Get Naked with Larry Weber!

As our blog has grown, (we’re one of the top marketing blogs according to Ad Age!), people have suggested that we start to interview the interesting folks that we interact with at Compete. So picking up on the Wired cover story on transparency earlier this year, today we’re launching our "Get Naked" interview series to give our readers a peek into some of the top thought leaders that are shaping the intersection of marketing and the web.

We’re happy and thankful that Larry Weber agreed to be our inaugural interview, and we expect to share more conversations with him on our blog in the future. As a board member at Compete, Larry drops some serious knowledge about the forces that are influencing the globe’s largest brands and marketing services companies (and Muammar al-Gaddafi’s social media strategy for Libya). Larry drips street cred — he created the world’s largest public relations firm, founded the Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Exchange (MITX) and has published two books on the digital world.

Larry’s second book, Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business, was just released in June and makes our conversation with him perfect timing. Larry’s book is targeted at marketers used to doing things the old way, and gives them some practical steps for getting customers involved by sharing and communicating with each other. By enabling communities for customers — rather than market at them — Larry points to new possibilities for the brave and stark realities for marketers that are slow to adapt. If you’re a marketer, this is a great book to read and share with your colleagues.

The opening line of your book says that marketers need to "learn a new way to communicate with an audience in a digital environment." What does that mean for the average CMO or VP of Marketing? What happens if you’re a bad student?

It means that the Web is not a channel. Social media is about creating interesting and value-added content that people want to come to — not broadcasting to them. It’s not that complicated. It does require being open to new ideas, trying new things and even taking a few risks.

What is the one lesson in your book that marketers can act on now?

Take 25% of the traditional marketing budget and put it into social marketing. Big marketers like GM are already starting to do this.

You have coined some great phrases like "online conduit", "customer maps" and "word of mouse". What are they and what’s the social play?

"Online conduits" are blogs, social networks and e-communities.

"Customer maps" means looking at what your customers read and where do they go for their information.

"Word of mouse" — means people share things online

How has writing this book changed how you market yourself and the companies in the W2 portfolio?

We are more deeply Web-based than ever. I now truly believe that Marketing is everything.

How did you get to know so many people?

I built the world’s largest PR firm so that helps. I’ll meet with anyone, listen to what they have to say and try to help them. People appreciate that.

LinkedIn or Facebook?

Neither — with all due respect to my good friend Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn. I like Gather because I think it provides interesting and thoughtful content.

Last question, who should we get naked with next?

John Palfrey, head of the Berkman Center on Internet Law and Society at Harvard University.

So if you are a marketer who is struggling with the complexities of reaching and engaging your customers, we highly recommend reading Larry’s book. And since we have a tight relationship with the author himself, we’ve got a free copy for the first 10 Compete blog readers who email me at If you’re too slow to get a free copy, you can get a paid version from Amazon; here’s the direct link: buy Marketing to the Social Web: How Digital Customer Communities Build Your Business on Amazon.

Larry, I think we just created a community of customers around your new book"¦;)

Video: "Get Naked and Rule the World": interactive cover from Wired april 2007