Say it Softly

The Internet has often been observed as being a double-edged sword in regards to content publication. Yes, it has reduced the barriers to entry and allowed more people than ever the ability to get their work to The People, whoever and wherever they might be. This egalitarian spirit has ensured that every voice can be heard, provided that voice has a compy and a connection, or at least a local public library, and this is a Good Thing.

Unfortunately, this also means that anyone and everyone can publish, which increases the volume. Because there’s so much out there, finding the good stuff can be difficult–it’s like taking one of Beethoven’s symphonies and turning up the noise on all channels. Finding the melody becomes impossible, and just the same, it is hard to find all the content on the ‘Net that’s worth finding. What’s more, it is hard to get your voice heard. Yes, it was difficult to get published in The Past, but once you were published, you were there. You were assured of getting noticed. The status quo has been flipped on its head, so now you can get published but no one will even care.

So people shout. They send spam emails and mass Facebook messages, get Twitter accounts to update voraciously, and climb to the tippy top of Babylon to make sure they can project as far as possible. If the noise has been turned up, it seems reasonable that one must overcome the noise to be noticed.

This logic isn’t necessarily flawed, but it must be moderated. The problem is twofold: 1) people shout too much and that’s a turn-off, and 2) they’re often shouting for no reason.

Volume is important, as both a quantity of space and in regards to sound, and it’s true that if the noise drowns you out then you’re simply drowned. You’ve got to find a way to rise above that noise, like a fish leaping from the water, so someone will notice and follow you (if I might borrow Twitter’s chosen word, which has grown on me quite a bit). However, if you keep shouting, getting louder and louder, chances are you’ll be tuned out. People will only take so much of it before they turn away.

Regardless of your volume though, you’ve got to have something to say or none of it matters. If what you’re trying to get people to notice sucks, then shouting won’t do a bit of good. They’ll come and look, yeah, but then they’ll leave. What’s more, they’ll tell others, and eventually even your first-visits will decline. There’s not much to gain from shouting about nothing, so you’ve got to make sure you have something at least decent to offer if you’re going to draw people’s attention to it.

Hulu makes commercials quiet, and it forces me to sit up and listen. This is an old trick used by public speakers, one that is proven to work well, and I similarly recommend it for web communication. You’ve got to say something, and you’ve got to say it loud enough to be heard, but don’t go beyond that. I send out Facebook mass messages, but only to people who have joined the SilverPen Publishing group, so they’ve essentially opted-in to that service. And even to those people who have agreed to receive such messages, I try to keep the quantity as low as possible (so far this year, I think I’ve sent three). I post on Twitter, but not generally to drive people to my site–I prefer to use that as a way to communicate with people I find interesting, and to post things I similarly think are interesting (though I’m probably mistaken). I make sure my site is optimized for search engines and that I write interesting and somewhat unique things so they show up high in search rankings. The trick is first to be heard, and then to get people coming back.

In public speaking, if you’ve got your audience’s attention, even just a little bit, and you lower the volume of your voice, it will cause them to unconsciously lean forward to hear you better. Then you’ve got them hooked–their eyes are on you, their chins are up, and they’re rapt. They want to know what will happen next.

Be loud when you need to get attention, but don’t shout all the time. Respect your fans, even the ones who haven’t heard of you yet, and the rest will take care of itself.

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