How Technology is Enabling Communities to Become Economies

I’ve written about Social Media Marketing often in these newsletters, with good reason.

Despite it being a time hog, no business, online or off, can afford to ignore it because of the huge numbers of people that use it.

Today that’s true, and for now it remains an important channel. But what about in 5 years’ time?

The social media platforms have one primary objective: getting as many people as possible, to spend as much time as possible, on their platform. That’s how they earn money.

But they are increasingly wresting control from, and pushing up the costs for, businesses.

With their algorithms, they define how many of your followers see what you publish (it’s a small and shrinking number), how much you need to pay to extend your reach (it’s becoming more expensive), and even what products you can promote.

As a marketing channel it’s slowly becoming more expensive, in time as well as money, and less effective.

Luckily, new technologies, such as blockchain, are opening up opportunities to break free of the tyranny of algorithms and do things differently.

And one of those things is the ability to extend, expand and monetise what you can do with communities.

Here’s an example:

I recently joined a creator-coin collective, in which the principals have created a coin on the Rally platform, which is based on Ethereum.

The principals offer advanced, sophisticated training on how to build a personal enterprise online, and they offered their customers the chance to become members of the collective.

To join, members buy some coin and, because only a limited number of coins are issued, they go up in value as more members join.

The principals offer discounts and other benefits to members, and members can trade with each other using the creator coins, rather than traditional currencies.

This takes the concept of a community and creates a local economy through which everyone benefits:

  • The principals and coin holders benefit from the increasing value of the coins
  • Members who trade with each other benefit from reduced ‘real’ prices, because they are trading with the coin, not traditional currency.
  • The larger and more diverse the collective membership grows, the more opportunities there are to trade at reduced ‘real’ cost

Technology has turned this community into an economy.

Online communities have been around for a while, powered by blogs, membership sites and forums:

  • Tim Stoddart (referred to in one of the links below), built a huge online community by blogging about his battle with addiction.
  • Many online businesses operate their own support forum and community, using products like BBpress (a WordPress plugin)
  • I run a local business membership site using a membership plugin on a WordPress website.

A commercial community, as distinct from a product support community, is monetised through subscription fees, and it’s a very profitable business model.

But, as I described earlier, taking advantage of new technologies to extend the scope of a community, can lead to a seriously profitable enterprise.

If you have not yet set up a community, I recommend you explore the idea.

You don’t need to create a creator coin, but getting a community up and running gives you a great base to start from.

It’s your way of breaking free of the tyranny of those social media algorithms.

This week’s links

This week is about building communities, so I’ve linked to a podcast on the problems with social media marketing and why you need to build a community, an article on how to build a community, one on how to monetise your community, and a 15-minute podcast on growing your personal brand.

The growing problem with social media marketing (and why you need your own community)

In this 25-minute podcast, John Wall and Christopher Penn discuss how the development paths of the primary social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram) are increasingly restricting the reach that your business pages are getting – unless you pay.

As a result, they talk about the need to be building your own brand, and developing your own personal communities, whether they be followers on any of those platforms, or followers you accumulate independently.

Swipe the leg: social media developments and more.

How to build a community

This article on Growth Machine looks at how a ‘Community’ is different from an ‘audience’, or ‘followers’, and how to build and monetise a community.

There are several places where you can grow your own community and I favour avoiding the social media platforms.

Having your community, on your own platform, avoids the control created by the social media platforms’ algorithms.

How to build a community online

How to monetise your community

If you like the idea of developing your own community, the next question is how to monetise it.

This article on Guild looks at different ways to monetise a community, and highlights some pitfalls to avoid:

How to monetise your community

How to grow your personal brand

Building your personal brand came up in the first podcast, and I’ve circled back to it with this 15-minute podcast.

This time Marc Guberti interviews Victoria Kennedy on how to start building your brand if you’re just starting out.

There are some great tips here, that are simple to implement:

How to get your brand out there

Fun flashback

David Bowie was one of rock’s superstars and an incredible musical talent. Here he is performing ‘Starman’ in concert:

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Martin Malden

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Website owner: Martin has been working online since 2006 and focuses on two areas: 1) affiliate marketing and 2) designing and building websites based on WordPress. He has his own WordPress agency, and serves clients in Hong Kong, Australia and the UK.