Slackershot - Spare ChangeThe inevitable question at every conference, be it a PodCamp, social media event, or major corporate production is:

How do you make money with [insert shiny object of the day here]?

Five years ago it was podcasting. Then MySpace. Then Twitter. Then Facebook.

The answer, believe it or not, is always the same. It goes back to economics 101: money is a medium of exchange. It’s a translator of value. In the old days, before money had been invented, you would have traded for something of roughly equal value. I trade chickens, you trade goats, we figure out how many chickens a goat is worth, and we trade.

Nothing has changed in 50,000 years of human history. If you want someone to give you value (in the form of money) you must also give value equal to what you want them to provide you.

Here’s the catch: value is perception more than anything. If you perceive that more Twitter followers, regardless of quality, is better than fewer Twitter followers, then you will exchange more value with a person who has 50,000 followers than with someone who has 25,000. If you perceive that a Klout score of 51 is better than a Klout score of 40, you will exchange more value with the higher scored person. If you perceive that people subscribing to your newsletter is more valuable than people who like your Facebook fan page, you’ll exchange more value with a company that can get you newsletter subscribers.

Want to make money? Want to make more money? Figure out what the people you want to do business with believe value is in the first place, then give them what they want. The more of it you give, the more they’ll give back to you. Want to make crazy money? Provide crazy value.

Here’s where almost everyone in new media screws up: you don’t dictate value. You might be able to shape the perception of value a little, but at the end of the day, you have almost no say in what the other person perceives as valuable. More importantly, you insisting that what you have is of value and that I’m wrong for not valuing you correctly is only going to annoy me. You may think your audience of 50,000 Twitter followers is valuable, but if the other party cares only about Facebook, you won’t be able to exchange value with them. Find someone who values that and you’ll be able to make a value exchange with ease (that’s marketing: finding people who value your stuff). It’s no different than insisting that someone else should value your goat because you want chickens. If I don’t need or want a goat, we’re not trading.

So, in short:

  • Determine value.
  • Provide value.
  • Collect money.

Simple – and as always, a reminder that simple and easy are not synonyms.

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