How to not contribute to the internet bullshit machine

benjaminrobyn-jespersen-540757-unsplash.jpg

This past week, I was discussing social media strategies with a notable Canadian instrumentalist who I also consider somewhat of a mentor. When he recently came to visit (which started this whole "how do I use the internet better" foray), I was reminded of how larger-than-life his personality is. To me, he's the perfect candidate for leveraging social media: he's got the career, the looks, quite a bit of tech-savvy, and he's certainly not left wanting for content (let alone chutzpa). So what's the issue?

He's turned off by the fact that so much of what he sees on social media is 100%, grade-A BULLSHIT.

Fair enough, amirite? As he put it, "I go for brunch a lot, and to beautiful places... but who gives a shit? What does that have to do with my playing?"

Touché.

His main objective is to grow followers and to build his online brand. In fact, he has been specifically tasked with doing so to increase his fan base in foreign markets so that his oversees booking agents can more easily pitch him for recitals and concerti. He already has good content, just not enough of it. And he lacks consistency in both content and post frequency.

Over several glasses of wine with fellow musicians, we discussed the myriad of strategies people use to build their following, including the ever-controversial purchase of followers (see this article on fashion bloggers for more info). But if he's worried about bullshit... how can heaping on more bullshit possibly make him feel better?

As I've mulled over the best strategy for him, I've come across a few resources which apply just as much to his situation as to my own. As I get my own online presence really rolling, I'm using these same principles for my own work, and I believe any artist, manager, arts organization, blogger, critic etc. etc. etc. can find great value in them as well.

First: guiding principles. I'm a big Jess Lively fan, and her podcast the lively show is a gamechanger (especially for women, but for people of all genders as well). Jess' primary teaching is about living from your values and being guided by your intuition. As an online force-of-nature, many of the podcast guests are fellow bloggers/podcasters/social media influencers. Her main message: all content needs to come from an authentic place (your intuition), guided by your core personal values. No bullshit, just real content. By being real, you generate real followers, which in turn generates income you can actually feel good about making.

Which brings me to a fabulous article on Huffington Post about frequent lively show guest Mimi Ikonn. Mimi got famous online by doing makeup tutorials, and now she and her husband (the equally influential Alex Ikonn) basically romp around the world making money by showing people all the cool shit they do (and living off the mad stacks they make from the hair extensions line they launched together). Mimi and Alex are amazing because they follow a three step formula for generating online content:

  1. Love something more that anyone else loves it.

  2. Share that all-consuming love with the world.

  3. Love it even more.

WAIT, does this intense-love-communication mean I can never post another beautiful photo of a latte? Is my dog banned from my Instagram account?? WHO WILL PHOTOGRAPH THE EGGS BENEDICT!?

Oh for fuck's sake, you can still be yourself! You can still be the precocious narcissist we all are on Instagram. You know why? Because if it's real, people love that shit. But if it's not you - if it's not in your big circle of love - then avoid it.

Finally, I just listened to a great episode of Elizabeth Gilbert's Magic Lessons last night with special guest Glennon Doyle Melton, the author of the smash-hit Love Warrior and radically authentic blogger at Momastery. Being a hugely successful blogger, Glennon was reflecting on how the question she always gets asked in book signing lines is "how do i get more followers?" Her answer is: serve your current followers. Serve them more. Serve them better. When you generate content that people actually want - content that actually helps them/delights them/touches them - they share it! And then other people who also genuinely want to follow you jump on board. And then you serve them as well. And on and on.

So what can arts professionals take from all this? I think the message is the same whether you're a soloist or a marketing director for an arts org: generate authentic content that is in alignment with your core values and which serves your current followers. The search for the next content to post is premised upon what you love right now. What feels right? What does your intuition tell you to post? What are you hearing back from followers that they love? What do YOU love so intensely that you feel compelled to share it?

Social media is about gut reactions. Just as we have an instant reaction when we see posts, so too should we have gut reactions about whether content is "for us." My friend was right: for him, brunch photos are off the table. But the phenomenal backstage and rehearsal photos he posts generate huge likes and shares. Why? Because that's him. Authentic. Loving. In alignment.

Now get out there and love, share, then love some more!