Experts Write Listicles and You Can Too!

As a reluctant marketer, whenever I read a listicle*, I wonder what the qualifications are of the person who wrote it. Sometimes they say so right in the bio at the bottom of the page. Usually it’s a mystery, or you have to make the effort to click on someone’s Twitter handle and figure out who the hell they are.

Who’s writing an article on the The Top Habits of Fit People? Did a fit person write the article? Are they fit like a marathon runner? Fit like a body builder? Fit like a fitness model? Fit like an average person who has good blood work? Do they make money off of getting people fit? Are they happy and fit, or miserable and fit?

How about The Things Billionaires Do That You Do Not? Did a billionaire write the article? Did they come up from nothing or have a chunk of money to work with at a young age? If the things billionaires do can be distilled into an article, then why are there so few billionaires?

First off, what’s the point of these articles? Beyond page views, ad revenue, or anything to do with the publication. Well, those are the points actually. Work in the noble profession of marketing for any length of time and you’ll see the absolute worst reasons for media to exist.

Here’s their point: Manipulation. These articles are formatted to rile up our emotions. Happy, sad, depressed, inspired - it doesn’t matter, they’re made to elicit a reaction.

And they’re made easy to share. Entire industries revolve around people sharing content. You’re probably reading this from a shared link, provided either by me or an aggregator. So now, you get to share your outrage or inspiration with others.

That’s fine.

Entire industries revolve around marketing automation as well. So if you click on something, then you become a lead or customer, and software now tracks your entire journey across the internet and how you interact with content. You click on something I shared, then a prompt pops up asking you to share it yourself, maybe you buy something as a result of a follow-up email or ad, or sign up, then receive more custom ads in your ‘news’ feed, more sales emails in your inbox, more recommended products on ecommerce sites, more text-messages blowing up your phone, more event invites, more keyword-based bots following you on Twitter and Instagram…

That’s fine too. If you wanted all this crap.

But back to who is writing it and their qualifications on giving fitness advice, or outlining advice to become a billionaire, that now triggered this deluge of information onto your online presence.

Are they qualified?

Bear in mind you’re likely sharing something written by someone who knows about as much on the subject as you do. It is ridiculously easy to get the media to view someone as an expert.

Talk to any fit person and they’ll tell you how they did it. And their stories are basically the same: diet and exercise. The basics are the same. The paths of each person may be different, but the articles aren’t about the the individual path, they’re generalizations.

Same thing with making money. The basics are the same. But each billionaire on the planet took a different path to get there. There may be some synergies between the stories, but those synergies rely on the vast experience of their individual lives. But - no worries! - Let’s distill a lifetime worth of experience into ten bullet points!

Bullet points that ignore the fact that these journeys to riches of body and wealth are long, hard, and tedious. Unless you were born with amazing genes or into billions. But then, what’s the advice? Kill yourself and try to be born better? Live your life for the next thirty years and work on your body and wealth?

Drudgery doesn’t make ad revenue. Quick and easy and shareable does.

Tedium doesn’t help build someone’s personal platform, quick and easy and shareable does.

Memes, quotes, lists, hashtags. The soundbites are the same as the song. It’s easy for someone to plug you into their marketing machine.

This is all fine. But just make sure you’re actually responding to someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about.

And don’t feel bad about being a part of this insane online marketing conundrum. Just learn to drown out the noise. Raging against the machine is more effective if you’re in it. Why throw a wrench into the works when you can take apart the neural-net processor, the learning computer, and then go back to the past and save John Connor?

On a related note, despite hating marketing (hate what you do, that’s the number one key to success kids!), I’m happy to put my own spin on the marketing machine within my blog. I have a lot of things to market and sell. And, hell, I would like to be a billionaire as well.

* If, like me, you think anything ending with an ‘icle’ is related to testicles, just think of a listicle as an article in list form, e.g. Top Ten Reasons to Churn Butter.