Success advice and inspiration from a guitar craftsman.
There was a cool obituary (not a phrase you read often) in yesterday's New York Times. "Bill Collings, Maker of Sought-After Guitars, Dies at 68".
For Collings the priority wasn't stamping out instruments as cheaply and quickly as possible. It was about quality. His work was his art. I'm guessing that is why his customers included musicians like Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, and Paul Simon.
There are companies that make cheap guitars by the boatload. They slap them together without a lot of care or pride. Many people are the same with the content they post. It's one thing to try and come up short. But you see a number of people who are not even trying.
And constantly trying was apparently a cornerstone of Collings' work philosophy. He is quoted as saying, "Success is succession, over and over and over, and it comes from failure. Failure, failure, failure -- knowing that if you stop, you're done."
The other day I met a guy who was about to attend his 31st Who concert. And he will be flying to a different state to do it. That's a genuine fan.
Are there people who will repeatedly go out of their way to experience what you have to offer?
I've seen followers decide not to click over from Facebook to a band's website because they consider that too much of a hassle.
There are definite differences between followers and genuine fans.
Can you play for the song?
It is a common refrain with all of the musicians I have worked with or spoken with. It's what separates the greats from the rest. Can you customize your performance to both fit the situation and make it better?
Some musicians try and cookie cutter everything, playing the same riffs for every tune. They phone it in. They shove the square peg through the round hole and call it a day.
Others just want to solo and draw attention to themselves. They have impressive skills, but they step all over everyone. The mood and the meaning of the song are trampled in an attempt to steal the spotlight.
I like to think that the work I do is the social media equivalent of playing for the song. I customize the content I develop with my clients and I stay in the background.
During a recent discussion with client John Papa Gros about gauging the effectiveness of social media content, he said, "When I talk to fans at shows, more often than not they strike up a conversation based on one of my posts... They are informed and know something about me. I've had people comment on how they enjoy reading the posts on my page. I've had industry people mention the posts on the page as great examples of how to present links, photos and comments."
It is this kind of connection that social media can facilitate and that the stats can't measure.
I'm an introvert. And not just a borderline introvert. There are floor lamps that are more outgoing than I am. People have described my display of emotions in public as "almost lifelike".
I'm even kind of introverted on social media. I'm not all that comfortable posting videos. I post photos of myself just because you have to at least run a photo with a page post or the Facebook algorithm will crush your post reach even more than usual. Although I am considering switching to images of something more dynamic, like a placemat or artificial turf.
It is also rare that I comment on a post. It is not a lack of enthusiasm. It's just not me.
And I have found that there are a number of people out there like me. I don't mean this as an insult. I just mean a lot of people don't comment on things.
So although social media algorithms give weight to the number of comments a post receives, it is another reason to look past the numbers. Because they do not take note of the quieter people like myself, who read, watch, and think about what you post, but don't always chime in.
I have a theory that all of those singing contest shows on TV are connected to the Witness Protection Program, because most of those people are never heard from again... even some of the winners. "He's singing on stage tonight and he'll be singing in front of a jury next week..."
Somehow it is both a fast lane to fame and a fast lane to obscurity. Again, kind of like testifying against the mafia. After the people walk off stage I picture them being hustled into a van by US Marshals. "Great song. Once we land in Nebraska you will officially be known as Pam Smith and start work in a store that sells only cat toys."
Being promoted by a major TV network can be good for racking up a large following quickly. But that does not seem to help you keep a following, especially when next season the network not only abandons you, but also puts its weight behind a whole new crop of singers.
It's not about the followers who appear only to disappear. It is about the followers who stay with you.
What criteria do you use to measure a great song? Whatever it is, I am guessing it does not include the number of awards it has won, its sales figures, or its ranking on some singles chart. It is possible a song you love won an award, but that is probably not why you liked it.
More likely you love that song because it connected with you in some way, it was a quality tune.
And yet, when it comes to social media content, posts only seem to get measured by their stats. When asked to explain why a post was good, we default to listing its likes, comments, shares, etc. I am guilty of that too.
But I am going to make a concerted effort to get away from that. I think those numbers are very poor yardsticks. And based on how they can be manipulated, they really don't measure quality.
My clients are bands, individual musicians, and business experts. In terms of numbers, odds are anything they have to say will get trounced by a video of a dog catching a frisbee. But I still think it is better for them to post their own insights, stories, and music. Because their goal with social media should be to find and connect with their audience. They are smart, talented people. I think the better that is communicated the more likely they will find people willing to follow them not just for this week, but for their entire careers.
So how do we measure quality? I am not sure yet. I just don't think the stats are the way to go.
If you have a suggestion, let me know.
With social media so many people try to cut to the front of the line. They don't want to build a genuine following over years. They want a massive following immediately. They want to skip the line and enter the building right away.
Some people buy followers. They pay a service that has a collection of fake accounts to bulk up their numbers. Then they think they are at the head of the line. However, it turns out that fake accounts never become real customers. They never pay for your service or product.
Other people steal already popular content from other people, post that in their own account, and use that to drive traffic. Their numbers go up and they think they are at the head of the line. But it turns out that people lured with someone else's content have no problem ignoring your own content. And they never pay for your product or service.
Thus you become the person who is at the head of the line, but who is never allowed to enter the building.
Both Lyft and Uber are pushing hard toward self-driving cars, which must make their recruiting events a little awkward. "We hope to make you obsolete as soon as possible. Would you like to sign up?"
I realize that a number of people are not the best drivers. So maybe this is a case where automation will be safer. Although the bigger risk with Uber was that you would get the former CEO as a passenger. "You are a (bleep)!" He was known for his pep talks.
Similarly I see more and more automation with social media. Not just the scheduling of posts, but the creation of content. Some services even brag about making your content with bots. "Stock photos! Keyword generators! So artificial it's like eating Tupperware!"
But to me the best content is more human, not less. Better content is not focused on keywords. It's focused on communicating. Putting humanity into your content takes more time, more effort, but I think it is worth it.
I am continually surprised by the number of social media agencies and managers who try to make social media work look like an adventure. They post photos of themselves sky diving, riding motorcycles through fire, or launching grenades at a dictator's stronghold.
I sit. I also type and click. On rare occasions I will go wild and do those activities in a place that sells coffee and pastries with enough fat and sugar to kill a rhino.
Some businesses make their work sound like a thrill ride. "Join our firm and see the world!" The slogan for my business would not be so dynamic. "Become a social media content specialist and… see your keyboard."
But I'm fine with that. It fits my personality. I don't go on roller coasters. I'm the guy sitting a bench near the exit, reading a book, and waiting for his friends to finish the ride.
My clients are rock stars. They travel the globe and perform in front of huge crowds. I spend a lot of time in my office and am not even entertaining to our cats.
But I think doing this work well requires a lot of time, focus, persistence, and patience. My clients go on adventures. I am happy to sit, type, and click.