A nice little video about the evolution of the Twitter, which is 6.942 bazillion times better than the Book of Face, which will one day go the way of MySpace — and not even powers of Justin the Timberlake will be able to save Zuckerberg’s baby.
I’d throw another “which” in there, but it’d just be piling on.
Also: What is the ONE THING you would delete about the Twitter, aside from nuking direct messages from orbit?
Also-also: What is the ONE THING you would add to the Twitter?
It is official: social media now dominates the Series of Tubes.
Every year, these smart people produce a slick video about the interwebs, and this year’s video is especially good and interesting.
Now, having filled your brain with facts and numbers and industrial euro-pop dance music, WHAT DO WE DO?
Simple. We change the world.
Change # 1: One Contact Thing to rule them all
So you’ve got contacts in your gmail at home and Outlook at work, Twitter lists of followers and all kinds of Facebook friends, Tumblr buddies and Pinterest pals and a dozen other things.
It is an unholy mess.
Blessed be the app that gives us One Contact Thing, a single shebang with the magical powers to organize all your contacts, from all those stupid platforms, in one tidy place. The power will be unthinkable.
This means ending the nonsense about Instagram not talking to Twitter because she saw him flirting with Google or whatever. And yes, we need it to be easy and quick and on our phones. Because I’m not firing up the PC every time I need to look up a phone number or Twitter handle.
Whoever does this first — Apple, Google, Microsoft, some dude in his basement coding the app in his pajamas — will rule the interwebs forever and ever.
Change # 2: Obliterate voice mail and switch to texting
Am I saying we should take voice mail behind the barn and shoot it? No. I’m saying take it behind the barn, hang it, set it on fire, THEN shoot it.
Nobody likes voice mail. Nobody.
Don’t call my cell phone and make me dial up voice mail, punch in a password I keep forgetting, then listen for two minutes. Especially when 99.99 percent of all voice mail messages are things you can sum up in a short text like, “Phone tag, you’re it” or “Pick up some milk, yo” or “I’m a reclusive billionaire with $400 million sitting around, and instead of handing it to Karl Rove, who I wouldn’t trust at this point to run a successful race for student body president at Willapa Valley Junior High, I’d like some return on my investment.”
Send a text, people. College kids these days don’t even use email anymore. They think email is so 1994.
If it’s too complicated for a text, send an email.
If you really hate me, send a voice mail. Make it long. Don’t leave your number or email — assume that I’ve memorized it. And then when I call back, make sure you don’t answer your phone so I can start the whole thing rolling with a voice mail of my own.
Therefore, we will nuke voice mail from orbit, and the world will rejoice.
Change # 3: Real photos, good bios and no anonymous trolls
Twitter, Facebook and every other social media shebang is full of photos and bios of people that may be human, and might be young or old, male or female, con artist or genius.
You can’t tell, though, because (a) their profile photo is a shot of a cat, Yoda holding a lightsaber or a pile of leaves, (b) their Twittter handle is @jkringer392 and (c) their bio is a train wreck of obscure references to Star Trek fan fiction and such. I have seen all of these things and more. Who will pay for my therapy?
There are plenty of places for anonymous folks to say whatever they like. Sites like reddit will always be around. Have at it.
HOWEVER: papers of news, TV stations and serious blogs need to stop feeding the trolls by letting TrailerParkNinja and TexasMustSecede2016! dominate the comment sections with anonymous spam and hateful, nonsense. So let’s cut back on that by requiring commenters to use real photos and bios. Want to spew? Go spew in Anonymous Land.
If you’re going to be on the Series of Tubes, and want to be taken Seriously, you need a Serious photo — of you, not your cat — and a real bio. Period.
Long ago, only famous people needed public relations folks, who made sure actors, authors and other celebrities had good mug shots and nice bios. Today, everybody is online. Your photo, bio and name are what people see first. But average people don’t have a publicist. They’re flying in the dark with a blindfold, and yeah, it shows.
Wonder why you aren’t getting many followers on Twitter or hits to your blog? Take a look at your photo and bio.
Trying to get a job / book deal / punk rock music contract? Take a hard look at what people see, in the first five seconds, when they check you out on Twitter and the Book of Face and such.
People don’t make a decision about you after reading your short stories or listening to three mp3s of sample songs on your blog. They glance at your photo and decide, in half a second, whether to interact with you or never give you a second thought. They do this all the time, in a hurry. Ten people just followed you on Twitter, and you follow back or not, clicking away with your mousity mouse, no-no-yes-no-yes-yes-no. You don’t ponder these decisions, right? Bam. So make it easy on people by taking it seriously. I’m talking to you, Miss Duckface, who shot your profile photo in the bathroom mirror using an iPhone.
People need a place –a Profile Doctor–to get easy and quick help with this sort of thing, without putting a public relations firm on retainer.
There is no guaranteed method, no secret way, to make a blog post that causes the Series of Tubes to explode.
Anybody who says otherwise is a lying liar full of lying liaosity.
Because this is an art, not a science.
HOWEVER: There are things that are smart, and give you a chance.
5) Swing for the fences
If all your blog posts are kinda the same — the same topic, the same length, the same tone — it’s a good bet none of them will ever magically shock the world.
Learn from PETA, which gets gobs and gobs of free ink and airtime by trying bold, crazy PR stunts.
Most of them fail. Sometimes, they get a little bad press for a stunt gone wrong.
But they keep swinging for the fences, because there is no real penalty for swinging and missing.
People only really pay attention when you hit that towering home run.
So PETA does the opposite of most non-profits, companies, politicians, authors, actors and would-be Famous Peoples: they don’t (a) craft a strategy full of bunts and singles, (b) assume all those bunts and singles will work 100 percent of the time, then (c) freak out when things don’t work out exactly according to the plan and (d) yell at their publicist for all those failures.
PETA knows most swings of the bat will miss. They’re smart about it. They don’t whine or cry in their IPA’s after hours, asking God why nobody prints their press releases. They swing hard. They know missing is part of the game. And they keep on swinging, knowing that all it takes is one solid smack of the bat to get their message through in newspapers, radio and TV around the world.
I did a bunch of posts examining how PETA and other folks do publicity right. Read them. It’ll make you rethink playing small ball.
4) Start with a killer photo
Words are great. I adore words, and I bet you do, too.
Treating photos as an afterthought, though, is crazy.
Because images are more powerful than words. They tap directly into a primal part of our brain and work all kinds of magic, bam, faster than you know it, all while your brain is still processing the first few words of the headline and such.
Every post should have one killer image.
Snag a shot from flickr or morguefile. Snap away with your iPhone or Droid — or, if you’re lucky enough to have one, a Nikon of Infinite Beauty.
Use one of the online meme generators (they are legion) to add words to a fresh meme.
Better yet, find a photo and start an entirely new meme.
3) Embrace viral networks
Everybody basically has a blog, a Facebook page and uses Twitter — that’s pretty standard.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: that won’t help you go viral.
Blogs just sit there, really. Nobody except your subscribers will realize you’ve got a new post.
The Book of Face is social networking, not social media. Same with Twitter.
They aren’t designed, really, for things to go viral. Are they better than a kick in the head? Yeah.
For a blog post to really go viral, you need it to make noise on Pinterest or Reddit, Digg or Stumbleupon — those sorts of sites.
Because lumping all these sites under the term “social media” is stupid.
There’s social networking, where you make new friends and talk smack with those friends.
There’s social media, which sort of works as an alternative to mass media (papers of news, radio, TV) — but not really.
And then there are viral networks.
To make a blog post go viral, people who use viral networks must (a) see your post and (b) share it.
That means putting the right sharing buttons on each post.
It means joining a few of those viral networks to see how they work.
And it means using those networks to push sharing buttons on stuff your friends post, not just your own stuff.
This is where a killer photo comes in handy. Pinterest and other viral networks are incredibly visual. If your post doesn’t have an image, it’s basically impossible to post on many viral networks. Even if they let you post, I don’t suggest doing it. Because a photo is key.
2) Use the video, Luke
Moving pictures are even BETTER than regular old pictures, which are better than words.
Here. I’ll make it all simple with logic and such:
Video > Photos > Words
Find short clips on YouTube that illustrate your point.
Snag animated gifs that are related, and funny, and not gross or pervy.
There is no shortage of video clips and gifs. I am constantly amazed by the creativity of peoples on the Series of Tubes, and I tip my hat to them. You make me laugh, and learn things, because video is the most primal way of reaching people.
1) Wrap it all up with a head-turning headline
The Greatest Blog Post in the History of the Blogosphere won’t matter if your headline is something like “What I wrote this morning, after I had some Cocoa Puffs”
Give your post a great headline. How?
Bottom line, you want the headline to create interest by (a) raising interesting questions about (b) stuff people already care about, and I have to say (c) if your blog is a thinly disguised diary, and eliminating the words “I” and “me” would cause the word counts of all your posts to drop by 20 percent, then yeah, that stuff isn’t really interesting or what people care about. Don’t do it.
Interesting questions include anything primal: life and death, love affairs and disasters, monsters and myths.
Stuff people already care about include books and movies, music and plays, stupid reality TV shows, politics, news, art, photography, stupid reality TV shows about celebrities and anything funny.
So what’s a good killer headline? Here are a few:
Top 10 things to do before Comet 1948A destroys Earth
Why JAWS and FATAL ATTRACTION are the same flipping story
If the Bachelor and Bachelorette are 0 for 40-whatever on engagements and marriages, is all hope for love lost — or is reality TV just an empty wasteland of vacuous, fame-chasing idiots?
Now, I’m kidding with that last headline. Bit too long.
On the other hand, it is unusual and would stand out. Bet you if I wrote a post with exactly that headline, it might make a splash. That last hed (journalism slang alert!) happily swings for the fences.
So don’t worry about missing, and don’t place all your bets on some golden post.
Because every time you shoot for something bold and spectacular, even if you fail, you’ll get better at it. And you won’t learn how to hit home runs if all you do is aim for bunts and singles.
So, I love the Twitter, which is fun and useful, and have fallen out of love with the Book of Face, because it’s not very useful and has become rather Annoying.
HOWEVER: There are things in Twitter that should be fixed, and features we desperately need to have.
Here they are.
Thing Number 4: Kill direct messages
Kill it with fire. Nuke it from orbit. Go send Keanu Reeve through the Matrix to wipe DM’s from the face of the Twitterverse.
Because nobody sends them anymore, not unless they get hacked and spit out endless “U didn’t see them tapping u? http://spam.a.licious” messages.
Thing Number 3: Give unto us some LIVE CHAT already
One of the great things about Gmail is you can see your contacts on the left side of the screen, with little green dots for folks who are online, and with a single click, bam, you can live-chat your buddies.
Twitter needs this. You’re already on the Twitter, and so is your buddy, but after the third round of back-and-forth of Tweets and replies, it’s beyond clunky and you just want to do a live chat instead of waiting for Twitter to reload and such.
Live chat isn’t some kind of advanced alien technology. Make your people happy. After you put a dagger in the heart of spammy direct messages, give us live chat, which is spam proof.
Right now, Twitter gives us a single stream of tweets, and they fly by at the speed of light.
Even if you’ve got all your people categorized into separate lists and groups, and would like to check on folks that way, Twitter won’t let you.
Basically, they’ve crossed the streams. And crossing the streams is an achy breaky bad mistakey.
Sure, you can fire up Hootesuite and other apps that will let you see different streams of Tweets, as they are meant to be seen. Yet if you need Hootesuite to check different streams, then Social Bro to manage your lists, Buffer to schedule tweets and some other app to get a handle on all your contacts, that’s a flashing neon light that says Twitter needs fixing.
Thing Number 1: Give us easy ways to manage our peoples
Learn from email, please. It’s been around for a little while now, and we all know how to use it.
Don’t let us organize people into lists like “Thriller authors” and “Serious fans of Care Bear cartoons” without giving us an easy way of sending a tweet about Lee Child‘s latest novel only to those thriller authors, and not your Care Bear maniacs.
Don’t make it insanely difficult to sort through the list of people you follow, or who follow you, without wading through screen after screen. SocialBro has some really smart features, like sorting through people who haven’t tweeted in six months. Learn from that. Sock it to us.
It shouldn’t be insanely difficult to keep track of your favorite people. Gmail has a nice touch where it’ll list your 20-some most frequently emailed folks. Those are your people, right? Make it easy for users. Show everybody who tweets them the most, or retweets what they say. Don’t make us try to remember whether you spell it @batmanFANinLondon or @BATMANfanInLONDON when you’re trying to talk to the guy about what DC will do with the Justice League movie.
Also, distribution lists are smart and useful. Let us have them.
Make it easy and we will love you even more, Twitter.
Make it hard and we’ll keep on kludging together workarounds, using four other apps, as we wonder whether you’ll keep making smart decisions or follow Facebook down the path of the Dark Side, where stock options only head south after the IPO.
This is a simple little song with a simple little video that still manages to ROCK THE HOUSE.
Also, I don’t really hear much of a difference between the Ho! and the Hey! parts, but hey, that’s artistic license and such.
Also-also: There’s something of a trend of Mumford and Son types, musicians wearing suspenders while playing folksy rock that involves (a) a banjo, (b) a bass and (c) harmonicas or whatever.
This is a good thing, though it will certainly snowball into some kind of trend where record executives start signing up folks bands with accordians instead of amplifiers faster than an aspiring writer can tell you about their YA series that is NOT inspired — they swear — by Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, because they have a school of witches, not wizards, and the zombies show up on page 392.
Also-cubed: As for the controversy over whether The Lumineers (original band name: The Night Lights) are singing “You’re my sweetheart” or “You’re my sweet home” — the answer is, “sweet heart.”
Here’s the video. Watch it. DO IT NOW, because YouTube / the Google needs your clicks and money or whatever before their stock starts doing the Facebook nosedive.
For word nerds around the world, the lyrics:
(Ho!) I’ve been trying to do it right
(Hey!) I’ve been living a lonely life
(Ho!) I’ve been sleeping here instead
(Hey!)I’ve been sleeping in my bed,
(Ho!) sleeping in my bed (Hey!)
(Ho!) So show me family
(Hey!) Or the blood that I would bleed
(Ho!) I don’t know where I belong
(Hey!) I don’t know where I went wrong
(Ho!) But I can write a song
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweet
(Ho!) I don’t think you’re right for him
(Hey!) Leave the world it might have been
(Ho!) Took a bus to china town
(Hey!) I’ll be standing on canal
(Ho!) And bowery (hey!)
(Ho!) She’d be standing next to me (hey!)
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
And love, we need it now
Let’s hope for some
Cause oh, we’re bleeding out
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me
You’re my sweetheart
Twitter isn’t built to sell books. Or anything else.
Yet if you belong to the Twitter, you see all sorts of authors pimping their books.
Some do it subtly, or randomly. Others do it faithfully, if not relentlessly.
And even if they mount a full Social Networking Offensive — a combined-forced attack with tweets on the ground, blog battleships at sea and Facebook fighter planes swooping down from above — even if they do all that, they will fail.
Attack of the Internet Fanboys
Oh, this is sacrilege. I know it.
Internet Fanboys believe that the Twitter, the Book of Face, blogs, the entire series of tubes — hey, that’s the future. Old Media is so old. They say, “Social media once was the student, and now it is the master. If you only KNEW the power of the Dark Side…”
Except they’re wrong. No matter how much you want it to work, how hard you squeeze your eyes and reach for that Internet lightsaber, it doesn’t fly through the air and into your hand. Even when you pick it up and push the button, nothing happens.
Faith isn’t enough.
Here comes the science
But spam works, right? And it uses the series of tubes.
Sure spam works. That’s why most email being sent today is spammalicious. Scammers send billions of emails every day, despite all the spam filters and barriers, because all they need to make money is a 1 percent response rate.
One percent. That’s a terrible success rate. Horrible. That’s like asking 100 girls out and hoping one says yes. But with enough volume, you can make money.
Surely, authors will do better than spammers. They aren’t peddling cheap Viagra and penis pills. They’re (a) pitching great books and (b) targeting their audience to book lovers rather than random people, therefore (c) the response rate for authors should be way, way better than 1 percent.
These are your internet friends, fans and family, right? They know you. They talk to you every day. They’re gonna buy your book.
But they don’t.
Want to know why?
Snooki vs. Nathan Bransford
Snooki can’t string a sentence together without committing sins against the English language. Yet she “wrote” a novel.
Nathan Bransford, on the other hand, is a muffin of stud.
He was a literary agent and understands the business of selling books
The man looks like a movie star.
He’s got 100,000-whatever Twitter followers and a blog with a lot of hits
He wrote a great book — a YA novel, which a hot genre, and his book got buzz and good reviews
THE MAN LOOKS LIKE A MOVIE STAR
If there ever was a picture of literary studliness, it’d be Nathan.
This isn’t an agent writing a book about writing (cliché). This man is writing a novel (brave!). So if anybody was poised for success using the Series of Tubes, it’d be this man.
I don’t know Nathan, but what I’ve heard of him made me root for the man. People say nothing but nice things about him. Every indication is that he’s smart, talented, good-looking — a literary rock star.
And his book had buzz before it even came out. I expected — and hoped — that he’d have a best-seller.
Snooki, on the other hand, is firing blanks.
She’s more infamous than famous
No sane human being would call her a writer and nobody believes she wrote this novel of with her name on it
She’s a walking, talking train wreck — would you let her borrow your car or babysit your firstborn?
It’s safe to say Nathan’s audience — people who follow him on Twitter and read his blog — are literary types who not only love books, but actually BUY book via the series of tubes — or, if they’re feeling really frisky, walk inside giant buildings stacked with bazillions of books where they hand people pieces of paper decorated with images of dead white guys, or let them touch a rectangle of plastic, then the people who seem to live in this giant buildings hand you books of your choosing and complete the ritual by asking you to have a nice day.
You could also bet the farm that 99 percent of people who know Snooki’s name and have seen her on the Glowing Tube would never guess, not even if you put a Nine against their noggin and started counting down from five, that Snooki has ever read an entire novel, much less written one. Her most avid fans, the ones who don’t watch her for the live-action train wreck and the irony of wallowing in low-brow nonsense, are 125.6 times more likely to be in a tanning booth than a bookstore.
Before we make our predictions about how well Nathan’s book did vs. Snooki’s book-like substance, let’s do some math.
The math, it is BRUTAL Nathan having 100,000 Twitter followers should be a huge marketing advantage.
Marketing Architects used this formula: “If half the people in the networks actually see my posting, and one percent of them respond, and 5% of the responders buy, what will the outcome be?”
(possible audience) x (% who see it) x (% who pay attention) x (% who buy it) = sales
So for this example with Nathan: (100,000 followers) x (50 % see it) x (1 % pay attention) x (5 % buy it) = 25 sales.
Here’s another bit of math from Dan Zarrella, social media scientist, who I believe is the World’s Greatest Expert on Twitter.
He takes raw data from bazillions of tweets and studies the heck out of them. The rate for retweets is actually even more pessimistic than the first bit of math I used above from Market Architects. Now, retweets cost you nothing. The actual purchase of books, movies and whatnot will be far lower than the rate of retweets.
But let’s be generous and go with the actual math of what Dan has discovered from sifting through all that Twitter data.
Back to the math: it’s brutal and evil. Surely this didn’t happen to Nathan, who I do believe is a literary muffin of stud. If I were a betting man, I would say no. He should buck this bad math and sell better.
Most authors don’t even have up-to-the-minute sales figures. We can’t know exactly how many books sold. We can get a good peek at Amazon sales, though, and if the Internet Fanboy theory is right, when you pimp your book via Twitter and Facebook, people click their mouse and presto, massive online sales.
The Amazon sales rank of Nathan’s book is 267,136 — which doesn’t tell us anything yet.
Rachelle the Gardner, another literary agent with a blog and a brain, blogged about a study from a major publisher that tracked Amazon sales rankings and sales over six months.
Books ranked 1 to 750 = 75 to 275 sales per week
Books ranked 750 to 3,000 = 40 to 75 sales per week
Books ranked 10,000 or above = 0 to 5 books sold per week
So that rough math isn’t crazy, at least in terms of sales on the Series of Tubes. I bet Nathan sold more than that. Maybe his physical book sales were a lot higher. HOWEVER: the Internet Fanboy theory that tweets lead to online sales of books gets shredded here.
What’s the Amazon sales rank of Snooki’s novel? 13,812.
How could a literary loser like Snooki do better — with a terrible book — than a literary rock star with a great book and a huge online following of book-loving writer types?
Why this happened
Part of the reason is simply this: if you’re friends with 500 writers and authors, you can’t buy all their books. Because you couldn’t afford to pay rent.
Same thing with politics. People who work in politics naturally know hundreds of elected officials and candidates, but donate to very, very few. Why? Are they heartless? No. They can’t afford to do otherwise. If you work in politics and gave $200 to all 200 candidates you know, that’s $40,000 out the door. You’d be living in a cardboard box.
Same thing with books. Most of the 13,000-whatever folks I’m connected to on Twitter and the blog are writers and authors. Love these people. Some authors send me free ARCs or e-books, which is great, and I do buy books from authors I know sometimes. But you can’t buy them all. Let’s say only half of those folks have books out this year. $10 times 6,500 is $65,000 in books.
Therefore, I’m not shocked that book-loving followers don’t buy books from each other all day. We’d go broke.
Back to my favorite New Jersey train wreck, Snooki. She isn’t a special case or some crazy outlier.
There are scads of untalented hacks — people who couldn’t write their way out of a paper sack if you handed them a sharpened pencil, people who typically don’t even WRITE THEIR OWN BOOKS — who sell more books than great writers.
It doesn’t even matter how bad the ghostwriters do their job. These books sell like hotcakes anyway.
And no, I’m not talking about some weird subgenre of books that live an in alternative universe. These untalented non-writers sell all kinds of books: fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, whatever.
What’s the secret?
You know their name.
That’s it. Name recognition. Nothing is more powerful.
Kim Kardashian could do nothing more than wave her mascara wand over a manuscript that her agent had some ghostwriter crank out, and yet she’d sell more copies of KIM KARDASHIAN’S ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO QUICKIE MARRIAGES AND DIVORCES than 99 percent of people who’ve dedicated their lives to writing literature so good you cry tears of unbearable joy and beautiful sadness.
Here’s a number that will blow your mind: Kim Kardashian makes $10,000 per tweet.
That’s right. Kardashian makes more for some 140-characters of product placement — something she probably has a staffer write for her in about 30 seconds — than some authors get for an advance on a book they spent years polishing and perfecting.
Kardashian got a reported $10 million for her fake wedding and could earn $5 million for her divorce. Yes, that’s a link to a story quoting an expert who has math backing him up. Click it and cry.
This doesn’t happen because Kim Kardashian is the prettiest woman on the planet or because oozes from her every pore. There are thousands of actresses on Broadway who can sing, act and dance circles around any of the Kardashians, but those Broadway actresses don’t have their own reality TV show.
Kardashian and Snooki make money, and sell books, because they are famous. Because you KNOW THEIR NAME.
I’ve written about name recognition for The New York Times’ about.com, as their expert on public relations, publicity and whatever. They sent me checks that said The New York Times on it, and I cashed those checks. As a journalism major, that was fun. The next three links are from stuff I wrote for that blog. There are reasons why corporations spend billions on ads that repeat the name of their company billions of times. Also, there is real science on how name recognition works — read it here at the brilliantly titled post, How Name Recognition Works — and finally, there are ways — evil, secret ways — to boost your name recognition.
(Yes, I know the last post says “Four Ways to Boost Your Name Recognition” when the url-whatever says Five Ways — this is a mistake. The internets, they are fallible, and I told folks to fix that long ago.)
Back to talentless celebrities who write books which make more money than people with writing talent on loan from God.
Glenn Beck wrote a terrible thriller, something that people said sounded like a bad parody of a bad parody, and yet it became a best-seller. Is he a talented writer? No. Did he even hire a talented ghostwriter? Nah. There’s no point in bothering with that when your name alone sells things.
Sarah Palin has “written” best-selling books that are — and this is a strange coincidence — all about Sarah Palin.
The fact these celebrities had best-sellers has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with name recognition.
That begs the question, how did they get such amazing name recognition?
Here’s the answer that will blow the minds of Internet Fanboys and make them wish they had the strength to run from the keyboard and wrap their Cheetos-covered fingers around my neck and squeeze really, really hard: all that name recognition came from dead, tired, obsolete OLD MEDIA.
It came from the millions of people who see Snooki and Kim Kardashian and Paris Hilton on the Glowing Tube.
It came from the covers of People and US and The National Enquirer, who seem to be spending a lot of ink on real housewives who are on reality shows despite the fact that many of these women are not housewives, or married, or interesting at all except in a train wreck kind of way. But they’re on TV.
It came from newspaper interviews and entertainment sites like TMZ and from tired, obsolete Old Media standbys like Entertainment Tonight and hip new cable shebangs like The Colbert Report.
And it came from the millions of people who listened to Glenn Beck on the radio.
All these people with huge name recognition are doing something far, far different than the hordes of authors and writers placing their faith in the power of social networking and the Series of Tubes.
They’re using Old Media. There’s a reason it’s called “mass media.” It reaches the masses.
Bottom line: You could spend three years building a popular writing blog and getting to 10,000 Twitter followers, or 100,000 followers, and it wouldn’t be as useful as 10 minutes on a cable reality show with a weekly viewership of 3.5 million.
Think about that. Ten minutes beats three years.
Social networking — it’s not social media — is for meeting people. A few hundred people, or a few thousand, but not millions.
Social networking is meant for dialogues, not monologues where you spew links asking people to buy something, even something as nice as a book.
If you want to reach a mass audience, you must use the mass media. Must. Not “should.” Must. IT IS REQUIRED.
Now, it is true that big corporations are spending a lot of money on internet advertising. Banner ads do reach millions of people. That’s advertising, not social networking. And yes, it boosts name recognition. It just costs a lot of money. Earned media — coverage by the press — is free and has more credibility than ads.
Even the worst movies are a publicity godsend It’s not an accident that a ton of big-shot authors got a rocket boost to their careers when one of their books became a movie.
Stephen King started out with CARRIE, which was a bestselling novel and then a movie — boom, off he went.
Scott Turow had an injection of Harrison Ford with PRESUMED INNOCENT.
Joseph Finder, Carl Hiaasen (funny man – but he needs more vowels, doesn’t he?), Elmore Leonard, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, J.K. Rowling — a ton of authors that are household names got that way not just from having bestselling books, but from having movies made from those books.
The power of name recognition is also why Hollywood has lost its mind and is busy making movies out of board games (Battleship – seriously) and Every Bad ’80s Cartoon Known to Man (G.I. JOE, TRANSFORMERS, HE-MAN, SMURFS and so forth).
Why are those good fodder for movies? We already know the name.
Here’s the rub: the movie doesn’t have to good, or a hit, for the author to get a massive shot of sales. That’s because studios spend millions promoting each movie.
You see endless trailers on TV, ads in the paper, posters. You hear radio ads and read reviews of the movie in the newspaper. The entertainment shows and blogs plug the movie, or pan it. The movie stars go on the talk-show circuit. Publishers put out new editions of the book that say, “Now a major motion picture starring this handsome man and that sexy woman on the cover, the two of them kissing while they hold a gun or whatever.”
Even if the movie bombs, the author just got millions of dollars in publicity, seen and heard by hundreds of millions of people around the world.
Am I saying you need a movie to sell a book? No, that’s not the point. I’m saying even the worst movie, and the worst book, will sell a lot simply because of the publicity budget Hollywood spends.
Let’s take a horrible example: BATTLESHIP was a bad, big-budget movie based on a board game. It only got made because toy companies like Hasbro realized they’ve built up so much name ID with G.I. Joe and Monopoly and every other toy, they can make bad movies with those titles and people will see them. And as a bonus, they can sell more toys, including special movie editions of Battleship and G.I. Joe dolls (sorry, “action figures”) and even rush books of the novelization of the movie.
Those bad books about bad movies based on toys? They’ll sell. Quality doesn’t matter when name ID is high.
Here’s the math: let’s saying only 200 million people get exposed to the trailers, reviews and hype for a movie. That’s a huge understatement, since movies make most of their money overseas now, and publicity campaigns for movies are global today, aimed at billions. Either way, I’m going with 200 million out of a sense of fairness, justice and equality or whatever.
(200,000,000 people) x (50 % see it) x (1 % pay attention) x (5 % buy it) = 50,000 sales.
That’s a bestseller right there.
The point is, quality doesn’t necessarily matter when exposure is that high.
The new math: to sell thousands, you need to reach millions
If you’re going from the other direction — high quality, no advertising and publicity budget — you can’t get to the audience needed via social media.
Without a big advertising budget, you’ve got to use the mass media to reach the masses. That means earned media, and reaching audiences in different ways.
Some people rely entirely on the Glowing Tube for entertainment and news. Other people listen to NPR as they drive to work. Others read the paper.
If you only focus on the series of tubes — and you don’t have a presence on radio, TV and print — then you don’t exist to those people. They’ll never see or hear your name.
But don’t tell the Internet Fanboys trying like mad to add more Twitter followers and Facebook friends and blog hits, like this is some kind of Tetris game where the winner is whoever racks up the highest score. “You just don’t understand the power of new technology — Old Media is so 1982.”
Think about big-shot authors again. What do they have in common? They go on book tours. They give interviews to newspapers and magazines and TV shows. They get movies made from their books.
They don’t just use mass media. They use the hell out of it.
Do most bigshot authors go all-out for social networking? No. Some ignore it entirely. Others have people handle that. Because it’s not critical. It’s a bonus rather than a pathway to success. They know something most people don’t: to sell 50,000 books, it’s not enough to tweet to 10,000 followers, or even 100,000.
You need to reach for a mass audience. Millions — or hundreds of millions. The only way to do that is through mass media.
The thing people can’t wrap their head around is that by using the Series of Tubes, anybody can reach any mass media market anywhere in the world, for free. But you need to know how to do it, and you need something worth that free ink and airtime.
The fact that your punk rock album / novel about elves with lightsabers / book of poetry Gertrude Stein would write if she were alive today is “super, super great” doesn’t get any ink and airtime. You can’t pitch quality — you need something worthy of free ink and airtime. And that’s a different topic entirely.
Every novelist, journalist and aspiring writer I know is all over social media. They’ve got a blog and a Twitter account, or a Tumblr and a Facebook page.
Or they have all four, plus three things that are so bleeding edge, I haven’t heard of them yet.
HOWEVER: you could spend all day banging out blog posts and tweets and Facebook updates. It could suck up all your free time. And you might not get that much out of it.
I see people doing it wrong all the time, and it kills me.
So let’s get some things straight:
It’s not about how many friends you have on Facebook.
It’s not about how many hits you get on your blog.
It’s not about how many people follow you on Twitter.
If you want to make more money writing for a living — or quit your day job to write full-time — then you need to look inside the media toolbox and see each type of social media for what it is: a tool.
Not a magic bullet. Not a sure-fire path to fame and fortune.
You also need to realize that social media can’t be your entire media plan. And no, you are not the exception, Internet Boy.
Here’s a quick-and-dirty look at each tool:
This whole Twitter thing is for meeting people.
The social barrier is incredibly low, because tweets are by definition super-short.
Nobody is going to send you a rambling five-page email about their feelings. There’s a lot of freedom in 140 characters.
Want to BS with other writers? Look up the right hashtag for the kind of writing you do. I bet #poems will get you in touch with poets around the world.
Movies, romance, thrillers, journalism, whatever you’re into, you can find people with the same interests on Twitter, and it’s non-threatening.
It’s like a big bar that’s always open where the drinks are always free and the people are friendly, because they’re drunk. I said THE DRINKS ARE FREE.
The Book of Face is nothing like Twitter, nothing at all. It’s a closed system.
If Twitter is a big bar where anybody can talk to anybody, then Facebook is a giant hotel with 500 million rooms where you’ve got to know the right hotel room number, knock on the door and have the person behind the peephole look at you and say OK before they open the door and let you in the private party.
Facebook is for friends and family.
It’s for people you’ve had dinner with, or would have dinner with, and want to share baby photos and wedding photos and private things you don’t want to share with the world.
Maybe you think a Facebook fan page is the best thing ever, and you swear by it, and it’s the reason why you went from reporter at The Willapa Valley Shopper to editor of Vanity Fair.
I don’t recommend it. Facebook’s niche is friends and family. There are better tools.
Also: don’t play Farmville, or Bejeweled, or whatever on Facebook, for doing so a Sin, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster DOES NOT FORGET.
He doesn’t forgive, either. Not his thing.
Blogs are a bit like Twitter, in that everybody can see them. It’s not a private party like Facebook.
With a blog, you can write a helluva lot longer than 140 characters and put in silly photos of zombies and movie clips about hair bands from the 1980s. IT IS GLORIOUS.
Blogs are where the people you meet on Twitter can come to hang out. You can have literary flame wars in the comment sections about whether the Spork should be sent along with Snooki and the Situation on a one-way mission to Mars.
Different tools for different jobs
Think about those three tools — Twitter, Facebook and blogs — compared to a face-to-face meeting, a phone call and an e-mail.
Asking for a face-to-face meeting with an important and powerful stranger is the highest possible hurdle, right? A six-foot brick wall to climb over.
A cold call is chain-link fence. A little easier.
E-mailing that same VIP is three-foot wall.
Posting a comment on their blog is a little hop over decorative plants.
Tweeting is like hopping over a crack in the sidewalk. It’s nothing. Go give Yoko Ono a tweet. DO IT NOW.
It’s not about getting hits
Social media is not a games of Tetris, where you’re trying to get the high score.
Having 500,000 hits to your blog or 20,000 followers on Twitter doesn’t do anything, by itself.
Social media is about meeting people and learning things. It’s about a dialogue, not a monologue.
Fame and fortune still comes from old-fashioned mass media.
Do people like Charlie Sheen start Twitter accounts and instantly get 6.8 bazillion followers? Yes.
And there is a reason for that. That reason is simple: he was already a famous movie and TV star.
Also, he is an infamously insane train wreck, which is hard not to watch.
Want to reach a mass audience? Use the mass media
If you want national success, you need to reach a national audience.
To sell a million movie tickets, or novels, you’ve got to reach tens of millions of people with the mass media — and if you’re lucky, advertising. National success means trying to reach 330 million people. International success means reaching out to all 7 billion on this rock.
You can’t do that with Facebook and Twitter and a blog. Not everybody uses it. The only real way to reach a mass audiences is by using the mass media. TV. Newspapers. Radio.
A big chunk of the population only gets their news and entertainment from the idiot box. A different chunk only listens to the radio. A smaller bit rely on newspapers and magazines.
If you’re not on all of those channels, you don’t exist to those different audiences.
Social media isn’t a magic bullet
Old-fashioned mass media still has the biggest bullets and the biggest guns.
Is this heresy to the fanatics of the web? Yes. Too bad, so sad, tell your dad. Journalists and public relations pros will tell you this is the truth. Suck it up, internet boy. Sometimes, you have to get up from behind the keyboard and talk to real reporters, live and in person.
Someday, you have to go on a radio show. Eventually, you need to get on TV shows — not once, repeatedly — to reach all those people who only watch TV, even if you’re just trying to reach a local or statewide audience.
Say you’re a playwright in Seattle trying to make your debut play a success. Are you gonna sell out the season by having a blog and a Facebook fan page and tweeting twice a day? No.
Don’t waste your time dreaming that lightning will strike via the internets.
Get on the local TV stations, on radio, in the newspapers, on local blogs that are already popular. Your own blog and whatnot is gravy. It’s not a serious media plan.
Take solace from the fact that with 5.84 bazillion people trying to do via the series of tubes, there’s less competition for serious, hard-working people who know how to work the mass media. By “work” I don’t mean “annoy.” You need to do it right.
It isn’t easy. It isn’t simple. But it’s a lot more effective for reaching a mass audience than hoping hits on your blog will turn into magic, like lead into gold.
There are gold mines out there. That’s where you should take your pick and your axe and your mighty pen to look for the shiny yellow stuff. Because that’s where it lives.