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.”
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?