• August 1, 2009
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Required Reading: Rave All About It

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For the rest of the August 2009 issue of CRM magazine, please click here.

[Editors' Note: A blogpost about the launch of Scott's book, World Wide Rave, appeared over on destinationCRMblog.com.]

Two and a half years ago, David Meerman Scott was championing an idea that most marketers thought was crazy: Give your brand over to the customer. Consumers, he says, are bypassing typical social prerequisites—like knowing real names or actual faces—and connecting solely based on similar interests. Social media is getting the word out faster and further than any other channel. In his latest book, World Wide Rave, Scott aims to help readers understand how to create something that’s worth spreading. And he practices what he preaches—news that World Wide Rave would be offered free on the Amazon Kindle for five days garnered more than 500 tweets and nearly 40 blog posts, resulting in 12,000 downloads in that period alone. CRM’s Associate Editor Jessica Tsai spoke with Scott about how letting go of your brand can bring it back better than ever.

CRM magazine: Since you started, the market acceptance of social media has been changing pretty dramatically. Do you still see a pushback?

David Meerman Scott: Everybody knows they need to understand what the ramifications of social media are on their business. No matter what the product is, you’ve got to know people are going on the Web to do their research.
The pushback that I get is more around the idea that to be successful with that kind of communication, you really have to think differently. Applying what you know about magazine advertising or television advertising just doesn’t work on the Web, and applying what you know about media relations doesn’t work either.

People say, “Well, I don’t know how many people are really involved in social media, so I don’t really think we need to do it.” It tends to be people who don’t think they use social media. Not that they don’t use it—they don’t think they use it. [They] get caught up in the definition of what social media is. Do you use search engines? Do you go to Web sites? Because everyone does that and those are increasingly pointing to sites that originated in what people would call social media.

Typically in larger companies—but I see it also in smaller companies—the geniuses in either the legal department or the human resources department have a policy that nobody is allowed to even look at YouTube, Facebook, or MySpace from their office computer. But they only block access to the social media sites they know.

What you’re talking about here is that you don’t trust your employees. You don’t trust them to do the right thing at work; and also, by regulating the media, it shows that those organizations don’t understand human communication.
I interviewed the head of public affairs of the whole [United States] Air Force. They allow all 350,000 people in the Air Force to use social media on the job. It’s incredible. We’re talking about national security! If the U.S. Air Force can do it, anyone can do it.

CRM: So what’s the theory behind creating a “world wide rave”?

Scott: A world wide rave is when you create something that’s so valuable on the Web that people are eager to consume it and they want to share it. When people are talking about your organization, I believe it to be one of the most amazing forms of communication there is.

CRM: What are the biggest things people need to change?

Scott: The one that’s the most difficult for people to get their arms around is that nobody cares about your product except for you. People care about their problems. People care about solving their problems. People care about themselves. Focus on something you can do to help the customers.

My estimate is that more than 90 percent of companies have put a virtual gate on their white papers in the form of requiring an email address or other personal information. They put the white paper out there not to spread their ideas but for the sole purpose of generating a list of email addresses and phone numbers for the salespeople to call.

If you want 50 times—I’m not exaggerating—the number of people to download your white paper, you need to remove completely the registration requirement.

CRM: Kind of like what you did with your book by giving it away for free on the Kindle?

Scott: The cynic would say [I] lost some sales. Sure, some would have bought it even if it weren’t free, but how many is that? Maybe 500 over the course of five days? That implies 11,500 people were exposed to my book who wouldn’t have seen it otherwise.

Bloggers, podcasters, and people on Twitter are very reluctant to provide information and links to a white paper that has a registration on it. I never talk about something that has registration because I’m just not sure whether that company might spam the people I point to that link or have the salespeople call every day. Five hundred people tweeted about [my book] when it was free, which is more than [the number who] tweeted about it in the six weeks when it wasn’t.

A lot of companies think—maybe subconsciously—that nobody’s going to buy [their] products, that they have to beat customers over the head to convince them to buy.
Companies that are really successful with the world wide rave and social media are those that understand that people aren’t stupid. If they believe that a company can help them, they will seek that company out, and they will be eager to do business with [it].

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