I am Monetization
The number one question I get from photographers considering migrating into social media is a 'show me the money' kind of question. In other words, photographers want to know, and rightly so, if they can monetize their involvement in social media. It's a legitimate question. But usually asked with a lot of attitude. As though ROI is the most determinative criteria for involvement in social media.
My good friend, Rosh Sillars (over at NewMediaPhotographer.com and @newmediaphoto on Twitter), talks about ROI in social media...not as 'return of investment', but as 'return-of-influence'. I couldn't agree more!
You see, in almost all social media platforms and communities, influence precedes invoices. Buzz precedes biz. Conversation precedes commerce. Connection precedes monetization. You can't talk capital and coin...until you talk character and content.
You can most definitely monetize your involvement in social media. But it will take time. A lot of time. Not unlike any corresponding offline efforts to market, sell, promote. There is plenty of money to be made in and through social media. But it will only come at the expense of bring a trusted, admired and highly respected content specialist.
If you're brand new to social media, it will be a lot healthier and productive to think of social media in these terns - influence, sway, leverage, clout, muscle, stature, rank, authority, power, command, rule. These drivers may, at some point, help you turn content into cash. But you'll never get to cash unless you develop a tribal following.
Social media, in it's simplest form, is about conversation and collaboration. Fan to fan. Friend to friend. Follower to follower. One conversation at a time.
If you consistently establish yourself as a content expert, and generously give great content to those who follow you...then yes, over time the door will undoubtedly swing open. And provide you a platform to monetize your products and services to your target audience. But again, I repeat, developing a context for monetizing your products and services takes a lot of time. And trust. And honesty. And credibility. And conversation. And consistency over time.
Don't show up trying to sell stuff. It just doesn't work. It won't fly. Social media audiences, across all platforms, have built-in radar against opportunists and salesmanship. Instead, show up with an open mind. And an open heart. Give freely. Without conditions. Then give some more. This is the true path to social media monetization that few will take. And even fewer...achieve. But those who do, will cash in.
Social media is not advertising. But it can set a context for advertising. Social media is not direct marketing. But it can set a context for direct marketing. Social media is not a direct sales channel. But it can set a context for direct selling. Social media is not a promotional channel. But it can set a context for self-promotion.
You share, before you sell. You hold out your hand in help, before you hold out your hand to receive. You learn, before you earn. You contribute, before you're contributed to.
Don't think of social media like a cash register. It's not. Think of it more like an open bar. Where there are lots of interesting folks and plenty of lively and honest conversation. Lots of give and take. No pressure. No salesmanship. No showmanship. Patrons helping patrons.
You can make money in and through social media if you go about it slowly, gently, diplomatically, cautiously. But don't do it as soon as you arrive. Pay your dues. Engage. Develop a reputation and following first. Commit to communicate. Join multiple conversations. Then, and only then, integrate a monetization strategy.
I have personally seen and read success stories from portrait, wedding and event photographers who have monetized social media. Some a little. Some a lot. Substantially more than those in advertising, editorial, corporate, and stock photography. But I'm also seeing signs of earning potential in these sectors, too. As more and more working pros join the social media conversation.
Remember, we're still on the cusp of this social media revolution. The rules of engagement are still being written. No one knows what the future holds.
What I do know, and have known my whole life, is that people buy from people they like. Trust. Connect with. Care for. Can rely on. Believe in. Appreciate. Engage with. So get this part right. Influence before invoice. Buzz before biz. Conversation before commerce. Connection before monetization.
There is plenty of loot, greenbacks, shekels, dinero, moola...for all of us to enjoy. Go slow. Don't get ahead of yourself. Don't let greed shorten your 'return-of-influence'. Pay those dues. Invest the time now. Then reap the benefits down the road!