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Free Promotion or Theft? The Fine Line, and treating your readers well

Sometimes, when someone is working to build a brand or promote a product, they can get anxious about anyone else encroaching on their territory. By trying to keep their audience close enough so they won't slip away, they actually have them in a chokehold - thus missing out on opportunities. With a bit more freedom, your true fans can be your greatest asset for free and effortless promotion.

Let me explain with a case study. The TV show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has become a huge underground hit on the internet, among a completely unexpected demographic - teenage and 20-something males. The entire first season is up on Youtube, along with hundreds upon hundreds of fan videos, Pony-inspired music, remixes, fanart, and so on.
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic - Hasbro's marketing genius, 1000 true fans
Hasbro's main interest in the show was to sell toys, so it let the Youtube copyright infringement slide. And, in allowing the videos to remain online, they have gained a huge base of fans who gobble up every bit of merch that Hasbro can produce, and evangelize the show to other people, creating even more fans. If the show were not easily, freely accessible online, this fanbase would never have created. Only airing on Hasbro's premium cable channel, The Hub, the show would have languished in preteen girl obscurity.

Treat your audience well, with generosity and enthusiasm, and they will do marketing for you. Treat them with suspicion and jealousy, and you may very well end up losing them. This philosophy can be extended to blogging and internet marketing as well. If you desperately scramble for conversions, using tactics like popover advertising or not including full posts in your RSS feeds, you might alienate your readers. But if you are generous to them, you will be repaid with loyal readers who will tell their friends about your Cool Thing, whatever it is. If you love your readers, let them go, and then they will come back to you.

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