How much stuff is in your garage or basement, taking up space?
I feel your pain. Once you put something in a plastic bin and shove it in your garage, there’s a 95 percent change you’ll never open it. You could move across the country three times, loading and unloading those same plastic bins into U-Hauls, and never crack open the seal.
This is wrong. And it doesn’t have to be this way.
Though my first social media love remains Twitter, and my affair with WordPress lives on, the useful thing about Facebook is you can connect with local people who’ll pay you monies to TAKE JUNK YOU DON’T USE.
Here are three ads I put on Facebook today for my local group, East Grays Harbor Swap and Shop, or as I like to call it, EGHSS, which you pronounce kinda like “eggs” except slower and in a Danish accent.
ublicity and marketing, including social media, is like the Wild West.
Just about anybody can call themselves a Social Media Ninja (although they shouldn’t) and get away with it, especially if they used the right jargon. Crazy ideas don’t sound crazy when nobody really knows anything in this new frontier.
Social media is still related to publicity and marketing, and even in that old business, the saying was, “Half of all advertising gets wasted. But nobody knows what half.”
Although there’s certainly good practice and bad ideas, there’s always been more art than science to the field. You can’t predict what will work or say, “We’re going to make this viral” and have it happen. Doesn’t work that way.
PETA does it best: they assume most things will fail, which is true. They swing for the fences and try all sorts of wild ideas and PR stunts, because 99 of them can flop if only one of them goes viral. PETA knows you can’t plan viral.
Now, I like the art AND the science, the theory and the practice. You can’t run everything by the numbers, because good numbers are hard to find, and it’s expensive, and you surely can’t run a bunch of numbers and say, “See? This thing will blow up because, you know, science.” Doesn’t work. But you can, and should, grab data where possible and use that to point in the right direction.
So it gave me great joy to see Neil the Patel come through with another great infographic about which words get shared on social media — the Book of Face, the Twitter, Goople+ and even that thing called LinkedIn — and which words get buried. Useful stuff.
This isn’t science fiction, or something dreamed up by Stan Lee back in 1962.
An artist teamed up with scientists to (1) weave artificial spider silk, (2) grow real cells around that scaffold then (3) look for firearms.
So what happened when Bulletproof Skin 1.0 got shot by a low-powered .22 bullet?
Yeah, it bounced off.
A full-powered .22 pierced the skin, though she thinks doubling the strength of the spider silk weave would buttress the skin and make it tough enough.
Science is magic.
Then there’s this CEO, who sells stab-proof vests and stands behind his product by letting an employee, or a dude who really hates him, hit him with a metal baton, slash him with a box-cutter and stab him with a knife.
But for full-on crazy, you need to see the Canadian man who’s been trying to build an anti-bear suit for years. He lets himself get hit by logs, Ewok-style, and thrown off cliffs, hit by cars, whacked by a gang of men with baseball bats, all to demonstrate the strength of his latest version of the suit.
You can’t make this stuff up. And because I can: 41 other brilliant (or insane) inventions from around the world.
I bet you’ve swerved on I-5 to stop a drifting semi from turning your car into a cube of steel.
As a teenager, I bet there were times buddies dared you to (a) jump off the roof of a hotel into the pool, (b) drag race down a dark county road at 120 miles an hour in a beater that couldn’t break 80 without rattling like it fall apart or (c) chug an entire bottle of Grey Goose they swiped from Dad’s liquor cabinet.
Hear me now and believe me later in the week: these sort of things are good for you.
I don’t mean you should take up base jumping, climbing cliffs without ropes or stupid stunts involving skateboards. It never works out.
HOWEVER: In my experience, whatever hasn’t killed me has made me a happy man for months.
My friend Leo took me mountain climbing for the first time, and when it turned out more crazy than I expected, with white crosses marking where people died, I was insanely thrilled to get down that mountain. My wife says I was a joy to be around for months. Nothing bothered me.
So I had a little surgery yesterday, something that started out as a simple, easy trip to the doctor. Shoot a little local in me, cut it out, stitch me up.
Nope. Got sent to a surgeon, who said they’d have to put me under, because the thing was too deep.
Took all day. I’d had surgery a half-dozen times before, mostly as a kid. I think as a shorty you’re more worried about the moment. As an adult, with a wife and a kid, these sort of things matter more. You worry.
What if this tumor is some kind of crazy parasite I picked up in the deserts of Dubai?
Or what if it’s cancer, and I’ve got to go all Walter White?
Who would be my Pinkman?
Everything should be fine. Even so, there’s that same sense, that feeling each day is a gift.
Sidenote: This month is the anniversary for the blog, born in a haunted oceanfront cabin by Port Townsend when I needed to sell my beater Hyundai.
I believe it calls for a little celebration: a Greatest Hits compilation and a call for ideas. If you’ve got something that would be perfect for the blog, or want to guest post, give me a shout in the comments, on the Twitter or via secret emails.
Meeting so many brilliant and funny writers from around the world has been a pleasure. I can’t thank you enough.
They tell me it’s July, and summer, and I do see a burning ball of fire in the sky that confuses us here in the Pacific Northwest.
So: that means it’s the time of year where we all hit the beach, which means it’s also time for silly monster movies. Bring on the sharks, and the sharks crossed with an octopus. I kid you not.
To whet your appetite, I give you Snuffy the Seal — which you will watch six times, and show all your friends, because it is that good — and an epic round-up of every monstrous shark movie that’s so bad, it circles back to good.
SNUFFY THE SEAL
This is an instant classic, and I can’t think of any way to improve it. The roving reporter is perfectly perky, the anchor’s Hair Helmet and reaction is priceless, and the timing is comedy gold.
Shark movies were fresh and new, I don’t know, back in the 1970s, when Spielberg came out with JAWS.
Tornado movies were hot for a bit. Remember TWISTER?
So I give you SHARKNADO, because the only thing more terrifying than a gang of sharks in the water or a raging tornado is a raging tornado with its own gang of sharks.
Julia Robert’s brother is in this stinker. I’ve actually seen the whole thing. It’s packed chock full of cray-cray.
You’re sitting by the pool in Hollywood, drinking a pitcher of margaritas with your screenwriter buddy who’s written a bunch of B movies. And you think, what if there was an anaconda crossed with a piranha? YES!
JAWS meets JURRASIC PARK, and the offspring is ugly.
I love this movie simply for the crazy scene in the trailer of the shark jumping into the water to decapitate a man with a shotgun on land, then land in a different section of swamp. How can you top that?
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?
CAPOTEX — A vintage 1960s designer drug. Unlike most other banned literary substances, this drug is often used by fiction writers and non-fiction writers alike. Artificially increases prose style and sophistication. May cause speech patterns to be affected. Known to induce cutting, witty remarks in some test subjects. Long-term use can lead to literary irrelevance.
SPILLAGRA — Boosts literary testosterone levels. Known side effects include involvement with femme fatales, consumption of rye whiskey in dive bars, and over-reliance on colorful similes. If hard-boiled dialogue persists for over four hours, contact a doctor immediately.
ORWELLBUTRIN — Regulates and encourages the production of dystopamine in the brain. Developed as a means of social control, but now listed as a “doubleplus ungood” substance by the Ministry of Health. In rare cases, subjects may imagine that they can hear animals talking. Should only be taken after the clocks strike thirteen.
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.