Part 10: Finding love in the long-tail

So we keep making a big to-do over loving and long-tails. But you don’t have to be a dragon to get both. Well it helps, but is unrealistic.

[New Here? Missed the previous chapters?]

everything you need to know about publishing cover graphics-nwsprnt_flip

What you’ll learn:
  • Stop buying them chocolates & flowers
  • Measure to reinvent
  • Love is everlasting
  • Keeping the romance fresh
  • Counting on the longevity not the immediacy

You’re Doing it Wrong, for too long

Or you give up too soon. You have no idea why they aren’t clicking on your most recent stuff, or showing it the love you think it deserves. Worse you see others doing less & getting more, but you don’t play that game. Then there is always the “it’s all a waste of time” spiel we here religiously.

It isn’t a waste of time, and perhaps you have thought or know, you might not be doing it right. None of us is doing it right, if we are completely honest.  That is another matter altogether, you thought this social media phase would blow over, it didn’t. You phone it in, and post stuff occasionally when you want people to partake, you can’t fathom why it gets no engagement.

There is no easy way to say that it is virtually impossible to update all your social media profiles, keep it fresh, engage with untold humans and bots, all while trying to either hone your craft or keep your company afloat. It doesn’t happen, until it does.

What you trade off makes all the difference

It seems impossible because you think it has to be some running linear narrative that you carefully construct & display. No one got famous or rich doing that. The immediacy of social media can connect you, lift your message, and introduce you to a whole world of people. It isn’t supposed to be easy, but neither historically was getting yourself listed in the yellow pages, running ads in your local paper for years before you see returns, or running a television spot. Those things all required the assistance of professionals to one degree or another. Just as putting up signage outside of your establishment would require trained craftsman who were licensed & bonded.

Today because in a few clicks you too can have a cookie cutter website, saying the same droll stuff that everyone else’s does, this makes it easier & more affordable, but by no means effective. We are seeing the sheer volume of completely worthless websites that serve as a Brochure 2.0. They may be glossy and slick, but they say nothing and have no interactivity built into them. Unless of course you count the contact us. How many of those pages actually track or measure the success rate of them? Do they even ask the most basic question to check against spambots — “How did you find us?”

This is key to knowing where your leads are coming from, how that big break occurred and what you can do to get more of it. If you don’t know this one thing, then you can’t replicate it or improve upon it. That is Customer Relationship Management 101. But the answer isn’t in 1 email, phone call, click. It is in measuring and bench-marking this, tying it to your efforts and determining which of these are working. Otherwise you can sit around waiting for that big call or purchase in vain.

Tax Season be your guide

We’ve just finished filing our taxes here in the US, and that gives us a top line analysis of what we spent, how much we owe, and where it all went. That is what your analytics should emulate. But more than yearly checkups you’ll have to, in order to understand the 365/24/7 internet, check on it more frequently.

Like death & taxes, these numbers are ever present. Not attaching yourself to a particular short-term analysis but seeing them as indicators of your feasibility and longevity. Budget, plan, make it lasting. In tough economic times this can seem depressing, and if you are small also seem self-defeating.

You are measuring it wrong, don’t tax bracket yourself with huge monoliths on the internet, or this place that has so many silos of brands they can hardly coalesce them into a unified whole. You are small, and as such need to measure what is working in what is not a marketer’s gaze, or a piece of advice that works for companies with 50-100 employees and is called “small.”

The love we find when staring at these analytics daily is in a piece that was posted a year ago or more, that suddenly finds new life, and a new fan, who then shares it, and brings more people to quality content. That is the long-tail theory we adore.

Everything on this blog is not designed for the moment, but for a lasting and valuable impact 5 years from now when blogs might not even exist. Each one a stitch in a very rich tapestry of small bits of insight that coalesce in a unified theory. That the solo artist and creative can tackle big entities by being their most human. Why do we know this to be a truism? Everyday another brand will try to emulate a person, and they will always fail, because people trust people, not brands. And if you act human, expect to be held to a humanist standard, and that when it goes left, it goes there quickly.

You don’t have to pretend, but it helps

The best messages are completely human, and take into account that another human is reading them. They think differently about what that interaction will be. They challenge assumptions without falling into irony or cheap humor. You don’t have to be their friend or make them smile, your job is to interest them in what you do.

So you woo them, like a lover. Instead of thinking of them as adversaries you have to fool with cheap tricks, let them know you appreciate & honor them. Nothing else will work, unless you are running for President, and then it is called pandering. Or populism, which you don’t have to embrace, you are unique, find out what makes you so, and run with that. Answer those doubts or criticisms outright while maintaining your value proposition. For $X this is undoubtedly the best money can buy. Stake your claim on that.

If they can buy it somewhere else for cheaper, don’t point that out, or call the others out, just tell your audience what the difference is. If a particular piece takes 6 weeks to produce, that would explain to people why it costs more. With journalism & writing in general being so devalued as the internet is awash in words — we don’t see the hard-hitting journalism, of long-form & multi-part pieces that win Pulitizers which were just announced the other day. Even as those writers & producers were probably paid less than those in the past.

We still have terribly complex issues daily, but we have confined ourselves to getting it summed up on the nightly news, or a quick headline which says it all. That captures that emotion we want to feel, not the information we want to convey.

Where the money is

We have not posted about it on this blog, but usually tell our clients & mentees about the infamous Hollywood Accounting system. For several reasons, and the first among these is our ceaseless fascination with “opening weekend box office” which should not be of interest to anyone at all. It is usually attributed to FoMO {Fear of Missing Out} but that is bullshit.

They report on it, because they think it will help sell more tickets if people think it is a hit. Surely some executive somewhere keeps this myth alive. People go to a movie or as the internet proves weekly off of their instinct, and what others say about it. Influencer, or word-of-mouth advertising totally. Nothing has basically changed since the brilliance of Hitchcock’s ad campaign for Psycho. We see it less now, but the #1 Comedy routine they do, which means it wasn’t #1 for the weekend, but the highest grossing comedy. Again a shell game.

Gross never leads to profit. They all in Hollywood’s inimitable way lead to zero profit. Harry Potter series, made nothing. In fact someone, somewhere can tell you how it actually lost money. So how are they losing all this money? Well the same ones who distribute it, are the ones who run ads on their own networks, keep an army of publicists, stylists, tabloid magazines, and celebrity gossip shows running. All in the service of their empire.

Follow the profit trail to the inevitable conclusion

They make their money in franchises, superhero serials, and merchandise. But they also make their money in the DVD sales, licencing rights to both Cable & Broadcast, overseas sales, etc…By rebooting something they own already, they take off the top-line cost of having to acquire it. Or they can take a blog-turned-book like The Martian and then snap it up the week it gets a publishing deal. Not pay for a bestseller that everyone saw & read already.

In the long-tail of this you see the day it opened, all the money it raked in, but what you see after that is a long and arduous tail that just lingers at the bottom. But if you isolate the box office, and then compare it to the longer tail and see that they are equal, then you can see that no one talks about the longevity of media today. We are saturated by it, and certainly with the On-Demand revolution are watching years or decades old offerings that had staying power.

Media empires can wait it out, you however aren’t afforded that luxury. Yet with a little planning can, in some ways, count on some measure of that. First is knowing what is the greatest profit center and which is your loss leader. Audio books are a profit center, even as they are not bought by as large a number of people. That even those things you sell the least of can make the rest affordable, and then the loss-leader, your 99 cent book, is something that draws them in, gets them hooked.

No one wants to buy the value meal, no one. They do it because that is all they can afford, and McDonald’s can afford to lose money to get people in the door. Or in buying more value meals they somehow are equal to one regular purchase. Trading the volume for porfit. Yet when they don’t pay a living wage, they cut standards, or however they wrangle it to compete with their numerous competitors is a big business problem.

For your venture it will look differently, and that is something we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about. More on that in the coming chapters.

Part 11→