It's easy to get discouraged when you feel like you are lost in a sea of other voices. It can get downright depressing when you post a project you have been slaving away on for months to only get 5 reactions from your closest family members. You post into your favorite maker group and 2 people click on it before it's washed away by the swell of other people wanting the group's attention. You get scolded for cross posting in different maker groups because it's annoying... So, how do you keep posting? How do you keep engaging when you feel like you can't get any traction? Here are some things we did recently that are currently helping us out a lot when it comes to motivation and see a little uptick in attention. Plus some silver linings about being a small fish.
TELL YOUR STORY
One way to get past the issue of no one reacting with what you are doing is to do it for yourself and ignore the statistics. Statistical data can be good when you want to evaluate what worked and how to replicate it but spending days looking at flat lined numbers does nothing for your creative spirit. For a time you have to put that to the side. In the beginning the numbers will never be significant enough to read anything in to. In 2016 we had this vision that we could start showcasing some of the things we were working on on social media. About 7 years prior to that I was trying to showcase that stuff in facebook "vlogs" before our wedding. People liked them, and I wish I would have stuck with it because they are really fun to look back on. I hadn't stuck with it because of self doubt. I thought maybe they were boring or stupid or too self serving and eventually I just talked myself out of it. Flash forward to 2016, I wasn't really into the Maker Community like Ben was. He had long been watching the high-speed videos that i found so annoying to listen to. Drills at super sonic pitch speed whistling over the book I was trying to read or the game I was trying to play. Why was that so compelling? What did he enjoy so much about this awful noise. Obviously, it wasn't the noise. It may not have even been the build. It was the story that Jimmy Diresta was telling. If you look at his approach - people don't flock to him for the one off builds usually. No, it's that they love seeing him tell the long story of life as a maker. Think of each of his videos as paragraphs in that novel. Who does he interact with, where does he go, what tips does he employ, how does he come up with ideas, who employs him, why is he building a teepee? If you are recording what you are doing you are creating an archive of your journey and the mindset shouldn't be about the individual builds or even the clicks. That will make it worthwhile even if you never make a cent off of publishing your video novel. You are recording your story, your progress, your style, you are showcasing your voice. Jimmy didn't start out with a huge audience, he had to develop a following and he has shared his history in several different talks. Most of the time he indicates that the story is the most important ingredient. Focusing on story telling - why a build is being done, exposing the challenges with the build and inviting discussion about that has effectively changed something that was so transactional into being about so much more. It's OUR builder's biography. Talk about a motivation changer and a shift in gears.
We haven't hit the monetization bench marks for YouTube Standards with SST, for a hot minute that was really frustrating. Not because of monetizations or the issues involved with it - it was that they had set bench marks and goals that seemed to dissolve in an instant after we met them. That being said, what we did start to feel discouraged about was seeing that our audience had kind of plateaued. Where were we going wrong? Why were people not finding us? Folks we talk to whom have been around for a while said it just takes time. Keep posting and eventually you'll catch fire. Stick with it has been their mantra. Some folks you see skyrocket in the first month they post, others it takes several years. Ben says it's like catching lightening in a bottle. Bobby Duke took off when he made something universally popular and interesting. Paul Jackman worked at it diligently for several years consistently building great things infused with his humor. Evan and Katelyn have worked hard to cultivate a community around them, they are everywhere at every event I see, they make themselves available. John Malecki and Brad Rodriguez focused on their builds but also created a great podcast resource with amazing branding. Andy Rawls focused on the quiet pursuit of cabinetry. Watching him is like watching an intricate dance. Then he shifted and expanded a bit to bring more content and showcase more of his business. They all pursued different avenues to get to a recognizable place. Whether by accident, ingenuity or by filling a void - each was unique in their approach. One thing that they all had in common is that they kept working. They never stopped and were flexible in what they chose to do. So, our focus has to be on just doing and recording what we love to make and with each other. We will find our voice eventually, it just may take a lot of tossing noodles at a wall to see what sticks before we get to where we want to be.
BE YOURSELF, BE UNIQUE
At first when we started out in social media, we showcased a mask of ourselves. I don't think it's that uncommon to do that. It's probably a protection mechanism. If I'm not me, then when mean comments come up - it won't hurt as bad. People see right through that and click to move on to the next thing. Personality is a big draw. The way we had been approaching our videos is that we didn't talk much through the videos, just stayed matter of fact. A year later we were invited to be a part of an episode of Maker Monday and thought maybe we should just be ourselves, Pittsburgh Jagoffs. The feedback has been good and we have come to realize people enjoy the two of us together and how we play off each other. We'll definitely showcase that more in the future. It's really hard to get over the fear of exposing who you are to an audience. I should have known that from my history of being a song writer, but I'm not always good at connecting the dots.
EXPERIMENT WITH NEW TECHNIQUES/CHALLENGES
Too many dicks on the dance floor is a great song by Flight of the Concords. The men are lamenting that there are just all dudes and no ladies to dance with. The maker community can be very similar in regard to projects (not just gender) If everyone is working on a river table - there is nothing unique being showcased - just a bunch of reproductions of someone else's idea. Sometimes being unique is good and one thing that I personally have been enjoying is that I'm one of the few potters in our section of town. It's been very recent that I shook off the nerves and posted my first pieces to one of our maker groups. Once I started to share what I thought - no one in the group would be interested in - we started getting a lot more engagement. What's common isn't always what's going to get attention. In my day job life, if you are designing packaging for shelf you want it to stand out and be unique, if your cookie packaging looks like every other marketer's approach to selling cookies - the isle is boring and the consumer won't notice yours over another. We're trying to be more mindful of this as well in our arena. Ben is a wood worker like most of the folks we interact with. He was feeling bummed that his work wasn't being noticed in the sea of other wood workers, so, he started doing more unique projects. Odd takes on existing techniques. He made a mug out of a log. He took a traditional lathe bracelet and made it without the use of a lathe. To date, those are some of our top viewed projects. We had to break free of the thought process that if we don't do something the way it's supposed to be done we aren't adding to the narrative, we'll get called out. People are at all different levels of development with their hobbies and their careers. Embracing where we are and letting others share in our achievements as we grow is much more fun than just trying to pretend to know how to do everything. It's even more effective than we could have thought. Even benign posts about learning or failing at something can spur on interaction we never expected and might win us some really great new friends. In fact, people actually wait for when we post our updates and get excited with us when we finally figure a problem out.
Investment in community is the biggest thing we have been realizing is important. The last two posts in my Maker's Notes have been focused on that theme. As your community outreach grows so does your audience. People who share common interests are going to give you the most value for their view because they are going to reach out to you. Don't let it be one sided though - it's not a one way transaction. Don't expect to spam post in a grouping and then not participate when other's post their content, questions or stories. It is important to share, but it's also important to participate actively. Eventually as you grow in your role in the community, folks are going to message you about whayou are doing - YOU WILL MAKE AMAZING CONNECTIONS. They will keep you motivated, uplifted and you will do the same for them. What's even more fun is when you get to connect with them in person. We doubled the size of our community within the first couple of months just by ignoring the numbers and focusing on interacting with people. At the end of the day, it's going to be much more enriching and rewarding to work in that sphere than to just have a bunch of empty subscribers who subscribe to your channel but never like or comment on your videos. If you can't tell, I am really loving our clan right now. One thing that we did to pair down the facebook groups was to focus on the smaller groups we joined and not as much the groups that are 1K+ people strong. The bigger audience of the 1K member groups is a problem because you are much easier to miss because of the way the timelines present your posts. You may post a really fantastic comment or photo and within minutes there are 50 others that have pushed your post to the bottom of the feed. We've found much more value in a more intimate group if we need feedback on our work. We'll post a few things in the major groups and actively participate on other's posts, but we don't focus as much on trying to get a response from our posts in them. It's built our confidence back up having a smaller group to talk with. It's more intimate and the value is so much greater when you get to know people this way.
Our goal is to tell an honest, unique story by pushing ourselves to experience things that may be a bit out of our wheelhouse and sharing with a great group of people. Maybe after a while we'll be invited to a comedy show or two. Until then, we just have to relax and enjoy the build.
Small Business owner and Artist, committed to growing as a maker as well as sharing her and her husband's experience with owning a small maker studio.
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