Zenith Social Media Marketing Conference Sneak Peek: Up Close & Personal With Ric Dragon

Posted in Interviews, Zenith SocialCon

Well folks, we’ve finally made it to the month of May – and the countdown continues to Zenith SocialCon 2014! In a few short weeks treasured industry thought-leaders from around the country and local online marketing professionals will gather together in lovely Duluth, Minnesota for a packed-to-the-gills one day intensive social marketing conference. Zenith SocialCon 2013, set to be held on May 30th, has a juicy curriculum sure to make even the most esteemed marketing conventions blush.

As the event draws nearer, we’ve had the fun opportunity to share candid Q&As with some speakers set to share their insights and knowledge with the crowd. This week, we’re pleased to showcase Mr. Ric Dragon, who is almost never without a truly fashionable hat (evidence). Ric’s co-founder and CEO and of DragonSearch, a digital marketing agency based out of Kingston and NYC, NY. He’s also a regular speaker on the mainstream conference circuit and a classically trained artist besides!

At Zenith, he’ll be contributing to the Content Marketing Master Class session which is sure to be jam-packed with actionable tips and top-shelf tactics. Our interview was a real pleasure. Read on for the goods!

(You’ll notice I fought the overwhelming urge to ask him how awesome it feels to have “Dragon” as a last name. *Pats self on back*).

| aimClear: Mr. Dragon! Welcome, welcome. Tell us a bit about yourself – who are you, where do you come from, how did you get here?

Ric Dragon: Good morning, Lauren! I’m so excited to be returning to Duluth and the Zenith Conf.

If you had known me thirty years ago, you’d probably be somewhat flummoxed meeting me today.  I had just finished up a stint as a graphic designer in the Air Force during the Cold War, and entered college to study painting, determined to rebel against the ric-dragonyears of haircuts and starched shirts.  But artists often have to do many different things to make a living, and as personal computers became ubiquitous, I found myself with an early laptop loaded with a relational database program. Enduring a bout of cabin fever, I learned the program and created a product for artists to manage their own work. I used those skills afterwards to form a web and application development company.

Fast forward a decade later: a business partner told me that we must enter digital marketing. While my firm had been doing SEO “best practices” for years, I didn’t want to associate with the armies of snake oil salesmen and charlatans that were spamming our customers with flimsy promises. Despite some of the shadiness of the industry, our clients needed those services, and we entered the industry.

We formed DragonSearch just before the emergence of Twitter and Facebook.  Since we had this legacy of approach based on, “how can we bring process to bear,” as soon as those platforms gained traction, we created a framework in which to work. We took the wisdom and philosophies of Six Sigma, Lean, and Capability Maturity Model and borrowed from each to create our own approach digital marketing.

| aC: Inspired! So, clearly you have plenty of agency experience… what are the inherent challenges of offering agency services in social media channels?

RD: There are initial challenges in crafting a strategy that has impact on real desired outcomes.  We’re able to overcome that challenge quite often by doing a robust discovery piece of work, where we work with a brand to really suss that out. But then there is often an additional challenge: social can create value for an organization or brand across a whole eco-system of touch points. There is the value in brand equity, mind share, brand perception, impact on SEO, impact on other marketing activities, risk mitigation, as well as real impact on actual sales. Too often, executives are fixated on the last element to the detriment of the other value points. This can impact budgets and expectations.

| aC: Noted and noted. Now, tell us about your most recent book and what sorts of content marketing nuggets we’ll discover.

RD: Social Marketology was in fact written to address the idea that social media marketing could be done better with a process-based approach.  If you look at any brand, it exists within an eco-system comprised of itself, customers, competitors, and the world around it.  The framework that we developed addresses the different parts of the eco-system so that when a marketer has gone through the various phases, they’re able to create a meaningful strategic plan.

One of the profound implications of the social media revolution is that unless yours is one of those rare love brands, no one cares much about your brand. But if there is underlying purpose – even passion – people will care about that. Perhaps there are people who care about that strange-tasting beverage in cans of Red Bull – but more people care about the brand’s passion point of extreme living.  That is something the brand has been able to evangelize and celebrate in their own social media.

| aC: Totally. What three secrets do you know about content marketing that, if everyone else knew them, they could be Ric Dragon?

RD: I’m fairly certain we all have our fatal flaws – our weaknesses.  They can also be our strengths! I know that I’ve taken my own style of leaning, unorthodox that it may be, and used it as a means to become a fanatical learner and in turn, a sharer of knowledge. You have to be willing to be willing to dive down some rabbit holes, and immerse yourself in whatever experience has attracted you.

The business thinker/writer Steve Farber often quotes himself, “do what you love in the service of those who love what you do.”  It’s simple.  That love of what you do translates; It becomes kinesthetic. Notice the best viral videos, the best books, the best music, and even the best marketing – they all come from a place of passion and love.

Be willing to invest in content.  Rethink what it means to invest time and resources into content. You might create an online widget or application, or an infographic, or video – any one of these might require more than a100 hours of effort. That can be a hefty investment – but at the end of the day, you can create something that attracts a lot more than 100 times a piece that takes one hour. If you’re going to break through the noise, you’ve got to create real value – that’s what it comes down to.

| aC: Awesome stuff. At the Zenith Social Media conference, you’ll be speaking on the Content Marketing Master Class session. Give the readers at home a sneak peek as to what you’ll be serving up!

RD: Value. MORE value. How do we take one thing, add it two another, and have something that is more valuable than the two things stuck together? It’s what I call “1 + 1 = 3.” Yes, we’re going to discuss the myriad approaches to content marketing, but we’re going to go further and talk about how we light a firecracker under the rear-end of our content to make something that is truly remarkable – something that truly has an effect.

| aC: Excellent. Lightning round! Favorite ethnic cuisine, vacation spot, and adult beverage, GO!

RD: I’m thinking I’d like a nice plate of grilled eggplant and hand-made pasta, washed down with a glass of Brunello di Montelcino, overlooking the Tiber River that winds its way through Rome. But if I must suffer with a plate of ratatouille, a glass of Bordeaux, and watch the houseboats on the Seine, I’ll take that, too.

| aC: Well played, Mr. Dragon, well played indeed. Well, we’ll be seeing you pretty soon! Safe travels, sir! 

Photo credit: laurenlitwinkaphotographs.tumblr.com