A few years ago, I wrote down a few dozen life goals. One was to have a meaningful conversation with one or both of two authors I idolize: Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin. A few months later, I dropped Seth Godin a line to see if he would be interested in speaking at a local event. Once I outlined how I could help promote his new book (Meatball Sundae) through my network, pdxMindShare, he was intrigued enough to blog about it. Since then, I’ve maintained contact with the #1 marketing blogger in the world, who also happens to have recently launched his 12th book a few months ago, called Tribes. He was gracious to sit down “virtually” with me for a brief interview. I hope you enjoy.
What was your inspiration for your latest book, Tribes, which according to Publishers Weekly, “argues that lasting and substantive change can be best effected by a tribe: a group of people connected to each other, to a leader and to an idea”?
> I look at the world through a marketing lens. I wonder a lot about the marketing of ideas and way organizations grows. What I saw happening around me was that the best marketing, the fastest growth, the biggest impact–it was all coming from tribal movements, not from slash and burn interruption techniques or stealthy black hat tactics. I was right… after all, it elected a president. Once marketers see that the rules have changed, they understand how powerful this approach is. Some marketers, though, look at everything and ask how it can preserver their previous me-first power tactics, and those guys fail badly.
In response to Tribes, some of the reviews have criticized you for making “dangerously” broad statements about leadership. What is your reaction to those reviews?
> My reaction is that clueless, fearful critics who have never once written a successful book (never mind ten) are probably not your best guide for what matters or not. My second, more thoughtful response is that it’s not surprising that people are looking for a fact-filled, step by step manual. After all, that’s what traditional marketing became. So, if you work in an industry where the easiest thing to do is follow instructions, of course you’d like the alternative to come with a Dummies manual. I think that under scrutiny, this objection doesn’t hold up: people and brands and organizations without an instruction manual keep winning and the old guys battle for a tie. Where, exactly, does it tell you how to build a Facebook or a Google or Drudge Report?
I’m a big fan of Meatball Sundae and social media marketing. Based on the evolution of social media since the book was originally published, do you have any new thoughts on the books premise?
> I keep seeing it happen again and again. I’m more persuaded than ever that we don’t need more big ideas. What we need is to execute the ideas we’ve already got. There are so many bad websites, so many lame marketing strategies, so many meetings. It’s a sin.
For those of us with our own book “inside” awaiting to be written, tell us about your creative process. How do you come up with an idea for a new book, and take it through to publication?
> The problem with blogs is that they call our bluff. If you have a book inside you, write one! Blog it. A page at a time, a day at a time. If you can do that, THEN you can self-publish a book (easy, at blurb or lulu). And if you can do that, THEN ask me how to publish a book!
Based on our previous conversations, you’ve indicated publishers are changing the way they launch books. With the death of the book tour, how did you promote this book differently than your 11 previous books?
> The book tour is so expensive and, in an age of x-rayed shoes, so difficult that I have no desire to do one. For Tribes, I did two interesting things, both of which worked. The first is that I built a Ning group that was only open to people who were into the book and had read it. This has been running for nine months and it’s really engaging and powerful. The second is that I did a live event in NY. People came from all over, we videotaped it and shared it far and wide. Both of course would have been impossible just a little while ago.
Can you share any updates on Squidoo? Are there any new business ventures you’re involved with that you care to share with us?
> Squidoo regularly gets 20,000,000 or more pageviews a month. Some people have made enough money building pages there that they’ve been able to quit their jobs… and even more important, we’ve raised a ton of money for charity. We just launched twttrlist.com, which you should take a peek at. With more than a million pages built by nearly 400,000 people, it’s on a roll. I’m so proud of the team of professionals I work with, as well as the countless contributors we have.
What is your next book project, and when can we expect to see it?
> New book out in March. It’s going to be really cool.
Thank you for the time, Seth. We look forward to seeing you new book early next year.