500 Words: What You Will Be Known For

500 Words on Thursday | Written by Lee Schneider

Some people have a billion clicks on YouTube. Others have 137,000 followers who read their blog. Who would you want to be?

If you use gmail, Google is analyzing your emails. Facebook is tracking your preferences in friends and products. Data is being gathered about you all the time. My past, and yours, are stored online. I wrote few cartoon scripts more than two decades ago. The series was called ThunderCats. Look for ThunderCats and me on the Internet, and you may assume this is what I am known for.  Even Twitter can make your career or take it down. Ask Anthony Weiner.

So it’s all out there, for all time, moving in powerful social currents. What do you want to make of it?

Jenna Marbles, the subject of a New York Times profile this past weekend, is the person I mentioned above with a billion clicks. She does sharp character comedy as nasty/good as Sarah Silverman or the late Jonathan Winters. She doesn’t appeal to everybody, but she has found her following. Seth Godin is the blogger I mentioned. He’s opinionated, forward-looking and not to everyone’s taste, either. He’s the most popular blogger in the world and he blogs every day.

Look for the connection, and you’ll find it here: Jenna, Seth, and Anthony all pursued personal passions (some of them unsavory) that became universal concerns. As vast as the Internet is, you don’t have to appeal to everyone, just enough people, and just the right people, sometimes for a very short time.

Erika Napoletano, an author and marketer, has done a TedX talk about this called the Power of being Unpopular. She’s playing with the words a bit, but it’s about being memorable, specific, and local. Universal messages do not arise spontaneously, but are spread at first by small groups, then propelled on the electron winds of great passions.

There’s a signal to noise ratio in the online world. It’s heavy on the noise. You won’t get far by adding more noise, and we don’t have Coke and Pepsi marketing budgets around here, anyway. The way to cut through is to stand for something, be it peacemaking, wine making, good design, empowerment, voices for women, or edgy comedy. Look at Kickstarter. A project to create window farms raised $257,307. The goal was $50,000. A project to create a nice-looking watch raised $10 million. The goal was $100,000. I met an architecture student at a workshop, and he’s launched a Kickstarter for a project to bring the benefits of design to more people. Have a look at his example of local movements that become universal. He doesn’t need everybody to like this project, just enough. Maybe you.

What you write, speak and choose, what you buy, what you breathe, where you go. All of this will be what you’re known for.

Image by Salford University via Creative Commons License.