This week, Content Matters caught up with e-marketing thought leader David Meerman Scott. David is a highly sought-after speaker and is author of the "The New Rules of Marketing and PR" and "Cashing In With Content". His newest book, World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories was published last week and is quickly moving up the marketing and e-commerce charts on Amazon. David can also be found @dmscott.
David is one of my favorite marketers to read or hear because he eats his own dog food. His speaking career was jump-started to some extent by the "world wide rave" started by his earlier eBook on the New Rules of PR (which he later turned into a full-length hardbound book). The ebook, which suggested that in the web environment, companies should target their PR efforts directly to end-users rather than to traditional media channels, was quite provocative at the time and set off a bit of a flame war on the PR and media blogs. That led to several hundred thousand downloads of the ebook and lay the groundwork for much of his subsequent work. So, when David speaks (or writes), I pay attention.
Content Matters: Your new book, World Wide Rave, discusses ways in which marketers can trigger the type of web buzz that typically happens only virally. Can you share a couple of examples of companies who’ve done that well?
David Meerman Scott: A World Wide Rave is when masses of people around the world can’t stop talking about you, your company, and your products. Whether you’re located in San Francisco, Dubai, or Reykjavík, it’s when global communities eagerly link to your stuff on the Web. It’s when online buzz drives buyers to your virtual doorstep. And it’s when tons of fans visit your Web site and your blog because they genuinely want to be there.
One of my favorite stories is Erin Weed, founder of Girls Fight Back!, uses her Web site, MySpace and Facebook groups, blog, and YouTube videos as a way to promote women's safety and self-defense issues.
Girls Fight Back makes safety education accessible, especially to young women in their teens and twenties, through her education Web site and live seminars conducted all over the United States. She teaches girls and young women why they are their own best protectors, and then shows them how to reduce the risk of violence and fight back if necessary. Amazingly, Erin has trained over a half million girls and women to fight back.
Anywhere from 200 to 1,000 people attend each hour-and-a-half-long seminar. Erin was having a hard time getting the teen and college girls to log on to her website after speaking gigs and paper sign-up forms to gather email addresses for 500 or more girls at a time was impractical. She realized she had to somehow get to them (as opposed to the other way around). So she gets all the girls to text message their email addresses from their mobile phones, which automatically load to a web page.
Get this... nearly 100% of the girls volunteer their email addresses. Clearly, Erin's understanding about how girls and young women communicate (with mobile phones) is critical. Yet how many organizations fail to understand this? All I have to do is look in my home mailbox and see all the junk mail that colleges, camps, and the like are sending to my teenage daughter.
Another favorite example is Lisa Genova. After her novel, Still Alice was rejected by publishers, she decided to self-publish her novel and received a stamp of approval from the Alzheimer's Association. Her blogs developed a huge platform and the book sold briskly.
As a result of Lisa's World Wide Rave plus the measurable sales success on Amazon.com and other online booksellers, Lisa generated buzz in the book world too. An agent contacted her and sold the book at auction in June 2008 for just over half a million dollars to Simon & Schuster. The book, that the publishing world initiall ignored, was a World Wide Rave and when the new edition was released in January 2009, it made the New York Times Bestseller list.
CM: You encourage companies to “Lose Control”, asking them whether they’re more like the Grateful Dead (encouraging sharing) or Led Zeppelin (total control). Publishers have been having this debate for 20 years. What are some simple steps that publishers, locked into a control mindset, might take to get outside their comfort zone? How can they go from being "Trampled Underfoot" to creating a "Ripple"?
DMS: If you step back and look at the ways musicians make money besides the recordings—concerts, endorsement deals, merchandise (such as $35 t-shirts), and “souvenir” packaging of the music (booklets included in a CD case, for example), not to mention royalties for the use of music in television, movies, and advertising—you start to suspect that clamping down with rigid controls may not be the best strategy. Think about that: the music industry is trying to prevent the spread of their product!
If I were a music executive (or musician), I’d make much of my music available for free online, and I’d encourage people to share it. I would have the confidence that providing music for free would drive sales of my other products. Many unsigned bands are prospering with this strategy through their own MySpace pages or Web sites, and some are finding absolutely tremendous success.
CM: You recently wrote about Century 21 real estate shifting its national television advertising budget to online. With current economic conditions, do you see more of this in 2009? Are there specific sectors or market segments where this seems more likely to occur?
DMS: Marketing on the Web can be free. It costs nothing to put up a YouTube video. It costs nothing to create a blog. It costs nothing to create a presence on Facebook. Yes, with the economic downturn, smart companies are looking to leverage the Web in new ways.
We’re living in a time when we can reach the world directly, without having to spend enormous amounts of money on advertising and without investing in huge public relations efforts to convince the media to write (or broadcast) about our products and services. There is a tremendous opportunity right now to reach buyers in a better way: by publishing great content online, content people want to consume and that they are eager to share with their friends, family, and colleagues.
CM: As marketing budgets get slashed, what are a couple of things that nimble marketers might focus on to maximize their marketing ROI?
DMS: Yes, you can harness that power and virtually anybody, if they're smart about creating something interesting, can generate something that will spread. Now, that's not to say that everybody can generate a million views of a YouTube video, or that if you do something, everyone in the world will know about it.
Within your marketplace, among the people you're trying to reach, if you have a niche product, it's still absolutely possible to reach a large number of your potential customers online with something very interesting. It could be a video, an e-book, some kind of chart or graphic, a photograph, some data or metrics, or an interesting way of looking at what's going on in the marketplace. It's possible to spread any one of those things. Yet most companies haven't been creating information with the idea that it's going to spread. Instead they've been creating information with the idea that they have to ram it down people's throats. It's a very, very different technique to create something that is primed to be shared.
CM: While there’s a lot of gloom and doom about, there are always bright spots. What are you optimistic about in 2009 (professionally or personally)?
DMS: I'm very optimistic. So are all of my smart friends. When there is chaos and fear, there is also a tremendous opportunity.