"'Free is not a business model'. That was one of the seven "harsh realities" discussed in a recent keynote from CopyBlogger's Brian Clark, ProBlogger's Darren Rowse and Remarkable Communication's Sonia Simone. This was an hour-long discussion about what it takes to make money blogging and using social media.
WebProNews spoke with Clark about this one "reality" in more detail. "These misconceptions get in the way of what is actually kind of simple," he says. "It's not always easy, but it's not that complicated. I think we get in our own way if we have this misunderstanding, so the first thing is, yes, you have to give away free content, but you have to understand why. You're basically attracting people to you, and then you're building kind of a relationship with them over time by giving them information, so they trust you, and they think you're a smart person, and they like you most importantly. We like to do business with people we like."
"So, you have to ultimately have a way to make money beyond building those crucial things," he adds. "They're crucial, but then you go, ok, so now I take that and I'm either going to be selling advertising, which can be harder than it looks because you need a lot of traffic. With smaller traffic you can sell services, consulting, products, software, even other information if you package it up right."
Things don't always work out with the popular Silicon Valley "make money later" approach. "Some people are spurred forth by the success stories, and they don't realize how many people crash and burn - fail totally. For every Twitter, there's 4-5 thousand just broken-hearted losers. I mean that in the nicest way, but a better shot at things...if you want to make the next Twitter, and you want to take VC money, go for it. Great. But if you're just trying to kind of make money...promote your business online, use content, use blogging...you have to know what you're trying to accomplish, and just kind of be very strategic about it, and the strategy really comes down to 'how can I give people something that they want that solves a problem - that makes them happy - that's related to something else that I can ultimately sell."
"You just have to connect the dots, and it's better to do that at earlier rather than later," he adds. "You don't have to know exactly what you're gonna do, but have a general idea of the ballpark of things these people are interested in."
But using social media to "sell" is tacky isn't it? Yes, if you act like a salesman.
"What you need to do is, again, use content to get people to like you first, not pitch them on Twitter," says Clark. "That's not something you put up with at a cocktail party. This is social media so you shouldn't do it there either. It's about various stages. You get people interested in your content, you're helping them out on a day-to-day basis...eventually, you say, 'hey, I've been helping you this way. I can help you with this too. Yes, this thing costs money, but hey, not everything's free,' and I think most people understand that."
A large part of getting people to like you is simply being authentic, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should show ALL of your true colors ALL the time.
"A lot of people get online, and to be authentic, it's just a reason to cater to their own ego," says Clark. "The number one rule is, it's what they think is authentic. Not what you think is authentic. The authentic 'you' might be totally unlikable, and no one's gonna dig you. Sometimes we pay attention to people that are unlikable because we like watching a train wreck, but we're not gonna do business with them. You know, there's a big difference there between attention and monetization."
"Seth Godin put it the best - basically said authenticity is telling people a story they want to hear, and that doesn't mean you're lying or you're fake," he explains. "It just means that you understand what they want, and that aspect of your personality comes out to serve them instead of serving your own ego."
"Find the unique aspect of your personality that fits your lifestyle and what makes you happy and go with that," Clark suggests. "Don't try to emulate...Find what's unique about you, and how does that relate to the people that you're trying to talk to and hopefully do business with."
If you're lucky, some part of you will appeal to your audience. If not, maybe it's time to consider a different direction.