An interview with Ryan Rasmussen – AoC

July 19, 2007


Originally uploaded by Duc N. Ly.
I’m glad to have with me today in Hell’s Kitchen on Second Life, a second interview with Ryan Rasmussen (aka Austin Ellison), one of the author of ‘Age of Conversation’. I’m please to have Ryan back again to talk about AoC and many other subjects. I will start the conversation by congratulating them on the success of the book.

The Age of Conversation
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You: Congratulations to you, an author of Age of Conversation.

[10:12] Ryan Rasmussen: πŸ˜‰ Thank you.

[10:12] You: You were saying before the crash that there is quit a buzz about this book AOC…it’s interesting that I came to it through your Facebook profile πŸ™‚

[10:13] Austin Ellison: πŸ˜‰ That is what happens when you collect 100 ‘social media savvy’ minds and ask them for creative methods for marketing this project.

[10:14] Austin Ellison: Several of the contributors joined Facebook solely for this reason: to market the book.

[10:15] You: I think that it’s a great idea. The Facebook (FB) community is growing also I join because of the notebook community. FB is being used in a very creative way.

[10:15] Austin Ellison: It’s incredible addictive!

[10:16] You: Yes it is more so then any other media…maybe it’s because of the ‘mash’ables

[10:16] Austin Ellison: Last night, I was taking photographs and videos of a thunderstorm while walking down Michigan Ave solely to upload them to the FB profile.

[10:17] Austin Ellison: I used Shozu, and a few FB modules/mashables to automatically upload the media.

[10:17] Austin Ellison: I’m not entirely certain ‘why’ it is so intriguing. However, I suppose it is just a new form of journaling 2.0

[10:17] You: You always seem to find ways around it, to use it fully.

[10:18] You: Let’s get back to AOC. I always think about the story of how we met.

[10:18] Austin Ellison: Sure. I believe it you were shopping for groceries, right?

[10:19] You: Meaning that I was experimenting…around that time I was doing some PayPerPost… and the idea of asking for sample products to review on my bog.

[10:19] You: I have always like paper products and on a whim I sent out an email

[10:20] Austin Ellison: Yes. You actually had created quite an impressive footprint online with your Squidoo and word press pages.

[10:20] You: Aha Yes I was in the Polish European meat market shopping with my wife when I got that phone call from you.

[10:20] Austin Ellison: πŸ˜‰

[10:21] Austin Ellison: Anyway, I really noticed your site when I realized you were in the top 20 Google results for Levenger.

[10:21] You: So you were the impetus for my subsequent reviews of the products from other company as well… but it’s a perfect example of what AOC is all about.

[10:21] Austin Ellison: Google searches are quickly becoming a compelling new method for deterring exactly what is occurring with one’s brand.

[10:22] Austin Ellison: Thank you. I think it works best when both parties see the “conversation” as an opportunity to collaborate, or co-create.

[10:23] You: yes our real life company, a mortgage company is paying thousands of dollars to be able to be search-able on Google. In fact, I sent the article you wrote on AOC to my marketing person. She’s young and energetic…I hope she’s open minded about marketing and social media. I also showed her my Circa Rolla notebooks because she saw it and was very curious.

[10:24] Austin Ellison: πŸ˜‰ Excellent.

[10:25] Austin Ellison: An active conversation about something is pretty attractive to a Technorati spider or Google-bot.

[10:25] You: So I’m curious as how you got involved with AOC…what was the first conversation? The seed…where did it start?

[10:26] You: Can you please define for us laymen Technocratic spider or Google-bot?

[10:26] Austin Ellison: *terms for methods used by search engines to determine a site’s relevance.

[10:28] Austin Ellison: As for connecting with AoC, I started only with working with the idea of collaborative innovation * opening new product development up to the group of natural creative-types. The DIY community was natural to the processes of brainstorms.

[10:28] Austin Ellison: I then attended a presentation by Ben McConnel of Church of the

[10:29] Austin Ellison: It was then that I started to understand the divide between traditional PR and marketing approaches to engaging customers.

[10:30] Austin Ellison: Traditional messages were one-way. Microsoft’s Digital Advertising Solutions, “The Break-Up” did a terrific spoof of this in video titles.

[10:31] You: I see

[10:32] Austin Ellison: Although the ROI is near impossible to calculate, a word-of-mouth campaign is incredible powerful. However, it requires passionate customers + responsive merchants.

[10:33] Austin Ellison: Social media provide the opportunity for companies to really learn how customers feel about their brand through open conversation.

[10:34] Austin Ellison: Ben’s presentation leads me to seek out other marketing bloggers that might be actuating this sort of campaign.

[10:34] You: Well said….

[10:34] Austin Ellison: Large companies, like Microsoft and Google, realized the importance of corporate blogging some time ago. I was on a quest to see who else was actively questioning and listening to their customers.

[10:35] Austin Ellison: This led me to Gavin Heaton’s blog, and the open call for participants.

[10:35] Austin Ellison: My email simply stated, “I have been working with customers online for quite some time.”

[10:36] You: true true

[10:36] Austin Ellison: In my own article, I chose to speak of some of the obstacles to approaching this sort of open engagement.

[10:37] Able Whitman is Online

[10:37] You: Yes, I’ve underline a few sentences.

[10:37] Austin Ellison: Entering a community as a company representative exposes oneself to any number of incalculable slings and arrows. πŸ˜‰

[10:37] You: They are reluctant….

[10:37] Austin Ellison: Often, this is the reason companies are reluctant to jump in.

[10:38] You: I’ve asked a number of companies for product review and often I get rejections.

[10:38] Austin Ellison: However, any feedback, including negative, is vital to brand health.

[10:39] You: Extremely. Ryan, in a year you went from Manager to Director of new Media at Levenger…incredible.

[10:39] Austin Ellison: I continue to manage the store. πŸ˜‰

[10:39] Austin Ellison: I spoke with Stephen Smith at HDBizBlog about this a few weeks back.

[10:39] You: I see you as an example of what they call ‘Blue Ocean’ Strategies…

[10:39] You: Oh I’ll have to see the link

[10:40] You: Stephen wrote a post about Levenger getting it right

[10:40] Austin Ellison: Well, it was actually a more recent conversation with him where I asked if he had any advice for what I should actually “call” my position. πŸ˜‰

[10:41] You: what is it officially called now?

[10:41] Austin Ellison: A few members of DiyPlanner had suggested, “Company liaison”, etc.

[10:42] Austin Ellison: I direct Levenger’s social media program. What started as an experiment last fall has developed into something pretty compelling.

[10:42] You: I think that you have gone above the red sea of the competition and have created a position where you are in the blue…an innovative new place beyond other competitors. And that’s unique.

[10:42] Thim Vella: hello

[10:43] Austin Ellison: Therefore, “director of social media optimization/engagement” came together.

[10:43] Austin Ellison: πŸ˜‰ Thank you.

[10:43] Seth Rahja: draw

[10:43] Austin Ellison: However, it really was born from the interaction I was accustomed to on the retail floor.

[10:44] Austin Ellison: Instead of approaching social media from a marketing background, I saw it as another method of forming genuine relationships with customers.

[10:44] You: Great…let’s mention Tom Kelly’s book and his ‘Ten Faces… or personas

[10:44] You: as I would like to call them…one is the Anthropologist

[10:45] You: that is an excellent analogy for what you do…

[10:45] Thim Vella: hi Seth

[10:45] You: and you are very careful not to be too commercial or marketing it.

[10:45] You: trust is important to you as any cultural anthropologist would say….

[10:46] Able Whitman is Offline

[10:46] Austin Ellison: Tom instilled an “urgency” of innovation when I heard him speak.

[10:46] Austin Ellison: This is what really catapulted the project forward.

[10:47] Murda Cortes is Offline

[10:47] You: And that’s why when I approached you to blog about some of what you do you were careful and I was hesitant because I didn’t want to compromise your trust.

[10:47] You: Yes so it is the same for you and I because we , mostly you were doing things…stuff like fast prototyping before we read the books.

[10:48] You: In our last interview I think the readers got a sense of not being too commercialized

[10:49] You: I was evangelizing to some extent before I realized what I was doing….until Art of Innovation states it in a text book.

[10:50] Austin Ellison: It’s important that I not overtly commercialize my blog, or the manner with which I present new products in communities that are built upon “real” emotional connections. I stated in a post on DiyP a few months ago, that during a presentation to managers I felt as though I should have been wearing and official t-shirt. The bonds between community members are real, and trust is incredibly important.

[10:50] Austin Ellison: Yes, about evangelizing, Ben McConnel’s book was titled, “Customer Evangelists”.

[10:50] Austin Ellison: πŸ˜‰

[10:50] Murda Cortes is Online

[10:51] You: In your write up for AOC there was a quote about Flickr.

[10:52] You: Levenger is incredibly fast.

[10:52] Austin Ellison: The early adopters, the 1%’ers, brand advocates, … they ‘do’ generate spontaneously. However, honest direct relationships that show a company “listens” as often as it “talks” can actually generate some of this excitement.

[10:53] Austin Ellison: That quote was from a DiyP member under the handle, Eris. πŸ˜‰

[10:54] You: DIY Planner community is incredible….

[10:54] You: It really comes from the testing of products that consumers do.

[10:54] You: I think I found out about the hpda from a Flickr hack

[10:56] You: Even with the appearance of Tom Kelly on Cira notebooks in the web, then I see him in the paper Catalogue.

[10:56] Austin Ellison: -what better method for determining if we should or shouldn’t develop a new product than by simply bouncing the idea off of a notebook community!

[10:56] Austin Ellison: πŸ˜‰

[10:57] You: Then in the next paper catalogue there is a product tailored towards that idea of Circa Jr. notebook as a tool to write books.

[10:57] You: I wonder how Levenger feels about its products being knocked off?

[10:57] You: or I mean imitated.

[10:58] Austin Ellison: There is an old adage I’ll spare you from. πŸ˜‰

[10:58] You: hehe

[10:58] You: So you encounter Tom Kelly’s book after the fact?

[10:58] Austin Ellison: ?

[10:59] You: Meaning that instinctually you knew the direction in which you were going?

[10:59] You: That is, you were playing the anthropologist even before realizing it…

[10:59] Austin Ellison: Yes ;), but his words made the project seem vital! …

[11:00] Austin Ellison: Tom used an interesting analogy I had not heard before.

[11:00] You: and what is that?

[11:00] Austin Ellison: He used the term, The Red Queen Effect.

[11:00] You: meaning?

[11:00] Austin Ellison: Referring to Alice and the Looking Glass.

[11:01] Austin Ellison: The idea is that the playing field of competitive advantage and innovation is already in motion.

[11:02] Austin Ellison: In order to succeed, the speed of innovation must be faster than the rate at which the entire playing field is moving.

[11:03] Austin Ellison: It was this concept that instilled a “hit the ground running” approach to the experiment.

(Due to some technical difficulties, some parting words were lost. Basically, I asked Ryan what was next for him. He mention mobile reviews. Ryan said that he could not have predicted a year ago where he would be today and would not attempt to. Very well said.)

update:Β  age-of-conversation-2-an-excerpt

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11 Responses to “An interview with Ryan Rasmussen – AoC”

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