Ted Rubin likes to talk. A lot.
With his brand exploding, it appears the world is suddenly listening.
The skinny kid who grew up on Long Island’s south shore — his mom a popular teacher; his father best known for going to extremes to help neighbors and community — has catapulted to prominence for influencing others to #JustBeNice.
“I was in a meeting and all these guys wanted to know is, ‘What’s the ROI?'” said Rubin, recalling his formative years in social media marketing. “That’s when I said, ‘This isn’t about return on investment. It’s about return on relationship.'” The group fell silent, then wanted to know more.
“That’s when I knew I had something,” Rubin noted.
And so it’s been since 2009 that Rubin has been evangelizing Return On Relationship and racking up the kind of street cred that would make a even a mentor like, say, Seth Godin proud: Rubin is the most followed CMO on Twitter, according to Social Media Marketing Magazine; No. 13 on Forbes’ Top 50 Social Media Power Influencers, and No. 2 on the Leadtail list of Top 25 People Most Mentioned by digital marketers.
Another book is due out any day and Rubin, gone from his daily role at Collective Bias, is now fully embracing the life of keynote speaker, host, brand evangelist and leading social media strategist. On stage, his socks get noticed and he freely gives out his cell phone number, no matter how many people are in the audience. It’s merely a matter of routine that he travels a lot, sleeps badly and thinks in Twitter feeds.
InfluentialInsiders: What do you see influencing 2015?
Rubin: People are hungry to feel connected again. Commerce has come full circle. It was anonymous. The line is disappearing between personal and business. Now it’s about creating that small town atmosphere. A network gives you reach, but a community gives you power.
InfluentialInsiders: When you were five years old, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
Rubin: A lawyer, because that’s what everybody told me I should be. I was the kid who was always in trouble with the teacher for talking too much. Learning came easy. I was smart and could just figure things out. That worked until college. No way was I going to make it through law school. So I became a stockbroker.
InfluentialInsiders: What have you learned?
Rubin: Expectations can be debilitating. Just be authentic. Be real.
InfluentialInsiders: What are your media habits?
Rubin: I used to read The New York Times everyday, but that doesn’t happen anymore. I’m not a big news guy. I rely on my social feeds to tell me what’s going on. That’s how I learned Steve Jobs died — someone Tweeted it. If I’m home I’ll put on News12. If I’m in a hotel, CNN. I’m more CNN than FOX. I look at my Twitter newsfeed, Business Insiders, MediaPost, CNN Alerts. And Need2Know — I love that!
InfluentialInsiders: So what’s up with the socks?
Rubin: I like funky socks. I was at a blogging conference and someone asked if they could get a photo of my socks, and that’s how #tedsockie started. I haven’t bought a pair of socks in two years, because people keep sending me socks and I post photos of me wearing them. It’s a fun way to show people you’re human. Someone suggested I hashtag my socks. I am big on hashtags — so I can keep lists, organize my content and reuse it when it’s appropriate.
InfluentialInsiders: Who are your biggest influencers?
Rubin: My parents. My high school wrestling coach — we’re still close. He taught me so much more than wrestling. He taught me about community and commitment. He wasn’t just building wrestlers. He was building men. He taught me about life and about never giving up. Seth Godin was a big influence, with his extreme focus. I learned a lot from him at Yoyodyne, before it was sold to Yahoo! Bryan Kramer, with his ‘there’s no B2B or B2C, it’s just human to human.’ Brian Solis. He’s a researcher, I’m a feeler. My daughters. They’re a tremendous influence. They’re teenagers. One day our relationship is fine and the next day they are totally disengaged. They are just like customers.