Perhaps the question I am asked the most when approached by connections I make on the web is a variant of “how do you make money doing what you do?” A close second is “what in the hell are you doing?!?” – but that’s a different topic for a different day.
In short, I make money by pimping myself (or those that work for me) on an hourly basis (sometimes per diem, rarely fixed bid). Simple.
That model has altered a bit with the advent of the social web. In that arena, I have sent forth development sorties in directions I would ordinarily not have done in the past, in the name of Business Development and brand building for (a) myself and (b) for my company, Sumner Systems Management (SSM).
The vast army of social network widget code monkeys (present company included) toil away trying to find a way to make this nonsense pay. Some do it by trying build traffic and eyeballs for ad revenue, or to pawn off their traffic and eyeballs to another code monkey trying to build his or her little empire in some corner of the semantic / non-semantic web.
My take is slightly skewed from the majority.
If I am going to invest time, capital, sweat, and intellect to the cause I need to know that there is a tangible long term benefit beyond dwarf tossing, ghoul poking, and general time wasting. Is there a business market for social networking applications, and if so, how does one bridge the gap between the early adopters and the mainstream majority vis a vis businesses engaging the social web to build and extend their brand?
I try to look across the wasteland that is the current state of Social Network applications development and identify (a) underrepresented brands in the social networking sphere, (b) underrepresented features in the social networking sphere, (c) underdeveloped marketing channels in the social networking sphere, or (d) a melange of all of the above.
Having made such an identification, the next step is to determine a way to embrace and extend the underrepresented (let’s say in this case) brand. What is the brand about? What makes the brand special? Is there already community of loyal customers / followers / fans existing around the brand that are simply waiting for an outlet on the social web?
Having answered that, I try to determine the best way to express the brand on Facebook, or Bebo, or whatever network I am targeting in a way that repects the brand. By that I mean, whatever I intend to do OR do, it must add value to the brand and not detract from it; complimentary to this end, if I am doing a “spec” type social application for a brand that I do not own it is important that I do not drawn attention to myself as someone trying to “hijack” the brand for my own profit (other than attracting the attention of the brand owners for the purposes of directly engaging them with me). I have found that it is easier to do this with smaller brands than larger ones, because it is an order of magnitude easier to reach the decision makers at the smaller startups / boostraps, and the decision makers are usually more engaged on the social web that their larger company counterparts (I say usually, not universally true).
What is the end game? To attract and engage business / brand owners underrepresented on the social web, by doing either what they will not, cannot, or want to but have other pressing priorities: build a ready made social network presence for them that they may either acquire outright or negotiate for engagement our esteemed (harumph) insight and wisdom.
This strategy of brand engagement has had mixed results. I have had some satisfying successes, some disappointing near misses, and some downright cones of silence from brand owners.
But where it has been stunningly successful has been in the building of my personal brand. Someone DOING in the social networking arena. Not talking, speculating, bitching, moaning, complaining. Doing.
As John Lennon said, Life is what happens while we are making plans.
To get beyond, you gotta do.