Interview with social media superstar Dave Kerpen
I was a huge fan of Dave Kerpen’s first book, Likeable Social Media, and included it in last year’s list of books that you should buy for your team. In fact, I purchased a copy for our entire social media team because I think that this book really encapsulates the potential of social media. In fact, I would recommend getting as many execs to read it as possible too, so they can start to understand social media’s true value.
Kerpen is the CEO and cofounder of Likeable – a fast-growing social media and word-of-moth marketing firm, a bestselling author, frequent keynote speaker and contributing writer for outlets including Mashable, Fast Company and the Washington Post.
I spoke with Kerpen last week about his new book, Likeable Business, which takes his keys to social media success and translates them to business in general.
RJ: Can you elaborate on carrying best practices for social media over to your entire business.
DK: As I was speaking about the first book and addressing audiences about the principles of “likeable” social media, I realized that these principles – things like listening, being responsive, and surprising and delighting customers – these things aren’t just principles of good social media, they are principles of good business.
The reason I wrote the second book is that, to me, the social media picture is really only part of the picture about how to treat your customers and your staff. In an increasingly transparent social media driven world, these things really do matter.
RJ: You have a lot of great suggestions for businesses, but what measures would you recommend for those who are not in a management position? How can they champion change at their place of work?
DK: I think change begins with one person.
If someone’s not in a management position, you’ve got to figure out how you can influence the organization you are in.Find somebody who can influence things, befriend them and start implementing some of the strategies that I wrote about, making sure that that that person notices.
The larger an organization is, admittedly, the harder it is for that organization to change. But change has to come from one person and it often doesn’t start from the top. If often starts in the middle or the bottom.
You lead by example. For instance, I talk about the power of written thank you cards in the section on gratefulness. No matter what your position is at your company, start writing thank you cards to people, and management is going to notice. Then you can start making a case for the ROI of that action.
Ultimately, you’ve got to be able to get into a position of influence if you want to create change at your organization. So, how can you get people to notice you so that you can start to be in a position to make more changes for the better?
RJ: How can businesses start to be more responsive without feeling overwhelmed or biting off more than they can chew, which leads to abandoning projects?
DK: I am very, very disciplined about my scheduling. I used to be able to meet with anyone who wanted to for 30 minutes. I can’t anymore. It would be too overwhelming, so now I meet with anyone who would like to for 10 minutes, sometimes 15. I’m still able to do it. My argument is that I’ll always be able to do that. I joke with my assistant that there may come a day where I might schedule down to every five minutes, but I’ll still be able to give people my attention for those five or 10 minutes.
Responsiveness can be scaled. It’s just a matter of being disciplined.
RJ: What is the best way to sell the ROI of social media to the C level executives? How do you measure success?
DK: You have to have goals at the outset that makes sense. You have to look at social media less from a pure last click attribution model and more from an overall impact model, which can include awareness and intent and sentiment and a lot of other metrics that aren’t necessarily based on somebody clicking on a Twitter or Facebook link to buy a product.
At the same time, decision makers are starting to understand social media themselves. The last demographic in the world to embrace social media is 45-year-old-plus men. Unfortunately, that happens to be the same demographic that is in leadership positions in most companies and organizations in the world. Because of that, the ROI of social media, the business understanding of social media, has lagged a little bit. But it’s coming around; we have seen more and more companies devote significant resources to social media and we’ll continue to see that.
RJ: A lot of people think, “We need a Facebook page because everyone else has one” without creating a complete social media plan. What is the most important step in starting to embark on such a plan?
DK: Listening, listening, listening. There is a reason listening is chapter one of Likeable Social Media and chapter one of Likeable Business.
Social media allows listing at scale. It is not a talking platform as much as it is a listening platform. Before setting up a Facebook page, use social media to listen to your customers, your prospects, your staff and your competitors.
RJ: What are your views on email and the website? How should these exist alongside social media?
I think social media needs to exist alongside every other form of communication that takes place.
I’m not a big fan of email marketing. I’ve seen it abused by many businesses. But email marketing doesn’t have to be invasive, disruptive and downright inappropriate. Email marketing can still bring valuable content to recipients, just like social media can bring valuable content to recipients.
Email marketing can be great and should be used in conjunction with social media. It’s just about “likeable” content; it’s about content that brings value to the recipients and not annoyance and disruption.