New Media Investment

There are a lot of people out there who know a lot more about this than I do. Or maybe not, it’s the wild west right now, and everyone is trying to figure out the best way to use the tools at our disposal in order to get what we want.

It’s interesting, because in no other part of our social interactions do we dare be quite so brazen. As much as we might talk about “working a room”, we don’t ever stand up in the middle of a party and holler, “Listen, if you want this room full of people to do what you want, come talk to me, and I’ll explain the con!” and then wait for people to check you out. There’s something unsettling about facebook fan invites and twitter-pimping and blog-slobbing that makes one feel as if the entire environment is filled with narcissism and snake oil.

The loveliest thing about new media for me is that it has helped me overcome whatever latent shyness I might have. I know, for those of you who know me well, it seems absurd to talk about my shyness, but the fact is that I have no problem talking to anybody about anything, but I have a lot of shame attached to the idea of selling stuff to whomever I’m engaging. It’s really easy for me to sit at a party and make jokes, but it’s really hard for me to turn that into an investment opportunity, or a ticket sale.

Now, I know, this is true of everyone, but it’s really important to use that knowledge when you’re engaging in the new social media. Nobody knows how to use their friendship with you to sell a ticket to their show, or pick up a $20 investment. They need you as much as you need them, and I’m not just talking about cross-pollenation within a small subset, I’m talking about a much larger sense of investment.

A lot of people don’t care about theater. In the same way… in the same way that I don’t really care about the environment. I know, I know, it’s insane to say you don’t care about the environment, it’s the only world we’ve got, I’ve got children, blah, blah, blah, but… I just don’t. I *understand* why people are passionate about it, I’m pissed off that my kid has asthma because our neighborhood is historically polluted, but in that secret chamber inside my heart where I keep my real feelings, I just never, ever think about pollution or animal rights or whatever.

But I have a lot of friends who do care about the environment. And I’m friends with these people because I joined our local CSA, and became a core member. I have a connection, now, with a couple of local farms and 200 families in my neighborhood because I’ve chosen to invest some of my time and energy into caring about something that isn’t necessarily all that organic for me.  Interestingly, a lot of the people in the CSA are also somewhat passionate about the arts. One thing can lead to the other.

Instead of looking at cashing in on your social media investment, it’s more important that you look at how much you’re paying in. How flexible are you being, when it comes to community building? Look, I’m not saying that I’m gonna join the NRA, I’m not gonna try to be something that I’m not in order to sell more tickets to my shows, but I think it’s genuinely important to be giving BACK to the community. From a place of genuine generosity.

Is someone on facebook putting together a book club? Is someone tweeting about architecture in your town? Do you like crosswords or scrabble, because I’m pretty sure there are people doing this stuff online. Do you have a cat? Do you love small planes? Are you fascinated by the civil war? Whatever it is, there’s a community of people out there, and you can invest in that community. It’s possible to find something that isn’t your life’s passion, but which you find really fun, or really entertaining, and you can invest your time in it, even if it’s only via online media tools.

Let me assure you, there’s a huge mistake you can make, and it’s very easy to see if you’re making it. Go to your twitter feed or your facebook update page or whatever tool it is that you’re using and take a look at your posts. How many of them feel like an investment, and how many of them feel like a withdrawal? If this page was a bank, and every time you reached out to help, or to inform, or to crack up your readers was money in, and every time you asked people to help you, or to buy your stuff, is money out, what would your balance be?

Find the communities you can honestly invest in, and then do it. It’s really the best use for our social lives. If you were at a party, do you want to be known as the guy who showed up with no snacks or drinks, and then spent the whole time getting drunk and telling everyone to come see your show? Or do you want to be the guy who shows up with a hollowed out loaf of bread full of dip and a case of beer? Not only is it better to be the second guy, it’s actually a hell of a lot more fun.