The tide is turning again in online promotion. Several A-list bloggers and other influencers are advising that you should stop selling and focus your efforts on creating community. Chief among them is Michael Stelzner, author of Launch and founder of Social Media Examiner. His advice is to aim to own the space where folks come for help, not only from you, but from each other. He’s not alone in his call for community. But, it’s not a new concept.
While I agree with this idea in principle, I also take into consideration who is saying it. These are the same A-list bloggers who started at least five or six years ago, figured out how to successfully manage multiple streams of revenue and then built their empire teaching other folks to do the same. Those methods have morphed over the last two years from guerilla marketing, sales pages, and channels into calls to action, landing pages, and social media networking.
How it Started
Keep in mind that two years ago, Twitter was just catching on and Facebook was still used more by college students than by small business folks. Once these bloggers figured out how to bend social media into a business funnel, their posts went viral. And that’s how they built their empire-with raving fans doing the promotion for them.
Now that they receive over half a million page views a month and make millions hosting summits, they’re saying that it’s all about community. While the new method sounds good, I’ll take half that in cash, please, doing what got them to where they are.
The bikini principle is really not all that new. It’s the idea that you can give away 80% and, with enough traffic, you can make a living from folks willing to pay for the other 20%. The idea has been around online as long as Google. Likewise, WordPress.com, Twitter, and Facebook all use the same principle. Chris Anderson even wrote a book on it titled Free: The Future of a Radical Price. Of course, to read it, you’ll have to shell out $16 bucks. (FYI, Launch is $24.95.)
I follow about 80 blogs in my RSS feed. I see posts for Stelzner’s book right next to posts on how small business owners can measure ROI for the time they spend on social media and creating all those free blog posts to make their site a fount of information for the benefit of the community.
Running in Circles
There is a cycle to online promotion. For many, it takes a year of blogging to build up a tribe. They start making money but then get so busy they have to hire help. That’s like having a job just to pay the babysitter. It can take another year to start seeing real profits again.
The trick, as Steizner points out, is to become the go-to place as quickly as possible. That way you can get all of the guest posters you’ll ever need for free, along with their fan base as readers, and A-list wannabes hanging out in your comments and saying nice things about you.
Is a focus on community going to be the next big sales method? Let’s ask a bunch of Harley Davidson riders at the next bike rally what they think of the idea, especially the ones replete with a brand logo on every single thing they own.
The Shape of Things
There’s still a bit of a disconnect between the rarified air where the jet-set A-list bloggers hang and the down-in-the-trenches small business owner’s view about online promotion’s role on affecting the bottom line. The middle folks are those who run an online-only business. They pay to learn from the big folks and incorporate that into something they can sell to those just getting started with their online presence, or those who need full concierge service, such as ghost posters. The shape of this model is a pyramid.
And, there’s a serious lag time between the A-list bloggers making millions from online promotion and regular product-based businesses doing it. In other words, a Fortune 500 company already knows something about selling. They are not going to buy a book from an A-list blogger and revamp their marketing efforts accordingly. But, maybe they should because what they are doing now is scrambling to keep pace with the new buying culture that the A-list bloggers have helped create.
Riding the Wave
So, folks in the business of online marketing are on the incoming wave of change of how business will be done in the future. Just keep in mind that there is nothing new under the sun, it’s just wrapped in a new package. Gimmicks are still gimmicks.
Doing business in an ethical manner with integrity, and making it about people has never completely gone out of style, even during times when it’s been hard to find.
What’s Your Business Model
I’ve taken the tack that marketing is about sharing what I know and what I can do in a way that helps others do what they do, and I’m passionate about it. I’m lucky to be in a high-demand service industry where I don’t have to create need or desire. Plumbers are in the same club. That’s not true for many business owners, and there is no such thing as one-size-fits-all, or formula marketing. What works in one industry may not translate well to another.
What’s working for you? What’s not? Are you helping create community? Do you belong to any communities you find helpful?