A:I grew up in Westport, Connecticut (we were the token middle class family). I've lived all over, but met my wife Jane in Boston in 1991. We lived up there most of the time since until moving to Naples, Florida about 8 years ago. Our girls were both born up there, but they're Florida girls by now.
Q:Love Florida! You're the author of the "World Gone Social." When did you become aware of social media's ability to alter business forever?
A:I feel like I was one of the first 3 people on LinkedIn, but I didn't really find much interesting about it. I began blogging in 2006, right after my first book came out. It wasn't till 2009, though, that I really "went social" myself. First I found Facebook (yawn) and then Twitter. For an ADD guy like me, out to build his personal brand and (much more importantly) meet and speak with fascinating people the world-over, Twitter is Nirvana. But when did I notice social had changed literally every aspect of how we lead our businesses today? That was a gradual awakening. What really got me was speaking to other C-level leaders about change. That one word began putting fear into many of their eyes, probably starting around 2008. Only looking back at all these conversations and interviews I'd had in my career did I see the pattern emerge: that 2008 was the dividing line between the Industrial Age and something new, the Social Age. Fact is, though, that even as we were writing "A World Gone Social," my co-author and I took some time to realize that this is a new age, not just a new environment. It might have been about 2013 before we began using the term "Social Age" in the manuscript.
Q:This caught my eye, "nimble and collaborative organizations will ultimately outlive their Industrial Age competition." Please explain this...
A:In the Industrial Age, the secret to success in business was to tighten processes and stamp out inefficiency, thus reducing cost in manufacturing and (hopefully) undercutting your competition. For that to be an effective strategy, you need a business environment that changes only incrementally, and only very slowly. That worked in the last century. But what we have now is monumental change coming at our companies and at entire industries seemingly from out of the blue, and then often before things settle down to a new normal, those disruptors are themselves made irrelevant by someone else. If you're bringing the change, it's a wonderful time to be in business! But the trick is, are you bringing that change? Well, guess who can't - who literally is completely unsuited to bring change to anything? Bureaucracies: the very organizations that were so efficient in the age gone by. When I say you've got to be able to make a decision while on the phone - literally - people don't get it. When I say you have to be able to make a job offer within eight hours, not eight weeks, leaders think they get it. Or when I say, buy a company or not in 15 minutes, as Oracle's Larry Ellison is alleged to, I think a lot of leaders take this as hyperbole. But that is the environment we're in right now - and that's why we need not just competent talent, but the world's best talent on our teams! Do you think Richard Branson could get away with being Virgin's Dr. Yes if he had a bunch of also-rans backing up his impulsive decisions? Hell no. Branson is able to do the impossible - and the impossibly quick - because he has the team to deliver on his decisions. Nimble is the way of business today. Connected, collaborative, isn't just a "nice" way to do things. It's the only way! If you need time to find the right people, inform them, and ask them what they think, then think about it or study it some more before you act? Well, I live in Naples, Florida. We have a whole lot of retired CEOs playing golf around here. Perhaps you should join them. (To be fair, we also have more working CEOs per capita than anywhere on earth. This is a great spot for a winter house on the beach).
Q:Lol, I think you're referring to my retirement plan! In this hyper connected world, what are several keys to being prepared and ultimately thrive?
A:First, unless your job is social customer support for a brand, you’re allowed to unplug. A lot of people don’t get this. You can’t afford to let social consume your day, or even much of it, unless that is literally what you do for a living. Sometimes you can tell when someone lives in their mother’s basement, because (a) they call themselves a guru or ninja and (b) they’re always online. Second, we have to be where our customers are, not where we feel most comfortable. That’s always been true – back in the 1950’s, for example, if your customers listened to radio and you preferred newspaper ads, tough. Same rules, different media. …But three, unlike Industrial Age media, social media works two-way – so you had better as well! The biggest mistake 90% of CMOs and their brands still make, today, is they use social to broadcast. Let me be really clear about this: it’s unprofessional. If your CMO does that, buy him some golf clubs and a one-way ticket to Naples. Converse on social 80% of the time. Say think you, a lot. Share other people’s stuff, a lot. Share your stuff 5-10%. Tops.
Q:How does social media affect brand building?
A:It’s how it’s done. Social is word of mouth on steroids. People are talking about you whether you join them or not: your customers, your ex-customers, your competitors (who are also talking to your current customers), your prospective customers, your current employees, your ex-employees and potential employees, your community, your industry regulators, your vendors… that’s quite a list, and it isn’t even close to being complete! Everyone is talking about you, all the time, all over the Web. Or, worse, no one is, because you’re irrelevant. This is why I joined Meddle.it. Companies have smart, talented people. People don’t trust the company mouthpieces like PR, investor relations, marketing, and sales, but they do trust those talented employees. So if a company sets up an easy environment to show off their brainpower? Well, who wouldn’t want to work for – and stay with – a company that’s so proud of you? And who wouldn’t want to do business with a company whose workers are real, accessible, and (from what they share) obviously expert?
Q:You're a Forbes Top 20 Influencer. Be honest, how does that feel?
A:I thought it was so weird the first time I made the list, I actually reached out to the author to make sure it wasn’t a mistake. I saw 49 famous marketing experts and… me, just a guy, right? He assured me I belonged. I figured I’d be off the list the next year, but I actually moved up 6 spots on the list. This is my third time near the top. All along I’ve been the one leadership author among all the marketers. Well, finally I decided to try my hand at CMO instead of CEO. I guess I’ve picked up a bit over the years, I guess by osmosis. Not sure if that answers your question, though. How do I feel? Kinda used to it by now. At first, surreal though, for sure.
Q:What's next for you and your career, what other ventures are you working on?
A:Being CMO of Meddle.it is really fun. It’s something I believe in – Meddle belongs as an extra half-chapter in “A World Gone Social” (I keep kicking myself that I didn’t pay attention to this firm until after we published!) My thought right now is we’re either going to sell or hold an IPO in 3-5 years, and I want to be a driving part of that really fun ride. But all I know for sure is, you have to stay nimble. So we’ll see what happens.
Q:I love the idea personally. Can you give us all of your social media handles?
A:The only four links you need:
Interview done by Elliot Rivera for healtHaven.com