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6 things digital marketers can learn from internet stars

There is an Internet star or celebrity for just about any topic of interest, and digital media marketing has been the secret to their success. In the early days of Twitter, one of my colleagues made what I thought was an astute observation: “We forget how small Twitter really is.” We were discussing the fact that hardly anyone in the “real world” was on Twitter, and yet everyone we knew – or thought was important – was. That comment held new meaning for me several weeks ago, after reading a New York Times article about Jenna Marbles – The Woman with 1 Billion Clicks.

The article coincided with some research I was doing on a variety of topics: eating a more healthy diet, developing a new business model, keeping up on digital marketing trends. I’d always thought of the Web as a giant, chaotic mess, dominated by techies, hacks, flacks, and marketeers. But of course, those are the small worlds in which I circulate, and at one time, they did dominate the mess.

Over the last 20 years, the Web has evolved into this vast green landscape dotted with towns and small cities. But these towns aren’t defined by geography; they’re defined by interest.

Jenna Marbles
Jenna Marbles (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

There’s a town for people passionate about the Paleo diet. A small city for those obsessed with Facebook marketing, and there’s a growing metropolis for business and lifestyle coaching. Some of these places aren’t very big – perhaps 10,000 or 30,000 people. Others are huge and number in the millions.

Each town has its leaders: Its town council, if you will. They’re the experts, the go-to people for everything on that topic of interest. All of them are making a good living on helping others learn, grow, build, create, or reinvent. You’ve probably heard of some, but others are virtually invisible to the mainstream. But it doesn’t take a million followers to be successful in a niche, a few thousand will do.

You do, however, need to master the art of digital media marketing.

Here are the six things we can learn from the Internet Niche Celebrities:

  • Cult of Personality – Jenna Marbles. What every one of these “Internet Stars” has in common is an outsized personality. They’re authentic: they curse, they’re energetic, they’re unique. And they build upon these traits to build a following of devoted fans. They’ve mastered the execution of what Tom Peters called “The Brand Called You” in his eerily prescient Fast Company article – in 1997.
  • Create Great Content – David Siteman Garland. These folks don’t curate. They CREATE. And they create content that is interesting and unique. They do it over and over again, on a predictable and reliable schedule that keeps people coming back for more.
  • Dominate Your Medium Before Branching Out – Marc Maron. Most of these celebrities have focused on one medium and learned to do it really, really well. It might be video, blogs, or podcasts, but they focus on that medium and perfect it over time. Only when they’ve mastered it do they begin to look for other ways to get their message out.
  • Build a Brand Platform – Marie Forleo. Forbes credited Marie Forleo’s success to focusing first on building her own brand. “Her product was a shadow of what it is today.  That didn’t stop her from infusing her offering with those qualities she would eventually want to be known for, namely giving a hip and refreshing twist to business development and personal training.”
  • Take a Risk on a New Medium – Amy PorterfieldOnce their reputation is established, they look for ways to keep things interesting. Amy Porterfield had never created a podcast before, and it made her nervous. She did it anyway and was open about her discomfort. It didn’t take her long to find her stride.
  • Give a Little, Sell a Lot of Little Things – Mark SissonCreating and sharing great content is what builds an audience, but the goal is still to make money. However, you don’t need to sell expensive consulting gigs to do it. Most Internet celebrities have also mastered the art of creating products that can be created once and sold to many. The low price tag means that for not much more than the cost of a couple of lunches or a dinner out, their fans and followers can benefit from their expertise through courses, books, videos, CDs, DVDs, and more.

So, what’s your path to stardom? You can see that these six examples are as varied as the people behind them. You don’t need to copy what they do, but instead focus on what you do. Not everything they do will work for you, but these examples might help you figure out what you need to add to your personal marketing mix.

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