Web Communities, Rainbows & Butterflies

August 31, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

There was a great piece written by Mark Schaefer this morning about the monetization of Chris Brogan. Of course, it’s not really about Chris. It’s about people “like” Chris, the bloggy-type people earning a living. The title could have easily been The Monetization of Heather Armstrong. After all, she ‘bullied’ herself a couple of washing machines, you know? I mean, she gave one away to a local shelter in Utah. But still, what a bitch.

I’d encourage you to read Mark’s piece because I think it brings up a lot of really great points about bloggers, communities and what we expect from them. But let’s talk a little about Chris for a second. After all, everyone else on the Web is.

I like Chris Brogan. If you’ve ever seen him speak, it’s hard not to. He’s charismatic. He’s high energy. He’s silly. He’s the kind of guy that leaves his audience with a tiny piece of himself at every encounter. I respect that. He’s “one of us”, except he’s on a stage. The stage we put him on.

According to Mark, “the glow” around Chris has been “muted” in recent months. People have been left wondering if he’s lost his ethics. Lost his ethics, you say? What the hell happened? Has he been seen murdering children? Cheating on his wife? Beating defenseless puppies?


He just started leveraging the network he’d previously been feeding for free.

He participated in a couple high profile sponsored conversations (all disclosed) and over the past few weeks has been hard at work promoting his new book, Trust Agents. And he’s used the social connections he’s created to help him do that. I know! We just can’t have that! Bloggers are supposed to work for free. It’s supposed to be about the community. It’s supposed to be about a pure love of what they do. They’re supposed to hold hands and will their children back to school clothes and books and computers, not make money off their talents and hard work!

I want to thank Mark for starting the conversation he did. Because Chris isn’t the first example of this happening. He’s just the latest. Mark says it’s because we need rules, we need responsibility, and we need to understand that social media can also be about money.

Personally, I think people just need to get off it. There are no rules in social media or in Web celebrityhood. And hopefully we’re not knocking people over declaring that social media is about money. Of course it is. Why the hell else are we all here?

I have a stupid title. I’m “Chief Branding Officer” for Outspoken Media. I have that title because Rae and Rhea got fancy titles and they didn’t want me to feel left out. Fine. But WTF does that mean? It means that I spend my day building communities on the Web. I help our clients identify their audience, I create plans for how they can connect with them, and then I teach them how to use the tools that enable them to do all of that. And do you know what they do with all that information? They use those connections. They leverage the relationships. They use their communities to make money.

We are all in social media to make money. Not directly, of course. You’re going to have a hard time convincing your Twitter followers to pay your rent. You can’t show your physician how much traffic your blog got this morning and expect him or her to use that as payment for your heart surgery. You need to leverage that traffic, those eyes, those relationships and actually do something with it. That’s where the ROI in social media comes from. The ROI in social media does not come from Twitter. It does not come from being liked on the Internet or having lots of friends. It comes from taking all of that and figuring out a way to profit from it.

If you’re not in social media to make money, you’re doing something wrong. Companies forget that when they jump in and we forget it when we see our favorite people “brands” trying to leverage their own networks. You need to have a goal.

Is social media about conversations, relationships and engagement? YES. It’s about using all of those things to make money. Dell is on Twitter to sell more laptops. Browns Brewery in Troy is on Twitter teasing us with the Beer of the Day because they want to lure us in to try it. And because social media has opened the door for all these personal brands to emerge, you’re going to meet more Chris Brogans and Heather Armstrongs leveraging the connections they’ve created. Not because they’re shills or whores, but because this is America. And even more than that, because THIS IS THE INTERNET.

There should be a reason you’re participating in social media and hopefully it’s not just because you have no friends IRL. If you’re a corporate brand, what is this helping you to accomplish? How is this increasing your bottom line and ROI? If you don’t know, then you’re doing it wrong and you should hire a social media company to help with your social media plan. [What? We’re here to make money, right?]

If you’re one of the hot personal brands of today, then you also need to figure out how you can leverage your relationships. Otherwise, it’s great that you’re out there entertaining, informing and engaging people…but how is that helping you? If you’re not making use of the voice you’ve created, you’re arguably wasting it.

If you have a problem with brands using social media to make money, regardless whether that brand is Dell or someone with a pulse, then don’t follow them. Don’t listen to them. Close your ears and hide your head in the sand. But let’s not pretend they don’t have a right to do it. That they haven’t earned it. And please don’t pretend that social media is just now about money. Social media has ALWAYS been about money. That’s why we’ve built an entire industry around it.


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