Paige Arnof-Fenn: [Full interview transcript]

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Paige Arnof-Fenn is the founder of strategic marketing firm Mavens & Moguls. Her career has included work with three start-ups, including Launch Media, Inc.com and ZipCar. Read Paige’s full bio here…

Click here to watch Paige’s full interview, “Social Currency and the Start-up Economy.”

Paige: My first job out of college was on Wall Street, which was back in the ‘80s. I was an economics major in college; my dad and both my grandfathers were commercial bankers, so I thought I was being the renegade by going into investment banking. The concept of currency, when I was a kid and first out of school, was a very literal translation. Currency was the way you bought products and services. It was green dollars, that’s how exchanges were made. And it’s funny that the word has migrated into meaning something so much more broad than it ever did, even a few decades ago.

Today, currency is about your social capital, it’s about the quality of your relationships and the number of people who respect you, trust you, think of you, that open your emails quickly, that return your phone calls in a timely manner. And if you don’t have that social currency, it doesn’t matter how much money you have in your bank account. Maybe my grandfathers are rolling in their grave as I say that, but currency is so much more than green dollars today. It embodies so much about what you stand for and what you believe in.

Ramona: What relationship do you think that this rise of social currency has with the actual economy, with dollars and cents?

Paige: So dollars and cents aren’t going anywhere, but I think your social currency carries a lot more weight today. The tricky thing I find, in this world, is that people measure their worth by the number of friends they have on Facebook, how many people follow them on Twitter, how many people they follow on Twitter. I don’t buy any of that definition of social currency. I think it’s not so much about the quantity of the relationships, it’s the quality and depth of those relationships.

Ramona: You were involved in the early, formative stages of ZipCar.

Paige: I was.

Ramona: What was it like being involved in that kind of startup?

Paige: Well, I was the head of marketing at three different startups, and I joined all of them at a very early stage, building those brands from the ground floor. I think I’m kind of a startup junkie. I love building businesses and building brands. When I joined ZipCar, nobody had heard of the concept, and I felt like I was creating the next global brand. Now you fast-forward a decade and the company’s gone public, it has over a $1-billion valuation, and it’s on its way to being a great global brand. There’s ZipCars all over the world now.

Ramona: One of the things with ZipCars is that it was one of the very first in what we see as this sharing economy, or the idea of a sharing economy. Which is not only about trust but about fostering a certain sense of community.

Paige: Absolutely.

Ramona: How does that trust play in to the success of new startups?

Paige: You have to build trust. I mean, people only ultimately come back – they might buy you the first time, but they don’t come back and buy your product or service again unless they trust that you’re an authentic brand. That you’re really living up to the promises you make. You’ve gotta keep those promises. That’s building a great brand.

One of the most interesting statistics that I heard is that on Twitter, there’s millions of people on Twitter, and you think, “Oh, everybody’s having a conversation.” In fact, only 10 per cent of the people on Twitter are responsible for 90 per cent of the Tweets. Everybody else is just retweeting what they said. So there’s very few content producers, content originators. And everybody else is just curating the content and telling their followers what to watch or what to read.

With social media, with the Internet today, everybody has a platform, everybody has a voice. So the challenge is, how do you become the voice that people listen to?

Summary:

  • The concept of currency has moved beyond merely dollars; now refers to social capital
  • Quality of relationships more important than quantity
  • Trust is vital to successful brand development
  • Need to find a way to become the social media voice that people listen to
 

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