Saturday, November 26, 2011

When Your Fans Love Your Work - and Treat It Like Their Own

In an increasingly digital world, there are two kind of content creators: The Open and The Closed.

Closed content creators are focused on the rules of content use that they grew up with in the 20th century. Content is the sole possession of its creator and/or the company that licensed that content. While Fair Use is often acknowledged by both content creators and users, some companies are less likely to actually allow free and fair use of images and words - even when that use actually affects their bottom line positively.

In a world where tools to create video, audio, illustrative and text-based mashups and parodies are common, and information available on the Internet is seen as open-source, even when it is copyrighted, it becomes critical for any company to know when to establish Fair Use policies for consumers of that company's content.

Most companies react to their consumer's use of their content with the legal equivalent of swatting at a swarm of mosquitoes. These shotgun tactics might, in fact, slow down use of your content, but just as swatting at mosquitoes is unlikely to eradicate biting, this kind of legal action does little in the long run to stop consumer reworking of your content.

More importantly, in many cases, there are perfectly good reasons why you should encourage your consumers to take your content and run with it.

Today we're going to look at situations when you should allow your consumers to use and reuse your content.

When to Become an Open Content Creator:

When you have nothing to lose

You and your company are just getting started, you have a modest audience and a modest market. At this point, the absolute most important thing for you is to get the word out. In this case, it's probably the best of all worlds if you provide your consumers with materials to mashup, remake and parody. Create contests where you set the usage rules. Provide images and ideas, even tools to help your fans create and expand your audience.

When you have a huge audience

Let's be honest here. Is a fan-written story about Harry Potter really a threat to the franchise? No, and despite what Warner Brothers says, it never can be. The reality is that every story, every piece of art, every parody video keesp that fandom alive one more day. And it may even draw a new fan in, long after the series itself has ended.

When your name has saturated the potential audience, let go of your creation. There is nothing anyone can do to hurt you.

When you are growing rapidly beyond your ability to manage

Your new idea has gone viral. Peoples' interest in it is off the charts. You cannot and should not attempt to control the property. Let it fly, let it live! Allow your advocates to work for you through contests and rewards. Give them a chance to be part of your team while your real team upgrades the site infrastructure.

When your potential audience is small

There's niches, and there's micro-niches. A niche is marketing to Lithuanians, priests, or left-handed people. A micro-niche is marketing to left-handed Lithuanian priests. There are only going to be so many people who fit your niche, no matter how much promotion you do.

Because you cannot knock on doors to find every single person who might potentially be out there who would be the perfect market for your product or service, it makes a lot of sense to let your audience help you. When they can remix and rework your content so that it attracts new consumers, it's a win-win for everyone.

Giving your fans a chance to own your work makes them more likely to want to own your work.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Care and Feeding of Influencers and Advocates

Companies are spending a lot of money and time identifying people who are Influencers in their industries. They slice and dice their own data to see who their Advocates are in their Social spaces. But, what, exactly, do companies do with this data once the have it? Too often they attempt to hitch their cart to these people and let them do the heavy pulling for them.

The importance of Influencers on your business shouldn't be downplayed. Influencers in certain industries can make or break a company in early stages. The right kind of coverage on the right blog can be the difference between great success or relative obscurity. Influencers see you as someone they want their audience to know about.

Advocates are members of your market that spend their time praising you/your business, sharing information with other people in their own networks and generally expanding your ability to get the word out...because they like you, your product, your goals and your voice. Advocates see you as someone they want their friends to know about.

Many companies make the mistake of seeing Influencers and Advocates as people over there, not people who are right there by their side. Or as animals to harness and pull the company cart. Or numbers to be measured and used, rather than valuable members of the team, to be integrated into the business strategy.

So, how should one take care of Influencers and Advocates?

Influencers and Advocates are, first and foremost, relationships that need to be built up. Sending out well-written press releases is important, but actually taking time to meet, speak with, and build up a relationship with an Influencer is the difference between someone reporting your press release and someone writing a glowing post about the press release.

Listen to what is being said by your Influencers and Advocates. This is an easy point of contact for you to engage those people talking about you. When someone who links to you all over the webs says, "this new thing - it's not so great," stop what you're doing and ask why. That Advocate might have a personal beef, but they might very well put their finger on a weak point that you never saw. You won't know unless you listen to them. An Influencer in the space who calls attention to your new product could be the difference between an amazing launch, and something much less amazing. Know what has been said, know who says it. Listen to those comments and absorb the insight into your strategy and tactics.

Acknowledge contributions made by your Advocates - thanks Persons 1, 2 and 3 for a lot of insightful comments recently! And thank those who retweet and share, as well. Thank Influencers for their time in mentioning you. Every kind word from an Influencer in your field is another person out there who has their eye on you, waiting to be impressed.

Reward positive gain behavior. Don't offer reward for minimal efforts such as Liking, but do take time to notice the time and effort your Advocates put in for you. "Hey, we notice that you're really being awesome and we wanted to say thanks" goes a very long way. Influencers often can't legally take gifts, and in any case that is not the relationship or reputation you want to build, but taking a moment to thank someone for their Influence and promotion is never a moment wasted.

The more you listen to, and talk with your Influencers and Advocates, the more of a relationship you build.

Take good care of your Influencers and Advocates, don't try to harness them to do your dirty work. It's your cart - put in your best effort to pull it yourself and your Influencers and Advocates will pitch in right there next to you.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are you a Social Media Hobo?

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It seems that everywhere you go these days, someone is shaking a can for Social Media recognition. In a desperate attempt to be seen as Influencers and Taste Makers, every company - and many individuals - are making it so easy for you to share their wisdom, that websites and social media profiles are practically covered with widgets, toolbars, and sharing icons.

At what cost?

Are you missing the forest for the trees in your pursuit of a piece of the Social Media pie? Take a honest look at your content. Is it fresh? Is it interesting? Is it yours?  But...who cares if that information is yours originally? A retweet or a share might get your audience acting...that's good enough right?

It's all well and good to aggregate, share and inform, but what people really want is information they haven't seen before, information they can use. They want information that entertains and informs and, in some cases, enrages.

Experts that aren't creating their own content, but are asking for recognition from their audience, have become Social Media hobos. They aren't contributing. It may be the easy way to a higher Peerindex, but there's nothing authentic about it.

You can make a difference in your field. You do have time to write an insightful post on your blog, or create a simple, meaningful infographic.

You are the expert in your area, there's no need to be riding someone else's train.

Put down the can and stand up from the stoop - don't beg for follows, likes or shares. No one respects a Social Media hobo.

Be the expert you are in your field and you'll get the respect you deserve.

Project Wonderful