It pains me to see folks place all their faith in the Series of Tubes, whether they’re trying to bust into Hollywood, sell books about Men in Kilts or make a living playing punk rock songs with only three chords.
It’s no skin off my nose if they stubbornly keep on doing it.
As somebody who believes in science, and numbers, and doing whatever works, I’ll just say this: the Series of Tubes is useful for making friends and other things — but it is not a strategy and it is not a plan, not even for Internet Tough Guys.
Here’s the thing: to persuade 10 people, you have to reach thousands–and to persuade thousands, you have to reach millions.
Which means using mass media, which is a completely different animal than social media or social networking.
Digital alone isn’t a strategy. It’s one piece.
There was a good Seattle blog, staffed with professional journalists and getting 400,000 hits a month, and that wasn’t enough to keep it afloat. Because internet hits may seem impressive, but they can be cheap and fleeting.
Truly reaching an audience means going to where they are, which isn’t your website, Twitter feed, Instagram home or whatever corner of the interwebs you prefer.
Some people rely on the radio. Maybe they’re like me and drive far to get to work and home every day.
Other folks read their local newspaper every morning with coffee, a ritual that I believe to be sacred and noble.
And yes, there are people who still use their television, even if it’s hooked up to cable, Hulu, Netflix or whatever else is hot this week.
The bottom line is this: If you made a pie chart of where people get their news and entertainment, it would be insanely fragmented. Digital is an important, modern slice, sure. But it’s just a slice.
A real media strategy, a smart one, touches every corner of that media pie.
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?
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? ” 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.