Today, Write On speaks with Ric Dragon, author of Social Marketology and The Dragon Search Online Marketing Manuel. Dragon, co-founder and CEO of DragonSearch, an online marketing agency, is currently a columnist for MarketingLand and Social Media Monthly, and a frequent speaker. He is speaking on Wednesday at the 140conf in New York! Watch the conference, which takes place in New York June 19 – 20, online.

Why did you write Social Marketology?
Of course I can’t just give a simple answer! There are two answers. The book started as an answer to the problem that marketers are facing everywhere—that there is not an established set of processes for social media marketing.  In my previous company, we were addicted to process and process improvement methodologies as they applied to the development of websites and applications. We had things like Capability Maturity Model, Six Sigma, UML, and Agile Programming. This was a natural approach for us to apply to social as it became a force in marketing.

Secondly, I really wanted to explore many of the wonderful disciplines touching on social. There is the entire psychology of group formation, influence, social grooming. There’s anthropology, ethnology, brain science, and the entire history of business and marketing. Social media is an autodidact’s wonderland!

What was your process for writing it? Getting it published?
Usually, when you pitch a book to a publisher, you provide an outline—perhaps even a chapter. At the end of the day, I really didn’t deviate too much from the original outline. I, then, created an outline for each chapter. At one point, I was using workflowy.com just to help me organize my thoughts. I also found it useful to go back in after writing a section, and write a sentence that would summarize each paragraph. I’d then put those sentences into an outline, at which point I could see if the whole made narrative sense or not.

How the book came to be published is a story in itself, which to abbreviate, came about because of some wonderful connections I actually made in social media, and later, at events like the 140Conf and SOBcon.

In what ways was writing a book different than/similar to writing for marketing purposes?
I probably think more in terms of the shorter piece versus the longer piece.  In shorter pieces, such as blog posts, you’re setting up a shorter narrative arc, which of course, must be self-contained. In the longer write, there are points that can carry from chapter to chapter.

Since writing the book, I’ve gone back and admired books by authors like Clay Shirky or Nicholas Carr.  The latter, for instance, is a master at setting up the argument of the book over many chapters, carefully crafting his conclusions.  I have a lot to learn.

What was your favorite part of writing Social Marketology? The greatest challenge?
My favorite part, by far, was getting the opportunity to interview and learn from so many marketing professionals. Many, many people at all levels of business were gracious with their time and knowledge.

Writing the book was a veritable learning experience. This wasn’t just me spitting out a bunch of knowledge already residing in my head, but a journey to discover how we can create real value in the marketing discipline with social.

By the end, I was cutting up pages with scissors and taping them back together. I also discovered that I write best first thing in the morning. To create a book of 60,000 words, you only have to write 500 words a day for 120 days. Easy, right? And while it was on some days, on others, eking out those few hundred words could be grueling. I can see why authors speak of the necessity of developing discipline.

What are the top three things you hope people learn from your book? Why are they important?
Social media represents one of the most significant revolutions in human communications over the past 500 years.  The last time there was a revolution of this scale was with the Gutenberg Press—which precipitated the development of new religions and governments. People were burned, and heads literally rolled. With the social media revolution, organizations must refine their organizational personality and voice, and have one-on-one conversation. And yet, how does an organization behave as an individual, and how does it have conversations with tens of thousands, or even millions of people? There are approaches to these challenges, but the answers are really still being born.

Social media is undergoing constant change at this point—and I’d be hard pressed to say that my crystal ball is any clearer than the next person’s.  Fortunately, we can look at social through the lens of patterns, just as people have with urban planning and software. Social behaviors follow a wealth of patterns that we can begin to understand, and as a result, be less overwhelmed by the constant change.

Process doesn’t have to be a dirty word. We can bring process to bear, and improve how we respond to these challenges—and even improve our work over time.

You participate in other creative endeavors? In what ways do they help your writing?
I’ve got a feeling the creative process is somewhat similar across disciplines and media. We typically start off excited and elated with the fresh canvas or piece of paper. As we progress, frustration inevitably creeps in. After all, there is no owner’s manual or instruction book on how to do this new thing we’re doing. And then, finally, frustration gives way to break-through. Eureka!

It helps to know this. Of course, it always helps, after a frustrating writing session, to sit down and wail away on some drums.

Additional advice for writers?
Oh, this is going to sound trite, but “just do it.” I love books and I love reading—to be able to contribute to the world of the written word is for me, albeit humbling, utterly wonderful. And having to think through the structure of the longer write has made me feel a lot more sure of myself when it comes to writing shorter pieces.

Advice for speakers?
I gleaned a bit of wisdom from Nancy Duarte’s book, Resonate, in which she urged speakers to work from a place of wanting to change their audience—as in, change their minds or opinions. Often, our talks are sometimes created to simply inform, which is probably OK, but hardly as compelling as a talk designed to really upset our cognitive apple cart.  And once you think of speaking from that vantage point, you might realize it works for writing, too.

If you were offered the opportunity to speak for 20 minutes before a TED Conference, and in the audience were heads of state, titans of industry, and some of the greatest minds of our time—what would you want to convince them of? What would you want to talk about that would change the world and make it better?  Even if you’re only talking to an industry group, there is usually something to bring to that group.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started your career?
Well, I “knew” that purpose and vision are paramount. But knowing it, and REALLY knowing it is another matter.  But really, purpose and vision frame the entire life experience, and the more we consider these fundamentals from the outset, the more powerful all of our actions.

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