Money, Fame, and Blogging

The great blogger Chris Brogan had an interesting post recently about thinking of your audience as “currency” – but not as “money.” It’s a particularly ripe topic because these days, with 1) the advent of social media;  2) the ease of content creation; and 3) the expectation that thought leaders will create such content, many professionals are producing more and more for free. That’s terrific news for readers, fans, and anyone who wants to learn more about your topic – but it can be a deadly path for “content creators” who spend all their time perfecting blog posts and not enough calling clients and making sales.

My grand theory?

  1. You can make plenty of money without being famous (most of probably can’t name too many hedge fund managers, yet they control the universe).
  2. Being famous helps you make even more money. Once you’re a “name,” for whatever reason (ignominious or otherwise), you can leverage that to get more contracts, speaking engagements, book deals, etc. People want to surround themselves with “the famous.” YET…
  3. You can also be famous and quite poor, if you don’t have a plan to leverage it.

In the post that served as Brogan’s jumping-off point, Julien Smith (his co-author for Trust Agents) wrote about how his blog “has no business model.” He acknowledges that the increased credibility helps him sell more books and get better speaking fees, but that he resists “hard sell” tactics and trashy products. Smith is absolutely right that pushing subpar products on readers would quickly turn them off and tarnish his reputation. But I’ll argue that his blog does indeed have a business model. For serious professionals who want to establish themselves as thought leaders, the model is “give to get.”

A blog doesn’t need to make money on its own, via affiliate marketing or Google Ad placement or whatever. (Disclosure! When I mention books I like, I use Amazon affiliate links.) But it does need to make the author money, somehow. In my case, it allows clients to “try before they buy” and get a glimpse of my thought process before they hire me for a speech or a consulting gig. It’s a good way for both of us to 1) find business soulmates or 2) weed out bad fits. After all, if you don’t like my writing style, you probably won’t like my consulting approach, and it’s far better to know that now so we don’t waste each other’s time.

As Samuel Johnson put it, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.” That may be a bit of a stretch – but he’s got a point. Blogging can be enriching for the soul, but if you’re spending a significant amount of time doing it for your business, it better also be enriching for your bank account.

How do you leverage your time blogging or using other social media to win business and get clients?

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the National Park Service. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.