Audience as Currency

Billetes y sombreros

In a recent post, Julien Smith points out that his blog doesn’t have a direct business model, but rather, that it’s a way to build audience for his ideas. He points out that delaying the direct monetization of one’s audience is an important goal. I agree. Further, I want to say that thinking about your audience as its own kind of currency is an important highlight, underscore, and asterisk point. This is social proof, and it’s part of growing trust. And beyond that, it’s a way to get your ideas out in front of many people.

Audience as Currency

I value everyone who comes and reads []. I’m grateful every time you come and leave a comment or forward it along. I like that you want to share it, to riff on it, to make it your own. That’s what this blog is all about. The goal is to give you ideas that you can do something with. And the goal for me is that you do two things: take something of this for you, and leave thinking that I know something and that you want to continue the relationship. If I’ve hit both, then I win.

Where you become currency is in this kind of third party way. People come and they say, “He has just about 300,000 uniques a month. He has 68,000 RSS subscribers. He’s in the Top 5 of AdAge.” Those are all ways that people look at YOU, my friends and audience, as currency, because they count me as being interesting and valid because of those numbers. Make sense? So in that way, my audience is my currency as people who come to see my site and decide whether they think I’ve got something useful to say see YOU and they equate you as being a value to me.

But Not as Money

It’s important, however, not to look at your audience as your only way to make money. Or rather, maybe it’s important to look at your audience as being made up of community members, peers, competitors, and the occasional buyer. The moment you start thinking of your audience as your customers (only), then you’re running into a problem, because then the only transaction that makes sense in your head is a sale.

The way I handle that hear is that I sell you things I think you might find useful and that might improve your lot in life, like when I sell premium WordPress themes, but that I don’t intend to sell you every single day. Instead, I prefer to give you things that make sense when they come up, and the rest of the time, I’d rather share ideas that will help you grow, which in turn grows your capabilities and your desires to do bigger and more interesting things.

Does that make sense?

For every day that I can praise the work of a C.C. Chapman and a Mark Horvath, I’ve made quite a value off our relationship. It’s not the sale of the various things in my sidebar that keep me in this relationship. Instead, it’s the currency of having a community full of people who matter, people with big ideas, and people who can extend the community into larger places. That’s where I see the value.

There are a few themes and directions in here. Where do you see your audience and its value? How have you been treating them? And what do you make of benefits, if any, to participating here?

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