Jason Sadler started a company, IWearYourShirt.com, which, as the name implies, is a service where Sadler wears your company shirt; uploads a video of him wearing your shirt to YouTube and Ustream.tv, posts photos on his blog and on Flickr, and tweets about it on Twitter.
In other words, he became a human billboard with a valuable social media following. With more than 17,000 avid followers on Twitter, people care about what Jason wears.
His pricing schedule was just as interesting as his service: on the first day of 2009, he only charged $1, on the second $2, on the third $3 and so on. By the end of the year it cost $365 for him to wear your company's shirt.
So, have people bought these unusual ad spots? Of course they have! In fact, his 2009 calendar is entirely sold out, and he is already making reservations for 2010. And like a true social media profiteer, Sadler is doubling the value proposition for advertisers next year: he's hiring a second walking billboard to wear shirts as well.
What's the secret to his success? Small business owners want to take a risk on cost-effective advertising tactics with a huge potential upside, and large brands are always eager to experiment with new and interesting formats. Throw in the words "Twitter" and "Flickr" and big businesses are all but sold.
Speaking of sold: his unique idea has made him more than $70,000 this year alone ($66,795 before contests and deals are included). Plus, according to his publicist, more than 115 days of his 2010 calendar sold out within 24 hours of opening his appointment book.
Solid numbers and a well-designed website aside, I had a few lingering questions for Sadler. His answers may intrigue you.
What gave you the idea for I Wear Your Shirt?
I've always been a creative thinker and, of course, have always worn shirts like everyone else. When the Million Dollar Homepage became a sensation a few years ago I knew there had to be something I could come up with that would hopefully be as successful and, maybe down the road, just as profitable.
Many companies print t-shirts as promotional items and they are always giving them away. I didn't have any attachment to what shirt I wore and knew how much attention they grab when people look at you. I thought 'why not become a human billboard and create an advertising medium through free social media tools?' I don't believe in banner ads, especially when there aren't decent size budgets involved.
Think you'll ever stop the project?
I'm going to have to put a shirt on every morning, I may as well try to get paid for it right? By adding a 2nd shirt wearer in 2010, I hope to double the exposure for each day's sponsor and increase the amount of people wearing shirts and the price if the success continues.
With the companies getting all of the social media content I create on a daily basis for such a small price, I think the value proposition is very good. I've yet to have an unsatisfied customer and nearly 30% of existing 2009 sponsors bought days in 2010, some of these companies haven't even had their day yet!
Do you think others can use social media to do something novel and attract attention and revenue?
I hope people continue to push the envelope and create interesting and innovative ideas using all the available social media tools. I think the key is in not forgetting the "social" part and interacting with people as much as possible. Anyone can create content and slap it across a social networking site, but actually sharing with a network of followers, friends, et al is key. Don't just shout at people with an idea or a concept, get involved in conversations and be yourself.