You’re Obscure So You Suck

I saw this on Twitter yesterday, and it got to me:

If your site/book/whatever is any damn good, I will hear about it anyway.

In context, it was the end of a short rant about strangers butting into conversations to plug their own creations – in this case, an alternative to a Web site the tweeter was talking about. Being annoyed at the specific case certainly isn’t unreasonable.

Out of context, it says that if this person doesn’t know about your stuff, it’s shit.

Now, I don’t know this poster in the slightest; it was a retweet by someone I do follow. And they certainly weren’t talking to me, just ranting to the Internet at large. But the attitude is so wrong-headed that I had to contemplate my own, hopefully more cogent, rant.

I make stuff. Music, stories, not a ton of stuff anymore, but some. I doubt this person has ever heard of me, because 99.999999% of the world has not. There are certainly days when I have a very low opinion of my creations, but occasionally I’m rather proud of them. I think they’re good.

More than that, I’m certain there are “whatever”s that they don’t know about – bands, television shows, sculptures, all kinds of things. To imagine oneself so plugged in that nothing of merit gets past you is the height of arrogance. Maybe it’s not a category of art or product that you’ve imagined yourself to be interested in before. Maybe it’s in a language you don’t speak. Or maybe word never got around because it wasn’t promoted heavily enough.

Google autocomplete for marketing is

Apparently there are differing opinions on the value of marketing.

Fortunately there’s genuine advice out there for those trying to get their work noticed. Why, just the other day, the creator of The Oatmeal re-shared an enlightening post of his called “How to get more likes on Facebook” to celebrate an upcoming milestone:

How to get more likes on Facebook - The Oatmeal

How nice! This popular artist, this veritable Internet magnate, is sharing some secrets of his success with his fans. Good for him. What does the advice boil down to?

Oh. Okay. Can’t argue with tautology, right? So the entire point is to make things that are awesome and not worry about marketing. At all. Seriously, there is no other advice on how to get Likes, other than making cool stuff and letting the Likes flow in of their own accord. Again, in context, it’s mostly a rant against spammy advertising tactics, but the piece does not really explore its own title beyond “Make good stuff.” It ignores very real factors like the day and time something gets posted, connecting with influencers, spreading the word on other sites and other media, traditional advertising, and countless other strategies – not to mention luck – that would probably fly under the spiky ceiling of “douchey.”

The only tips he gives are what kinds of things he, personally, would Like:

I would click the like button so hard

I can’t say I’ve ever read “an epic love story involving cage-fighting nuns and tanks,” but that sun and moon thing sure looks familiar. Hmm…

Google results for why moon same size sun

Wow, it’s been done? Nearly 55 million times? Shocking.

Okay, okay, number of Google results for keywords doesn’t actually indicate the number of times the subject has already been tackled online. Still, it’s been done a lot, so I’m kind of surprised his clicking finger is still attached, what with all the Likes he must have given out.

But wait, there’s a key part of his advice: “If I saw any of these things on the internet.” He probably hasn’t seen all of them. I mean, how many articles about the same topic can one person read, much less be enthusiastic about?

How would he know when something awesome came into being? If he’s running regular searches, he must have a very good idea what he’s looking for. Or perhaps he somehow consumes all the new content on the Internet.

But more likely, he finds stuff the way most of us do: through recommendations from others, be they friends or news outlets or aggregator sites or whatever. In any case, he wasn’t drawn to anything by the sheer power of its wonderfulness. Discovery depends upon sharing and dissemination, which might or might not happen even with the most creative and beautiful works of genius. Perhaps “douchey social media strategies” are not the best way to prompt sharing, but pure quality alone doesn’t do it.

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