In this digital age, supply is largely unbounded and distribution channels are unconstrained. As I have noted, winning the business game would be anchored on controlling demand since it would be hopeless to try to control supply. Yes, to have any chance, digitally, you need to have a separation. Separation means you need to be unique and be you. Simply, in the sea of players, you must be distinguishable and be known for something. If you can accomplish that, the world will reward you.
But today, the game has shifted from control of supply to control of demand for web-anchored consumer firms. And only companies with capabilities to control demand are going to win big. As shown in the table below, most of the greatest internet companies are simply controlling demand and that means controlling how supplies reach users and consumers.
Let me make this real with a case study on my blog, Tekedia [no attempt to get you to sign-up; this is merely to show that I practice what I write]. People pay subscriptions to read some of my best insights. It is $20 per year. I was told that asking people to pay for an African-focused blog (flavored for technology, business and entrepreneurship) would be a waste of time. Personally, I always like people to appreciate that my time is precious; imposing payment would elevate the blog to premium. And doing that would make readers to value the insights and frameworks. Yes, humans always value tougher battles. It is a hobby but it can also be structured to be premium; most times only premium contents have subscriptions. At the end of the month, I want to be sure that Amazon’s hosting fees are covered!
Over the last 15 months since I started writing regularly, I have created a separation from many blogs in Africa. Interestingly, the same people many say would not pay are even paying more. Yes, we have seen subscribers paying beyond our advertised rate; $250 and $100 are now typical.
Besides these more-than-listed payments, we have received emails where people want to see Tekedia expand. “Thank you Prof. I appreciate the one oasis strategy. It made me a star during the interview. I am contributing N120,000 to support hosting fees. Thank you”.
There is no traffic tracker on this blog; traffic is irrelevant. We just want valuable readers. And we think we are finding our space in this hobby. And if you do a similar thing in any area, finding your separation, you would find value. That is my message in this piece: BE YOU.
You cannot be the next Linda Ikeji because she has controlled that world. You need to find yours. If you do, the society would reward, not just in writing but other areas of life. You need to improve your webinality (webinality = web + personality) if you want to play a key role in this digital era.
A social media account is a business tool and companies have understood that speaking from the human element is more impactful. A post shared from the personal account of CEO of BBB will get more traction than one shared by BBB. With that understanding, BBB will put efforts to nurture the CEO social media accounts.
For you, as a small business owner or entrepreneur, you need to evolve out of your shells. If you think you will hide and run a good social media marketing, you will not succeed. All those nice contents on your company accounts are there but people do not pay attention, because no one knows the human elements behind them.
Licensing of Contents
When I started writing, some newspapers approached me to syndicate the contents. A great idea, and I agreed under a condition – you must pay licensing fees to Tekedia. Many did not like that model: they were used to using contents free by promising to make the authors bigger. So, nothing happened.
Largely, I was not concerned that the newspapers did have more user base. We were confident that if we could differentiate via our contents, the unconstrained distribution channel of the web would provide an opportunity to reach readers. Making that possible would demand predictability of contents on time and quality. Yes, you come here and you have an idea what to get.
For us, it is better to have two contents in a day than have 40 contents where only two are valuable to readers. With the predictable two posts, expectations would be predictable and that means asking people to pay would become possible. This philosophy is anchored on the construct of respecting the time of our site visitors.
In anything you do especially in the digital world, you must work to have a clear differentiation. Do not be follow-follow as that does not usually work. Find a clear separation and own that space: the society will reward you. It comes down to “Who Are You?”
How To Improve Your Webinality
The following are some suggestions on how to build a professional online persona. It is establishing your web personality (webinality) to explain that person you are.
Presence: Open at least one social media or blog account.
Specialize: Define an area of interest and build around it. A five-minute online search should reveal what you represent. You need to differentiate yourself and showcase your core skills and unique capabilities to potential hiring managers.
Accuracy: Always remember that once that post goes online, you may not control who sees it. If you lie on your accomplishments, your classmate or co-worker is just an IP address away from challenging it. Make it accurate – always, otherwise, you will destroy your persona.
Comprehensive: While blog should be short, once in a while, develop comprehensive articles in your field and post them online. It could mean expanding a class project you worked on, adding more contents, and fully proving your expertise. Half-baked contents will not take you too far.
Judgment: What you post or share online defines who you are. Your profile defines you – values, interests and reliability. For employers, they want reliable team leaders and you must not offer less in your web personality.
Vertical Integration: Seek to connect with people ahead of you professionally while building a horizontally network.
Generosity: Share and exchange good ideas. Invite people to your network and be generous to promote good ideas from others. Write professional reviews on books, journals and articles. In no distant time, people will reward you.
Policy Matters: If you are working, ensure you adhere to policies on using the company’s name online. There is a threat that you could be a source of data leakage that can hurt competitiveness. Your profile must not be another portrait of your employer – you must be wise to separate both, where necessary.
Continuity: Professional online branding is a continuous work-in-progress that requires constant tune-ups of networks, contents and profiles. It must be constantly nurtured.
All Together / Beyond LinkedIn
As we pursued separation, we wanted to create a brand, Tekedia. Though most contents are synced to LinkedIn, I made sure I was not just LinkedIn. To make that possible, my contents cannot just be on LinkedIn which is not easily searchable and discoverable. If we had hosted all contents on LinkedIn, there would not be an identity. But having them here provides an identity which drives that separation. It is that separation that most remember even beyond the contents. Riding on that separation, someone can build a business model on the contents. This is a hobby but that does not mean that it has to cost me money to support; at least, it has to be expense-neutral.