Tom Deierlein is an American hero. Not only has he been a leader in the digital media space for over 15 years, but he also served his country in Iraq and is an Airborne Ranger, Bronze Star and Purple Heart recipient. We recently spoke with him about his new role at Social Media Link.
The Makegood: Tom you have been involved in digital media since the mid 90’s, having worked at companies like NetGravity and Dynamlic Logic. What is it that draws you to the digital media industry?
I first came into digital in 1996 through technology – NetGravity as you mentioned. For the first couple of years I actually still saw myself very much as a tech guy – but the reality is I was in media and advertising from day one. Initially I was drawn by the potential of the market and excitement of living in NYC. No many were calling it dotcom yet and the bubble was no where in sight. Believe it or not some of my fondest memories of digital media were after the burst. The dark days. Because those who stuck around and those who help keep the momentum going – the true believers – banded together, licked our wounds and re-started the fire one deal, one company at a time.
To answer the question, the real draws for me without being too cliché here are threefold. First and foremost the people – we are the best and brightest in the media business. I do believe that. Second, the pace of change keeps you engaged and moving fast. One of my favorite quotes is:
“Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”
Our business is like that – each and every morning you get up – you’d better be running or you will fall behind.
Lastly, I am drawn by the disruptive nature of what we do – maybe I am drinking the Kool-Aid too much but I enjoy being a part of something that is truly changing the way people live, learn, and on a more fundamental basis interact. Not for nothing I met my lovely wife Mary Beth on eHarmony.
The Makegood: You recently joined Social Media Link as CEO. Can you please tell us about your decision to join and your role?
I was looking for a few specific things. First, a pure start up or early stage company – pre-seed or Series A was fine and even 25 or 50 people was too big for me. Second a real product solving a real problem for major advertisers, agencies and media companies. Third, not just a concept, but a market ready solution with at least once reference-able client. Next, high quality, ethical people and lastly NYC based.
I knew after my very first meeting with the investors MK Venture Partners and our current President, Susan Frech, who helped start this over 2 years ago, that this was the place for me. Love at first sight. I took my time with my search. I had talked to plenty of companies, seen lots of business models and observed many subtle shifts in the ecosystem during 2011. This idea and the real potential for this incredible company today and in the future made it a very easy decision for me. Three weeks in and I’m loving it.
The Makegood: Smiley360 is a network of consumers that participate in Social Media Link’s social media programs. Can you explain how it works?
It can be described as a “brand activation platform.” Some clients have described it as “yelp” for brands. John Zweig over at WPP even called it “The ‘Groupon’ for brand experiences.” Personally, I like to think of it as “product sampling meets social.”
Basically, it is a social community for people who love brands. Smiley360 members are engaged and influential consumers who get to be the very first to try new products and offers and who enjoy sharing their genuine opinions both online and offline. We give marketers and brands access to over 300,000 members using the smiley360 platform. In a typical program we selectively match qualified members to the specific brand and mail each of them something we call a ‘brand experience kit’ with the product inside to try. Having now had an authentic brand experience we make it easy for those people to share their opinions and impressions via social media using our proprietary Single-Click Sharing™ technology. Typical program is anywhere from 8-12 weeks but some brands we work with over an entire year.
It is fun because Social Media Link helps brands and agencies navigate social media with tangible results. We bring proven traditional marketing methods to bear in social media. We use good old-fashioned common sense marketing techniques and combine it with the today’s most advanced and sophisticated monitoring, reporting, and analytics tools. We also work hard to break down silos and integrate their social media more strategically and efficiently within their overall marketing mix.
Our other solutions include the smiley ignite™ SaaS platform for people who already have their own community or CRM database, and smiley places™ for local and small businesses where geo-targeting is critical.
We are based in New York City and work with brands and agencies.
The Makegood: Can you tell us about your clients?
Our clients include Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Bayer, Random House, BIC, Staples, Pfizer, Merck, ConAgra, Schick, Ogilvy, GroupM, and Edelman. Here are some client quotes which you can also find on our website:
“Your platform was spot on and delivered 2.4mm+ conversations for our growing brand. Your listening platform and Community Management Team was able to create our social media voice and engage with our fans.” [VitaCoco]
“SML allowed Snikiddy to reach a new group of consumers. With over 7MM online conversations this program was a great way to jump start awareness and sales for our new product line.” [Snikiddy]
“Our investment increased sales, product trial and produced millions of conversations across the most popular social media networks.” [Bayer]
The Makegood: Thanks, Tom.