As the owner of a content marketing agency, I'm often impressed and amazed by the range of thoughtful questions various potential clients ask before deciding whether to hire us. Yet there's still one inquiry I can almost always count on hearing regardless of who I'm sitting with.
"What size following can you build for us on the Internet?"
I typically nod as if it's the first time I'm encountering this scenario. That's because I get where they're coming from. When I first started my own business, it was a topic I was fixated on as well. All of which is to say I understand why what I say nexr will come a bit of a shock.
"It doesn't matter," I say, "You're focusing on the wrong thing."
Once we talk it through, certain people will become our clients and others won't. I've learned not to let that bother me too much because I know I'm giving them the answer they need to hear.
Let me explain.
Sorry, You Missed Your Chance
Ten years ago there were far fewer businesspeople blogging, podcasting, tweeting, and posting. As a result, if you had something compelling to say, it was much easier to build a large fan base around your message.
Today, on the other hand, you'd be hard pressed to find a company of any size that has not at least taken a stab at social media or online content of some kind. As such, there is a huge amount of competition. Even if your message and delivery are truly compelling, your chance of creating a huge list of subscribers that will faithfully and regularly buy from you grow slimmer and slimmer every day.
And if you are one of the chosen few that is able to generate a massive following, it will still take you a whole lot of time. Gary Vaynerchuk, widely recognized as one of the leaders of fan-based Internet marketing, started his acclaimed WineLibraryTV video blog back in 2006. By his own admission, it took him eighteen months before anyone paid attention to him.
Do you have the luxury of waiting that long for the business results you want? Do you have the time to put in to make that happen?
If not, there is another path.
Become an Elitist
It has been said countless times in countless ways--business is all about who you know. Yet people often seem to overlook the unparalleled ability of the Internet to provide open access to power players that would normally be unapproachable in their flesh and blood incarnations.
When you focus too heavily on building a huge online following, it is easy to forget that the majority of your fans are there for free stuff and will never buy from you. This is especially true if you sell a business-to-business product or service, or something else that is expensive or complicated.
But if you instead concentrate on fostering a big enough following of the right kinds of people, you make your platform, your business, and yourself come across as exclusive...and by extension, desirable.
Once you've built this elite, high quality platform, use social media to selectively reach out to those influential individuals that can give your business a boost. Offer them a spot on your podcast or blog in the form of an interview or co-hosting spot. Impress them with the quality of your questions and depth of your knowledge.
You'll be astonished at how quickly this will cement your relationships with the sorts of people who will generate the referrals, joint ventures, and big ticket deals that will skyrocket your growth.
In the digital age, far too many people are still stuck on the mass media model of the printing press era. Don't be one of them.