We’ve all seen them, and if you haven’t, you’ve heard of them. They are usually on street corners, we give them our spare change, and they are usually covered in dirt and wearing funny clothes.
I am talking about Organ Grinders and their pet monkeys, of course (why, what did you think?).
The 1933 black and white cartoon The Organ Grinder is a 7-minute trip down a New York street with an organ grinder and his pet monkey. They play for people, collect tips and then hilarity ensues in a series of missteps and calamities.
It can be found on the DVD extras of the James Cagney film The Mayor of Hell, a part of the Warner Night at the Movies Series. The point is not to try and sell you that film (I’m not even an affiliate for Amazon.com), but to give you a good mental image of an organ grinder and his monkey apart from simply a picture…
Now what, you may ask, does this have to do with blogging? When the organ grinder first began performing in New York, how many people do you think stopped to listen to a man crank out the same off-tempo tune that may or may not have been in key?
Not very many.
But what happened when he added a monkey to the act?
Finally, he was getting people’s attention and they would listen to his music, now the task was to improve the music.
How Big is Your Monkey?
I’m not advocating the perpetual use of gimmicks to get people to read your stuff, although I’m sure it seems that way, but the first step to any blog is to attract attention (or to “get butts in the seats” if you prefer).
You HAVE to get people to look at you and then maybe they will listen to what you have to say. Content is still king when it comes to retention and conversion, but sometimes you need a good monkey to get eyeballs on you.
Everybody loves the “shiny new thing” and there is a danger to let your monkey wreak havoc on your operation, so don’t get carried away until your monkey is so big it’s a dancing bear (the mortality rate on organ grinders with bears was much higher than those with Capuchins).
I showed you my monkey with the title to this blog and I’m keeping a consistent theme throughout to draw you through the metaphor, but my content is always talking about improving your strategies.
Make sure your monkey is NOT your entire strategy.
Monkeys and typewriters may be able to write Shakespeare, but never put one in charge of your site.
Train Your Monkey
Make sure that he works for you and not the other way around.
When you see something out of the ordinary on your blog gaining its own momentum away from your goals and outcomes, it’s time to reel in the leash and re-evaluate the relationship/effectiveness of what you’re doing and how you’re using your monkey.
- What is working in your current blog and what needs improvement?
- How are you utilizing your different monkeys for your overall goals?
- Do you have too many monkeys to control?
- Do we need an outside set of eyes to look at how we are working that can maybe see where our mistakes are?
Monkey is not a Four-Letter Word
Don’t be afraid of implementing something that you know will draw attention to you if you have helpful content and/or a good service to provide. ”Gimmick” always comes with a negative connotation today and for good reason. By definition alone it is devious in nature while not adding any value to the writing.
What I’m talking about aren’t gimmicks, but monkeys to attract people to your music.
Take note: Your music still has to be worth listening to.
Not All Monkeys Are Capuchins
Not every attraction is the same for every person.
What works for one blogger’s audience might not work for yours, so if you see Chris Brogan or Danny Brown or, God forbid, Joey Strawn do something unique, don’t simply replicate it for your blog (also, it’s not unique anymore if you just copy it, but that’s another blog entirely).
How can you use your own monkey:
- Maybe you can throw in some comics or gifs to get your point across one day.
- Crowdsource a blog topic one week.
- Rent a giant wacky, arm-waving, inflatable tube man for the main page of your blog. (not really, that would fall into the purely gimmick category, just wanted to see if you were still paying attention)
- Apply song lyrics to something your audience goes through and then ask for people to sing it on a Google+ Hangout for a prize.
Find what works best for your audience and the goals of your blog and then go for it, whip it out and don’t be ashamed.
While monkeys are great and can bring a lot of attention to you and your music, always try to bring people’s attention to you and your content. Never be content to simply let people play with your monkey and never convert them to what you are doing.
Find ways to bring them in, sure, but don’t stop there; produce quality content and find ways to convince people to take up your torch and go along with you for the ride.
But it all starts with the monkey.