So you want to be published? Nothing is stopping you these days. In fact it has never been easier to write/publish/edit your way into a prominent position in no time. However, before you do any of those things it is best to make sure you are ready to receive all that attention.
This primary month-long focus of this blog is going to be the publishing options for writers or creatives. Whether you are interested in how to publish your next short story or novel, a coffee table book of your photographs or art, or just your funny videos. Publishing as a term has taken on many different contexts in this new millennium, and we’re going to explore traditional and non-traditional forms. Even if your claim to fame is to curate stuff, remix memes and fan art, or do edits & shipping on Tumblr, today’s environment offers many opportunities.
While those things are not mainstream, or considered “real” by the bulk of people, they aren’t exactly recipes for failure either. Many a YouTuber or personality from the Twitterati has been able to take their success and social reach there & use it to catapult them to success. So we wanted to take a month to focus on both the myths and the realities.The pros and the cons, and the glaring pitfalls that an enormous amount people fall into on their way to trying to figure it out.
Turn, Turn, Turn
The major obstacle for any approach to this topic is that these tools, platforms, and methods literally change daily/weekly/monthly. Today’s landscape features many challenges, and most (if not all) of the advice available on the web will tell you what the latest & greatest is, while simultaneously not telling you about the pitfalls, or in such generalities it is useless, then leaving you to your own devices or setting it up so you have to pay them to fix it for you.
Where simplicity lies, trouble surely follows. It is easy enough to set up a free webpage, social media profile, or use a new app. What you miss by doing so is a strategy for how to employ them all. Too many people set them up, click on the API generated auto-share feature and then think that they can post it & be done. It doesn’t work that way, it never has, and if you are doing this — we need you to stop.
Artisanally crafting each message for all the various places you are represented is not easy work but rewarding. Each of these places hosts a different community and one post doesn’t account for that. One message or update won’t work on Facebook and Twitter. Your Instagram hashtags are out of place on every other platform and will ruin your post.
There are a host of third-party interlocutors that would happily help you automate the hit-it-and-quit it approach with ease. The problem is that misses the most basic point. Social media shouldn’t work if you are a robot. Unless you are a spoof account that loves to tweet out an endless stream of jokes & gifs then you are going to have to do a little more than snap a picture & send it to the five major ones.
Everything from Soup to Nuts
Today you have to be all things to all people, and first of all yourself. The number of hats any one creator is expected to wear is amazing. You create, you also have to package, sell, and hawk it at all times. Create, edit, and then revise some more, then edit again, then write a quippy 80 character intro or question (leaving room for the RT), and then you have to remember to repost it at least 5x to make sure it is seen by a few hundred people who might influentially share it & then lift your post.
Or you could just carpet-bomb social media with the same robotic posts, and not respond when someone actually comments or shares your stuff.
What is the Truth? Can You Handle the Truth.
Honestly it is it is very difficult to thread that very fine needle. So why waste all your energy and time trying to? When your time is money, and that is the most precious resource there is, why even bother? That is the most common refrain. The best analogy for today’s social media consultants, and the industry that is out here everyday trying to convince people of the next greatest thing, is that they are no different from the diet industry. Fundamentally they are trying to make you feel bad about what you can accomplish, while alternately promising you the world and everything your heart desires if you just use X.
Want to reach more customers? Snapchat is the next big thing. Aren’t sure if you are getting through to your customers? Well, lead generation and content marketing are the way to go. Want to really connect in a big way? Try social selling, everyone is doing it. These are just some of the pleas that crossed our screen this morning, in 5 minutes.
None of these actually works, they will hold up Black Swans, the exceptions that prove the rule, or PR/Marketing blurbs of information that are designed to sell you on something that very literally may not even apply to you. In order to know what to do, you have to know who you are talking to. The biggest rookie mistake out there is people use social media like they are talking to their friends on Facebook or Twitter, or they go the alternate route & take headline structure courses that make them sound like they are a junior intern working at BuzzFeed trying to break it big.
Should you fall into the Superhero Myth?
Nothing is more corrosive to the web than the idea that you can do it all, should do it all, or that your friends are the best way to figure out what works. You very literally have to think like the people you are trying to reach. If that is just your group of friends, who will slap you on the back, or click like & comment with a “That’s Great!” then you won’t get very far. If you are that loudmouth, and no one thinks they are, at a party who wants to gather people around them while telling the latest joke, or everyone tells you how clever & funny you are, then you might be doing it wrong. The days where the internet rewards those things is not gone, but it has changed drastically.
We’ve entered an era where if you are funny & snarky your joke is just as likely to end up as a screenshot, with your attribution cut off, and then have it shared on Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and get liked, commented on, and shared a million times over. That is the world we live in, where the copy gets more traction & exposure than the original. You could watermark it, but that takes time, and the best things are off the cuff. Then how would you know if your joke, quote, commentary is being shared to millions with nary a mention of you? You won’t, and Google Alerts are not your friend. Social listening is foundational, and yet not one person of any success I know does it well. No third party app, or service you can enlist can tell a screencap from your original. Since it often doesn’t have any words attached to it, or the words are “Follow us on” or your video is the victim of freebooting and being clicked millions of times and you are the beneficiary of none of that exposure. In fact reporting it is a nightmare of tons of clicks which takes forever and the damage is already done. You won’t get those clicks again, they don’t transfer, and upon seeing the same thing the next time people are apt to pass it up. Think it a copy. Move on to the next piece of funny.
So the viral superstar, the superhuman person who has to do all these things at once. Be both creator, distributor, and full-time salesperson is untenable in any age. Yet today you can’t read a profile of any person reaching any measurable success that doesn’t make it sound like they very literally were just doing what they were doing and the internet discovered them overnight & propelled them to online fame!
That has always been a dangerous trope, and if you are reading this, let’s hope that you don’t or never believed it. The one and only thing that we’ve found is common in ever success story, overnight or not, is consistency.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
Consistent can mean different things depending on what it is you produce, but this isn’t solely about your art, product, or even your persona. These things change, shift, or grow, depending on the situation. The constant is in the messaging, the presentation, and can be the trickiest of all to master.
The great ones know this. Advertising models, which the entire internet consultancy industry is based upon is reliant on one thing alone: Exposure. Clear messaging, over & over, using a word-of-mouth philosophy. Yet, almost to a fault they fail to say that this is a cornerstone of the legacy industry, and that in previous eras it was ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE, ADVERTISE. Over & over again, ad nauseam.
So you put that ad in the newspaper, ran it for years, consistently to show that you weren’t a fly by night business. Then with the advent of TV you made a commercial, and ran it over and over again. With a cute jingle, a memorable tagline, and a phone number where they could call. This is what the internet has become, a billion screaming voices all clamoring to get heard, in an era where there at least a thousand more channels you can turn to. As we enter the maturation of the social era, and all that entails it seems the advice stays the same.
Perhaps you’ll add that you really need to get on Snapchat, or Periscope yourself doing whatever… and these things can work, but for a very limited amount of people, artists, and businesses. Determining if you are one of them is not thinking about yourself but your target. Less about what you have to offer, and more about is this where your audience is?
Constant Reinvention in an age which is Reinventing Constantly
Everything must change, it is true. As noted above if the core idea to advertising is consistency how is it even possible to maintain that when the platforms, the tools, even the method of delivery are in constant flux? This is the primary focus of this month long journey, exploring the norms, undertaking the emergent, and trying to in a venn diagram way find the commonality in it all. For as much as things change they stay the same.
Your very own personal law of diminishing returns has a very low bar. If you have a business this needs your attention all the time, if you have a day job, then what you are doing is like putting in overtime with your free time, and if you are just trying to get something started & need to make money quickly then the hurdles and trappings are very easily going to overwhelm you.
As this series progresses we will debunk the notion of overnight success, while also simultaneously enthusing you about how easy it is. All without sugar-coating the major obstacles that stand in your way. In advice you won’t find anywhere else this hopes to shatter consistent & pernicious myths, while also showing you examples you can emulate, reinterpret for your own, and solid strategies for presenting your work in the age of content fatigue. Sounds like a diet pill, right? No, it will all rest on knowing yourself, intimately understanding your audience, and rely heavily on what traditional advertising doesn’t offer. Solid, actionable, intelligence through analytics.
When you hear about analytics elsewhere they are usually pitching it to you to just use the dashboards provided on these different social media platforms, third-party applications, or in the ubiquitous Google Analytics. While each of them has their own benefits they don’t really give you anything other than an overview. In the age of Big Data, Social Media, and the advice proffered to small businesses is horribly skewered. That what might work for a large conglomerate, business with 25+ people, or even be measured is simply put: bullshit.
Reach, Impressions, or however they want to define it, and they all use a different yardstick, it is not what you are looking for. If just getting it seen, like this was some ad on TV, and you wanted to know the Nielsen Ratings to define how many “potential” views it had was anything other than worthless. That isn’t what you are looking for, if you have a store, you don’t count the number of people who walk in or by it to figure out if you are a success do you?
Before you run, you learn to walk
Reducing it down to the few key performance indicators is a sure success to failure. The only thing that matters, for any of them, and which they make very hard to ascertain is how much engagement it receives. For that is how they decide algorithmically whether to share your post with anyone else. A bulk of the advice you may read will also focus on the vanity metrics, the follower counts, the shares, the likes, the RTs as if each one of those things in bulk defines value. This is the slipperiest slope of all, and is most definitely what we’d tell you if running one of these platforms was our job. Or our affiliate program got us kickbacks for telling you that.
This idea was forced on you, and numerous clients have told us, very early on that it is tiring, and they are flabbergasted chasing the click(s). It is exhausting, and not particularly worthwhile. That unless you do some very basic things in the beginning, and regularly maintain them, establish habitually that this is what you are doing, then all of that and any quick scheme is destined to fail.
The advisers and consultants know this, for their job is to get you to come back to find out what is working now! The social media gurus get paid when they keynote, get your email address, or somehow convince you to purchase their e-book. Their advice is simply to get you to buy the product they are selling. It is a free giveaway and they are going to base their suggestions on that. You don’t have time to give it away for free, until you find your tribe or sell that big thing. You have to make social media pay you or work for you, any other plan is costing you money.