Monetize Influence and Lessen It

There is a movement about how to monetize individual blogger and online personality influence. Influencers considering monetization of their online trust should also weigh how such strategies can lessen trust within a community, and hurt search rank.

This old debate goes back to paid blogging and affiliate marketing. As in those past cases, every influencer today needs to weigh how monetization efforts tax their good will.

Influence online is often a result of becoming an integral part of a community and providing good information. When you add affiliate links, sponsorship, consultancies, clients, advertisements, products and other forms of monetization to the mix, a transition occurs. In the paid, earned, and owned model of media, you are moving from earned (natural word of mouth) to owned or paid media. Both of those types of media are less trustworthy to communities.

Part of building trust is putting your customer ahead of profits and operating honestly. It’s no coincidence that one of the biggest causes of trust deterioration in the financial sector is conflict of interest and scandals.

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No one wants to begrudge monetization. Creating and building a significant online presence takes a strong and sustained consistent effort over months and years. Peer trust requires consistency. Why shouldn’t one benefit from it?

Certainly, done in a strategic way, such as books on a topical area, paid speaking gigs and the like, business strategies can actually enhance a strategy. But others add a factor of distrust.

When I read a consultant’s blog about xxx professional service area that the author is promoting a business. And I take that into context. So do most readers.

People take these motives into consideration when they read my blog posts and books on marketing. I’ve been told so by more discerning customers.

That’s why I am very careful about how many asks I make of readers, the content I share, the lack of paid advertisements here, etc. For example, I almost never take pitched blog ideas, and don’t offer affiliate links. The trade off isn’t worth it, in my opinion, especially considering that I consult, sell books, and raise money for causes here.

The suggestion that one should monetize influence may not be constructed correctly. Rather, a personality should weigh whether that monetization strategy is worth the negative impact.

What do you think?

Differentiation Requires Show, Not Tell

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Image by Eric Lim

The Internet and in particular social media have empowered thousands, perhaps millions, to start their own businesses. One outcome of the social media movement is how easily people become “thought leaders” or topical influencers.

As a result, we have many paper tigers running about, almost indistinguishable from the ones with real teeth with one singular exception: Results.

Last week for PRSA-NCC and this morning during a keynote at Brand Camp NYC I discussed this exception, and its critical role in creating true market leadership.

When content and personal branding techniques online quack and act like ducks, many readers are quick to believe. Yet results are not necessarily associated to the voices, creating a problem. Because we have hit a saturation point, more businesses are becoming discerning in their choices of vendors, digging deeper than what’s published on a blog post or LinkedIn group.

As time continues and social becomes a place overburdened with branded marketing content and voices, differentiation requires more. Pundits are a dime a dozen these days, real businesspeople are not.

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Actors and Directors

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If you listen to conversations about online power — at least those supported by bloggers — strength centers on the individual voice. Yet, now that big money has arrived online, the solitary influential voice represents a role player in the Internet ecosystem.

Let’s use a metaphor to illustrate this point: Hollywood and its power structure of actors, directors and producers. Individual voices represent actors. Entities like budget-rich companies investing in online media, traditional media companies, publishing houses, and already successful individuals are the directors and producers.

This is not to demean individuals that have made a name for themselves online. Consistently excelling online as an influencer takes significant effort. There’s a reason why so many social media voices are obsessed with influence.

You can debate whether people garner attention or become noteworthy for achievements, but long-term success is not an accident. It’s the result of doing something right consistently over time.

Back to the metaphor… Everybody wants to work with the most successful actors (cough, stars [ugh]). We know this. Any blogger just needs to show you their in-box and the heaps of spam pitches they receive as proof points.

BUT.
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Tim Berners-Lee: You Can’t Quantify Potential Influence

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The highlight of my SxSW experience this weekend was meeting Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web. I took the opportunity to ask Sir Berners-Lee what he thought of social influence metrics like Klout, Kred and PeerIndex.

His response was remarkable, but before I share it with you let me frame the scene.

Sir Berners-Lee is clearly a savant. He is so brilliant he struggled with the bloggy attention he received at the IEEE SxSW reception. When he talk, he gestured somewhat wildly, and was clearly aware of the surrounding cameras. It was exactly how I imagine Einstein would function in this 21st century world of cameras, tweets, and instant access… Like a brilliant wild person forced to live in a zoo.

I immediately recognized time would be short with this man, that he would move on quickly. So I listened intently.
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Big Data, Influencers, Privacy and Other Digital Termites

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Image by NEXT Berlin

Andrew Keen remains the most constant and prolific critic of digital media advances and their impact on society. His books Digital Vertigo and Cult of the Amateur have made him a bit of a pariah in some circles, and an intellectual hero in others.

He was the ideal choice to close xPotomac on February 25, as the conference discussed future technologies. This podcast offers a sneak preview, which is also transcribed below… We got into all sorts of fun things, including big data, influencers, privacy and other digital termites.

GL: Well, we’re really excited to have you here in D.C. and I can’t wait to see you. First of all, for people that don’t know you, why don’t you quickly explain your background to them and what you did with Digital Vertigo.

AK: So I’m a writer, I’m a broadcaster, entrepreneur, accountant of a company, Audio Café, I have a weekly show on TechCrunch, columns for other people including CNN, written two books Quasi Amateur, which was critical of web 2.0 and the democratization of the Internet. I just came out with a new book this year Digital Vertigo, which is critical of technology’s obsession with transparency and openness.

Some people see me as a technology reactionary. I’m not really. I’m as wired as anyone.

But, I am more skeptical of some of the social and cultural consequences and see the way in which the web continues to disintermediate both the experts and the creative class: the writers, musicians, filmmakers. I don’t think generally it’s benefitted creative people. It’s been great for entrepreneurs, great for programmers, technologists, investors and VCs, but not so great for the creative industry.

GL: In your mind, how does big data fit into that picture and what are the challenges that we’re facing with it?

AK: Well, big data is the current buzzword when it comes to describing the world we’re living in. I fear this: On the web we’ve all essentially become data. There’s an excellent writer, he wrote a cook called The Information, James Gleick, and he writes we’ve become data, we’ve become data in the Digital Age.

I think he’s right. We are distributing ourselves on the network, and I’m fearful of the impact it has both on our privacy, in terms of our identity and of our relationship with each other. I fear that the more we reveal about ourselves, the lonelier we become, the more we actually destroy the social.

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Why Serial Complainers Lose Credibility

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Image by Rain

So why do serial complainers lose credibility on and offline?

We all know these people, the kvetch or worse, the troll, the person that always brings a storm cloud whenever they discuss an issue.

Publicly everyone listens, privately they get dismissed on the back channel as a hater or worse. Eventually, people stop listening all together.

The title alone is the answer, specifically, repeat complaining.

In social communities the consistent malcontent becomes the equivalent of the boy who cried wolf. In fact, if the malcontent goes so far as to hurt others, they breed a form of reciprocity that no one really wants to see, vengeance.

A German study from the Institute for the Study of Labor shows that negative acts create a similar responsive reciprocity, a willingness to harm those who previously acted against the surveyed individual.
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