You can really only measure success by one thing: How much time and freedom you have in what you create. All the rest is a lie. Not the Facebook clicks, nor Instagram Comments or the number of celebrities who retweet you. Let’s breakdown the ordinary cycle for how artists use the web.
Everything You Need To Know About Publishing
Part 11: Your Math Might Be Off
What you can learn:
- Social Media requires the most expensive thing: TIME
- Both a blessing & the curse of social media
- Cure for what ails your slumps
- Keeping up with the Tweeters & Facebookers equals disaster
Who has the time anymore these days?
You do. May not realize it but you actually do. What becomes overwhelming is doing it without a plan, feeling it a chore. Everyone who has a social media profile feels this way, it is typical. However if you have a career, brand, product, or simply your art to share it can be the easiest and most dangerous way to get the attention you seek.
Start with knowing whose eye you want to catch. What they post, what they share, and how you fit into that. If you can’t crack that code, then you might not succeed. Or it might be that you need to rethink whatever has guided you so far. Recently an older artist (and by that we mean our age, not a newb) who works in an updated 80’s style expressed concern that it might not be relevant, or worthwhile. Which almost made us laugh, but then we thought, they don’t know.
The internet thrives off of people with specific niche interests. That is the backbone, if they can keep rebooting superhero movies, or finding new ways to inject them, then certainly some sort of cross-over is happening with nerd culture of the 70s-80s. Those people are grown up now, while both 80s & 90s culture get revived every few years in tandem. Media & Entertainment have a very long-tail, and kids now are watching the Jon Hughes movies, or other things that connect them asynchronously with that past. Hence there is someone at some place in a time in their lives that can appreciate what you are doing artistically. No matter its inspiration, be inspired there are 7 billion people on this planet and even more devices to connect to the web.
Why Bother? It is worthless.
Far from it, it has value, if done right. It boils down to relationship skills & social capital. So you must find where these people that share an interest in work like yours, and seek them out, find the most influential among them. Working with or in concert with them, paying attention to their needs and finding ways to participate in the conversation or flow of information from one enthusiast to another. Remembering that many people don’t “participate” on social media, they lurk.
They are very much the ‘silent majority.’ As proof of this concept on our personal Facebook pages whenever a discussion cropped up over the last few years, one we’d previously blogged about, rather boldly we’d post links to them in our responses. This drives a lot of traffic. It has to be done delicately, not in the “HEY LOOK AT ME” way, but often the things people are remarking on today, we’d posted about months & sometimes years ago. Finding a way to naturally work that into the conversation without attention-jacking the conversation but as a way of broadening it is a habit, one you have to cultivate.
The other day in the wake of Prince’s death we commented on a blog post, and just mentioned (no link) that we had written previously on the appeal of Sinead O’Connor’s version of ‘Nothing Compares to U’ and critiqued an article by a writer in a media outlet. The person read & responded to our post. Finding it themselves and facilitating a longer conversation about Prince Covers. This is how the internet works, we didn’t assume they’d read it, nor let alone care, but they did the work.
It only works if you do
In order to get yourself out of the doldrums of “nobody is liking my posts” which is a weird way to frame social media in the first place, ask yourself if they clicked on it. Your analytics tells you this. Instead of chasing their pithy approval by clicking a like button or the retweet one, ask yourself if you gave them something worth commenting on or a post they want to linger on?
That is all that is going to matter to an algorithm. The likes and shares count too, but not if they are empty vanity likes from your friends as a sign of support. Social Media is evolving and continues to. Yet the more followers or empty likes you have actually decreases with size, and your relevancy becomes tainted. Not so unlikely as you are perceived as being “Internet Famous” or your influence strained by that perception.
We want to hire you…
Okay, thanks for asking. That will require a minimum of $1,000 to start this conversation. That is an exact quote, and is honestly not even our current rate but one we’ve used over the years. If you can or will produce that, and the value you place on that amount of money, will let us know you are serious about our services. Otherwise you can’t afford us, or the attention to detail and business experience we bring to the table.
It separates those who could never afford us or weren’t serious from those that can and will. In fact this post, if calculated as work for a client would bill at about $5,000. Yet when this series is done you can buy the whole book for $2.99, so maybe you wonder how or why we’d give it away? To you the reader, for nothing, at this moment it is available for a limited time. Several have given feedback to help perfect it, and make it more marketable, and fine-tuned it. This is just the first draft, as it were.
So for the first draft version, the one that still needs more work, giving it away to get alpha & beta testing is naturally an easy choice to make it the loss leader. When perfected, all the parts assembled and arranged, more emotional & mental labor added, greater insights included, it will be worth more, and offer residual income.
Pay-Wall is the new Fire-Wall?
The glorious time a few years ago when a hack writer that everyone seemed to admire struck out on his own & decided to create his own stand-alone subscription site. Which he told us a few months in, braggadociously how many conversions to the site he had. Which we said at the time was the worst PR strategy ever employed since we saw Paula Deen try to mitigate losing her empire. Time has proven us sentient regarding this because a year later he shut it down. We’ve not heard from him since, and if we never do — we’re completely fine with that.
The backstory to this is that we knew this writer before he made his ascendancy, and grew to despise him for a myriad of personal proclivities, his writing, endorsement of the Iraqi War, and standing in as a symbol or touchstone for so many things to an intellectually elite were revolting and just added to the bias that was existent.
Yet to the idea that a writer, single-handedly could put up a paywall, and if ever there was a person with all the things social media types profess you need: A tribe of followers, avid readers, people willing to make the hurdle & pay you directly — this story had it all. Look at the coverage at the time, all laudatory as this being the “next-big-thing” which as it always does, turned out to be wishful thinking.
Live by Example Not By Imitation
The way to monetize the web seems it will be that nagging question that will in some ways always plague it. Instead of trying to do what everyone else is doing, do what the Tech Chunralism encourages you to do. Disrupt. Not just your industry, but the ideas even your friends have about you or what you can do. Challenge it, while disrupting it. They know and see you as one thing, but it is good to invest in real branding strategies that create opportunities for you to reinvest in what it is you actuallydo and what unique value proposition that may hold.
Not knowing what your proposition is becomes the first hurdle. Find out why the people who hired you think. If they only hired you because they know you and knew you needed the money, then you might have to work on that. If however, you had a unique voice or talent, that they couldn’t get somewhere else, then it is incumbent upon you to put a voice to that in your branding. Which most certainly won’t look like you talking about yourself or your art. It will most likely look like a conversation or a question.
Worse if they only hired you because you are cheap, then you need to adjust your whole framework, which is much harder. They won’t pay you what you are worth until you know what it is worth. See our value proposition above. Yet why you the reader of this free version, as contrasted with those who will pay for it later, are different entities all together and are addressed as such.
What matters is making it a habit
Social media is a habit, doing it well only comes with practice. For both the user and the artist, it is a series of habitual actions. Those you see with success today, started out through a trial-and-error process. One that can be quickened by running your own tests, checking your analytics, knowing who you want to target, and honing that message until it becomes habit-forming.
That is what we mean when we say branding yourself. You aren’t actually being “yourself” on social media, but performing in ways that are natural in person. Your performative version need not be inauthentic, anymore than when you are in a group and decide to tell a story, you pick up on the visual cues that your audience is paying attention. Do they want to know more, if you stop the story short, will there be calls & cheers for you to finish? It is imbuing that sense of anticipation into everything, not just taking a selfie of your work & posting it like: HEY LOOK AT ME!!!
Engage them, get them to participate. Have them help you name the next piece, or encourage them to share their thoughts, what they took away from it. Find out why people are into it. Then use that to carry your message forward. To form a strategy, not do it willy-nilly out of the trunk of your car like you were pushing a mixtape. We are past that point, and while that might work in certain instances, it won’t help you grow and become what you want or need. It will simply further a cycle of diminishing returns.
Most people do not or will not put in the effort it needs, stepping outside their ego, to honestly look at what signs are there. How to market it when you feel insecure in the first place, which the entire world is geared towards making artists think they are worth nothing or should do it for exposure, is a very difficult thing. Yet it must be done, and strategies devised if you want to make social media work for you and not the other way around.
Connecting, creating, measuring, and finally managing. We chose those words because of the energy they convey. Also the processes involved, they are fundamentally human, as is the web, even if its success is managed somehow by a set of computer code called an algorithm. As long as their humans, being humans however we can subvert that or bend it to our will. Some for evil (freebooting & theft) or others for good (activism & advocacy). Both sides of the same coin.
In the next chapter we are doing strictly full visual metaphors. Photos taken around NYC that we think illustrate real-world tropes that are played out on the web. Making correlations you might not ordinarily think of, but you hope you see a wisdom in. For people still don’t understand the web, even those who purport to teach you about it, that this far into it we are really just replicating systems of thought & practice that pre-date the world wide web.