Most people would place social media and drug dealing at opposite ends of the spectrum. Gangs competing for territorial management control the world of illicit emotional enhancers. They rule their communities with iron fists, using violence, extortion, and intimidation to manipulate others. If you are tough enough, you can make a fortune.
Communities formed by individuals with similar interests are the foundation of social media. Everyone has an equal voice. People participate to connect, learn, and share. They are part of interactive networks where members help each other for the common good. There’s room for everyone to be successful. All that is required is a commitment to participate in the conversation and provide great information.
|Tip: Don’t be fooled by the low entry threshold. Success in social media requires commitment. It isn’t easy and it isn’t free.|
If this is true, why are some people in social media wildly successful while others are barely surviving?
Conventional wisdom tells us it’s the quality of the content. If you create great posts or tweets that provide value to your readers, they will tell their friends, who tell their friends, who tell…well, you get the picture. Before long you’ll have tons of followers and traffic.
Almost every day I find a new blog with an interesting writer who provides information that inspires and enlightens. But there are few retweets, no comments, and minimal traffic. The content quality criteria have been met, but the people who are supposed to come when it is built haven’t appeared.
|Tip: Create great and timeless content. Keep it timeless by removing the dates from your posts. Your great tips may not be read if they look dated.|
On the other side, some blogs announce daily that “water is wet” with a variety of synonyms (“water hydrates”, “H20 is moist”, etc.), that have thousands of clicks and hundreds of comments or tweets. Why do regurgitated posts with different headlines attract more activity than the original content on other blogs?
More important, what do those bloggers know that others don’t?
To find that answer, I started with the Advertising Age list of top marketing blogs known as the AdAge Power 150. It is a list of the top English language marketing blogs in the world. The list is compiled using an “objective ranking.” Surely there were some commonalities that would help identify why these blogs were the best.
You’ve probably seen the logo on blogs you visit. The “150” is slightly misleading because there are 1120 blogs on the list. Blogs in the top 150 include a number under the “This Blog is Ranked” statement.
Some of my favorite blogs are included in the list. I was confident that my research would reveal answers. I was not disappointed. Answers appeared, but not the ones I expected.
The top position at the time was held by Copyblogger.com. A quick look at the Alexa stats shows that the blog has a strong traffic flow.
How does it compare to the blog that holds the 150 position? SocialMouths.com occupied the 150 slot. Their traffic is less than Copyblogger’s but it is still strong.
What about the blog that is last on the list? This is the blog you have to beat to get ranked. The 1066 Blog with a URL of http://marketing.blogs.com occupies last place. It is shown below on the AdAge Power 150 list:
Notice that it has increased it’s ranking by 31 since the day before (08/29/10). It is climbing up the blog ladder of success.
How does it compare in traffic with Copyblogger’s rank of 3,712? It was significantly lower at 5 million plus. (I’ll bet it’s lower than yours!)
Inclusion of a blog with a low ranking makes sense if it targets a niche market. After all, the AdAge Power list has its own algorithm for identifying the crème de la crème. A niche blog wouldn’t have the same traffic expectations of a more general one. But, when I clicked through to the blog, I questioned the credibility of the list.
Look at the date next to the red arrow. It’s 10/30/2008!
This blog has been dead for two years, but it moved up 31 in the rankings in the past day. Something has to be wrong with this ranking. Let’s skip it and move to 1119.
According to their tagline, PowerUp provides tech marketing and PR insights. Good name, nice tagline, but where are the posts? This blog is empty, but it moved up 31 too.
Does this mean that your marketing blog is less valuable than two dead ones? No, because you have to submit your blog to be considered for inclusion.
Why would you submit your blog to a listing that ranks abandoned blogs?
If it seems like a waste of time to you, you’re not a power blogger. They know that link juice (incoming links) is one of the keys to search engine optimization (SEO). AdAge.com has hundreds of thousands of unique visitors to their site every month. Having your link there improves your SEO ranking and increases traffic to your blog.
|Tip: Learn the technical stuff. Traffic comes from incoming links and search engine optimization. Know how to make it work for you. Ignorance is your biggest barrier to success.|
Is traffic convertible into cash?
- Approximately three out of four bloggers do not generate any income, but 66% would like to eventually earn money by blogging.
- Only 17% reported that blogging was their primary source of income.
- Bloggers leverage auxiliary income from speaking, affiliates, and more.
The bottom line is that blogging provides a good income for those at the top, but the majority is struggling to get into that group.
What do successful bloggers do differently?
They create an interactive community around the blog. Membership is a privilege often paid by clicks. The reward for members is the opportunity to learn from the blogger and engage with other like-minded people.
|Tip: Use social platforms to expand your readership. Go where your community members and prospects hang out. Don’t wait for them to find you. Reach out to them.|
They know how to play the numbers game (and rarely share this information with their members). They go for the incoming links that buys those clicks and SEO rankings. The links come from blog ranking lists like the AdAge Power 150, guest posts, article/post sharing sites, comments on other people’s blogs, and other social media platforms.
Their revenue comes from multiple streams of income. This includes advertising, speaking, paid posts, affiliate links, and digital products.
All right, already! What does all of this have to do with drug dealing?
The 2005 best seller, “Freakonomics”, by Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, encourages us to challenge conventional wisdom by asking questions. They asked, “Why do drug dealers still live with their moms?” Their answer gave us a fascinating look into how a gang works.
It turns out that the gang functions very much like corporate America with the people at the top of the pyramid making the bulk of the money. The street level salesmen (foot solders) made less than minimum wage. Below the foot soldiers were the rank-and-file members who pay dues to the gang. Some paid for protection while others pay for the opportunity to become a foot soldier.
The drug dealers’ business model has four key components:
- There is a low threshold for entry. You can join with little or no education and minimal capital investment. It is a competitive field, but if you are tough enough, riches and celebrity are yours.
- They are a membership organization with the people at the top receiving the most benefits and compensation. There is little interaction between the leaders and the rank-and-file members. The foundation of the pyramid consists of people paying to be members in hopes of one day becoming a leader.
- Revenue is received from multiple streams of income. Drug sales, licensing fees (for the sale of non-competitive drugs within their territory), extortion fees, and dues contribute to the gang’s income.
- Barriers prevent people from moving up the pyramid. Rank-and-file members have to pay for the opportunity to become foot soldiers. The foot soldiers make less than minimum wage and have a 1 in 4 chance of being killed. The head of the gang is protected by his officers.
See the similarities?
If you are blogging in hopes of quitting your day job (or thinking about it), before following people’s advice (mine included), compare what they tell you to do with what they are actually doing. You often have to look carefully to see what’s happening behind the scenes.
|Tip: Follow the money. People who are on Twitter continuously chatting with others are either paid to be there or unemployed. It is impossible to mimic their activity and maintain a full-time job.|
- Do they talk about the importance of engaging readers, but never respond to comments? Or, limit their responses to people within their inner circle?
- Do they encourage the “give to get” model (where you give to the community before receiving any return), but rarely share anything that doesn’t generate a return for them?
- Do they emphasize being accessible and then make it impossible for you to contact them? Or, worse – fail to respond to your personal emails while continuously sending you promotional emails disguised as informational ones?
Remember that what works for one won’t work for everyone. Study what successful bloggers do and then decide what fits you and your community.
Tips (in case you missed them in the post):
- Create great and timeless content. Keep it timeless by removing the dates from your posts. Your great tips may not be read if they look dated.
- Learn the technical stuff. Traffic comes from incoming links and search engine optimization. Know how to make it work for you. Ignorance is your biggest barrier to success.
- Use social platforms to expand your readership. Go where your community members and prospects hang out. Don’t wait for them to find you. Reach out to them.
- Be accessible. It buys you loyalty and longevity.
- Comment on other blogs. When asked for your URL, use your blog’s address instead of your website. Many blogs have link sharing tools that mention your latest post with your comment.
- Don’t be fooled by the low entry threshold. Success in social media requires commitment. It isn’t easy and it isn’t free.
- Sign up for the social media leaders’ newsletters. Learn from their multichannel marketing. (Yes, they do it. They know that social media isn’t a stand alone marketing tool.)
- Follow the money. People who are on Twitter continuously chatting with others are either paid to be on twitter or unemployed. It is impossible to mimic their activity and maintain a full-time job.
- Test, test, and then test again. It is the only way to find what works (as opposed to what you think works.)