Tamar Weinberg Interview – Author of “The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web”

Written by and published

2009 was an exciting year for books focused on participation marketing. While there were several titles released this year, the one that stood out the most was Tamar Weinberg’s “The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web” (published by O’Reilly).

Tamar Weinberg is a writer and Internet marketing consultant specializing in blogger outreach, viral marketing and social media. Based in New York City, she maintains Techipedia and (Tamar Weinberg is a) Schwag Addict, and frequently writes for industry related blogs and news sites.

In her new book, The New Community Rules, she introduces the reader to the true social Web. Tamar throughly covers every aspect of participation marketing, including goal setting, getting started, and the specific in-and-outs of participating and using blogs, microblogs, social networks, and bookmarking websites. She wraps up her book with tips on evaluating your marketing efforts, determining ROI and thoughts towards emerging technologies.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tamar about marketing on the social Web.

Is social media marketing the new way to market on the Web or is it simply one more thing a digital marketer has to consider when developing their marketing strategy?

It’s actually both. It’s the newest way to market on the Web that is becoming a huge phenomenon lately, but the underlying theme is really not anything “new.” Social media is simply utilizing technology and the Internet to connect people’s inherent need to be communicative with others. It’s easier now and it’s simpler than ever to connect with people, but our psychological needs have always been there from birth. As such, it’s a new school of thought for most marketers who may have avoided the online space but it’s probably more important than ever. However, it’s only one thing digital marketers can leverage. Social media is almost everywhere, but traditional advertising and other successful marketing tactics should not be ignored.

In your book, you talk about the need to overcome the fear of an uncontrolled message. For most traditional marketers, that’s a hard pill to swallow. How can you get them past that mental hurdle?

The big issue is that people are talking about you now whether you like it or not. Just go to Twitter Search, which is about to be integrated into Google. Search for your business or industry. You’ll see an ongoing conversation. Search for your competitors. There will be even more surprise.

Just like in a real meeting room where there’s face-to-face conversation, or even a cafeteria where multiple conversations are ongoing at once, you can’t possibly control every individual conversation. But in the online world, you can nurture perceptions. Most consumers are a lot more forgiving to companies that “get it” and put the customer first. Don’t be the last person to acknowledge this fact because your consumers might be beyond that stage of acceptance. There will be newer obstacles to overcome.

You talk about how participation is at the heart of marketing on the social web. How has participation marketing changed the online marketing landscape, and do you see it ultimately replacing all or most traditional non-participatory approaches?

I really like new media marketer Chris Heuer’s statement, “participation is marketing.” It’s brief but it really means a lot. Companies that are already involved and immersed in this new culture of communication come off as more approachable, which in itself is an incredibly powerful marketing message. We’re seeing a shift from a “corporate culture” to a “humanized culture.” Companies that are going out there, being human, being approachable, and participating because they want to connect with their constituents and customers are marketing themselves implicitly by having this presence. I’d much rather buy products from Zappos than any shoe store because I love the culture. I’ve felt that way about Dell, JetBlue, and other companies that are present on Twitter, who answer customers almost instantly, and who really are showing that they care about me as a customer. I hope that it doesn’t end and that this intensifies with other companies jumping into the social space.

Do I see it replacing traditional non-participatory approaches? I think that those other channels should exist in parallel, because there will always be people who prefer phone and email over social media, much to my disappointment. But that’s also fine for me, since I see the social media approach being more powerful. I often use this example: I recently heard about an individual who was promised a product under his warranty replacement. He emailed the company and called them, but they did not address his concerns. A week later, he used Twitter, and within a day, his problem was solved. I want other companies to be more serious about solving problems everywhere, but those of us using Twitter and participatory mediums are really at an advantage here.

Are there certain companies or services where participation marketing should be avoided, or do you think if you have a website, you should definitely be marketing on the social Web?

I think it never hurts to participate. After all, we’re all people, and businesses require the cooperation of customers to be involved. Participation gives you a means of interfacing with these prospective customers or your current customers. The question probably should be more along the lines of “should I always participate? Should I always respond?” No. Sometimes you may not feel that the issue deserves a response. But you should always be proactive and listening.

In your book, you include The Ultimate Social Media Etiquette Handbook. What are the top five things that a marketer who is new to participation marketing on the social Web should do and definitely not do when entering this space?

  1. Don’t self-promote ALL the time. Add value to your streams. A healthy mix of links about your industry, responses to users you may come across, and a bit of self-promotion should be fine. But don’t only tweet about yourself, and don’t only submit your own URL to social sites. Spice it up. (Don’t be boring!)
  2. Introduce yourself when meeting new people on social sites. This is especially important on LinkedIn and Facebook. If you’re making the connection and someone might not know who you are, TELL them. (I get 5 Facebook friend requests daily now from people I have never heard of. They don’t become my friends even if we share 500 mutual friends.)
  3. Listen. It’s incredibly powerful to see how people are using social tools to talk about you, your industry, your competitors, your products, and more. At the same time, you’ll understand how communities operate and get an idea of what to do and where.
  4. Be yourself. Use a real picture and a real name. I don’t care if you’re a chiropractor from Ottawa. If your Facebook username is “Ottawa Chiropractor” or if you write blog comments under that name, I don’t want to have to do anything with you.
  5. Think twice before you say anything. Everything is up for public record, and not all sites will actually remove the content once it’s live — even if it incriminates or embarrasses you.

The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web by Tamar Weinberg is a must read for social media marketers. If you market on the social Web, or want to market through this medium, then go get this book now!