I just got back from the ad:tech conference here in San Francisco and once again it was a stellar line up of keynotes and sessions. The highlight for me was the keynote on Tuesday with Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble. They took to the stage in a very informal conversational manner to discuss everything on the mind of a good social media marketer; Google+, Facebook, Twitter and everything in between, including lots of takeaways for the B2B marketing world.
I was lucky enough to catch Robert Scoble, startup liason at Rackspace Hosting, technology evangelist, and renowned blogger after the keynote for a quick interview. He shared his thoughts on social strategy, Facebook Open Graph, Pinterest, and a favorite story of his from a recent conference.
How does Rackspace fit in at AdTech?
Scoble: Rackspace is a cloud computing company that’s underneath a good chunk of the companies in the audience. We’re just here to hang out with our customers and learn from them and see where the industry’s going. The future of everything is going to depend on cloud computing and technologies we have developed like Openstat, so we want to understand where that future’s going and advertising is driving the dollars behind a whole raft of companies that aren’t even here.
What’s a typical day like for you? How do you maximize your time when it comes to social?
Scoble: I’m almost always looking at a screen of some kind. Like on the way to the car I’ll be looking at my iPhone, to see what happened in the world or while I was speaking here. When I get up I have three big monitors and I just have information streaming from Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce Chatter, Quora, and Google+. I also check in with email and try to answer a bit of those. Sitting on the couch while I’m watching TV or playing with kids, I’m watching Twitter or Flipboard.
You mentioned in your keynote that with “free” advertising or positive mentions a brand might get in the social world, that they become more effective when combined with paid. Are you referring to combining inbound marketing with outbound?
Scoble: Yes. If you build a company that has a high virality coefficient, people are talking about you and telling their friends about you and you’re getting growth out of that; you throw in advertising to back that up. Apple’s doing that really well. All of my friends praise Apple’s products, but we can’t reach everybody. By adding paid marketing, that backs it up and builds a really strong brand. If you have a product that people love, you need advertising that matches and accelerates it.
You make yourself very accessible. From a story I read, you drove to Silicon Valley and tweeted out your phone number because you were bored.
Scoble: Oh, my phone number’s been on my blog for seven years. It’s been my cell phone number; I only have one cell phone.
So my question is, with a few clicks someone can find out pretty much every way to contact you, through email, cell phone, etc. What kind of advice do you have for reaching out to influencers on your level who may not be as accessible?
Scoble: We will signal to the world when we’re available. When I’m actually tweeting and sitting and typing, I’m probably more available than when I’m doing what I’m doing right now, which is being interviewed. So if you try to call me right now, you’re not going to have a high success rate. But, if I’m at home tweeting, writing blog posts, and putting up pictures, you can probably call me and I can put you on speakerphone and I’m more available. That’s one thing. Just knowing a little bit about me and knowing when I’m available and when I’m not. My calendars are online so you can look at that too.
Do you see all the mentions on Twitter or is it just overwhelming?
Scoble: Oh yeah, I see them all. I don’t respond to all of them anymore, same thing with email. I just can’t respond to all of them. I’ll maybe respond to 10%. There’s one level, just hitting me when I’m available. That works in email, Twitter, Highlight, and all of the above. If you know that I’m available, my conversion rate goes up. It’s just like working with customers, if they just bought an iPad and it’s empty and they’re looking for apps, they’ll be more amenable to trying new apps than in 5 years when their iPad is full and they have 400 apps and they don’t want anymore, it’ll be a lot harder to get them to try something. The next level is hitting me with a pitch that hits me emotionally somehow. Flipboard just said, “You know we stood in line with you at the iPad launch and we have something we think is really cool for the iPad”. It demonstrated that they knew who I was, what I cared about, that I was passionate about it, and they said “something cool”. I can’t turn down something cool. I had to judge at the least and see if I agreed with them!
Do you consider yourself a marketer?
Scoble: I’m a hybrid-journalist-marketer. I was trained as a journalist but I ran camera stores for 10 years before I went back to school. I did all the advertising, so I learned how to get people into the store and write offers and all that fun stuff. I learned a lot about marketing and I studied it a bit in school, so a lot of what I do is weird hybrid. Very few people do what I do from what I’ve seen. Journalists usually like to stay journalistic and report the news. I like to do that and also understand how a business works and gets customers.
You mentioned Spotify in regards to their use of the Facebook Open Graph during the keynote. How many companies have access to that Open Graph right now?
Scoble: Last time I counted it was over 100 and it’s going up every day. I keep seeing announcements of people who got approved to put stuff in the Open Graph.
So you have to be approved by Facebook now to do it and when do you see it opening up to everybody? Or will it?
Scoble: I’m not sure because they want to protect the ticker and make sure there’s value there. And they want to understand how many messages to put there and who to show them to. So they’re really working with the developers to understand what their purpose is and being very curated about it. I don’t know when they’re going to be public, I would expect that to be at some point but for right now you have to go thought the Facebook approval process to be one of the Open Graph people.
What are your thoughts on the surge of popularity in Pinterest and do you think it will last?
Scoble: Yeah Pinterest grabbed onto something cultural which is the refrigerator door. You know if you come to my house my wife has this refrigerator door covered with little knick knacks, sayings, family photos, and funny things. That’s what Pinterest is, our refrigerator door only shared with the world. I don’t see it going away, there’s a use case there that’s really interesting. Is it for everybody? No. Guys are like, “What? I don’t get to touch the refrigerator door at my house”. That’s how Pinterest feels to me, it’s like the refrigerator door and I’m not sure I should be able to touch that and put things on it. But, I have noticed guys are using it for collecting TED videos or sports videos or sports pictures, so there is a guy thing to it too but right now they say it’s around 80% women. Even at the SXSW talk that they give, the audience was 80% women, so that tells you that it’s attractive to women heavily and guys are still looking at it like what are we supposed to use this thing for cause it’s not for wedding dresses you know!
Do you have a favorite moment at any conferences or speaking moment that’s a good story?
Scoble: Here’s one reason I’m interested in Highlight, and other apps like this. At The World Economic Forum, I met a guy and he had a badge on and his name was Peter Piat, and it said Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. So I knew he worked for something interesting and after talking with him I could tell he was really smart, smarter than me with like an IQ of 160 or something. But I could not figure out what his background was, why he got the job at Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, or why he was in Davos, which is a pretty exclusive place. After walking away I Googled him. He discovered the ebola virus. I wish I had known that when I was talking to him! That’s what apps like Highlight and these face to touch apps are going to solve for us. We’re going to know more about people next to us and be able to network with them more effectively. That’s why I’m bullish on this Highlight thing.