The biggest question I hear now is "Can you make money off of media?" That question isn't just about social media, but all kinds of media. For traditional media, most people are leaning toward a "no" answer, even though many people are still trying. For new media (blogs, social networks, podcasting) most lean toward "no" but with a question mark because they are hoping they are wrong. they think they might be able to, but they can't figure it out.
Speaking from personal experience now (experience over the past 6 years since I got into this, I've decided upon a definite "yes" for both. There is a "however" attached to it.
Media can be a profit center, but only when you change your definition of what a profit center is. There was a time when revenues were directly attributed to media investment (primarily advertising) But there was never a direct correlation. The more you invested in media, the greater your revenues grew. That seemed to be a direct enough correlation for any company. Then the internet came along and people believed that it would be able to give that direct correlation that everyone really wanted. Well, not everyone. Just bean counters and engineers. And what's more, investing in internet media was going to be a lot cheaper than print or broadcast.
Well, the last part was definitely true. It was cheaper. And because it was cheaper, companies started investing in internet media while dropping their overall investment in media in general. The result was that revenues started to drop and when the companies started using the wonderful measurement tools the internet promised them, they could not find the direct correlation between revenue and media investment. So they cut their budgets even more. And revenue dried up even faster.
The media industry went into recession long before the rest of the world and it started when they began telling customers that they could give them the detailed information and connection they needed with the most important customers that would raise revenues. They were wrong and they shot themselves in the foot, ankle, kneecap and hip in the process. They may never recover.
Unless they, and all the rest of us decide to relearn what media does for the bottom line:
It engineers opinion in the marketplace of ideas.
The keys in that phrase, that has been around for more than 100 years, are "opinion" and "ideas." Neither of those two phrases are concrete. They are abstract, wibbly wobbly balls of concept. For some people they can be very clear, for many others they cannot. But both are incredibly powerful tools for driving success, and they are influenced more by emotion than intellect. You can't really measure it. You can't really control it. It's not science. It's art. And that makes bean counters and engineers very nervous and wary.
As I said, I've been kicking around the world of social media for about 6 years. I sat back and stared at it for two years before that. About three years ago I started sharing what I had figured out about social media with friends and colleagues. Something really strange started happening for some of them who decided to take what I was saying bout it to heart.
They started to make money. They got better jobs. Their companies started turning around. They started hiring employees. Then one of them finally came to me and said, "Lou, you really should be charging for this kind of information."
Physician, heal thyself.
For the next few weeks I'm going to start sharing some things that I've discovered in the past few years. It will be enough to get you interested, but not enough to get you to the other side. I've decided to stop giving away what I know. I now have a couple of clients who are actually paying me to share this information, and you may be hearing about them in the coming months.
It can be done. You can make money off of media investment.