An Interview with ‘Social Media/Blogger of the Year’
At the end of October, Hammock Founder/CEO Rex Hammock was named 2009 Social Media/Blogger of the Year at a large downtown gala hosted by the Nashville Technology Council. The rest of us at Hammock were especially impressed that Rex’s “trophy” is a Gibson electric guitar and that only 10 organizations or individuals received one — two went to HCA and one to Nissan USA. However, it didn’t surprise us that Rex won — he’s been blogging since the Paleozoic Age and tweeting almost that long. (His Twitter account is @r if that gives you any idea.)

Rex with fellow nominees Kate O’Neill and Dave Delaney.

However, we think it probably surprised a few people who don’t know Rex that someone over 25 years old won a social media award. But then, most people don’t know that Rex’s approach to social media is not just about being up on the latest online fad. It’s about innovating new approaches to achieving measurable business objectives for our clients. To help you understand why the judges awarded Rex such an honor, we asked Editorial Director Jamie Roberts to interview him about the award — and social media in general.

Cool trophy. Can you play it?
I’m thinking of buying a little amplifier and learning to play “Smoke on the Water.”
There weren’t many awards given — not like most awards competitions we’re used to. Why so few?
It wasn’t really a competition — I didn’t enter anything. I just got notification that I was a finalist with a request to answer a questionnaire. The Nashville Technology Council produced a wonderful event at the new Schermerhorn Symphony Center that about 400 people attended. The turnout showed how broad the tech community is in the region.
We use lots of technology at Hammock and have done web development since before there was a web, but not many people think of Hammock Inc. as being a technology company. And most people think you’re a media or marketing person, so is it a surprise you won a Technology award?
It is pretty amazing, isn’t it? Of course, I write and tweet and make speeches a lot about how technology and the web are radically changing media and marketing, so I’ve stopped being surprised when I show up in lists of technology people or technology bloggers. The fact is, I’m incredibly passionate about knowing everything I can about these new forms of technology-enabled media and social phenomena. It enables me to better help our clients use them to develop deeper relationships with their customers and members.
Most people didn’t realize early on that things like blogging and Twitter and Facebook could become business media. How were you able to understand that so early?
That’s where being immersed in something can separate you from just “reading about” it. Because so much of what we today call social media is about understanding the web as a place and community and conversation — not as traditional media — it’s absolutely impossible to get it without living there. As I’ve been saying for over a decade, you can’t understand Italy by receiving postcards from a friend, but that’s the approach many business leaders have taken to understanding new forms of web-enabled media.
So what have you learned by living in social-media Italy?
I wonder why I picked the Italy metaphor — maybe because I think of the web as both chaotic and beautifully designed. One thing I’ve learned is that the term “social media” reduces a wide array of powerful technology and approaches into a phrase that sounds like something frivolous and lightweight. From the way I see it, there’s a business term for what social media is all about: It’s called the marketplace. It’s called buying and selling. It’s called collaboration and planning and creating. Yet when I talk with business and association leaders, they’re still stuck at thinking social media means setting up a Facebook page.
In a business context, content — new media, old media, social media — needs to fit in a tightly planned process that is designed to help customers or association members get to the information, product or service they need to solve the problem they have in real time. Those technologies and approaches labeled social media can completely disrupt any industry or association that does not fully embrace them.
Unless companies get serious about understanding how content — or, in simple terms, conversation — fits in today’s customer’s decision-making process, they’ll be toast.