This Internet Life: How Are You Influencing Your Audience?

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.

Fornicating Monkeys and Finding Your Voice

So, I might have lied to you a little bit.  Tiny, little teeny itty bit.  But if it helps any, I didn’t realize I was doing it at the time.  That is to say, I was in denial, so I don’t think that’s the same as lying.  Anyway, whatever it is, you’re still groveling here, so you clearly love abuse.

I have been busy, but I’m never too busy for this blog.  This blog is an exercise for me.  I don’t skip it because I have other work — it makes that other work easier to do.  I’ve been skipping it because there for a little bit I sort of lost my voice.  I’ve done it before, but this time it was a sneaky sort of thing, I didn’t even see it coming.  I was just writing along and some motherfucking ninja snuck up behind me and voice-napped me while I worked.

Where Did All the Voices Go?

It’s kind of a problem for our industry.  You spend so much time trying on different hats that sometimes you forget what’s under all of them.  You find another hat (OOOH!  A FEDORA!) and it’s so shiny and nice that you walk right out of the store with it before you realize that your everyday hat is still hanging in the dressing room.  It’s not the end of the world, your name’s clearly written inside, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to remember which dressing room you left it in right away.

I didn’t realize I had lost my hat, my swing, my voice, until last night when I was asking a friend to look over something I was really struggling with.  You have to understand, business blogs are my bread and butter, I know this stuff back and forth, I am the motherfucking Queen of the eCommerce Blog — so when I ask for someone to look them over, something is seriously fucking wrong.  She read this goddamned train wreck, then remarked that she knew how I felt when “I hand you fornicating monkeys. It just doesn’t feel right.”

For those of you unfortunate enough to not work for me, Fornicating Monkeys are something you never, ever do.  They’re casual voice that isn’t working.  They’re a failure.  They’re a rewrite.  They’re what I like to call a “gut & cut.”  Fornicating Monkeys result when we lose our own voices.

Finding Your Swing, Taming Your Monkeys

So, this blog is about finding your voice.  Not about monkeys fucking a football.  *ahem*

As a side effect of writing golf blogs for almost three years, I learned a lot about the game of golf, which was quite upsetting.  One of the things I did over the years to keep going with those blogs (I no longer write them, but they left a scar) was to watch and rewatch the movie “The Legend of Baggar Vance.”  Hang on, I’m going somewhere with this.

In the movie, there’s a magical caddy, played by Will Smith, who helps the main character, Matt Damon, find his talent again.  Spoiler: he’s a golfer, it’s his swing, whatevs.  But the thing is that as writers, we’re kind of like that… we each have our own voice buried under those layers of education and stylebooks and client preference and life going on around us being one giant fucking distraction.  And in all of that sometimes we kind of forget who we are and what we sound like when we just write free of it all.

In other words, sometimes we get such a big stick up our own asses that we forget how to write.

If you’re like me and in a huge need of dislodging a nine-iron, here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Stop fucking judging yourself.  If you’re at a high level in your game, for fuck’s sake, stop second guessing every word.  “Do I sound too country?  Is this phrase worn out?”  My God, person, just shut the fuck up and write.

2. Write, then edit.  Age old advice that I never follow.  Write, then edit.  WRITE FIRST.  Give your ideas life, then shave all the body hair off, clip the unsightly moles, trim the unibrow, dress it up a little.  But it has to have life before you can give it shape.  You dig?

3. Relax a little.  Ok, this is more of an exercise, like a stretch, than a mental thing.  I want you to reach behind you and grasp the handle that’s firmly protruding from you like a tail, grab with both hands and pull as hard as you can.  If it’s shiny and silver, it’s probably an iron.  If it’s grained and stained, it might be a wood.

4.  For fuck’s sake, just write.  I may have mentioned this, but just fucking write already.

If none of that works, I hear that a lot of writers find solace in hard drugs.  I’ve always been a fan of a mix of caffeine, Flonase and Sudafed.  But to each their own.

NOW GO FUCKING WRITE, FUCKERS.

I’ll be back next week with more tips on building a better blog.

LinkedIn: Here’s What I Think of Your Ideal Candidate

An email landed in my box a few weeks ago from LinkedIn promoting a series of articles about being the “ideal” job candidate.  In true Waterworth fashion, I threw up in my mouth and immediately made a note to write a blog about this.  Because I know that at least some of you fuckers actually believe that shit.

The Myth of the Ideal Candidate

In no time in history has the idea of an ideal candidate been more of a lie.  Companies of every sort are increasingly looking for more diverse employees, and that goes doubly so for create positions like you and I would hold.  The Reagan-era idea of fucking stuffed suits is so outdated that I can’t even.  I can’t even.

If you asked 20 different hiring managers what they were looking for in an employee, even limited by the same job title, you’d get 20 different answers (how’d you like that cliche?).  The one thing these descriptions would have in common is that those imaginary people are fucking breathing and looking for a goddamned job.  

The next time you get all sucked up into yourself and whining that you’ll never be that guy that everybody wants, I say shut the Hell up and get on with life.  In 2013, Inc. Magazine named the following qualities as the top must-haves for new graduates: “Accountability, Flexibility, Creativity, Communication and Passion.”  A 2015 article featured in Forbes declared a potential hire should have these (poorly worded) traits: “Action-oriented, Intelligent, Ambitious, Autonomous, Display Leadership, Cultural Fit, Upbeat, Confident, Successful, Honest, Detail Oriented, Modest, Hard Working, Marketable, and Passionate.”

A Tale of Two Articles

Those two articles mentioned above came after about a half second search on the Googles.  These are both reputable business magazines and both are highly respected in the business community, but in many ways they’re calling for different employees.  An Inc.-endorsed employee is a whole different guy than a Forbes-endorsed employee.  Both are functionally intelligent, but the first is a guy who gets shit done and the second is a guy who prioritizes wearing starched shirts over being functionally literate.

Modest, Confident and Hard-Working?  I’m pretty sure they’re endorsing lobotomizing hires first.  “Marketable” is my favorite from that list, though.  What they mean is that he’s presentable, he can be shown to clients and they won’t run away screaming.  He’s not a creative type.  We’re messy, we’re not always the best with other people, we’re downright unfocused and disgusting at times.  What can I say?  Turning your brain inside out and quaffing Red Bull with abandon will do that to you.

The Results of My Laughably Scientific Small Scale Study

My incredibly small sample study is meant to illustrate one fucking thing — you can’t be all things to all people at all times.  You can’t.  STOP FUCKING TRYING!  You’ve got to be yourself, and if that means you’re forced to hunt in a different stand of woods than your buddy, so be it.  You can’t be what you’re not, you can’t be Confident and Ambitious and Modest.  That’s the biggest crock of shit I’ve ever heard.

I’ve been a copywriter for many years and I can assure you that you can be the biggest mess in the world and someone will hire you for the right price.  Someone will always have your back, once you find your people.  There are types you’re going to work well with and types that you won’t, but there’s no fucking  thing as the “ideal candidate.”  There are only candidates, so put your best foot forward, let the world sniff how your particular funk smells and get on with it.

 

Sometimes Scheduling Goes Straight to Hell

Words SOMETIMES SHIT HAPPENSSo, it’s been a while…

My schedule and my life got really fuckered up there, what can I say?  I’m not going to apologize for being a real human being with a real fucking existence, got it?

What I am going to say is that sometimes your best laid plans and schedules go right to Hell.  Sometimes you plan and shit happens.  And sometimes, once in a great while, the planets align just right to completely fuck up to your entire summer.

Since the beginning of summer I’ve:

  • Moved
  • Buried an old friend
  • Received serious medical news
  • Nearly burned my computer down
  • Lost my will to fight on

I’m back up, don’t think this is a chance to come in and fucking pick at my remains, but it was touch and go for a while.  Stress is a real cunt.  That being said, this freelancing writing job isn’t easy when things happen.  I mean, really.  I’m at the top of my game and I had some clients who told me to go fuck myself as life continued to happen over and over and over again.

When it rains, as they say, shit slides downhill… or something.

Anyway, today’s blog post is about telling you to go fuck yourself.  Wait, no, this one is about what to do when your schedule gets derailed by life.  Because life is a fucker.

What to Do When Your Planner Bursts into Flames

Everybody experiences life happening sometimes, whether it’s due to an external force (the death of a close friend, a giant hole in your roof caused by an airplane bathroom falling from the sky, your neighbor’s kid breaking your nose, etc.) or internal forces (self-doubt, depression, delusions of grandeur, uncontrollable spending after finally getting a pay day).  When this shit starts stirring, your carefully scheduled writing schedule most likely will go haywire, get out of control and end up fucking you.

So, what do you do?  Is there a way out or is Seppuku the only answer?

Put down your tantos, you can weasel out of this….

If there’s anything I’ve learned the last couple of months, it’s that the Gods at Google won’t blacklist a site for missing a few blogs, it won’t strip your traffic accomplishments for a few hiccups.  So the best thing to do, if your client is amicable, is to start over.  Forget trying to write the backlog — you’re just going to get further and further behind and exhausted to boot.

Hit the reset button, beg for forgiveness, give your client a discount, make them a muffin basket, allow them to be a good human and overlook your service issues.  That’s all you can do.  I know I built it up… sorry.

It’s simple. 

Make a fresh start. 

Poof!  Problem gone, provided you’ve solved the life issues that were fucking your schedule up in the first place.

You’re welcome.

Five Reasons #NaNoWriMo is Bullshit

7fe2dc25a7b2bc025e6b586c7c409782There’s nothing like NaNoWriMo to ruin a perfectly good November.  That’s right, I said it.  National Novel Writing Month is a sham, a charade, a scam, a big pile of bullshit.  And here’s why:

1.  Writing a novel in a month doesn’t improve your writing.  Feedback and revision are what improve your writing.  All NaNoWriMo does is teach you that being substandard will get you an award.  A novel in a month?  No — 50k words in a month is the assignment.  That’s like, half a novel.  You’ve written half a book that you’ll most likely never look at again, let’s hire some strippers.

2.  There’s no NaNoEdMo.  Those people who do finish their — ahem — novels in a month don’t learn shit about the actual business of writing novels.  Many of them will try to publish their drivel just as it sits, because, hey, they wrote a novel.  NO.  Until there’s a National Novel Editing Month, you hire a professional editor or master the skill of being one.  There are too many SHIT Indie novels out there as it is.  We MUST have some standards.

3.  There’s no swag in writing.  There’s no crying in baseball and there’s no fucking swag involved in writing.  If you buy a bag of personalized pens with your name on them, you’re really somebody in the writing world.  Nobody gets a fucking t-shirt for knocking out 200 product descriptions in a couple of days (even though they deserve one).  Check out NaNoWriMo’s store if you doubt that it’s anything more than a filthy way of making money, regardless of any original intent.

4.  It gives you the wrong idea about #TheWritingLife.  I am sick to death of people who romanticize what we do for a living.  It was everything I could do not to beat a person over the head with commas earlier today on Facebook when they made a similar comment on another writer’s poetry.  Writing is a goddamned skill that takes a lifetime to master.  Also, you don’t get to pick what you write — even Stephen Fucking King panders to his audience.  Professional writers sell a service, that’s it.  We’re word whores and we write whatever the public (or the client) wants to read.

5.  I’m just sick of hearing about it.  WHY do I need to know you’re attempting to write a novel?  Do I care when it’s just a pile of garbage words?  Hold your tongue until you’ve got a few books under your belt or at least finish the first one.  The chances are good you won’t, so stop wasting my time.  If you’re one of those lucky few blessed with a golden asshole, I expect you’ll keep banging at that so called novel regardless of NaNoWriMo status — you’d better, or I’m coming for you.

There are a very few instances where I’ll allow that NaNoWriMo has a little bit of merit.  Those of us who write professionally sometimes need a kick in the ass to get our novels finished (mine’s been languishing for at least three years) — it’s just exhausting to think about writing a novel after you’ve spent the whole day writing copy.  But when fuckers decide that they’re writers because they put 50k in a Word doc… ugh.  Which reminds me, here’s a bonus number six:

6.  Writing a 50k draft doesn’t make you a professional writer.  OMG, the number of people who ask me for advice breaking into the writing world after NaNoWriMo is exponentially greater than the inquiries I get the rest of the year.  Inevitably, someone asks me something infuriating, like how I deal with Writer’s Block — and I have to throw a brick at their heads, repeatedly, until they stop talking.  We’re not writing because we’re lazy slobs who can’t get a real job.  We’re lazy slobs that have spent our lives perfecting the art of communication, so go fuck yourself until you’re ready to work harder than you have ever even thought possible while flipping burgers at your McJob.

Who the Hell I Think I Am

203595_317694878281563_614075362_nIt’s the question I hear echoing through the blogosphere as I surf along day by day, seeking whatever inane drivel it’s my job to build into a cohesive thought: “Who the hell do you think you are?”  Every blog I visit, every resource I use, I have to ask myself who this person is to proclaim themselves an expert in plumbing or rubber rain boots or whatever it is they’re writing about.

Because I ask it constantly, I’m sure you’re asking it, too.  After all, this is the first post for this blog that’s essentially mental masturbation — just an exercise in vomiting words onto a page.  So, who am I?  Why am I here?  What’s my purpose?  (Whoa, you went all existential on me there…)

My name is Kristi Waterworth, I’m a professional copywriter, ghostwriter and journalist who happens to know a few things.  Only a few, though, so don’t get too excited.

I got my start in print media in 1995, it’s been a madhouse since then.  My first job was for a local daily newspaper, that’s where I learned to grind copy, interview unsuspecting members of the public and attempt to present a balanced argument.  From there, I took various marketing and newspaper jobs, ultimately finding myself without a writing home in 2010 when my newspaper shut the doors.

Being the adventurous type I am, I wandered onto the Internet and realized there were like BILLIONS UPON BILLIONS of words out there… and somebody had to be writing them, right?  Why not me?  WHY NOT ME?  Anyway, that’s how I got my start — I was a desperate journalist who needed work.  It’s not a proud start, but it’s a start and we all have them.

So, in short, I’m the fucker you need.  You need me to help you figure out this freelancing stuff, whether you’re a writer or someone with a project needing to be written; you need me to help with your editorial calendars; you need my networks; you need my knowledge.

Sit the fuck back and listen up.  I’m about to spill some wisdom all over the fucking place.