(Photo courtesy: DavidErickson via creative commons, Flickr)
I wish I could learn more about this in a social media online training program: It seems there are three camps of practitioners across a social media business spectrum...
Camp A: Information MarketersOn one end of the spectrum have been the traditional Information and Affiliate Marketers. As the stereotype goes: these are the folks who are infamously known (albeit, a little unfarily, which I'll explain below) for sending out email blasts with halacious claims about how you can learn to earn $90,000 in three days through their proven system, or some such thing. Theirs is the world of squeeze pages, forced opt-ins, drip sequences, scarcity, consumer psychology and those mile-long sales pages with all the funky typography and yellow highlights. All designed to get us to buy a manifesto about how to earn thousands or generate lots of followers in social networks over a short time by essentially spamming our Twitter friends.
Camp B: Social Media PuristsOn the other side of the spectrum are the traditional social media practitioners. As the stereotype goes: These "social medians" are the "pretty-boy" bloggers and social media purists. Theirs is the world of buzz phrases like relationship building, paradigm shift, communication revolution, free content, transparency, engagement, and trust.
But, ask Camp B what their ROI (Return On Investment) is on their relationship building and engagement activities through social media and you're likely to find some fidgeting as they explain how it all "depends." And how maybe ROI can't really be measured because, after all, how do you quantify the value of a relationship? (And you know my thoughts about that.)
What about automation and earnings?Perish the thought about automation! As it were, unless you're talking about Google Alerts and RSS feeds (listening-type activities), you should better be communicating personally with everybody who opts-in to your content. That stance seems to be softening, as I'll explain below, but there are still debates I get into today about whether or not automation is appropriate when communicating with our friends in the social sphere.
As for earnings? Well, the gist of the message here seems to be that, if you blog long enough and are consistent with producing good content on a regular basis, eventually -- as the mantra goes -- you'll attract advertisers and can otherwise "hope for the best" after you've developed a following on the social web. Eventually people will decide to buy your product or your services based on the reputation and relationship you build over "a period of time." (What is that? One month? One year? Two years? Five? Dunno, can't say.)
On the other hand ask a Camp A dogmatic the same questions and you're apt to find some chest-thumping neanderthal motioning to his shiny little toys. (Or, they point to the toys of other Camp A dogmatists if they haven't acquired their own toys yet.) It's as if these trinkets somehow justify the earnings gleaned from brute force tactics and squeeze page-baits sent to anyone and everyone who's connected to him on each and every social network he's a member of. ("After all, didn't they opt-in to me when they friended me on Facebook and followed me on Twitter? Long live TweetAdder!")
"The people on the other side of the fence don't get it."Traditionally, Camp B (social media purists) has frowned on Camp A (information marketers).
Camp A doesn't "get it," says Camp B. "They" are a group that employs dubious marketing tactics and are just trying to get their "downline" filled. (Author's note: information and affiliate marketers are frequently confused with multi-level marketing, or MLM. But they actually have different business models.) And "they" are essentially one step removed from spammers and snake oil carpet baggers.
Meanwhile, Camp A has traditionally frowned on Camp B as a bunch of pretty-boy bloggers with lots of visitors but nary a dime in the bank to show for all their efforts. Some Camp A folks might say Camp B doesn't "get it." After all, automation should be used to amass a lot of followers so "network effects" an be leveraged to gain maximum visibility to all the stuff there is to sell. (Look, John's driving around in a Jaguar. It works!)
"Can't we all just get along?"The thing is, if we stand back a few paces and blur our eyes a bit and try to look at both camps objectively, I think we can see that there's room for a bit of both philosophies.
The fact is, I know a lot of Camp B social medians (too many) who are wonderful people, blog regularly, teach free classes, willingly share their knowledge and give away loads of content, but don't have a dime in the bank to their social media name. Only in the closet will some of these folks admit to wishing they understood the money-engine better in order to monetize their activities in ways that doesn't violate the social medians "code."
Meanwhile, to characterize the whole information marketing camp (Camp A) as a bunch of spammers and snake oil salesmen is really doing a disservice to the subset who actually deliver on their promises and go through no small amount of effort to create good and value-added content for their subscribers--for free. (Isn't that behavior aligned with social media philosophy?)
The only difference is that, they follow a structured process that leverages automation to deliver the content series "in a conversational way." (Gasp!)
In both camps, it's an unfortunate fact that there are a few who muck-up the reputation for the group as a whole.
Camp C: Value-based Content MarketersRefreshingly, what I'm seeing more of these days is a growing trend of a third group ("Camp C"). This group espouses the use of the automation and marketing funnel strategies, landing pages techniques, opt-in lead capture, drip-sequences, and such that Camp A has traditionally trumpeted. BUT all this happens in tandem with the underlying Camp B discipline of relationship building and free content that isn't just "content-fluff," but actually adds value to those who opt-in to receive it.
Even though automation is used to deliver it, trust builds because of the transparency in which it is being offered and the evident nature of the quality and amount of work that obviously went in to the development of the content being delivered.
In other words, content is STILL king. But, now it comes riding in on the chariot of automation and structured sequences.
Information Marketers of today vs. Bloggers of todayInterestingly, if I was tasked to give a prize to the camp that seems to have been more amenable to adopting "the other camp's strategies" to integrate with it's own, which do you think I would pick?
It almost pains me to say this because, for a long time, I'd have to say I was a Camp B disciple. I was a social media "pretty-boy purist."
I wish I could say that the camp I was aligned with was predominantly the one that came around first to seeing the merits of the "other side's" strategies; and to begin integrating them into its own for "the forces of good," as it were.
However, if pressed, I'd have to give the award to Camp A, the Information Marketers.
While it's true that there are still a lot of "megaphone blasters" in Information Marketing circles who unfortunately put the whole group in a bad light, it also seems to me that I'm seeing a lot more Information Marketers (Camp A) than traditional social media adherents (Camp B) apply new techniques from "other camps" in order to innovate the money-making engine online so that it remains "softer," more permission-based and respectful.
Information Marketers--the good ones--have techniques worth learning.
Sure, their processes use automation in the "conversation." (Gasp!)
Some of their practitioners use the same processes to drive false scarcity and false value. It's unfortunate.
But, let's not let that prejudice us to the effectiveness of that process. If we approach it objectively, maybe we'll see that it's not at all too late to still adopt them and use them for "the forces of good."