An Interview With Geoff Livingston - Now Is Gone


Now_is_gone A political election changed Geoff Livingston's business model and his life. No it wasn't the ideology of the candidate it was the way he was elected .. through the influence of social media. In his book Now Is Gone Geoff provides a framework for how an organization can participate in conversational marketing.

The book has a few extras like the excellent introduction by Brian Solis. Brian explains the evolution of PR and how the principles of social media are changing that industry for the better.

In addition, Kami Watson Huyse kicks off the book with an interesting overview of the Seven Categories of Social Media: Publishing Platforms, Social Networking Sites, Democratized Content Networks, Virtual Networking Platforms, Information Aggregators, Edited Social News Platforms and Content Distribution sites.

Bloggy transparency - I am honored that Geoff included an interview he conducted with me. For your reading pleasure Geoff lets us in on some of the back-story and his thoughts about social media marketing.

Diva Marketing: Love the title of your new book – Now Is Gone. Where did the inspiration come from and what is the significance for you?

Geoff Livingston: I wish it was really cool, but it came while watching Casino Royale on DVD.  It seemed like a great title for one of the Bond movies, but afterwards the name kept rolling around in my head. 

Within days of that night the need for a book became apparent. The title fit the current need to engage in social media. Now Is Gone was born, and the Broccoli family was opted out. 

Now Is Gone really conveys a sense of urgency.  I think the business marketplace senses that urgency, and smart players understand competitive advantage can still be gained… But it has to be done in the next 12-18 months.

Diva Marketing: Your “moment of clarity” about the influence social media can play on a political election led to a change in the business model of your public relations company. What was the ah ha moment when you realized that social media marketing could impact consumer behavior?

Geoff Livingston:  When George Allen lost the election and, as a result the Democrats took control of Congress. I couldn’t believe it. My wife wanted to kill me. I was all full of energy at 2 a.m., the numbers were in and Allen had a clearly lost (though he had not conceded). All because of a YouTube video. 

While the Dems haven’t done much better, to see a power shift of that magnitude just stunned me.  The light bulb went on.

Diva Marketing: Now Is Gone contains a wealth of examples and case studies ranging from large corporate B2C companies like Jet Blue to smaller B2B organizations such as Reston Limousine and even Not for Profit where you highlight the Red Cross. In your research did you discover any common lessons learned that you can pass along to Diva’s community?

Geoff Livingston: It’s all about them… Meaning the readers.  This is a theme Meerman Scott picks up on, too, in his excellent book The New Rules.

Look we’re in a fractured media environment with millions of options out there, particularly for those that like to partake in social media. Corporate social media is fighting for time with every single one of them, from the New York Times and NBC to the brand new blog on Blogger and someone’s first Seesmic post.

So the only way to get and keep eyeballs is to understand you must publish something interesting.  Interesting in their minds, not yours. Having an editorial mission to serve those community members goes a long way towards achieving that goal.

Diva Marketing/Toby: My neighbor in the Hot’lanta hood as our pal Shel Israel might say, Coca Cola, has dabbled in social media including Second Life. In fact, there is a case in Now Is Gone about that initiative. Coke is about to launch their first corporate blog What advice would you you give to them – and to any Fortune 1000 company that is considering entering the blogging space?

Geoff Livingston:  Fortune 1000s are used to command and control communications where they can dictate messages to the marketplace.  This is a two way form.  The best thing any of these folks can do is really get out there and participate before engaging.  See what’s happening on other corporate blogs.

Geoff_livingston_3Then, instead of getting stuck in technology tools, they should focus on principles of social media communications.  This is really the heart of forging a better relationship with the community.  Ultimately, social media isn’t about tools, it’s about people.  We created a Seven Principles of Social Media wrap up in the final chapter.  You can find them here:

Diva Marketing: How much back-end structure should an organization include with a social media initiative that helps mitigate risk but leaves the door wide open to encourage consumer generated content?

Geoff Livingston: It’s hard to say.  Really, it depends on the company, the community and the tools.  It’s just not something I can answer without knowing the specifics.

Diva Marketing: Chapter Three – Building A New Media Effort – includes a subtitle that I really liked. “Inspire Your Community To Believe.” Would you please explain what you meant and give a few ideas on how to that happen?

Geoff Livingston: It’s so easy to commit to a two way media form. That’s a decision.

Decisions must be backed with actions if they are to be effective.  That means companies really need to dedicate themselves to the long haul and give great content and information to their communities over and over again.  Here’s where companies must act and perform well.  This is where social media really matters. In the streets, everyday!

Remember, this is a pessimistic media form with really lukewarm community members.  They have been disappointed by numerous ethical transgressions by companies so they are naturally wary of the latest corporate social media effort. And quite frankly boring content. 

Inspiration comes in the form of consistently great execution. Similarly,true interest in the community is also demonstrated by continued participation. It’s the tortoise that wins this race, not the hair.

Diva Marketing: Diva Marketing is all about the marketing. From your perspective, what do you see will be social media marketing’s impact on PR, as well as, on “traditional” marketing?

Geoff Livingston: The good news is that it should bring all marketing disciplines closer to their stakeholders. Now we have to get into the street with our buyers, investors, employees and partners.  Dictating messages won’t work because we may find they don’t resonate… or worse they antagonize.  But that feedback will be invaluable and good companies will garner great advantages from a participatory approach with their communities.


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Companies also need to realize that they can't just pump their messages out to us, and hope that we'll passively accept them.

Case in point: I'm making a concerted effort to reduce my junk mail load. So, I've been calling companies and asking them to remove me from their mailing lists.

This strategy has worked pretty well, but with one notable exception. My ISP, Cox Communications, persists in sending me at least one piece of j-mail per week. When I called them to request removal from their mailing list, I was told that I couldn't opt out from their marketing mailings, even if I wanted to.

Is that stupid or what? I'm hoping that maybe-just-maybe they'd want to reduce the cost of sending this stuff by only sending to people who truly wanted to receive it.

One more thing: If Cox didn't have a monopoly on cable Internet service within the city of Tucson, I'd drop them like a hot rock.

Posted by: Martha Retallick on Nov 29, 2007 11:15:06 AM

Great interview! Congratulations to Geoff on his new book. Geoff worked closely with us on developing our social media strategy at Goodwill of Greater Washington. The strategy has proven more successful than we could have ever possibly imagined.

Posted by: brendan hurley on Dec 3, 2007 6:33:01 PM

@Brendan - It's exciting to see the success Geoff is achieving from his hard work.
.. and to see yours too!

@Martha - Good point. Never made sense to me why companies keep sending junk mail/eMail to people who don't want it. Seems like a $ dump.

Posted by: Toby on Dec 3, 2007 10:23:00 PM

This strategy has worked pretty well, but with one notable exception. My ISP, Cox Communications, persists in sending me at least one piece of j-mail per week.

Posted by: amihay inbar on Dec 7, 2007 4:17:13 PM

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