how to win the gold rush without digging

In 1848, along the American River in California, on John Sutter’s property, nuggets of gold were uncovered, and the United States, not to mention the world, was changed forever. People who had perfectly comfortable middle class lives in Pennsylvania and New England suddenly said, “Hey, wait, I could go out to California and become the richest guy in town!” People piled into California with picks, spoons, pans, and anything else they could muster, and they all went to the banks of that little California river.

Well, almost everyone.

A few people went to the area where all of the hubub was happening. They saw that the miners were always running low on food and equipment. They said, “Hmm, I could open a store here, and as long as people are here, I’ll be able to make a living.” They said, “Hmm, I’ll bet these fellas, who are far, far from home, would really love a well-cooked meal. I could start a restaurant here and make money for as long as people are here.”

And they did. And even when the gold was no longer visible on the surface of the ground or water, the stores and restaurants that had opened up to service the miners were still there. They could now service the big companies who used explosives to get to the gold. They could service the towns that were growing up around them.

Social Media as the American River

I just watched an interview that Mark Schaefer conducted with Jay Baer, and Jay referred to the current status of Social Media marketing as the gold rush. It made me stop and think about what that could mean (since I always have my history hat on). What is the gold rush right now? Where are the miners? Here are some ideas.

• People are mining for followers and fans

• People are mining for the “big post”

• People are mining for blog traffic

• People are mining for borrowed influence from more established names in this space

Engagement can outlast what people are trying to dig up

To me, it seems like the craft of learning how to engage with people, how to develop your business using new online tools, is like those stores and restaurants that opened up around the gold rush. People who are digging for new followers on Twitter will eventually find themselves in pretty low shape if Twitter ends up going down in a blaze of glory, right? We’ve talked about blog traffic on this site before – if you’re getting lots of traffic and none of those people give a darn what you are talking about, what does that really do for you?

Engagement can be whatever you want it to be

It seems like now is the time to figure out what you want your long-term strategy should be. Why do you want to be engaged with other people in this online space? What are you hoping to accomplish? Think beyond the “get rich quick” scheme of jumping into the river and panning for gold. Don’t think about a specific platform. Think about something you could offer that everyone in the online space will need, even after they are convinced there’s no more gold to be found. How can you keep them around? How can you keep your plan in action? Deep relationships, in my opinion, is the first step. What comes next?

What do you think?

This is post #35 in The Engagement Series. I hope you are enjoying it. I hope my series doesn’t have a mid-life crisis! :)

Image by Stephen Eastop. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/Eastop

8 comments
Susie Blackmon
Susie Blackmon

Lately it seems that the term engagement is becoming as overused, almost, as social media! It is so important, yes, but so is consistency and adding value. The fake social media and marketing 'experts' are muddying the gold mines. May the real, 'verified' as opposed to 'wannabe,' 24-karat professionals survive and continue to increase in value, and the fake cubic zirconia's be relegated to the costume jewelry box. What's next? For me, it's to give more.

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Those are some powerful words, Susie!

I think a lot of people toss out the word "engagement" without really thinking about what it means, or maybe thinking it just means "being human," another overused phrase.

To me, engagement is synonymous with 21st century business development. I think engaging with your potential and existing customers is the only way you can know how to offer value - you know what they want and that guides you (within reason).

But yes, there are a lot of buzz words and sound bytes out there, and giving more, offering value more - those certainly aren't bad things at all :)

Kathy Manweiler
Kathy Manweiler

You're so right, Margie. Engagement can outlast the social media "gold rush." And I'm definitely going to be thinking about something I can offer that others in the online space will need even when they're convinced that all of the gold is gone. Great food for thought! Thanks so much, @kamkansas

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Glad you liked the post, Kathy. Let me know what you come up with :)

Susan Larson
Susan Larson

Excellent thinking. Continue! You had me engaged and then the post ended. I want more. (Maybe that's part of your plan!)

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Well, it's definitely nice to hear that you wanted me to continue, but it's no fun if you don't take part in the story :)

Mark W Schaefer
Mark W Schaefer

This is very cool. Like this imagery and like it even better that I was able to give you a little creative inspiration. Thanks for the mention and for extending the dialogue!

Margie Clayman
Margie Clayman

Yep, I wasn't lying when I said you and Jay = smartness. Thanks for the inspiration :)