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.

VISIT US AT THE UNSAFE FOODCOURT!

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.

OUR STUFF LOOKS JUST LIKE RACIST GARBAGE!

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.

SO NOW WHAT?

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:

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:

  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.

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.

We’ll Be Fine Without Social Media

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.

Seriously, Just Use SaneBox Already

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.