I have found the solution to your communication problems. Really. It’s not in any new tool. It’s in the way you look at the tools and the environment in which they are used. Unfortunately, change and new perspectives are more difficult to embrace than trying a bright shiny new thing. First, I take the view of a communications executive of a company.
The New List
You were accustomed to purchasing lists of potential buyers, journalists or [insert target group here]. Instead of buying lists, look at it as buying networks. Whether you participate in a network of Target Audience X or you enlist the services of others who participate in that network, it’s similar to acquiring a list but with powerful added benefits.
You’ll get a percentage of those people engaged in your issues, a social media advocate will argue a greater percentage, and more importantly you’ll learn by being a participant.. This is different than advertising on Google AdWords network. It’s about engaging. Think of it as a list of people, not a list of contact information, some of whom are willing to engage you. The new list is a network.
The New Endorsement
You can’t afford Tiger Woods, but you might be able to attract influencers to your product, service or cause. Is Chris Brogan the Tiger Woods of social media? Is health care blogger Tony Chen a potential advocate for your new medical product? Sure, influencers have been out there since the dawn of time. Moses, for example, was used by God for his new book.
The paradigm now is size and focus: smaller audiences, greater focus. Those writers who have built a community around their topic are looking to incrementally monetize their effort – not sell out, but be financially recognized for their intellectual property, audience and credibility. In this case, keep in mind that credibility outweighs the other two. Therefore, if your offering fits with their reputation, then approach them, tell your story and seek a creative way to support their work. For example, Custom Scoop as a sponsor of For Immediate Release, two creative, thoughtful types supporting each other.
I’m not talking about just advertising on a blog. Bring the blogger in as a speaker for your channel partners, customers, prospects and the like. Sponsor her participation as a speaker on a conference panel. Buy dozens of copies of her book to share with others. The options are endless. Find what is mutually beneficial and go for it.
The Guest Appearance
When blogs were the rage, many companies jumped on board. Now they may be stagnant. The bloom is off the rose and you are looking for ways to reinvigorate it. In addition to a new look and fresh blood to participate internally, consider guest posts from others in your space. A unique article or some form of commentary on your company’s blog may keep it exciting, provide a new perspective and attract new readers.
Sure, there’s a danger that the guest writer might deliver content that’s outside your normal style, but that’s a good thing. Keep in mind, we are in a very different economic environment. In some ways, the economic cycle is comparable to the 1600s when most people were independent contractors. So today, for example, reporters are looking for alternative sources of revenue. We are in an environment of exploration.
A 2009 View from the Other Side
Let me jump over to another view, that of the social media leader. For the purpose of conversation, this is the person that has developed an audience, has given much of their work to the community and now looks back to determine, how can I keep doing this and make a living? Here are some of the new perspectives I see for 2009 from this vantage point.
Social Media Subsidies
The early phase of social media is subsidized. It was either subsidized by individuals giving of their time or by employees of companies making a salary, getting information in their daily work routine, and building an audience from sharing those experiences. In 2009 the issue of personal brands is heating up. It will draw attention to the flow of information, who owns it and who can disseminate it. A personal brand really is not that personal. Rather, it’s the accumulated knowledge derived from interacting with things outside your person: information written by others, observations of others, using the tools that others have created, and so on.
What’s personal is the filter through which you experience the world and the process by which you redistribute that experience, adding your own interpretation. So even the nature of something we call a personal brand, is, at its core, social. Companies and individuals will be discussing how this new relationship will work, or not.
ROI: Reasonable Outcomes from Interactions
There are clearly specific ways to measure business benefits and income derived from social network participation, such as Dell Outlet, or any outlet, for that matter, on Twitter, which is a 100 percent opt-in ad network. So, too, are the appeals to charities like Tweetsgiving and Charity Water. Direct, clear cut. Here’s your metric, boss.
Surely there are many other metrics to establish prior to a campaign that will allow you to determine whether to stay the course, adjust, or abandon it. However, in 2009 I hope there will be an understanding that relationships take time and are difficult to measure. Did I buy my iPhone because of the ads, what I read from blogs, the banter on Twitter, or the really helpful sales people in my local AT&T store that put up with me asking questions for a dozen visits without buying anything? Come on. That’s hard to track unless you put a chip in my head and monitor my subconscious, which is impossible.
It is impossible, isn’t it? I mean, I did have a drink with David Alston of Radian6, but I don’t think he – well, whatever. At some point you say, “These are the people I need to relate with.” That’s reasonable isn’t it?
Recognize the Band, Celebrate the Rockstar
The economic downturn combined with the trend to monetize is creating a rockstar mentality. One can say this mentality is a throwback to pre-social days. You know, “Number 5 with a bullet on the Billboard charts” – that kind of thing. It is also a function of numbers: more numbers, more money. Now, money is not bad. Everyone has to make a living, pay employees and support their families. The competition for eyeballs, coverage, props and Twitterfluence is intense and is a full-time job in itself.
In 2009 I will make a concerted effort to recognize the band while celebrating the rockstar. The idea of a rockstar is counter to the core of a social network. Rockstar is old, easy thinking. Social is new thinking and difficult to acknowledge. For some help on this, read David Brooks on Eastern vs. Western cultures.
There will be a meeting of individual wisdom and the wisdom of crowds in 2009. It will be driven by greater interest in social media on the part of companies, greater use of social media by government, primarily the Obama Administration, and the continued determination by those social media early adopters to make a living from pursuing their passion.