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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Millennial Truth About Social Media...


The public eye.  This is something that has changed dramatically over time as public exposure was once reserved for the likes of actors, actresses, musicians, and politicians but now has a role in daily life.  What do I mean?  We are not all celebrities or move-makers, but for some reason, many of us enjoy posting the content of our lives on the internet for anyone to read at any moment.  The real issue is that there are opportunities out there we are missing completely relating to our passions and business ventures concentrating upon exposure.  

I have been writing this blog for roughly four months now and I have learned a little about sticking my foot into my mouth as a result.  The reasoning behind this was my lack of concern for all things social media when I began this little hobby.  Ironically, my blog started off on Facebook, but I still did not have much to do with other aspects of social media until I spoke with two people about it directly.  One of these people I am connected to at Google as a source of advisory for my content, and the other is a good friend of mine who has spent the better part of a decade in the view of the public, traveling, and performing.  Without going into too much detail for it to backfire, both of these people told me the same thing:  I have no room for growth without showing the world I am a real person.  You know me, you know my blog, and you therefore know that being a real person is of huge importance to me in any regard, so I listened to better understand what they meant. 

My adviser discussed my goals with me for a bit and knows that after all is said and done, writing is something I love to do and if it becomes a full-time occupation at some point or does not,  I will not slow down.  The thing is, I am trying to convey a message to the world, and am therefore visible to the public on a regular basis, which means those people who want to know what I have to say need to be able to connect to me in a real way and not just as a guy with a keyboard behind the computer screen.  Times have changed and people have changed the way in which they become interested in others.  Not too long ago, picking up the newspaper and reading a good article by a favorite author each week was normal and left at just that;  someone who wrote words on a page.  Now?  No.  People want to engage with their favorite writers on a personal level and if they cannot, those once devoted readers tend to fall off.  This stems from us being a part of the age of information where the public wants more from a writer than their thoughts once each week.  The public also wants to have them nearly tangible and are hungry to know even more about them than their cocky accolades on their company website.  The whole idea comes down to marketing and the way people have changed.

Now, stepping away from the conversation I had with my adviser and moving along to my very publicly-living friend, I will tell you how certain facets of marketing yourself for the consumption of the public have changed drastically.  

When I was a kid in the nineties, someone passing out CD's on a street corner would have been the most awesome thing in the world to come across, but not now.  During the time I was growing up into my teen years, CD's were still coveted and not wasted as they were still the main form of media passed along for music and software.  If someone handed you a nicely-packaged disc as a promotion, you listened to it at the first chance before proudly tucking it away into your collection.  I went to a concert of the friend I was talking about above in the spring of 2012 and afterward, there was a guy standing on a street corner, with a box full of these:
The man handing these out worked for someone, but I have no idea who.  There were an assortment of EP's in his box from various independent artists and I know this because the friend I was with had one shoved into her hands as well.  She brushed it off and gave her's to me.  This marketing strategy would have worked fifteen years ago, and I am a big lover of music, but nearly a year has gone by and I have not even broken open the packaging on the one pictured above; it was also tossed around in the back of my car for a few months.  Why?  I could not begin to tell you, but I know I am not only speaking for myself because many of my friends have similar, unopened music sitting around their houses.  This sort of marketing is a big expense, but I really do not feel like it is working effectively to get people exposure as it is no longer the way to reach people.  

My friend I mentioned before essentially explained to me that in order for anything to grow in the view of the public in writing, music, organizations, or any sort of production in the hobby or career field now relies heavily on social media;  because the people you are trying to reach need to know you are real.  If you do not want people to know you on a more personal level, you are failing at your supposed goals and will never get where you are headed.  I listen to him because he understands and was able to turn his passion into a successful career and would still be playing music for fun, had he not.

  Interacting with those who support your efforts is a bigger deal than some people imagine.  Now, I understand that not everyone fits every little social media situation, because I surely do not but being involved in more is better than few;  few is better than none.  My adviser and I also went over a few other ideas that enlightened me to the purpose of an online presence.  One of those being to stay away from automation; and you will probably know what I am talking about when I begin the next paragraph.

After starting and writing this blog for a while, I noticed all of these different "widget" settings available on Blogger, one of which was an automatic post update.  Essentially, I could write a blog, and the second I clicked "Publish" a post announcing my new blog would automatically show up on my Facebook, Twitter, be sent to my Email Subscribers, or really any other social media platform of my choice.    I did not set that up because I believe this practice is stupid.  Nothing takes the personal, relational aspects out of someone's efforts quite like automatically updating their social media.  This is soulless and lazy to me;  my adviser agreed.

The whole point of being public is being able to relate to those who either do or may pay attention to you.  Not being able to post your own, personal updates about writing a new blog, making a new video, or doing a live performance - of whatever sort, makes us look a little less human and much less caring.  The only big lesson I learned from the company I formerly worked for was directly linked to this topic and involved envelopes.

When I worked at my previous job, the corporate managers made everyone at every level of employment hand-write addresses onto envelopes, one section of the local phone book at a time.  Why?  They were putting information about their services into those envelopes and sending them out to everyone in the area.  You see, receiving a letter with your address printed across the front of it or shown through a plastic window is rarely opened and discounted as "mass-mailed junk", but eighty-percent of people who see a hand-written address on an envelope will open it because it looks more personal.  The same idea holds true with social media.  Automatic updates requiring minimal effort get discounted as the same old thing you saw a few days ago, last week, whenever over a short period of time.  I had a friend a few years ago who played gigs a few days per week and had his Facebook set up in that way.  After a few weeks of seeing the same, impersonal information regularly, I hid all of his posts from my feed and stopped paying attention to his music altogether.  Whoops...  Sorry, but seeing the same thing over and over like that puts you into the same category as the people who "share" twelve Christian posts everyday;  you are either ignored or blocked from my feed, and I have had this talk with quite a few people who do the exact same thing as I do.

What I have realized is that in order to make a mark on anything you are doing publicly and to get your material out there within any medium, social media is now a necessity.  I am not talking about having an account within those circles of information that you never post anything on or posting something once every week or so, but you must be active in showing the world you are a real person.  People in this generation grew up wanting to know more about the people they are trying to connect to and if you are trying to be visible, keeping them fed is a necessity, as they are the best exposure you have.  Letting your audience into every detail of your life is not necessary by any means, but everyone wants to know a little bit more about who they are reading, looking at, or listening to.  

I am not a "success story", because I do this as a hobby and nothing more, but after talking to two people who understand and live within the importance of self-promotion and personal marketing, I also have a pretty fair grip on the idea.  Sitting back and doing whatever it is you do without being involved with the public is fine if you do not have any intentions of your material getting out to the world; but if you are a creator of any sort, the motivation to reach more people should be within you, the need to further connect with your audience should be within you, and you should be acting on these things in huge ways. 

But do not act like this:

Or this:
  
Be yourself and use free marketing tools to your advantage.  
Writing a blog and not promoting it with free resources?  
Playing gigs and not using social media to thank your audience every time?  
Posting a video on YouTube and not responding to the comments?
When did we get so lazy and decide free marketing to millions of people was not necessary to spread our message?
Is that not the whole purpose of being visible?

Being completely honest, there are people who take the social media thing too far:
-I talked about automatic posts (Making posts more personal is not hard, get with it.)
-If you have more hashtag characters in your post than content characters, you look like an idiot.
-Be real and honest, but not too personal.
-Do not post if you are drinking.
-Stay away from politics unless that is the basis of your purpose.
-Profanity still turns away more people than you think.
-Read your "deep" thoughts over a few times before posting them or you may look crazy.
-Post often and stay active, but do not overdo it.

This is not the end-all, be-all advice for anyone and the only piece I am really saying is that social media is your most effective tool in reaching out to the public today, as I am living proof of that:

  A few days after actually getting on Twitter, another writer with a huge span of readers retweeted something I said and my subscribers exploded.  They wanted to know the person behind the tweet and found my blog.  I cannot share my numbers with you on here, but I will say that I literally jumped up and down in the moment because my analytics were climbing so much.  After an initially huge spike two weeks ago, people are finding my blog through my Twitter at a rate of sixty hits per day from the link on my profile, whether I post a blog that day or not, and the number keeps climbing.  Even though my Twitter followers are few, my little profile is being found and linked from.  I have fifteen-times that many followers on Instagram and those linking to my blog from there on a daily basis are on a similar path to Twitter.

Am I anything great?  No.  I just want to share what I have to say with the world and get exposure to as many people as I can.  Less than a year ago, I was pretty far against most areas of social media, but I have realized how beneficial this tool can be to spread a message or provoke a thought.

If your goals are to spread your ideas to the masses and you are not spreading them in every way possible,  you should probably adapt or change your path of influence to something else.
Do not be lazy with your passions or expect something random and great to happen out of the blue; it will not happen to you.  Your goals are only as proactive as your own efforts.
Stop.
Being.
Lazy.

Grace and Peace,
    -Drew

Follow me - Add me - Stalk me - I really don't care.
Twitter:  @JDrewSilvers
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