How did I get interested in Social Media?

douglas karr

When Shel asked for folks who might be interested in providing some response with an SAP Survey on Social Media, I jumped at the opportunity and immediately wrote him. With Shel’s permission, he’s allowed me to post my responses on my blog. This is Part I!

Tell me when and how you first got interested in social media. Why?

Working in Print Media for over a decade, I watched as the Internet quickly began to siphon attention and, with it, advertising from the newspaper industry. The Internet as a medium is accessible, inexpensive, and the technology is fairly simple. Even within print media, I always believed that each medium had it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes the Newspaper wasn’t the greatest place to advertise.

When the Internet came along, my colleagues saw it as a threat. I saw it as an incredible opportunity. I jumped ship and moved to Denver, Colorado to work for a company that was leading the charge on utilizing the Internet. Unfortunately, I joined when the bubble was bursting. I moved to Indianapolis to join the local newspaper and lead their direct marketing efforts, utilizing data to better target prospective subscribers and pushing a direct mail program for clients.

I tried as much as possible to get technologies such as Email Marketing into the newspaper as well, but anything “Internet” was seen as a medium to deliver content and sell advertising… not creating relationships. Anything Internet was also under the authority of the IT department so I was stepping on other peoples’ toes. When new management came in and began asking, “What is it that you do?”, I knew they were oblivious and I needed to leave.

Through a friend and colleague, Darrin Gray, I met Pat Coyle and joined their firm, Brandirect. Darrin was and is a master at sales and networking. Pat was and is a master at building relationships. I was the data and technology guy – finding the best technologies to increase companies’ relationships with their prospects and customers. It was a success, Darrin sold, Pat guided, and I built!

047174719X.01. SCMZZZZZZZIt was during this period that Pat and I started seeing the impact that Social Media was having. Not too ironic, we read (devoured) Shel’s book, Naked Conversations. We understood that marketing was no longer simply a ‘push’ technology, it was turning into something very, very different.

Pat moved to The Indianapolis Colts full time. The Colts, led by Jim Irsay, knew they were on the verge of greatness and I believe he had the vision to know that he needed to take the opportunity to connect with fans while his push to the Superbowl was within sight.

I moved to ExactTarget, an Email Service Provider, mesmerized by the evangelism of CMO and founder Chris Baggott. Chris’ message was about the incredible value of permission-based email marketing, targeting the right message to the right people at the right time.

MyColts.netIn the last two years, Pat and I still remained close friends and met often with a local book club that he coordinates, The Indianapolis Book Mashup. Our first book? Naked Conversations of course!

Pat took the opportunity to push The Colts to building a social network for the Superbowl Champions. I salivated as I watched becoming a reality. With a busy schedule of my own, launching a Developer Community for ExactTarget and being promoted to Product Manager for ExactTarget while we grew from hundreds of integrated clients to thousands, I could only watch as was launched.

Chris Baggott and I also began meeting and talking about the medium. Chris understood the value of the medium, which (I believe) was largely influential in propelling ExactTarget to the forefront of the industry. Chris’ Email Best Practices blog was awarded several times over the years and he was definitely recognized as a thought leader in the Email Marketing industry – thanks in part to his blog. This was when Chris started seeing an opportunity, though. Blogs were fantastic vehicles for information – but it still isn’t easy for the consumer to find the nugget of gold that bloggers were posting.

Compendium SoftwareChris began sowing the seeds for Compendium Software, his new startup. Keep an eye on this company! It’s the next evolution of blogging and it’s now becoming a reality. Sometimes I feel like a father watching his child grow up as I see this company starting up – but, unfortunately, the timing wasn’t there for me to join the team.

Why have I got caught up in Social Media?

Social media levels the playing field. I believe it’s as important for business as it is for democracy. Social media provides anyone with a keyboard and internet access to have a voice. Social media provides a means for good, honest businesses to build relationships with their prospects and customers. No longer is it ‘he who can afford the most advertising’ who wins. No longer do businesses have to pay huge percentages of their budgets to print and broadcast media to be found. Now they simply have to do a great job and the word will get out.

What marketer wouldn’t want to be involved with that?

A Side Note: Years later, The Indianapolis Star has begun to see the light as well. Once scoffed by the editorial staff, now user-generated content is becoming a leading growth area for the newspaper. Check out IndyMoms as a great example.


  1. 1

    Great article, Doug. I come from the print world as well. I cut my teeth learning to typeset on a CompuWriter Jr. The thing had a long film strip with a font imprinted that spun on a wheel inside the machine. Once a letter was typed, you couldn’t go back and make a correction. You had to retype the line and hand strip it over the mistake!

    I was blown away as technology came along that made the whole mechanical process “auto-magic.” With a computer and printer, the world was opened up to endless possibilities, including correcting a type-o before printing out the page (imagine that).

    Then came the Internet and people started communicating with each other like never before. I’m constantly amazed by the depth and breadth of talent and intelligence in the world. Of course there are the crackpots too, but I defend their right to join the conversation. It’s exciting to be living during a time of true revolution.

    • 2

      Too cool! I didn’t realize you came from print as well! I had an electrical/electronics background and worked on the pagination side of the business quite a bit so I know where you’re coming from. I was there when we began pagination and automation from cut and paste page builds!

      Yours is a fascinating industry as well that’s primed for technology. I think niche retail is the future of retail and, although strong today, I don’t think the “Super Store” will last another decade (at least I hope not).

      The way you folks are leveraging technology at Wild Birds Unlimited is fantastic. Your franchisees are lucky folks to have you!


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    • 6

      Hi Ivy,

      Shel is Shel Israel, the author of Naked Conversations – a book I highly recommend. Shel has a great blog that continues to explore and discuss Social Media.

      And he’s a really nice guy! He’s incredibly transparent, open, honest and available through his site. I think he’s one of the first authors to really put his craft to work using the blogosphere!


  3. 7

    Social media sites are the new up and coming way of advertising, I believe. It is amazing to me how the Internet has evolved over the years and I just wonder what is coming in the future. Any network marketer who doesn’t use social media sites is missing out on a big opportunity for increased business.

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    • 9

      The ability to provide value and build authority on a blog… then share it and promote it via social media is a great combination. Social media is bi-directional, enabling you to have a conversation with the audience or even enabling you to build your own community. I’m not sure either would be as powerful without the other.

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