More Latte Art

Before the internet, before social media, things that were important to us still got in front of us. New music still made its way to us because we went to the local record shop, listened to the local radio DJ, or went to a show and picked up fliers.

We didn’t need to “follow” magazines we liked because we subscribed to them, then they showed up in the mail once a month.

The same can be done today, but it’s going to be a bit painful.

See, everyone is sending out multiple updates per day. EVERYONE. When everyone is employing a certain type of marketing it becomes invisible because there’s so much of it. Now mix in news, turmoil, sports, and harassment! Weeee, how depressing!

Less is going to be more. We can no longer out-hustle everyone in the attention economy. Serious, what’s a coffee shop to do? Post more latte art? What’s a band supposed to do? Post 18 more times about their next show which is irrelevant to 98% of their audience?

If I have to throw a pebble at your bedroom window every time I do something new, reminding you that I exist, then I’m not doing my best to even give you a reason to visit my website.

Leaving Facebook is Scary

Of course it’s scary. Going first usually is.

 

Starting a music blog in 2001 was an okay move. Starting one in 2011? Maybe not.

Publishing lots of content to social media in 2007 was an okay move. But in 2018? Eh.

Everything comes down to relationships, which are built on positive feelings (I don’t know what sort of lasting relationships you want to maintain around negative feelings). Make someone happy, make them smile.

That feeling when the barista remembers your order? That’s a good feeling.

That feeling when BestBuy fucks up something for me again? That’s a bad feeling.

And if you can build good feelings, those vibes travel. So when you announce you’re leaving Facebook, your true fans will join your email list. When you ramp down your Tweeting, they’ll follow you to your podcast.

Not everyone will join, or follow, and that’s okay. Do what sits well in your own heart, and the fear won’t hold you back.

 

Mobile Surged

I wrote this back in January 2014.

Mobile is Surging
I love this. If even Google is struggling to make a dollar from mobile, where’s that going to leave the bloggers?

“Just three years ago, in 2009, (Global mobile traffic) was at a measly 1%. It edged up to 4% in 2010, and it hit 13% in November 2012, according to StatCounter Global Stats.”

It’s coming and you can’t stop it. As Napster did to the music biz, mobile will do the same to traditional web media. If you rely on four banner ad placements on your blog page x your daily traffic, everyday, the surge towards mobile will be devastating.

Yeah, I’d say mobile surged a bit.

 

Starting is the Easy Part

Lots of people start email newsletters.

Starting is the easy part.

Running an email newsletter, well, that’s serious work. But really it’s not.

Everyday we read, consume, have thoughts, conversations, take photos – there is never a reason to sit down at our computers and not have anything to write about.

It’s just that sitting at computer can be paralyzing.

I’m telling you – if we took half of our flippant Tweets and just threw them into a draft folder (text file, Bear, WordPress), we’d never run out of material.

The allure of tossing these ideas and pondering to Twitter is strong, I get it. You’ll get four likes, and you’ll recognize some of the faces, and maybe one or two people will reply. But four hours later that Tweet is gone, pretty much forever.

But if you put that on a blog, or in your newsletter, it has a home. It can have a life now.

The fun part? You can do both.

You can Tweet it, than flesh out your thought even more in a bigger piece. The people that don’t use Twitter (which is a lot of people), they can read it now, too. And three years from now, your blog post or newsletter has more of a chance of coming back to life that that Tweet.

Be Your Own Press

Support the work of people you admire. If you’re broke, just tell some friends about them – they could probably use the promotion! Hate the “garbage” out there, getting all the press?

BE YOUR OWN PRESS.

You’ve got social media followers. Tell them about awesome things.

You’ve got friends in your inbox. Email them.

You’ve got friends you message. Send them a link.

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.

 

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.

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.