Every time I go to a Podcamp, I come away with so many new things to think about and explore. Yesterday’s Podcamp Ottawa was no exception. Our group was smaller than most Podcamp groups (about 30 I think), but the discussion was compelling. I always have one big takeaway from the day. Yesterday’s take away was a pretty big one for me.

We talked about all sorts of things, from building relationships to writing books to the dreaded “M” word…monetization.

I get a bit persnickety when people start talking about monetization. I tend to lose my usual cheerful nature a bit. It’s not because I’m against monetization. I am an entrepreneur, after all…I do like to make money. What gets my knickers in a knot is the attitude that anyone can make quick buck shilling social media. I had several discussions with other Podcampers yesterday about this. And here’s what I’ve concluded.

Social media is not a product that can be sold.

I know I might be stating the obvious here, but I really do feel as if there’s a lot of misconception out there about how social media is actually making people REAL money. Sure, some people have super popular blogs and podcasts and tons of advertisers and yes they are carving out a decent living. But in my estimation, those people are the exception, not the rule. And frankly, I’m not the least bit interested in making a pile of money off just blogging or just having a podcast. To me, it just seems like too much work to make any real money at it. So what’s the secret? I think it’s this:

Share Share Share Share and then Share Some More
Jeff Parks from I.A. Consultants has a great business philosophy…”Share everything”. What he means is, if you find a place where you can provide value, then just provide that value. Seize the opportunities that come your way through the relationships you built, even if it means no immediate monetary benefit. Jeff, in his session yesterday morning at Podcamp, talked about how he gets invited to various conferences so he can interview the big thinkers in his industry (information architecture and user experience design) and produce podcasts, and how he doesn’t make a penny doing it.

So why does he do it? Because he gets the opportunity to travel around to various conferences and interview the big thinkers in his industry. He gets to spend time with people he may not otherwise ever get to meet. He gets to learn and grow and get better at what he does for a living, so when he gets back to his office he is in a better position to succeed with the money-paying clients he does have. The experience he is gaining, the relationships he’s building by attending these conferences and talking to these people far outweigh any monetary compensation he could get for doing the same.

Social Media’s Secret Sauce
My point is, social media is extraordinarily powerful when it’s used in the right way. Social media, as a tool, allows people to build relationships, share information, and succeed. We all know that. But are we actually doing it? I appreciate that over the past several months I have started to build a larger and larger audience on this blog. I said yesterday during one of the sessions that I have no intention of making any money off my blog, and that’s true. Why? Because I don’t think the amount of work I’d have to do to make any REAL money (I mean mortgage-paying money, not beer money) would be worth it. What IS worth it to me is the connections I’m able to make by blogging, being on Twitter, and going to meet ups and Podcamps (yes, I believe that these latter, in-person human contact events are social media tools as well) are far more valuable than making a quick buck off what I’m doing in these places. Sharing my thoughts with you here costs me nothing. You indulge me, and for that I am infinitely grateful.

Sharing ideas is social media’s secret sauce. The truth is, you don’t make money off of sharing ideas. You don’t make money off of social media. Social media is just the vehicle by which you are able to share. You make money off of the opportunities that arise out of that sharing.

What do you think? Am I way off base on this? What’s in your secret sauce?

4 Responses

  1. Neat! Clear and useful.
    What’s reassuring about this is that the message is now heard more widely. There are still some people who perceive social media as a scheme but there seems to be a move from the whole “monetization” craze of the early- and mid-00s into a more humane approach to online activities.
    Been thinking (and blogging) about social media and social marketing. Unlike you, I’m no entrepreneur. So my perception of social media doesn’t require a “business model” and my observations of social marketing come from an outsider’s perspective.
    Will probably ping this post in a future post.

  2. I like the way you put it: “Social media, as a tool, allows people to build relationships, share information, and succeed. We all know that. But are we actually doing it?” The “doing it” part seems to be hardest for companies. I think many companies that are using Twitter and blogs and YouTube are “getting” how the tools work. But they don’t yet “get” how social media fits into a bigger strategy of open source marketing.

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