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Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Social Media Series: Jay Ehret on Bridging New & Old

This week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Jay Ehret.

Jay Ehret is founder of The Marketing Spot which "specializes in working with locally owned, small businesses... the backbone of a community [they] give a community its flavor and character. Without small businesses, every town would look just like every other town."

In other words, Jay empowers small businesses. Read through The Marketing Spot blog and you'll get a taste for his brand of practical and actionable marketing advice. It bridges new and old for entrepreneurial businesses. Be sure, too, to listen to his podcast series Power to The Small Business. [Also, check out re-Experience Starbucks, a project done in conjunction with Becky Carroll.]

In his chapter "Is This Really the Age of Conversation?" to The Age of Conversation 2 - Why Don't They Get It? - the book that 237 authors from around the world collaborated on to benefit Variety, the children's charity [please consider buying the book], Jay asks an interesting question. Are online conversations any better than offline ones? It depends.

C.B.: How/why did you get involved in social media?

Jay: I guess I dabbled early on in social media. The old AOL Chat and my alma mater’s online sports fan board were my first experimentations. I got serious about social media two years ago when I decided to start blogging. I then began reading and commenting on other blogs. That led me to participate in some blogger communities such as BlogCatalog. And it also led me to attend BlogWorld Expo in 2007. It was there that I decided to start podcasting and it’s where I learned of Twitter. It became clear to me in late 2007 that social media would eventually become an important marketing tool. Just not as important as social media evangelists would have you believe at the time.

C.B.: How has social media/networking changed how you interact with clients and businesses? Are you making purchase decisions differently and interacting with retail environments differently?

Jay: I occasionally use online social tools such as Skype to communicate with clients. I largely use social media as a platform to build my authority and market my own business. I recommend to my clients that they start implementing social media strategies because of its future marketing potential. I am definitely making purchase decisions differently because I rely on my online social networks for product reviews and recommendations. Much of what I purchase is now purchased online so I make fewer trips to brick and mortar retail environments.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Jay: It has connected me with wonderful people and resources all around the world. I can have conversations with peers that I just can’t have face-to-face with people in Waco. Also, it has been an amazing learning vehicle. Through blogs, video, and communities like Twitter, I have learned so much.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?

Jay: I can spend too much time with it. If a person is not careful, they can get sucked in to social media and think it is a replacement for the analog world. It’s not, It’s just another way to connect with people. Also, you have to filter through all the crap. As much good content as there is, there is 5x as much bad content. As many good people as there are participating in social media there are many more self-serving individuals just trying to game you and sell their crap.

C.B.: Jay, how do we make social media relevant for others who aren't as immersed as we are?

Jay: I’ll answer this one in two parts.

First, we cannot make social media more relevant. It’s as relevant as it is. The medium is too huge and includes a diversity of participants. Just like real life, either something’s relevant or it’s not. We cannot make it more relevant because we want it to be, or because we work in the space. The real relevance doesn't come from the marketers or the producers of social media content, but instead from the users and how they use it. We can only do our part and create relevance on a micro level. I believe we are in the middle of a digital divide, a transition period between traditional and new media. With each passing year, more people will cross the divide. But we cannot expect everyone to come over at once. Companies must realize this and operate on both sides of the divide. There is no one-size-fits-all answer.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

1) Start now. Establish a presence and get comfortable using social media. It’s not yet imperative that use social media, but it probably will be someday. You need to be ready.

2) Don’t try to do everything. Pick one thing, the most appropriate for your business, and get good at it.

3) Don’t ignore traditional media. It’s not dead and never will be. However, look for traditional media that are innovative and also understand the new media.

4) Don’t get evangelized. There’s a lot of hype out there coming from so-called social media evangelists. I’ve seen the question asked by one social media evangelist: “Can social media save (a particular) small business?” Turns out, no. That particular business went out of business. A business will not live or die based on involvement with social media.

5) Do what your customers will accept, not what you want them to do. If your customers do not congregate on Facebook, there’s nothing you can do about it. Be where your customers are likely to be.

C.B.: Jay, what about your podcast series? What are the benefits?

Jay: My use of podcasts has three advantages. One, is networking. I get to talk to some of the brightest minds and best marketers in the world. And they only talk to be because I have a podcast. Two, is a function of the first advantage: learning. I get to ask questions to some of the brightest marketing minds in the world. It’s like getting free coaching sessions. Three, is authority. If I ask good questions, create good content, and produce a good show, it builds my marketing authority.

My Podcast is an effective companion to my blog because its make me more of a real person. Listeners get to hear my voice and interact with guests.

People don’t actively respond to podcasts like they do blogs. First, more people read blogs than listen to podcasts. It’s easier to respond to blogs because they are “quick content.” You read them on your computer screen and can respond immediately. My podcasts are typically 20-25 minutes long and much of the listening occurs on iTunes. And…I’m not as famous as Mitch Joel.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers.

Jay: Use social media authentically. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to trick customers or present a false image. The Wizard-of-Oz strategy is not sustainable.

Thank you, Jay!

Comments? Reactions? What about relevance? How do you make what you do relevant for your users?

I love the advice that Jay offers about traditional vs. new media. As well as paying close attention to your customers or users and how they use these communication tools.

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Social Media Series.

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