Since appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank I’ve been exposed to every little corner of the social media landscape. As much as it pains me, I’ve developed opinions about it. I’ve even begun to feel strongly about certain things. So strongly, in fact, that I’ve worked up the nerve to write about my feelings. And thus I feed the very beast I’m about to slay…
If you spend much time on Twitter, you’ll quickly learn that much of the chatter on Twitter is about Twitter, and how you can Tweet on Twitter to Tweety Tweet more Twitter Tweeps. So much of all social media chatter is self-referencing garbage about social media. Social media experts pat each other on the back, giving each other follows, likes, and re-tweets. They interview each other for their blogs, inflate each others’ numbers, tout long lists of followers, trade in social media tips and secrets, and create a meaningless masturbatory environment that’s full of imaginary value, but short on substance.
I’ve been guilty of all of this. It’s a fun game to get swept up in, especially coming off of a national TV appearance. But to an outsider (i.e. a real live human customer who might want to buy something) it’s completely non-existent. It is the choir preaching to itself (see what I did there? I bold-faced the titular line! Sorry, I’ve always wanted to do that in a blog post).
Many years ago I produced a show at The Playground Theater called Don’t Spit the Water! It was a game show, and unlike a lot of the shows that played in the same space, we would sell out and pack the house frequently. People would constantly ask me for tips on how to do that for their own shows. I was hailed by some as a marketing guru, and would frequently be invited out for a drink so I could drop some knowledge and let slip a trick or two.
What I didn’t fully understand then is directly related to the rampant misuse of social media. It wasn’t about the tricks, it wasn’t about the marketing… it was about creating a show that was entertaining to watch. It was about building a product that the audience enjoyed, and wanted to tell their friends about. It was all about the content.
That’s the sad secret about social media, too. Want a million likes, followers, re-pins, views, whatever? Then create something that is awesome. If you’re not getting the result you expected, look not to the tricks… look to the content.
The hardest thing in the world to do is to admit that something you’ve created is not as awesome and accessible to the outside world as it is in your head. This is something I struggle with constantly. I’m still pimping t-shirts with two film titles on them as if people want and need them.
The good feeling you get from gaming the system for a following is an empty one. If success doesn’t feel awesome, it’s probably not genuine. Let’s look at @MarkPaws. This guy appeared in the wake of my Shark Tank appearance and launched three sites… IWantToDrawAZombieForYou.com, IWantToDrawAVampireForYou.com, and IWantToDrawAnAlienForYou.com. Now he’s settled back on drawing pets and animals on his site Anything Is Pawsible! On Twitter he has over 100k followers (compared to my ~3,800) and he has sold just under 100 pet drawings (compared to my ~11,000). Now I have no idea how he got so many followers, but I can only guess it was through one of the many tempting ways to artificially boost your following. And as you can see, it has had very little tangible effect on the most important part of his business – how many pieces of art he has sold.
Playing with social media from a social perspective is easy. Chatting with friends is something we’re all very natural and genuine about. But the second “business” comes into play, social media is an awkward and uncomfortable playground. I believe the best approach is to treat it in the most genuine manner possible. For my silly stick figure cat drawing company, it means that every social interaction is handled by me, in as honest a voice as possible. If you find yourself using social media to talk about social media, my gut tells me you’re doing it wrong. When the choir preaches to the choir (YES!!), all it creates is noise.