With deep client- and agency-side experience, Dave has shaped the go-to-market strategies for numerous organizations – from global enterprises to mid-sized growth companies to local nonprofits. Dave brings his proven branding, marketing and communications skill to all Kemp Goldberg Partners’ (KGP) client relationships. He currently serves on the Town Council for Falmouth, Maine.
Social media and PR, a strange feedback loop, and a part of your psyche you may not have known was there
As with most of my interviews, what you’ll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.
What was your first experience with social media?
“I was an early adopter of the dial-up version of AOL. Basically it was my browser, in a sense. This was back when we lived in Massachusetts. The chat feature was definitely cool but I didn’t know that many people who were on it at the time so it made it hard to have chat conversations. I did have some friends using it on the west coast. But, you had to dial in, and you had to wait, and sometimes you got booted off or the dial-up didn’t work — so it was social media but it was hard to even think about it in those terms.”
“My first real experience with social media — and as you can imagine, this wasn’t that long ago — I was sitting in my home office looking at an email from a colleague inviting me to join this thing called LinkedIn. I thought it was spam, so I deleted it. Now, whether he did it again, or it was an automatic prompt, some days later there was another email. And, his name was there — this was a former client who was living in Michigan — so I called him up. I asked him what it was and if he had sent it to me or if it was spam? He assured me that he had sent it. I asked him what it was and he kind of described it to me. So, I decided, OK … fine. I went on and did the quick join-up and linked with him. Within three days I had three more invitations from people who I actually knew. And, then it became a bit of a challenge. It became a numbers game. I really wasn’t using it for anything valuable. Honestly, at the time, LinkedIn wasn’t particularly valuable. It didn’t have a lot of the features that it does now. But, it was just fun to say, ‘Hey look! I’ve got 40. Now, I have 80. Now, I have more than 100!’ There’s definitely truth to the fact that when you build a critical mass — and who knows what that number is — at some point in time it takes on a life of its own. Plus, it’s hard to say no to someone who wants to connect with you.”
“Not too long after LinkedIn, Facebook had become a known commodity. It had a different reputation than it does now. Most people thought of it as a thing for college kids, or people in their 20’s. I was not either, but some friends of mine were on it and they thought it was ‘neat’ — it wasn’t much deeper than that — so, I figured, ‘why not?’ I joined up. And, then that became a numbers game. I left LinkedIn aside for a time while I was playing around on Facebook, building friends and doing all of that. Then I went back to LinkedIn. It was interesting … so, I’m on these things and they’re strangely addictive. I wasn’t really doing anything except posting here and there. But, they were strangely attractive to me. I’d just keep logging on to see what was happening.”
“Part of why I gravitated towards social media definitely had to do with my background in PR. I mean, it’s a communications tool. Even before we decided as an agency that social media was something we needed to be involved in, it resonated with me personally. I like to write — for a year and a half I was the sole blogger for the KGP blog, back in its early days, because no one else was interested — and Facebook gave me another outlet for that. You could write short things and you got immediate feedback for them, either through comments or likes. It was this strange feedback loop. I’d do this thing and people would ‘like’ me. It sounds so vain, but it brings out a part of your psyche you may not have known was there. Without the technology to be social online, your social world is limited to people you meet in person, or perhaps on the phone. That’s limited. But, with social media, even though you’re not building deep relationships necessarily, you’re building relationships with lots and lots of people. It was a different way to think about communicating.”
“Social media is different. It is PR in a sense, but all of a sudden you become the brand. As opposed to how it had always been in the past where I was behind the scenes and the client’s brand was the only thing that was public. That’s still obviously the case most of the time, but now PR professionals can develop their own brands on social media. But for this technology, the ability to build a personal brand — whether you wanted to, or it happened by accident — was very limited. Social media gives the individual the ability to become a brand. Fairly easily. Therein lies some caution too because, if you are speaking on behalf of your employer’s brand, you’re going to be speaking with a distinct voice. Who’s voice is it? Is it the brand’s voice or your voice? Most people have a really hard time personifying the brand that they work for. Even if it’s outlined – ‘here’s our brand voice’ — people usually just don’t talk that way. Social media only works well if you’re authentic. If you try too hard to develop a tweet that carries your company’s voice, you might pull it off, but chances are, your own voice is going to come out. So, is that a bad thing or a good thing? I think it’s a good thing. Assuming that you’re good at this thing and have an effective and appropriate voice. The question is, ‘Do you represent your employer when you’re not at work?’ The answer is, ‘Yes.’ This didn’t really matter before social media. Unless, of course, you got arrested and your rap sheet was in the paper. Now, with social media it really matters.”
What do you like about social media?
“I do like to use it for business purposes. It’s very effective. But, do you really want to have that conversation? It seems dull. We all know how that works. Although, for a long time it was difficult for me to figure out how social media could move the needle for businesses. Now, it seems obvious. I’m a huge fan or using it for business and we’re hiring around it. So, there you go.”
“When we knew it was time for KGP to do something with social — when it was time for us to professionalize it — the question was, ‘where did it sit in the organization?’ Was it media? Was it PR? Was it interactive? It certainly could have fit neatly into any of those groups. And, there was, there is, certainly crossover. That was a long conversation. For a while we had it sitting between interactive and PR. But, now it’s squarely in PR. It just fits there better.”
“What I like about social media personally — and, it’s going to be hard to put a finger on it, but I can just tell you how I feel — it’s just fun. That doesn’t sound complicated enough … but it’s just fun. I like to write. I like to post. I like that immediate feedback that I mentioned earlier. If your network is large enough you really do get almost immediate feedback. It’s just delightful. I hate to admit that sometimes.”
“I got into it before my wife did. She’s stopped now. I was friending everybody. She started calling me a Facebook slut. She’d say, ‘Oh, you’ll friend anybody.’ And, I always said, ‘They’re not really friends.’ Facebook just decided to call them friends. But, let’s be honest, most of them aren’t really friends in the true sense of the word. Some of them are, but not most of them. They’re really just acquaintances. What I find ridiculous is that because Facebook decided to call them friends, all of a sudden, people are saying that friendship is diluting. It’s not. In fact, it’s probably getting stronger.”
“If I didn’t find social media enjoyable, why would I use it? I would have stopped long ago.”
“There are great blogs out there. It doesn’t matter what you’re into — sports, the arts, current events, politics, etc. — there’s something for everyone. In fact, there are thousands of somethings for everyone. Trying to figure out the right ones to read? There are lots of tools you can use, but I find Facebook an interesting way to do that. So, if I’m into a particular blog, like I really like Deadspin, I just follow them on Facebook. So, I don’t have to go to deadspin.com, their posts are just in my feed. It makes it much easier to keep up with what their posting. And, if I want to read a particular post, I just click on it. If I don’t, I just let it pass on by. It’s an interesting filter and a way to consume a lot more information. Or, at least be aware of the opportunities to consume a lot more information.”
“I love social media for its ability to help me understand what’s going on in the world. And, I don’t mean current events. I mean societally. It helps me understand how the human condition is changing.”
“Social media to me is freedom. We are social creatures. We evolved to be social. We had to be. That’s how we survived. It’s in our DNA. Most people feel better when they’re social.”
What do you dislike about social media?
“I don’t have a lot of dislikes because it’s so controllable. If you don’t like what someone is doing, you don’t have to be connected to them anymore. If you don’t like the whole platform, you don’t have to participate anymore. There’s not a whole lot I dislike personally.”
“On LinkedIn when someone wants to connect with me and then two days later they’re pitching me something? I don’t like that too much. But, you learn your lessons.”
“This is about choice of friends, but there’s always the motivational poster. And, it seems like they need to post every ten minutes. ‘This is what I stand for now!’ They always seem to stand for everything, so therefore they really stand for nothing. However, this is really just a small thing. It’s not that big of a deal.”
“It’s all good. Now, do you need to hit the brakes every once in a while? Of course. There are often more important things in life.”
What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?
“For six months? Knowing me, I could probably kick the habit. If I was forced not to be able to use it for six months, by the third or fourth month I would probably lose interest altogether, and I’d probably never come back. But, that’s just me. If I’m not doing something and feeding it, it will starve and die.”
“During the withdrawal period, which is an accurate description, it would be painful. There would be a sense of loss. There would be stuff going on out there that I would be missing. That would be tough.”
“It’s kind of like going on vacation and not checking your email for seven days. When you come back you have a whole day of nothing but email.”
“If social media had never been invented then I wouldn’t know what I was missing. But, it’s here now, so I would really miss it.”
If you could only use three words to describe social media, what would they be?
“I’ll borrow from the world of marketing … ‘Just. Do. It.'”
Is there a person or brand that you think uses social media effectively?
Sugarloaf — “I love their dedication to imagery. Their brand is about snow, fun and membership (plus a little of that Maine mountain quirkiness). Their social feeds, especially Twitter, provide an unending stream of on-the-spot photography that pay off these brand attributes. They’ve done a nice job using social to get at the Millennials, Boomers and everyone in-between.”
Deadspin — “Everything you needed to know about sports. Actually, much of it are things you really didn’t need to know about sports, but you’re glad you learned nonetheless. Their content is build for social media and it takes you in some very unexpected directions, which I love. They provide a very different, brutally honest take on pro and college sports. Recent posts about MLB Spring Training and NCAA March Madness have been killer. (Go UConn!)”
Miyake — “The Miyake story is incredible. Their social feeds really are an extension of the restaurants as far as carrying over the same positive, creative vibe and richness you experience when dining there. The content doesn’t oversell. It informs and invites you in, the way a restaurant social site should.”
I want to thank Dave for taking the time to talk with me about his opinions on, and experience with, social media.
You can find Dave on Twitter at: @DaveGold
You can find Dave on LinkedIn at: david-goldberg
You can find Kemp Goldberg Partners on Twitter: @KempGoldberg
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