Part 9: Your Voice is the most important thing to…

So you want to be taken seriously & paid what you are worth? Seems like an easy request, but how to get the attention of those that will hire you. Especially when you don’t have legions of followers and likes to back it up as a calling card. Know your voice or all else is lost.

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What you will learn:
  • Why your voice is so important today
  • Everything you need to know is in the dashboard
  • Well, actually it requires work
  • Core principles always point to a path
  • Writers both know their voice and stifle it

They can’t hear you, but don’t speak louder

Improve your argument, not your volume. In the parlance of online marketing or in the age of Apps you have to know what your value proposition is. What you have that sets you apart. Usually this is buried beneath a long varnished set of insecurities and societal conditions that tell us we can’t speak confidently on it.

Instead of taking the carnival barker route, trying to cash in on something that is controversial, don’t court the obvious. There are too many out there beating that particular drum. Don’t be a nag, or police attention away from others, or click-jack their movement to start your own. These have all worked, but only in short-term capacities.

Your value lies in the scarcity and rarity of your value proposition. That is how marketing and capitalistic schemes work in the modern epoch. They want you to crowdsource it and offer it for free. Resist, do not obey. Twitter can allow a look into how you think (or write) and Instagram can curate through photos and videos the creative process, and Tumblr (or Behance & others) can be an instant portfolio, and Vine can show everyone what a talented force you are at using 6 seconds to tell a story.

What they all have in common is asking: What can you say in six seconds or less to get their attention?  Be that 140-characters of Twitter, the usual 5 seconds of scanning your website, or in the post you have that is scrunched in-between baby pictures and food porn, and bon mots of their nearest & dearest 5,000 friends. Facebook is the place where free of those limits people post lengthy diatribes alongside memes and increasingly freebooted videos

These tools are free, but flawed

Use your dashboard wisely. Your speedometer tells you how fast you are going, but most of us at one time or another speed. In order to pass others, or because we have calculated the risks in our heads. The same is so true of the free tools that are offered by any of these social platforms. They are turning you into a marketer, and are there to help you run ads & target people, not really sell your creative endeavors.

You can’t compete with Kraft Foods & Dominoes, nor should you try. You are offering something more humane, and are after more than “exposure” which is all that paid sponsored post really offers you. Unless you have an app they can download, a book they can buy, or other clear one-click options you won’t be running ads with them, nor do they care one bit about what you need in a dashboard. No use sending them to your website either if they can’t sign up, contribute, or come along for the ride.

That is just more useless traffic that can do nothing. Are you really going to be able to compete after running that ad and say you get half-a-million views a month? Nope. So what that dashboard can tell you is what happens when they aren’t clicking like or retweeting/sharing. How many actually saw it, and how many didn’t act upon it.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t work, it means the right people didn’t see it. So many give up, without trying to be consistent, relatable, and clearly articulating their value as a proposition. You propose a value, simple sounding, difficult to do. Especially if you feel like no one will bother because they can get it for free over there or cheaper around the next corner. Yet Starbucks sells burnt coffee by positioning themselves as a snobbish coffee. It is more than fear of missing out, there is something rather grandiose they tapped into and marketed very well.

Whole Foods would have you believing they are farm-to-table fresh. While standing in their overly branded warehouse with tons of people frantically running around, snatching up oranges that they couldn’t be bothered to peel. They supposedly sourced these things and curated them for what you most want. Be that Asparagus water or some other trifle. Yet don’t be fooled, it is overpriced because they have exclusive (and oft branded) options. The busiest place is in their tempting pre-prepared foods buffet. Overpriced, underwhelming, but easy to snatch & go.

Social media confounds everyone

The biggest successes don’t even know its working until it overtakes them, and then they usually just attribute their success to the wrong things. Nothing benchmarked, nope, it was that viral post or tweet which really made the magic happen. It is more than that one instance, it is usually the result of the hard work and effort put in leading up to it.

They always gloss over or forget the essential parts, or the interviewer ignores that part completely because it doesn’t fit inside the tropes that they are already trying to align. All those YouTube millionaires never materialized, and yet some of them are doing quite well. Even as this new chapter holds with it only more hope that they can use that to move even further ahead.

They got ahead because someone in a relation to power noticed them, and made the connection to others in power. Word-of-Mouth, through and through. So keeping that goal in mind, you must acquire followers, though madding crowds aren’t as important as a diverse group, finding he eclectic sweet spot that has both breadth & depth is important. You must be consistent, and grow to both meet the demands, and stay connected to what your purpose is.

Nothing more frightening then what happens next

So many times, yesterday included, people get a moment in the internet’s short attention span, and were completely unprepared for it. We focused on Illma Gore previously, and it seems that story, or her relationship to media outlets is strong enough that her story has a multi-part saga. That even now there are still many things and disparate pieces that aren’t unified. You can become a victim to the newscycle, and the need to report on a sliver of what you do and nothing more can be a hook.

Yet imagining that every story, every report, tweet, post is a possibility to put your story in front of someone who can change your life and career trajectory and wondering what they will find when they go to investigate you further is a key element. That you’ll not know what browser, platform, or method they’ll use to do that. If you are only used to looking at your work on iPad or iPhone, take a look at how it presents on the desktop, on a different mobile device. Do this regularly, like housekeeping.

While you are looking at what your dashboard tells you is the most popular post, take the time to see how it is presenting across a variety of devices or platforms. This is possible now (with emulators) and with the profusion of devices that surround us daily. For in that alternate view, you are also seeing the things, catching the errors or typos, and seeing it from a new set of eyes. See it as a complete stranger would.

We so often are unable to step outside our ego, over-reliant on our friends and loved ones to tell us what they think, without honestly stepping into someone and imagining they have exactly 5 seconds to sum it up or less. What does your work, or website, post, etc… say then? To a lot of us that will be deflating, but it shouldn’t be.

We live in a time where more than ever people will sum you up quickly by how many followers you have, how much activity they see on your social media, and other trivial concerns. Yet there is always the person who wants to know more. What is your social media presence saying then?

Find the context or they won’t

If you can’t find a commonality or thread from your bio, to your Twitter timeline, to your Facebook page, then guess what, neither will the people you are trying to reach. Take time out & go on a journey of self-discovery. Use best practices to determine what if anything might be amiss. No one, especially a stranger, wants to sit there while you watch what they are clicking on, and your presence would definitely influence what they did see or do. So you use your analytics, without ever settling on why they did a particular thing, but as an indication of where they are going and what they are seeing.

Looking closely at these things even if it is only a few clicks can help, especially then as it can indicate areas where you can focus more. Do they leave after that quick visit and if so perhaps because it wasn’t enough or there wasn’t more. The best sites out there do this, and they test and try new things, but pay most attention to the clarion call of their metrics.

There is a knowledge and some wisdom to be gleaned from the outliers, that small sample sizes work for marginalized entities far better than the large spaces that most advice is geared to. The typical processes suggested often completely ignore that these big sites got there through a rigorous trial & error. The difference being that you have to navigate this without costing yourself followers. That you don’t have the capital (either financial or energy) to run a constant negative or tread water.

Shift the goal posts

It looks like doing what they say can’t be done. There are usually reasons, very good ones, why people are saying don’t do this. Yet also if you are offering a unique voice and perspective the rules may not apply. Knowing which ones you can subvert or the ones you can ignore are important. Most people don’t have the knowledge or the practice to tell the difference. That evaluating the source of such advice requires that you know more about who they are and have been over what they are telling you to do. Most if not all are not selling to a small select few, they are trying to get medium-sized businesses to afford them, so their advice to you will be tailor made for that.

The types we avoid like the plague:

  • Someone whose claim to fame is doing conferences/conventions
  • Who has powerpoint presentations, keynotes, or TedTalks
  • That is trying to get your email and offers a “free book”
  • Graphic Artists who think they are web designers
  • It matters who endorses them too
  • If they are “as seen in” we close the tab
  • They are ranked as “Top 25” anything

The idea is simple, they may have great advice, etc… but it is predicated on & even rose to prominence in a web that doesn’t look at all like it does today. They travel the country, do snapchats/periscopes of their latest conference, they have an online course where you too can be an up & coming blogger.

If you are starting a blog now, it is too late. They won’t tell you that. We will. That just because it worked for them, and they’ve been doing it for 5-10 years doesn’t mean it will work for you. Yet you have to have a blog or a website, you have to have these things, but following how they proscribe it is a recipe for wasting 2-5 years of your life, and at the end you will say…gee that wasn’t worth it.

So that conundrum is one you have to realize going into it. That what consistency looks like in this modern overly-social platform reliant age is that you must be able to engage people. Usually a great deal better than these bogus “thought leaders.”

That in acquiring and growing your followers will demand you connect with them in a voice that honors and respects them, completely dependent on the context of where they are following you. That never happens through automation. You can’t run the whole thing from Facebook having it post across the others and expect people to not find that a version of “phoning it in.”

Estimating and knowing where to put your energies is the biggest challenge you have, and then finding a way to actually connect with your followers. Not because you post pretty graphics, or humblebrag your way into their hearts, but because you care & listen. They can connect with you.

We tell creatives that if they are making their work for an audience or think about them too much then the work is compromised. So many artists working today get better by putting their work out there, getting feedback, constructive criticisms, and suggestions for future work. Commissions from people who like it, and want you to do something for them.

So while you can’t be all things to all people you have to create a voice for dealing with those things. One that isn’t dismissive, for they need to feel a part of the journey, and also one that doesn’t let you be treated like a doormat that is just there for their exposure. This is overwhelming, and the impulse is to say “just be yourself” and let the guide you. Yet how many of us have just been ourselves in a social media post or comment to have that lead to a fight, unfriending, or blocking?

When you know better, do better

This leads to starting with this voice, this other entity or consciousness that puts aside your human failings and sees beyond just what your ego desires. If it hurts or upsets you when you read the comments or see the callous way people share but don’t buy. Get over it, or put it aside. It isn’t about you, but the work.

We live in a time that rewards strong emotions, encourages trolling, and not seeing anything on the internet as human. Know what your voice will appear alongside, respect that. Neither beg or brag. If you don’t talk confidently about it, or don’t know what your creativity is about, find out from someone who does. Speak not in the voice of someone who likes your stuff, but in the voice of someone who understands it.

Say less not more. The blessing of social media is that it requires brevity, and that is its curse as well. Yet we too often want to frame things, not let them become framed. Don’t get erased from your work but also don’t pigeonhole it either. Speak to its aspirations. No one does this worse than writers, if we are honest.

As horrible as most Artist’s statements are for creatives, writers usually completely miss the mark. Which is why they are the most comfortable. The entire mainstream media journalists are on Twitter, and mostly they are sharing their friends work & giving it the biggest lift. Yet many of those same pieces are informed by the echo chamber they are researching it in as well.

So much of what is read on any given day comes from a journalist pointing to it & writing a blurb that the original author couldn’t. Either demurring to, or simply and clearly not wanting to. Which is why if you just wrote this great piece, don’t let your title be all you share. Don’t write an intro blurb either, but frame it as a question or an enigma. What would happen if you did that?

There are different ways and voices for every type of creative out there. Think Different. Two words that we are to believe led a revolution. They didn’t, even as they ushered in one. They were clever marketing to differentiate something. They say nothing in themselves, but when combined with visuals, and quotes that reinforce that, and millions of dollars in campaign, we all now believe it, even as all that thinking differently ended up making Apple into the new Microsoft. It is different.

Next we’ll discover the visual differences and will use very New York iconic images to show you what your digital identity looks like. There will be some words, but a bevy of images to ground your creative work and digital representation in clear metaphors. For once you have the voice, you also have to think about what it looks like.

Part 10→