I’ve been an internet person for six years now, for better and for worse, and I often ask myself one simple question: “How am I influencing my audience?” Are they getting something positive from my social media interaction? Is my influence something they cherish and find important? Am I the kind of person people SHOULD be influenced by? (The answer to that last question is definitely “NO.”) Think With Google actually did a short piece on the influence of YouTube stars versus traditional celebs back in July and although I just saw it, I think it’s worth the time to reflect a bit.
Do You Think About the Content You’re Putting Out On the Web?
I admit that I didn’t really give a second thought to most of the content I created in the early days of being a full time Internet denizen. My years at Demand Media (now StudioD) aren’t years I’m particularly proud of, but they gave me time to learn how to work online and build a meager, but loyal, social media following. I didn’t think about what I was putting out back then, which I kind of wonder about now… but there are no take backs in this world of digital publishing unless you’re the publisher — and I’m not. Obviously.
So, since then I’ve tried to be more conscious of what I put out into the world. And, as it turns out, that’s probably a good thing. I mean, that is if you assume that social media mavens are ranked anywhere between YouTube stars and regular celebrities in influence. Google found that 70 percent of teenagers related better to YouTube creators than regular celebs and that 40 percent of Millennials believe their favorite creators understand them better than their friends.
Let me stop there for a moment. Forty percent of Millennials think that digital media creators understand them better than their friends, people that they have a close and personal relationship with, in theory. That’s an incredible amount of power for you, as a digital creator, to be holding in your hands. A dangerous amount of power, I’d argue. You have the ability to affect change, to introduce some really great ideas, share your culture or be lazy and lob worn out material into the universe. It’s up to you, really. That’s the crazy part!
You have more power than traditional celebs, people we once revered and followed around like they were the center of the universe. I can remember going to the super market and being surrounded by sensational headlines (the click bait of yesteryear) about the personal lives of celebrities young and old. So and so was having a secret affair with so and so. Such and such was having that guy’s baby. *gasp*
Tabloid magazines had incredible influence in their day, too, and a lot of unfounded rumors started right there in the grocery queue. The power of the media is too often well beyond what any individual member of the media estimates that I think we kind of snowball out of control before we realize.
Being a Responsible Content Creator
Yeah, yeah… I know, you’ve gone over this before, and other people cover this shit and this shit has been done. Well fuck ya’ll, it’s never been done by me. And unlike some of those other folks, like the guys at Inc. and Google and wherever else you might consider read-worthy, I’m a different sort of thing. I’m beholden to no one. I’m a free fucking agent.
And I still think you’re a bunch of assholes who need to get your acts together. As it turns out, people share that shit you’re making, often without fact-checking it or even bothering to read beyond your sensational headlines. Don’t believe me? Do you believe the Washington Post and Columbia University? What the researchers involved in this project found was that approximately 60 percent (59, to be exact) share news articles and other types of content without actually consuming it beyond the preview generated on social media.
So, if they’re not reading it, what’s the harm? Oh, boy, the harm’s big and real. Without reading your content start to finish, those readers aren’t giving themselves a chance to really flex their bullshit detecting muscles. “Hmm. I’m pretty sure water doesn’t cause cancer,” they’d say to themselves if they read all the way to the end of your article. But since they don’t, you’ve got the added responsibility of making sure you’re not a lying sack of shit.
Here are some tips for not being a lying sack of shit on accident. I think you can guess how to not do it on purpose:
1. Fact check, you already know your readers won’t. Before you state that a reader can heal their insulin-dependent Diabetes with Plexus (I know I’m going to make some enemies here, but you can go right on and fuck yourselves…), maybe you should look into what’s in Plexus and maybe ask a doctor for an opinion. If the ingredients don’t include insulin and the doctor doesn’t say “Yes! DO THAT!” then there’s probably not a good reason to believe that’s gonna work. More importantly, if you can’t find PRIMARY research with placebos and double-blind studies, then there’s a REALLY good chance the health claim you’re making is going to end up hurting someone. Cut the shit. I’m really tired of this offense in particular.
However, this also goes for political stuff — and it’s that time in the cycle in America. Skew the facts all you want, but you better present them whole. Oh, Hillary was a member of a cult when she was 19? Great. But she ended up converting it to a Fortune 500 peanut butter factory? Fantastic. The Donald breeds rare kittens just to skin and turn into toupees? But he also donates extras to kids with cancer? Give us the whole story. Give us the accurate story. Be honest. Honesty is good, and you’ll feel good….
2. Tame your fucking headlines. Do you have any idea how ineffective it is to write a thousand headlines that say “This One Amazing Trick…”,”Weirdest X You’ve Ever Seen!,” “X Things You’d Never Believe About Y!”? I’m pretty sure everyone knows a fucking Click-bait headline when they see it by now. No one is asking themselves “what is that one amazing trick?” No one. Do you know what headlines DO work? Headlines that say something. Let me give you an example. Inc. just posted an article with a headline that reads: “Apple Unveils iPhone 7 With Improved Camera, Wireless Audio.” It’s not “X Secrets of the New iPhone 7!” This is how a headline works. A good headline tells you something about what’s inside.
3. Add something to the conversation or shut the fuck up. This is probably the hardest part of being a content creator. The actual content you’re creating… it can’t simply be a repeat of the other content that’s out there. You need to create something that’s different. Something that’s special for your client or your brand. No one wants to read 40 business blogs with the same advice. They want to read about tricks and tips that worked for your company, with specifics. Be detailed, be interesting, but most importantly, be fucking original. I realize that you’ll repeat some of the same advice, that’s going to happen — but add something to the conversation or don’t bother, even if that thing is just a unique perspective and a heavy spattering of “fucks.”
If you read this far, congratulations — you bothered to listen to someone who’s been where you’re headed. If you didn’t, well, you’ll never see this, but go eat a turd anyway.