Today’s post is a special one. It’s for people who want to be a thought leader, speaker, author, coach, consultant, information entrepreneur, political figure, or lead a non-profit – and want to become an agent of change.
If you want to touch people, lead a tribe and make a difference, the rules keep changing on you. You probably learned something about YouTube then Twitter came along. You tried to connect there, but Facebook took over the space. Now you’re probably asking your daughter or niece for tips on how to use Instagram.
But at some point, you come to a realization. You realize just keeping up on social media can be a full-time job. And you realize creating content for podcasts, blogs, and social media platforms can be sixteen full-time jobs.
If you’re over 35 or 40 like me (okay way over 35 or 40 like me…), you didn’t grow up with this shit. And it can drive you berserk.
I finally learned how to program my VCR and then they snuck TIVO in on me. I built a huge following on Facebook, but now they won’t show my posts to more than two percent of my followers unless I boost the posts. I learned how to post on Instagram and then they added stories.
Right now I believe we’re at a fork in the road. I believe this situation is where we make a fundamental shift in marketing – or don’t – and 2019 will be when the match will be played. I think this moment is so important I’m doing massive work on it with my Breakthrough U coaching program members. Here’s a taste of what I told them in a Brief earlier this month:
I think we’re at a vital crossroads in pop culture, the Internet, advertising and social media. We’re now facing the decision between advertising versus organic branding. There are two camps, two very different lines of thinking as I see it.
Camp Number One is best represented by GaryVee...
This camp believes that the advertising model is the same as it has been for the last 100 years, only the medium has changed. It’s still all about arbitrage, and buying attention at the most cost-effective price. So it moved from radio, to soap opera commercials, to buying Google ad words, to Facebook ads, and now Instagram stories ads.
Camp Number Two is best represented by Seth Godin...
This camp believes there has been a cataclysmic shift in marketing, and the old model is dead. The method that works best has flipped, and instead of mass attention-grabbing, it is now about empathy and service. This camp doesn’t see customers as a way to solve their problems. They use their marketing to solve their customer’s problems.
Camp number one will tell you that Instagram ads are the single greatest underpriced attention opportunity of the decade and if you don’t invest the overriding bulk of your advertising budget in them now, you’ll never get this opportunity again.
And I believe that is actually true.
Camp number two will suggest chasing attention with social media advertising is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, and that this is one of the last gasps of the old, flawed model.
And I believe that is actually true.
So how can both these things be true?
Because there isn’t a binary choice that has to be made at the moment. However, I do believe if you are an author, speaker, coach, consultant or other influencer – you will eventually have to choose a path, and a platform, to connect with your tribe.
You can do what a lot of people are trying right now: Using the old school interruption-marketing approach to grab attention, trying to convert a sale – and then attempt a deeper bond by deploying empathy and service to turn the buyers into tribe members.
But how do you do all that?
You finally got the hang of blogging; now you have to learn what the fuck a Snapchat filter is! You poured your guts into a YouTube channel and now you hear everything is moving to voice.
You used to get 2,000 views on YouTube, now you get 600. You used to get 35 RTs on twitter, now you get two. You used to get 120 likes on Facebook, now you’re lucky to get ten. That’s just the new reality.
You can still steal eyeballs and go viral. If you have a parakeet that raps, catch your kitten seeing itself in the mirror for the first time, or teach your dog how to use chopsticks – you can still get three million views. But good luck bringing any of those viewers into your tribe.
Back in the day, I was in a Mastermind group with some pretty serious Internet players. There were people getting 40 million visitors a month, on their websites. People pulling down more than $500,000 a month in AdSense revenue. Every time Google made an algorithm change, those people would lose forty percent of their traffic and income. Until eventually, it was pretty much all gone. Their frustration with SEO then is probably about the same as yours with social media now...
You’re posting five pieces of content a day. But how do you stand out when GaryVee has a staff of 30 people posting for him? Kim Kardashian gets half a million hot, nasty bucks just for wearing a goddamned watch in one of her Instagram posts. The Rock gets more likes on one of his posts than there are people living in Denmark. How can you possibly compete against big players like these?
You can’t. So stop trying.
So what do you do? How do you create your work – whether it’s books, seminars, videos, operas, dance, or whatever – and support it so that the right people discover it?
The fuck if I know.
I’ve been doing this since 1991 and now for 2019, I’m reinventing myself all over again. Not who I am, but how I connect with, and interact with, the people who follow and support my work. So I don’t have all the answers. Nobody does.
But I do have some insights into what I think is coming...
When I wrote the Risky Is the New Safe and Mad Genius books, I discovered something quite fascinating. The future is usually already here; it just hasn’t been evenly distributed yet. And if you understand the difference between hard crazes and soft crazes, between cyclical trends versus linear ones – you can actually forecast what is coming down the road with a surprising level of certainty.
I also learned that when you ask the wrong question, the answer is irrelevant…
So I also want to share a few questions which I believe are the ones you should be doing some serious critical thinking on right now.
And I will make a bold, daring prediction that you can come back to check in 2021 – to see if I was a genius, or an idiot...
So let’s get after it. Let’s begin with my bold, daring prediction.
I predict that the aggregate use on all of the major social media platforms will decrease in 2019.
This would be a shocking, cataclysmic turn of events in that space. Go back to My Space, Twitter or whatever you think the first social media platform was. Use has gone up every single year. Often exponentially. But I think we are crossing the threshold at this very moment, where the time users spend on these platforms will start going down.
One caveat: By this prediction I mean the platforms we would consider as traditional social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. There are social media actions being migrated to other platforms, like chat groups in messaging apps like WhatsApp and Telegram. We should see more of this. But for all the big players, I predict the trend will be down.
If you’re in camp one, here’s something to seriously think about. Go back to the halcyon days of SEO, when my mastermind colleagues were raking in all that dough, before it all disappeared. Then jump to when Facebook ads started being the most lucrative underpriced attention on the planet.
Ask yourself, how much time elapsed between those two land grabs?
Correct answer: a lot. Almost a decade. So keep that in mind, as you consider what course of action you should be taking now to get your message out.
Because we don’t know what the next, next thing is going to be. Certainly voice will be huge. Maybe something with AR/VR. But whatever this next thing is – we don’t know if there will even be an early adopter “land grab” component to it.
A lot of professional speakers come to me for coaching. And often they’ll want to include some talent they have (juggler, musician, magician, etc.) into their speeches. My advice to them is, “Be entertaining. But don’t be the entertainment.”
Why? Because entertainment is a commodity. As a rule, a dynamic keynote speaker with amazing content who might weave in some magic can earn $20K for a keynote. But a great magician? They can hire one for three grand.
Now when you create your content for social media, we need to flip the switch...
Here we need you to be the entertainment. But not the way a magician or juggler is. In the way that Game of Thrones is. Now you have to be The New York Times, not the ad on page three. You have to be Dog Whisperer on NatGeo, not the commercials that run at the breaks.
You don’t want to be the clever meme on Facebook. You want to be the Facebook Live stream that people watch instead of chasing the next viral meme. You want to be sharing your expertise, positioning yourself as the definitive expert in your space.
If you’re a thought leader, speaker, author, coach, consultant, information entrepreneur, political figure, or lead a non-profit – and you want to become a real agent of change – then it’s important that you reach the people who need to hear your message.
You need to define who you are and what you offer. Attract your unique tribe and then interact with them. Discover ways to amplify your message and expand the tribe. Create platforms to deliver that message. Permission-based platforms, where they have raised their hand and asked you to contact them. And then monetize your practice, so you are able to sustain progress and create a lasting effect.
It’s not enough to write a great book. People need to read it.
It’s not enough to craft a moving speech. People need to hear it.
It’s not enough to change the game. (Or the planet.) People have to want to become a part of what you’re doing.
But if you’re spending five hours a day trying to make cute memes for Instagram, or running 25 different A/B tests on Facebook ads – you’ll never have time to actually develop that life-changing workshop, write that paradigm-busting book, or compose that opera that the Met will be re-staging in 2035.
Branding is the engine…
I believe for people who really want to make an impact – it’s always going to come down to the brand you build.
In this arena, I’m in camp two. You’re not going to see me running a lot of Instagram paid ads. I’m going to put out free content, in the best way I can. But only when promoting my work, doesn’t get in the way of creating my work.
You can’t have your nephew set up a Twitter account for you and auto-tweet some inspirational messages. It isn’t enough to have a Facebook Fan Page. (And if you’re still calling it a fan page, you’re already completely out of touch with the market.)
You don’t have unlimited time and you certainly don’t have the resources of the big players in the social media space. So you have to laser focus on a tightly-targeted niche, and blow them away with the amazing content you put out there. But not at the expense of creating your IP; the body of work that is uniquely yours. Which is why you have to build a brand…
Brands travel with you wherever you go. The brand you had on My Space can move with you to Facebook, and it can follow you to WhateverIsTheNextBigFuckingDeal.com.
Nobody wants to follow someone who simply broadcasts product pitches and affiliate links. You have to learn how to engage and add value, building your brand (and thus, your reach). You must discover which platforms are best for your tribe. And how to connect with them there, without having to become a tech geek, or spend half your life doing it.
The best branding, position and marketing of any kind is always about telling stories. To really co-create the universe, you must create a story about what you do and how it improves the lives of those it touches.
This is true for every product, service and movement in the world – from dish soap to keynote speeches, automobile tires to bestselling books, consulting services to worldwide movements. It’s all about the story.
The other big issue you have to factor in, is owning your own platform. You and I can cry all day about Facebook charging you to access the people who already signed up and said they want to see your posts. (And I do.) But the people who work at Facebook have to feed their cats too. You will face this issue on every platform you use, except the ones you own. So you must use social media to drive people to places you own and control:
That’s where you absolutely smother them with empathy, love, attention, and goodness. Solve problems, add value. Solve problems, add value. Solve problems, add value.
Like I said, I don’t have all the answers. But these are the issues we need to figure out to make a difference for our tribes. In the meantime, let me share a couple resources for you.
Speakers, if you want to learn how to captivate your audiences, join me at Speakers School.
And for you guys that are serious about making a bigger impact, changing the game in your space, making a real difference and co-creating the universe, then you have no choice but to do whatever you have to – to attend the TRIBAL event.
If you found this helpful, please show it some love. I‘ve tried my level best to share with you what I believe the real issues are, and how we need to be thinking about them moving forward. If I’ve learned anything about being an influencer in these tumultuous times, it is this:
You're not who you say you are, or even who you want to be. You are really the impact you make on the world around you.
And the exciting news is, you get to decide that!