Sphere Of Influence: Ric Dragon on “The Big Brand Theory”, and the Value of Digital Marketing Agencies

Sphere Of Influence:  Talking Brands, Social Media, and the Value of Digital Marketing Agencies with Ric Dragon

This blog post was incredibly hard to start. I probably wrote and deleted opening lines and paragraphs at least 7 or 8 times. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say about Ric Dragon, it’s that there’s too much that I’d love to say about Ric that I didn’t know where to begin! I met Ric at the last BlogWorld (now called New Media Expo) that was held in New York City. I attended his Social Marketology session and was so convinced he knew what he was talking about that right after the session I bought his book, “Social Marketology”, which you should read if you haven’t. As fate, or luck, would have it I happened to catch Ric during a break and mustered up the courage to go and introduce myself and speak with him. We had a great conversation and he gave me some valuable advice that I still use today. Since that day and conversation, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ric and his DragonSearch team on numerous occasions. I can’t say enough about the team that he’s built. They are bright, hardworking, insightful and I’d recommend DragonSearch to anyone looking for a digital marketing agency. I consider Ric to be a good friend and a mentor. I really look up to him a lot and whenever we have a conversation I always come out of it learning something new. I could probably sit and listen to him speak for hours. A big thanks to Ric for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions from me, I know you’ll find his words insightful.

Me: When and how did you get started in social media?

Ric Dragon: Should I go all the way back to my CB Radio days? That’s probably not what you had in mind!

DragonSearch emerged out of a previous company I owned. We were really feeling the need from a lot of businesses for ethical and effective search marketing. After DragonSearch was started (and named, I might add), there was an explosion in the development of social media platforms. Twitter debuted at SxSW, Facebook passed MySpace in being the leading platform, and smart phones proliferated. We were already heavily involved in the blogging space, so it was a natural extension of our work.

We’re process fanatics at DragonSearch. Well, here was an opportunity just as the impact of social media on marketing was becoming apparent, to bring process to bear on what resembled a Saturday night in Deadwood Gulch.

Me: I really like your “Big Brand Theory” posts on socialmediatoday.com. What were some of the social media strategies and tactics that brands used that stood out most to you and why?

Ric Dragon: Writing that column has been a blast. I’ve gotten to speak with social media executives from all sorts of companies, all around the world.

A lot of our thinking around the different types of social media marketing has been substantiated in the field. You’ve got companies like Dunkin Donuts, Citibank, and Southwest Airlines – companies that have a high interaction directly with customers – using a blend of customer service and social media. Companies like Ford and Red Bull are forging greater emotional ties with their customers with content, while organizations like Sony Professional and Ritz Carlton are nurturing communities.

Of course, companies rarely depend on just one of those big modes; they often have a mix. But you can definitely see the emphasis.

One of my favorite questions to ask is around success metrics – how will the brand know they’ve succeeded in their social media program. It excites me to discover that not all brands are focused just on the quarterly earnings. The more successful companies are looking at establishing larger brand equity.

Me: I’ve had the chance to work with your company, DragonSearch, on multiple occasions and the experience and results have been great. While I’ve read posts about some brands taking social/digital media responsibilities back in house, I know others have not done that entirely yet. My personal view is that a good mix between in house social/digital and use of digital marketing agencies is best. Could you tell us what the advantages of using an agency are and how you see the role of digital marketing agencies evolving in the future?

Ric Dragon: Let’s get up on the balcony, and look at the issue from a value-creation standpoint. A good agency is eating, drinking, and sleeping digital marketing. They’re attending conferences, speaking, writing, and working with multiple verticals, and typically aren’t caught up in the inner politics and silos of a brand. They should be able to bring fresh perspective and creativity to the table, along with the very best marketing knowledge.

On the brand side, the internal team is eating, drinking, and sleeping the brand. Their intimacy of the brand should be without parallel. So, ideally, it would be a collaborative effort. And that is what I’ve experienced with a lot of our own clients.

One thing, though, that I think can be put to rest, is the idea that agencies can’t provide the very best in community management for a brand. I’ve often heard it argued that only people inside the brand should post on social media for an organization – that outsiders aren’t going to have the requisite intimacy. My own experience contradicts that. It’s commonplace, for example, for our own team to gain an extreme intimacy with an organization and provide superb community management. They’re still “employed” by the brand – they’re just telecommuting from our office at that moment.

Again, from the value-creation standpoint, the agency is investing heavily into ongoing learning, and is designed to do that. We also develop skills and services that, because they’re shared with our other clients, means that our clients get the benefit of skillsets that wouldn’t be feasible to develop internally. You can think of it as sharing resources with other companies: agencies can concentrate learning, knowledge, skills, and an agile creative approach, and provide that to a group of clients. Our future means bringing all of that to even greater levels of richness and value.

If you haven’t connected with Ric yet, I recommend you do! Here’s how: DragonSearch, Socialmediatoday, Marketing Land, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest.

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