I’ve been hanging around youtube and trying to be more aware of how social media “works”. Not necessarily the pure function, but the psychological methods behind what happens. It’s intensely interesting because—speaking with total honesty—I’ve really been kicking the idea around of becoming very active in certain venues. No hard decisions, no major announcements today, but I have been studying.
What I see is very intriguing and telling. The beauty of social media is that, at least when you’re studying it, it’s really easy to see how well a technique worked because a lot of the data is right there for the viewing. This post has been up for a few days and was “liked” X-number of times, this video has been published for a couple days, already getting big views and big likes, etc. From a studying standpoint, it’s an open pit mine. It’s really easy to see what’s real and what isn’t, what’s working and what isn’t. Even if somebody has an autoclicker set to click and load this link again and again…if there are 100,000 views and not a single comment, that shows. If this video has 800 views and 930 likes, same deal. If this post is hugely liked and shared, but minimally commented, that’s visible too.
The reason so many projects/channels/pages fail? They get so busy “Playin’ da Game” that they forget that it all comes down to a simple maxim; content, like it or hate it, is king. It will always be king. Bread is cheap, steak is expensive, and if you’re all bread and no steak you’ll never generate the long-term interest that a sandwich made with bread and steak together would generate. Be the 72 ounce Porterhouse and one buttered dinner roll rather than the half a can of potted meat and a three pound loaf of plain white bread.
“But, but, but, I saw a vid and it was huge, but the content was weak!”
This is known as clickbait, and while it can work for a while, it’s always going to end up in the same place; Once and nevermore. Okay, you got me to click your link, and I sat through a whole 10 minute video, and the title I clicked had nothing to do with what I saw. Congratulations, I threw you one pageview…but you tricked me. You told me I’d see ____ and I never saw it. Well, you won, but I’ll win in the long run because now I know one content provider who won’t get the chance next time. A quick click unsubscribe and you get to join the voluminous pile of people who don’t get to be a waste of my time anymore.
One group, whom I will not name, recently went on a big push to have a youtube career of sorts and they’ve already started making bad decisions. The first video was pretty good, explained the future plans, goals, etc. Very nice. The second was titled to indicate that a certain something happened during the filming and after watching the entire video it became obvious that the title was incorrect. The expectation did not match the experience. At no point in the video did anybody acknowledge that the title didn’t match. When commenters mentioned it was total clickbait, no response was made. Lots of kissass kids jumping in to get in good with the channel owner getting acknowledged, but nobody at least acknowledging or recognizing the comments that it was titled a bit incorrectly. He got 50,000 views in four days, but…that might be a peak. He’s basically going to be trying to make a living off one-time viewers. Yeah, his little army of kissass kids will probably stick around, but in time he might bait them a bit to hard and even they will quit hm.
Real talk? I have a very small list of email followers, a very small list of followers through wordpress. Small meaning less than 5. In the span of probably a month I could probably have ten thousand views per day on this blog. One month, ten thousand views per day. In all truth, that figure may be a bit low-ball. All I would have to do is jump in with five or ten posts with a few specific phrases in the title, a few specific phrases in the body, and the tags worked for all they’re worth. What words? I refuse to even put them up in passing for fear that they would bring somebody onto this post without this post being able to live up to them. A clickbait site, of which there are many on the worldwide web, would not let this stop them from doing that despite the fact that they also do not have the goods to fulfill those expectations.
How can I be so sure this would result in huge views? Because there are entire enterprises around the internet that have turned that kind of content into a fortune. You answer these questions, I give you X. Oh, you answered 39 of 40, but the 39th disqualifies you, too bad, so sad. But, this other thing over here, if you answer those questions, I’ll give you X as a consolation. You spend weeks answering the questions, offering opinions and insights with the best of intentions and you get nothing. You have to have X-number of dollars to qualify for a payout and the most patient and polite human on the planet will be using the F-word like a comma before they managed to get a tenth of the way to that figure.
I know these places exist because I’ve freakin’ tried ’em! I’ve played in that coliseum of pointless futility. I’ve also seen “companies” on the way up and almost all of them start up by simply using a few clickbait titles to get you to come in. Only when that stops working so well (once you’ve gone through all your “Once and nevermore” crowd) does it escalate. Add in a few simple tasks that tap into the human nature of “If I scratch their back, they’ll scratch mine, so I’ll answer their questions, or sign up for their stuff”, and the blatant clickbait site becomes a clickbait site under the guise of a “research organization”. Mostly, I suspect, because they can finally afford to dress it up a bit. Sort of like buying a single board to build a birdhouse, selling it to buy lumber to make a doghouse, selling it to buy lumber to make a gazebo, and selling it to buy lumber to build a house to sell. Reinvestment of profits to generate more profits in future. Clever.
Me? My stats are dismal, but there’s no theme here. This is, for lack of a better term, poor-man’s therapy. I ramble about various things and essentially speak into the void hoping to find an ear. I do not know what my next post will be because as of right now nothing has stood out as noteworthy and deserving of a post. That’s how most of my posts are “designed”. I see, I think, I write, I post. I’m pleased with that because I’d rather have low views and low interest, but know that if somebody is disappointed in the quality of my content, that it’s probably due to their expectations being a bit higher than perhaps is reasonable.
The problem I see is that many are after the quick fizzle. Get a few thousand views and cash in. For me, I like the idea of sustainability. The kind of content that might not be much, but that doesn’t try to sound like much. I’d rather perform small but honestly than to be big but dishonest. Once I go for a theme (and I **am** seriously looking at that!) I don’t see that changing.
In the end, content still matters, and honesty still holds value. It also has long-reaching consequences. If the guy who clickbaited me had a product, a program, a service, I’d be highly suspicious of it. The t-shirt that’s been screen printed, I might think of as being the physical version of his video; rather than being screen printed, it’s a t-shirt from walmart with a big ol’ home-printed sticker on it. The cooking “class” he’s teaching might be a class that’s legit, or it might be him reading the microwaving instructions on a TV dinner.
That’s how clickbait is bad. He might be getting okay views now, but in five years who will trust him? Even if he turns it around and straightens up, who will trust him not to waste their time and attention? There’s a car dealer in my town who made an error in the exact same way. He sold me a car a long time ago and it was the crappiest piece of crap that ever broke down a half-mile outside of Crapville…and to this day I don’t risk buying from him. Content is King, and that maxim holds value, as does another…
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…