Content monetization, brocial media, and the role of love in business

content monetization

By Mark Schaefer

One of the most delightful and provocative thinkers on the web today is my friend Phil Gerbyshak.

Phil interviewed recently for a podcast and we covered many topics I had never discussed publicly before, especially as it relates to building customer intimacy today. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Phil: I think it’s possible to build amazing customer connections through our content, but you still have to create intimacy somehow. It’s kind of like intimacy at scale when people see you responding and engaging through your content.

Mark: You are 100% right. I got a note few weeks ago from the CMO of this Fortune 100 company. And he said “I want to bring you in to facilitate a workshop for our company. We’re starting to develop a new content marketing strategy and I want you to guide this for us.”

Now this is the interesting part. I had never met this man or even corresponded with him before. But he had read my blog for years. And that led him to my book The Content Code, and ultimately this phone call.

I didn’t know I had any connection with him at all. I’ve never heard of the guy before. He’s never commented on my blog. He’s never tweeted me. I didn’t even know he followed me. And even though I didn’t knowingly create this intimacy with him, he still felt like he knew me. He’s been consuming my content and he knows my values, he knows my thinking. He trusts me as a person. So, I think it is possible to create that intimate connection that leads to monetization without necessarily having engagement.

Phil: I think that’s why it’s important to write for the right audience and not worry that it doesn’t resonate with everybody. If you connect through content, you can be intimate even if you don’t know that they’re out there. Too many people think they’re engaging when they simply set up an IFTTT recipe that responds to everybody that mentions them. And that’s not intimacy.

Mark: That’s called spam.

Phil: I think it’s worse than spam, because it’s an illusion that you’re doing the right thing. Automating all your responses is like streaking down the center of an association hall, shouting ‘hey look at me I’m really great.’

Mark: Well, there are a lot of people who do that. The social media streakers.

Phil: I like to call it kind of the brocial media. ‘Hey bro, what’s up!’ That’s fake. I don’t think anybody expects immediate responses on every channel, but they do expect a real response when you finally do it.

Mark: (laughing) Brocial media! That’s a lot of performing. That does not build a connection. Social media is a wonderful technology that can be an extension of ourselves, our hearts, our purpose in life. That’s what really builds the loyalty.

It’s about having faith in the economics of the social media system to help, help, help, instead of sell, sell, sell. And when I say sell, sell, sell, I don’t mean just your product, I also mean yourself. It’s not about you. It’s about them. Being a leader starts by elevating others instead of turning social media into your own personal cable channel.

Phil: People turn it into social me-me-media.

Mark: Right, and I think the other thing that’s been a theme in the discussion is the idea of the time that this takes. You need to become known for something so that people with money want to align with you and your brand. And that could be in the form of a sponsor, which is an important way to monetize today. The person who has done that better than anyone is Jay Baer. Jay monetizes every single piece of content he creates and that didn’t happen overnight. That happened over a decade. He’s just reaping the benefits of that now, because that man works so hard to create content and to help people in a tireless fashion.

Among the people I interviewed for my KNOWN book, on average, it took them two and a half years before their brand tipped and the money started coming in. So, if you need cash flow right now, the time may not be right to create webinars or write books.

Phil: Absolutely. There is no overnight success. Nobody hits a home run on their first blog post. Or sends one tweet and sells a million books. Unless, you already are known some other way like Beyonce.

Mark: This is an important distinction — being known versus being famous. Here is one of the things that is going on in our industry right now that is dangerous. A few years ago, Zappos became the famous case study in every single book and blog post. Everybody wanted to be Zappos.  Well, to be like Zappos, you have to be Zappos. You have to have that culture. You have to have that crazy, off-center leadership, right? Bank of America doesn’t have that. AT&T doesn’t have that. They’re not going to be Zappos.

That sort of singular, one-off case study sets up false expectations. And this is also what we face today with Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary Vaynerchuk is the new Zappos. He is everywhere. He’s the case study, he’s the icon, he’s the model. Gary isn’t known. Gary is famous. He was “known” at one point but once you’re on the cover of Wired magazine, once you’re on Ellen, you’re beyond known. Now everybody wants to be Gary by doing the hustle. But who else has done that? Name one other person. Nobody. He’s the new Zappos. So, we can’t say, ‘oh, if you just follow this path, this is what’s going to happen, this is how I’m going to monetize.’ The answer to this is “no.” I’m going to let you down gently, you’re not going to be the next Gary V, because there’s only one Gary V.

You’ve probably got a better chance of being struck by lightning or be accepted into the Navy Seals than you have becoming Gary V. He is a singular case study. He’s Zappos personified.

You don’t have to be famous to be successful. When I walk down the streets of New York, nobody knows me. But I am perfectly happy. I’m getting calls for business and consulting gigs, and workshops. My books are selling well, all over the world. I’m not trying to be somebody else. I am finding my own audience in my own authentic way.

Phil: Great point. So, I think we go from unknown, to known, but don’t count on being famous.  If you hustle your face off, like a Gary V, you’re not going to be Gary V because there is only one like him. He’s an outlier.

Let’s go back to the subject of monetization. It occurs to me that it’s not the content we’re monetizing. Perhaps it is actually the access to us, to get specific questions answered, that we can monetize — the consulting, the coaching, the one-on-one things that we can do, that helps people get more intimate with us, to really drive great value. Because content, without context, is merely words. 

Mark: Right. I’ve written about 180 blog posts about blogging. I’ve written a book on blogging called Born to Blog and this is the bestselling book on blogging on Amazon. Now, think about this. I’ve given away all my ideas, but I get contacted every single week from companies wanting me to advise them on their blog.

My content has served to build authority and trust. That’s the journey we all have to be on, either as a personal brand, or for our business. Number one, build awareness. Number two, build engagement. Engagement leads to trust. Trust leads to loyalty.

My next thinking on this is that there’s a step beyond loyalty. And that is love. That’s a word we don’t use in business too often, but I think that’s the next step. I think we have to go beyond loyalty, because we’re seeing this research now that shows many people are not so brand loyal anymore. So, it makes me think that you may switch loyalties, but you won’t switch if you love the actual people who are part of that brand.

Phil: I like that. I think love does matter. My challenge is, how do we transfer that love of a person for a love of a company? Let’s go back to Jay Baer, for example. His company is Convince and Convert. If Jay decided he was going to go work for Gartner, would we still love Convince and Convert? Frankly, nothing against Jay, or his team, but I love Jay. Jay’s my jam, and that’s where I’m loyal. I don’t even care where he works.

Mark: We don’t form emotional connections with logos. We don’t form emotional connections with LLCs. But we do form emotional connections with people. Now, some companies are people. Coca-Cola. Nike. McDonald’s. Disney. They’ve spent millions and millions of dollars for decades to build a true personality that we love. They’re part of our family. But most companies are not “a person” to us. However, we can form that love toward a real person in that company.

I’m working with Cisco right now, and I’m training some of their top executives on how to become known. And the reason they’re doing this is because they realize their message isn’t getting out about how cool their company is. Sure, they could try to spend millions on advertising like Coke or McDonalds, but they see that helping their employees create personal brands and use social media effectively is a life skill. And if they can nurture that life skill in enough of their employees, they will have an advantage. Customers may not love the Cisco logo or a brochure, but they will love the people they know in the company. So, how do we get those people to become known and to be loved in a way that can transfer a little of that glow onto the company?

Phil: Wow. I love that. People will not love a brand. They will love the people who comprise that brand. That’s really good.

Mark: Here’s an example of how that works. I wrote a blog post about my experience being hugged by a brand. When I teach at Rutgers University, I always stay at the same hotel, a Hyatt. I’m not particularly brand loyal to any hotel, I stay somewhere because it’s convenient. I’d just as easily stay at a Hilton or a Marriott, whatever is close by. Now, I’ve gone to this same hotel for seven years now, and there’s a woman who works at the front desk that knows me now. And when she sees me come through the front door, she says, ‘Hello Mr. Schaefer, welcome back.’

And the last time I went there it was winter time. I was tired. I was exhausted. It was cold. Everybody around me on the plane and the train was sick and they were angry. She must’ve taken one look at me and said ‘you need some lovin’ today.’ She said ‘Mr. Schaefer, I’m going to send a little something up to your room’. And when I got back from my class that night, there was a cheese plate and some wine there. And that’s really just what I needed to lift me up a little bit. And when I left the next day, she came out from behind her desk, and she hugged me goodbye. Now, I don’t really know her as a person, because I don’t stand around the reception desk and chit-chat. I didn’t even know her last name. But she was a representative of that company and I got a hug from that company. That meant something to me. And oh by the way, now we’re Facebook friends now.

Phil: So, how do we do that online, Mark? How do we give people those virtual hugs?

Mark: I believe we do that by acknowledging people whenever we can. Responding to their comments, looking for opportunities to encourage people, connect with people, congratulate people, celebrate people. Honor them, reach out to them if you think they’re suffering in some way. It’s amazing how people will remember a small kindness. I don’t think you can fake authenticity. If you’re someone who is a performer, people are going to figure that out over time. But if you really are a person who cares, it is going to show, and it’s going to work.

SXSW 2016 3Mark Schaefer is the chief blogger for this site, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, and the author of several best-selling digital marketing books. He is an acclaimed keynote speaker, college educator, and business consultant.  The Marketing Companion podcast is among the top business podcasts in the world.  Contact Mark to have him speak to your company event or conference soon.

Illustration courtesy Flickr CC and Shawn Allen.

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