Three Things Seth Godin Taught Me About Social Media

This last week, Seth Godin made it official that he is moving away from the conventional book publishing world. Linchpin would be the last book he would publish the conventional way.

One of the key reasons Seth cites behind this decision is the realization that his true customers are not the readers – they are the publishers who accept the manuscript and get the book published, printed, distributed and commercialized. That’s a pretty valid – and convincing argument.

There’s one key message that came out of Seth’s post –

Instead, my mission is to figure out who the audience is, and take them where they want and need to go, in whatever format works, even if it’s not a traditionally published book.

There are three compelling lessons about social media – and conventional publishing – you can learn from Seth’s perspective:


The thing is–now I know who my readers are. Adding layers or faux scarcity doesn’t help me or you – Seth Godin

Audience comes first – more so that ever in social media. What are you doing to identify your true audience? It could be plain old market research, or something as sophisticated as what Tim Ferris did for his best seller, The 4 Hour Workweek.

Here are bunch of questions that need to come out in the affirmitive:

  • Have you identified the right audience?
  • Are you connected to your audiences?
  • What are you doing to engage with your audience?
  • How are you bringing real value to the relationship?


… They don’t wake up and think about which product they’re going to sell today. Or, maybe they’ll try something different in Toon Town to see if it will increase traffic to that area. Everything is well documented and thought out long before executed. Even the placement of the shops at the end of the rides.

But, That’s Disney…

It’s easy to shrug your shoulders and say, “Yeah, but that’s Disney. I’m just a blogger selling (fill in your product of choice).” That’s okay. You don’t have to aspire for a Disney size empire. However, if you want to run a business, not just a website, and experience the things you want in life, then I would pay attention to what Disney is doing. – Matt Fox

Did you read The Disney Experience by Matt Fox? It’s a highly recommended post – and a very easy read anyway!

I believe that’s also the point Seth is trying to make when he says –

My audience does things like buy five or ten copies at a time and distribute them to friends and co-workers. They (you) forward blog posts and PDFs. They join online discussion forums. None of these things are supported by the core of the current corporate publishing model.

Our goal is to create experiences that audiences will cherish for a lifetime. And engage in for a lifetime. Do we want to create a single point-in-time sell-it-buy-it experiences, or are we looking towards i’ll-keep-coming-back experiences?

The choice is ours – but it’s also the fork the separates conventional publishing from what we are proposing (and seeing for real) here. Print books are here to stay – nothing is going to happen to them. But the methods of getting them printed will change. And all said and done, they will increasingly become part of larger experiences – ecosystems that not only draw upon our sensory channels, but also leverage multiple learning channels.


Build something of real value. Vastly improve what you’re currently producing. Create something that’s so good, people will consume it regardless of how much you engage, solicit, comment, reply, share, promote or appreciate your audience. – Jordan Cooper

I spoke about the concept of ubiquitoids last month:

Create ubiquitoids, that enables your audience to make you a part of their lifestyle. Not from a pay per word perspective, but from a friend-philosopher-guide perspective. That to me, is the epitome of social media success.

True social media magic happens when you can create lifestyles that borrow on the experiences and ecosystems that you create. What you create can be any combination – or all of what we already know about conventional and/or social media:

  • Blogs
  • Membership, Subscription Products
  • Print Books
  • Digital Books
  • Media Rich Content – Audio, Video, Presentations

I can think of no better way to conclude this post than to borrow the words that Seth used to conclude his –

Instead, my mission is to figure out who the audience is, and take them where they want and need to go, in whatever format works, even if it’s not a traditionally published book.

Are you willing to figure out who your audience is – and then delivering what they want – where they want and the in format they want?

(Image Credit: Mohammed Jangda

3 Responses to Three Things Seth Godin Taught Me About Social Media
  1. Matt Fox
    Twitter: PersuasionFox
    August 30, 2010 | 4:40 pm

    Kapil, first, thank you for the mention and glad to be mentioned among your thoughts in this topic and in a great article. It’s deeply appreciated.

    I really like the last quote from Seth regarding finding your audience and feeding them how, and what, they want and need (Seth’s actual words, “take them where they want and need to go”).

    Most marketing and product delivery focuses on building up the benefits and try to force it down the market’s throat. It’s easier, as a person selling goods/services, to avoid the resistance and give them what they’re asking for.
    Matt Fox recently posted… Testing Your Marketing- When Is As Important As What

    • Kapil Apshankar
      September 2, 2010 | 12:09 am

      Glad to see you here, Matt – and bingo! Want and need are two sides of the same coin.

      As you rightly said, it’s so much easy when we are able to deliver what the audience really needs, rather than just pushing down what they want down their throats.

  2. Forum Buddy
    November 14, 2010 | 8:24 am

    Thanks for the effort you took to expand upon this post so thoroughly.
    We should join a discussion forums with a chat room, because we need information. The best benefits about using a forum or chat room is that you can talk about any problem you have and ask any questions you might have in your mind.
    Forum Buddy recently posted… Home &38 Garden • Virginia Creeper- a fall color vine