Robin Wood just wrote a new blog post about how he uses Instagram. As always, it was thorough, articulate, and generous. And something about it didn't sit with me right.
If I try to put my finger on it, it stems from the idea that Instagram rewards those who post only once a day, and also that if you are operating a business through Instagram then it's important to maintain the integrity of of the top nine posts, making sure they are on message and form a cohesive whole. The thing is, I think both of these things are true. I think Instagram DOES reward people who post once, and I think it is easier to amass a large following if you only post about one thing. Spoons, for instance.
I also think it's deadly boring.
When I follow someone, I LIKE knowing a bit about their life. I LIKE that my feed has captured personal moments (not private moments, there is a difference) that are the most meaningful things.
I try to post three times a day. One for me, one to promote something I'm doing, and one to provide educational value to my community.
What is Instagram for, anyway? If it is just to amass a large following, and if that comes at the price of creating a body of work that renders me more distant from my community, more one-dimensional, then count me out. That sounds like a recipe for getting stuck. I've seen it, seen people who feel like they CAN'T share more of themselves for fear of alienating a following built of people who aren't interested in all the other parts of themselves.
We run the risk of becoming caricatures of ourselves.
Is my approach slower? You bet.
Is it sometimes hard to feel like I could do things differently and get more followers, build momentum I see other people amassing? (Leaving aside for the moment the ridiculousness of comparing ourselves to other people who are living completely different lives, started in different places and have different goals). Yes, it is hard.
Is it tempting to think of how I can game the system rather than focusing on how I can make Instagram valuable to me? It sure is.
But at the end of the day, I have this one life. I have one moment, the present, to try to make a difference in the world. I have only right now, and one thing for sure I know is that I want Instagram, and ANY social media or technology I use, to work FOR ME, not twist myself to fit it.
So if you visit my feed and see something that's not a spoon, deal with it. If I post more than you're interested in, that's fine; it wasn't for you. It was for me. And you can take it or leave it.
When is the right time to start investing in a new marketing strategy?
If you are like I was two years ago, the answer is "When I need to". I no longer think that.
Now I think the right time to start investing in a new marketing strategy is several years before you need it. How do you know when you'll need it? You don't.
Which means that the right time to start investing in a new marketing strategy is always right now.
This is hard, because there is only so much time in the day.
This is hard, because you aren't even totally comfortable with the daily operation of your current strategy.
This is hard, because it means an upfront investment of time and energy, sometimes for years, before you start seeing any momentum.
This is hard, because there is always the voice in your head asking if you're crazy to be jumping in so many directions at once.
I've been thinking all this lately, as I've begun to wonder (not for the first time, and not uniquely) what instagram will be like in five years. Ten years. Where will the attention be? I certainly intend to be still hustling for a living, still carving spoons and teaching, but what on earth gives me confidence that things will be as they are now in even two years? Facebook is only 14 years old. Ten years ago, basically none of the other social media platforms existed. So while in the day-to-day, Instagram sure feels like where this spooncarving scene is playing out, that will almost certainly change. Four years ago there was much more going on with Facebook. For all I know there still is.
But another wrinkle is that where the spooncarving scene seems to be is not necessarily the most fruitful ground for me.
So in an effort to keep myself exploring, I'm pushing myself into a number of new spaces. First is was this blog, then the magazine, carving out a real, physical space. Then is was the Spooncarving Collective on an app called Mighty Networks, which we've turned into a lovely hub of spoon-related conversation. Oh yeah, and I wrote a book (face palm).
Along the way, I've dipped my toe into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Reddit. None stuck, in the sense that I didn't feel excited enough by the resources to warrant the time needed to monitor additional social media conversations.
Lately though, I've been feeling that same edginess, the wariness that comes from being allergic to having all my eggs in one basket. So I've been pushing into YouTube more, and today I just wrote my first article on Medium. I'll be revisiting LinkedIn with an idea, and probably start using Facebook for the Christmas tree farm this fall.
One final idea I'm pursuing is starting to teach on Skillshare. I haven't yet started, this is still in thought only, but I'm liking what I'm learning so far.
Does it seem like alot? Imagine this: in two years, Instagram will be different. Already I feel it in the rising percentage of sponsored posts I see. Will it die? I don't think so. Will attention drift elsewhere? Possibly. Will it be important to garner attention from many different sources as it will be harder to gain meaninful attention on Instagram? Almost certainly.
So recognizing all this, and recognizing that any alternative beyond just doubling down on Instagram is harder, recognizing all this, what are you going to do about it?
This weekend I taught my six year old daughter how to scrub a toilet.
Now, in all fairness, I didn't make her. I was cleaning the house and I asked "who wants to learn how to clean a toilet?!" and my older daughter kept her nose stuck in her book, while the younger one sang out "I do!". So it was optional.
I showed her how long to squirt in the cleaner, how to scrub with the brush, rinse the brush by flushing, and then the correct order to spray and wipe down the handle, lid and bowl with vinegar to go from the cleanest to the dirtiest surface. I told her how used to work on a boat that took people on six day cruises, and how we had to clean the bathrooms on that boat eight times a day. Then we went upstairs and I talked her through the second toilet.
Like most parents we know, my wife and I walk a fine line between letting our kids have as much unstructured time to lounge and dream and be bored as possible, while also requiring that they help set the table, clear the table, open the chickens, get the mail and mostly-but-not-really stay on top of putting away their laundry. We've lately been including them in cooking more, and we require that they prepare most of their own breakfasts, although we do cut the bread for them, usually.
We want our girls to grow up with a baseline knowledge of how to run a household, and an appreciation for how to put in the work to do that well. We also want them to feel like they are contributing.
The thing is, it's easy to forget this in the whirlwind of doing stuff. If you are like me, you are an absolute ninja at cleaning the house while simultaneously putting in a load of laundry, feeding the animals, scrubbing out the sinks and tidying away the coffee table (or so I wish). In those moments of whipping the house into shape so that I can feel on top of the day, it's easy to lose sight of the larger opportunity to share with the girls how to do these things, and help them gain an appreciation for why they are important.
I feel this in my work, too. I look forward to including the girls in the work on the farm, but I also know it will take a push on my part to make that time commitment. Because there is always an upfront cost to be paid in the time spent teaching a new skill before it makes any sort of sense from an economic or time point of view. And while I know, I KNOW, that that is not the point, it can be hard, in the heat of my own work, to remember to share that work with my daughters. But I want that more than anything. I think it will be the making of them.
So after dinner tonight (peanut noodles), while waiting for the kids to finish so we could have the rare treat of a dessert (pumpkin pie), I sat down at the piano and started noodling around. I grew up with a piano, and have always loved the way they pull the home around themselves, becoming the center of family life, and while I don't really play (despite six years of lessons), I remember enough to pick out melodies and baselines. As I was sitting there, I started playing and realized it sounded like one of my ALL TIME favorite themes, the opening theme from Star Trek Voyager (also instantly bringing me back to late nights the summers I was 14 and 15). So I teased it out by ear, and then what I heard made me so excited I had to go get the girls and explain to them what I'd figured out.
The thing is, the melody and baseline of this theme (and honestly, if you don't know what I'm talking about, you should look it up and listen to it now, it is one of the most beautiful 2 minutes you will ever spend), the melody and baseline have this remarkable interplay where they are dissonant (read, side by side notes on a keyboard) and then resolved (notes that have a key in between them). I'm not a musical theorist nor have I ever had any training in such, but I explained to the girls (and they got it right away) how this interplay of dissonance and resolution tugs at you, making things feel jangly and then calm.
We got all excited and then went into the kitchen to have the pie, and while we were doing that I pulled up the theme on the computer, plugged in a speaker for more sound, and then we listened over and over to the orchestra playing this beautiful melody, and could hear it pull and resolve. The girls moved the island to the side so they could dance, and my wife practiced her figure skating moves while holding a chew toy for the puppy in one hand.
When listening to the orchestra version, I noticed something else, which is that the power of the piece comes in part from the tradeoff of different instruments taking turns playing the same melody. At first it is French horns, muted and far away, and then it is strings, haunting and lyrical. Finally, a blaze of trumpets soars through at the end, making your hand stand up.
I often lament that spooncarving is not a joint thing like making music. I wish there was some way we as a community could do something together that was more than the sum of our efforts, and I wonder what that might look like. I think it might have to do with these things, with the use of dissonance and resolution, and with taking turns playing with the same melodies.
I'm not sure how this could be created. I'm not even sure if it's possible. But if I can make people feel like how I feel when I listen to this theme, then I know I will have done it. And that's something that's worth pursuing.
My blog has evolved into a series of short essays on the nature of entrepreneurship, craftsmanship, and their overlap. If either of these topics is something you think about, you will probably like this.