Five Questions with Scott Smith, Playboy.com

All companies have their issues. Legendary brands are no exceptions and when your brand is one that conjures up vivid…well…images, the sword certainly cuts both ways. I caught up with Scott Smith, Editor and Director of Content at Playboy.com to briefly discuss some of the challenges he faces in a world of ISP blockers, content filters, and crowded schedules.

Everyone’s familiar with the magazine, but Playboy is also leveraging new media to extend their reach and engage with readers. The brand is active on Twitter (44,678 followers) and Facebook (1.3 million fans). They also have a YouTube page where they post short and full-length girls and humor videos. “We’re also working to develop true blogs on the site and revamp our RSS feeds,” said Smith. Playboy is currently measuring those activities by tracking traffic, views and engagement with fans.

I notice you often call out in your Tweets when a link is safe for work (SFW). Do you see a marked difference in the click-throughs on those links vs. those not marked SFW? What does that tell you about your audience and how they interact with you via social channels?

Based on just the traffic through my personal Twitter stream (not Playboy’s), the NSFW stuff does better. Then again, that’s also the more sex and model-focused stuff so it may be the topic/subject rather than the “NSFW” itself that does it. But I’d say those stats tell me that people expect Playboy to bring them the most interesting, attractive women in the world and they look to us for fun, entertaining conversation about sex in popular culture.

There are few brands more iconic than Playboy. How does that work for and against you and your goals in this position?

Playboy is well-known and we don’t have to explain the brand to people. So when we started in the social media space, it was easy for us to initially gain fans and followers. But the challenge here is continuing to remain engaged with our readers in a way that exceeds what other men’s entertainment sites are doing. But it works against us on some platforms because we get dinged for posting what they perceived to be objectionable content. Moreover, the standards vary from platform to platform (and sometimes, it seems, from week to week) so this is a challenge.

Also, many workplaces block us along with other providers. (I was on a cruise over the summer and wasn’t able to view Playboy.com as they were blocking it). So it makes it tough, especially when out competitors don’t have the same restrictions.

I saw you posted a link to Gawker where they had an embedded a Playboy video, do you coordinate things like that to distribute content through third-parties?

We will e-mail people like Gawker or other blogs/sites and let them know when we think we have content that would interest them. We have a new social media/audience engagement person who does this full time along with other social media coordination and measurement.

Tell me about SMPR and what other “real world” networking you do that ties in with your online networking.

SMPR is a once-a-week breakfast organized by a friend of mine. He invites people who do social media locally to have coffee and talk about what we do: the challenges, the successes, best practices, etc. It’s good for information exchange, ideas and networking. I’ve also spoken at Tweetcamp Chicago and organized the Chicago Media Future Conference. Both of these were large-scale events that sought to do the same thing SMPR does.

As far as other networking goes, I try to get together regularly with other folks who run Chicago-centric blogs and keep an eye out for other social media events. Some aren’t worth the time, but you can usually determine which ones are by the level of organization involved. From there, I tend to connect with people I met at the event on Twitter and FB.

What can we expect to see from you and Playboy in 2010?

From Playboy, expect more in-depth articles about the state of sex in pop culture, politics, and the world as well as more of an emphasis on interesting people in culture and how they view sex and women. As for me, I’m working to make Playboy.com a success and looking for a new personal project that lets me bring my knowledge of online culture and social media to a topic that I’m passionate about. Not quite sure what that is yet.

Keep tabs on what Scott’s up to:
Website
Twitter

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