The internet exploded this week with some earth-shattering news.
That's right: Katy Perry has a new haircut.
As the father of three grown daughters, I have nothing to say on this topic other than, have you noticed how my Minnesota Timberwolves are rebounding lately? Did anyone catch the latest Google Hangouts news? New haircuts and any sort of fashion statement other than "I don't know anything about this" are barely within my scope.
However, this doesn't mean the topic is off limits for me.
Perry now looks a bit like Miley Cyrus. It's 100% true and there's photo evidence, but let's cut right to the chase on this one (no pun intended): We live in a new age of social media and fake news. There's an incredibly high level of curiosity mixed with incredibly easy access to the web from phones and tablets. You can do a search on "katy perry haircut" faster on your phone than you can make an actual phone call. Worse yet, it often doesn't seem to matter if any of this is true. What matters is that people are talking about the topic, that Perry is a music icon, and that we are increasingly photo-obsessed.
That said, I'm not as into "the sky is falling" soapbox routine. There is a lot of noise and you do have to rise above it. In fact, there's a big lesson here about how to market a new product, attract followers on social media, and stay within the realm of actual information distribution in an age of extremely short attention spans.
First, just think about those four words: Katy Perry's New Haircut. That is brilliant. I want to know about that. It is perhaps the perfect headline. Why? For starters, there is someone involved--this is not about a thing or a place. There is also something new, and there's a promise of a visual reward. More than anything, there's the fear of missing out--everyone wants to know what is happening in pop culture.
On social, in your blog, or for any new content, look for that spark. Hit on all cylinders. Find a way to attract without distracting from the message.
The second reason it is a brilliant topic: The news is actually true--it really happened and people really care. Again, I won't comment on the fashion involved, but it defies you to look, whether it's on social media, a news site, or even Inc.com. And, honestly, that's perfectly fine. We do care about these things as a society, and we want to know how cultural touchstones are changing. There are trends to track.
What doesn't work in this new age of marketing is untruths and hyperbolic pronouncements, going way overboard. My headline above is perfectly accurate--I'm writing about how to get attention in a good way on social media and how to avoid lying in a headline. Social media is becoming both an incredible opportunity for startups--e.g., it's a way to promote a product without using enormous reserves of cash--and also a sewer of misinformation and hype. How do you survive in it?
One key is to balance how you draw attention to a brand and still maintain your integrity and authenticity. Bland headlines that relay information in a staid fashion won't work. Outrageous and unrelated posts on social media don't help your brand. Yet, there is a middle ground. How can you stay 100% truthful and not contribute to the rise of fake news and yet still gain some traction? My advice is to keep a keen eye out for truthful stories--e.g., Perry really did get a haircut--and see how it fits.
Another key is to make sure, even when you are truthful about that LinkedIn story or that tweet with a link to your new startup page, that you are also relevant. Ironically, including Katy Perry in my headline above is perfectly relevant because I'm talking about how it gets attention, it's true, and it's culturally important (at least to some). But does it have anything to do with a new app? A gadget on Amazon? Can you somehow fit that news into a Facebook post about your IT services company? Not really.
Social is the new marketing, and we have to cut through the noise of fake news and outlandish statements. The more you can make your content relevant and maintain the truthfulness of your message, cutting out (sorry, there I go again) the fluff and the hyperbole, the more interest you generate. See if you can follow suit.