Huge Opportunity for Publishers & Professionals: Social Media, Education & Niche Markets

As I mentioned the other week, I am unbelievably excited about the future of online education. Today, I want to talk about this topic in terms of professional niche markets.

Dan Blank
When people talk about “education,” it is often assumed that the target audience is those under 21 years of age. But I’m interested in how we educate ourselves as adults, how learning is a lifelong process.

I have been studying various ways that people are approaching more formal classes via the web. And I see incredible things happening, and incredible potential.

I am not talking about simply connecting people with information, that is only part of the equation. Education goes beyond delivering content, it extends to mentoring, fusing connections between students, and supporting the many psychological needs around learning. Giving someone a list of things to study is very different than teaching those things, and forming a teacher-student relationship.

People don’t pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to MIT just for the information in the book. People don’t pay thousands of dollars for continuing education for the course material alone. People don’t travel to expensive conferences just to hear the sessions on the stage.

They go for the connection – to other students, and to other experts.

Roger Ebert recently wrote about how Twitter has given him a voice again. What this means is that social media gives EVERYONE a voice, regardless of your location, age, economic class, experience, etc.

Access to information was the first phase of the online revolution. Access to each other is the second.

What I am seeing is our ability to scale this access. One way is forums – I have leveraged two of them in the past six months, both focused around online marketing:

  • Third Tribe Marketing – a monthly subscription site for those looking to grow their business online.
  • DIY Themes – when you purchase one of their WordPress themes, you are given access to forums, filled with amateurs and experts, sharing ideas and technical knowledge on how to leverage and customize the themes.

In both cases, access to these forums are a compelling selling point in their products. And both deliver – if you choose only to read, there is a TON of useful information shared by a variety of voices. If you choose to engage, you see powerful relationships form, and reputations being built as people help and grow their expertise.

And both of these forums require payment in some form or another. For Third Tribe Marketing, I pay $27 a month (the cost has since gone up), and for DIY Themes, I spent $160 with them, and was given access (I could have spent much less – around $80 and been given the same access.)

Everyone talks about ‘free’ on the web in terms of both content and networks. And sure, most of the web is free and will remain free.

But for specialized niches where people have targeted needs and a deep desire to connect with experts, grow their own skills, and become a part of a community – it is not unreasonable to put a price tag next to that. In fact, for many online businesses (and especially online publishers), I think this is a HUGE opportunity for revenue.

This is not about finding a way to ‘monetize’ their audience – it is about providing incredible value, and truly growing their careers and interests. Sure, professional organizations and business media can build out these systems. But I also think you will see more independent groups begin creating curricula around business & professional topics, and even brands leverage education as a form of content marketing.

For online publishers, this is an opportunity to move beyond the fragmented culture of simply producing article after article (or blog post after blog post.) Education is goal oriented, and can profoundly shape the lives of those you serve. The measurement is not if an article was published, but if a student moved their career in the right direction. If value was created in your market.

If you are looking for ideas on how to consider online education in your market, give me a buzz, I’d love to chat: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.

Thanks!

-Dan

Lifetime Learning: Did Your Education Stop at Age 21?

I was wandering around Princeton University on Sunday and bumped into their graduation & reunion ceremonies.  I spent the day surrounded by current and former students – it was a day filled with moments: Dan Blank

  • Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon.com, gave the commencement address, sharing a story about how he left a very good job to chase the internet sensation.
  • At one point, I sat in an outdoor area, next to a table with four graduates who were catching up on the past few years of their lives – kids, debt, job search, relocation, stress and the like.
  • I sat next to a man in his 70s at lunch, wearing his Princeton outfit, back in town for the reunion. He was with his grandson, chatting up the bartender over a lunchtime beer. His grandson explained to him what a Mimosa was.
  • I walked past recent graduates leaving the ceremony, stripping off their gowns and caps, a faraway look in their eyes as they rushed to meetup with friends and family.

These moments had me considering how we learn, how we grow. The first 21 years of our lives are about structured learning – we go to school, we memorize facts, we are posed with challenges and tests, as we move up the ladder from pre-school to college graduation.

And then what?

How do we learn from there? In many ways, I suppose: we learn through our everyday lives, unstructured learning, experience, our jobs, via those we meet, and by reading, playing and creating.

This works well for some. Not so well for others. For some, it’s easy to back into a safe corner, surrounded by the same dozen people, the same job, the same town, the same experiences day in and day out. It’s easy to treat new ideas as foreign, new people as ‘other.’ At some point, life becomes more about reinforcement & validation of what we already know, not openness to new experience, and a thirst for new ideas, new ways, new communities.

I have found social media to be a powerful learning tool – connecting not just to information, but to communities, to individuals. And I am fascinated with how we can take this a step further – how we can continue learning throughout our lives, assigning goals, and working together to meet them. I’ve been studying models for online classrooms, and how individuals can come together to teach, learn and grow.

This summer I will be launching an online class of my own, one geared towards writers, and how they can build an engaged online fanbase. If you are interested in learning more as I move towards launch, sign up for email updates. (I won’t spam you!)

In the meantime, let me know if I can help you in your journey: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.

Thanks!

-Dan

The REAL Barrier to Growing Your Business & Career Online

There are so many useful resources to teach you information, knowledge, tactics, strategies and skills. Books, websites, videos, courses, seminars, and the like, in both traditional and new media.

Dan BlankBut often, we use these resources – read that incredible book, go to that highly regarded seminar – and then go right back into our old routine, implementing none of the useful insight that was shared.

So many approach the web to push their business and career forward, learn the best tips, and fail. Why?

Because many of the barriers to growing our business and career has nothing to do with tactics or strategies, and everything to do with the emotional & social barriers that we put in our own path. I’ll give you an example that I would often see with bloggers I’ve worked with:

  • The setup: I had to work with an expert or writer to launch a blog. The issues people often asked me about were searching for specific tactics that would make the process easy and understandable. It was all presented as tactics and strategy.
  • The real problem: But more often than not, the real barriers in their way weren’t just about content strategy, social media marketing and blog system management, but issues of identity, fear over time management, apprehension of putting yourself ‘out there,’ confusion as to the proper way to interact with other rational adults, and the many stumbling blocks thrown in our own paths that make it easy to feel that blogging wasn’t worth the effort. Even how we measure success suffers from this: focusing on page views as the only metric to judge success, instead of influence, engagement and outcomes.
  • The solution: Sure, I went through proper training and shared all kinds of useful tactics, strategies, and systems for managing their blogs. But the bigger part of my job was to break down the emotional & social barriers standing in people’s way.
    At times, this meant chatting about how we measure success in life, how we interact with others, the mission of our roles in journalism & media, and confronting how we identify who we are in our markets, and the lines between everyone we connect with.

I feel there is about to be an explosion in online education. And admittedly, that is a direction I am moving in. But I think the key is not just to impart knowledge as traditional classrooms did, but in building a system where people can work together to also get over the emotional & social barriers standing in there way.

So much of this is more about confronting fear than it is about tactics and strategies. Again and again I see competent well adjusted adults ask questions about how to act online – on platforms such as blogs, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. And while there are some interesting tactics and insights for each specific platform, the answer should always be largely the same:

Be a caring helpful human being.

Sure, we all need to understand and be comfortable with something new before we jump in. But the fear behind these questions is often about things like:

  • Confronting our fear of failure. Most people don’t try new things because they are afraid of failing and afraid of looking stupid while doing so. THIS is why you see media companies (and others) repackage the same old tactics in new ways – again and again. They know that it worked in the past, so it is emotionally safer to try it again and again instead of trying something new that could work… or could fail.
  • Confronting how we define ourselves, and how our professional roles are changing due to online media. Suddenly, people without the term ‘vice president’ in their title are gaining stature and building powerful networks. In many ways, this can threaten the most basic ways that we define our self-worth.
  • Confronting how others define us. There are many people with great business titles, who are concerned about losing stature if they Tweet or blog. That – someone of their stature does not go down ‘to that level.’
  • Confronting our own daily routines & productivity – that sure, you can fit blogging into your schedule if you are really honest about which of the tasks you have done daily for decades are REALLY worth your effort, and which are a waste of time. It’s hard for people to change their routines, and they will go to great lengths to defend them.
  • Confronting our fear of others – of expanding our social circles, which are often built as a protective layer of ‘friend’ or ‘stranger.’ Social media has made this so much more porous, and many people are incredibly fearful of putting themselves online, of who may contact them, and even of how to contact those they DO want to meet.
  • Confronting our own limited skillsets. It’s hard for people to say “I don’t know.” That is what I find so powerful about LinkedIn Answers – that professionals using their real names say publicly: “I don’t know something, how do I do this?” That isn’t easy for many folks – some people associate that with exposing their ignorance, their weakness, and are afraid people will realize that they don’t know everything.
  • Confronting exposing our hopes and dreams. In some business environments, it is considered weak and soft to show that you want to grow, that you have hopes and dreams. When you get involved in social media, you are exposing so much more of yourself. You aren’t out there just saying, “I’m awesome,” you are out there saying “I want to grow.” And to many, that is inherently a sign of weakness that they are wary to expose. Why? Because it means others have something they want, and exposing that can make people feel deficient.

So the training courses I am developing focus a lot on REALLY useful tactics and strategies for leveraging online media to grow your business and your career. But they also focus on getting past the emotional and social barriers that stand in our way. That – we need to work together to move into new areas, to build our skills, and build and understanding that failure is just one step on the way to success.

If you want to be the first to know about the courses I am developing, PLEASE sign up to my email list:

Let me know if I can help YOU: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.

Thanks!

-Dan

I am Unbelievably Excited About Online Education

I want to share with you what I am most excited about, and what I am working on building. Okay, so we are at this AMAZING time in history. A-MAZ-ING. Here’s why:

  1. The web has made it simple and free to share and access information, knowledge, wisdom and inspiration.
  2. Social media has torn down the other barrier – how hard and lonely it is to grow, to reach our potential. With social media, we can interact with others – experts, amateurs, teachers, students, anyone who shares your passion. We can help each other.

Dan Blank Those two things open up the floodgates for us to realize our potential, and to grow as human beings. No matter who you are, where you are, and what you do – you can now follow your passion and expand your universe.

Whether you are a cashier in Oklahoma or doctor in Australia, you can access the knowledge of the world (for free) and interact with others who are passionate about the same things you are. It practically doesn’t matter your social or economic class, or where in the world you live.

This has been germinating in my mind for a long time, and I am working to connect the three things I am passionate about:

  1. Creators
  2. Education
  3. Online media

So I am developing online courses to connect these things, helping creators such as writers learn how to leverage online media to build their brands and careers.

That’s the one I am working on first, and have a laundry list of others that I think would be compelling and helpful to so many folks.

Now, the goal here is not just to ‘impart knowledge.’ The training sessions I am building are not just comprised of sending out modules each week, but to work WITH people to understand their goals and help them get past the many emotional and social barriers in their way.

That last line is the key, and I am always shocked as to why it isn’t talked about often enough. Most of the barriers in our way are EMOTIONAL and SOCIAL. People who are pining for something new are often smart, skilled and focused. Yet… it’s hard to take risk, hard to change how the world defines you, hard to stretch your skills, hard to find the inspiration, and hard to make the time.

That’s why I’m developing some online training courses. Not just to give information, but to work with people. To create a community of helping, of sharing, of growing.

Today is unlike any other time in the history of the world. We have the access to learn, access to teach, and access to come together.

I want to know: WHAT DO YOU WANT TO LEARN? HOW DO YOU WANT TO GROW?

And most importantly: How can I help?

If you want to be the first to know about the courses I am developing, PLEASE sign up to my email list:

Let me know if I can help YOU: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.

Thanks!

-Dan