I first talked to Ted when he was CMO for e.l.f. Cosmetics. It was the first time I realized that in an ‘interview’ with Ted I would just have to try to keep up because he’s got a ridiculous amount of energy. His energy is commensurate to his level of excitement about his projects. Considering the pace he kept with me, it is safe to say that Ted is completely ‘jacked up’ about The OpenSky Project, which is where he puts his efforts currently.
The OpenSky Project was started by John Caplan who has a resume that includes being president and CMO of About.com and CEO of Ford Models. Ted’s role with the group is as Chief Social Marketing Officer or Chief Relationship Officer or whatever you would call a position that is pretty new to the corporate hierarchies of today.
The OpenSky Project is described in a blog post by Caplan from September of 2009
The idea for OpenSky is simple: we are a community center, a gathering place for people to learn and connect with one another and share great expertise and the best products.
With success, OpenSky means real people connecting consumers to the products they love and use.
What Ted is promoting is a service that helps two groups: bloggers and their fans. He doesn’t talk about readers, per se, because what Rubin and OpenSky looks to do is tap into the passion that exists in many bloggers and their followers. This passion is obvious but what is not obvious to most is how that passion can turn into making some money.
Rubin has extensive influence himself with the “mommy blogger” set and has found that the question he has had to try to answer most from this group (and other affinity groups like them with whom he interacts with daily) is “How do I make money doing this?”. It’s not an easy answer really since there is much debate in blogger circles about just what should and should not be allowed with regard to commerce related activities and, of course, the government has thrown their hat in the ring about how product endorsements are handled.
Enter OpenSky. Blogging is about relationships. These relationships, which are born of trust from readers, create influencers. Bloggers who are influencers can mold opinions about many things. One of the most powerful ways is in their “rubber stamping” of products and services they trust, enjoy and use themselves. OpenSky provides a great way for bloggers to turn that passion into revenue. Rubin describes the service as follows:
OpenSky is a platform that enables bloggers/influencers to make money by selling products they are already interested in and passionate about.
As with all things that Ted is involved in, the secret sauce of this offering which is in beta but preparing to relaunch with their new scaleable platform in less than 60 days, is relationships. In fact, he calls this type of ‘selling’ relationship commerce.
This concept is very new in many ways but investors have taken notice with OpenSky receiving $11 million to this point. While there are only about 200 current bloggers/influencers using the platform the big picture is to democratize the opportunity for bloggers and product producers to make money. There are over 800 more signed up and ready to go as soon as the relaunch takes effect.
These are not the usual department stores or big box store products we are talking about either. Most of the bloggers have found neat niche products that not many people would know about and thus share with their trusted readers. They can then use the OpenSky platform which puts the shopping cart on their blog, sources the item, ships it,provides customer service on the purchase, and guarantees all sales for 365 days for a 50/50 split of the margin on the sale.
As Rubin describes it, there is only upside because it allows bloggers to make money, it gives their readers access to products that they would have never known about otherwise and it allows product producers to have channels for their products to get to market. In essence, the OpenSky environment is really a complete commerce ecosystem that empowers content providers, their readers and great niche product innovators to work together and do something better than just ‘buy and sell’.
So why have I written about this for you, the Marketing Pilgrim readers? So you can see that there are people out there trying to connect passionate people with other people that results in business. It’s also a testament to the power of a high energy social media user like Ted Rubin who proves that social media is effective when you work it.
Oh and does Ted work at social media? Yes he does. Just follow him on Twitter (@tedrubin) and ask him any questions you have about OpenSky. He’ll answer. Why? Because he gets it and wants others to ‘get it’ too, whether it’s about OpenSky or social media in general.
Stay tuned for more news about this new platform that is about helping people be successful. It should be fun to watch this new way of doing online commerce take hold.