Sometimes, lessons can come from the most unexpected of places. When you think about Judd Apatow, you may think about Freaks ‘n Geeks. Maybe you think about Anchorman or Knocked Up or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Whatever you think about, you probably do not think of particularly sage advice. However, if you look at how Apatow’s career has developed over the last decade or so, there actually is a lot you can learn about how to evolve your engagement strategy online over months and years.
Here is what I think Judd Apatow would say to you were you to ask him (in the highly likely event) how you should build your engagement online.
Know your audience (aka “You can’t be everything to everybody”): If you look at the movies that Judd Apatow has created over the last several years, you can tell that there is a definite audience there. His movies have been called “guy flicks” at times because they really tend to be geared towards geaky, goofy guys. Not everyone finds these films amusing. A lot of them, like Step Brothers, are pretty darned dumb, if you want to know the truth about it. If your humor isn’t aligned with those movies, you’re probably going to hate them. And you know what? Judd Apatow is okay with that.
A lot of times, it feels like you can reach out and engage in a meaningful way with everyone who floats by in your Twitter stream. The temptation is certainly there to try to reach out to everyone, to try to write posts that everyone and anyone will love, and to tweet in ways that will get every single person enamored with you. It doesn’t happen. It’s impossible. Maybe your tonality is off-putting to someone. Maybe someone will judge you because of your avatar. Maybe someone else thinks you’re too smart. That person over there thinks you’re not smart enough. All of that is okay.
Find your audience. Find your community. Learn all you can about them. And let that be enough.
Change your message now and then: Apatow definitely has a genre. One might even argue that he created his own genre. However, his movies are not all the same. Walk Hard is a satire. Anchorman sort of deals with the issue of sexism while Forgetting Sarah Marshall portrays a woman who is totally thoughtless in comparison with the main male character. There’s really not a message behind Step Brothers, whereas 40 Year Old Virgin has a really pretty lovely and grown-up message.
How can you keep people guessing? You don’t want to flip-flop on everything you say, but you also don’t want every post and every status update to be the same thing, repackaged over and over again. That’s a great way to lose the community you have.
How can you stay on point without getting into a rut?
Don’t be afraid to use what you’ve learned and keep on learning: Apatow has said that Knocked Up kind of represented for him a point where his general boyish characters grew up a little bit. Instead of being kids, they had kids or were looking at a future where being a parent was imminent. This was a major evolution, a major maturity increase, for Apatow and his genre. He embraced that change and said, “Yep, we’re ready for this now.”
Part of engaging is being willing to say, “I know more than I knew yesterday but not as much as I’ll know tomorrow.” You need to be willing to learn from people in your community. You can’t just adopt a soap box and talk down to everyone once you think you understand everything. You need to leave room for learning new things. I learned, for example, that WordPress is a lot easier to use for Social Media sharing than Blogspot. I learned that the original Twitter handle I had was kind of dumb. People in my community taught me those things, and I am not in the least bit ashamed to tell you that. I’m still learning things every day from people in my online world. Hopefully I am returning the favor on occasion.
How can you evolve in your Social Media work? What can you learn from other people? Are those doors wide open?
Learn. Be comfortably unpredictable. Evolve and grow.
Those three things have worked well for Judd Apatow. Can they work for you? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
This is post 12 in The Engagement Series. If this is your first visit here, please feel free to explore the other posts in the series to see what we’ve been talking about!