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What is the biggest social media stumbling block for Fortune 500 firms? According to social strategist and “Return on Relationship” author Ted Rubin it’s fear of taking the plunge and embracing social 120 percent.

It’s “fear of the hard work and time it takes” to do social right, Rubin told social media and marketing blogger Laura Rubinstein in a recent interview. “Companies are used to establishing their marketing plan in 2013 for 2014. It all gets put together, approved by the CMO before Christmas, and 9 out of 10 times it’s identical to last year’s marketing plan other than a few little tweaks. Then the year starts and they’re on autopilot. But you need to be updating and evolving your marketing plan at the very least every month — maybe every day, maybe every week, at least in some way or another. You need a marketing plan that’s flexible. And most companies are afraid of that.”

That fear is normal, but it must be overcome in order to remain vibrant and relevant in today’s market, says Rubin, noting companies are “afraid of the time, they’re afraid of who’s making the decisions, and the’re like ‘Why should we have to do that? Our stock price is going up, our numbers are fine.’ Why? Erik Qualman put it best, ‘You want to know what the bottom line of social media is? You’ll be in business in 5 years.’”

Anyone who knows Ted will find the next paragraph hard to believe. As a man who lives and breathes social media, with 208,000 Twitter followers and impeccable credentials as an “influencer,” Rubin is the last person from whom one would expect equivocation. But this early adapter — who went digital circa 1997-98 with Seth Godin at Yoyodyne — admits that initially he too had reservations. As with so many, his “very, very initial reaction was, ‘Oh, another thing to do.'”

By 2007, he was livin’ it 24/7, thinking, “Oh my god, this is me. This is what I’ve looking for my entire career. If only this was around when I was in my 20s, what I could have done, because I’ve always been a networker. I’ve always been a community builder.” Explaining that he was the one in his circle of friends who spent time to build community, introducing people making the effort to ensure that those with similar interests stayed in touch.

Rubin has managed to build a career of what he loves, translating his social skills to a business model. He provides services as an advisor and also runs a vibrant constultancy; his clients include Mastercard, Mary Kay, 21st Century Fox and Sbarros (as well as Brand Innovaors, for whom he serves as Acting CMO). In other words, he is a carbon-based social media platform!


His message, skillfully teased out by Rubinstein: companies, small and large, need to evolve, or risk the consequences.

“I look at small businesses that say they don’t have time for this, it amazes me. You don’t have time to do your job? You don’t have time to take the content you’re already creating and put it somewhere else? Or to possibly hire someone to help you with it – I don’t mean create it for you, but help you syndicate it, do the manual labor once you’ve created it. How about leveraging all that incredible intelligence you have in your employees?”

Consumers, Rubin explains, “are taking a circle back these days. We went from a time of small business and local merchants that everybody had a relationship with to mass merchandising where everybody was invisible. And I think people liked it that way, but it went so far – maybe too far – with all this automated targeting and everything else – that people now really want to see it it come back. They know the tools are there; they know there’s no excuse for a company not to interact with you, no matter how big they are.”

Ted Rubin coined the phrase “Return on Relationship,” which he turned into a book that charts “the new measure of success,” teaching marketers the metrics necessary to move beyond the more traditional “return on investment.” Follow him on Twitter @TedRubin or at TedRubin.com. Laura Rubinstein runs Transform Today, helping businsses and people transition to the next level.

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by Brandon Gutman
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Brandon is an expert connector and seasoned business development professional. As Principal of Brand Approved, he's led the advisory to become the bridge between brand marketers and best of breed service providers that are reshaping the industry.

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