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Community and the Business of Making Money

Over the weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to have a quick chat with David Bullock. Not only is he a super smart guy, especially in the crucial area of actually making money online, but he is a great bloke too. Like most people who heard him in Chicago, I am now a big, big fan.

As Chris Cree reports, David a couple of times said that he was looking at Social Media to boost his community, that he has the making money side sorted but he like many sales people wants to grow his audience connections.

As at one point I told David, perhaps naively, some of the big name IM folks already have a high level of audience persuasion that is so strong it freaks me out. Their devoted following is almost a mind control thing. They have them dancing to their tune. If they shout “jump”, their audience asks “how high?”, and are eager to. At the time I called them Puppet Masters, that they are pulling strings in order to fill their wallets.

The more I have thought about it though, the Internet Marketing product folks have always been up front about their intentions. You join their lists so they can sell to you. It’s not like you have been tricked into a cult, but have gone into it with your eyes open expecting to get a certain amount of information in return for your email address which you know will be added to a marketing list.

But people can still feel the community is tainted when selling becomes involved. How do we maintain trust and an audience bond, while knowing that at the end of it all we are still in business to pay our bills?

Why bloggers struggle I think is that they confuse selling with underhanded selling. Not all IM’ers are selling snake oil. Some have built their audience trust over time by delivering value. While some of the tactics and attitudes would seem offensive in the social media space, in their own context and culture they are doing what works. One big lesson social media folks can learn from the IM guys though is to be up front with your business.

When you come to my blog I don’t beat you over the head with my offers but they are there. I say that I am a consultant. Either way, you know I am in business. While I am happy for people to get value out of my free content, part of the reason I do what I do is that I hope when people see me share my expertise they will consider hiring me to work with them on their specific issues. Thankfully many of you do. It’s not a hidden agenda and there is no need for tricks when it is so visible. We only feel cheated when there is a bait and switch, or when things are misrepresented.

How do you feel about this? What do you think when the money subject is raised in communities? How can we do business in social media without losing the “social” aspect? I would appreciate your thoughts and comments …

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Comments

  1. Chris,

    Great article and this has actually been on my mind also since hearing both David Bullock and Brian Clark speak.

    I’ll be back to read the comments from others, but I think each person is different and each audience is different. Your book rocks! Reading it now.

  2. Chris,

    Great article and this has actually been on my mind also since hearing both David Bullock and Brian Clark speak.

    I’ll be back to read the comments from others, but I think each person is different and each audience is different. Your book rocks! Reading it now.

  3. Thanks Vicky. Yeah this was one of my many “must think about this more” thoughts πŸ™‚ You are right of course, each person and audience is different, and we must tune our approach to what works for each individual case. Do you agree though in general if you lay the cards on the table there is less chance of people feeling mislead?

  4. Thanks Vicky. Yeah this was one of my many “must think about this more” thoughts πŸ™‚ You are right of course, each person and audience is different, and we must tune our approach to what works for each individual case. Do you agree though in general if you lay the cards on the table there is less chance of people feeling mislead?

  5. That to me is a given, you must be straight forth and honest.

    I think this then ties back to Liz Strauss’ presentation that you must give your audience what they want. Sometimes your audience may not know what they want or need, especially with new bloggers. So if we focus on what is valuble to our audience and be forthright I don’t think we can go wrong.

    It does however take quite a bit of thought to find the balance.

  6. That to me is a given, you must be straight forth and honest.

    I think this then ties back to Liz Strauss’ presentation that you must give your audience what they want. Sometimes your audience may not know what they want or need, especially with new bloggers. So if we focus on what is valuble to our audience and be forthright I don’t think we can go wrong.

    It does however take quite a bit of thought to find the balance.

  7. Chris

    One of the things that draws me to your blog is that even though I know your blog helps to promote your business it isn’t force fed. I really dislike blogs that are just a front for adsense links where it seems the focus is selling disguised as a blog.

    I guess it’s the chicken and the egg question…Is the blog secondary to IM or is IM secondary to the blog? For my tastes I prefer the latter…

  8. Chris,

    great write up. To me a blog is there to server a purpose. You want to demonstrate your expertise in the subject matter so that people do consider paying for your services. Great content, creativity and audience are means to demonstrate that you are on authority in you area.

  9. Chris

    One of the things that draws me to your blog is that even though I know your blog helps to promote your business it isn’t force fed. I really dislike blogs that are just a front for adsense links where it seems the focus is selling disguised as a blog.

    I guess it’s the chicken and the egg question…Is the blog secondary to IM or is IM secondary to the blog? For my tastes I prefer the latter…

  10. Chris,

    great write up. To me a blog is there to server a purpose. You want to demonstrate your expertise in the subject matter so that people do consider paying for your services. Great content, creativity and audience are means to demonstrate that you are on authority in you area.

  11. Chris,

    I got something similar just today at my blog. A reader commented “I can’t believe your readers get all this for free!”

    My response was, that’s what I love about blogging – the sharing of information – but of course if folks want to hire my company for the execution of the ideas, we’re thrilled.

    I never hide what the blog’s purpose is, though I’m not often blatant about it. I started the blog last year to let more people know about what I do for a living, both so they can implement little tips here and there and so it can be like a customizable initial consult. Since starting the blog, clients come to us pre-sold.

    It doesn’t bother me at all knowing that you (and pretty much everybody else I read) are selling your work while “talking” to me. I’d think it was a bit odd if you weren’t!

    My 2 cents.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  12. Chris,

    I got something similar just today at my blog. A reader commented “I can’t believe your readers get all this for free!”

    My response was, that’s what I love about blogging – the sharing of information – but of course if folks want to hire my company for the execution of the ideas, we’re thrilled.

    I never hide what the blog’s purpose is, though I’m not often blatant about it. I started the blog last year to let more people know about what I do for a living, both so they can implement little tips here and there and so it can be like a customizable initial consult. Since starting the blog, clients come to us pre-sold.

    It doesn’t bother me at all knowing that you (and pretty much everybody else I read) are selling your work while “talking” to me. I’d think it was a bit odd if you weren’t!

    My 2 cents.

    Regards,

    Kelly

  13. Chris, You’re spot on. Too many people automatically assume that all selling is by definition “underhanded”. Folks who feel that way usually react quickly and loudly when any kind of selling is introduced into a community.

    I think fear of that negative reaction keeps many bloggers taking the steps required to actually produce real income from their efforts.

  14. Chris, You’re spot on. Too many people automatically assume that all selling is by definition “underhanded”. Folks who feel that way usually react quickly and loudly when any kind of selling is introduced into a community.

    I think fear of that negative reaction keeps many bloggers taking the steps required to actually produce real income from their efforts.

  15. @Vicky – Yes I guess it is back to the bloggers friends, open and authentic πŸ™‚

    @Steve – Perhaps “disguised” is the important word?

    @Khalid – Yes, providing everyone feels like there is value without exploitation, I can’t think of a less in your face way to sell a service

    @Kelly – There does seem to be a growing number of people who have no problem with bloggers being in it for business reasons. It’s not so long ago that just mentioning the words in the same breath was reason for flamefest.

    @Chris – Indeed, and it’s a shame, but there are bloggers like you out there to help show the way πŸ™‚

  16. @Vicky – Yes I guess it is back to the bloggers friends, open and authentic πŸ™‚

    @Steve – Perhaps “disguised” is the important word?

    @Khalid – Yes, providing everyone feels like there is value without exploitation, I can’t think of a less in your face way to sell a service

    @Kelly – There does seem to be a growing number of people who have no problem with bloggers being in it for business reasons. It’s not so long ago that just mentioning the words in the same breath was reason for flamefest.

    @Chris – Indeed, and it’s a shame, but there are bloggers like you out there to help show the way πŸ™‚

  17. If a blogger has not learned the art of making money and building on their social status, they need to take a look around. People like Chris Pirillo and iJustine have been doing it for a while and their fan base has grown dramatically. (Not to mention you Chris, but that should go without saying on your site)

    These are two examples of people we all can learn from about building a strong and loyal community that have become uber puppet masters as you call them. Their fan base makes decisions off of their opinions and I am sure Chris gets paid for his endorsements.

  18. If a blogger has not learned the art of making money and building on their social status, they need to take a look around. People like Chris Pirillo and iJustine have been doing it for a while and their fan base has grown dramatically. (Not to mention you Chris, but that should go without saying on your site)

    These are two examples of people we all can learn from about building a strong and loyal community that have become uber puppet masters as you call them. Their fan base makes decisions off of their opinions and I am sure Chris gets paid for his endorsements.

  19. Hi Chris,
    Congratulations for your Blog: it’s in fact a great source of information. As you say, it does advertise your job but without making it a page to sell at any cost. Too many people nowadays are advertising a new way of life where you can work little, or not at all, thanks to a online business. They fill up your Inbox with messages in order to sell your their secret.

    What you and other bloggers do instead is producing valuable content that people like me appreciate and read with interest: will I ever use your services? Perhaps in future. Will I recommend you to others? Absolutely! because I know you as an expert in this business.

    I have been reading your blog for over a year and for much of that time your daily Email was the only information about blogging I was reading. Now I have expanded my horizon, often following suggestions from your posts.

    Keep up with the great work and keep feed us with great, valuable content.

    Cheers

    Massimo

  20. Hi Chris,
    Congratulations for your Blog: it’s in fact a great source of information. As you say, it does advertise your job but without making it a page to sell at any cost. Too many people nowadays are advertising a new way of life where you can work little, or not at all, thanks to a online business. They fill up your Inbox with messages in order to sell your their secret.

    What you and other bloggers do instead is producing valuable content that people like me appreciate and read with interest: will I ever use your services? Perhaps in future. Will I recommend you to others? Absolutely! because I know you as an expert in this business.

    I have been reading your blog for over a year and for much of that time your daily Email was the only information about blogging I was reading. Now I have expanded my horizon, often following suggestions from your posts.

    Keep up with the great work and keep feed us with great, valuable content.

    Cheers

    Massimo

  21. Denise G. says:

    Chris–

    I’m new to your blog–I think I actually made it over here by way of one of Jack Humphrey’s sites–though I’m not sure how.

    At any rate, you are a breath of fresh air in many ways from so many of the IM “experts”. I can already sense that you’re an honest and forthright guy who desires to help people and, yes, even make a living through your blog. As long as those two goals are of equal importance, you should and MUST make a living here so that you can continue giving honest, real, useful information. You are NEEDED in this industry–and others like you. At least I hope there are more of you out there…;)

    Looking forward to “reading” you from now on.

  22. Denise G. says:

    Chris–

    I’m new to your blog–I think I actually made it over here by way of one of Jack Humphrey’s sites–though I’m not sure how.

    At any rate, you are a breath of fresh air in many ways from so many of the IM “experts”. I can already sense that you’re an honest and forthright guy who desires to help people and, yes, even make a living through your blog. As long as those two goals are of equal importance, you should and MUST make a living here so that you can continue giving honest, real, useful information. You are NEEDED in this industry–and others like you. At least I hope there are more of you out there…;)

    Looking forward to “reading” you from now on.

  23. I like Brian Clark’s point he made in his workshop at SOBCon: Revenue Model: yes, please!

    The sleazy IM’ers have poisoned the pond for others. Your reputation must be unassailable by providing value in order to be trusted. Trust leads to monetization opportunities.

  24. I like Brian Clark’s point he made in his workshop at SOBCon: Revenue Model: yes, please!

    The sleazy IM’ers have poisoned the pond for others. Your reputation must be unassailable by providing value in order to be trusted. Trust leads to monetization opportunities.

  25. Chris, good post. Money can insult community. But it can also foster it. It often depends on the nature of the community and the money-making offerings being sold in that community.

    Yes, honesty is imperative. It’s no good to make someone think one thing and then do another.

    Another must is integration. What you sell and how you sell it must be integrated with what your community members, your customers, would expect.

  26. Chris, good post. Money can insult community. But it can also foster it. It often depends on the nature of the community and the money-making offerings being sold in that community.

    Yes, honesty is imperative. It’s no good to make someone think one thing and then do another.

    Another must is integration. What you sell and how you sell it must be integrated with what your community members, your customers, would expect.

  27. Chirs,

    Very good post. I have A LOT of online friends who feel like all the IMers are underhanded. I on the other hand enjoy what many of them have to offer. The marketing they do isn’t any different than the marketing I have seen on tv and heard on the radio ever since I was a little kid. Now, I don’t like it when they use techniques that are flat out lies, but many of them don’t cross that line.

  28. Chirs,

    Very good post. I have A LOT of online friends who feel like all the IMers are underhanded. I on the other hand enjoy what many of them have to offer. The marketing they do isn’t any different than the marketing I have seen on tv and heard on the radio ever since I was a little kid. Now, I don’t like it when they use techniques that are flat out lies, but many of them don’t cross that line.

  29. Interesting you bring this up now and it’s something I’ve been thinking a LOT about lately. I think we all need to be very careful how we treat prospective clients. It feels a little like there are a few out there with under-handed techniques that are tainting the whole industry.

  30. Interesting you bring this up now and it’s something I’ve been thinking a LOT about lately. I think we all need to be very careful how we treat prospective clients. It feels a little like there are a few out there with under-handed techniques that are tainting the whole industry.

  31. Just wanted to agree with Denise G.

  32. Just wanted to agree with Denise G.

  33. I have gotten better at spotting those who are underhanded. It’s when sites or blogs are munipulative or not upfront that really gets me. I struggle with this constantly because my industry often is misunderstood. I am hoping that people will see in my blog and in my sharing that it’s the person behind the blog that makes the difference. That person though still has to earn a living!

  34. I have gotten better at spotting those who are underhanded. It’s when sites or blogs are munipulative or not upfront that really gets me. I struggle with this constantly because my industry often is misunderstood. I am hoping that people will see in my blog and in my sharing that it’s the person behind the blog that makes the difference. That person though still has to earn a living!

  35. The thought of money is not always bad and if you are attracting community that thinks mixing free content with business is an obnoxious idea, then perhaps you are attracting the wrong audience.

    Chris, I like your style: offer useful content and unobtrusively let your audience know what business you do and then leave it on them if they want to hire you or not. And I think this is the greatest advantage of social media like blogging: you can promote your business without thrusting it down your visitors’ throats.

  36. The thought of money is not always bad and if you are attracting community that thinks mixing free content with business is an obnoxious idea, then perhaps you are attracting the wrong audience.

    Chris, I like your style: offer useful content and unobtrusively let your audience know what business you do and then leave it on them if they want to hire you or not. And I think this is the greatest advantage of social media like blogging: you can promote your business without thrusting it down your visitors’ throats.

  37. This is one of those articles whose links i have followed to get to know another great blog, another great person this time being david bullock and believe me i have found out so many new and interesting blogs from your blog be it via guest posts or by your post!!

    Thanks chris!! thanks a lot!!

  38. This is one of those articles whose links i have followed to get to know another great blog, another great person this time being david bullock and believe me i have found out so many new and interesting blogs from your blog be it via guest posts or by your post!!

    Thanks chris!! thanks a lot!!

  39. I agree. The key is absolutely being very upfront about who you are, what your site or blog is about, and any (financial) expectations you may have about your public. If people go into a relationship with you with all of that known, it’s hard to argue impropriety.

    I decided to hook up with a few of the leading IMs on Facebook, befriended them as one of their subscribers, and before I knew it, a ton of others saw that I was so “connected” and I received many friend requests. Hmm. Then a few of these new “friends” hit the boards hard with “buy this” and “check this out”. The good news of course is the “delete friend” button is close to hand.

    But I keep having this nagging thought: I think there’s an IM strategy making its way around that goes like this: “promote yourself hard and heavy, don’t worry about those who drop off your list, they’ll drop anyway, and count up your money at the end of the day. Get a good night’s sleep and then get up and promote yourself hard and heavy the next day.”

    That strategy appears to work for those who have the big numbers on their list or simply don’t care how many people they offend on Facebook, etc.

    I think it comes down to motivation. If you’re motivated just to make money, you’re willingness to tactlessly market is considerably higher than if you’re motivated to make a living and really good relationships along the way.

  40. I agree. The key is absolutely being very upfront about who you are, what your site or blog is about, and any (financial) expectations you may have about your public. If people go into a relationship with you with all of that known, it’s hard to argue impropriety.

    I decided to hook up with a few of the leading IMs on Facebook, befriended them as one of their subscribers, and before I knew it, a ton of others saw that I was so “connected” and I received many friend requests. Hmm. Then a few of these new “friends” hit the boards hard with “buy this” and “check this out”. The good news of course is the “delete friend” button is close to hand.

    But I keep having this nagging thought: I think there’s an IM strategy making its way around that goes like this: “promote yourself hard and heavy, don’t worry about those who drop off your list, they’ll drop anyway, and count up your money at the end of the day. Get a good night’s sleep and then get up and promote yourself hard and heavy the next day.”

    That strategy appears to work for those who have the big numbers on their list or simply don’t care how many people they offend on Facebook, etc.

    I think it comes down to motivation. If you’re motivated just to make money, you’re willingness to tactlessly market is considerably higher than if you’re motivated to make a living and really good relationships along the way.

  41. Chris, you’ve got it… it’s all about being upfront (and proud) of what you offer to make money.

    If people want to consume my free content and buy something I offer, excellent.

    If people want to consume my free content and NOT buy something I offer, that’s OK too.

    If people want to consume my free content and not only NOT buy something I offer but also bitch and moan that I make the offers, well, I think it would be better if they went elsewhere.

  42. Chris, you’ve got it… it’s all about being upfront (and proud) of what you offer to make money.

    If people want to consume my free content and buy something I offer, excellent.

    If people want to consume my free content and NOT buy something I offer, that’s OK too.

    If people want to consume my free content and not only NOT buy something I offer but also bitch and moan that I make the offers, well, I think it would be better if they went elsewhere.

  43. Hi Chris,

    How does one get their photo inserted next to their comment? The default picture reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie…

  44. Hi Chris,

    How does one get their photo inserted next to their comment? The default picture reminds me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie…

  45. @Koka – Yup, I think most people realize now that a lot of the recommendations come with commissions and that is ok while the products match up to what is said

    @Massimo – Thanks, much appreciated. I think what you say is key, it’s not just about reaching out to people who will buy things but also people who know others who might need what you offer, but always value FIRST

    @Denise – And I look forward to seeing you back here in the comments πŸ™‚

    @Michael – Exactly – Trust is paramount and oh so easy to lose πŸ™‚

    @Easton – Good point, your community goals have to be in alignment, it’s about everything being consistent and congruent

    @George – I do think social media is held up to higher standard than, say, tv. Perhaps it is because of the two way conversational nature?

    @Kate – It doesn’t take much to taint it either does it?

    @Evan – Thanks πŸ™‚

    @Mother Earth – That’s an advantage of blogging, it’s not a one-hit thing but you can build trust over a period of time and the visitor can slowly get to know you. People usually work out who is for real and who is just pushing product this way.

    @Amrit – Yup, it is a much better long term approach than a SALES NOW tactic πŸ™‚

    @A geek – David is a complete rock star, definitely someone to keep watching πŸ™‚

    @Stan – I see it as “be nice on the way up …” because some of those people who think I don’t need anybody, just get the $ might be needing friends down the line and find they burned all their trust long ago

    @Brian – That’s a good point, have pride in what you do. If you are not proud, then it will look shady, even though you are just being shy. Better to stand behind your offer than hide it away.

    @Stan – Get your gravatar at http://www.gravatar.com then when you comment it will automatically show your face πŸ™‚

  46. @Koka – Yup, I think most people realize now that a lot of the recommendations come with commissions and that is ok while the products match up to what is said

    @Massimo – Thanks, much appreciated. I think what you say is key, it’s not just about reaching out to people who will buy things but also people who know others who might need what you offer, but always value FIRST

    @Denise – And I look forward to seeing you back here in the comments πŸ™‚

    @Michael – Exactly – Trust is paramount and oh so easy to lose πŸ™‚

    @Easton – Good point, your community goals have to be in alignment, it’s about everything being consistent and congruent

    @George – I do think social media is held up to higher standard than, say, tv. Perhaps it is because of the two way conversational nature?

    @Kate – It doesn’t take much to taint it either does it?

    @Evan – Thanks πŸ™‚

    @Mother Earth – That’s an advantage of blogging, it’s not a one-hit thing but you can build trust over a period of time and the visitor can slowly get to know you. People usually work out who is for real and who is just pushing product this way.

    @Amrit – Yup, it is a much better long term approach than a SALES NOW tactic πŸ™‚

    @A geek – David is a complete rock star, definitely someone to keep watching πŸ™‚

    @Stan – I see it as “be nice on the way up …” because some of those people who think I don’t need anybody, just get the $ might be needing friends down the line and find they burned all their trust long ago

    @Brian – That’s a good point, have pride in what you do. If you are not proud, then it will look shady, even though you are just being shy. Better to stand behind your offer than hide it away.

    @Stan – Get your gravatar at http://www.gravatar.com then when you comment it will automatically show your face πŸ™‚

  47. Hi Chris,

    it’s been mentioned here a couple of times. Gaining people’s trust is the most important thing you need to achieve. Without it you have no chance of building a lasting relationship let alone business.

    Once you lose people’s trust there is no way you can get that back. Even worse, a bad reputation gets around just as easily as a good one.

    What you do online must be morally and ethically correct. Only then do you have a basis to build your business on.

    Michael

  48. Hi Chris,

    it’s been mentioned here a couple of times. Gaining people’s trust is the most important thing you need to achieve. Without it you have no chance of building a lasting relationship let alone business.

    Once you lose people’s trust there is no way you can get that back. Even worse, a bad reputation gets around just as easily as a good one.

    What you do online must be morally and ethically correct. Only then do you have a basis to build your business on.

    Michael