Social Media Club: The new age of blog monetisation

“The challenge is finding that niche and filling that content”
— Karla Courtney

“I’ve never met a successful blogger who made out to be a successful blogger” — Daniel Kjellsson

The unfilled promise of blog monetisation

Blog writing came out on the night as a loss leader for the majority of “pro-bloggers”. Neither of the two bloggers on the panel professed to making a full time living from their blogs and both maintain their roles as journalists. So it seems that it is same as it ever was, with blogs being a marketing channel to other activities like professional writing in these cases, consulting, workshops, teaching and in some cases store fronts.

Capitalising on readership figures

The blogs represented and cited on the night have healthy audience figures from the tens of thousands to the hundreds of thousands. Despite this, ads and sponsorship do not compensate their writers for the effort involved in creating the quality content that attracts these significant audiences. In an effort to capitalise on the popularity of her blog Karla Courtney will be creating an exhibition related to her photography and hopes to generate some income via this stream.

If you check out Patty Huntington’s frockwriter you will see that she is experimenting with a paywall service. She reported that it provides a small monthly income but that loyal readers still go to efforts to jump the paywall — proving that it’s difficult to overcome the expectation that content online should be free.

An example cited, which I haven’t been able to find (apologies) did manage to parlay their audience into payment by crowdfunding the continuation of their blog on Indiegogo.  The writer raised $11k of their $25k target and stayed online.

Let the writers do the writing, let the sellers do the selling

Advertising is was agreed by all generates modest income.Other mechanisms for revenue, like affiliate marketing diminish the value of the brand that is being built by “giving it away for free”. There was one other means of earning meaningful revenue on the night, and that was through representation. This is where we depart from the traditional challenge of monetising online content by employing tactics used in publishing and music industries – by creating overarching brands and labels. Blog networks, exemplified on the night by Kjellsson from FELLT are a blogger’s best chance of translating their cachet in their chosen fields of expertise into money that makes it worth their while. FELLT is a conglomerate of fashion “influencers”.  Daniel Kjellsson represents 8 fashion bloggers by selling advertising on their behalf. He knows what he is selling too. Not daily or unique visitors, not page views, but influence.

Should you quit your blog job?

What was established was that a strong blog profile should and does translate to increased workplace recognition. Karla Courtney attributes her good workplace conditions (both in pay and flexibility) post maternity leave to the popularity (and audience) of her blog. So, while you still might need to keep your day job, at least you might be able to get paid more for it.

The panel on the night was:

For speaker bios check out SMCSYD’s event Brite listing of the event where you can also sign up to the mailing list.


Social Media Club: Food, Wine and Social Media, 2 August 2011

An interesting thing happens when the speakers at Social Media Club don’t hit their mark. The speakers were talking about engagement but they weren’t getting any. The error they made was misjudging their audience as amateurs who needed to be shown how it’s done. They should have known that this is an audience of social media marketers and consultants with years of experience under their belts.

Somehow the disappointment was energising. The speakers showcased relatively intimate projects. The conversations amongst the crowd, many of whom work for advertising and digital agencies were pointing out the difference of executing a social media campaign for a small boutique client versus a big brand. People were talking about dollars, and where budgets for this work should come from when companies don’t devote staff to voice and participate in campaigns. What the crowd had questions about, and what they wanted to hear were the lessons learned. Before a palette of wine was sold off the back of one tweet-up how many mistakes were made and what were they? Endless success stories and figures about the application of social media just didn’t ring true without the war stories.

The three speakers all showcased their experience as food and wine social media pundits. The first as a chef turned blogger and consultant, the second as friend turned publisher, the third (and the most well received speaker) as consultant turned wine event organiser. Although I didn’t learn anything new I (for one at least) was engaged by the achievements made. The speakers also demonstrated three principles of social media which I took to be:

  • Authenticity
  • Consistency
  • Voice

“You are what you engage” – Bridget Davis

After a successful career as a chef, that included a stint as head chef at Bills, Bridget Davis found a voice and a profile as @bridget_cooks. The twitter profile lead to “The Internet Chef” and the trajectory really is quite remarkable:

  • After 6 weeks on twitter Bridget was featured on SMH as a top tweeting chef
  • After 3 months she was featured on the Huffington Post as one of the top 10 chefs on Twitter
  • After 1 year she co-launched the event Media 140 for Foodies
  • And after 2 years she has been acknowledged (I’m not sure by who, but I’ll run with it) as the most influential food tweeter in Australia and in the top 10 most influential food tweeters in the world.

This influence is achieved with just under 15,000 followers who “amplify” the missives. Bridget Davis has been able to build a business off her social media presence. One that includes: cooking demonstrations, corporate events, degustation menus, consultancy for cafe upstarts and even a social media agency (iconic 88 media).

“No one publishes us!” – Chef friends to Denea Buckingham aka The Gourmet Rabbit

The seeds of Gourmet Rabbit were launched when a group of chefs were bemoaning the latest bad review and the fact they didn’t have a voice. Denea encouraged them to write and with 100 pages of content and no publishing experience she started a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Four Square that became a print magazine dedicated to assisting and benefiting the food industry. This is another example of monetizing social media through publications, events and a consultancy.

Helping wineries find a voice

Trish Barry helps small wineries connect directly with their customers online. Big brands dominate sales, but the biggest brand has no more than 10% market share. In a category where recommendations are a primary influence on buying choices social media is an opportunity to craft a brand message, directly engage, gather feedback and connect. Again the benefit of the conversation is had in events coordinated through tweet-ups. This isn’t just brands advertising, but brands cooperating to celebrate and promote categories through events like “Chardonnay Day” and “Pinot Day”.

What the three speakers demonstrated is the effectiveness of a finely tuned online brand and message. Clearly the message that comes through communications by experts is gladly received by an audience hungry for authenticity and advice. Not all of the audience may have felt that they learnt anything new but the speakers did spark interesting discussions and it goes to show that Social Media Club is still one of the most fun events around.


How to best use Facebook: Social Media Club 8 March 2011

Visualizing Friendships infographic by Paul Butler

The evening began with a video, then an infographic. The speaker, Facebook evangelist Paul Borrud awarded generous prizes to reinforce the stats:

  • 62% of users log in everyday
  • Average usage is 27 visits per user per month
  • 3 billion photos are uploaded per month globally

Then a history lesson:

  • The 90s web was organised around browsing
  • The 00s was the decade of search
  • The 10s sees the web organising around people, and industries organising around people, and shopping organising around people, and news and so on

This is all familiar stuff for anyone who has been following Google versus Facebook analysis. So perhaps the pitch of the night really was spend your ad dollars here, with us, not there, with them.

The evening was a sales pitch delivered to a room of mostly marketers who already know the proposition:

  • Marketing is a mix of paid (print, TV), owned (web, store front) and earned (PR, word of mouth).
  • Facebook lets you create earned at an unprecedented rate
  • Scale marketing efforts with the social graph
  • The targeted ads are deliberately simple
  • The algorithms display those friends closest to you (e.g. with “like” endorsement pages)

Social hooks: Running Facebook campaigns

I’m pretty sure everyone has clients that its almost impossible to sell a Facebook campaign too. Everyone in the large room needed to give up their seats for those for whom the social web has passed them by so they could hear the social web mantra that Facebook is not a traditional micro-site (30% of content is created by brands; 70% of content is created by users). Some choice quotes from the evening:

“You don’t have to respond to everything”

“Listen without fear. Have big ears”

These points were illustrated with a number of case studies: Toyota’s Erica’s Surprise, Old Spice, Vitamin Water. The most interesting case studies were from Chase Bank and Nike.

Chase Bank social product design and community giving

An example of product design through social networks, Chase asked US college students what they wanted from a credit card. Students wanted something that looked exclusive (black plastic) but offered a way to leverage modest points. This resulted in “karma” points that could be pooled together and shared with friends.

Students did of course pool their points together for collective reward and to help each other out. There were also 9 million recommendations to donate to charity. The product was iterated as a result to make it even easier to be philanthropic with reward points. Chase gave 5 million dollars to 200 local charities nominated by Fans as a result.

Nike World Cup Facebook campaign

The Nike World Cup campaign demonstrated that Facebook is the new terrain for guerrilla marketing. Adidas had the official sponsor status, and Nike went to Facebook advertising simultaneously across 24 countries over 1 day and became the unofficial official sponsor or sports brand of the event as a result.

New Facebook product announcements: engagement ads

Joining the Facebook product suite of like ads, video ads, polling ads and sampling ads will be:

  • Sponsored stories – “a new product to drive word of mouth at scale”; and
  • Deals  – Facebook leveraging Places for Groupon style group purchasing with more of a  flash mob feel i.e. check in and score a deal.

There were no details as to how “Sponsored Stories” would actually function. Deals seems pretty self evident. H&M, Starbucks and The Gap have trialled it and the product will launch soon in Australia.


Paul Borrud threaded authenticity as a theme for the evening. He noted that the days of kooky email addresses are gone and that:

“Its pretty unimaginable to not put your real ID online.”

Before there was no driver to update personal information, but the web has moved from the anonymous web to the authentic web. This is all true of course, but it is also priming businesses for the chaos that is social networks and a more important message that if they want to play in the space, they can’t hope to control it. The theme of authenticity went only so far though. Of course there was no discussion of vanity status updates, or other more unpleasant social phenomena on Facebook and the audience question of why there was no Dislike button was managed rather clumsily. But this is Social Media Club, not a sociology class. So on that note I will leave you with the video that began the evening.


Lessons learned from not for profits: Social Media Club 13 September 2010

John Johnston, Social Strategist of original Earth Hour strategy

The core of the original Earth Hour strategy was the combination of user generated content with brand assets that were licensed as open source. People, organisations and creative agencies took up the cause; the latter happy to have the opportunity to work with an open brief. Key lessons:

Keep the message simple. User generated content is easy when people like the message.

Encourage others to build grass roots campaigns and facilitate them creating profiles (Twitter profiles, Facebook pages) and their own material with open source assets.

Seek partnerships with organisations that can help spread the message.

Outreach to bloggers.

Don’t intervene. Let conversations flow.

Don’t stop at English. Translate collateral into other languages and outreach to regional blogging networks.

But what about the haters? There were a few including the editor of Tech Crunch, and a new group, the Human Power Appreciation Hour. Don’t get dispirited, it just goes to show you are getting somewhere when detractors feel threatened.

Dae Levine, Head of Communications with Greenpeace, speaking about the Nestle anti-deforestation campaign

The lessons learned were spelled out in this how-to of social campaigning. After 10 years of Greenpeace lobbying Nestle and its supplier of palm oil, Sinarmas, they decided to change tact and create a campaign. The campaign was in the form of a video:

Key lessons:

Leverage a brand. It was not until Greenpeace ran this social media campaign leveraging the Kit Kat brand that people took notice … and Nestle took action.

Kit Kat brand appropriation

Create an emotional entry point for your audience. People need something they can relate to, e.g. a cute orang-utan.

Greenepeace thanks its supporters with this cute orang-utan

A bad reaction from your target can only help your campaign. Youtube pulled the video when Nestle complained about copyright infringement. The result? Nestle inadvertently created the desire for people to watch it. People re-posted the video. It went viral. This decision by Nestle was the catalyst to the success of the whole campaign.

Greenpeace Nestle video stats
Audience advice to Nestle

Embrace your social media moment. Secondary video campaign launched instructing people on how to call the Nestle CEO. by the end of the campaign this had resulted in almost 350,000 emails and phone calls.

Time your campaign. When to launch an anti-chocolate campaign? How about Easter?

Integrate your campaign with traditional activities. In Greenpeace’s case this involved hacking the wifi at the Nestle AGM so that attendees were directed to a spoof site. Interestingly Greenpeace also showed a twitter feed outside the AGM so that Nestle could see what people were actually saying. Other activities included stickering Kit Kat point of sale displays with the appropriated Killer logo.

It helps when your target sucks at social media. Greenpeace encouraged people to join Nestle’s Facebook fan page. Numbers jumped by 20,000. Nestle removed negative posts from its profile only adding fuel to the fire.

“People are awesome”. Something that Earth Hour designed as part of its campaign but Greenepeace did not anticipate was people creating their own content supporting, promoting and building on the campaign. E.g. this video.

This was the best Social Media Club I have attended for a while, but I love a good case study. The campaigns were very different but both offered a hook, something emotional that people could relate to, and of course, share.


Sorting the you from the unreal you: Social Media Club 10 August 2010

Bernard Salt and Rebecca Huntley were guests at the last Social Media Club earlier this month. They presented their research on how Gen x and Gen y represent themselves online. Two themes emerged in the research: superficiality and authenticity.

The research found that Gen y are not, as some might think, uncritical of their use of social media. Gen y is aware of the dangers and pitfalls of broadcasting one’s life to the network – be it inappropriate photos being viewed by the boss, or superficial relationships being had at the expense of more meaningful connections.

The research focus was on attitudes towards social media and how people build and view representation of self in this space. The view that behaviour online is nothing new was echoed by Bernard Salt.

New technology amplifies instinctive human behaviour

Salt harked back to examples where the novel and conspicuous use of technology eventuated in a correcting force of some kind. Talking loudly on your mobile phone in a restaurant in the early 90s soon became uncool.

Behavioural corrections

He sees social media as a new vehicle for public preening. The old tribal head dress has been replaced by:

  1. Un-tagging unflattering photos
  2. Altering photos
  3. Filtering friends by looks
  4. Deriving status by broadcasting a cool location
  5. Deriving status by the number of friends you have
  6. Acting in a way to elicit feedback and validation

Salt predicts that these ego driven vanities will be calibrated: “That fight is yet to play out. We are still intoxicated by the technology. We will see a movement towards authenticity.”

The talks by Huntley and Salt were short – I wish I could have heard more about the detail of the research and the findings. But this is Social Media Club, not a sociology class. Tipreth Gloria brought it all home with commercial examples. Tipreth described people’s engagement with brands in social media as another way people build their identity and there were examples of what can only be described as conspicuous window shopping.

Superficiality and narcissism are rewarded
The brands you like define you
Social shopping? I prefer to call it conspicuous window shopping

Tipreth’s talk departed from the topic somewhat but, it was interesting to think about the juxtaposition of business and our social space. Advertising is seeking and managing relationships in a more direct, transparent medium where users ultimately have control. If there is to be a backlash against superficiality toward an authenticity it will be interesting to see the shape of the behavioural correction of commercial interests in our social lives.