I had the opportunity to talk to the attendees of the Niche Digital Media Conference in Minneapolis today — a group of about 150 niche publishers, largely rooted in print, who are looking for ways to efficiently and effectively extend their products online.

The conference is organized by Carl Landau, a long-time niche publisher who has recognized a gap in the market for targeted, hands-on insight and networking opportunities for these publishers.

This is the heart of the magazine business: magazine brands driven by an intense passion for the subject, by people who are as much part of the market as they are serving a market.

I used the platform as an opportunity to walk through the way that adapting a content-sharing approach leveraging social media tools can drive web traffic and market engagement.

The audience was attentive and interested, and when I wish I had been able to simultaneously simplify the topic and give even more hands-on guidance.

The summary is pretty simple: use Facebook, Twitter and a blogging platform to share lots of information with your audience over the course of a month and experience a quantum increase in your relevance and engagement.

But what I’ve discovered is that unless people actually get to see the process work, they find it hard to conceptualize. For many, each of the social media tools sounds esoteric and somehow marginal, and associating their brand, which they’ve worked so hard to impute economic value to, with these brands feels contradictory.

Afterwards, there were a few specific questions.

First, did we introduce a social media policy to the company when we invited everyone to get involved in social media? The answer is no, we didn’t. We let everyone know that they had a choice about whether or not to participate in our initiative. We rely on their common sense and understanding about how to behave to manage our social media identity. We’ve had a couple of instances where we’d had to ask people to take a post down, or to separate their personal social identity with their work social identity, but those have been relatively few.

Second, how do we convince editors that the content-sharing strategy won’t take away from the printed product. We all have our little tricks here — I compare shared content on social media networks with teaser ads for TV shows — but the bottom line is that the teams have to trust that increased engagement with their audience will enhance consumption of their magazine. I do have a bias that the real reason why some people raise this objection is either because they believe content sharing will be too much work or they are panicked by the exposure and pace of the new technology.

Lastly, one publisher asked, How will this make money? I can point to several instances in our markets where we’ve benefited from a client’s awareness of our social footprint. We’re currently working of creating commercial offers associated with the social media footprint, and I’ll report on those initiatives as we progress. I am convinced, however, that there is a tangible halo effect for our brands through their social media content sharing, and that will become more clear as we execute on this strategy.