Ted Rubin: Why ‘Return On Relationship’ Makes Marketing Dollars (And Social Media Sense)

This article originally appeared on my regular column at
In January of this year, my collaborator Tom Lowery read an article about Ted Rubin, one of the “big fish” in the murky social media marketing pond. (Tom notes that some of those fish are flakier than others–nice one, Tom!)
Rubin is Chief Social Marketing Officer of Collective Bias, a Social Shopper Media Company that drives retail sales through the coordinated creation of social media stories. He was also taking on the role of CHO (Chief Hugs Officer), as he described it, an “extension of our culture and my philosophy of Return on Relationship–always finding opportunities to metaphorically hug/embrace customers.”
Hmmm. “Return on Relationship” when it comes to marketing makes sense. We were intrigued. Fast forward six months and Tom sat down to interview Ted in person in June. A walking platform for #RonR, as he calls it, Ted is an individual who knows the effort it takes to build valuable, sustainable relationships works for all concerned–not just between friends and loved ones, but in the world of business dollars and “sense” (common sense).
“Many of us get caught up in the lingo of the times,” says Rubin. “We forget we’ve got to sell to senior executives who don’t have a clue what we’re talking about. When someone asks ‘what is the ROI of Social’ I ask back…‘what’s the ROI of Loyalty, what’s the ROI of Trust?’ In order to sell the concept, you’ve got to talk in a language they’ll understand.”
According to Rubin, #RonR is common sense: Awareness equates to revenues. Differentiators drive margins. Authenticity maps to loyalty and advocacy. Each of these attributes is measurable and leads to increased sales and profit, which is measurable as well.
Any bean-counter can get their heads around that concept, and should.
Not Just Talk
A stream of continuous, quality content is what’s required for successful social engagement. Like it or not, social media hasrevolutionized the way people share and connect. Experts and editors no longer curate the majority of media; shoppers do. Rubin’s company Collective Bias has built a powerful community of social media bloggers. Called Social Fabric, they’re a highly qualified, invitation-only network of authentic, micro-publishers who produce high quality, engaging content about their everyday experiences.
The Social Fabric community has an average of 40,000 followers per member and an aggregate multichannel reach of more than 50 million per month. And consumers are listening:
·      Last year’s Neilsen Global Trust Survey showed that ninety-two percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media (word-of-mouth, friends and family) above all other forms of advertising—an 18% increase since 2007.
·      Leadtail’s recent survey during the second quarter of 2013 found that marketers use mainstream media sites most (45%), followed by industry sites (35%) and finally, user-generated sites (17%) for content sharing.
As the Neilsen Survey suggests, shoppers trust recommendations from “people they know,” and due to their frank, sincere style of communication, it’s bloggers who’ve become their most influential sources of information. User-generatedsites like Twitter or Facebook are all-important in today’s marketplace.
These stats are not to be ignored. But many marketing execs are ignoring them…let’s find out why.
Marketing Decision Makers Don’t Connect With What People Really Want
What could possibly make decision makers ignore what’s staring them in the face in a social sphere that can shift at the drop of a dime? Rubin sums it up with one word: laziness.
“They’re wrapped up in the ‘plan’ of how they perceive their brand,” says Rubin. “They probably know their retail customer, and their digital customer, but most have failed miserably at getting to understand the passion points of their ‘social’ consumer; staying connected takes a lot of work. It is no longer a ‘set it and forget it’ for the year, marketing world. Lazy marketers… they just don’t bother getting out of bed.”
He’s right. In this fast-paced digital/marketing world, many are behind the curve. According the latest stats from Hubspot, 23% of marketers are investing in blogging and social media this year, but 46% of online users rely on social media when they make a buying decision.
See what we mean? Brand and agency marketers are very active on many social networks, but are they utilizing these outlets wisely and to the max?
“Agencies? Hell no,” says Rubin. “Social media is simply another advertising tool. Even when they do ‘get it’ most never push through. JetBlue, Duane Reade, Dove, AmericanAir and Mastercard are some that are making great strides. Others have great campaigns and initiatives, but most brands don’t want to be evangelists and break new ground.”
I think we can all agree that customers are gaining more and more power in the connected marketplace. Marketers who haven’t caught on are rapidly weeding themselves out of the real action and progressively eliminating themselves. User generated content is increasing rapidly, augmented by user-shared content. No marketer could invent the creative genius the user community represents, and the really viral pieces of content are the ones you can never predict.
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