May the riffs be heavy and your burden light today, good friends. You’re doing damn good work.
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.
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.
Know what's rad? Boosting my band's fb post about our upcoming shows, then fb promoting the post on instagram instead of facebook, improperly cropping the art that was attached, disabling event links, & completely disregarding the local audience I wanted to promote the show to.
— Johann Currie (@obsidianmirrors) March 6, 2018
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).
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:
HAVE A WEBSITE
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.
HAVE A NEWSLETTER
“BUT SETH, NO ONE READS EMAIL.”
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:
- 30% of those people probably haven’t tweeted in six months.
- 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.
DELIGHT YOUR CURRENT FANS
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.
File this under “Texts With My Talented Artist Friends”. Amen amen. Guys, how do we fix this? pic.twitter.com/lKcK15650Z
— Jocelyn Aucoin (@misslujo) March 4, 2018
This blog post is basically my Twitter replies to my friend Jocelyn’s Tweet above.
If the “fix” is something to replace this bloated social media websites that employ 2039482 people, I don’t think we can do that. But if we seek focused, sustainable, and healthy sites and events, I think we’ll be fine.
I don’t believe the answer is a daily newsletter with links to cool things that our creative friends are doing because it’d be so easy to lose track, then we’re not even opening the email, and it’s just one more thing we archive / delete. I also don’t believe it’s private Slack channels where it’s like a run-away group text, where you leave for an hour and then there’s 234,902,984 new messages.
Because we can’t do the “real life” thing if we’re scrolling through an app for hours a day. That’s not “keeping up” or “staying informed,” that’s taking time away from our creative pursuits! And emailing friends! Calling people. Have coffee with friends.
What we need is hyper-focused print. Video channels. Occasional email newsletters. Gatherings. Retreats. Live streamed conferences for accessibility and budgets (* see also ‘The End of the Conference Era‘).
And any creative media endeavor that’s “hey, this is about ART!” or “MUSIC!” is too broad. No one is lacking for “we interview creative people” podcasts.
Give me magazines and zines devoted to noise rock, pottery, or band posters. These would be small operations, quarterly, sustainable – the exact opposite of Instagram, or any social media outlet. Online things updated multiple times per hour ain’t doing anyone any favors (as well as using unpaid labor for all that attention). It’s time to slow the heck down.
“Aim for the edges,” as Seth Godin says (back in 2015).
“And that’s the secret to thriving on the edges: Build something that people will look for, something that people will talk about, something we would miss if it were gone.
Not for everyone.”
The more it’s for “everybody,” the more it’s for nobody.
It’s true – email newsletters are great. But when you subscribe to a few, well, it can be a bit overwhelming. Let me tell you about one of my favorite services I pay for and could not live without. It’s called SaneBox.
It works by making some new folders in your email account, like SaneNews and SaneBulk. So when you get that email receipt that coffee shop that uses Square, you drag that email into SaneBulk. Now the next time you go to the coffee shop, that email will automatically go into SaneBulk.
That means when you pull out your phone, or log into your email after your lunch break, you won’t see that email in your inbox because – face it – it’s not urgent It’s not inbox worthy!
Maybe you’re a writer and you get a zillion press releases a day. Well, you can start dragging them into your SaneLater folder, and the next time you get an email from them, it won’t sit in your inbox.
The important emails, well, you leave them in your inbox. And SaneBox will always leave them there. So then, after a week or so of using SaneBox, when you get a notification on your phone, or a ding on your laptop, you’ll know there’s actually something important in your inbox.
I’ve been through two pretty major life events in the last year, and having Sanebox was wonderful. In this GIG ECONOMY world I still had to check email on occasion, but at least when I saw a notification and decided to check email I knew it wasn’t going to be some stupid 10% off offer from a website that I visited three weeks ago.
And all those newsletters I subscribe to? I drag them all into my SaneLater folder to read, you know, later.
Seriously, give SaneBox a shot. I can’t recommend it enough.
One of my favorite podcasts is Friendshipping! In their latest episode (listen here on Overcast) they talk about starting creative projects, and wowzers, it’s gold.
I started Skull Toaster back in 2011, on Twitter. Here we are seven years later and Twitter is a bit different these days. So now I’m starting my second Skull Toaster podcast. It’s like an audiobooks version of the Skull Toaster metal trivia I post on Twitter, but without each question being surrounded by nazis and news of school shootings.
Depressing I know, but that’s Twitter these days.
The first Skull Toaster audio program was the Metal Minute podcast. We did 115 episodes, but I decided to end it. Is it a failure? Nah. I learned from the process; the week in and week out of recording, promoting, and publishing a quirky, regularly published podcast. But it wasn’t growing, so we brought it to a close.
So now in 2018 I’m starting a new podcast. I’m on episode #3 and I have no idea if it’ll be a success. I’ve been talking about doing a podcast like this for years (I remember a coffee shop conversation with a Dan Diemer about this, back in 2015 or so), and I could have waited to start it better, or buy a better microphone, or whatever… but nope. It’s out. Episode #10 is gonna be better than episode #1. At least I hope so.
This doesn’t even have to be about podcasts. They can be about your newsletter. Your first tour. A new painting. But you just have to make it, then keep making it.
How many articles do you read in a day? The occasioanl click or two per hour, and maybe you don’t finish the whole piece, but just enough to get the point. Let’s say you do that a dozen times a day. Easy, right? And let’s say you maybe spend about two minutes each time per article. That’s quick.
But thats already 24 minutes of your day.
What about when you add video into the mix? We easily watch three videos per day, and maybe maybe 2 minutes each? I mean, on average. Cool?
That’s 6 minutes of video per day, and I bet that’s on the low end.
Can we agree that we spend at least 30 minutes per day reading / viewing / skimming things? And that these are mostly micro bursts of taking things in? I’m not talking that 15 minute documentary where you learn something, or the 1000 word article that leaves you in tears. Nope. Just the sort of “content marketing” and “re-written news” that we practicaly trip over and consume every day.
If we figure 30 minutes per day, that’s 3.5 hours a week. Which is 14 hours per month. Almost a full day of awake time in a typical day.
And at 14 hours per month, that’s 168 hours per year, or 7 days of reading and watching.
Seven full days per year we’re staring at our phones, scrolling, squinting, skipping ads / clicking Reader mode, thumbing. Chances are you’re reading this on your mobile device right now.
I KNOW it’s just a minute here, a minute there. Don’t be such a kill joy, Seth! But dammit, this ain’t natural. Multi-tasking is a myth, but multi-consuming can’t be real either.
Have you tried listening to a podcast while scrolling through Twitter, then clicking a story, and trying to read it. How – HOW – do we even think this is normal?
I understand when a friend I’m having lunch with has to reply to work email (GIG ECONOMY, YAY), but please don’t interuppt our catching up with your catching up with your Instagram feed.
I clicked Twitter just now, and was able to take in all this:
- A 3:21 song by my friend Norah.
- A mesmerizing GIF of Lebron James dribbling between someone else’s legs that I watched 10 times.
- Something about autonomous drones. Waste of a click.
- Reading about a media outlet closing and blaming Facebook. Meh, heard about that yesterday on Daring Fireball.
- Of course someone wrote ‘Why vinyl LPs are better than CDs and MP3s.’ In 2018. Whyyyyy?
- This article ‘Jeff Derringer: Can you be a real artist without focusing on your craft full time?‘ is something that really interests me. It’s over 3000 words.
- I read ‘How I Address Remote Isolation‘ and nodded along in agreement.
- ‘It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting.’ Five minutes long.
That’s just tonight. That’s the last 15 minutes, maybe. But it’s happening around the clock. There are important stories to read, articles that are informative, music being released in different time zones, funny videos being uploads (how many hours of content are posted every morning from the late night shows), it goes on, and on, and on, and on…
And right now I’m adding to it. But I’m hoping to be like some messenger from The Matrix or something, typing on your screen in the middle of the night. “Knock, knock, Neo…”
You don’t even need to delete social media and throw your computer down a well. You just need to do your online work and get the hell away. Your best ideas will come when you’re out on a walk or having a conversation with a friend, not scrolling endlessly through some design inspiration site.
I don’t mean that the internet is bad, but the continual flood of infomration that we keep ramming into our brain can’t be healthy.
While I’m sure ‘Jared Kushner’s many, many scandals, explained‘ is a well done article, does our survival rely upon that information? Will it give us information that we can use to debate the Trump supporters in our life?
What about the 20 other Trump topics that were brought up today? Can we read those 25 articles, three explainer videos, four wrap-up hot takes from the late-night hosts, and listen to the four daily political podcasts and get their take on everything?
Then we do it again tomorrow? Nay, do it again this evening? When some other bat-shit crazy thing hits the fan?
Breaking up our attention for these hundreds and thousands of tiny interruptions over the course of weeks and months and years might make us tiny experts at a million things, but I believe it’s keeping us from deeper thinking and bigger conversations with important people already in our life.
Steve Lambert of the non-profit Center for Artistic Activism wrote a fantastic piece called, ‘Why Facebook Is a Waste of Time—and Money—for Arts Nonprofits,’ and I (of course) love it. With a Facebook account with over 4,000 “likes,” they were only reaching about 3% of their audience.
“This is by design,” writes Lambert, “people think the Facebook algorithm is complicated, and it does weigh many factors, but reaching audiences through their algorithm is driven by one thing above all others: payment. Facebook’s business model for organizations is to sell your audience back to you.”
It turns out that Facebook doesn’t even offer a discount to non-profits to reach their supporters. Classy.
“For now, we’ve found our email newsletters much more effective because at least we know the message reaches the subscribers’ inbox. And while we are no longer investing our time or our donors’ money into Facebook, it’s not a complete departure. We’re letting automated systems repost from our website and from other social networks.”
Emphasis mine. At least you know they got it. Then you can see who opened, and who clicked a link. You can also see who didn’t open your email, and a week later send it to them again. Don’t be dismayed that you don’t have 4,000 email subscribers, or even 400.
When you get 100 people to hand over their email address, then you’ve got a subscriber. Likes and faves are easy, but someone opening an email (in 2018) is raising their hand and saying, “I want more of you.”