Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Mack Collier (23 of 45)

Mack Collier, social media consultant, speaker, trainer is one of the few people on this list I haven't met in person. Although I did get to actually LISTEN to Mack in person last year during a panel he led on corporate blogging at SXSW. I was so impressed by the job he did that I immediately started following him on Twitter. Since then, I've continued to like what he's delivered -- both on his blog, and on Twitter.

So with that as the backdrop, onto to Mack's answers to the five questions (plus those from the comments) from the Experts in the Industry: 45 Interviews in 45 Days series.

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you're good at it.
I help companies and small businesses better connect and communicate with their customers via social media. I'm good at it because I understand that the tools aren't what's important, it's the people using the tools that matter.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
I started blogging in 2005 because I thought it would help me land a job. There was and still is a lot of excitement about how social media helps empower customers and gives them a voice. But I was even more excited about the potential for companies to connect with these newly-empowered customers to better connect with them, to the benefit of both the customers, and the company.

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?
Threadless. I like how they have embraced their customers as co-creating their business, and understand that their business is a byproduct of their community. Many companies miss this, and want to 'create' the community, so they can then 'monetize' it.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I am a big fan of what Nettwerk Music CEO Terry McBride is doing in connecting his artists with their fans. He has some pretty progressive ideas about how music should be sold and distributed, including embracing music fans as marketing, distribution and sales partners, not as people to be sued for downloading music over the internet.

Possibly. Most communities don't form around the actual product, but a common association among the people using the product. Is The Fiskateers a community formed around people that use scissors, or scrapbookers?  

Freeform – here's where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
Don't focus on the tools, focus on the connections that the tools help facilitate.  And remember that the customers you are trying to reach via social media have next to zero interest in hearing marketing messages.  You have to shift your usage of social media to align with their's, because they definitely aren't going to change for you. And you shouldn't expect them to.  

Here's some questions left by others in the comments of the original post:

Do you have a favorite Social Networking/Social Media medium, application or site? If so, why that one?
Twitter.  Mainly because it's the quickest and easiest way for me to connect with the most people. During last Summer, Plurk was my favorite tool, because of functionality (threaded conversations), but also because Twitter was having a lot of downtime, and many of the people I frequently talked to on Twitter, moved over to Plurk. In general, I will stick with the tool that makes it as easy as possible for me to connect with, share and learn from other people, because that's primarily why I use social media.

Which non-social media industry person do you follow and why?
On Twitter especially, I like to follow people that work for companies that are experimenting with Twitter and social media. It's interesting to see how they react to customers there, and how the customers react to them.

How many folks do you think will read other's answers before answering themselves?
I did. I am smart enough to realize that I'm too dumb to think that I have all the answers.

What does 'Social Media' or 'Social Marketing' encompass?
First, 'social marketing' is not the same thing as 'social media marketing'.  Second, we have to be very careful in using the term 'social media marketing', because to companies, that means 'doing marketing with social media'.  But companies need to understand that social media are communication tools, and it's a very BAD idea to take tools that customers are using as communication channels, and attempt to funnel marketing messages through them.  So to me, smart marketing via social media means using social media as a way to better connect and communicate with your customers.  Not as a better way to market to them.  The better marketing is a BYPRODUCT of using the tools in the way that your customers are.

It would be interesting to ask these folks which of their peers who are being interviewed most inspires their work.
Can I cop-out and say 'all of them'?  Seriously, almost all of the people you have lined up have influenced me in one way or the other.  To keep from listing everyone, I will pick three; Ann Handley, David Armano, and Lionel Menchaca. Ann and David have taught me that you become influential in social media by creating value for others, and being real to everyone. Lionel inspires me by showing me what can happen at a big company if they have an internal social media evangelist that cares about helping their customers.  

From a business and marketing strategy standpoint, how do you track, converse, communicate and otherwise curate your various social media activities?
I measure the success of any time I spend with social media by asking myself if I am connecting with other people, and giving them a reason to connect with me. The more interaction I have with other people, the more I learn.  So in order to create more interaction, I have to give people a reason to interact with me.  And for companies, this goes back to being successful with social media.  You have to create value for your customers first.  That's your DIRECT goal.  Your indirect goal is growing your business.  That happens as a BYPRODUCT of creating value for customers and giving them a reason to interact with you.  I view my social media activities through the same lense.

Thanks again for asking me, Aaron! [Note from Aaron: My pleasure Mack!]

Photo is courtesy of friend @BethHarte

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