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We sought out advice from professionals and influencers who are the best at using design & content for communication. This is the beginning of our interview series. 

Tell me a little bit about your background (work or personal).

I like to say I got started in social media as soon as I got involved in this thing we call the Internet when I joined Seth Godin’s start-up, Yoyodyne, in 1997. Everything digital enabled sharing in ways never imagined before… so for me that is where it all began. Although I have always been social, and networking, building relationships, has been at the heart of what I do. It was in 2008 when I joined e.l.f. Cosmetics that social marketing became the core of what I do every day. Social platforms were first starting to dramatically scale and I was fortunate to be at a brand where making it the heart of what we did seemed to be the natural way to go.

I am now considered is a leading Social Marketing Strategist and a Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators and in March 2009 started publicly using and evangelizing the term ROR: Return on Relationship™… a concept that’s the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand, like the one I built for e.l.f. Cosmetics as the Chief Marketing Officer between 2008 and 2010, and OpenSky where I was Chief Social Marketing Officer until the end of April 2011. For the next 3 years I was the Chief Social Marketing Officer and partner at Collective Bias where I helped build a community of 4000 bloggers who created branded user -generated content at scale, and developed a social content syndication engine called CBSocially. Effective September 1st, 2013 I left Collective Bias. In the words of Collective Bias Founder John Andrews… “Ted, you were the vision, heartbeat and soul of Collective Bias, thank you for building a great company. From innovations like cb.Socially to the amazing relationships you built with the blogger community, clients and employees, you drove the epic growth. You will be missed!”

With e.l.f. Cosmetics from 2008-2010 and OpenSky from 2010-2011, I become known for my active use of Twitter whereI have in excess of 600,000 followers and grew 60,000+ followers for e.l.f. Twitter handles in 2009, over 100,000 for OpenSky in 2010, and well in excess of 1MM for Collective Bias and growing every day… all with deep engagement and interaction.

Many people in the social media world know me for my enthusiastic, energetic and undeniably personal connection to people. I am the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine; one of the most interesting CMOs on Twitter according to Say Media, #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, 2013, and number #2 on the Leadtail list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers. ROR is the basis of my philosophy…It’s All About Relationships! My book, Return on Relationship, was released January 29, 2013.

Being a divorced Dad of two teenage daughters is also a big part of who I am, and there is a Divorced Dad section on my blog…

Why did you decide to work in social marketing?

Social marketing is second nature to me. I have always been a networker and connector. Social allows me to take it to the next level and easily create and nurture communities. Always keep in mind that a Network gives you Reach, but a Community gives you Power. In addition I was always a frustrated author because writing, and communicating via the written word did not come naturally to me. Social allows me to do both in a similar fashion to how I communicate when I take, and short form publishing is not only acceptable, but preferable.

Could you explain the concept ROR: Return on Relationship and how it can help increase engagement? 

Return on Relationship (ROR, #RonR), simply put, is the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship, whereas ROI is simple dollars and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations and sharing, and is used to define and educate companies, brands, and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction, and engagement. Brands/Companies that use social successfully, and build relationships, reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and importantly, increased revenues.

You grew e.l.f.’s twitter followers to 60,000, OpenSky’s to over 100,000 followers, and over 1MM followers for Collective Bias. What advice would you have for companies trying to maximize their reach on Twitter?

Get started right away, and don’t wait to develop a full blown strategy. It takes time to build a following and the sooner you get started to better. If you want to continue to reach your market in this social media age, the marketing focus needs to be on building relationships, and metrics need to expand beyond ROI (Return on Investment) to include ROR: Return on Relationship™. If you are not engaging in your field of expertise on Twitter someone else is, so the first issue is that you are missing that opportunity and handing it to others. Second… if you are not talking about your business, your customers and prospects probably are, and you are not there to participate, engage, interact and most important for your business… listen and lead.

My philosophy is that Twitter is a tool that leads into other forms of social sharing. I consider Twitter a place to lay the groundwork where other people pick up things. Twitter is a seeding medium and a place to build engagement and interaction… it is not a broadcast medium, so it is not about the quantity of people listening at once, but the ability to lay it out there for those whose attention are drawn to what you have to say at any given moment.

Twitter is a river that continuously flows, and flows. You add content one second, and the next it is gone. Tweet to keep your personal brand on your followers’ radar, increase your following, and provide value that keeps followers listening and you top of mind. Send the same tweet often multiple times in a day and send valuable content repeatedly over the course of time.

As companies market themselves, should they involve a creative department so that they can have visuals that align with their brand and content? How important do you think visuals are to marketing?

It is always important to knock down the silos between different departments, especially when they are both a part of marketing and alignment is necessary to be successful. Consumers relate best to visuals, and can easily keep it in the minds eye, especially when they help tell the story.

Do you have any advice for how companies can build their client base and create brand loyalty? 

In today’s market, REAL trumps PERFECT because real is what creates TRUST …and trust is what makes WOM recommendations work. Consumers who trust your brand are much more likely to become Brand Advocates, knowing you will consistently deliver on your product and service promises.  In fact, 76% of consumers recommended companies they trust to a friend or colleague (source: Edelman).

One key way to gain consumers’ trust is to build authentic relationships with them. Give consumers ongoing chances to interact with you and your brand, so they can see that you always tell the truth. Don’t waste your valuable marketing time making things up because your consumers will sense that you are not telling the truth.  Do your products and services have all perfect recommendations, as your brand claims?  Maybe – but unlikely.  100% on-time delivery?  Maybe – but unlikely.

Of course you don’t need to announce your errors or be proud of performance inconsistencies, but if consumers bring them up publicly, consider NOT filtering those conversations out of the media.  Speak directly to any issues consumers have with your brand, and let your problem-solving conversations be public. These authentic conversations are the ones that build ongoing relationships – the ones that create Brand Advocates.

In my opinion, our new marketers’ motto should be “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation.” In other words, don’t waste resources whitewashing your brand.  Put your resources instead into giving Advocates the tools to tell their truth about your brand…because that is what consumers trust and what they trust, they will buy. “LESS fabrication, MORE facilitation” = a boost to your ROR (Return on Relationship).

True authenticity is one major thing that can set your brand apart from the rest of today’s highly competitive market. 

You focus on identifying with a customer and creating relevance for the consumer. How would you suggest going about creating such a relationship?

So how do you build and strengthen relationships with your audience (as a whole, and as individuals) to increase your ROR, #RonR?

1. Listen

If you want to be heard above the growing social media “noise,” you need to first listen to your consumers so when you do speak, you get it right.  What are they saying, what are they feeling, what are their pain points, what solutions do they need?

2. Make it be about THEM

First think about and first address what matters most to your audience.  Give them a platform to show you what they need, want, are interested in, and expect.  Whatever matters most to them should become what matters most to you!  We marketers like to think that social media is primarily a set of tools for our marketing purposes, but in reality, social media is also a strong set of tools our consumers use to share and influence opinion about our brand.   Our consumers now have “the channel of me.” Consumers’ opinions now create the “reality” of the brand — if enough consumers say negative things about your brand, your brand loses its credibility, and (thankfully) vice versa.

3. Ask “How can I serve you?”

Taking the “ME” mentality one step further, when we are advertising instead of building relationships, we are focused on what our consumers can give us instead of how we can best serve them.

Your consumers will recognize in a heartbeat if you are simply trying to get something from them – and they will not stick around.  It’s not that you aren’t allowed to want anything from your consumers, it’s that there must be a give to go along with every take.   If you truly want to make an impact, aim to always put more energy and attention in your “give” column than in your “take” column.  It will pay off.

4. Aim for Ongoing Engagement

Building relationships is about starting meaningful dialogue and taking the time to thoughtfully and genuinely engage in ongoing conversation.  Relationships focus on getting to know your consumer and giving them reasons to stay engaged — not just getting them to react. This needs to be all the time… not simply campaign or initiative based. That is the biggest mistake being made today by marketers and brands… with consumers, and especially with influencers.

5. Know the People in Your Audience

Short and simple:  if you are only focused on the money, you risk completely overlooking the people.  Don’t make that mistake!  If you don’t know who your people are, you might as well toss your marketing money down the drain.

Relationships ARE the new currency – honor them, invest in them, and start measuring your ROR, #RonR.

As a professional keynote speaker, what are the biggest problems you see with public speaking? How can speakers take their presentation to the next level?

Simple… connecting with the audience. It is no different from many of the problems they face with social media. Instead of looking to create a bond with the audience, inspire them, and connect… most speakers simply broadcast.

Create a connection by not reading from a script, or even having one. Use slides as a guide, not as the presentation itself. Look at and observe your audience to make sure you are reaching them, and if not… adjust as necessary while you are presenting. Be sure to give them takeaways, without necessarily telling them they are takeaways… something they connect with and want to share.

Do you include visual aids when you speak?

I use slides as a guide, to provide shareable quotes, and to inspire the audience.

Are there any useful technologies or tools marketers can use to propel their business forward?

There are a lot of technologies and tools. They key is to use them effectively, and not get overwhelmed with every shiny new object. Remember, tools, data, and technology are great, but let judgement and instinct always be your guide.

Any further advice can you offer our readers – presenters, designers, or public speakers?

Welcome to the ‘Age of Influence,’ where anyone can build an audience and effect change, advocate brands, build relationships and make a difference. Brands/Companies that use social successfully reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered costs, and importantly, increased revenues.

And never forget… Relationships are like muscle tissue; the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.

About Ted: 

Ted Rubin is a leading Social Marketing Strategist, Keynote Speaker, Brand Evangelist, and Acting CMO of Brand Innovators. Ted is the most followed CMO on Twitter according to Social Media Marketing Magazine; one of the most interesting CMOs on Twitter according to Say Media, #13 on Forbes Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, and number #2 on the Leadtail list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers. ROR, #RonR, is the basis of his philosophy…It’s All About Relationships! His book, Return on Relationship was released January 29, 2013. His latest book, How To Look People in the Eye Digitally will be released any day. 

Connect with Ted… or @TedRubin.

Author Info
Jenna McNaney
Author: Jenna McNaney
Jenna McNaney, a graduate from Northwestern University, works as a Marketing Associate at Quick2LAUNCH.


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