Common Craft has a new video: Social Media in Plain English. Like all of Common Craft’s previous videos, it has inspired a multitude of comments and embeds across the Web. And rightly so. It is very good, and you should watch it. To make it easy to do so, I’ve embedded it below. But read on after viewing: To provide educational eye candy is only part of my aim in today’s posting. (Click here if you are reading in a viewer or on e-mail and don’t see the video below.)
As education, this is brilliant. Common Craft once again demonstrates great prowess at distilling seemingly complex concepts down into everyday terms. If you don’t understand how social media might impact your business after viewing this, you may just be beyond help.
But aside from being great education—or more correctly, as a result of being great education—this is fantastic marketing. Lee and Sachi LeFever, the husband and wife team behind Common Craft, have created a tremendous brand and distribution network by offering a series of high value videos like Social Media in Plain English for free.
Why would they do this? Their success is such that it makes the answer self-evident. The free content, because it is both entertaining and highly valuable, has created an amazing amount of traffic. By my count, they have had more than 1.3 million views of their social media-oriented videos on YouTube (see list below). That translates into substantial brand equity for Common Craft, and it also has translated into clients for custom development services. Not bad for two people working from their home in Seattle. Much better, I am sure, than the usual advertising and direct mail campaigns could have ever produced.
So what now? Viewers of this latest video will notice the message at the end that says Lee and Sachi have basically suspended all custom development activities and are concentrating their efforts on the Common Craft Store, where educators can download high-quality versions of the popular videos for use in corporate training or other classroom-type situations. This option, however, comes with a price tag.
Will this approach work? I’ll probably never know the full details of their results, but certainly there are reasons it might. First, because they have kept overhead low by leveraging the Web as a promotion and distribution network, they probably don’t have to sell all that much to produce a profit.
And because they have developed such trust and such a loyal following across the Web, they already have a significant installed base of potential buyers. These may represent only a small percentage of the people who have seen their videos, but even a small percentage of that small percentage could amount to quite a few sales. (Remember: 1.3 million to date.)
So what might all of this mean for more established organizations? i.e., ones that involve more operating overhead than two people working out of their homes?
First, it is well worth considering how the dynamic of “free” can work in a Web 2.0 world. Even if you don’t have the viral success of a Common Craft, offering up high value content for free as a way of building brand and cultivating a community can still be very effective. One of the keys is that the content must truly be of high value, and it must also be given in the spirit of contributing to a community, not simply as an obvious ploy to hawk other wares.
Second, you might consider whether you have the equivalent of a Lee and Sachi team anywhere in your organization. Without having to increase your cost structure significantly, are there people you can free up to experiment strategically with leveraging the social Web? Relatively few teams will produce success on the level of Common Craft, of course, but even modest successes could open up valuable new opportunities for your organization.
Common Craft has evolved. Maybe your organization can too.
P.S. Here’s a list of Common Craft’s social media videos for reference. And don’t forget to subscribe if you like what you read here at Hedgehog & Fox!
Common Craft Plain English Series on Social Media