Alexis C. Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, is credited with the term “Dark Social,” based upon an article he wrote in 2012. Dark Social is a loose catchall phrase to describe website traffic that comes from the private sharing of website links through texts, emails and chats. Only you can see Dark Posts in your Facebook news feed because algorithms are targeting you personally. For everyone else, Dark Posts remain unpublished.
I rub my hands with glee when I remember the key takeaway from a media summit that I attended last year. A digital strategist for The New Yorker prepared a pptpresentation with 25 tips to navigate the Dark Web. Only one tip was a keeper. ABT. Always Be Trying. That was last year. What can you expect this year? Just face it: your name will never be in lights.
Navigating the internet and social media is easy, but don’t be deceived. The digital world is a dark and unforgiving place. Dark Social. Dark Content. Dark Posts. Dark P.R. The Dark Web. Bullies, flamers and trolls, oh my. The worst is yet to come. P.R., marketing and branding experts have been humbled by the vagaries, snafus and traps posed by the Dark Web. If the experts are brought to their knees, why do you think you can make it work for you?
Who are you? Maybe you’re a business coach or a designer, an accountant or a lawyer, a scientist or a small business person; the self-employed come in all stripes and flavors and account for 30% of the work force. * There is a fine line between being self-employed and being unemployed, and that line grows sharper every day. Hang out your shingle. Can’t get business? You don’t work.
Self-employed freelancers and entrepreneurs view P.R. as the holy grail that will make the difference between being obscure and unemployed and becoming known and prosperous. But P.R. has changed, and it has become a very dark practice. Let’s take a quick look at P.R. now and then. As recently as 2012, successful P.R. campaigns could be waged in three simple steps: You promoted yourself on your website. You sent out press releases to a short media list. You sent targeted email to your community. Using these same three tactics today will yield nothing.
What happened to change the playing field? How good you are or how hard you work is no longer relevant when the playing field is gamed by algorithms churning out bots, trolls, ads and memes. P.R practitioners can no longer wage successful P.R. campaigns without outsourcing to technology firms that specialize in artificial intelligence.
Entrepreneurs and freelancers use social media and the internet to promote themselves because it’s free or cheap. But there is a hidden cost to using social media and the internet. Invest nothing and you will get nothing in return. Invest little and you will get little in return. Here’s the kicker: you need a whole lot of money to retain firms that are experts in algorithms. (As much money as the candidates who successfully ran in the 2016 political campaigns.) And the sad reality is that most of the self-employed work force does not have enough money to be a contender on the Dark Web.
I could show you examples of memes that are generated by bots and algorithms, but if I show you these memes, they will be forever linked to my name on Google. For an example, check out this website and scroll down through its media gallery. Any time you see an image (meme) with few words spouting a message about people, politics, companies or products, it has been generated by artificial intelligence. Dark P.R. is like pornography, you know it when you see it.
There are lots of articles out there talking about how to successfully use the tools of P.R., but the tools that were used in the past do not work anymore.The absence of having a lot of money to spend on your P.R. campaign is the equivalent of mass infantry going up against machine guns. Remember World War I when troops suffered devastating casualties? The machine gun was an exponential leap in the number of bullets that could be discharged against infantry. Times have changed times ten. Now the idea of a small fry going at it alone, up against smart technology, smart bombs, and laser guided anti-tank missiles is unimaginable. Even a small fry in an armored vehicle can’t withstand an anti-tank missile. Think you’re going to use social media or the internet because its free and fast? Think again. The odds are stacked against you. It’s mathematical. It’s impossible.
Your Name Will Never Be in Lights. What can you do to promote yourself?
Hang out your shingle. Need to get work? Who will hire you? Once you know who will hire you, then build your tribe among that group of people. For you, it’s never going to be a winner takes all. Even under the glare of the lights in the big city, you’re still a loser on the Dark Web. You can build a fiefdom, though. A tribe. You need three things: A message. Your message is so distinctive and clear that people don’t just hear it; they feel it. They get your message in their gut. Action. People need to feel that your message is so valuable that they can feel it in their gut and they know it can be delivered. Benefit.People feel that you offer practical benefit to the tribe. Grow your tribe.
You’ll read lots of blogs describing how much P.R has changed, but when you boil it down, there is only one rule of P.R that prevails no matter what changes in technology. People do business with people whom they know and trust.That doesn’t mean like and trust. You don’t have to like someone to do business. But it helps to know—at the end of the day—that you’re doing business with someone who has considered your interests as well as his own. The best business is conducted when both parties establish a mutually beneficial relationship. This might not translate well to the Dark Web, but it does work wonders when its sealed with a handshake behind closed doors. Key takeaway: Always be growing your tribe.
*According to a survey by cloud accounting software company Freshbooks, the number of self-employed Americans could triple to 42 million by 2020. That compares with 126 million Americans working full-time jobs in 2017, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Patricia Vaccarino has written award-winning film scripts, press materials, articles, speeches, Web content, marketing collateral, and books. She is currently working on a sequel to YONKERS Yonkers! Please see her press kit