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I debated whether or not to write this post - not because I wasn't sure if the topic was worthwhile, but because I couldn't write it without giving attention to one of the few people on the internet whom I believe deserves to be ignored.

That person is Julia Allison.

Who? If you're fortunate enough to be insulated from the foolishness that exists in the small world of the tech blogosphere, you, thankfully, like most other people in the world, have no idea who Julia Allison is.

Allison, however, has built up a modicum of "celebrity" in the blogosphere for, well, doing a whole lot of nothing, even though she thinks herself a budding Oprah.

But doing a whole lot of nothing publicly can make you famous in some circles, and doing a whole lot of nothing recently got Julia Allison on the cover of Wired magazine.

The Wired cover story entiteld "Internet Famous: Julia Allison and the Secrets of Self-Promotion" even acknowledges this:

"Allison is the latest, and perhaps purest, iteration of the Warholian ideal: someone who is famous for being famous. Like graffiti writers who turned their signatures into wild-style gallery pieces, she has made the process of self-promotion into its own freaky art form. Traditionally, it takes an army of publicists, a well-connected family, or a big-budget ad campaign to make this kind of splash. But Allison has done it on her own and on the cheap, armed only with an insatiable need for attention and a healthy helping of Web savvy."

A product of the narcissism fostered by Web 2.0 that I've discussed before, Allison does not lack any ability to attract attention in the small world of bloggers, techies and new media types.

While Allison's antics are not worth discussing, the concept of "internet fame" is.

Wired's piece promotes Allison's penchant for attracting attention (at all costs mind you) and purports to reveal the "secrets of self-promotion."

In a recent puff piece on Yahoo's tech|ticker, Sarah Lacy interviewed Allison.

Calling Allison's presence on the internet a sort of "mini-empire," Lacy asked Allison if there were any ways businesses can apply Allison's tactics to their benefit?

The answer? Of course!

After all, according to Lacy, even if people hate you, "online, that's all currency and it's all attention."

Allison believes that in this "new kind of journalism" that she calls "entrepreneurial, personality-based new media journalism," companies need to understand that "people relate to personalities" and that they "don't relate to businesses that are just sort of cold facades."

Brilliant, cutting-edge stuff.

She notes that celebrity endorsements have been one way companies get their "personalities" across but that in a world of "entrepreneurial, personality-based new media journalism," celebrity doesn't necessarily have to come in the form of a star actress or prominent athlete.

According to Allison, average nobodies (like her) can be famous and that business owners should create "own stars within [their] business and have them endorse it."

She cites Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, who has "leveraged" Twitter and Facebook to not only give Zappos a presence within the world of social media, but to convey his personality to users of those services.

Of course, proving the points I've made about online communities, it's worth pointing out that the Zappos community on Facebook has only 2,202 "fans" who have posted 35 wall postings, 26 reviews, 19 videos, 3 photo galleries and 2 discussion topics.

On Twitter, Zappos' CEO has more than 9,000 followers.

Great. But what does this really do for a company that reportedly pulled in more than $800m in revenue in 2007?

And once again, therein lies the rub.

For the vast majority of businesses, the notion of using the internet to create fame and prominent "evangelists" is easier said than done. And to boost revenues from this is downright difficult.

The truth is that the average businesses doesn't have a "brand" just as the average business doesn't hire actors and celebrities to endorse their products.

To be sure, the word "brand" has essentially become meaningless as marketing experts have devalued it by using it loosely without any apparent knowledge of what a "brand" really is.

The average business is not a brand - it simply provides products and services and it typically thrives or fails based on how satisfied customers are with its products and services.

And this is where there seems to be so much disconnect today.

Self-proclaimed marketing and media experts who have little to no real-world experience running a small business or working at a large business spew all sorts of "wisdom" that is promoted via the angle that they know more than the people actually running these businesses.

Yet because they've never actually been "in the trenches," they don't recognize that the average business isn't going to build a "brand" and is at best, simply trying to build a base of loyal customers by providing great products and services.

And because they've never worked at a large company, they don't understand the concept of "scale" and how difficult it is to "move the needle."

In effect, these self-proclaimed experts know nothing.

Internet fame is not a realistic business model. Providing at a profit quality products and services at prices your customers deem reasonable/competitive is.

That said, look for a book by Chris Anderson stating otherwise.

After all, according to Anderson, Allison, "in economic terms" has "created a huge asset in the reputation economy."

Of course, if you run a business, the question is - do you want to create an asset in the "reputation economy" or do you want to create an asset in the real economy?

Drama 2.0

Published 7 August, 2008 by Drama 2.0

237 more posts from this author

Comments (5)

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Märt Ridala

I think that the "Internet fame" of this blog and you are more or less an asset for e-consultancy. :-) You probably have hundreds of readers who are already or might be in the future your customers. Well... I myself am one of them. Without this fame and blog they probably would not know anything about e-consultancy or anything about internet marketing overall. So with this "Internet fame" build up you do increase your customerbase and revenue and also increase the size of the internetmarketing market. :-)

(There are billions of people in the world who still don't know that marketing your services or products on the internet is relevant.)

about 8 years ago

Drama 2.0

Drama 2.0, Chief Connoisseur at The Drama 2.0 Show

Mart: I'm flattered, but with all due respect, I am not "internet famous." Having hundreds (or even possibly thousands) of regular readers doesn't make me a "celebrity." Sometimes I wonder if we haven't completely degraded the meaning of "celebrity."

I'd like to think that the people who read my blog are doing so because they find the quality of my writing and analysis to be high, not because I'm engaged in a bunch of antics that are little more than vehicles for self-promotion.

When I sit down to write, I'm focused completely on producing posts that are interesting and (hopefully) insightful. I'm not thinking about whether or not the posts are going to attract attention or improve my "image."

In other words, I'm focused on the product - not myself. Huge difference. I hope my "product" breeds satisfaction and loyalty - not "fame."

about 8 years ago

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Manoj

Very good post. The two vital points you make: about Internet fame not being a business model and the choice between the reputation economy and real economy offer food for thought.

about 8 years ago

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Dan

Julia Allison is despised in the internet world. Anybody who follows her work or credits her to any success should take a history lesson. She's a wreck!

about 8 years ago

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Jennifer Leggio

One word - bravo.

about 8 years ago

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