David Meerman Scott is the author of the new book World Wide Rave. His previous book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR is an award-winning bestseller. Marketingmag.com.au got the chance to catch up with David before he makes his way down under for the Social Media Masterclasses in early September. We hit him with a few questions:

Should marketers try to take control of what is being said about their brand, product or service online?

Understand, monitor, and react to whats being said – yes. But try to control – no.

Many company executives and public relations people trace their worries about social media to their belief that people will say bad things about our company. This fear leads them to ignore blogs and online forums and to prohibit employees from participating in social media. In every discussion that I’ve had with employees who freely participate in social media, I’ve confirmed that this fear is significantly overblown. Sure, an occasional person might vent frustrations online, and now and then a dissatisfied customer might complain (unless you’re in the airline industry and then it might be more than a few).

But the benefit of this kind of communication is that you can monitor in real time what’s being said and then respond appropriately. Employees, customers, and other stakeholders are talking about your organisation offline anyway, so unless you are participating online, you’ll never know what’s being said at all. The beauty of the web is that you benefit from instant access to conversations you could never participate in before.

What importance should marketers place on providing a content offering around their product or service?

We’re living in a time when we can reach the world directly, without having to spend enormous amounts of money on advertising and without investing in huge public relations efforts to convince the media to write (or broadcast) about our products and services. There is a tremendous opportunity right now to reach buyers in a better way: by publishing great content online, content people want to consume and that they are eager to share with their friends, family, and colleagues.

What do you mean by the term Brand Journalism and what can marketers do about it?

Brand Journalism is about understanding your buyer personas and creating content for them. This is exactly what media companies do when the create books, magazines, or TV shows.

A focus on buyer personas allows you to create the content. A buyer persona represents a distinct group of potential customers – an archetypal person whom you want your marketing to reach. Targeting your work to buyer personas prevents you from sitting on your butt in your comfortable office just making stuff up about you products, which is the cause of most ineffective marketing.

Incidentally, my use of the word buyer applies to any organisation target customers. A politician’s buyer personas include voters, supporters, and contributors; universities’ buyer personas include prospective students and their parents; a tennis club’s buyer personas are potential members; and non-profits’ buyer personas include corporate and individual donors. Go ahead and substitute however you refer to your potential customers in the phrase buyer persona, but do keep your focus on this concept. It is critical for success online.

By truly understanding the market problems that your products and services solve for your buyer personas, you transform your marketing from mere product-specific, ego-centric gobbledygook that only you understand and care about into valuable information people are eager to consume and that they use to make the choice to do business with your organisation.

Instead of creating jargon-filled, hype-based advertising, you can create the kind of online content that your buyers naturally gravitate to – if you take the time to listen to them discuss the problems that you can help them solve. Then you’ll be able to use their words, not your own. You’ll speak in the language of your buyer, not the language of your founder, CEO, product manager, or PR agency staffer. You’ll help your marketing get real.

Do you think marketers are taking enough of a long-term view when it comes to online marketing?

It takes time to build an audience. It takes time for people to find and pay attention to your blog. It takes time to get viewers on YouTube. But unlike paid advertising, an investment in online content will pay off for years to come.

With more and more social networks hitting the mainstream, what role does a companies website or blog play now?

A company website is the centre of a companys online presence so it is still critically important. And a blog is where you can show your passion for a subject. I believe sites and blogs are still essential. Yet they are often overlooked today as people jump into Twitter or some other new tool.

Is communicating to an audience via the web the responsibility of marketers? What about customer service, HR, PR, etc.?

Its the same as the phone and email. How does your organisation communicate with customers today? 

Where do you see the future of internet marketing?

Most discussions about Web 2.0 and social media focus on the technology. We hear discussions about blogging and blog software. We learn about YouTube videos and how to make them. Frequently, esoteric search engine optimisation techniques are a big part of the discussion. And the relative merits of the various tools (such as Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace) are debated. But what few people have figured out is what kind of content brings out the enormous potential of this technology. Without the right content, the technology won’t get one person to notice your ideas.

Where can people find out more about you and your work?