Be Your Own Algorithm

Your heartfelt posts and whimsical prose may only be seen by 10% of your actual audience. It’s not your fault, it’s just the way the system is rigged.

If Twitter shut down tomorrow, could you re-connect with the people you interact with everyday? That friend in another country that posts great photos from coffee shops? Or that friend two states away that’s always recommending great music?

Get an email. Get a phone number. No, you can’t keep in touch with everyone. That’s a full statement. You can’t keep in touch with everyone. Just as you can’t really be friends with 542 people on Twitter.

Then when you have phone numbers and email addresses you can speak directly. No one else is butting into your conversations. There are no ads. Your conversations are not being mined, a profile is not being built, your interactions are not being mapped by AI.

Yes, it’s a bit jarring at first. Your interactions with friends, no longer appearing next to explosive news reports, and tragic school shootings, but you’ll adjust. And you’ll get work done. And you’ll still have strong connections with friends.

It can happen, without a social media algorithm coming into play because you’re the one choosing, intentionally seeking who you want to reach. You are the algorithm.


You Don’t Have Time to Read All the Comments

I learned back in the mid 2000s to never read the comments. When you give a bad review of an album, fans (and sometimes the band) will sometimes have a few comments about your review.

Tricky is a smart, brilliant, informative show about online journalism, social media, and more hosted by Heather Chaplin and Emily Bell, from the Journalism and Design program at The New School. In their latest episode they discuss comments and moderation with Andrew Losowsky of the Coral Project, who rips into a few great points here (time stamped link to the audio, give it a listen).

I love the part of the “precarious position” when offloading your comments (and community building) to 3rd party sites like Facebook and Twitter. Think FB live video interviews and Twitter. Two types of “fan building” strategies, but like Losowsky mentions, you are “handing over the ownership of the direct relationship between you and the reader, to a 3rd party who will monetize that and sell it back to you.”

It’s true. All of it.

Seeing all that engagement and interaction on FB and Twitter looks great, and it might even get you more followers and likes. But think about it: what does Facebook require of you to reach 100% of those people who clicked “like?”

Pay up.

The same is true of Twitter if you look at your analytics – ain’t no way all your followers saw your last Tweet.

Yes, trying to do the same thing on your own site is harder. It’s not as good looking. It probably won’t net you the same number of likes or faves or whatever.

But if it gets you one email address, then you can reach someone directly. If they signed up for your mailing list, you’ve now started a relationship.

Sure, the same could happen on Twitter. You can meet some great people on there – I HAVE! But we don’t all have the time (or sometimes the headspace) to “hang out” on social media all the time to build and maintain these relationships. I’m not talking about short changing the relationship, or devaluing one email to a mere transaction.

Instead I mean this: if the goal is to be a 24/7 news outlet with employees and an office, do what you have to do. But if you’re a lone artist, musician, writer – chances are your efforts are better spent on your craft than on building up digital badges on social media.

Even now as I write this I feel like I need to push the link more on Twitter, and “engage” in conversation over there about this subject. Then other people can chime in! Look at this big, public discourse!

But I also want to go for a run. I have client work to do, too.

Just as a newsroom may not have the resources to moderate comment sections across their entire website, you, a lone creator, probably don’t have the resources to do 432098 things at once, either.

Unfriend Facebook in 2018

You don’t need Facebook to keep up with friends and family.

Talking minutes are unlimited on our smart phones, and messaging is damn near free. We can also send photos and videos to anyone who has a smart phone (which is basically everyone now).

Facebook’s algorithims serve up news posts in your feed to capitvate your attention. Facebook has all your photos. Facebook has the contact information of your friends and family – what a chore it would be to have to ask all those people for their phone number or email address, right?

Facebook’s got us. They pulled us in, and now we can’t quit.

Except, we can quit.

We pulled our money out of banks that financed the Dakota Access Pipeline. We stopped eating at Chick-fil-A. Maybe we didn’t buy tickets to the next Coachella.

These are choices, deliberate actions. That same sort of choices that Facebook made in conference rooms to lock you into their system.

You don’t need Facebook, they need you.


The Answer Isn’t More

You’re already doing enough.

Live blogging wasn’t fast enough. Now it’s live video from your phone.

It wasn’t enough to just be on one social media network. Better be on two. Or three. Or half a dozen.

Oh, just a monthly email newsletter? Why not a weekly vlog series, too?

It’s okay to look at all these things and:

  1. Be overwhelmed
  2. Not do any of them

Growth is hard in 2018, what with media’s saturation of damn near everything. Seemingly ever channel has been over run with marketing, links, polls, videos, and branding. Click this, watch that, share this and follow these four accounts to enter our give away.

So step back. Look at what you’re doing already that does work. If you only have two online sales a month it doesn’t mean you’re not hustling enough. It means you have two opportunities to absolutely delight someone. Focus on how you can do that while not running yourself into the ground

We’re Renting Space at the Food Court on Social Media

This article at Wired (‘It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech‘) hits on two areas that I’ve been thinking about a lot.

There are, moreover, no nutritional labels in this cafeteria. For Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, all speech—whether it’s a breaking news story, a saccharine animal video, an anti-Semitic meme, or a clever advertisement for razors—is but “content,” each post just another slice of pie on the carousel. A personal post looks almost the same as an ad, which looks very similar to a New York Times article, which has much the same visual feel as a fake newspaper created in an afternoon.


As a white male on Twitter I can expect to not be harassed, doxed, or threatened. So I’m not worried when I visit the social media food court.

I can walk in and not be cat called. No one will question my knowledge of the band shirt I’m wearing. No one will stare at me as if I don’t belong.

Promoting my wares on a website that does little to address its harassment and nazi and racist problem makes it hard for me to reach the very people I love. I am effectively hanging out at the ‘Make The Food Court Great Again’ food court, and wondering why most of my customers all look like me.


The words on social media look the same, whether you’re a humble dad in Nebraska or a Holocaust denying politician in the deep south. And either can be faked, because the playing field is leveled.


We dust off our websites. Clean ’em up a bit. Get rid of any nasty 3rd party ad tracking. Get rid of comments (since anyone can appear and dirty up the place). We treat our space like our own little cafe.

We won’t have the same foot traffic like a the mall (not yet), but the people who do show up are signaling that they want what we have. I know, losing that 2000+ followers is a bummer, but remember you’re probably only reaching 10% on a given day anyway.

Do Your Thing

There isn’t one true way to win this internet thing.

You can hustle and post 902,832 things a day, and live stream, and do all the conferences.

Or you can keep a simple email list, and set up at local flea markets.

Neither are right or wrong, and you don’t have to be in one camp or the next. You, your brand, whatever you do or whatever you make – it doesn’t have to align with something that’s already in existence.

I used to fight this with Skull Toaster – metal is supposed to be aggressive! In your face! Extreme! But ummm..

I didn’t get the memo, I guess.

Now, doing your own thing doesn’t always mean riches and speaking gigs and book deals. But over time you attract the people who’ve been seeking you out. You didn’t know who they were, and they don’t even know who you are, or what you do. That’s why you just keep showing up, doing the work. Because there are amazing people out there, with amazing potential. All destined to make the world a better place.

And sometimes that person is yourself, and being surrounded by other like-minded people pushes you to keep making, and creating. So keep doing your work.


The Afterthought

Posting five times a day in 2003 was a thing, but if I posted 10 times, I would double my traffic. And that meant with good CPMs I could make more money. And we all did it. Post 10 times? Let’s post 12 times. Oh, a run of the mill “band announces tour date” press release? Gimmie it, I’ll post it! It was the rush to get stuff – any stuff – posted.

The afterthought was people.

Fast forward to 2008 or so, I was working at AOL Music, as editor of Noise Creep. We got a directive to post as much as we could to fill up the search engines. We were publishing 20+ posts a day. Each post was an excuse to share the link on Facebook and Twitter, too. More posts, more social media, more traffic, more money.

The afterthought here was people.

No wonder I burned out and hated music and bombed an interview with Google Music (yep.)

This was websites, and media outlets, but now I see it with bands, brands, labels, anyone with something to talk about. Tweet all day, around the clock. Posting photos all day to Instagram isn’t enough, so here’s some live fucking video of me in between the time I’m posting photos on Instagram.

The afterthought here is people.

Did our fans gain more hours in the day? Nope. Just because we all have super computers in our pockets doesn’t mean we should all be filling eyeballs and ear holes with content (and SquareSpace ads).

This’ll change. Content marketing is now color by numbers. There’s a map. And when there’s a map, it becomes less valuable because anyone can follow a map (go read Seth Godin’s ‘Linchpin’).

All of this daily, 24/7 publishing machinery is for the money. The clicks, the downloads, the listens – it’s because the more you publish the more you can sell advertising – until everyone checks the fuck out.

The afterthought here is people, and it’s going to change whether your precious little brand is ready or not.

Attracting Good People

If I ever needed to see these words, arranged in this specific order, it’s been right now.

“I guarantee you that the second you stop pretending that everything is fucking hunky-dory and start building the life you want instead of waiting around for someone to save you, you’re going to start attracting people everywhere you go.”

This quote from Ask Polly, the aptly titled ‘I’m Pretending I’m Happy Single, But I’m Not!’

I mean this from the strategic standpoint of hindsight, in which I’ve lived many years waiting to be saved. It was only after some wise words from a friend that I looked at things differently, and managed to walk a different sort of life.

Currently I believe I am attracting good people everywhere I go. Not in the romantic sense and no, my heart does not ache over my singledom, but I needed these words in some sort of odd, time-travel completion sequence array.

These are words that I see today as a mindset, a reality that I envisioned a few years ago for myself. Content, able to exhale and be at peace with who I am today, without any sort of external validation.

Boost Your Facebook Post With Caution

With email newsletters you can ask for location information (city, state, zip), and instead of blasting (and annoying) your entire list, you send to subscribers in states where you’ll be playing. You can even customize subject lines with the states you’ll be visiting, which means more people would probably open your email.

Mailchimp is free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers. You can also see succesful delieveries, unlike Facebook which doesn’t tell you who saw the post – and fuck, they could be making that number up anyways. It wouldn’t be the first time (please read ‘Facebook miscalculation significantly inflated average video view times for years‘ from 2016).

How We’ll Live Without Social Media

Question: “without social media, how will anyone find me?”

On social media, every brand, band, label, personality, website, vlogger, photographer, writer, etc x 1,000 is begging you to find them.

Your social media post of “hey, come look at my thing” sits between news of some gruesome murder, a horrible story of workplace harassment, a post about puppies and how cute they are, and someone’s Gofundme because their house burnt to the ground and they lost everything.

So, you wanted me to click on what exactly?

How will people find you? With social media right now it’s a miracle that anyone can find anything.

Here’s what you do:


Boom. There it is.

Now yes, I realize when you publish something it doesn’t get 54 comments, 12 stars or likes, and 54 reblogs. That’s fine.

Just post something again tomorrow, too. Or next week, at least. After a bit of time, someone may bookmark your site. Yes, bookmarks are still a thing. People also still share links in emails to friends, and messaging apps, and in email newsletters.

The sharing won’t be entirely visible, and that’s okay (social media sites are designed to mimic slot machines in a casino, by showing you all the likes and shares and stickers – all to KEEP YOU ON THEIR SITES), but if you make good stuff people will share it.



Well, maybe you don’t becasue your inbox is a garbage pile and you have no one to blame but yourself (HINT: filters, unsubscribe, Sanebox, etc.) but if people like you, LOVE YOU, they will subscribe to your email list.

Will you have as many email subscribers as Twitter followers? Probably not. But you know how much effort is required to follow someone on social media? Zero effort. It’s just a click, next to three other accounts someone followed.

I bet if you could look at each of your followers you’d notice:

  1. 30% of those people probably haven’t tweeted in six months.
  2. 70% of those people probably follow 2000+ accounts, so they’re not seeing your stuff 50% of the time anyways

Say you “only” have 200 email subscribers and 60 people open your email (that’s a 30% open rate). You can have 1,500 followers and maybe 400 even see your post (a 30% impression rate – meaning alls they did was SEE it), but as I mentioned above, your social media post is competing with a social media post on top of it and below it. You’re part of a social media sandwich, and a lot of times people ain’t clicking your thing.

So if “only” 60 people read your thing, THEY READ YOUR THING. In their inbox.

From there, things spread. No, it won’t go viral. But you know what viral gets?

(I’ll keep this vague, so if you wanna know the details email me)

A friend posted an episode on his podcast. In the podcast their guest said something “controversial” about a certain someone in the industry. Well, two of the biggest sites in that industry linked to the episode. A total of THREE posts in two days, from big sites. A lot of the discussion was transcribed, but still, there was a link for people to click and listen to this person talking “controversial” things.

Two big sites. Three total posts. All linking to this podcast.

Result: 250 extra listens.

All the social media chatter, those websites posting that “hot story” to their huge audience, the subject matter, all linking to these episodes and… not even 300 listens.

Big 👏 viral 👏 wins 👏 usually 👏 aren’t.

And that “viral traffic?” It comes and goes and it’s gone. No one subscribes, no one magically opens their wallet and gives you $5/mo to your Patreon, no one cares. It’s drive by traffic, people looking for a quick fix of internet rage to jolt their brains from their mindless internet wandering.

Fuck that traffic.


Only have 20 people on your email list? Delight them. Treat them as if they were dinner guests. Respect them, take their coats, nourish them, make them smarter for having read your newsletter. Don’t waste their time with copied and pasted, zero effort, RSS automated bull shit all begging for clicks back to your website. That’s amateur hour and worked in 2006.

Do this well enough, and maybe you’ll have 40 people subscribed to your email list next month.

NOTE: I’m not saying community doesn’t exist on social media. I know not everyone loves emails and such. But if your entire brand sits on a social media platform, you are at the mercy of that social media platform. That platform determines (via computer algorithm) who sees what, and you don’t want to wake up one day and see that 90% of your community isn’t hearing from you. THAT’S why it’s important to get email addresses and own your own website.