Fides est Solvo: Digital Marketing and the Price of Free

Fides est Solvo (Translated – Thought is Free)

Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Gas prices are constantly on the rise, the stock market has crashed more times than Lindsey Lohan, and every day it seems that movie ticket prices are rising, but each and every day our culture moves towards a Web Free-conomy.

In 2008, Chris Anderson of Wired Magazine had an article titled “Free! Why $0.00 is the Future of Business.”  I’m not going to rehash the whole article, but it’s great and you can read it here if you want.  The gist of the article is simple though, because of the Internet, everything is moving the way of free.

You might say that’s ridiculous, but check out this free ebook from Copyblogger here on how to increase the SEO of your website, or this ebook here on how to find a job using Twitter, or download the new Nine Inch Nails album The Slip here totally free.

The world has gone the way of free and Shakespeare predicted it over 100 years ago.  In Shakespeare’s play The Tempest, Stephano exclaims “Thought is free” in Act 3, Scene II (I like Shakespeare, so what?).

In the 2007 adaptation of The Tempest, entitled King of California, Michael Douglas plays a released mental patient who, with his daughter, tunnels under a Costco in search of gold and along the way finds out that the relationship he builds with his daughter is indeed more valuable.

Being an advocate for social media marketing, I’m a big fan of the progression towards free.  I couldn’t agree more with Stephano that “thought is free” and a relish it every time I pay $45 to fill up my car with gas.  Thoughts are free and if people aren’t getting your thoughts already from you, they will be getting them somewhere else.

What are you doing as an organization to establish yourself as a “Thought Leader?”  How much of that is available for free?  If the answer to either of those questions is “nothing” then you need to take a long, hard look at your marketing strategy or social media strategy.

Am I saying that everything you do, you should give away for free?  No.  I am saying that ideas and thoughts are always free and if you can establish yourself as a thought leader among the people you are wanting to reach, they will come back to you and pay you to find out more.  Always begin with the intention to help people and you will see a large ROI.

It cost me nothing to start this blog, it also costs me nothing to keep it running and to consistently write it for you.  If I am able to help one person, or bring one idea to light that may have otherwise been in darkness, my ROI for this blog is a hundred-fold.  If people enjoy what I write and want a deeper, more personal take on how to improve their social media/digital marketing strategy and if I have helped in the past, then I am in a better position to charge for those services and they will have more faith in those services.

You should start at free and move from there.  We no longer live in a society of “Buy One, Get One Free” or “Free Prize with Purchase.”  YOU are the free prize, your IDEAS are what your customers get.

Here are some ideas for starting your own Freeconomy:

  • Write an ebook on something you are an expert in or something you are passionate about and give it away for free on your website.
  • If you are a musical artist, record your next record and give it away as a free download.
  • Offer to hold a free seminar on something (Werkshop Marketing in Nashville does this and they are incredibly insightful.)
  • Next time you create a powerpoint presentation for a client, put it on your website or Slideshare for other people dealing with the same issue.  Do the same with your next presentation and put it on Youtube.

There are many other ways, but be creative.  See what kind of ROI you can get by giving your information away for free.  There are many more great blogs about this here, here, here and here if you are interested in reading more.

Shakespeare and Michael Douglas had the right ideas.  Knowing what’s important in life and what can be given away make all the difference.  Ideas will always be free, it’s up to you to decide what you will do with them.  As for me and my brain, these ideas are free for you to agree with and implement or you are free to call me a crackpot and a dreamer (but I’m not the only one) and keep going the way you are now.

I believe free is the future, especially in the fields of social media marketing and PR, it’s up to you to decide whether you will adapt now or wait and have the culture of free cost you everything.

You are free to choose.


About Joey Strawn

Digital marketing sociologist and public relations specialist with experience on national and local campaigns with a love for film and the things it says about our culture and business. Joey is the Senior Social Media Strategist at ISM in Nashville, TN and is in the business of helping people and companies deal with the new universe of social media in their marketing and PR endeavors.
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2 Responses to Fides est Solvo: Digital Marketing and the Price of Free

  1. Meredith says:

    I was wondering when Shakespeare was going to show up!

    I love this idea, and I think the act of offering your ideas for free is where everyone should start. From my perspective, it’s about being humble. You can’t really come out of the gate and immediately start charging for your content if you haven’t proven yourself worthy of the cost. Starting at free gives you the opportunity to build your reputation as someone worth the eventual cost. You’re also more likely to engender a sense of loyalty among those who have been with you from the start.

    Great post, Joey! More Shakespeare!

    • Thanks so much. I agree with everything you said. And have no fear, there will be more Shakespeare to come. I also plan on doing an 8-part series on the Harry Potter movies, so stay tuned for that.

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