Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Linkedin as "talk" medium or "work" medium?

Unlike other social networking sites like Facebook, Linkedin has the opportunity to be more than a "talk" medium (where people chat, connect, socialize, etc.). Linkedin can become a "work" medium, where people create (or co-create) actual value and trade economic entities (including knowledge, resources, opportunities, products, services, cash, etc.).

But this shift to a "work" environment requires a strategic mindset. It requires self-discipline. And it requires absolute honesty. In other words, it requires that Linkedin users ask themselves the tough business questions, such as: For every minute that I spend on Linkedin, what is my return on investment? (You can use "For every 15 minutes" instead of "For every minute").

Another important question is: What do you think Linkedin really is? For some people, it's social and professional environment to network. For others, it's a very specific tool to help them achieve very specific career or business objectives.

For me, it's a tool to gain marketing information and gather market research data. It's also a tool to forge partnerships for my various products and businesses. Lastly, it's a marketing tool to generate soft leads.

Ultimately, we all have to decide whether to view Linkedin as a "talk" medium or a "work" medium. What we get out of Linkedin will depend heavily on how we look at it.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Can I give you US$20 for everything you know?

I posted this question on Linkedin Answers and here, I answer some of the concerns (my comments are preceded by ">").

It's a long post, but I think you will appreciate a few key ideas that can help you to MONETIZE (make money) from Linkedin and other social networking sites.

It's all about determining what valuable knowledge you have that can improve people's lives, and then finding people (buyers) who agree with your assessment.

Can I give you US$20 for everything you know?

It seems that the central demographic and occupational model of Linkedin users contains a high proportion of professionals, managers, entrepreneurs, etc. In other words, very smart people.

So I was just wondering, "Would you be able to type, on a single piece of paper, enough valuable knowledge for me to pay you US$20?"

Note: When I mentioned "everything you know" in the question, I mean "everything you know that is of relevance to me and of practical use to me."


Clarification added 15 hours ago:

I should point out that the focus is not the $20, but how "sellable" a person's explicit (not tacit) knowledge is. This is a serious issue for people who have serious knowledge and wish to monetize it. A good author, for instance, can package the best of his / her knowledge into a book and sell it for $20-40 (Don Tapscott, Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Adrian Slywotzky, etc.).

Also, assuming that a person CAN sell his/her explicit knowledge for $20, the payoff can actually be tens of thousands of dollars, since all you have to do is upload it on the Web (at Payloadz, for instance) and allow people to pay for it and immediately download it.

This is in fact what I do: I sell my knowledge via Payloadz, so I can make money while sleeping!

Clarification added 14 hours ago:

In case you're interested in monetizing your knowledge and automating the sale of such knowledge, here is the sequence I usually propose to clients: Do you have knowledge that is needed and/or wanted by enough people (say 10,000) who would be willing to pay for it?
No; Yes ---> Continue
Are you interested and motivated to package your knowledge into paper or digital format and sell it to make money?
No; Yes --> Continue
Do you have the writing skills to capture such knowledge into an article of 5-20 pages or a book?
Yes ---> Go ahead, start writing!
No ---> Continue
Would you be willing to pay a ghostwriter $500-800 (for an article) or $5,000-10,000 (for a book) to interview you and capture your valuable knowledge in writing?
No; Yes ---> Hire a writer and start the process of capturing and selling your knowledge


ANSWERER: For a mere 20.00 you might get my name on a piece of paper. But that's it.

> This reaction is understandable, but even Bill Clinton's name on a piece of paper is not worth $20 for me, although if he included his personal cell phone, that would be of great value. Many people might be shocked or offended by my unusual offer, and this may only be due to a misunderstanding of the financial value of knowledge. Or, to be more specific, the convertibility of knowledge into money.

> If we forget about the one-page constraint, and I had $20 to spend, who would be the first, out of 11 million users of Linkedin, to convince me to invest $20 and buy his/her knowledge?

> Some people will see the opportunity to make a lot of money and thus they will engage in this mad race toward the true El Dorado of the knowledge economy. Other people will react defensively and use old patterns of thinking to justify inaction, and get back to the old way of working (that is, putting in time in exchange for cash).

ANSWERER: Sorry I don't know nothing.

> Everybody knows something valuable. Although not everybody knows enough about marketing to be able to find the right market for one's knowledge. Indeed, "knowledge" is rarely the problem. It's finding out WHO could benefit from that knowledge and would be willing to pay for it. After that, it gets even better: one only has to develop and format the knowledge in a way that is useful to that target market. Without knowing one's target market, one would keep learning WITHOUT properly documenting one's knowledge in a way that is useful to thousands of other people, thereby one would forfeit a lot of money to be made in selling knowledge.

> This is why consultants and trainers are strategically positioned to make so much more money than their corporate counterparts, who only work for ONE employer. Not only do consultants make TWICE as much money as their corporate counterparts (this was researched and documented by Harvard Business Review -- they compared the salary of a manufacturing consultant with that of a manufacturing plant manager), they are also interacting with hundreds of clients and THIS enables them to keep develop their knowledge in a way that would INCREASE their own market value to their clients.

ANSWERER: And you really think I can get all that on one piece of paper? How small do you think my brain is..............haha!

> It's true that one page is a little extreme. But it could be 20 or 50 pages. It's more about quality than quantity. A book is a long explanation of a few key principles. It's often filled with anecdotes, stats, stories, case studies, etc. I tend to value original principles and frameworks. These can fit nicely onto one piece of paper.

ANSWERER: I don't need the $20. In the spirit of networking, I share whatever I know gratis. However, I don't know what you would consider to be "relevant" or "practical". In truth, many things that I have learned which at the time seemed neither relevant or practical have in time proved to be useful.

ANSWERER: So if you have a question, I'll be glad to answer. (However, correct answers do cost you $20.)

> The business model of charging for answers is not high-leverage, since the person providing the answers has to provide labour every single time. The author of a book, on the other hand, works only ONCE and then sells the work produced thousands of time. Think of J.K. Rowling, the billionaire author of Harry Potter.

> This introduce a new element into the knowledge game: imagination. People assume that a page would contain only text. This is why they feel they can't possibly "pack" their knowledge onto a piece of paper. But what if that piece of paper contained all the secret links to their instructional materials on Youtube (where an instructional video can be uploaded and be viewable ONLY to invited people) or or Payloadz (where you can set a price of $0)?

ANSWERER: Presuming that a page contains about 1000 words. You are essentially offering 2 cents per word. Most freelance writers charge much more than that.

ANSWERER: On the flip side, if you are looking for mentoring, offering $20 would be an insult to such professionals; right?

> It's not about quantity, it's about the quality of the knowledge written on the piece of paper. And it's not about mentoring, but pure knowledge sharing.

> Nobody has to feel insulted. If nobody is willing to pay $20 for your knowledge, then your knowledge has a market value of zero.

ANSWERER: I and many other LinkedIn users know a lot about many, many subjects. However, what we do not know is what is relevant and of practical use to to you or to any other person that we have not had an indepth discussion with overver a considerable time period. How would we learn "everything you know that is of relevance to me and of practical use to" you. After that, how would we begin to transfer our knowledge? Also, $20.00 would not begin to cover our "opportunity cost" for helping you. Perhaps there would be some other amount you would pay or barter for our information?

> The expression "know a lot about many, many subjects" is the crux of the dilemma for professionals and managers. A more profitable question is, "What is the only subject on which you are the undisputed expert?" Generalists don't become authors or speakers or consultants. Specialists do.

> I'm just a professional and entrepreneur, like many of the 11 million users of Linkedin. I'm university educated, I've worked 10 years in corporate workplaces, etc. Nothing about me that's radically different from other Linkedin users.

ANSWERER: Very interesting topic, thanks for posting! I know of a few developers who would love the opportunity to try out selling their creations, I will be sure to pass this along!

> "Creation" is an interesting work, and quite relevant. Sometimes, a person has valuable knowledge but is only missing the literary creativity to put it into words. Peter Drucker is a brilliant mind, for sure, but would he have been a good management thinker and writer if he did not have the unique literary skill of writing crystal-clear prose that is often penetrating and surprisingly lucid?

ANSWERER: It's all in what you personally value.

ANSWERER: If I look at your example of a book manuscript becoming the next college textbook in Management (citing your examples), one spends a lot of years teaching kids before they get the opportunity from some bright publisher that has interacted with the professor before the opportunity is granted.

> I would add that it's about what the market values. Most professionals can find another person who values their knowledge, but it's much more difficult to define a market (homogeneous group of people) that would value one's knowledge and be willing to pay for it. As usual, it can be a small market where buyers are willing to pay a lot (say, $100+) or a big market where buyers are willing to pay a little (say, $30 for a book).

ANSWERER: Very interesting proposition. I used to sell people ideas every day. I forgot how much fun that was.

> Ideas usually have a bigger payoff than knowledge, but the probability of success is lower (given the fact that ideas by definition are "something new"). Knowledge (the capacity for effective action) usually has wider applicability and a higher chance of being productively used to produce desirable results, but the payoff is usually lower.

ANSWERER: If you're suggesting that we can create monetizable documents and automate their sale, I'm all for that.

> The marketing and sale of monetizable documents is rarely 100% automated, although it may be semi-automatically marketed via blogs, cyber agents, auto-responders, etc. Of course, if you have a blog or website that attracts a lot of traffic, yes I guess one could say that it's automated.

ANSWERER: $20 doesn't buy you much of my time. If I don't think I'm worth it no one else will....

> It's not about buying a person's time, but his knowledge on a piece of paper. The person does NOT have to be present. And the question is not if "you're worth it" but "what is the market value for your knowledge"?

> This is a brutal question, because most people have not thought about selling their knowledge. Why? Probably because they think they have to write a book, which seems like a lot of effort.

ANSWERER: Sorry, I tend to get paid a lot more than $20 per page.

ANSWERER: Of course, not only am I paid for my own specific knowledge, but also for my ability to conceptualize and translate knowledge into a form that can be easily communicated to and understood by others.

> How many people have bought your knowledge and at what price? If 100 people have bought your explicit knowledge (in the form of a report, article, ebook, book, blog subscription, newsletter, etc.) for $30, then the market value for your knowledge concretely is 100 X $30, or $3,000.

> A professional or even executive may know a lot, but if his knowledge is "trapped" in his head,
he won't make money while he's sleeping. He can only make money while he's interacting with a client, but since his time is limited, his revenues will ALSO be limited.

ANSWERER: The business model you are looking for is: write a book!

ANSWERER: The authors you mention make a lot more than $20 a page, and even more if you realize that their books are mere marketing instruments for their lectures and key note presentations. For $20, Tom Peters would write you two lines. I'm willing to do the same.

> The "book business model" has been around for centuries, even since Gutenberg invented the printing press. Surely, in today's Internet age, we can do better! Why keep one's mindset trapped in a model that existed centuries ago?

> Some of the characteristics of the knowledge marketing model I propose, which differentiate it from books, are: instant real-time publishing via the Internet, shorter format (a few pages, not a whole book -- think of the 8-page summaries sold on, ability to interact with the author by email AFTER purchase, online payment (well, okay, Amazon is already doing that), ability to put pictures (color) in the report, etc.

ANSWERER: You don't even have to give me twenty bucks. Everything I know comes down to one thing, and if you know this one thing and always implement it, you'll never fail: Measure twice, and cut once.

> Good advice, but that's just information. To increase the value of information, you have to convert it into instruction, integration, implementation and inspection (there's also innovation in there). This is a proprietary methodology I've created, I will sell it soon on Payloadz.



--Do I think there's a nugget (or two - or a dozen) of golden info rolling around in my cranium? *yes*

--Do I think there are enough people in the world who would be willing to pay me ($20US) for that (those) nugget(s) to make selling it (them) a lucrative venture? *Yes* with a caveat that I'll get to in a moment.

--Am I literate enough to record that data in a lucid and comprehendible manner? *Well... with enough lubrication, perhaps*

--Am I willing to pay a much more literate and perhaps vitally more lucid person to do this for me? Uhhh... gosh, I'm not entirely sure my checkbook could handle it but, we'll assume I'm financially fluid and respond *yes*

> You can strike a deal with the writer, and share a percentage of sales with him or her. I know that as a writer, I would go for that deal, IF I believe that the knowledge of the client is valuable AND relevant to a significant number of people.

ANSWERER: Here's the caveat. Is the information trapped in my synapse valuable enough (or unique enough?) to place even a $20 price tag on it? This may come down to how it's marketed. It may come down to hiring someone with enough understanding of my chosen industry(ies) to be able to say which nuggets are largely unknown - and therefore monetarily valuable and worth the time and effort to commit them to record.

> Well, just create a "Table of Contents" of all your nuggets, and start offering it to people. Ask them if they would be willing to pay for your nuggets, and how much? You can even set a price for each nugget, which your clients have to pay in advance before you send them the nugget.

> My point is that you don't have to commit so much time and money into writing a best-seller. Just describe your nuggets (without giving away the secret sauce or secret mechanism etc.) and price them. Then, as more and more people order a particular kind of nugget, then you know where to spend and invest your time to develop those nuggets further.

ANSWERER: My counter question: What information might I (or any of us) have that would be valuable enough to you that you'd pay $20 for it?

> Anything you know that could increase the revenues or profits or customer base of my company ( or that would help reduce costs.


Peter - Very clear point - Wonderfully conveyed the messages. Bright brains some time even take less than a page to communicate their knowledge –
e.g., E=MC2
P=mf and so on.

I am – work in progress – Knowledge I gather and be rewarded immediately are from the success, and the failures were fermented into wisdom. Some such wisdom is –
To be successful in life and profession – one must (1) be Honest, (2) hardworking and (3) do more and expect less.

ANSWERER: If you do not have all or part of these, you can buy it from me with $20.

> Thanks, but with all due respect, that's just information. It's not instruction, and it does not contain guidelines on how to implement it to get desirable results. Google makes it so easy to get general information.

> To use your last quote, I would be interested in learning how to "do less and get more." Nobody ever became rich without some kind of strategic leverage. This strategic, secret leverage is what I'm looking for.

ANSWERER: Instead of an abstract request, I think you should lead and demonstrate for all of us what you think you know that we would pay you $20 for.

> I've developed in August 2005 a revolutionary strategic career workshop based on the Ideal Career Framwork (ICF), as well as a business workshop called Business Model Workout (BMW) taught in colleges and entrepreneurship centres. I've also developed, as a strategic consultant ("strategic" means I help clients to win), about 32 special workshops. I'm writing an eBook containing all of this valuable material which is actually worth about $5,000 (this is the price a person pays to attend all the workshops). Of course, the eBook will be priced more cheaply, probably around $85. I will let all Linkedin users know when the eBook is ready, some time later this year.

> Would I be able to pack my knowledge into a single page selling for $20? Yes, but I only show this page to select clients because it contains formatting secrets that are proprietary. From the responses of people to my question, I know now that nobody knows of those formatting secrets (or if they know, they are not answering my question, probably to avoid sharing their own secrets).

ANSWERER: Here is a free tip. Asking any expert to guess which drop in the ocean will quench your thirst is very naive.

> Interesting tip, but your metaphor is intellectually flawed: every person has unique knowledge which is like an island. People's knowledge does not mingle with other people's knowledge, as your ocean metaphor implies.

> Second, I'm not thirsty for knowledge. I've read over 800 management and business books. I'm teaching entrepreneurs and coaching careerists. I am, however, looking for data to confirm my various hypotheses and so far, feedback from people has been very illuminating.

> And finally, it's not about guessing. Business is about determining exactly the price that customers would pay for your offering, and then to charge that price. But first, you have to determine what it is that you know that MIGHT be of value. Next, you set a price for it. This price can vary, depending on various market segments you select.

ANSWERER: I think this is an interesting question. I would say that there is a large "void" of knowledge between college curriculum and so called "expert's books" about certain topics (say "Starting a Sales Career", "Starting a Business" dot dot dot).

ANSWERER: IMO- college seems to teach fundamentals and theoretical examples and explanations, whereas business books (at a bookstore) seem to elaborate on one expert's perspective, unless it is an anthology of examples.

> I agree. Colleges offer general information, business books offer specific information (not only "industry-specific" but specific to the author's background and experience).

ANSWERER: The business books that I have bought that have really been helpful to me as an entrepreneur are ones that are designed almost like a handbook, a useful book that can be used once and again for referencing the subject matter and putting it to practical use. Yet (all) many books are written assuming the reader has reached a certain skill and talent level - so these books are only helpful to those with the adequate business (other science) acumen.

> I've reached the same conclusion: all authors assume a uniform skill level in the reader population, and as a result, most readers will read a book, feel good that they understand certain new concepts and principles, then go back to their old way of doing things. No learning has taken place since there is no change in behavior.

ANSWERER: Books impart knowledge and information, yet putting this knowledge and information to work requires the reader(s) to have certain skill levels. IMO most books are written for a certain niche of experienced readers, I could very easily have my mom read books in my library concerning human consciousness, quantum physics, sales letter creation, business development - and the value to her would be minimal - she is not the intended audience and would likely find these "expert's words" confusing and not discernible and certainly not pertinent to her life.

ANSWERER: Books, IMO, all have a very distinct market or audience, therefore they don't appeal to "everyone". If an "expert" really wanted to expand his/her market and audience, I think they would write books (that make talk about the same subject matter) that are intended for different levels of readers.

> Robert Kiyosaki seems to be doing that. From his core Rich Dad Poor Dad book, he has developed other versions targeting teenagers, investors, etc.

> I see a trend away from book publishing to knowledge marketing. Knowledge has been brilliantly defined by Peter Senge as the "capacity for effective action," and so, as you pointed out correctly, a person who is not interested or motivated or skill-equipped to implement the information from a book, won't find it useful and won't derive as much value as another highly targeted reader who has the interest, motivation and skills to implement the information.

ANSWERER: So for "someone" to offer you a one page paper of valuable information and knowledge - they would at first have to understand your background, skill levels, interests, and so forth. Knowing if the information and knowledge they put in a one page paper for you is worth $20 - would be up to you the audience - and not to the writer. IMO - a writer writes a book for a very specific and intentional audience, rather than "everyone".

ANSWERER: So, this marketing and revenue generation of "knowledge and information" (a book) would be confined to those that "find this book/paper tangible and useful" - the audience (niche targets) would define the marketability and value of such a book/paper. Knowing the exact characteristics of the audience (market) and producing "knowledge and information" (the book) to satisfy this "audience's need" would then increase the inherent value of the book (information and knowledge). Is this even coherent now? I tried - Thanks - Brian

> Brian, your thoughtful response shows that you truly understand the intricate issues involved in strategic knowledge management. One metaphor I like is that of books as "ingredients" for cooking, and training or consulting as "cooking a meal for a client."

> People can read books (that is, browse through the ingredients) but if they don't know how to cook, or if the book is NOT in a handbook format (showing clear procedures and "recipes" for mixing and cooking the ingredients), then the book is useless. Yes, you can still touch and smell the aroma of ingredients, but you can't cook a meal that would nourish your mind.

> Consulting or training is better, although it's too labor-intensive.

> So my idea of knowledge marketing is to provide "pre-cooked, pre-prepared" (and health-conscious) foods for people. For instance, the one-page document could just be a procedure for improving one's Linkedin profile, or for using Linkedin Answers for career advancement or business development.