Metadata is lying to us! Metadata is really great at showing us things like how many people liked your post, what time of day they engaged with you, how long they stayed on your page what part of the country or world they are from, and so on.  And that kind of information is all that many people care about.  How did the fans engage with ME? ME, ME, ME; it’s all about ME! However, that kind of information is misleading and distorts our view of what is really important. And that is, your fans, and what they need!  Here are some questions you might be asking instead. What role does your work play in their actual lives? And are you building a social community or are you just working on your social media? The internet is a beautiful tool for group building, and it can be a wonderful place to build person-to-person relationships if we use it wisely.

If you want to make your content, or video’s, or songs go viral, then you have to connect them to a universal human condition that all people are interested in and will share with friends and family.  What is a human condition? It’s an idea that applies to everyone on this planet regardless of race, culture or geography.  What are some human conditions? Love, transformation, hope, beauty, coming of age, courage, pride, loyalty, revenge, secrecy, the feeling of being overlooked, humor and the road not taken; just to name a few. You need to start building a map of what your particular fans and customers need from you. Who are they, what do they care about, how did they get there and where are they going?  This is the data that will help you genuinely connect with your fans on a long-term basis. Remember everything you put out there from content to photos, to songs, to merch, to videos is communicating something to your fans.

In many cases, your content is your first contact. If you aren’t offering them anything they really care about, then why should they spend their time talking with you or about you to other fans? What are you doing to really bring people together over some issue or lifestyle, and could you be doing more?  Gone are the days of one-way communication where artists used media outlets to tell fans the story they wanted them to know.  Fans are now participating in real, meaningful and immediate shared experiences with artists and other supporters. We don’t just watch or listen to entertainment anymore, we can do things like comment in real time and share it with our friends and family. If you genuinely want to make your content go viral, you need to change your view from what’s good for you, to what’s good for your fans. Now more than ever, artists need to be concerned with what their audience wants and needs from them.

Successful artists are the ones that are fulfilling a need for their fans. Think about the superstar artists today.  They connect with their fans and write and produce videos that speak to their fans lives and struggles directly.  Teenage girls are still singing “Teardrops on my guitar” by Taylor Swift, 13 years after its release because being overlooked by your high school crush is always going to be a universal theme that resonates with teenage girls.  It gives teenagers a sense of not being alone because others are going through the same thing, and it connects this group or community of teenage girls together in an authentic way.  And consequently, now that she has grown up and survived the crushing life lessons of high school, and has gotten back at all those past loves, it gives teens all across the world hope for the future!  She tapped into the feelings of hope, feeling invisible and the feeling of “this is just like me,” so now millions of young girls will continue singing and sharing this teen anthem for years to come.

Great, you say, but I’m not a teenage girl.  Ok, fine. What about the song “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran? Since its release, it has been played at every wedding all over the world.  It speaks to finding love and fighting to stand together against all the odds. It talks about the special and intimate connection that two people can share and the faith that develops in that relationship.  That song speaks to something that most people, clearly, can connect with. What about Grammy-winning song “The Joke” by Brandi Carlile?  It’s connecting with people who need to keep the faith that something better is coming down the road.  Every one of us has felt nervous about showing our true selves to the world, or discouraged when life keeps telling you no.  Her song is communicating directly with a large number of people and telling them that someone sees them, they are not alone, not invisible and not worthless.  Life will get better! She has connected with fans over the human condition of hope for a better future.  Who doesn’t understand that feeling? So again, I’m going to ask you as the artist, how is your content helping your fans in their actual lives?

Still not convinced? I would contend that one of the reasons Rap became so popular is that it tells the story of how many people really live and experience the world.  The lyrics, sometimes graphic, tell the real-life experience for millions of people. It is ethnography put to music. Bob Marley and Jimmy Buffet connect with a lifestyle, either you share, or you want to share.  Metallica collected the young male fan population with their driving music and caveman-ish lyrics and melodies. Lady GaGa is a master of using universal themes that connect the artist and her fans for life.  Her music and artistic delivery are always shining a spotlight on an issue or universal human condition.

In the world of social media these days, many people talk about the 4-C’s.  Communication, content, collaboration, and community.  Aren’t those all attributes that describe a real, live physical community? Are we really just talking about building an online social community? Use your communication to bring people together over common interests.  Fill your content with relevant and useful ideas that fulfill one of the other cultural connectors like humor, identity or connection.  Get comfortable with collaboration and letting people in and share your online world.  Build a community of people around topics that matter to them and to you.  I’m not suggesting that you abandon everything meaningful to you and just create content for others.  I’m suggesting you look at what you have to offer in a new way. Instead of looking at how many likes or shares some piece of content gets you, why not look at and design your content based on something that helps solve a problem for your fans. If you can step outside the old media model of ME, ME, ME and create something useful and meaningful for your fans, you will be building lasting and loyal relationships.

Content is about identity and connection with others who identify in the same or similar way as you. Think about exploring new ways to build your content.  First, figure out how you want to connect with your fans; what job or role are you fulfilling? Humor, identity, hope, faith or teaching and how that will help them? Next, decide what you have to offer that will fill that need.  What recipe will you use and finally what are the ingredients that you personally can contribute to make this beautiful connection pie?  In this digital world that we assume has made us more separate, humanity strikes again. Person-to-person relationships, still winning!