Ted Rubin has been influencing the online world since 1997. Back then, he worked with Seth Godin at the direct-marketing firm Yoyodyne, which was later acquired by Yahoo. Rubin now runs his own show as a social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and brand evangelist.
“I believe the key to continued success for any brand, retailer, or etailer is identifying with the customer,” he says. If his track record is any indicator, he practices what he preaches: Rubin built up multimillion-member customer databases for e.l.f. Cosmetics and OpenSky. He also served as the chief social marketing officer at Collective Bias, where early on he grew the company’s Twitter handles to more than 1 million followers combined.
Intuit Small Business Blog recently asked Rubin (pictured) how small businesses can establish a social presence and then use it to encourage customers to become brand evangelists.
ISBB: A lot of small-business owners are overwhelmed by the prospect of getting started on social media. Why should they use it?
Rubin: Twitter has not been readily accepted as a small business tool yet, but there are those who are having a great deal of success using it in many ways. So, why should small businesses be using social media at all? The most prominent reasons are responding to customer questions, networking, and education. But there’s more.
To date, most small businesses have not been looking to help build the sales funnel through these channels. This is interesting, considering some of the success that can be found with a small business that gets it. And for those who do, and execute effectively, the opportunity to create sales is out there — and has the potential to be huge.
What does it take to get the small business involved? Extra time, money, and people. But those barriers are not insurmountable for those who are willing to put in the time, especially since [social media interaction] can be done at all hours. Some of the most effective times to connect via social media are very early in the morning and very late at night.
What should they focus on first?
With social media, the bang for the buck can be enormous, but the results are hardly immediate and a long-term outlook is necessary. My vote is: Study up on the cause and effect, tools, and concepts. Develop a basic strategy of what utility or value you want to offer. Get started on your own and build a thorough understanding of how to interact, engage, and connect. Then hire a smart young intern to help execute a lot of the basic, time-consuming functions … with your hands-on guidance. You, the owner or manager, should always be the voice.
In the future, it is going to be critical for small businesses to decide where they want to put their scarce resources, so they can maximize their ROI. With a constantly moving target, however, that is increasingly difficult, so the future of small business and social media will be so valuable and important … especially due to the relationship- and reputation-building opportunities social presents.
You use the phrase “return on relationship” often. Could you briefly describe the idea and how the small-business community can make the most of it?
“Return on relationship,” simply put, is the value that is accrued by a person or brand due to nurturing a relationship, whereas return on investment is dollars and cents. ROR is the value (both perceived and real) that will accrue over time through loyalty, recommendations, and sharing.
It is used to define and educate companies, brands, and people about the importance of creating authentic connection, interaction, and engagement. I believe it speaks for itself with regard to small business and how important it is to create trust, loyalty, and advocacy.
What social tools do you recommend the most?
First and foremost get on the platforms Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to experience them first-hand. Then you can move onto tools, shortcuts, dashboards, etc. I am most fond of TweetDeck, Hootsuite, Buffer, and JustUnfollow.
You describe yourself as a “brand evangelist.” How can entrepreneurs evangelize about their own brands?
Most important is to be visible, to listen, then to react and create value for your customers. That value can be in the form of content, accessibility, support, or simply being a “friend.”
In addition, it’s very important to make it easy for your customers and employees to advocate for you by providing them easy access to useful information and simply being sure to let them know you appreciate it when they do.