TakeFive with TweetReach: Jon Morris

Jon Morris, Founder and CEO of Rise Interactive

Welcome back to TakeFive with TweetReach, our ongoing interview series with influential members of the Twitter measurement universe. This week, we’re excited to speak with Jon Morris, Founder and CEO of Rise Interactive. Jon brings his experience with Rise, his previous agency experience, and what he’s gained from guest speaking- plus anticipation of his next adventure, teaching- to the conversation about digital marketing, social media and analytics.

TweetReach: We like to start everyone out with one question, because there are so many different paths into social media: how did you get started using social media? Can you describe your first “ah-ha” moment?

Jon Morris: Rise is in the business of driving traffic, and we’ve been driving traffic to websites far before social media existed. And I couldn’t tell you the exact day, but [the sentiment around social] clearly moved from “college kids using this”, to “this is an amazing vehicle”, to reaching consumers. And it became- rather than an emerging tool that maybe we’d meddle with a little bit- “this is a core service that we have to offer our customers and that we have to do ourselves”.

TweetReach: Your public speaking engagements are obviously tailored to each specific audience, but are there certain things you try to hit on when you talk? Measurement strategies that you think are important to improving your social media impact, for example?

Jon Morris: The one thing- and I believe this is very core to social media- that I give in almost every presentation is: you need to know what makes you great. If you can’t answer that question, then you’re going to have a challenging social media campaign. When you know what makes you great, it drives your content strategy. I think of social media as more of a content syndication vehicle; before you can start developing great, compelling content you need to know what makes you great because that content has to reflect what makes you great.

“You need to know what makes you great.”

TweetReach: In your eMetrics presentation you spoke about using personalized content to reach social “Awesomizers” and the boost those people can have on a business’ social exposure. How do you develop personalized content for these brand advocates while maintaining a line that doesn’t leave them feeling like you know too much about them?

Jon Morris: It’s a challenging line, but the whole industry is moving toward relevancy and personalization. You’re already seeing it; the feed that you get is different from the feed that I get, even if we have the same group of friends, based on just what we respond to, what our levels of interest are. And at the end of the day you just need to know your audience; you just need to understand where that creepy line is. When it comes to Internet marketing I hear the same comments at the same time: “Did you know you can do this now?” and half the group is like “That is really scary” and the other half is like “That is really cool!”. And it’s generally scary and cool.

TweetReach: Do you have any tips for doing that? Any monitoring that you do in particular?

Jon Morris: There isn’t any tool you can use; the tool you use is that you gather the data. It is the decision of the social media manager or the community manager to determine “What’s the line of what data can I use?” vs “What data I won’t use”. The movie Boomerang with Eddie Murphy [is] a good example: [he] plays a creative director and there’s an artist on his team who always goes way too far. It’s his ability to understand what he needs to edit [that] makes [him] the great creative. You need to have the right editor.

TweetReach: In your Inc.com column Rise Above It, you spoke recently about how to make the office a fun place to work, an important part of company culture. How do you see that playing out in social media use among employees? How can that communication feed back into a business as a whole?

Jon Morris: I think social media now is ingrained in every single person’s lives and in terms of every corporation– or it should be if it’s not. We actually encourage sharing our content for employees, via contest. We’re trying to leverage our employees’ social media accounts.

In terms of usage, several years ago we had an employee who completely abused the privilege. This person was on Facebook 24/7 and everyone was very concerned that I was going to create a policy that you can’t log into Facebook anymore, and it was more [that] I had to focus on that individual and getting them to understand what is acceptable usage, as opposed to changing the entire culture. It comes down to trust and good employees. If you think about it, if an employee walked in every day with a newspaper, you wouldn’t expect that person to spend the entire day reading that newspaper from cover to cover and social media shouldn’t be any different.

TweetReach: What have you learned from your students as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business that you bring back to Rise Interactive and your social media strategies? What’s the most surprising thing that they’ve brought to your attention, or made you realize?

Jon Morris: I [teach] my first class this fall, but I have a hundred students in my office that I teach Internet marketing to; I put classes on once a week. We’ve definitely innovated just by doing different things with our clients, with our employees– so even though it’s not the students at University of Chicago, we are constantly working on developing a system to gather information, to understand what we’re doing. And if we’re successful in one area, applying it to the whole company.

TweetReach: Anything else you’d like to add?

Jon Morris: This might go back to “know what makes you great”– when you ask “What is the one thing you want to teach?” my recommendation is people should be “channel agnostic”. We have an expression here about Interactive Investment Management and the idea is very similar to portfolio managers going to invest in stocks or bonds: you don’t care which stock or which bond. IIM or Interactive Investment Management is the same concept: you don’t care if you’re in social media, or paid search or banner advertising. You simply care about the return you get and you want to make sure that your budget is being allocated to the most affective area.

Social is part of a bigger portfolio as opposed to an individual silo.

Jon Morris is the Founder and CEO of Rise Interactive. Morris started Rise as a self-funded company with $10,000, transforming the agency into a multi-million dollar business in eight years. Under Morris’ leadership, Rise has experienced tremendous growth, receiving recognition from the City of Chicago, Inc. Magazine, Five Elms Capital, Built in Chicago, Fortune Magazine and The Initiative for a Competitive Inner City.

As an emerging leader in the digital marketing industry, Morris regularly shares his expertise as a guest speaker. He has presented on main stages and at workshops and webinars for organizations such as Search Marketing Expo, Search Engine Strategies, American Marketing Association, The University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Online Marketing Summit, iStrategy, and Vistage.

Morris is also a regular columnist for Inc.com. In his column Rise Above It, he displays his thought leadership with articles covering business and digital marketing topics. He is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

Morris earned an MBA with high honors from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and a bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College.