Experts in the Industry: Sara Dornsife (61 of 45)

Funny? Gosh darn Sara Dornsife is funny. I suspected it the first couple times we talked but what sealed the deal for me was her recent post about What your car says about you and why the U.S. auto industry is failing. I won’t spoil it for you but I guarantee you won’t be able to read it without laughing out loud.

That’s not the only thing I like about Sara, however. She’s also smart, insightful and has a certain hipness that makes me happy about the fact that I get to hang out with her semi-regularly (she and her husband live in Austin). She’s also on the market — think marketing meets great blogger/social media-type — if you’re looking (she’s @SaraD on Twitter). Given her most recent experience running projects at Sun Microsystems, she can definitely “hang” when it comes to the corporate environment.
I could go on all day but I won’t. Instead, let’s jump over to the answers to her five questions:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I am a community advocate and marketing purist.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
The old fashioned way, I fell into it. When I saw the opportunity to get involved in something new and to learn new skills and new ways to market, I took it. In my case it was through open source. We used forums, wikis, IRC, local user groups, and blogs to communicate with our communities. That was my foray into social media tools. As a marketer it was a big shift. Our users weren’t interested in glossy color brochures full of catch phrases and adjectives, they wanted the facts. And more importantly, as users, they wanted to be involved to improve a product they use. It was both fresh and refreshing.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
I like Zecco’s model and their use of social tools and a vibrant community to help their users learn how to invest.

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
I have enormous respect for the people who generously give their time and energy to their local communities. The local Social Media Breakfast had the people from Mobile Loaves and Fishes in to get advice on to use social media to get their message out. I give them a huge and hearty standing ovation. I know they aren’t really public figures, but they deserve our respect.

Would you join a toothpaste community? Why?
Ah, the toothpaste community. No. Exactly, why? Communities are a relationship, and like any relationship require commitment and time to be meaningful. I wouldn’t give my time to toothpaste. It already gets 10 minutes of my life everyday. If I had an autistic child, for example, I could see giving a ton of time and commitment to that community as a means of mutual support. I can handle brushing my teeth all by myself.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
To me, social media is a tactic. A very important one listed with other important ones like branding, messaging, PR, website content, events… Where social media differs is in that it doesn’t fall into a single bucket, it helps with support, QA, communications and development. That makes a pretty powerful tool. Cluetrain came out over 10 years ago and we are finally just starting to get it. I’m pretty excited to see what comes next.

  • http://jimstorer.com Jim Storer

    Damn, I missed Sara’s post over the weekend! I love her answer to the second question… tearing into conventional marketing practices and just sitting with customers and talking. Refreshing.I’d like to second Aaron’s praise of Sara as a smart, fun person who understands the opportunities for business with community and social media. I’m awed my her commitment to Barcamp Austin and always enjoy time spent chatting with her. Jim | @jimstorer