Thursday, January 29, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Stephen Baker (2 of 45)

Next up in the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series, Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek. I interviewed Stephen last year prior to his book coming out in a podcast for the WE Show. Here are Stephen's insightful answers to my five questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I learn about things and communicate what I learn, and I do it well--I hope--because I have extremely fresh memories of ignorance.
How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
BusinessWeek's editor in chief, Steve Shepard, asked at a meeting in late 2004 if anyone would be interested in writing a cover story on blogs. I raised my hand. 
If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of "social," which company would it be and why?
In this economic climate, I don't think I'd put a lot of money into any company based on its use of "social." The thing about social is that it's hard to quantify the economic returns, especially now. That said, I've been impressed with IBM's efforts in social media, from their blogs to their internal social network, Beehive. They not only encourage people to use these tools, but also have the "numerati" smarts to analyze the patterns of behavior and learn more about how their company actually works. So, since it's a good bet that Big Blue will be around after this storm passes, I guess I'd put my money there. 
Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
Bernard Kouchner, founder of Doctors without Borders. 
Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
I would never dream of joining one. I don't care about toothpaste and would be hard-pressed to think of a subject or a value less likely to bring me into contact with interesting or likeminded people. 
Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
I think my experience with social media has helped me, as an author, understand something about the dynamics of the book market. I started off thinking that my friends and family would be the core of the Numerati community, and that through marketing and word of mouth others would also buy it. Note the verb there: buy.

Now I realize that many people I know very well don't buy the book, or even read it. Others do. But instead of focusing on who buys the book and who reads it, I'm now seeing that a community surrounds it. Some read it. Some hear about it. Some listen to a podcast or read a review or the blog. I think of my friendships, my colleagues, my family, Numerati readers and non-readers as this big set of venn diagrams with shifting overlaps. The key in the end is to create a vibrant community. And whether people buy or even read the book is really secondary.

Photo credit: Carolyn Cole from

1 comment:

  1. Hey Aaron, thanks for this. Just one fix on the photo credit, it's (as you have it above), Steve