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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  • I love this conversation. And both of you. Thanks for the kind words.

    Mark, I appreciate in particular you pointing out that what I do at C&C and beyond is a marathon, not a sprint. I have been in online marketing since 1993, and every year I’ve applied another coat of paint until I finally have something of merit (I hope).

    And Phil, you hit on the #1 question that my team and I consider ALL THE TIME: how much of me do we bake into the Convince & Convert brand? C&C is a collection of 14 brilliant people, and counting. It is by no means the Jay show. Yet, because I am the best known, it would be foolish to totally subsume my own “brand” when talking about the firm. However, the fact that you do not have a personal affinity for C&C (and I’m not picking on you, it’s quite common) I believe to be one of the great failures of my professional career.

    Our priority for 2017 is to fix that. You will continue to see the people of C&C move toward the front, including in our new email program, Convince & Convert ON, whereby our strategists take turns curating content and making explanatory videos about current trends.

    It’s starting to work, and will work. For example, little known is the fact that FOUR people from C&C were speakers at the recent Social Media Marketing World event. Pretty sure that’s a record for most speakers from one company.

    But, like with my own “brand” giving you the raw emotional and informational ingredients to form a bond with C&C is a long-term program. We hope to collectively earn the trust that you and I have established personally.

  • Your team members need to become “known.” Simple as that. That is truly the solution, and a solution I think that many companies will need to come to. Thanks for the amazing comment Jay.

  • Holly McIlwain

    Great answer. We were trying to figure out how to promote our local service company on social media, which of course has a global reach. Jim and I don’t do social media for fun, because we’re too busy,,, well,,, actually having fun. So first we read your book, “Tao of Twitter,” a brilliant book that got us started. Then we read 20+ other books including Jay Baer’s “Youtility.” Jay used global social media marketing and it increased his business, which was a local swimming pool company. I’m looking forward to reading his new book, “Hug Your Haters” next.

    The biggest direct impact came for us when we read “Content Code,” last year and started our e-mail marketing and blogging for our smb. It’s been a huge success and we truly appreciate the years you took to write your book. Thanks Mark! Here’s a social hug for you!

  • Holly McIlwain

    Mark, Hat’s off to you and Phil Gerbyshak for this insightful interview. You both walk the talk, so to speak and here’s what I mean. You do everything you suggest in your must-read-for-anyone-who-tweets book, “The Tao of Twitter.” When I started reading this piece, I clicked your link to Phil, then I watched his video and tweeted it, (only) because I liked it. Within 10 minutes, I had a personable tweet from Phil. He must have read your book too. (Smile) So thanks for not just writing what you think people want to read and hope they will spread your work through social media, but for actually putting your ideas into practice and demonstrating how to do it. You are reMarkable. (corny, I know, I get it from my Grandmother.)

  • Thank you Holly. I’m very glad you enjoyed the interview.

    I have in fact read Mark’s book – and been practicing it for years. It’s super good stuff!

    I don’t know if you would get the same level of success if you simply copy catted Gary or Zappos. In fact, I see many who try and are not succeeding, at least not to the same levels of Gary or Zappos. First big movers have big advantages – and often have something special that they don’t talk about that got them ahead in the first place. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to emulate some of their work. I would say that they are a rare edge case, not a case study of how to do things.

  • Wow Jay! That’s awesome that you are working to deepen the team’s core strengths, and all become known. I am VERY excited for that!

    Because of you, many will give your team the benefit of the doubt and learn about them, thus making them known too. And if they are anything like you, they will give us HUGE value and insight. So exciting!

  • Well done Holly! Keep at it! YAY!

  • Thanks for the kind words Holly!

  • I agree with what Phil says below. In my KNOWN book, I actually advocate copycatting in terms of aspiring to something. The difference is, let’s say I want to be JayZ, which would be funny, but go with me. I actually think he’s a great businessman. Could I follow his strange path to success? No. Could I replicate his accomplishments? No. Could I be the next Steve Jobs of John Glenn or Mother Teresa? No. But that’s not to say that I couldn’t learn from all of them and even copy some of their lessons. In fact I would be foolish not to.

    Ultimately I can’t be the next JayZ. I have to be the first Mark Schaefer. No matter how much I want to be JayZ, I have to eventually find my own path.

    Thanks for the excellent question!

  • Anja Skrba

    Your story about the lady from Hyatt (which is lovely btw) kinda reminded me of my story from two weeks ago when I was in San Diego 🙂

    I was staying in this lovely little hotel in Little Italy and on a third day I noticed this lady who was working at the reception desk – same lady who was there when I arrived, but she looked really tired and sleepy because she was going 3 days straight forward from third to first shift. So, when I went outside for some coffee I brought her one as well. She looked at me completely confused and at first didn’t know how to react…(I kinda felt like I did something wrong, idk…) Now, when I brought her that coffee I had no alter motives or anything – I was just being human! I saw someone who looked like in a need for some serious caffeine and that’s all! She took the coffee of course and thanked me, and for the rest of my staying there she was so friendly! Not that she wasn’t being nice or anything similar before, it was just like we connected somehow on a different level.
    So on my last day, I had a super early flight and I came down around 4 am to check out, and there she was, at the front desk, waiting for me with a hot cup of coffee! She told me she remembered that I was leaving today and switch her shift with a colleague because she wanted to say goodbye!

    My story, and your story about the Hyatt lady, and what you and Phil were talking about here got me thinking – brand or no brand, social media or real world, it really shouldn’t be that hard to be human…right?

  • I LOVE that story! Thank you for sharing it!

  • Anja Skrba

    it was a pleasure Mark!

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