Three Wise Men: An Interview with Social Marketing Strategist Ted Rubin

There are lots of influential people in the world of social, many of whom share their social wisdom with the rest of us. We always jump at the chance to get some insights into what inspires those big in social, and what their tips are for great social etiquette.

Hence, we set out to interview ’Three Wise Men’ of social; three people who we think are inspiring and know their onions when it comes to social media. So far, we’ve spoken to Head of Social Strategy at Adobe, Jeremy Waite, and SM Technology Specialist Ian Cleary.

This time, in the last of our Three Wise Men series,we speak to social media strategist and Collective Bias Chief Social Marketing Officer, Ted Rubin. Ted has been involved in social marketing for many big brands, and in 2009 started using and evangelising the term ROR: Return on Relationship™ a concept he believes is the cornerstone for building an engaged multi-million member database, many of whom are vocal advocates for the brand.

ted rubin

Here, he tells us a bit about how he got into social, his loves and hates, and his top tips.

How/why did you first get into social marketing as a career?

I like to say I got started in social media when I got involved in this thing we call the internet. It was 1997 when I joined Seth Godin’s start-up, Yoyodyne. It was the first internet-based direct marketer.

Seth was quoted in an article saying that even though Yoyodyne did not have any official openings, he was looking for smart, driven people. He would find them a place. I thought … I’m smart, I’m driven. He found me a job.

It was early days and they desperately needed people who could sell. So I sold more than anyone else there and was quickly given the mandate to build out a sales team.

Sales is such a great place to start a marketing career because you learn to understand the product and the needs of those who buy. And if you are taught well, you very quickly learn the value of truly listening.

Everything digital enabled sharing in ways never imagined before … so, for me, that is where it all began.

In 2008, when I joined e.l.f. Cosmetics, social marketing became the core of what I did every day. Social platforms were starting to dramatically scale and I was fortunate to be at a brand where making it the heart of what we did seemed the natural way to go.

I quickly learned the incredible value and power of Twitter, the ability to aggressively grow followers, interact with them at any time and have your ideas and message spread so quickly.

What do you love about social media?

Simple … the ability to engage, interact, learn, and build relationships 24/7.

What do you dislike about it?

Those who think of it merely as another advertising channel and try to measure it with legacy digital measurements.

What’s your favourite social network/platform and why?

Twitter… a view into what anyone and everyone is talking about, ability to easily build a following, immediacy.

I believe Twitter is a tool that leads to other forms of social sharing. I consider Twitter a place to lay the groundwork where other people pick up things.

Twitter is a seeding medium and a place to build engagement and interaction. It is not a broadcast medium (although can be used that way at times).

It is not about the quantity of people listening at once, but the ability to lay it out there for those whose attention is drawn to what you have to say at any given moment.


What or who inspires you the most?

My daughters. As a divorced dad, I am constantly focused on involvement and presence. Don’t be left out of your kids’ lives, I think. Step up and commit to being available for your children right from the beginning.

Spending time with my girls is something I put before all else. They are teenagers now and it can be challenging to continue to reach out, put them first and maintain a relationship in the face of their lack of interest and the roadblocks so easily put in place by their mom.

What inspires me to move beyond limitations and obstacles is my love for them and a deep desire to not only be a part of their lives, but to have influence on how they think, reason, and develop.

Because of all this I have learned so much about how to find the “moments” of connection, inspiration and engagement.

Which brands do you think do social particularly well?

JetBlue, Duane Reade, Mastercard with some of their efforts, and AmericanAir is gaining ground and learning/evolving quickly.

What are your 3 top tips for those starting out in social marketing?

  1. Get started, don’t wait.
  2. Listen a lot, pay attention to what gets traction, and adjust as you go all the time.
  3. Make engagement and relationship building the focus of what you do.

What 3 changes do you think we’ll see in the world of social media and social marketing in the next year?

  1. ROR, Return on Relationship (#RonR) will gain ground as a valuable gauge that leads to ROI.
  2. Social will hopefully become more “Social”.
  3. Less silos… companies/brands will come to understand the value of wrapping a social shell around all they do.

Lastly, any favourite social marketing anecdotes for us?

These are all mine, so feel free to quote me…

  1. Start looking people in the eye Digitally.
  2. Relationships are like muscle tissue … the more they are engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become.
  3. Welcome to the ‘Age of Influence’, where anyone can build an audience and effect change, advocate brands, build relationships and make a difference.

Want to be interviewed by us? Know someone great and wise who can share their knowledge? Get in touch.