God, this makes me mad.
So, there is this massive selection bias that happens amongst some influencers on the web where they feel that good content will be found on its own. Why do they feel this? The same reason rich people think they deserve their wealth, of course; if they’re on top, they feel that they deserve to be on top– it can’t possibly be accidental!
“I’m up here because my sneaking suspicions are right– I really am amazing just like I always believed!”
But there’s another side to this equation: If some content is not discovered by itself, does that mean it’s not worthy of being discovered? Further, does it mean that all popular web content is worthy of being popular?
Does that seem right to you?
Or is it more likely that some great things are discovered, and others remain in obscurity for other reasons?
Let’s consider the famous JK Wedding Dance video. After all, it just started going viral again this week, so something about this video must be just that great.
I think we can agree that there are probably 50 other videos on Youtube right now that are just as funny as that one. But many of those videos haven’t made it; only the JK wedding dance video did.
What made this one different?
All other things being equal, the only differences between one funny wedding video being found and going viral, and another being forgotten are two things: LUCK and MARKETING.
Luck is the result of preparation and, well, happenstance I guess. It happens when you prepare for it. If you have someone come to you about a book deal, you may have gotten “lucky” because you were born with a natural ability to write well, or because you’re good at networking and you “prepared” by developing a huge network and you know the right people, say.
But luck isn’t really what we want to talk about here– I just want to include it as a very real, important condition that causes success, to make the argument that it isn’t just the cream that rises to the top, that isn’t always about merit.
Marketing is the opposite of luck. It is planned success, deliberately created through strategy and analysis. Obviously it can work– otherwise we wouldn’t have all these systems in place that do their best to ensure a movie, single, or other piece of content gets heard.
Some people feel that some forms of marketing are snake oil and deceptive— they feel you should just let your great content market itself, and “let the rest follow” by telling other people.
Of course, many of these same people know all the web’s A-list influencers, have been on the web forever, or have many other advantages that compound their success.
To them I could ask: “What if you are just starting out, know no one, and weren’t there at the beginning? Do you deserve to be unknown and undiscovered?”
If great content just gets discovered naturally, when does that discovery happen? If your great content hasn’t been discovered yet, does that mean it isn’t worthy, it isn’t good enough? Or do you just have to wait for the right time? If so, how long?
So there’s this guy who keeps praying to win the lottery. He keeps praying every day: “God, please let me win the lottery,” and he does this for years, but he just never wins it. He keeps praying, but one day he gets impatient, and just as he’s about to give up, he’s like “Screw this, I’m done,” and suddenly he hears a booming voice that says: “Listen guy, I’m doing my best, but will you please just buy yourself a bloody ticket!!!”
Those that are successful often feel that they naturally rose to the top due to the naturally meritocratic nature of the web. They want to believe this because it allows them to feel that they deserve to be on top. In reality, they often don’t– sometimes, they’re just on top accidentally. Trust me, I know some of them.
My point is that it’s flawed thinking to believe that your content will naturally rise up. If you wait, you are that guy praying to win the lottery– ie, you’re deluding yourself.
Once you’ve created your great content, please do smart things to market it— go out there and meet people, figure out the systems that will help you get seen, do whatever it takes, please.
Don’t wait to be discovered. Don’t trust what other people tell you. They are not in your position. Only you are.
Only you can judge.