My wife is a prolific generator of content. She takes, on average, 200 photos per day, writes a public blog, and sends detailed, engaging emails about our travels to her personal email list.
Recently she told me she'd like to make a little money selling her photographs. I asked her what was standing in her way. She said, "I've been trying to figure out what my niche should be." My response: "You ARE the niche."
Meaning that she is a dependable source of high-quality content in a variety of media through a variety of communication channels. Her friends and readers trust her to select/create/synthesize content that, to them, due to their shared interest, is consistently useful and enjoyable. How did she earn their trust? By maintaining a steady, dependable flow of such content, year after year.
Shortly after this exchange, walking along a NYC street, I saw a vendor selling photographs. Included were shots of cultural icons: Elvis, John Lennon, Lucille Ball.
Which set me thinking: how does one attain iconic status?
In the case of Lucille Ball, she was certainly a comedic genius - but she would probably be one of the first to admit her iconic status depended mainly on her persistent hard work, channeling content from great writers. Fans tuned into her show and filled theaters for her movies because of the fact that such channeling had made her a trusted, dependable source of comedic content.
Guy Kawasaki has achieved similar status in a smaller circle. While I don't expect to see his photo sold from a table in Times Square, he's become an icon in what used to be called "high tech" circles. He's done that by serving as a dependable channel for high-quality information that's the cream of a crop of some pretty poorly-written junk. He calls his most recent communications medium, Twitter (@guykawasaki), his "full-time job."
What's he's saying is that Twitter helps him solidify his reputation as a dependable source - a trusted editor - via small, 140-character chunks of text, many times per day. 24/7. His reputation is the driver of his sources of compensation - the sales of his excellent books, ad revenue from his "virtual newsstand" Alltop, and fees for his speaking engagements like his keynote at SES New York next week.
I have a similar attitude: my main job is to serve as a channel for the best, most credible information about online advertising in general, and PPC advertising (e.g. Google AdWords) in particular. I spend a big chunk of every day reading articles and press releases, and "re-tweeting" links to the best ones on Twitter (@szetela).
At the end of every day, all of the links I've published via twitter are collected by a software "bot" and re-published in a single blog post. That way my readers can follow individual Tweets or click through the links in the blog post.
Geekier people like my friend, Social Media Marketing expert Marty Weintraub, refer to such practices with Web 4.0 terms like "personal distribution networks using human feeds." I call it common-sense relationship-building whose practice and value has been around as long as Man.
Want to win at the social media game and become an icon within your sphere? Think of yourself as the proprietor of a personal channel. It's your job to keep current on news, developments and resources within your field of expertise -- or even just your field of view. Your value to your "followers" is the fact that you can be depended upon to separate the wheat from the chaff -- and pass on to them only the best content.