I had an interesting lunch a few weeks back with Jon Dale. I had met Jon at the MediaBistro Circus event and we both wanted to follow up on our intial discussions about social media and ciommunity building. Jon was in new York for the summer as part of Seth Godin‘s MBA program. But his main trade was teaching authors how to fully exploit social media and build communities online. Jon’s belief (and one he is putting in to practice everyday) is that leading a community (or tribe if you use Godin’s term for it) not only has social and personal benefits but leverages your own business. By building a following in the digital space, Jon’s authors are able to better promote and market their product, leading to increased sales and higher royalty rates from publishers. The ultimate next step, of course, is for these authors to cut out publishers completely and begin directly marketing to their product to their communities (something Keith Ferrazzi was talking about at the conference as well).
My discussions with Jon got me thinking of my old pal, Warren Ellis. For those of you who don’t know him, Warren is a writer and futurist who has created comic books, tv shows, film and video games for just about every big media company on the planet. He’s also a passionate advocate of creator ownership and leader of one of the most dedicated online communities on the interwebs. He’s the ultimate example of Jon’s model of a community/tribal leader.
How did Warren create this role for himself? One could argue that he didn’t. Warren’s dedicated readers put him in this spot, supporting his various projects and creating an online community of the strange, the darkly humorous and the downright scary, with Warren as their sort of paternal figure/village wiseman.
But of course, that community wouldn’t exist without Warren giving them the tools to organize themselves. And nobody loves playing with new tech tools more than Warren. He was following the golden rules of social media before anyone had even coined the term “social media”. He’s been creating value (i.e. giving away content) online for the better part of two decades and distributing it through any category imaginable. Here’s a snapshot of his current online presence:
Whitechapel Message Board – http://www.freakangels.com/whitechapel/
FreakAngels (Free Online comic strip) – http://www.freakangels.com/
Mailing List – http://mailman.flirble.org/mailman/listinfo/badsignal
Website – http://www.warrenellis.com/
Podcast – http://www.warrenellis.com/?feed=podcast
Flickr Page – http://www.flickr.com/people/warrenellis/
Twitter Page – http://twitter.com/warrenellis
LiveJournal page – http://warren-ellis.livejournal.com/
Yes, he has assistants, but it’s still one man and one creative vision creating the content that feeds all these streams. What’s the end result of all these efforts? Creative freedom and *ahem* a very comfortable living.
Warren has become the role model for the new creative paradigm. Content creators who share their talents and put the effort in to engaging with their fans/buyers to create something enormously valuable. A “portable” community that supports their work no matter what format or distribution channel it appears in.
Warren is one ofthe best at this and many creative types don’t have an interest in spending the time that is required to create this type of following. But there’s no reason more creative types can’t partner with a Jon Dale or someone similar to build their own tribe. And that partnership of creator and “Personal Brand Evangelist” could truly change the game in any number of fields.
Are you a creator of products or keeper of a brand? Are you leveraging yourself like Warren Ellis? If not, who’s your Jon Dale?