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Engineer, Update Thyself!


11 May 2019

In Issue 17 of AudioTechnology I wrote an article called ‘Engineer, Promote Thyself!’, discussing strategies for promoting your audio skills and services. For perspective, Issue 17 hit the streets in late 2000; that’s about two years after Google was unleashed as a search engine, four years before Facebook and YouTube arrived on the screen, and seven years before the first iPhone was announced — all of which have collectively defined what we now call ‘social media’.

A lot has changed since AT17. It’s a very different world that offers new ways of working while demanding new ways of thinking. You’re currently reading AT133, and it contains two articles that are worth looking at closely because they show us what is necessary and what is possible when doing audio business in 2019.


Nick Franklin’s article about the necessity of proper accounting [‘Skills to Pay the Bills’] shows us that mobile devices and their relation to social media can make the day-to-day running of a business easy and fun. Nick’s been in the industry for a long time; he learnt the hard way and is showing you the easy way. The fact that he was able to write an entertaining article about the boring side of business says it all. Then there’s my interview with Marcel Gnauk of Free To Use Sounds [‘Making Free Pay’]. Two years ago, with no background or experience in audio whatsoever, Marcel started recording sounds and giving them away on the internet. He’s a savvy social media operator with a deep understanding of how it all fits together, and is a great example of what is possible in the ‘post-social media’ world. When he told me how much he earns from giving away sounds, my jaw hit the floor.

After reading those articles, I could not help but think of all the industry people I know who’d benefit from being updated on social media and understanding how it all fits together. If you’re on top of social media you don’t need to read any of this, but if you feel like the grumpy old guy stuck in the middle of the road shaking your fist at passing cars, read on…


I was born in the early ‘60s and grew up in a world of fads: roller skates, dragsters, skateboards, CB radio, tropical fish, and a long list of ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ one-hit wonders. [The skateboard re-emerged decades later with improved technologies and is now a mainstay, but it was once just another fad.] Right up to the arrival of social media I watched numerous delivery formats and internet services come and go, all following the same faddish trajectory. I knew a fad when I saw one, and learnt to step back and wait; knowing that most of The Previous Big Things would soon be replaced by The Next Big Things, and those who invested too much in them would be stuck with Useless Old Big Things.

As I mentioned in the previous issue (‘Datacumulus 2019’, AT132), I begrudgingly accepted cloud storage when Gmail was introduced because it was from Google (the search engine people), it was free, and it was better. Not to mention that it was invitation only! There was none of the faddish hype that rings my alarm bells; in fact, I’d never heard of it until the day I signed up. Then along came Myspace, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter et al. They all had three things in common: stupid names, silly words to describe how you interacted with them, and the early signs of that all-too-familiar fad trajectory. I promptly dismissed every one of them, as any sane member of my g-g-g-generation would.

But here’s the reality: Facebook and YouTube have been with us for 15 years, Twitter has been with us for 13 years, and the relatively junior Instagram has been with us for eight years. They’re not fads by any contemporary definition, and none of them are likely to be replaced by The Next Big Thing because they have become The Perpetual Next Big Thing — constantly evolving to keep us engaged, exploiting new technologies from our mobile devices, and quickly stitching any potential competitors into the fabric of their own social media universe.

Any new platform that aims to entice users off Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Twitter will only succeed if it provides a way for those users to port over all of their existing content, networks, comments and reactions. All of that stuff is currency in the social media world; users have invested thousands of hours into building, maintaining and growing it, and they’re not going to walk away from it just because someone is promising something better. If they cannot transfer their existing currency into it and make a profit, they’re not interested. They might add it to their collection of platforms, but they’re not going to abandon what they’ve already established. Also, any new platform that has the potential to draw users away from an established platform is quickly acquired by that established platform: threatened by the cooler and slicker Instagram, Facebook bought it and stitched it into the fabric of their social media universe, allowing users of either platform to increase their reach and add value to their existing currency.


Social media is not a passing fad; the established platforms are here to stay, and it’s time to get updated. Stewart Brand’s famous quote, “Once a new technology rolls over you, if you’re not part of the steamroller you’re part of the road” is more apt now than ever. Realising I had become part of the road, about a year ago I stopped shaking my fist at the passing cars and started a brisk walk in pursuit of that steamroller – hitching rides along the way from the Nicks and Marcels of the world.

Next issue I’m going to write ‘Social Media for Dummies’. Wait… Sorry, we’re not dummies! Next issue: ‘Social Media for Smarties from a Different Generation’.

Greg Simmons is a writer, educator and sound recordist with a passion for travelling. He was the Founding Editor of AudioTechnology magazine, and currently enjoys exploring the many possibilities the internet and social media have to offer the audio industry. He’s also fond of writing about himself in the third person.


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