What Does Building 43 Do for Rackspace?

in Content Marketing, Examples and Case Studies, social media

A few months ago, renowned blogger and social media guy Robert Scoble left his previous job at FastCompany TV to start work on a content and social networking community with his new employers Rackspace, the hosting provider.

The new community, Building 43, is described as a site to:

” … bring together thought leaders in a variety of disciplines and organizations, from entrepreneurs to those responsible for the latest technologies. They will share knowledge, experiences and advice on how you can use these cool new tools and apps to make your business more successful.”

Considering that Rackspace are footing the bill for this community, you might assume that the focus would be Rackspace-friendly topics and generally sans competitors.

However, in an interview with TechCrunch, Scoble went on to say that “on Building 43 you won’t just find information about Rackspace. We’re going to help the entire cloud computing industry get more adoption, users, customers. We’ll cover technologies from Rackspace’s competitors like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, GoGrid, IBM, and others.”

So what’s in it for Rackspace?

Without knowing the exact ins and outs of Rackspace’s agreement with Scoble it’d be hard to pin down the exact benefits but there are a few obvious advantages.

  • Association with a Well-known Name: Robert Scoble is a pretty big name in the tech / social media sphere and just about anything he does will attract a reasonable amount of attention – like the TechCrunch article.
  • A Content Asset and Community: As the Building 43 site and community grows (the content is distributed through a variety of social media outlets forming a ‘distributed community’) Rackspace are developing a content asset and community around that content. How they might leverage that community is up to them but even the simple brand association and advertising value will be of benefit.
  • Client Outreach and Community: Again from the Techcrunch interview, “A focus of Building 43 will be visiting and profiling these [clients] and other companies, with a look at how they grow over time.” By promoting the growth of customer businesses, Rackspace not only associates themselves with their success but also adds value to what they deliver – a little publicity alongside your hosting.
  • Expertise: And, of course, Scoble will be able to lend his own expertise to Rackspace’s own social media efforts.
  • Promoting Key Technologies: Cloud computing is an important market for Rackspace; Building 43 will no doubt help promote the adoption of cloud computing – and naturally lead interested parties to check out Rackspace’s offering.

This all makes a lot of sense from a content marketing point of view. Creating this content helps position and raise the profile of Rackspace within the social media community, demonstrate their expertise, build an asset and indirectly promote their services (cloud computing in particular).

Again, without knowing the specifics it’s hard to judge, but it’s a reasonable assessment to say that the total cost of this effort will be outwieghed by the added visibility, goodwill and direct sales generated.

What Are Rackspace Doing Right?

Clearly the idea is sound but what, specifically, are Rackspace doing to make it work?

  • Lightweight branding – There is little overt branding in evidence on the site, too much could potentially put off potential users.
  • A Well-Known Frontman – Scoble lends immediate credibility to the site and ensures media and community interest.
  • A Content Expert – Scoble is expert in creating content and communities around that content.
  • An Open Editorial Policy – Great content does not always fall within corporate communications guidelines. By giving Building 43 the scope to discuss a range of topics – and even include competitors – the content will be seen as intrinsically less biased.
  • Hosting the Conversation – It’s not all about creating content. Building 43 acts as a simple focal point to help organise the conversation and spark debate.

What are your thoughts: How do you see Rackspace benefiting from their association with Scoble and Building 43? What challenges might they face? What should / could they do differently?


Rob La Gesse 07.27.09 at 5:37 pm

Mark, thanks for the well thought out article. I appreciate you taking the time to create it. A quick note, the actual site is called “building43″ no cap, no space :)

If you want to chat more about building43, or Rackspace, or anything – feel free to give me a call.

Rob La Gesse
Director of Customer Development, Rackspace
Manager, building43

bs 07.27.09 at 5:41 pm

I call BS.

“Scoble lends immediate credibility…” to social media marketing consultants, not to anyone actually responsible for building a cloud-based service.

“Scoble is expert in creating content and communities around that content…” Scoble last successful content community was at Microsoft. Note, Rackspace ignores almost all of Scoble’s expert advise on their corporate website.

Mark Nagurski 08.03.09 at 3:18 pm

B.S. – the idea of partnering with someone to create this kind of content and community is the point of the post, whatever your thoughts about Scoble, he’s a big name that’s undoubtedly bringing attention to the building43 project

With all due respect to Rackspace, if they’d created the site without a name attached it would be much harder to get it noticed. With that in mind it’s probably better to look at the quote you mentioned in context …

“A Well-Known Frontman – Scoble lends immediate credibility to the site and ensures media and community interest.”

You can argue the credibility point (which may be valid) but I’d say that ‘well-known’ and ‘ensures media and community interest’ are both relevant points when creating content and a community around that content.

Happy to debate it further if you like … although a real name would be preferrable next time.

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