Making money on the Internet without selling your own product used to be straightforward. You’d create content that people wanted to consume. You’d surround that content with relevant ads. You’d optimize those ads, track the results, look for high-paying keywords, and try to get backlinks that pushed your pages up the search engines.
It wasn’t easy, but the strategy was straightforward.
Today’s online money-making requires a different approach. The growth of content on the Internet means that there’s more competition than ever for eyeballs. Search engine algorithms have become harder to follow and master. Audiences have moved. They no longer only search for content they know they want to find. They follow people on social media who discuss topics they find interesting.
A contactless sport
That means online entrepreneurs can no longer just sit in their offices and A/B test their landing pages without ever contacting a member of their audience directly. They’re now expected to build fan bases and sell on the strength of their own personality. They have to build personal connections. They don’t have to become personal influencers, but they do need to create personal trust.
Online entrepreneurs need to be willing to put their own pictures on their websites. They need to tell a story about who they are and why they do what they do. They need to use their content, their style, and their brand to broadcast a personality with which people can identify.
The tools that they have to use to broadcast that personality vary. They include a website with an About page written in a style that matches the brand. Corporate blogs are less important than they used to be, but they can still have a role.
More important is the presence on social media. Twitter isn’t just a place where entrepreneurs can talk to customers and other business leaders. It’s a platform that they can use to say what’s on their mind. When they share articles that touch on topics that affect their industry—whether that’s net neutrality or some new cryptocurrency regulation—they show customers that they’re informed and up to date. They portray themselves as experts. That helps to build trust.
Live video, once a price, could be king
Facebook is a less formal place but it’s also the best place to broadcast live video. This takes video content a step further by generating urgency and allowing for two-way communication. Audiences can put questions in the comment streams as the video is going out. The broadcaster can see those questions and answer them in real time. It turns an ad into a conversation and gives a brand the same kind of selling power that an Avon lady or a Tupperware party used to have. The company is able to place itself inside someone’s living room and show a live product demonstration while taking questions and answers.
It’s not a difficult strategy, and it can be less technical than searching through keyword lists and comparing CPC rates. But while personal selling doesn’t demand high technical skills, it does demand one asset that many entrepreneurs are unwilling to supply: authenticity.
Audiences need to believe that the person they’re following and trusting on social media, the person who represents the brand, is passionate about what they do. They have to trust they’re living that service, that they’d be doing this even if they weren’t making money out of it. They have to feel that they’re benefitting from someone else’s love for and interest in a topic.
That might sound like a challenge. It’s actually an opportunity. It means that to succeed in today’s new Internet industry, you can’t just look for a money-making opportunity and mine it dry. You have to find an activity that you genuinely enjoy. That’s not just straightforward. It’s also easy.