Everything I Know About Social Media I Learned From Punk Rock

As a young guy I ran around with a funny crowd of characters. We loved fast music and valued personal freedom. As a general rule our t-shirts were black, our appearance was unkempt and our record collections were huge. It was an unruly clan that had no hierarchy and was devoted to fun, great music and the perpetuation of the ideology of punk. Our soundtrack wasn’t The Sex Pistols as much as it was Fugazi, Kid Dynamite, Against Me! and The Bouncing Souls. It wasn’t about nihilism as much as it was about creating an enclave of DIY ethics, authenticity and mutual support. Reflecting recently, I realized that the reason social media makes so much sense to me now was because I learned all the essential aspects of it ten years ago from the punk rock community.

In my punk days we did it all ourselves. We made our own t-shirts using spray paint, stencils and clothes picked up from dollar stores. We recorded our own records in the basements of our friends’ homes and burned copies of it to distribute at shows we organized in living rooms and VFWs. These days I’m using this same guerrilla style in the professional world.

This aesthetic works for social media because its quick and dirty. You can blast out fresh content to your audience using crude tools like Flip Minos, iPhones or laptops. You edit it yourself and put it up on the blog you manage. This is the very essence of “Do It Yourself” and the emphasis is on speed and having control of what you create. It’s about keeping it authentic.

Punk rock kids are not known for being forgiving. When a band would roll into town with a smoke machine, professional equipment and a tour manager we would snicker. This wasn’t punk! Too much production on an album? Not punk! Trying too hard to fit the mold? Still not punk!

The key was to be natural and be yourself. That came across in how the people we interacted with presented themselves and acted. It was clear who was out to become a rock star and those who really cared about the community. I’m sure you’ve come across sharks in the social media waters. The most successful folks in this industry are personable, real and knowledgeable. They stick to what they know and offer real value to their audience.

I can’t tell you the number of awful shows I’ve been to and the piles of CDs I own for bands that played less than 10 shows and knew less than five chords. Why did I bother to plunk down my cash for a seemingly worthless product? I supported these bands because they were my friends. We all supported each other.

In the social media realm there is intense competition for attention. Without someone plugging your blog on their podcast, retweeting what you post or blasting an email to their list about your webinar, you don’t stand much of a chance. I try and support the people in my sphere that I feel are excellent human beings and that provide expertise with regard to their core competency. Punk rock is about community and so is social media.

Social (Media) Distortion
Today I’m a lot more mellow and even wear a tie to work (sometimes). I’ve still got tour stories, silkscreened posters and the ideals of my old life underneath my professional veneer. It brings a smile to my face to inject a little punk into the social media campaigns I work on and to see the parallels that connect the two seemingly disparate worlds. Feel free to link up to me on Blip.FM or on Twitter to talk punk, social media or to request a photo of me with a mohawk!