Are We Cannibalizing Our Own Industry?

I just came back from vacation, and as you do on vacation, I spent a bunch of time catching up on my reading. Now, mostly when I’m on vacay, I like to read a nice novel, and I did (The Signature of All Things and Wild, for those of you keeping track at home), but I also cracked the spine on a book I recently purchased after hearing a lot about.


How to Blog for Profit Without Selling Your Soul by Ruth Soukup is now on my reading list for my blogging class. I will likely write a review about it someday soon, but I wanted to share with you a passage that almost made me fall off my deck chair.

In a section called “Building Your Email List,” Soukup says:

Their main goal is to grow an email list so that they can then convert into a sales funnel from which to sell their products, which often tend to be expensive courses or membership sites on some aspect of platform building, such as how to grow an email list, how to create a Pinterest or Facebook marketing plan, how to get published, or how to build an online business. For the product they are selling, and the audience they are trying to reach–other online marketers–this model is extremely effective.

The problem with this particular model is that it tends to be somewhat circular. While it works very, very well for marketers who are marketing to other marketers and selling expensive–albeit valuable–products or services to other online business owners who don’t mind investing in order to be successful, it doesn’t work quite as well for someone whose main audience might look very different.

Interesting, right?

Many of us in this social media industry are attempting to make money by selling products and services. You’ve seen them all–they promise a 6-figure income if you just take their course/read their book, etc. I’m not putting these folks down, they are running legitimate businesses. But I question if these businesses are, in the end, sustainable. What we have is a small group of people selling to another small group of people, who, in turn, want to sell to more people!

Maybe I’m totally off-base here. Maybe there are enough people to buy all the things. But I worry that at some point, this snake is going to swallow its tail.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please comment below.

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

Comments 13

  1. I honestly fear them destroying our industries credibility. It is getting to hard for bloggers out there, then you add all the get rich quick folks and no one will take us seriously ever again. Rock and a hard place and were going down fast. Especially in our city šŸ™

    1. Truth, Eschelle! I don’t want to be put in the same category as those folks that feel like they are only out for the latest “get rich quick” scheme. I want to provide value from my blog. By building that trust relationship, THAT is what leads to sales. (IMHO)

  2. I agree and disagree – yes I’m a bit scattered LOL! I too see the pitches for course after course and in fact recently wrote a post encouraging people NOT to buy anymore courses until they implemented what they already had. I hear of people who have purchased a $27,000 annual coaching program and have generated not one cent of income from it – because they don’t DO THE WORK. That breaks my heart. People are being conned into buying products that are over inflated in price and appealing to people’s desire to “get rich quick”.

    On the flip side, as a creator of online training programs I have a commitment to create content that is useful, accessible to every price point and if used, will generate business for people. But more importantly every course I create has two things that I believe are critical. 1) I have experimented and been successful with EVERY technique I teach, 2) My courses are about social media, but even more critical – they are about building relationships! Yes, I teach people how to get their Facebook likes up or their LinkedIn connections increasing, but it’s about the right connections and then working at building a relationship that is profitable for both parties.

    For many people who create courses it’s ONLY a way to generate income. For me, of course that’s part of it. But I find it a much easier way to deliver what I know to as many people as possible at a price point most can afford. I hope people do the work in my programs – I stay in touch with them, am available to help them if needed and cheer them on when they have success.

    Thanks for your post Rebecca – I hope it encourages people to really think about what they invest their money in and if, like me, they are creating content – what value it has.

  3. It’s not sustainable. You’re selling constantly to the same group of people and eventually they’ll tire of you and move on, or find a cheaper source. This is even more true if they can’t make money from running your system, which I believe most of these are pie-in-the-sky crap and the only one making money is the person selling it.

  4. Great post Rebecca, and one that I think is an emerging (and maybe already well-emerged)issue in this biz – are we about interaction or transaction? The selly sell is all about transaction and ‘friending for profit’. Ick, I say, ick. I take Russel’s point(s) as well – the phrase ‘selling constantly’in particular stands out for me. In this space, there’s a danger of that becoming the norm. It’s a bit scary – both from the ‘swallowing our own tails’ perspective and from an ethical standpoint. Ordered the book, btw.

  5. Really, IMO, this is a circular question that just keeps circling; the “do-this-do-that-to-win” sites are marketing to bloggers who aren’t confident in their own selves — and goodness knows we all would like simple answer to the question “How to succeed as a blogger?”

    Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question, other than to write/photograph compelling content that the distracted Internet surfer will be likely connect with.

    All bloggers would be well advised to study writing and self-examination (not that I want to turn that tip into a recipe šŸ™‚ more so than waste time on “Make a million as a blogger” sites.

    1. Aye, there’s the rub! How do you become a successful blogger? I’m 7 years in, and I’m still not sure! šŸ™‚

      Although I would argue that I’m successful because I still do it…

      I would rather be a flame than a moth, as my friend Vicki says.

  6. Iā€™d say you are successful, too, Rebecca, and definitely a flame, rather than a moth. I realized as I reread the thread that I replied to Randall as Russel. Sorry about that Randall :-/

    I was in a convo with a Russel on another platform at the time. Too much multi-tasking šŸ™‚

  7. Hey Vicki, no worries. I have been called Russell before. I had a great uncle Russell. I get Brian too and I’ve been called worse šŸ™‚

    In the end keep plugging away and you are successful. You know it takes the overnight sensation 20 years to become one. Business success is persistence & perseverance in my opinion.

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