Part 7: Long-Tail Theory of Life

Blurbs are for the TL;DR crowd, but also help you for the long-tail that is your life. Before you write it, you sorta have to know what the whole thing is about, right? Well maybe. You have to know what the reader might want to know, and then tease them into sticking around.

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Website Design Process Infographic

Long-Tail Personified

What you will learn:

  • If you don’t think about it in advance, they won’t
  • Are you interested in the immediate or the future
  • Pleasure Principle has no friends here
  • Slow burns beat viral every time

It all begins with a thought

Which is where most creatives end. They think it up & wait for someone else to do it. In a world where conceptualism runs rampant, irony the rule of the day, and so often everything moves with a quickness there is hardly time to catch your breath. How do you move forward, what planning is involved from the beginning when all the foundations and moorings are ripped up?

Put thought into the longevity, not just the immediacy. No true creative work can ever be reduced solely to a tweet, a post, or anything else. There are as many ways to repackage or repurpose it as there are platforms to post it.

That is what a long-tail theory of life & art are. Many won’t think of it, but the serials and pay-per-word works of Charles Dickens are a perfect example. How many forms has it taken in just your lifetime? He wrote them as lengthy as possible with so many useless words to stretch them out, and then they were collected and put into books which are considered a cornerstone in English Literature. They are great stories, make for even better musicals, movies, and other influences on more modern works.

Yet at the time there were hundreds of papers, dailies and sources of information in a rapidly changing societal shift in the throes of an Industrial Revolution. Many content platforms which were drenched with tons of sources of information and entertainment. So how did his succeed where none of the other Penny Dreadfuls, and the serials, did?

No one cares about its longevity but You

Everyone else is only in it for the passing appeal. Know that before you start, even if it hits it big and is the next viral thing. That in a few years they may not even remember having seen it. That the culture of now in this attention economy does not make for good creative ventures, but instead demands easy to produce, emotionally & physically cheap, while counting on it being fast as lightning.

Don’t short yourself in the game of life on your creativity. That careful thought and planning go into every success story you’ve seen. That what has made them a hit doesn’t just reside in their latest, but in the trajectory they took, and the years often of getting it wrong, or figuring it out, while coalescing influential people around them who will often give that hit post lift when it finally gets done. They did this by providing context, not just content. 

To skip over exploitation to being paid what your creativity is worth requires that you in turn then replace those that would exploit your creative labor & think like them. It doesn’t mean avariciously holding onto your work, striving for perfectionism to the exclusion of sharing, it means you have to make sure that all along the narrative points you bring those supporters & influencers with you.

If it is easy then it should be cheap

That is the mentality, and what is cheap or fast, and brings about pleasure (or pain) in these times gets the most traction. Which includes Facebook freebooting, stolen tweets, and other various forms of taking your intellectual property & sharing it to give someone else the lift or better positioning in algorithms.

This happens literally everyday, in so many forms they are almost impossible to count. Yet as Google starts providing results culled from APIs or straight off the social networks it is becoming important again to make sure all social signals point to you. There is only a few things you can do even in the face of such outright theft. Watermark being foremost for visual art. With tweets or words stolen, not much. You can hardly search constantly for everything you’ve said. Which is why when important words of ours are shared we use third-party tools like PullQuote to make them visual, and to have a link to you, and your brand associated.

Yet we aren’t at the point in internet tools that can search every word you write online & have it check to make sure it isn’t being stolen. So many are just screencapping the tweet, cutting off the attribution and getting 10x-100x more shares & engagement than the originals. If you have 100k+ followers, chances are a bunch are just viral content mills that steal your stuff. So raking in loads of followers can basically insure this theft. Staying small & humble has its benefits.

Nothing happens overnight, except internet fame

Most creatives set up a social profile, use it for approximately 3 months and then give up before it ever has a chance to work. Those likes, clicks, followers lead to nothing and hence they are ready to throw in the towel. Even for businesses it can take two years of consistent performance to see results. So if you aren’t in it for the long haul, then don’t do it at all. Yet how many times have we gone to Twitter wanting to shout-out the artist while we shared their work? About 50% of the time they don’t have or don’t use it. Those that do can take weeks or months to “like” it afterwards. So you lose prospective people who are already talking about you, but you don’t even know it.

Even internet fame doesn’t happen overnight. No one (but a twitter bot) can open up an account, get 200,000 followers overnight, and then start tweeting gold. It doesn’t happen, and the people we see “make it” have usually been doing the same thing for years, or step up their game over the course of a few months, and then all of sudden everyone is talking about them, MSM is using their tweets, and if they are really lucky they get that coveted blue check that makes them verified.

Small isn’t necessarily bad

It all boils down to doing it consistently, having a strategy, putting in some planning, and keeping a running narrative about both your art & brand are ways to actually make it easier. Breaking it up into chunks, or pieces, and everything can be is also important. Don’t just slap the final piece out there. Like Dickens, embrace the suspense and the drip-drop slow burn.

The other thing almost never embraced is post it more than once! But be creative, think up five different variations, and put it out there at staggered times. What you don’t know from your personal accounts on social media is that you can actually see how many people see it at any given time. Usually (and we don’t know why) this depresses most creatives. We embrace the ones only seen by 25-50 people, or even 10 (as the case with Facebook often) for if someone does act upon it with that little visibility it means it has legs. Repackage, repost, try again.

Very few do this well, this is where the other social media people talk about ‘evergreen’ and scheduling, etc… this can work, but usually it is a waste of time. That is our considered opinion and surely many will disagree. We don’t post evergreen content unless it is in the news, and we do so by going to the post & re-sharing again. Or we write something new that links to it, finding that approach more useful than actually just roboticizing constant stream of posts in hopes someone will click it. Our test reveal while that is easy, the ROI or KPIs for them are moot.

As an artist it is your job to be creative, and your best ideas will come from watching how others share & comment on your piece. Capturing that tone & tenor for your branding and not from some self-reflexive “look at me” #humblebragging bullshit point of view. That isn’t genuine, no one really wants to hear you keep hawking what you’ve done. Tell them the story about how it was created, influences, inspirations, but not in anyway that is specific. Beyoncé just dropped a 20 second video clip that just had the word Lemonade in it. No idea what it is, nothing. Be the enigma. Let others tell you what they feel/think and you will find you are far on the road to getting it shared or liked.

Even may come with clicks, interest, or messages about how they can buy it, support you, or get more. Of course remember along with it will also come the hate, tire-kickers, flakes, phony, etc… weeding them out, measuring them even, along with the ones of interest to figure out what works is important. Building that relationship first, being that flirt, sparking that interest is like falling a little bit in love. Not with one’s self, but with the people you want to purchase or support.

Next we’ll talk about Customer Relationships for creatives.

Part 8→