How to Succeed Marketing to
Generation “G”

Generation G

There’s a brand new generation for online marketers to adapt to.

This time, however, the generation is not defined by date of birth. This generation is defined by repulsion at the corporate and political greed that has plummeted much of the world into economic doldrums.

In other words, Generation “G” is all about generosity and sickened by greed.

TrendWatching.com did a giant report on Generation G, because they see it as the most vital business and marketing trend given the current economic climate. And given the emerging social media culture, I don’t see us going back in the other direction when things get better.

GENERATION G captures the growing importance of ‘generosity’ as a leading societal and business mindset. As consumers are disgusted with greed and its current dire consequences for the economy—and while that same upheaval has them longing more than ever for institutions that care—the need for more generosity beautifully coincides with the ongoing (and pre-recession) emergence of an online-fueled culture of individuals who share, give, engage, create and collaborate in large numbers. ~ TrendWatching.com

But don’t despair, this isn’t really new – it’s just hugely magnified. Successful entrepreneurs and professionals have been using generosity to succeed for a long time.

In fact, I tried to sum it up in an article I wrote almost three years ago:

You’ve got to give, give, give to get.

Content Marketing is the “Free Love” Foundation

There’s an intensive battle for attention going on every day online. People aren’t looking for your pitch, they’re looking for valuable information that improves some aspect of their lives.

And that’s what you’ve got to give them if you want attention.

But here’s the win-win-win-win that results when you give away valuable content in a smart way. Not only do you get attention, and not only are you viewed as generous, you’re viewed as a subject matter expert who demonstrates expertise instead of simply claiming it.

You’re building authority with prospects while kicking in the reciprocity effect, so they in turn amplify your authority by talking about you to others. The same process will result in the 4th “win” – Google viewing you as an authority and ranking you high in the search results (more on this in the near future).

If you’ve managed to attract attention from prospective customers or clients who view you as a generous expert, AND you’ve got great search results, you’re way ahead of the vast majority of your competition.

And yet, you can take it even further thanks to social networking.

Social Sharing Amplifies Trust and Affinity

Once you have people who pay attention to you based on the solid foundation I described above, you can take it to the next level thanks to social networking platforms such as Twitter. The key is to continue providing value, while allowing for more personal interactions that lead to trust and plain ol’ liking.

With social networking, you can expand your generosity by:

  • Sharing relevant content from other sources, not just your own.
  • Finding stuff to share that gets people jazzed up or makes their day.
  • Confiding in those who follow you, thereby building a stronger bond.

Put simply, you’ve got to be a real person when networking online. Put a human face on the “expert” and you’ll enjoy more success. But don’t forget value though, because even when revealing more about yourself, it’s still about them at some level.

I see some people hopping on Twitter or Facebook and desperately trying to add more friends and followers without starting with the fans you attract by creating and sharing your own content first. That’s a tough road.

While not impossible, it’s awfully difficult to do this without an existing following, even if small. There’s no social proof of value, so attracting the attention of others who aren’t playing the “I’ll follow you if you follow me” game is difficult.

Don’t be a Virtual Sharecropper

Sharing via social networking can certainly help you achieve the status of generous. It’s a lot of work to find interesting stuff to share multiple times a day. The downside is without your own authoritative content, you’ve only demonstrated expertise in finding and sharing cool stuff.

Also keep in mind that you don’t own or control Twitter, Facebook or Linked-in, and your efforts on those platforms are essentially someone else’s user-generated content. Relying on social networking alone leaves you with no virtual land of your own, and no demonstrated expertise beyond working on someone else’s.

Don’t be a virtual sharecropper… start with your own content on your own domain, and expand from there. Your social networking efforts will magnify exponentially when you start with real fans in the first place.

Generous Doesn’t Mean Everything is Free

The TrendWatching briefing on Generation G is quick to point out that “generous” doesn’t mean giving away the farm. But I think it’s becoming obvious to many that the “give it all away” strategy of Web 2.0 is not working, just like it didn’t work in Web 1.0.

Those who don’t learn from history, doomed, etc.

I think we’re going to see a sharp decrease in the “blogging for bucks” crowd who thought advertising would make them rich. On the other hand, we need to see more of those with real businesses stepping up their content marketing and overall generosity. We’ll also see a shift in attitude related to free content subsidized by affiliate marketing and innovative sponsorship arrangements.

The main take-away from the TrendWatching report on Generation G is that people want to do business with companies and people who are willing to share and place generosity over greed. It’s not that they expect everything for free, because, believe it or not, when it comes to many things in life, we don’t value free all that much after all.

About the Author: Brian Clark is Executive Editor of Copyblogger and co-founder of DIY Themes. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Great post, thanks.

  2. Well said.

  3. This is quite an appropriate label that you have given the current generation of content-providers. Individuals that don’t bring useful material to the table are having a tougher time, as people don’t support things that chew away at their time and energy. I hadn’t seen a 4-win combo before, but it sure can be thought of in that way. I am glad you added in the point about having your own base being the priority, because that is what brings about optimally-motivated efforts.

  4. What better way to be generous and not be a sharecropper than to teach something on your blog. Pick any topic, master it, and try to teach it to your blog readers. You’ll become an expert and they will love you for doing all the hard work for them.

  5. Lagniappe is the name for that little something extra given away just because. Because it enhances the exchange, the experience, the relationship. The value. It makes business more human.

    That’s not new. Just newly revalued.

    Although if “Content Marketing is the “Free Love” Foundation”, I want beads with that. ;-)

  6. Great post! I’ve achieved content marketing success – in terms of customers and SERP rank – for one of my small business clients and we are about to plunge into Twitter. Thanks for confirming that this is the right step!

  7. I like the part about innovative sponsorship arrangements.

    Maybe you could teach us some more about that … maybe in Teaching Sells ?

    Maybe we could put Jon on that trail and see if that dog can hunt.

  8. Thanks Brian! This is a topic that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time as it pertains to my project on the Web.

    A large part of my strategy is to be a “sharecropper” under one platform. But consistent with my long-term strategy, I just this weekend started writing my own content. I must say, though, it’s the “sharecropping” that has helped build my expertise in my subject area. Now, my original content will carry much more weight.

    By the way, I’m using Pearson’s Cutline right now, but… Thesis is definitely on my radar for the future.

  9. Tim, that’s interesting… I’ve never come at it from the opposite angle, since I’ve been doing “content marketing” since way before social networking existed (and way before they called it content marketing). :)

    I still like porting fans over to social networking rather than vice versa. Maybe I’m just not as good a networker (I know that true in *real* life).

  10. Brian: Great advice…it’s so important to remember, because it’s so much easier to share and aggregate others’ content instead of build your own. But at the end of the day all you can really point to is that you are a good channel…a good middle man. And I think most people at some point want to cut out the middle man.

  11. Very timely article. A generosity and giving approach to business is definitely a rising trend. And it certainly falls into the category of a solid business-building “strategy.”

    As you well know, sincerity is key. Generosity and giving should be adopted as a way of “being” in business, as opposed to being viewed solely as a business-building strategy.

    People have well-developed B.S. detectors these days. If a business owner is considering giving for the sole purpose of getting, I’d recommend that he rethink his “strategy.”

  12. Generosity and giving should be adopted as a way of “being” in business, as opposed to being viewed solely as a business-building strategy.

    I like that. Wish I would have written it. :)

  13. Great summary, Brian; your stuff is ace! I’m wrestling with the free/not free caper. Free isn’t paying any bills, but it sure feels good! I’d love to do it more, but I’m afraid the lag may kill me. Wish I could find a middle path. Best regards, P. :)

  14. Great article, Brian, thanks!

    I have to say that I was delighted to read that Trendwatching article – I’ve never been good at the ‘shouting’ stuff.

    I spend a lot of time answering questions on Twitter and LinkedIn and that has, so far, brought me a steadily growing number of followers and visitors.

    Just this morning I got my first new LinkedIn connection request as a result of answering a question on Twitter. New LinkedIn connections were definitely not at the top of my list of expected results from answering questions on Twitter – but I was delighted none-the-less!

    Cheers,

    Martin.

  15. I think the development of this “G” generation speaks to the natural evolution of blogging, internet marketing, and social media. The money oriented current behind those activities simply didn’t work, and those who continue the me-me-me attitudes are starting to look like the used car salesmen of the web.

  16. You have fantastic content Brian! Thanks so much for sharing. Your perspective on the approach to blogging is very refreshing. I’ve spent the past weekend looking at as many blogs as possible in anticipation of launching my own. There is a definite line in the sand with people who connect others to content and those who create it. I’m glad to hear that the creation approach can work!

  17. Superb content! I definitely stand by running a business with a generosity approach. This certainly seems to be the trend for today’s successful businesses and it is about time.

  18. Generation G has always been there; amazingly, the MMO and Marketing crowd are just now noticing. Now, the marketing/SEO/social network crowd who think of blogging as a business are wanting to take advantage. There are two Generation G’s–the one mentioned and the opposite–meaning bloggers who live for Greed and use Generosity as a ploy to market themselves; making them fakes.

    The generosity tips mentioned like sharing useful tweets every day are sometimes just to market themselves. For instance: the blogger who gets hundreds of comments on each post, does not reply to any (maybe a few) and rarely gives a return visit . . . you know . . . lacking authentic friendship (a blogger who blogs for and becomes real friends with people not just because they write something they like but because they truly care about others).

    This post–to some readers–is about how to ultimately make money through false generosity and schmoozing friendships. I was a member of the real Generation G long before I started blogging–it happened when I was a child. I hope people see the true meaning of your message–it’s quite wonderful.

    Generation G doesn’t want friendships with Internet marketers or to spend money–they just like helping others and true lasting Internet friendships. I don’t mean to take a negative position and I do get it . . . generosity as a way of being; however, this has more to do with personal philosophy than it does applying generosity as a business concept. There is a fine line between the two. This article feels sincere and I love the message. I just know many Marketers use generosity as a way to simply make more money. Nobody appreciates a Christmas card from WalMart and we all know why they send them out.

    Great post Brian :smile:

  19. This is a breath of fresh air on a couple of levels. I was just in a discussion about SEO, social networking, snake oil, and Voodoo and it all just makes me want to scream. I have worked hard for a very long time to present a similar message. With regard to Internet marketing, the way it really works outside of the laboratory, I think it all gets to sounding the same. Many people say it differently, but what really works is what you have said here. I enjoyed your delivery.

    Thank you for the great content to “Sharecrop”. I have already written and read enough content today that I think I have a blister on my cornea. I appreciate the break, and the punctuation to my many similar messages.

  20. Brian, you’re on the money – so to speak. I’m a health professional in the offline world where ‘free’ is tacky and might just devalue the service in the clients eye. Going online, then, and learning marketing strategies that involve using the ‘zero cost effect’ always made me a little uncomfortable.

    I’ve just started a blog (am I late or early!?) and in a recent post I point out that there’s a big difference between ‘free crap’ and ‘free quality’. I think when it comes to something quality, we all love ‘free'; we all love an irresistible offer no matter how poor or posh we may be.

    I’d be glad to see the end of ‘free crap’ and the negative affect it has on internet users, and replaced instead with ‘free quality’ that builds trust, and makes people want to buy something from you.

    Cheers
    Nic

  21. This is really uncanny timing for this post. Here is what my daily “Insight from the Dalai Lama” calendar offered yesterday:

    “If advertising is for a good cause, it is worthwhile. Buddha advertised enlightenment or Nirvana. If it is reasonable and beneficial, it is good, but if it is only for profit, cheating, and exploitation, or is misleading, then it is wrong.”

  22. Being a female, I’m relationship minded, but I think the secret is to network online and develop relationships with other people, relevant to your business goals in some way, but who you learn to really care about. Alternatively, if dealing with strangers (as is often the case), you might just envision their predicament and how your information/service might help them. So then the generosity feels like true generosity, not just the Internet equivalent of the old childhood strategy, “If you be my friend, I’ll give you X, Y and Z.”

  23. Bobby-
    You make a great point about “false generosity.” I’m sure Brian would agree that tackling this subject on such a general level is challenging.

    An obvious next step is to look at companies that have adopted generosity and giving as a way of being in business. This can almost always be traced back to leadership. As consumers, we may not always see and know the leadership.

    Two “case studies” that came to my mind are Chick-fil-A and Hobby Lobby. Their leaders – S. Truett Cathy and David Green – set a great example on this topic.

    These two guys may not use blogs and Twitter the way the Copyblogger readership does, but their corporate lifestyle is still a great example for anyone in small business.

  24. “I think we’re going to see a sharp decrease in the ‘blogging for bucks’ crowd who thought advertising would make them rich.”

    I think that’s already happening. Anyone can create a blog and throw up tons of ads.

    Not everyone (not many?) can create compelling enough content to bring in enough traffic for the ads to really make money.

  25. Thank you so much! I had read the Trendwatching report last month and had it rolling around in my head every since. There are still a lot of people who don’t understand the concept of generosity. I’ve made it one of my missions to highlight how giving can lead to a trusting clientele who will reward your generosity with their business and referrals.

    I’ve been compiling a list of great articles about builiding client loyalty that I give to my clients and will be adding this one to the mix.

    I appreciate your constant, relevant reads.

  26. Hi Brian,

    “But don’t despair, this isn’t really new – it’s just hugely magnified. Successful entrepreneurs and professionals have been using generosity to succeed for a long time. ” – you are spot on.

    I’ve been a member of a networking group called BNI for over a year, one of the things that attracted me to the organisation is their philosophy of Givers Gain – that by giving REAL VALUE to the other business in the group and your customers you will naturally benefit.

    Bobby – maybe this counters your valid concerns – if what you are sharing/giving away has tangible value to the recipients great. If it is just a shallow maketing ploy I think people see through it pretty quickly. Don’t you think?

  27. @Paul: I am VP of my BNI group, and that is a very attractive mentality of BNI and other viable networking groups. I want to mention a good read on the topic. Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of BNI, wrote a great book called “Givers Gain: The BNI Story”.

    http://www.amazon.com/Givers-Gain-Ph-D-Ivan-Misner/dp/0974081914

  28. We live in a culture of entitlement. That expectation is the foundation of untold markets. :)

  29. I would like add a little something about giving. When you give content, make sure you’re not just giving away regular content.

    Give away your most valuable content. Preferably one that your readers can take and implement right now and see immediate results.

    When that happens, your credibility and perceived generosity shoots up.

    But note this. Kenrick Cleveland once said, “People don’t find value in what they don’t pay for.” A lot of other equally influential have said that too.

    So when you give, you want to educate your readers as to how much that content is really worth.

    Hope that helps.

  30. I just thought I should share this regarding the trend, I found a website that has started at http://www.myggo.net …. seems like they’re trying to start a movement!

  31. Brian, Great Post!

    Have a book suggestion for you and perhaps a future blogpost. This book started the Generosity Generation craze as the author describes how to “evolve from the Ego Era to the Generosity Generation.” Michael Maher’s book “The Seven Levels of Communication” outlines how to leverage this trend, the Generosity Generation, in a step-by-step system that will not only increase your profits, but improve your lifestyle. I’ve been doing it for only a short time (the book just came out) and the results have been stunning. It’s a great read, actually a love story and yet packed with great ideas about doing business in the new economy. I don’t want to come across as too big of a cheerleader, but I’m not the only one singing its praises (www.Amazon.com, http://www.BN.com, http://www.Facebook.com/SevenLevels, and other review sites have it at a 5) and its been endorsed by Dave Ramsey, Tom Hopkins, Bob Burg, Dr. Ivan Misner, and other heavy-hitters. I think you can still get an autographed one at http://www.7LBook.com, but don’t quote me on that.

    Great post! Love your stuff!

    Cierra