Episode 123 - Aaron Strout on Branded Communities, uber-Networking & Great iPhone Pics
Aaron is a CMO who walks his talk as a social marketing expert and he shares his strategy for lead gen through social influence for Powered, Inc., a technology and services company that helps brands create online communities. Find out about brand-supported communities from Sony, Kodak, HP, Ford and Atkins as examples of excellence, and about BreakingPoint Systems as small business social network marketing example.
Take a trip to SXSW, where Aaron, a veteran, shares his top three recommendations for how to “do” the event. More tips follow with Aaron’s advice about how to be an “uber-networker,” how to take great iPhone photos and how to go from “Zero to Community” with his new white paper.
Aaron is going to guest host DishyMix and interview Eric Ryan, co-founder and Chief Brand Officer of Method, the home care and personal product brand who call themselves, “people against dirty.” Tune in to meet Aaron and get his best advice for social influence marketing in the brand world today.
Follow Aaron on Twitter at @aaronstrout.
Read Aaron's blogs at Citizen Marketer 2.1 & Engaged Consumer.
Listen to Aaron on the Quick & Dirty Podcast.
Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I’m your host Susan Bratton. And on today’s show you’re going to get to meet Aaron Strout. Aaron is many things, including the CMO of a company in Austin Texas called Powered. Isn’t that a great name for a company? And Aaron is also a podcaster, a blogger and a social media maven extraordinaire. Every time I connect with Aaron, I learn so much. He’s one of those people that just by his cleverness and his ability to articulate what he does, you learn so much. So I’m really excited to have Aaron on the show, not only for you to get to meet him and for him to download some of his amazing information about social influence marketing, but also because he’s going to guest host an upcoming Dishy Mix. I’m not going to spill the beans about who his first guest is going to be, but Aaron, as a podcaster, is going to come online and wow you with an episode of Dishy Mix. So lets get him on the show and welcome him. Welcome Aaron.
Aaron Strout: Thank you Susan. You’re making me blush.
Susan Bratton: Well no one can see you blush in cyberspace Aaron. So why don’t you spill the beans? You’re going to be a guest host on Dishy Mix. Who are you going to interview?
Aaron Strout: So I am going to be interviewing a close friend and someone that I really admire a lot, Eric Ryan, who is the co-founder and chief brand officer at Method; many of you have heard of Method cleaning products, they’ve become somewhat ubiquitous. They have the beautifully crafted bottles of the hand soap or the dish soap or the granite counter cleaning, all that good stuff.
Susan Bratton: I love Method. One of the things that I like is their foamy soap.
Aaron Strout: Yes, I am actually a big fan and we have lots of it at our house.
Susan Bratton: We do too, lots of the foamy soap. Well Aaron, I want to really start off with this conversation, with a conversation about community, because that is one of your many but your core area of expertise now because you’re at Powered, and Powered makes a platform for companies who want to have their own community experience and have it be highly stylized merchandized with a lot of unique features. So one of the things that I wanted to talk about was on a very general level what’s happening with communities as far as corporations, as brands, creating communities now? Is it increasing, decreasing? Was it a fad that’s gone? Are you seeing it take more hold? Where is it right now in the world of all of the things that marketers have to do?
Aaron Strout: Well it’s a great question Susan, and the good news that it is increasing. I’ve been doing this now for, I’ve been in the social realm for about, I don’t know, almost five years; I started doing this around 2005, but really started working on the community front in ’06, and what I can tell you is back then you’d say the word ‘online community’ and people would just kind of look at you and they had no context. Now particularly because of the things like Face Book, which isn’t exactly an online community but people know and understand what Face Book is, and if you say we essentially build those types of environments but for brands – you know, like a Sony or Kodak – where people can talk to one another, they can engage in content, watch videos and, you know, give things a thumbs up, etcetera, people pretty quickly get that. And so it’s not as far along as we would like it to be, but definitely, it’s on a lot of peoples radar and I think 2010 is going to be a big year for brand and online communities.
Susan Bratton: You mentioned Sony and Kodak, and I want you to give us the URL’s of the community experiences so that we can go look at them, and also I will link to them on your page on Personal Life Media so anybody can go and find them right from, you know, searching for Aaron Strout and finding your page on my site. But I want to also really focus on HP, some of the work that you’re doing now with HP, ‘cause I think that’s very interesting as well. They’re all interesting, but I’d like to talk about HP, but if you can give us the URL’s that’d be great.
Aaron Strout: Sure. Fortunately they’re relatively easy and the Kodak site just went live, I think it’ll have been out a few weeks by the time folks are listening to this podcast…
Susan Bratton: I just checked it out; it’s fantastic.
Aaron Strout: Oh good. Well thank you. So it’s, that is exchange.Kodak.com, just like, you know, your exchange server or exchanging a gift. The other one for Sony is also easy; it’s sony.com/learn, l-e-a-r-n. And so from that URL for Sony there are actually three communities that sit under that and you can go and explore all three of them by going to that URL.
Susan Bratton: And here’s what I love about them: both of those sites are, the company is involved with them, but so much is the community, user generated ideas about how to use the company’s product. So in the example of Kodak, the neat thing about it is it’s all kind of photo crafting, photo creativity ideas that other people have thought of. I love that.
Aaron Strout: Yeah, that’s one of the things that we really, I think for anybody that’s building community and it’s one of the things that I really was drawn to when I joined Powered about a year ago, was a focus on not only giving, the brand giving educational lifestyle type content – not product stuff, not press releases, not product pitches, which, you know, some of that is necessary – but helpful information – how to take better photographs, you know, how to set up a home network, how to do scrapbooking, things that people really care about - and that mixed with the consumer generated content where people are uploading photographs or projects, or in the case of Atkins, one of our other communities, sharing recipes or strategies around the holidays to, you know, get over that sort of desire to have carbs, and we really feel like finding the balance between those two depending on what the brand is, is really a lot of the key ingredient to making a community sing.
Susan Bratton: So tell me what the differentiation is with HP.
Aaron Strout: So the nice thing about HP is HP has been around for, the company itself has been around for a long time. We’ve been working with them for several years; I think they’re our longest standing client. And what’s most exciting about them is the fact that because of the fact that they’ve done this for several years, they created a learning community and they have a couple of different focuses, but one of them in particular is their small business community which has over a million people in it, a million members, which anybody who knows about non sort of tech support or, you know, non passion brands or passion communities, that’s an impressive number. And I won’t get into all the details, but they literally have seen millions, if not hundreds of millions of dollars on return on investments with things like call avoidance through referrals, through people clicking through to the e-commerce site, people, self reported purchases, which by the way have a fairly high dollar average. And you know, they’ve stuck with it and they’ve stuck with this commitment to great content and letting people interact with it; rating and reviewing it, telling them whether it’s the right stuff or it’s not the right stuff, and so they’ve been very smart in their approach, and as a result they’ve seen, like I said, literally millions or hundreds of millions of dollars worth of return on investment in their programs.
Susan Bratton: You know, when I think about communities, I like the concept of the Kodak with consumers generating ideas for other Kodak customers, but you have another brand – and I hope you’re willing to talk about it, I’m aware of it – where it’s a community that comes together because they support each other through a process, and that’s Atkins. And that’s a little different scenario. Tell us about that community, if you don’t mind.
Aaron Strout: Sure, and Atkins is actually one of our favorite. Many people have this perception of it’s the, what do they call it, the bacon and, you know, cream diet, where…
Susan Bratton: Right.
Aaron Strout: in the past it was very heavy on…
Susan Bratton: Sounds good.
Aaron Strout: very heavy on the proteins, heavy in the fat, light or, you know, non existent carbs. And so they’ve subsequently softened their stance a little bit. But we started working with them a few years ago, and about a little over a year ago completely revamped their community. They realized that a lot of their communities were living in places like Yahoo groups and had sprung up in a variety of places, and that’s fine, they weren’t trying to kill that momentum, but at the same time they felt like it was important that they be part of the conversation, and in some ways they weren’t actually doing their customers the greatest service that they could’ve because they were limited in terms of what they could share on Yahoo groups or some of the other places that they were interacting. So we worked with them to roll out a community, and what’s great about it is they have, you know, a blogger that is a nutritionist and she is constantly sharing recommendations, best practices, tips, from the brand that are helpful to people, not trying to sell more stuff. As I mentioned earlier, my example there, people that are helping each other through the holidays when it’s hard to avoid that, you know, pound cake or, you know, some of the carbs that you might be inclined to do, they now have an opportunity to share recipes, which is pretty cool.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, I was thinking about Christmas cookies, yum. That’s the best part of the holidays.
Aaron Strout: Exactly.
Susan Bratton: My mother is the most amazing cookie baker. Like, she kicks Martha Stewart’s booty. And I have spent my entire adult life trying to make cookies as beautiful as my mother. And I’m not 48 and I am just beginning to be able to do that. It’s a craft that I can’t live without. So I do love those Christmas cookies, so you can’t have Atkins when you have Christmas cookies.
Aaron Strout: No. So they’ll teach you how not to eat them, they won’t teach you how to make them pretty, but…
Susan Bratton: They won’t. They’re not going to get any Christmas recipe cookies at the Atkins community.
Aaron Strout: Well they will, but they won’t have anything, you know, no carbohydrates.
Susan Bratton: Exactly. Be like oppressed nut cookie or something. So I want to also talk about small business, ‘cause we’ve been talking about pretty big brands with pretty big budgets, and it’s not true that you’re excluded from creating a community if you’re a small company. But before we do that I want to do a little level set on Powered and where you fit in the grand scheme of things, ‘cause I kind of think of Powered as like being like the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup; you are peanut butter and chocolate together. In that you have a platform for brands who want to build a community and don’t want to have like a, you know, light version of like little Ming thing or something, like a, you know, serious brand platform. But you also do a lot of the service, like you’ll create the content for them and you’ll seed the community for them, and so you have the service and the platform together. Just run – and correct me if I didn’t say that well – you can level set power, but tell me what all the other companies are in that kind of scatter constellation around Powered.
Aaron Strout: Sure. So I love the analogy of peanut butter and chocolate, not just because Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are my favorite thing in the whole world… Speaking of that…
Susan Bratton: We’re going to make people so hungry.
Aaron Strout: But you’re absolutely right Susan, and we are unique in the sense that we’re almost half agency and then half white label platform. So the company I came from before, Bazanga, there are a number of other folks like that, like Jive, Lithium, Small World Labs, etcetera, that provide mainly just a platform; some of them will provide moderation, some will even go a little further and provide some services. And there’s some bigger interactive agencies that will do a lot of the strategy around setting up a community, what the look and feel is, and might help you with some of the content. And we really sort of sit in between those two camps. And part of that is because we came up as, we were an e-learning company creating great content for consumer brands to teach their customers about their products or the lifestyle that surrounded them. And so, you know, we really do pride ourselves on having the strategy – you touched on all of them – the strategy, the content, the platform, which is more of a marketing platform with social capabilities versus just a, you know, social tools. And then finally the measurement, which is really one place where a lot of people are lacking and I really pride ourselves on the fact that we do a good job with that.
Susan Bratton: At one time in Tech Crunch I saw this list of something like 42 companies that had white label social network products, you know in the category of Ming… Do you think that there’s a difference between a social network platform and a community platform?
Aaron Strout: Well there’s, I can spend a lot of time on that question, and I know that we want to try to keep answers quick, so yes. I mean the community, there’s a real difference between social network and community and fundamentally what that is – and I think that will mostly answer the question – a community is a place where people come and they know each other, they know who’s sort of hosting the party, and they have ongoing meaningful interactions, not only with each other, but around the content. A social network – like a Twitter, like, you know, Ming is sort of almost halfway in between, like a Face Book – is more about who you know and a lot of it is, you know, interacting with one another, and so they’re good because they allow you to connect with other people, but they’re not as focused on the content and the conversation, they’re not as focused on sort of bringing a group of likeminded people together to sort of share experiences, which is more the traditional experience on the community side versus the social network side.
Susan Bratton: If I came to you and I wanted to create a community for Personal Life Media, just as an example, fifty to a hundred thousand uniques a month kind of thing but these people come and they consume content that’s pretty personal in nature and, you know, about their personal and professional growth. What would I need to have or put in place, how hard would it be for me to use Powered or even one of your competitors to create a community? Is it daunting or can you get something up and running relatively easily?
Aaron Strout: So I’ll give you two answers to that. It can be daunting and there are, that’s part of the difference is to I think sort of follow onto your last question, that there are a lot of white label providers out there, and I won’t name names, but they will sort of throw out the fact that, “Look, we’ve got this great platform and you can spin it up yourself and, you know, read Chris Brogan’s blog and you’re off to the races.” And the problem is Chris Brogan’s a smart guy and you may have very smart people within your company, but it would be like me going to you Susan and saying, “Susan, I want you to come and be the executive chef at this restaurant here in Austin, and I know that you know how to cook, so you should be able to figure out how to run a restaurant”, and you’re thinking, “Whoa! I may know how to cook and I might be able to cook for Tim, but I can’t necessarily cook for, you know, 250 people and, you know, 50 of them at a time, and so in some ways some of these companies are a little bit remiss in how they’re offering them up and that can be daunting because as a marketer or a brand you don’t necessarily know where to start, so in your case you might say, “Well I do podcasts, I blog, I use Twitter”, but bringing them all together and kind of knowing how to coral people, how to engage them, how to activate them, that takes work, and then how are you going to measure it all and how are you going to align that with your overall goals, right? The good thing with you is you have a lot of great educational content, which is what some of the brands we talk to suffer…
Susan Bratton: Right.
Aaron Strout: So in our particular case – and this is a little bit where we are different – is we’re very high touch and we have program managers that will come and sort of walk you through this entire process, so all you really need to do is be able to sort of point to the right places and talk about what your goals are and what your business is and maybe share a little bit about who your customers are, and then we can take it from there and obviously we check in with you over time, but we try to make it as painless as possible for you to be able to do that, and then we hold our self to some of the success metrics that we’ve agreed upon with you up front to make sure that it is delivering the results that you want it to and then we refine along the way.
Susan Bratton: Before we go to a break I want to find out if there are any good examples that you could share for small business practices around community.
Aaron Strout: Sure. So there’s a friend of mine here in town and he works at, his name Kyle Flaherty and I speak about him regularly on podcasts and webinars and live events, and the reason I do is because Kyle inherently gets – and his boss, Pam O’Neil – inherently get social and community, and what I love about it is they work for a company called Breaking Point Systems - it’s a public company but it’s a relatively small company - and they deal in B to B, which is a place where you don’t find as much community activity. And what they’ve really gotten excellent at doing is creating value and blogging and giving away things that have real intrinsic value to their customers, people that run networks and need to keep those networks secure, and they are able to then take that and convert that into measurable things like leads and new customers and awareness and they do it in a very scientific fashion; they use tools like Woopra and Get Clicky and feed those into places like salesforce.com, and they have a very scientific methodology where they can actually – and I’m not telling anything that’s a secret – they can watch all of these things happen and track them and offer them up to the sales team. They also have a lot of the folks internally that are Twittering and blogging, so they’re engaging their customers. So they don’t just do it as a hobby, they don’t it for fun, they do it as a very serious business, and as a result they haven’t had to spend a ton of money on marketing because they’re able to derive a lot of the benefit of what they want to do from these relatively free or free tools out there, and really all it takes is their commitment to resourcing them.
Susan Bratton: I want to check out Breaking Point Systems and Woopra and Get Clicky; that sounds really interesting. Thank you. We’re going to take a break right now, and when we come back I want to talk about your Quick and Dirty podcast, South By Southwest, some of your iPhone photography tips and your uber networking skills. We’re with Aaron Strout. He’s the CMO of Powered. I’m your host Susan Bratton. Stay tuned; we’ll be right back.
Susan Bratton: We’re back with Aaron Strout. So Aaron, I want some tips and tricks and quick and dirty stuff from you right now. First thing I want to know is you have your own show, it’s called Quick and Dirty. And I want you to tell us about it, and then I want you to think back over the last maybe six or seven episodes and give me a couple of like really cool insights or tips or techniques or epiphanies that you might’ve gotten from your show.
Aaron Strout: Sure. So it’s a show I’ve been doing now for, I think we’re on episode 16, which airs tonight…
Susan Bratton: Yup.
Aarons Strout: with us live. It gets recorded, I do it with the wonderful Jennifer Leggio who’s a media fighter on Twitter, she’s a ZD Net blogger. And essentially the show consists of four parts. It’s, we focus on a social network, usually it’s a new one every week and we deconstruct it in about five minutes, what is the business model. We have a special guest every week and we try to get someone that’s either exciting and notable or we’ll do someone who is from a brand that has a good case study story to tell. And then we do a featured, you know, Twitterer of the week, someone that people should sort of include in their click to their Twitter stream, and finally we do a really fun segment called The Point Counterpoint. So we pick something like, for instance, iPhone versus Blackberry. I have an iPhone, Jennifer has a Blackberry and we battle it out. So it’s a 45 minute show, which we may trim down at some point in time, but we have found that most people will sort of slog through it and they know now that its got a format when to listen in. I guess there’s two things that I’ve really learned. So one is, Jennifer and I sit in Austin – well she’s on the West Coast in the Valley and I’m in Austin Texas. So it’s a little tricky having a partner – especially if you’re interviewing people – to stay coordinated and, you know, be able to kick each other under the table, so we use Skype to back channel, which has been really helpful. The other tip that we found was letting people call in live, we let people talk in the chatroom, we talk via Twitter while we’re doing all this, but people really seem to like that and it really sort of creates some excitement and engagement with the show. Last sort of funny moment on this, so we had Laura Fenton who is the founder of 140, she’s Pistachio on Twitter, she was calling in from the airport last week. She couldn’t get her SIM card to work and she was going to find a payphone, found out it was $14 dollars for the first minute to call in from a payphone, finally connected with us, but we had about 20 minutes of time that we had to scramble and kind of readjust, so I think the last point that I threw out there is just being flexible and just being and being willing to roll with the punches, which sometimes can be unnerving, and Susan you’re a pro, so I’m sure you’ve had tons of experiences like that, but anybody thinking about podcasting, just be willing to go with the flow because it doesn’t always go as exactly the way you want it to, especially with a live show.
Susan Bratton: I can completely understand that; a live show is a very different thing. You and I are lucky in that we get to edit out any mistakes that we make. So we just sound flawless, Aaron.
Aaron Strout: We love the editing.
Susan Bratton: I know, the editing is, you’ve got to have a good makeup man, you’ve got to have a good hair guy, and you’ve got to have a good editor, that’s my motto. You don’t care about the hair, do you?
Aaron Strout: Not so much.
Susan Bratton: Not the makeup either. Oh by the way, if you want to follow Aaron on Twitter he’s @aaronstrout, and his blog, you’ll find it if you just Google Stroutmeister, he has a wonder… You actually do Citizen Marketer and The Engaged Consumer, right? You do, you blog two places don’t you?
Aaron Strout: I do. So the Stroutmeister, which is also the official title of Citizen Marketer 2.1 in the, it’s stroutmeister.com, a long story on that which I won’t get into, and then the sort of new version of The Engaged Consumer as our Powered blog and I joint blog with several of my colleagues on that one, and you can find that at powered.com/blog.
Susan Bratton: Thank you. South By Southwest, that’s a big, big event for you. You and I did it together last year; we did our Community Powered interview series, which was a lot of fun. If someone’s on the fence about going what do you think is the business justification for attending South By Southwest? What are your goals when you go there and what might someone else get out of participating?
Aaron Strout: Well it’s definitely something that you’d have to plan ahead, but the two sort of quick versions of what you can get out of it is you will, the networking is just unparallel and it’s mainly because there are sessions during the day like the regular conference, but the parties at night, they are wild, they’re fun, but it’s a great way to meet a lot of the people that maybe you’ve connected with on Twitter or Face Book or their blog or whatever. The second piece is that I think if you are thinking about social or you are doing anything socially related, it’s the place to go to fully immerse yourself and find out about all the latest trends and sort of what you want to be thinking about, what the right tools are, etcetera, who some of the people are you should be following because there’s a great host of people that speak at these things. But really it’s so the networking and, you know, sort of immersing yourself in the whole social space.
Susan Bratton: You mentioned networking, and you have told me that you consider yourself a mean networker. What makes you such a mean networker?
Aaron Strout: Well it’s the thing I think I pride about myself the most and there’s really one simple tip, and that’s to give before you get. And what I try to do – and I’ve been doing this even before really online social networking happens, going all the way back – I think you and I actually met because we’re both networkers back in the late 90’s in previous lives, and it’s because of the fact that I try to always think about if I’m meeting somebody how can I helped them, how can I sort of earn credit in the bank with them so that if I need something from them down the road that I can do that. So I’ll give you a quick example: Tim Armstrong, whom I think we both know, he’s now the CEO and chairman of AOL…
Susan Bratton: AOL.
Aaron Strout: He had been at Google, so Tim was on a board with me, this group called Boston Interactive Media Association. And because I knew Tim and always tried to be a sort of guy, help him navigate Fidelity when I was there, I needed to set up a meeting with Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, with my boss, Sean Belka and the president of the retail division of Fidelity. Well because of the fact that I had put some credit in the bank with Tim he was able to orchestrate that and we were able to sit down with Eric Schmidt for 45 minutes – this was, you know, several years ago before he was untouchable – but we were still able to do that, and so that was as a result of sort of what I always look at in my methodology and that is put money in the bank up front, help people before, you know, you ask for help, and then, you know, don’t always expect that someone that you meet, if they’re not a brand or an agency or, you know, someone that you can explicitly see what you’re going to get out of it, don’t just go on that because you never know where that person’s going to end up or how they might help you in the future.
Susan Bratton: And do you do anything to keep that organized or is it just… how do you reach out to people?
Aaron Strout: So I’d be lying if I said I was probably as good at keeping it organized as you are – I know you are really good at this. I have a few basic networks that I try to nurture and keep fresh and so I have a pretty robust Outlook contact list. But then it’s really between, I’ll say, Linked In and Twitter. And so a lot of the people that I reach out to I can actually just access them through a direct message. But if not then I can, you know, I’m connected to a lot of the business people I want to through Linked In and, you know, then finally it’s the good old fashioned email or phone number that I have in my, you know, thousand person contact database in my Outlook.
Susan Bratton: So I’ve been excited about a new company called Batch Blue. Have you heard of them? They’re Boston
Aaron Strout: You actually had mentioned them to me and I have a note written down on my desk to check them out. I haven’t quite got there, but I am very interested in checking them out.
Susan Bratton: I have pulled all of my different databases and lists and business cards and everything into my Batch Box, I guess they call it – their naming thing is confusing – it’s batchblue.com. Their product is called Batch Book, but you have this really cool thing called a Batch Box where you can send an email to your Batch Box account and it sticks… Like if you send me an email and it has all the stuff, you know, like all the things we have to do get ready for South By Southwest or something, I can just forward that to my Batch Box email address, it sticks it, it attaches it to your file in my account so that if I just need to go look at what’s going on with you I can. I can tag all the people I met at South By Southwest with a tag, I can, you know… It’s just a really great way to be organized and to do excellent searching that I haven’t found, that Outlook or Apple or Address Book or anything does. And so I have aggregated all of my lists into a single account, and it’s great because it’s a multi user account so I can have my assistant entering things for me and I can have people that I work with have access to my contact database. And so it’s really good; you should totally check it out.
Aaron Strout: Well you sold me on it now because…
Susan Bratton: I get nothing for this, by the way.
Aaron Strout: Well that’s the best kind of selling.
Susan Bratton: They know, they know that I love it and I pay for my service, but they gave me a promo code, so if you use ‘dishy’ when you sign up you get an extra month free.
Aaron Strout: I love it.
Susan Bratton: There you go. So, and I get nothing. I just do it. So I want to move on, and you told me, you were bragging, Aaron, you were bragging that you were…
Aaron Strout: Me brag? Never.
Susan Bratton: No, you really aren’t, you’re a totally humble guy. But you told me you take a pretty darn good photo with your iPhone. So is there like a trick to iPhone photography or were you just kidding me?
Aaron Strout: No, I actually do, and I think that part of it is, at the risk of sounding immodest, I do take pretty good pictures in general and I think a lot of that has to do with an eye for the right composition. But the thing that I like about the iPhone is one, take lost of photos because you can always delete them, and I think that’s one of the things that people sort of don’t always think about. But think about, you know, what is that going to look like, and what I always try to look at is composition in terms of, you know, is that cloud, like it’s getting some sort of very beautiful light that’s coming through it or if I look at a wall and I see that it’s got very clean lines and its got light spots and dark spots. So what you don’t want to do is you don’t want to try to take far away pictures, you don’t want to take pictures of things that are kind of bland. But the beauty of the iPhone is one, it’s got a pretty darn good two mega pixel lens on it, which actually isn’t a lot for most digital cameras, but it’s a lot clearer than you would normally find, and two, the auto adjust, the auto contrast adjust, you can actually game that to work to your advantage – you might make the sky look darker than it really is when you’re taking a picture of the sky and the landscape. The third thing that I’ve just discovered - and I have to give credit to our CTO Ron Green – I downloaded an app, it’s $2.99 cents called Best Camera, and what that has allowed me to do is you can turn photos into black and white - which makes them a lot of times more beautiful – you can dial up the saturation, you could add like a sepia tone color to it, you can, you know, over expose it – and so you’d be surprised at how many photos, that if you just play around a little bit with that kind of stuff you can really create, you could take a photo from good to great.
Susan Bratton: I love digital photography. I’m a Flickr fanatic, and I also love Ron Green. You’re lucky you get to hang out with him; he’s one smart, amazing guy. And I notice that you have a sepia tone avatar or someplace you have taken this funny picture of yourself and you’ve sepia toned it – and now I know how you did that – but that face you make is a crack up and here’s what I think that face means: you’ve got your face like all screwed up and that’s your avatar face, and I think the reason it’s so compelling is that when I see you looking at me like that in that picture, I think to myself, “You’re totally focused on me, and you haven’t quite figured me out yet, but you’re sticking with me ‘cause you want to.” I don’t know what that face is, but that’s what it says to me.
Aaron Strout: Well I love that, and it’s funny because I’ve had a lot of people say, “Can you make that face for me?”
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it’s kind of like famous now.
Aaron Strout: (unintelligible) that they know you for that reason. Well so this is actually close and personal to you Susan; that picture was taken at South By Southwest by my longtime friend and your newer friend Jim Store…
Susan Bratton: You know, it’s so funny, I was just going to mention Jim Store; now that guy can take some great photographs.
Aaron Strout: Yes, yes he can, and so that was a day when you and I were podcasting and I think that I hadn’t quite had enough casting and I’d probably been out pretty late the night before, so I was giving him one of those looks of like, “Are you kidding me? You’re going to take my picture?” But I think that’s why a lot of people tend to like it as my avatar. My wife, by the way, hates it; she says, “You look old in that picture, but…
Susan Bratton: Well because your brow is wrinkled. Yeah, you got to get some Botox Aaron.
Aaron Strout: Yeah, well and I was also kind of tired ‘cause I think I was working on about, you know, six hours of sleep for the last three days at that point.
Susan Bratton: Well you were working on your t-shirts for South By Southwest, your “Dog food is better than Kool-Aid” t-shirts.
Aaron Strout: Exactly, exactly.
Susan Bratton: And do you have any of those for us?
Aaron Strout: We do. We have I think four or five that we can give away if you want to give them away to any of the lucky listeners, “Dog food is better than Kool-Aid” and we have a content “FTW”, which means For The Win, and that’s, as we talked about earlier, that’s one of the things that we really see as the secret to success for any good community or social engagement.
Susan Bratton: Well if you would like to get one of Aaron’s fun t-shirts, all you have to do, if you don’t know the drill by now, you have to go to dishymixfan.com, which is my Face Book fanpage for the show. Just post your desire and Aaron and I will pick four or five people and we’ll send you some t-shirts. When you post make sure you tell us your size so that we can, you know, divvy up what he has across a number of you. So if you want a really good “Dog food is better than Kool-Aid” or “For the Win” t-shirt, go for it, dishymixfan.com. And Aaron, you also, I forgot to mention when we were talking in the beginning about community, you have a new white paper coming out – I’m waiting for it, I need it – and it’s called, did you call it From Zero To Community? That’s what it’s called, right?
Aaron Strout: That’s correct, yup.
Susan Bratton: So it’s not out yet, but by the time this episode airs I bet it’ll be darn close to it. Tell us about it and then anybody can have one; you just go to Dishy Mix Fan and post and Aaron will get it to you. Tell us about it.
Aaron Strout: Sure. So it’s part of a series of white papers that we’ve done, and one of the things that you’ll find about any of the content that we do is that we take eating our own dog food press a t-shirt pretty seriously. And we try not to pimp Powered too much, we try not to sort of pat ourselves on the back, and we talk about things from an educational perspective. When we do webinars we do that, when I do podcasts we do that. So this is one in particular that is the fourth in the series. It talks about building community and some of the best practices and things that you should be thinking about, things that we’ve talked about here today, that’ll help you do it. And I think it’s like a five or six page white paper, so it’s not, you know, particularly long. But the quick sort of blurb up the front says, “Online branded communities are proliferating all over the web, but building a community takes more than hosting a site”. So I think it reinforces that conversation we had before the break Susan, that it’s not just a set of tools, it’s a mindset and there are a lot of things that go with it to make it successful.
Susan Bratton: Well put me on the list for that.
Aaron Strout: I absolutely will.
Susan Bratton: Absolutely. And then just as a close to the show Aaron, because you absolutely do eat your own dog food, most of the marketing work that you do for Powered is around social influence media, social influence marketing, social media marketing, social optimization, whatever you want to call it; would you give us maybe a week in the life of Aaron Strout and tell me what all of the things are that you’re doing to generate awareness and leads for Powered?
Aaron Strout: Sure. So what I’ll tell you to start with is that I am a husband and a wife… or a husband and a father of three kids.
Susan Bratton: Was that a little Freudian slip, something you two did, a little role reversal on Saturday night or something?
Aaron Strout: Exactly. But what that tells you is that I do try to keep a balance between work and life, but when I am at work a lot of times I am traveling and I’m going out and speaking at events, I am, you know, I do my weekly podcasts that I do with Jennifer, The Quick and Dirty. I try to do at least two or three podcasts, or sorry, blog posts a week, and that’s mixed in with an occasional byline for a magazine, and we do monthly webinars, the thought leadership webinars. One that we did for instance that was particularly one of my favorites was with Scott Monty who’s the head of social media at Ford, Christopher Barter who’s the head of social media at GM and then Sylvia Marino who’s the director of community at Edmonds.com. And why these are so good is that again, we don’t talk about Powered and our products and how good we are; we talk about how social is benefiting people and how social is able to radically transform companies. And so one of the things that, you know, I had asked Scott before this if he had a juicy tidbit to throw out there, Scott said that they have a 38 percent awareness of Ford Fiesta thanks to this Ford Fiesta movement that they’ve been doing across YouTube, Twitter and a number of other social networks, for a car that’s not even here yet, and he said that’s more than some of their existing models and Ford’s a pretty well known brand. And so people who come and attend these, you know, whether it’s the podcast, read the blogs, attend the webinars, they’re able to walk away with some action steps that, whether they ever work with Powered or not, whether they ever work with a white label company or an agency, they have some prescriptive things that they can do, and that’s what we always try to sort of leave behind because we feel like if we’re adding value to people, just like we tell our clients to do and we help our clients to do, then people will come back, they’ll be more loyal, they’ll talk about you, so you get those things like loyalty, advocacy, you know, greater purchase intent.
Susan Bratton: Nice! You do a beautiful job generating great content that helps people, and we’re looking forward to your white paper. So Aaron thank you so much for coming on the show, and we’re really looking forward to you being a guest host sometime very soon, and we’ve got to get that scheduled in so we can make that happen before the holidays.
Aaron Strout: Well thank you for having me and this was great. I mean, you know, I could sit and talk with you all day; we got a chance to talk a lot at South By Southwest…
Susan Bratton: I know.
Aaron Strout: and I’m looking forward to more of the same.
Susan Bratton: Me too. We have a lot of fun together. Awesome! You have gotten an opportunity to meet Aaron Strout, CMO of Powered Incorporated and you’ll get to hear him again very soon on Dishy Mix. I hope this was beneficial to you and that you have a great day today. Take care.