Monetizing Your Leaderboard

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The trouble with new media is that it’s hard to tell the pretenders from the professionals.

If an individual with no followers on Twitter has decades of real-life work experience and the individual with hundreds of thousands of followers only pontificates, plagiarizes and hasn’t proven themselves in-market, what is the consumer supposed to do? It’s not all that hard to establish some kind of Social Media beachfront and – with a few tactical moves – quickly gain notoriety and respect in a digital kind of way, but you can’t fake a portfolio.

You can’t fake a track record, either.

If you’re not sure if you’re getting expert advice, ask to see a portfolio, ask to see results and ask to speak to past clients. Social Media goes both ways. If you think someone is a fraud, why not leverage Social Media to figure it out. This past week, Media Hacks co-host, friend and Social Media darling, Chris Brogan (co author of Trust Agents with Julien Smith), took flack (which, for some reason, he is a lightning rod for) over a webinar he created on showing people how to use Google + (more on that here: Selling Information). The argument goes that no one can claim to be an expert on something that is so new. Brogan was also called "very opportunistic," according to Gini Dietrich over at Spin Sucks in her Blog post, Beware The Google + Experts (I’d recommend reading the comments too, but there are close to 450 of them, so pack a lunch), and the debate has raged on all week (yes, I realize how very "high school" most of this is).

Ask. Just ask.

I readily admit that Google + has been a challenge for me. Not in understanding what it does and how it works, but in getting my circles organized and really spending some time, neck-deep in it, to figure out the value proposition (for me and my clients at Twist Image). When I saw that Chris was offering a webinar on it, I seriously considered attending and paying for it. Yes, I’m sure there are a lot of free tutorials online via YouTube or great Blog posts that explain how to make it work, but none of those are Chris Brogan’s perspective on it. When it comes to explaining these online tools and platforms, I always learn something new from Chris (and I’m not just saying that because I consider him a friend). He’s smart, he sees the business implications and – if I’m going to be very raw here – I often disagree with him, so watching him explain something (especially when I disagree) helps me to formulate my own perspective. If I didn’t know Chris and I was skeptical about someone giving a webinar on Google +, I’d simply hop over to Twitter and tweet: "I’m considering taking @chrisbrogan’s webinar on Google +. Has anyone ever taken one of his webinars before? Worth it?" The feedback I receive could then be parsed by both the content and the person writing it (and my relationship to them). If you don’t know an individual, a business or a brand, It’s not all that hard anymore to find out if Brogan (or any other brand) offers value on the dollar.

You can’t run. You can’t hide.

Chris and I are very different people who run in very similar circles. I don’t have any plans to monetize the people who read this Blog (or listen to my Podcast or read my articles). My endgame is the client work we’re doing at Twist Image and every piece of content that you see out of me (free or paid) is either me thinking things through in public and/or me creating awareness and attention about the agency. Chris is monetizing his leaderboard. He works hard to create tons of content for free in the hopes that people click links and buy something (a book, a speaking event, a webinar, a company consultation). That’s his business and he’s been successful at it… and he seems happy about it. The truth is that whether or not he positions himself as an expert is irrelevant: the market will decide. If the free content doesn’t strike a chord, the audience leaves. If the paid content doesn’t strike a chord, his family goes hungry. To me, that’s the amazing thing about Social Media: the market is live, in real-time and it’s speaking with their hearts, minds and wallets for all to see and hear.

Sounds like good business to me.


  1. I follow some of the social media crowd on Twitter and I reacted strongly to the storm of controversy that Chris’s webinar produced. I realize that Google+ is new but my reaction when Chris announced the webinar was “someone who has invested the hours figuring out a new tool is going to share what they learned”. To me – that’s natural and it is also natural to charge. I was surprised at how quickly people came out swinging and name calling.
    As context, I don’t know Chris. I read his blog and follow him on Twitter. I haven’t seen him speak, and I haven’t read his book (it is on the list). But I do respect the time and energy he puts into what he does, and the point of view he brings. Offering the webinar seemed like a logical choice to me – I see things like that all the time in my profession.
    But that’s the difference I think. I can’t figure out how to phrase this so bear with me. I work in a mature profession but one that often has radical shifts. Accounting – and yes we do have major changes that are the equivalent of a Google+. When we have one of those radical shifts – like the introduction of CSox, IFRS or major changes in PSAB or changes in GAAP – it is not unusual for individuals or organizations to put on seminars very, very early in the game and then on an ongoing basis. My reaction is ‘oh good – they invested the time to read it all and can tell me how it impacts this situation’. They do this to make money and sometimes in hopes of getting consulting business helping with the transition.
    Similarly to the introduction of Google+, accountants don’t have to take those seminars. We have the option of doing the research on our own, reading whatever free material is out there, etc. And before we choose a seminar – we check the credentials of the person/organization offering.
    That’s the place I come from. So I was surprised at the backlash, and offended by what some people wrote. Perhaps it is as simple as I am not in your profession, but I don’t get it. I’m glad you added your perspective to the issue.

  2. I attended the webinar and I am no slouch when it comes to using Social for business or figuring stuff. But I know Chris through his blog, his book, Media Hacks podcast etc. In a way he’s like Seth Godin, some people love him so don’t, sometimes they both state the most obvious things.
    The biggest difference though, is they both add value.
    His webinar was a “Here’s what I think and this is what I’ve found out” with a “What are your thoughts session on the back”. I went in with my own thoughts on the platform and I wanted Chris to confirm my thinking or otherwise.
    I paid for the clarification from an expert in the field, that I trust, this is my call.
    At the end of the day Chris is filling a need in the Market, he is shipping and doing it on a regular basis. I’d take that any day over some la di da pin stripe with a PowerPoint 6 months behind the curve.

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