The @SMX West Speaker Interview: @RicDragon on Vision, ‘Good SEO’ and ‘Deep Content’

I had the opportunity to interview a few speakers on the MarketingLand track at SMX West this coming March as part of SEJ’s partnership with Third Door Media. Be sure to attend Ric’s sessions on Tuesday (Day 1) and Wednesday (Day 2) and visit the SEJ booth in the exhibit hall!

SMX West Bio: Ric Dragon is the author of Social Marketology and the DragonSearch Online Marketing Manual, both published by Mc-Graw Hill. He is the CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch, with more than 20 years of extensive experience in graphic design, information architecture, web development, and digital marketing. As an artist, Ric has been shown in countless group and solo shows. He is a regular guest columnist for Marketing Land, and Social Media Monthly, and a speaker at many marketing and business conferences.

What are 3 key points or takeaways your SMX West sessions will be focusing on?

I have the good fortune, this year, of speaking during four different sessions: two are boot-camp style sessions on Twitter and social media; a clinic session; then on a panel led by Monica Wright on “Top Social Tactics for the Search Marketer.”

My own focus for that last panel is to be on what I call deep content. Deep content is a content marketing play that is not simply about writing yet another blog post, but really investing extensive time and energy into a piece of content that very well might yield content over a long period of time.

Unilever, the parent company to Dove, embarked on a study on how women perceive themselves. That study was not only a source of countless pieces of press, but the underpinning to such classic Dove pieces of content like the recent forensic artist video.

We’ve all heard the refrain, “SEO is dead.” But for me, good SEO is about achieving a better understanding of your customers or audience – understanding how they frame the discussion. Words, phrases, even ideas don’t just exist as singular entities that you should optimize for, but instead, exist in neighborhoods or clouds.  With SEO research, you can better understand those clouds and neighborhoods, and hopefully, create better, more meaningful content.

So, in other words, we’re talking about investing in deeper and better researched content, and about obtaining a deeper understanding even of the context of the language we use.  Finally, you can research a more granular segmentation of your audience, and endeavor to create content that will exist within the deeper contexts of communities and influencers.

In the past year, how has social media evolved to influence overall marketing strategy?

At larger brands, there has been a maturation process wherein different types of businesses are finding those major approaches to social media that make sense for their realm.  Airlines, for instance, have been investing even more into what we call the maintenance modality of social media marketing through more comprehensive social media customer service.  Others have been finding that the influence approach, or thought-leadership/content marketing approach make more sense.

Brands are creating more sophisticated approaches to understanding the value created by social media.  At the smallest business level, a lone entrepreneur or a mom-and-pop asks, “How do we have time to do this? what value will we get from it?” At the larger side of the business spectrum, marketing executives are having to go into the CFO or CEO’s office and explain value or ROI. The organizations that are winning at social have accepted that the value goes far beyond the transaction.

You published “Social Marketology” in 2012. How did the term “marketology” come into fruition and what do marketers need to know to succeed in search and social today?

Towards the end of the book writing process, I invited my social network to come in on a Google Doc and brainstorm the book’s title.  The group came up with about 20 potential titles, which I then shared with the editor.

What I was hoping to project with the neologism was the notion that social media is a rich field of study – it encompasses psychology, sociology, ethnography, history, marketing, neuroscience, and more.  If you’re moved by the notion of being a polymath, this is paradise. And if we, as marketers, are really going to take our game to the revolutionary place it can be, we need to take on these realms of learning, to better understand the stuff of what we’re dealing with.

Almost every statement made in the book could have been prepended with the phrase, “depending on your business,” or “depending on your industry.” There aren’t any absolutes.  In one business case, it may make sense to engage with individual customers on a one-to-one basis. In another, it may be best to provide incredible content, and to simply let your community have at it. The big lesson for marketers in all of that is to suss out what is going to bring your brand or organization to the fulfillment of its purpose – to the place of the big vision.

Besides having the one of the best last names ever (in my opinion), one other cool thing about you is that you’re also an artist. How has art and poetry as a creative outlet influenced your work in search and social? Do you think it’s important for marketers to have a hobby or creative outlet?

I hope we all have passions beyond our work: otherwise, we’d be horribly dull to others and ourselves! One of the things about the fine arts is that people in the creative arts work in fields for which there are NO RULE BOOKS; no guides, no owners’ manuals.  So, if you do it for a while, you learn to be comfortable without those comforts – you come to understand that there is a natural cycle in creativity.

In the arts, we work to understand the underlying patterns to things. This is true for social media, too: if we understand the design and behavioral patterns underlying all of that technology we’re not taken off-guard with each new social platform feature.

Bonus question: What was last great book you read?

A peculiar thing happened to me on the way to being middle-aged: I’ve become extremely promiscuous with books and often have about a dozen or so half-started on the nightstand. There are simply not enough minutes in the day or week to read all of the books I hope to. So, out of the stack of finished books…oh! So many choices.

I did recently finish a dubiously titled book, The Power of Positive Deviance. Positive Deviance (PD) is an approach to problem solving that came out of global nutrition initiatives in the 70’s.  In PD, the idea is that a community has the solutions to solving its problems. If the solutions come from an outside authority, they’ll fail, no matter how legitimate they are.

The approach has been applied to business, too.  But we live in a world where organizations tend to be based on hierarchies and authority.  This thinking, that solutions can come from the bottom up, is really relevant to creating organizations wherein people are wildly passionate about their work, and in which work isn’t cause for you to bang your head on the steering wheel of your car before going into the office.

For this same reason, I do believe that the whole social media phenomenon is part of a revolution in business and society in general. Social media may very well be a solution to changing from that old model of authority to community-based bottom-up solutions.  It’s an exciting time we live in!

Ric’s SMX West Sessions:
Social Media 101 (#smx #11C)
You may participate in social media casually, but as a marketer it’s crucial to have a deeper understanding of what works, what doesn’t, and who the major players are. You need to know the subtle but key differences between paid, earned, and owned social media channels. And of course, while social media is great for marketing and branding, it can also be an effective channel for PR, customer service, community building, and other areas. This session sets the stage for the rest of the day by equipping you with the core fundamentals of social media marketing.

Moderator: Monica Wright, Director of Audience Engagement, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land (@monicawright)
Speaker: Ric Dragon, CEO, Dragon Search (@ricdragon)
Time: Tuesday, March 11, 9:00-10:30am

Twitter for Business (#smx #14C)
Ask anyone – Twitter is “easy.” Just sign up, and tweet your pithy 140 character updates whenever inspiration strikes. That’s true for individuals – but using Twitter for business requires a lot more thought and care. For starters: Why are you using Twitter? For branding? Customer service? Sales? And what type of “corporate image” are you trying to present and maintain? This session shows you how to establish an effective Twitter presence.

Moderator: Lauren Litwinka, Community Editor, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land (@beebow)
Speaker: Ric Dragon, CEO, Dragon Search (@ricdragon)
Time: Tuesday, March 11, 3:30-4:45pm

Top Social Tactics For The Search Marketer (#smx #23D)
Integrating your search and social media efforts can dramatically improve your marketing results, but where do you start? Speakers in this “speed-round” session will share their favorite authority-building social tips for search, including using Facebook, Open Graph technology, Google+, Twitter, and more.

Moderator: Monica Wright, Director of Audience Engagement, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land (@monicawright)
Q&A Coordinator: Anthony Verre, Associate Director of Search, Rockfish Interactive (@tonyverre)
Speakers: Lisa Buyer, CEO, The Buyer Group (@lisabuyer), Ric Dragon, CEO, Dragon Search (@ricdragon), Jennifer Lopez, Director of Community, Moz (@jennita), Lisa Williams, Director, Digital Marketing Strategy, Search Discovery (@seopollyanna)
Time: Wednesday, March 12, 1:30-2:45pm

Social Media Clinic (#smx #32E)
Got questions about how to deal with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or other social media sites? We’ve got experts on hand ready to take specific questions from the audience.

Moderator: Lauren Litwinka, Community Editor, Search Engine Land and Marketing Land (@beebow)
Speakers: Brent Csutoras, Social Media Strategist, Kairay Media (@brentcsutoras), Ric Dragon, CEO, Dragon Search (@ricdragon)
Time: Thursday, March 13, 10:45am-12:00pm

Register for SMX West here.


photo credit: digitalfemme via photopin cc