All art is about the tension between order and chaos. If something is too orderly, it’s boring. If something is too chaotic, it’s irritating. But when the two sides are in balance, you have something transcendent. Like Carousel. Or London Calling. Or Lawrence of Arabia. Or Starry Night. Art History majors refer to the Apollonian and the Dionysian, but it’s the same idea—too much of one side is not good. Art that connects with us is balanced. (And yes, I am calling social media art—if you want someone to spend their precious time looking at something you did, then you had better think of it as your art.)
In the old media era of oligopoly, structural advantages were huge—you watched mediocre television because it was the only thing on. You read the local newspaper no matter how bad it was. Take a look at local TV news sometime—obviously they think we’re living in the age of reduced choices. I think it says a lot that the new Golden Age of television, ushered in by The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men et al., arrived just at the time that people stopped watching so much broadcast TV. When real competition exists, you have to raise your game. The crap we accepted in the 1990’s was no longer economically viable, so people raised their game and started creating better work. But not everyone did—even in the age of Orange is the New Black and Louie and Breaking Bad there is still plenty of studio-made crap on broadcast television. In fact there’s a big enough supply of crap out there that two big ideas are immediately apparent:
- The crap makes the good stuff look even better in contrast.
- The people making the crap don’t really realize anything’s wrong. Or even if they do, they can’t be bothered to improve.
If you’re willing to do the work and make something really good, it will be easy to notice, even in this very noisy world. Very few people will raise their game.
Unfortunately, making something perfectly crafted isn’t enough. If your idea is beautiful, it has the right to spread and the potential to spread, but it’s not going to spread unless you do the other hard work.
Blogging every day.
Hitting Google+ every day.
Following the right people every day.
Thanking your retweeters every day.
Someday the world may beat a path to your door. But until that day, you have to make yourself easy to find. And that means following a checklist. Even when you don’t feel like it.
Old media had years to build up their distribution network—the green newspaper trucks of The Boston Globe, the tv stations coast-to-coast that make up NBC’s distribution, the individual relationships Columbia records had with music stores. But for your brand, not only do you have to be the Creative Director, you’re also Head of Distribution. And you have to build up that distribution from scratch.
In our perfectly competitive world, you need to be more creative AND have better distribution. Slip on either one and you don’t get seen.
And if you’re doing this halfway—stop. I mean it. Social media probably isn’t for you. If you are asking someone to spend their time (the only asset most of us have) focusing on your content instead of their family and friends, or more important work, then you are cheating them.
You owe them your best work.
A sobering thought, I’m sure, but if you’re not willing to meet that bar, you’re wasting money, you’re wasting time and you might as well buy PPC ads or a coupon in the Sunday newspaper. Those are irritating and interruption marketing, but at least those might work. Cynical social media does not work.
To succeed at social media for your brand, you need to work harder than you’re working now. You need genuine creativity and empathy and soft skills to get people interested. You need mirthless discipline to make sure that every channel is updated in the best way.
It’s very hard to do either well. And it’s vanishingly rare to do both well. But if you can do both well, you can change the world.
Photo Credit: Scripting News
Adrian Blake has worked with Saturday Night Live, McKinsey & Co., and Progressive Farmer and is a founder of a Social Media agency.
Adrian Blake. Strategy. Social Media.