Or, as I wanted to call this post, “I feel like I’ve been duped.”
Let me tell you a story.
When I was in college, I went out to McDonalds with a bunch of friends. A friend said that there was a new way to test a person’s IQ. He stuck a quarter to his forehead, then started hitting the back of his head till the quarter fell off. “3 hits, that’s pretty good,” he said. “Do you want to try it, Margie?” Well, being me, I of course said yes. He came ’round behind me, stuck the quarter to my head, and told me to start hitting the back of my head. I of course eventually realized that the quarter had never been stuck to my forehead. I had been stupidly tricked into hitting the back of my head repeatedly at a McDonalds. I felt stupid, and I was disappointed a little that a person I liked and trusted had made me feel that way (though I admit, gullible is my middle name).
Right now, as I am writing this, I am feeling that same red hot feeling of humiliation, disappointment, stupidity, and anger. I feel like I’ve been let down by people I really like and trust. And I feel stupid for not realizing this sooner.
My issue – I have been buying these great marketing books. I, a person without a lot of money, have spent a pretty fair chunk of change this year buying books from people I wanted to learn from. This evening, I realized that with about the same time investment as it took me to read the book I could have read said person’s blog, going a ways back and reading forward, and acquired the same information, written, at times, in exactly the same way. I quite frankly feel duped.
The part that isn’t a surprise
It’s not a secret that a lot of folks engaged full time in Social Media marketing have been using their blog posts as fodder for books, speeches, and webinars. In fact, you’ll find that a lot of people recommend repurposing content from blogs in this manner.
The part that is a surprise
What I realized tonight is that people are not taking an idea from a blog post and extrapolating it out into a fully researched chapter or power point presentation. Rather, they are taking a blog post, maybe mushing it a bit with another blog post, and literally plagiarizing themselves. They are also enticing me to buy a book or pay hundreds of dollars to watch them speak based on the understanding that this is content I will not be able to get anywhere else. This is not true, apparently. I could get it in all kinds of places, just not bound together.
If Content is King, this has to stop.
Let me step back here and explain why doing what some of these folks are doing is a really bad idea for them and for Social Media marketing. And by the way, I understand that we are all strapped for time. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to actually get paid for all of the time you put in. I understand. I sympathize. I’m just still sticking to my guns.
1. It’s clear when a book has been written and when it has been woven. Maybe the tonality of books is changing or has changed, or maybe the tonality of blogs changed and I didn’t notice it, but blog writing, to me, is different from book writing. In a book, chapters build upon each other in a logical way. Each chapter assumes that you have read the last chapters. There might be references to previous concepts or chapters, but because the work is cohesive, you don’t need to insert the same phrases over and over. In a blog, you do. You have to link to that blog post you wrote 6 months ago because it was written 6 months ago. When you see blog-type references in a book it signals sloppiness to me.
2. It makes you look like you don’t really care. I signed up for a webinar once and the presentation was essentially a book report on the presenter’s own book. There was hardly even an effort to customize the content to what the webinar was supposed to be about. This made the presenter look like they were a) lazy and b) didn’t care. I was highly disappointed.
3. Your circle of influence is finite. You know how sometimes skeevy guys get caught using the same pick-up line on a bunch of girls who are all friends? When you use the same content, right down to the same joke or the same little aside, it’s the same kind of feeling. As much as we all feel like Social Media marketing and Social Media in general are infinite universes of being, in fact it is not so. If someone reads your blog, they will very probably hear about speeches you’re due to give or a book you’re promoting. If you give them the same information 3 times, they will know it, and they will lose respect for you. Like I have lost respect for some folks.
4. You’re dealing with people who are immersed in this world. I am hungry. I am hungry for knowledge. I am hungry for you to teach me. And I’m not stupid. Do you think I’m not going to look someone up on Twitter and in the world of blogs if I really really like a presentation they give? Do you think I’m not going to get your book if I have been loyal to your blog? Now multiply that by a bunch more people. What if I see that all of the parts of your presentation that I thought seemed really authentic and genuine were written in a blog post, verbatim, a couple of weeks before?
If it’s a duck, call it a duck
If you really feel that you don’t have the time to generate enough content for constant blogging, a book, and other stuff you are doing, be honest about it. When you publish your collection of blog posts, market it as, well, a collection of your blog posts. Maybe with some additional notes and interviews that you added. If the main thrust of your speech is a series of blog posts you did 2 years ago, integrate the 2 together. Use your actual blog on some of your slides. Show your foundation, then show how you are adding icing to the cake. Give me something extra when you are asking me to pay something, or start charging for your blog straight up. Just like the pay walls in newspapers, maybe this is an inevitability we can’t avoid for much longer. But don’t get me excited about seeing new content for you and then let me find out that it’s just your blog in hard cover.
By the way
I had an idea for a book a month or so ago, and I tried my hand at doing some blog posts that I could use to create the book since, as I have mentioned, that is increasingly being called a best practice. You know what? Writing a blog post is not like writing a chapter of a book for me. There was no way I would ask anyone to pay for those posts as they were. They were written as posts. The tonality is that of my blog. The tonality tied in to other perhaps unrelated blog posts surrounding those blog posts. It would not have made sense in a book. It would have looked uneven, sloppy, and lazy.
Is that the new standard for us, my peers in Social Media?
I’m open to your thoughts, and I’m definitely open to being proven wrong.