that to formulate what ends up becoming a book that makes sense to somebody who is reading it from start to finish.
Adam: You mentioned a word there earlier called authenticity and also some of the personal struggles that you’ve gone through which I can directly relate to as we chatted earlier. I’ve had a very similar experience, exactly the same experience very early on with my first son of which I have five.
Adam: Yeah. So having gone through some of these seriously stressful personal experiences and then your quote also which I love – it’s life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain. Where do you get your energy and motivation from to maintain that authenticity and sanity through these difficult times?
Ted: Well, real quick, I want to make sure that everybody knows that’s a quote I’ve adopted. It’s not a quote I wrote. Okay. Whenever you look it up, most often, it comes up as unknown. There had been some people over time that have tried to take credit for it. I leave it as unknown. That’s why whenever I use it it’s in quotes because it’s not mine. But it is a quote that I firmly adopted when I was going through the struggle. I realized I kept putting everything off. Everything gets put off. I’ll do that later. I’ll do that when I straighten this out. And then I realized which I think is a realization for everything in our life not just what I was going through then is that just it has to do a lot with the no let up thing that I talked about and that I’ve written about. It’s that there’s no letup in life. I mean, it never – you never get to that point where everything is exactly the way you want it to be so you can proceed on to whatever it was you were saving for that point. So it’s really important for me to live by that. And now of course, I’ve done what I do. My head is like a Twitter feed go off in directions. You asked me another question along with that quote. I hope you remember what it was.
Adam: Oh, it was around where you get your energy and motivation.
Ted: Okay. Got that. Well, part of it has just been a part of me. When I was a little kid, I used to get kicked out of class for talking too much. I was known in my parent’s circles, they’d say oh Ted’s here. He’s never going to shut up. I mean, to this day, now, I’m at the point where once you get me going I’m like this for – I’m also very quiet. Like people don’t understand that I’m actually shy. It’s once I get comfortable or I get in that zone that I can start going. But when I walk in a room where I don’t know people, I’m like okay I’m ready to go. I’ve had to push myself and get myself to overcome those kinds of things. So what I’ve learned is I can get myself fired up.
So when I’m tired – like as you know before we got on this call, I told you I’m not feeling well. I was on the road for two weeks. I got home. I got some kind of a cough, cold coming on but I can get fired up for almost anything. Like when I’m ready to go on stage and if I’m not feeling great, I know inside – now, a lot of it just comes from experience. It comes from time and time again when you know you’ve done it. And a part of it comes from the – I told you I was going someplace Friday. I’m going to visit my high school wrestling coach and his wife who was my coach in junior high in high school. I’m now 58 years old. I see him every single year. He relocated. So now, he’s outside of Phoenix in Arizona, a town called Pine He’s been a tremendous effect on my life. And he is really the one that taught me, I credit him a lot with the fact that I never give up on my daughters. I mean, sure, my parents taught me that kind of perspective and attitude and mental state and mindset but it was really my coach who drove it into me that it’s never over.
I know – again, you’re from Australia. And I don’t know if you know the expression it’s not over until it’s over. And it was made famous by a baseball player from the New York Yankees named Yogi Berra. And a lot of people like to say that. Like you’re in a match, it’s not over ‘til it’s over. You can be down 10 to 1. It’s not over ‘til it’s over. Well, my coach used to say it’s never over because he found that people are like well the match is over, I’m done. Or the season’s over, I’m done. What he would say is it’s never over. There’s always another challenge, another opportunity, another friend in need, another family member who needs you. And again, there’s where a lot of no let up comes from. And he just taught me that you can always dig down inside for more of your reserve if you train, if you’re out there doing things.
So I don’t know about you but I always feel like almost every day I didn’t accomplish enough no matter what day it is. At the end of the day, I go oh man, I could’ve done more. I could’ve gotten up earlier. I could’ve worked out a little bit harder. I could’ve done an extra mile. I could’ve made five more phonecalls. When I take the time to sit back and look, when you really look at what you did, it’s that way – if you watch somebody else on your team do that, you go oh my god, what a great day. But we’re always so critical of ourselves. I’ve learned that that’s been built into me. So there’re always reserves whether it’s have another cocktail and you push one in front of me and you go MATE! Don’t leave me hanging here. Or it’s that extra mile or it’s getting up for a conference or whatever else you have to do or supporting a friend when you get that call late at night.
We all get fired up when our kids – I mean, my phone is always on for that minor chance that my daughter might have a problem and reach out to me because I’m the one she reaches out when she has problems. It’s one of the few times I could hear from her. But we all have the times when our friends reach out in the middle of the night. You go in that reserve because you just don’t go oh man, I’m beat, click. You get out of bed and you do what you need to do to be there for that person because that’s the basis of our relationships, our friendships and hopefully our world.
Adam: Yeah. And I think that’s a takeaway for people in their personal relationships as well as their business relationships and also just getting stuff done. Good today is better than perfect tomorrow.
Ted: I like to say that real trumps perfect because real creates trust. First of all, you’re never going to get it perfect. Second of all, when you’re trying to create perfect, very often it’s not authentic. It’s bringing in outside help. It’s getting something done in a different way. I hear people say that the word authentic is overused now. And I hear this at a lot of conferences. There’s someone on stage and he says the five words I don’t want to hear anymore and one of them is authenticity. But I really disagree because – I agree that we shouldn’t have to use the word authentic. And if it’s phrased that way, I totally appreciate it. The problem is there is so much that isn’t authentic in this world that I really think it’s important because I like to say that a brand is what you do but a reputation is what people remember and share. And that authenticity is what builds that reputation or – let’s change that. It’s what builds a good reputation that you do want people to share.
And then just jumping back a little bit because you mentioned the book How To Look People In The Eye Digitally, to me, that’s all related around this. Everything I do comes out of Return on Relationship. That’s the hub of all my stuff. My blog is tedrubin.com but I have this site returnonrelationship.com. And my book How To Look People In The Eye Digitally came out of a chapter from Return on Relationship. My next book which I’m not 100% sure of the title but it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of The Age of Influence but that was another chapter or part of Return on Relationship. The beauty, the importance of How To Look People In The Eye Digitally is connecting the way you and I are connecting right now when we’re on this call because we have our video. Instead of getting this podcast without us seeing each other, we’re looking at each other. And it’s a way. I can see your expressions. I can see the way you turn your head. And I’m getting to know you.
Now, it’s hard to do that digitally only because it takes a little extra work. It’s actually a lot easier than it ever used to be. So here’s a great story for you. When I graduated college, I got my first job, it was in sales. And my dad was a sales guy. And he calls me up after a few days in the first week. He says so do you have your first appointment? And I said yeah. He goes when? I said Friday. He said great. What time is the appointment? I said 10 o’clock. He goes what time are you going to get there? And I said I don’t know, about 5 to 10. He goes no. Remember this was 1980. There was no LinkedIn. There was no Google. There weren’t any of these digital assets. He goes get there at 9 o’clock. Walk around the neighborhood. See what restaurants are there, what stores are there. Go in the building, look at the boards, see what other companies are in the building. Get into the office 20 or 30 minutes early.
And if there’s any chance to get his or her secretary or assistant to let you in the office, see what photos are on the wall. Is he a fisherman? Does she play golf? Grandmother, father, parents, whatever it is so that you can build an emotional connection with that person about something that’s important to them rather than what they’re expecting what’s important to you. And that’s how you connect with people. And now, what’s happening is we’ve been led to believe that clicking a button means making a friend. I mean, Facebook has done a remarkable thing. Let’s give them credit. They’ve taken ownership of a word that’s been around forever. Close your eyes, think of the word friend and I guarantee you instead of seeing an image of one of your buddies in your eyes you will see the Facebook logo. And they led us to believe that you click a button, you make a friend, you move on, you click a button and you make another friend. But all that click is it’s like a handshake.
If you and I would meet for the first time and shake hands, we’re not friends. That’s an invitation to start a friendship. And for me, that’s what looking people in the eye digitally is all about. Truth be told, it’s nothing more than my favorite book in social media. It’s called – it was written in 1936. It’s the best book ever written about social but there was no social then. And it’s called How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie because he talks about always making it about them, about using their name because it’s the most beautiful word in any language to any person’s ear, about finding and knowing the people in your network, in your community.
And to me, How To Look People In The Eye Digitally is Dale Carnegie for the Digital Age. I mean, they tried to do it but they still did it the way they did it because I don’t think they really understand digital channels or all the things that are developing. I tried to write a book that was relevant to what’s out there now. And then since I wrote it, I mean, live streaming has come out. Snapchat has grown and excelled. And we’re really having this ability to connect with people much more than ever before. And we really don’t know who they are, really enter their life.
Adam: Question on that point. Because the connection side of it is so easy now and as you said you can like something or you can connect with somebody as a so called friend on Facebook or follow someone on Twitter, the trust and loyalty side of the equation though, how much bandwidth does an individual have to build meaningful friendships across so many points of contact?
Ted: Well, here’s my take on that. I think we’re building many more than we realize if we’re very upfront, out there and engaging with a lot of people because I believe the vast majority of people never click a like button – you don’t even know they’re there. There are people reading your Facebook posts, watching your tweets, seeing your Instagram post who you don’t even know are paying attention. And they’re doing what I call participating vicariously through your participation. So the vast majority of people will see that Adam and Ted converse all the time. Let’s say we’re on Instagram and we’re doing things. And we have little conversations. And they watch those conversations and they feel like they’re a part of that community because in their eyes well Adam didn’t really know Ted. He sent out an email. Somebody did it but Ted’s answering Adam. Or even if Adam isn’t Adam Broadway from Near Me, Adam is just some guy because I converse with people in Twitter all the time.
A guy just wrote me an email who had been following me on Twitter and asked me a bunch of questions. And now, people can see the interactions. And they can say you know what, when and if I want to do that, it’s like – think of a cocktail party. You walk in a big cocktail party where a few hundred people are in a room and there’s not one conversation. There’re probably 20 pockets of conversation going on. Very often, there’s one guy talking. There’re 10 to 20 people around that person and maybe one or two people in that group surrounding him are actually engaging. But every single person that walks away from the conversation says wow, that guy Adam is a great guy. They walk away. They feel they knew you. If they go in to another party, someone will say hey, do you know Adam Broadway? And they’ll go oh yeah, we’re just with them in a cocktail party. They weren’t with you. You didn’t even know they were there. But they felt that they were because they watched you interact and engage.
So whether you’re Ted and Adam or you’re anybody, if you start creating those conversations – now, I’ve been talking about this for years. And then about three years ago, I left the company I was with for three years called Collective Bias where I’m still a shareholder in, we build content at scale, user-generated content in a big blogger community. And all of a sudden, I was seeing a lot of different people I hadn’t seen before because I was outside of my normal sphere. And people like you will walk up to me going Ted, how are you doing? Oh man, that trip you did to Costa Rica surfing with your daughter, dude. And I’m like have we met? Like oh no but I’ve been following you on Facebook for years. And I’m like well, are we friends? No. But I leave my page open.
I have CEOs and CMOs that walk up to me in lobbies and want to see my socks. And I’ve never engaged with them directly but they’ve seen my posts, they’ve heard the conversations. And they feel close enough to me to have that conversation. And they feel like they actually know me. And just think about it with your close friends. Think about it with the guys you played ball with or that you went to school with. You never used to have the time to keep up with most of them. When you did see them, you’d have to say so, do you have kids? What’s going on? Are you married? Are you still married? But now, because periodically either you check or they pop up in your Facebook, your Instagram, your Snapchat or somewhere else, when you do get together with them, it’s like you never left. I mean, you do know what’s – you don’t have to waste all that time on all the update.
Ted: You can dig in to what might be important to you. Like I saw that you went on a surfing trip with your daughter. Or wow, I saw that your kids love when they see their name Broadway on the street. That’s really cool. And again, if you’re paying attention, I think it spreads a lot farther. I think the basic norm of those 150 people that the research has done that each of us can have relationships with, I think it spreads vastly but I also think it shifts. Like it’s 150 here today. Tomorrow, it might be this 150. Next week, it might be this 150. Or the odds are it’s going to combine pieces of all.
Ted: And then those people can shift back in to your consciousness so quickly and easily because I mean, I went – what did I do before I got on this call? I went to your LinkedIn page, I went to your Twitter page. I couldn’t find you on Facebook. I mean, I did my research. I wanted to see more about who you were because last time we didn’t talk. But I have the ability to do that. And I also know what you look like. So even if we weren’t able to have this engagement via video because it’s just for the audience, we are seeing each other, I knew who I was talking to.
Adam: Yup. And the dynamic-ness of these peer groups, these communities, they are dynamic. They are fluid. They’re changing all the time. And the connections are so powerful over time. I am really all about the network effect and I love that. It’s a whole conversation we could have separately. But I would like to talk a little more around the effective communities within brands.
Ted: I would love to talk about that. The last point I want to make on that conversation just because it has to do with the book I mentioned is that this really is the Age of Influence where anybody can build an audience, effect change, advocate for brands, build relationships and make a difference 24/7. We used to have budgets for that. We used to have to travel. It keeps me awake at night. I don’t go to bed because I’m communicating and I’m building more people. I’m actually getting to know really cool things. I don’t know about you but the phone goes down, then I pick it back up and then I look and then three more people replied. And then I go oh wow, I don’t really know Adam. Here’s an opportunity to talk to him. So again, I apologize. I want to throw that in. Let’s go to the community because I think that’s a really important topic.
Adam: Yeah. And just to get your thoughts on communities within brands. And user groups have been around for a long, long time. I remember it as a kid. When I first got into tech, I’d go down to the local Cisco user group. I get on the train, get off the train and would sit around. And there was no solid internet back in those days but we still built community. The brands really controlled that. They held on to that and made sure that they owned it completely. Nowadays, you can set up Facebook groups or Meetups or LinkedIn groups outside of brands and they feel that lost control to a degree. How can brands start to leverage the power of community beyond what they’ve done traditionally? And where is the balance of a genuine community and a staged kind of digital marketing agency comes in and wants to socially engineer something with some clever psychological techniques versus truthful and authentic community?
Ted: Well, truth be told, brands have lost that control. If they’re smart, they’re embracing that lack of control which will help give them a little more control, in other words, becoming a part of that community instead of trying to manage and dictate what happens in that community. And you made a great point because there’re a lot of agencies that are still trying to hold on to that. Why? Well, it makes them a lot of money. That’s number one. The same reason they keep telling you that your content is not ever-green. You got to keep producing more when a lot of it can be used again and again and again. I hear all these “experts” saying oh my god, he tweeted the same thing 10 times. Why wouldn’t I? I mean, if I’m writing something like relationship is like muscle tissue, the more you engage, then the stronger and more valuable it will become, why wouldn’t I say that again and again? I mean, how else will somebody get to know it?
The old tenets of marketing still exist reaching frequency. But what happens with these communities and I can give you a perfect example is that they get managed by an agency who only works when they’re paid which means there’s a lot of parameters. Like well, we don’t answer questions on weekends. Why? Because we don’t want to have to pay our employees to work on weekends because then we’re going to charge the brand and the brand’s got to pay for it. Well, the brand’s only paying for X amount of responses a month. What ends up happening is budgets get affected. And it’s one of the reasons I talk so much about empowering employees. If you let your employees do a lot more of this and stop having that fear that they might not know exactly what to say or it might not be totally aligned with your brand – there are so many ways to empower them. Just to give benign answers like nice to hear from you, great to talk to you.
But then there are brands like FedEx that nobody allowd to tweet answer or respond without five levels of approval. So I’m going to give you a perfect example of what happens with brands and the way it ends up being detrimental instead of positive. So FedEx did a campaign about two years ago that was brought to them by their agency and it was a great campaign. The agency did have good ideas. They’re smart people. So don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking away from their creativity. It’s unfortunate the way it’s structured and what ends up happening. So they come to FedEx who doesn’t let people communicate with people and they say let’s set up something for us to communicate with people. So right there, you got a problem because that means there’s not going to be any regular communication on any normal pace that people are used to unless the agency’s involved.
So the agency comes in and they kind of come up with this cool idea. So they’re going to reach out to influencers who are doing special things in their lives, integrate themselves in a good way into the conversation so that’s accepted and then do something remarkable, do something to surprise and delight. So it happens – by the way, most of my stories come from things I experienced as a consumer not as somebody who’s checking people out. So you know a lot, some of the history about me and my daughters. And I didn’t get to take my older daughter to any colleges and I wasn’t going to get to take my younger daughter but we had a vacation coming up. And she was thinking about going to Duke University. A buddy of mine is a Dukee. That’s means he went to Duke University. We call him a Dukee.
And it just so happened that the biggest basketball game of the year was coming up between Duke and Syracuse. The first one was at Syracuse. This one was at Duke. Tickets were impossible to get. My buddy got four tickets. It cost a fortune but he knew he was taking his daughter and I was taking my daughter. And it was during my vacation. So I already had my daughter. I didn’t have to ask special permission. And Niki had always said to me she didn’t want to go away anywhere. We went away to Costa Rica over Christmas. She wanted to kind of hang out. I said great, we’re going to go. And then I got a call from her mother saying you can’t take Niki to see Duke. I’m taking her to see Duke. And I’m like well, it’s my vacation and I got these tickets. And fortunately, my younger daughter who’s a lot tougher than my older one kind of stepped up and said Mom, do you have tickets to Duke-Syracuse? And of course, Mom couldn’t say she did. And we went.
And what happened was FedEx latched on to me. And they start seeing the conversation and they do a great job. I have to tell you the people at the agency integrated themselves, were polite, did it right, had the right comments, started talking to me about the trip and the game. And then during the game, it’s about to start and I’m tweeting Duke, Duke, Duke. And they write something cute like I wonder who you’re rooting for. And then while this is happening, they say to me listen, we’d love to send you a surprise. Thanks for conversing with us. What’s your home address? So I give them my home address. I got home a few days later and there’s this big wok box waiting for me with all these Duke paraphernalia, T-shirts, hats, mugs, everything you can imagine even – I must have mentioned in the tweet that my ex-business partner had gotten a new Maserati. I don’t even remember it but they sent me a model Maserati. It was all good.
Now, what would you expect if you’re sending an influencer or someone who tweets 50 times a day. It’s going to happen. I’m going to go to Twitter and say thank you. So I take the card which has all these things printed out. I take a picture. I put it out. Thank you, FedEx. This is awesome. Nothing. Hey FedEx, thanks so much. I really appreciate it. What are you doing next? Nothing. I tweeted 12 times, Adam. Finally, I started tweeting hello. Is anybody home? Just like total – I never once got a reply. Why? Because the campaign was over.
Ted: The agency was no longer getting paid. The community which they had had been dissolved. The one on one had been dissolved. And then I find out – by the way, so what happens is you take a guy who is an influencer who couldn’t care less if it’s UPS, FedEx, USPS. And now, I have a slide in every presentation I do around the world that says in big black letters FedEx doesn’t get it when I’m making examples of companies that understand social and companies that don’t have a clue. And then I presented a couple of times with FedEx people in the audience and you think they’ll get upset. No. They come up and they go I’m so glad you said that. It’s so impossible. And by the way, they’re the ones who told me five levels of approval. It goes to a brand manager. It goes to a legal team. It goes to a trademark team.
Ted: Just say thank you. I mean, they can’t even say it. How difficult is it to teach your employees when your company name is mentioned in one way or another to say, how can I help you? How can I help you?
Adam: And if I don’t have the answer, I’m going to connect you with somebody that will.
Ted: Right, exactly. I mean, Adobe does a remarkable job on that. I’m not going to bore you with another story but there’s another great story with Adobe in the way they empower their employees to listen, to see when they’re being mentioned and to jump in and try to resolve issues and they do a great job. They don’t try to fix something they don’t – they didn’t tell me to open my computer and tell me what to do. They did exactly what you just said. They said how can we find someone who can help you solve your problem? This is not rocket science but this is what happens. They build a community and then instead of having the positive effect it ends up being a negative effect. And this happens even with companies where they have a lot of agencies running communities around the clock because they’re not attached to the brand.
There are some that do it well. But it’s got to be such a close link to the company that you’re not steering like – you’re steering the conversation but not you’re managing the conversation. You’re not deleting comments. You’re not telling critics to go away. You’re actually embracing them because I love critics, because 90 percent of critics shouldn’t turn around. And they become what I call dynamic advocates. I mean, it’s just that most of them just want you to listen. It’s like all wives, Adam, right? I mean, if one time we’d actually listen to them when they ask us to take out the garbage and didn’t say yeah, I’ll get to it, it’s amazing.
Adam: Happy wife, happy life.
Ted: But we can’t do that as men but we need to be able to do it as brands.
Adam: Now, where’s the argument there? And you mentioned that they’re stuck in, a lot of them are stuck in the old ways of doing things and the idea of there’s no such thing as bad press. Hey, look, Ted Rubin, he’s got us up on a slide. He’s maybe pointing out some problems that we have but there’s our brand. It’s frequency, frequency, frequency and reach without – and because they don’t get it, I mean, get the whole effect of the community aspect of it and authenticity and loyalty and those things, what do you say to them that well any PR is good PR?
Ted: It goes beyond that. It’s like what would be the smartest thing in the world is to see my slide up on a board and reach out while I’m at the conference and say hey, Ted Rubin, we’d love to talk to you about this, like wondering what we can do better, even if they don’t change anything right away, just showing an openness to a conversation. It’s the same thing with customers. When they make comments on Facebook page or – in fact, the brands are so siloed that they still have a digital department and a mobile department and a social department. Half of the time, they don’t even talk to each other, run their own campaigns. The words mobile, social and digital, they’re all going to be gone in the next 18 to 24 months. If they’re not gone, they should be because everything is mobile, everything. Everything is being socialized even if you’re not socializing. Everything is digital, I mean, no matter what it is. And so they have all these silos.
And then they have these silos with customer service. They’re even siloing the social channels. So Twitter has become the place for customer service. This is where we answer people. Try to get most brands to even respond to you on Facebook or on Instagram or on Snapchat. They don’t respond. That’s just where they’re pushing stuff out. They’ve decided Twitter is for that. Facebook is for advertising. Instagram is for perfect photos. Half of them won’t even show the photos that their advocates are sharing because they don’t perfectly represent the product. I mean, I go through this with brands all the time. I worked with a company called Origami Owl that sells jewelry and is a direct sales company. And I spoke there and they loved all the advice I gave them. But what I’m trying to get at them – I’m like there’re so many women, tens of thousands around the country sharing pictures of your product that they love. Why aren’t you sharing it? Oh, the light wasn’t great and this wasn’t perfect and it didn’t represent our product. I go but it’s representing their love for you guys.
So set up a separate page. Have your regular Instagram with your perfect photography. Have one that’s called friends of Origami Owl or something like that. There are so many different ways to approach this. We had remarkable success with this at e.l.f. Cosmetics. When we found that we could put together these very beautiful perfectly choreographed videos that cost us thousands of dollars or we could share the horrible shaking videos of our customers when they got excited and they got their product, we got way more attribution and way more directed traffic from those videos than we did from anything we ever created ourselves.
Adam: So there isn’t any excuse for brands to be able to create these communities and empower them because we have the “technology”. What do you think it’s going to take for some of these brands to just start to listen to this advice? I mean, if I was a brand out there listening to what you’re saying now, this is – you should be charging by the hour right now because these are gems that if they actually started to listen and implement, they could turn their brand equity around from being negative to positive because oh wow, FedEx is now listening and they’re responding. Brand X over here, they completely ignored my rant on Yelp because they didn’t even follow the – they didn’t realize that they’re losing business because people are saying, slamming, denigrating their brand because they’re just not really listening because it’s not part of their so called proper media channel. What is it going to take for some of these brands to wake up?
Ted: I think it’s like everything else. It’s the course of time. It’s other examples that come about. It’s companies that grow themselves the way they do. It’s the Airbnb and the Uber of the world that are growing out of the natural love of people for these products and they’re sharing what they’re doing. I mean, I don’t know about you but I mean most of these things I don’t find out about through their ads. I found out about them through other people, through the conversations, through people that say – I mean, I resisted Uber for the longest time back in the day until everybody’s saying oh my god, you got to try this. This is amazing. Their ads didn’t get me to do it. I’m not saying – by the way, I’m not saying ads don’t work. A properly executed advertising campaign done well over time, reach and frequency, has a lot of value.
But if you don’t combine it with these places where people feel comfortable – I mean, how many times do you have to hear the quote that people trust what their friends tell them 85 percent of the time but 3 percent of the time, they trust brands? It’s the advertising. It’s what gets the name. The advocacy is what really gets the sale. But I’m not afraid to say these things here because they don’t listen. They don’t care. I mean, last time we’re on the call, last time I had the call, I was asked about Etsy and what they could be doing. And I think I gave them some amazing ideas, things I’ve even tried and executed and done successfully and they haven’t even – nobody is –
Adam: Yeah. You talked to me about a number of other verticals that they can go into and –
Ted: It’s one of the reasons why – companies don’t listen until they’re spending money, until there’s somebody at a high level that says hey, we’re paying Adam and Ted $20,000 a week to come in here and tell us how to do this. You guys better damn well listen and start testing some of these stuff. And then at the other side of it, it’s so easy to try this stuff. I mean, at Collective Bias, we had huge success because we worked with brands in shopper marketing at the retailer. So we were able to get brand managers from certain brands at certain locations to try something and say oh my god, like wow, what a difference this makes. The problem at a higher level, at the corporate marketing level is that they just don’t test a lot and the things they do, they do on a small scale or they want to see –
Bryan Solis has a very funny story about how he was with this brand. And they tell him that they want great thinking. They want something that’s going to be groundbreaking and new. And he comes up with this couple of ideas. And they go well, who’s done it before? And he goes nobody. They go, how can we trust it? He goes you just asked for something groundbreaking. Where are you going to find something new and groundbreaking if five, ten other people have already proven that it works? I mean, they all talk like this. And look, here’s what I think it takes. It always takes somebody within the brand, somebody that decides they want a change, they want to do something. Change never comes from the very top. You don’t get CEOs and CMOs. They’re worried about the daily revenues. They have too many other things that they have to focus on.
It’s the midlevel people that are willing to step up, the directors, the VPs who want to make an influence and are willing to take that risk to bring us something new. When vendors talk to me about how do I convince this brand to try employee advocacy and bring in out platform, I say you have to find a champion within the brand, somebody who says I want to make a difference, I want to make my mark here and really understands how it works inside that brand because these cultures can be almost impossible to navigate if you’re from the outside.
Adam: One hundred percent agree because as an example, one of our clients, Intel, they have a champion inside the brand who presented an idea to the executives. It got sponsored and it’s all around building community, around 20 million Intel developers worldwide. And it’s a way of their – it’s a way for Intel developers to connect and share what they’re doing. It’s a white-labeled Intel-branded Facebook.
Adam: It can create groups. It can create projects. They can follow other developers. Developers follow back. They can collaborate. And within four weeks of launching that project, devmesh.intel.com, they immediately got a return on investment or return on relationship because the relationship that they were able to see built within that community exposed a project which was using some Intel technology used to develop a digital cane for blind people. And that went up to the top chain of command. They’ve seen that and go we had no idea that we’re building this sort of stuff with our product. This person has now been lifted up in the profile. And tons of other projects built on the Intel technology have now come to the surface. The return on relationships that not just the brand Intel is getting from that new community that they’re building but also across, between developers where they’re sharing, collaborating is absolutely amazing. And the cost for implementation is just, it’s a bleep on their marketing project.
Ted: I’m going to give your audience another tip on something like this because here’s what happens. You really had a fortunate circumstance. You had a champion. You got it in. It took off and you were set. But what happens most of the time is you get a champion. They come in. Especially with SaaS products, they test it with just a certain amount of seats. The real success is not getting in the door. It’s when it gets expanded and implemented throughout the organization. But what happens is the guy who was building the relationship gets that one, gets in and then stops and then he leaves it. And the problem is two things can happen. Number one is you haven’t spread that love or those relationships to the other areas that still might be skeptical. And the other side of it is what happens when that brand champion leaves if you have not gone into the next level?
This happens all the time. You break into an account. You get the thing. And all of a sudden, your buddy calls you up or the guy you built a relationship with, he says hey, by the way, I’m leaving. Now, the good news is he might be going to a company who’s not your client yet and you might have another door to open. But what’s going to happen there? And I’m just going to plead. I am going to beg. Okay. I’m going to beg. I’m going to beg the people who work for vendors in your audience who want to build this relationship not to stop after you get that one guy who signs the contract. And I’m going to beg the companies to take the time and the money to invest in the dinners, the events, the time. They’re going to visit these people even when you don’t need to, to build and to give yours sales people and your customer experience people and your service people the time and the ability to do that because that’s what’s going to get you deeper into the organization. Build relationships with other people that will champion you when and if someone leaves and also champion you to other parts of the company because as you know that’s what the real win is. It’s when you get in and then it spreads.
Adam: Absolutely. And the great thing is that when you do build a thriving community, they self moderate.
Ted: Yes. And your advocact will stand up for you. If there’s a problem, you don’t even have to jump in. Five other guys in the organization go oh, we already had that and this is how we resolved it.
Ted: And it’s not the problem with our vendor or the solution. It’s something internal that we can fix. And this happens in B2B. This happens in B2C when people complain about products or people who have problems and they get solved before your team even gets to it because somebody else in the community helps them solve it.
Adam: And that whole 24/7 or our agency doesn’t work over the weekend to respond to that, problem solved.
Ted: Problem solved because guess what, we do work through the weekend as human beings. We’re always there.
Adam: Absolutely. There’s somebody in some part of the world that has experienced it. They’re jumping in. And what’s in it for them? They’re getting kudos from the team. They’re building their own reputation inside the community and a little bit of competitive tension there with other members that also get other responses for or against that reply. It builds vigorous conversation. And as I said, the moderation takes place by the members of the community.
Ted: Empower your employees and they will power your brand. Empower the community. Give them the tools. Help them build their personal brands. Let them build their own expertise. Stop being afraid of the leaving and be more like – there’s a great slide that you’ve probably seen. It’s circulated. A lot of different guys put it up on the board when they do presentations. It says CFO to CEO, what if we train them and they leave? And CEO says what if we don’t and they stay.
Adam: Yeah. That’s a beautiful – I love it. That’s awesome. Ted, it’s been absolutely awesome talking to you. There’s one last quote too that you have put out there and it says a network gives you reach but a community gives you power. Networks connect; communities care.
Adam: There was an article you had up on Huffington Post recently.
Adam: It’s a great article. Short, sweet and just succinct. It says it all.
Ted: A network is just a series of nodes. It’s I’m connected to this one. This one is connected to this one. And there’s a lot of value in that. But when you take it and build them into communities, communities that overlap, communities that in different places, communities support each other. Communities watch out for each other. To me, that’s where the real benefit comes in.
Adam: You mentioned the word nodes and I alluded to it earlier. We’ll have to have a separate conversation about it another time. Network and link analysis is a whole another part of Computer Science where we can actually look at the influences, the hidden influences and spreaders within peer groups based on that time series data that’s collected. So big data and how that can be used in these communities expose the up and comings. It’s not just well, we built it. Now, we have to nurture these communities. The communities moderate themselves. And their data is gold, absolute gold that they can mine and the return on –
Ted: And the conversation is that you can listen in on. So whenever I speak, I put a slide of a fly up. And I ask people, do you know what this is? And a lot of people they say it’s a fly. I go it’s the proverbial fly on the wall. I wish I could be a fly on the wall in that meeting. And then I go to a slide of a living room and I say everybody in this world is inviting you to their living rooms. But brands aren’t going. They’re so worried with bringing people to their social pages that they’re not just going and listening to the conversations happening. There are communities existing. They don’t even have to create. They’re out there already. Go in and listen to the conversations. Assign people in your organization that every day they have to go at least to the pages of 10 people that follow your brand. And in some days, it will be worthwhile. Some days, it will be a waste of time. But it’s not a waste of time because you’re hearing something.
And then bring that into your brainstorming sessions, into your conversations, into the way you interact. There’s so much information out there that we’re just not using and some of that is just so – you don’t need necessarily software to find these things. And software is great but software only gives you keywords or things that are being talked about in numbers. It doesn’t give you the real feeling of the way people feel and what they’re talking about. So I urge people to use these tools that are available for them instead of just clicking buttons and thinking they’re adding to their reach.
Adam: Brilliant. Ted, wonderful to talk to you and especially after coming off a pretty hectic weekend and travel schedule. I really appreciate your time. I’m sure everybody listening and those reading the transcript are getting huge value from this. We will be putting links to all of your articles and all your social media connections for those few that may not know about you. Is there any parting words that you’d like to just share with the audience particularly to the brands who are listening and thinking about how do I – what’s my next step as a middle manager wanting to take this idea to the CXOs to get some sponsorship around building community for their brand?
Ted: Well, I think I mentioned this very briefly earlier but I just want everybody to remember that relationship is like muscle tissue. The more you engage them, the stronger and more viable they become. And there’s so much value out there waiting for us. And I’m going to give you one last tip. Everybody in the audience has a smartphone. We all do. When I’m in front of an audience, I hold it up and I ask people what it’s called, what I’m holding. And people invariably say it’s an iPhone. I go what’s the biggest word in iPhone. And nine times out of ten, when I ask what’s the biggest word in iPhone, people say I. And I laugh and I go no, it’s actually phone. It’s not just about you. And ask people to do something for me. We all have apps on our phones. You’re all familiar with that but most people don’t recognize that all these smartphones come with a built-in app that most people have forgotten exists.
It’s 10 digits, zero to the number nine. And if you punch on at least in the state 7 of them or in other places 10 to 12 of them, you will actually hear somebody’s voice. It’s remarkable. You don’t have to use emoticons to express emotion. I use emoticons in all my social because I want people to know whether I’m smiling or winking or I’m sad. But you can actually talk loud. You can laugh, you can cry, you can get angry. And people will know exactly what you’re saying. So I’m going to challenge everybody in your audience to try something that I think will change their perspective. For the next month, every day, pick up their phone and call someone they haven’t spoken to in a while and simply say hi, it’s Ted, just checking in. I wonder if there’s anything I can do to support you. That simple. And if they want to talk, spend a few minutes talking to them. If they don’t want to talk, and the reason most people don’t pick up their phones is they’re afraid it’s going to take up too much time, then let them off the phone.
But here’s what’s going to happen. You think it doesn’t scale but people will tell other people that you actually called them. And you’ll be amazed at the way it will affect your personal brand. So, and the way it will affect the way you understand how people connect. They’re going to be so amazed. I have a buddy, my ex-business partner, every day when he drives to work, he’s got a list of phone numbers. And he calls people and he just says – now, when he calls, I laugh. I pick it up and I go, what can I do for you today? And even when you’re used to it or you expect it, it’s something special and it means something. And people share that. They tell people that... And I’m telling you I’ve had people tell me this all around the world, it’s changed their perspective. So try it.
Adam: Everybody, that is the challenge for the next month. Call people. Talk to your mom that you haven’t spoken to in years.
Adam: Talk to your dad that you are estranged from. Get on the phone to that customer that you know they’re going to scream at you. Build a connection. They might be screaming at you via email and that’s why you’re too scared to call them. Call them and you make all the difference.
Ted: Yes, Sir.
Adam: Brilliant advice, Ted. Pleasure to meet you eyeball to eyeball digitally. And I look forward to catching up again, to getting us out there for everybody who listens to very shortly.
Ted: Looking forward, Adam. But next time I’m in San Francisco, we should connect.
Adam: Absolutely. It would be great. Go and grab some lunch.
Ted: Looking forward.
Adam: Thanks for joining us for The Crowd, the podcast that keeps you connected. Join us next episode for more knowledge sharing and insights into the marketplace economy.
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