Reclaiming My Time From Twitter

At some point, I pulled out my phone and checked Twitter whenever there was a down moment. Standing in line, in a waiting room, while shopping, during dinner, on and on.

NOTE: Yes, post title a nod to Representative Maxine Waters

Then the need for checking social media was several times an hour, no matter what. It wasn’t just about boredom, it was about “keeping up.” Keep up with the news, with conversations from an hour ago, keeping up with… everything!

But what happens when you stop? As Seth Clifford wrote in 2016 (which seems like a decade ago):

“Simply put, I took the time I was spending on mindlessly scrolling through floods of information that was unrelated to most of what I wanted to know about and applied it elsewhere. I’ve been reading a ton, chewing through books. Life’s been pretty busy, and I’ve been working a lot. And getting back to things like making the time to play guitar even just for a few minutes a day to relax and stay sharp, which I’d really been neglecting.”

Imagine the combined hours in a week we spend on social media, and if we used that time to read an actual book? Or practice an instrument? Or call a friend?

That’s not to say that social media is evil. It’s not black and white, on or off. Learning about a social injustice is great, but then following that injustice until 3 am, watching every clip, reading every post, and arguing with “people” with five followers is not a good use of time.

Reading books, calling representatives, donating to a cause – those are good things.

Again, it’s not either / or, but a healthy mix of both.

We Know Everything Now

Hearing and reading a lot more conversations that pertain to leaving social media, or at least lessening the habitual checking-in. The magnetic pull of “likes,” as well as the “fear of missing out” on something that happened 12 seconds ago.

“Is the never-ending psychic tinnitus of social media worth suffering through in the ever-dwindling hope that you’ll be exposed to something enriching, thanks to algorithms that favor paid advertising and “growth hacking?” The answer–for me, at least–is increasingly no.”
Escaping the Social Media Morass and Rediscovering Delight,’ by Tenebrous Kate

There is still value in “getting the word out,” of course, for both projects and worthy causes, but the problem is noise. Everyone is getting the word out. Everyone knows someone who has a GoFundMe. Every town has some asshole that got caught doing horrible things.

In 1998 or so I remember this interaction with a friend. I started telling a story, and before I got too far along they said, “yeah, I know, I read your Xanga.”

Now in 2018, 20 years later, we know what our friends are eating in real time. Or we can watch a video from the show they’re at right this second. That immediacy can be overwhelming at times.

What do we do with that information? We take in the videos, the cute filters, the badly lit and even worse sounding concert footage, and then… then what?

We know so much now, and yet we know so little.

Twitter Actually Made Money

The social media sewage pool that I call Twitter actually turned a profit, its first since 2006.

It may not grow into an advertising behemoth like Facebook, but at least it’s no longer sinking. And if it can keep turning a modest profit, that’s something—except for lingering problems of abuse and hatred on the platform, and the rampant bot problem that may or may not have affected the 2016 US election and the UK Brexit vote.

If you’re trying to get noticed on Twitter, good luck. They are not in the business of sending you free traffic, and I’m guessing soon we’ll see more throttling of traffic from feeds that just send out link after link, begging for a click.

Facebook Hates You

Matt Klinman of Funny Or Die had some pretty harsh words for Facebook, and for good reason.

Today, there’s no reason to go to a comedy website that has a video if that video is just right on Facebook. And that would be fine if Facebook compensated those companies for the ad revenue that was generated from those videos, but because Facebook does not pay publishers, there quickly became no money in making high-quality content for the internet.

Read his full interview over at Split Sider – it’s fucking good (and check out his Twitter).

Think about this; this is Funny or Die, not some small band trying to get 50 people to a gig. Or getting a dozen people to your local political event. Facebook throttles what your fans see, so rather that show your fans some tour dates it’ll show them a funny cat video that 324 shared in the last hour.

Your new video premiere? Buried under an avalanche of political drama and probably some post from a music blog about some guy playing a cover of a Metallica song with a kazoo.

Think your fans will see your post about crowdfunding your next EP? Nah, some celeb wore a Megadeth shirt!

Facebook will not help you. Twitter doesn’t care about you being harassed. Tumblr is owned by YAHOO. Instagram is owned by Zuckerburg and turning into trash by the minute.

I implore you: buy a domain name, build an email list, and send some goodies to your fans using the mail.

“But I’ll lose my 21,381 followers,” you may say. Chances are you’re only reaching 0.1% of those followers anyway, so revel in the 200 people on your email list. At least you can reach all of them.

YOU JUST HANDED ME A CDR AND WALKED AWAY

If you’re reading this, I probably @replied you and your band because you followed me (@sethw) on Twitter.

What you’re doing is the cyber-equivalent of handing me a CDR at a show and walking away.

A bit about me:

I played in all sorts of bands from 1991 to 2001.
I booked shows. I built websites for bands. I published zines.
I founded Buzzgrinder.com back in 2001.
I was the founding editor of Noisecreep.com for AOL Music.

In those 20 years I have never discovered or fallen in love with a band because someone handed me a CDR and walked away.

But during those 20 years I’ve made a lot of friends, and those friends were in bands, or ran labels or distros or booked shows. I discovered and fell in love with a lot of great bands because of that.

So if you think randomly following me on Twitter is going to help you, you’re wasting your time. And it’s a shame, because I know a lot of great people in the music industry, like publicists, engineers, A&R people, writers, editors, label owners, managers, bloggers, promoters, and tour managers.

Use this advice if you want. @reply me on Twitter, or shoot me an email.

Let’s be friends.

Then maybe I’ll listen to your music.

MONETIZE YOUR BLOG

My friend Lisette Voytko landed on Reddit, a popular user-generated site of interesting & newsy links. With the expected spike in traffic, I replied, “monetize!” Meaning, turn that traffic to your blog into cold hard cash! But then she called me out and asked, “how?”

Well, here’s a few ways I’ve monetized my blog(s) over the last few years.

SELL SOMETHING
I’ve sold stuff on my site and people have bought it. I’ve sold hand-drawn robots at my Willed From Wires Robot Shop, and I’ve got two ebooks detailing my bike adventures from the past year and a half. Skip the affiliate links on Amazon – create something of your own – something you can stand behind – and put a price tag on it.

GET SOMETHING
I’m not so huge that I can just sell stuff everyday, but I could sure use extra storage space on DropBox! So I wrote a post about how awesome DropBox is, and encourage readers to sign up for an account, which gets me more storage space.

SHOW SOMETHING
When I was writing on The Bike Nerd during my daily bicycle adventures around the US, it showed something; I can write about bikes. It’s not about “lots of traffic,” it’s about the “right traffic,” and that’s how I got a paid writing gig for a bike shop in NYC. Write to your audience, not a “general audience,” and see what happens. The hard part? Figuring out who your audience is.

PLAN SOMETHING
Okay, so you don’t have anything to sell today, and maybe cloud storage isn’t your thing. But you just know that someday you’ll have something that people will love. Well, make sure you have a “subscribe to my email list” box somewhere on your site. If you don’t have anything to sell today, maybe you will two months from now. The best time to start that is 10 years ago, but the next best time is now (hat tip to Gary Vaynerchuk for that one).

Monetizing your blog isn’t just ad networks or e-commerce, it’s about opportunities that come your way just by writing great content day after day, year after year. I did Buzzgrinder for six years before I got my foot in the door at AOL, and then it was another year and a half before I started Noisecreep for AOL Music.

HOMEWORK: What’s the one thing you just KNOW? It doesn’t even have to be an internet skill. Maybe you work on motorcycles, or you have experience finding great places to fish, or maybe you took over your parents business. Trust me – there’s an audience for all of those things on the internet. If you want to be a pop-culture super blogger, well, good luck with that. But if you want to be the #1 Google search result for “how to take over my parents bakery,” or “where to camp in Utah,” well, I bet you can own that audience.

So, who is your audience?

DON’T SAY “FOLLOW US ON TWITTER!” IF YOU DON’T USE TWITTER

If your business wants to abandon Twitter, that’s your choice. But maybe you should remove the cute “Follow us on Twitter!” messages from your ads in the local alt-weekly’s.

Recently, just for the heck of it, I figured I’d look up a local business on Twitter from an ad and saw this – updated 238 days ago.

This reminds me of Van Halen’s “brown M&M” clause, about removing all the brown M&M’s from the bowl of candy backstage. If they showed up at a gig and saw brown M&M’s, well, that meant their rider wasn’t read very throughly. If the promoter shrugs off the M&M part, what else could they have skipped? The safety measures? The power requirements?

It’s not being pompous, it’s paying attention to the details.

If a business shrugs off social media thing like this (thinking perhaps,”it doesn’t matter, no one will notice!”), that’s your choice. But it’s my choice to consider what other details you’re skipping over.