Interview with Jonathan Rick, social media strategist & CEO

My last semester in college, I interned in online publicity at Susan Davis International Public Relations. There, I was lucky enough to work with and find a mentor in Jonathan Rick, who headed the entire new media department. Recently, in addition to learning a lot from his writing on some of the most prominent social media outlets around, I got to reconnect with and interview him to soak in some of his expertise.

What are the best social media “listening” or “monitoring” tools that you have found? 
Radian6 seems to be the most powerful. It’s also complex and costly. By contrast, the ever-popular Google Alerts is free, but it misses a lot.

Do you have a favorite? 
Just as WordPress sometimes is best for a blog, while other times Drupal is the ticket, I think that the best monitoring tool depends on the specifics (needs, budget, ease of use, power, etc.)

In many organizations, social media marketing and PR is a tough sell. What types of things should you look to measure to help sell the idea of being in the social media space to managers?
Check out a recent blog post I wrote on Mashable about this:

In order to sell the field that everyone is talking about, but on which few can illuminate, we first need to reframe the conversation. Instead of striving for Merriam-Webster precision, social media strategists would do better to focus on case studies. 

  • Narrow your focus to responding to customer complaints, as Comcast does on Twitter.
  • Build brand loyalty, as Bisnow does with e-newsletters, as Skittles does on Facebook, and as the Wine Library does with its podcasts.
  • Issue blog posts and tweets instead of news releases, as Google does with its blog, and as its now-former CEO did with Twitter.
  • Re-purpose your existing content, and thus enlarge your audience, as The New York Times does with Twitter, as the FBI does with Scribd, and as Dell does with SlideShare.
  • Manage your reputation, as countless companies do — or try to do — with Wikipedia.
  • Conduct crisis communications, as Johnson & Johnson does with its blog.
  • Hold contests to improve your algorithms, as Netflix did with the Netflix Prize.
  • Crowdsource your challenges, as the U.S. Army did with its field manuals.
  • Demonstrate thought leadership, as recruiter Lindsay Olson does with her blog.
  • Research free advertising opportunities, as Allstate does on YouTube.
    Finish reading post on Mashable

What advice do you have for people looking to switch their focus to social media marketing? What should they read, work on, and what brands should they look at in your opinion?
I actually also just wrote about this. Learn by doing. The “social” part of “social media” is critical: if you’re smart and personable, that will come through in your tweets, wall posts, e-mails, and so on. The Internet makes everything transparent.

Also, look at what your friends are doing. Chances are, one of them is a blogger, or boasts a large Twitter following, or has 500+ connections or LinkedIn.

About Jonathan
As the CEO of the Jonathan Rick Group, Jon Rick one of those lucky people whose day job is an extension of his hobby: I’m a social media strategist.   His  writing has appeared in a plethora of publications, including blogs such as Mashable,techPresidentTech CocktailDigital Inspiration, and Spin Sucks; newspapers such as Politico and PRWeek; and the book, What We Think: Young Voters Speak Out (2004).  He has also spoken before organizations such as the American Marketing AssociationGeorgetown University, and the Department of Homeland Security

Follow: @jrick and jonathanrick.com

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Re: The Future of the Social Media Strategist

I need Mashable like I need air. It is my source for all things social media and technology, and @mashable is probably my most frequent re-tweet on Twitter. And 99% of the time, I agree with what Cashmore and his team says. This morning I found an article that is borderline in that 1% so I thought I would share.

This morning I read the article on Mashable called “The Future of the Social Media Strategist” which stated:

Jeremiah Owyang, an industry analyst with digital strategy consulting firm Altimeter Group, interviewed 140 enterprise-class social strategists for a report on the “Career Path of the Corporate Social Strategist” that hit the web last November. The report found that most interviewees believe that the social strategist role will ‘fade into the background as social technologies become a ubiquitous communication channel among consumers and companies.’

The article suggests that as people in organizations become more accustomed to and understanding of social media for their business, this skill will be absorbed and used by everyone in these organizations, and ‘social media experts’ won’t be needed anymore. Maybe it’s that I am hoping this isn’t true because I want my next job to be in a social media agency, or maybe it’s because I work in a place where many people still don’t understand or use social media. In any event, although I agree that this will probably happen (and should happen) over time, I do not think this will happen any time soon and here are a couple of reasons why.

1. Many people still aren’t on board.
The experts who are quoted are ones who are well-versed in social media and spend much of their time immersed in it – I know because of their titles. There are still many companies who don’t want to embrace it or don’t know anything about it. I don’t know how many business owners I have spoken with who have said “Yeah, I have a Facebook account. Now what?” and this is still happening, and it is 2011. Personally, I don’t think the idea of social media marketing has fully caught on yet. There is a lot of room for growth. Being immersed in social media blinds you to the reality that the majority of our execs are still too stubborn to understand it or think it is more than just a fad. TRUST me, I am on your side.  I would like to believe that one day everyone will be on board. But I currently work in traditional marketing and PR, and having working in traditional PR firms, marketing agencies, and now in a nonprofit in higher ed, I have found it very difficult to still communicate the need to budget time and money for social media strategy under marketing (and my target market is 18-35, go figure!)

2. There is still a need for a consistent voice representing your brand in social media.
First, this is a basic PR principle. Why in a crisis do we assign a spokesperson with one message, even in large companies that have branches all over the country or world? People need to hear one consistent, clear voice or message.  Second, this is a branding principle. You want your messages to be consistent with your brand that you’ve developed over decades. And this kind of management takes a lot of time — and in my opinion warrants a position or team at many organizations. In my opinion, a major problem with social media work being done today is the inconsistency of voice because marketing managers are throwing interns who are in companies for 6-8 weeks into the social media management and not hiring someone full-time to manage it. Call the position what you want, but it is needed today in business and brand management is needed. Social media is just a new way to communicate, it doesn’t change the basic principles that will always apply.