The Ziggy Stardust Guide to Social Media Superstardom

The Ziggy Stardust Guide to Social Media Superstardom

Reader Comments (52)

  1. Even though I have not heard David Bowie much I enjoyed this article for its take away. Really insightful.

    I would add further to the Talent borrows, genius steals point. That start with imitating the masters. Copy them so well that it becomes second nature. Then go ahead improve the masters. One day someone else will copy you, and that day you become a master yourself.

  2. I could not help but smile as I read this Mark, “Talent Borrows and Genius Steals” quite controversial but very thought provoking indeed. Actually the wisest man who ever lived said that they is nothing new under the sun, I love the concept of stealing the core principles of the people I do admire, am actually doing it. Someone I admire wrote me and said the best writers are the best thieves, how truer can this get?

  3. What a creative case study, Mark. I don’t know David Bowie well but I am crazy in love with Elton John and have been for years. His stardom, his fame, and his ability to rise and keep rising and his brilliance with the piano and the music just keep mesmerizing me. One day, I hope to pick up his biography and get even closer to him, although I always see him as a unique exception, a product of an age that only happens to very few …. but when I read Celine Dion’s autobiography – another woman I adore – I learned SO much about her amazing self-discipline …. So, thank you for sharing a star’s journey to the top and relating it to our lives. Enjoyed this.

  4. I would add this about Bowie. When I started out in the recording world I was called a general assistant (or tea boy as they say in U.K.) at Right Track Recording in NYC. Many great artists were coming through the studio at this time (early Eighties) Some of the ones who were just getting their shot had a lot of attitude and treated the studio staff like the help. Bowie came through to have a listening party and came out to ask for a few extra chairs. He was the epitome of the English gentleman. I had just seen him do the Serious Moonlight tour at Madison Square Garden. Maybe he knew implicitly that you never know who someone you meet in a given role may become one day and that you may want to stay in good standing with them by treating them with respect. I took this with me through life.

    And to the creative process and borrowing or stealing from greatness, I think fim maker, James Jarmusch put it best:

    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery β€” celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: β€œIt’s not where you take things from β€” it’s where you take them to.”

    Great article!

  5. I’ve always found #1 to be true about writing. Yes, some people are born with an innate ability to write and to convey thoughts effectively through the written word, but for most of us, it’s something we can always endeavor to do better.

    I don’t know that much about Bowie, but I do appreciate the insight here. A lot of what you shared is very applicable to the process of building a following and fame online.

  6. “But authenticity isn’t about expressing a single β€œreal you” β€” as if such a thing existed. You’re much more interesting than that.”

    I think too many of us forget that. We try to be so “real” that it comes off as bland, or worse, as faked. You shouldn’t have to feel like you are trying to be you; you are and that’s enough.

  7. What an outstanding article! I am a huge Bowie fan and read much here that I did not know about. I completely love they way that you have looked at this exceptional man’s career and ideas and created lessons for your readers. Marvelous work! Thank you so much x

  8. As a music critic and visual artist who works in the Internet marketing world, I found this article quite exciting. Good points fer shure from the Leonardo Davinci of Rock….wait, that was probably Brian Eno. How’s about Bowie as the Michelangelo of Rock? Yes indeed, wam bam thank you ma’am. I really like Mr.McGuinness’s second point about creatives tapping into business and organization and vice versa – good stuff, man.

  9. I had no idea that David Bowie spent 10 years trying to crack it before he finally did. I far prefer the stories of persistence and perseverance to the ones of overnight fame and fortune.

    As a solo-preneur, I try to remind myself daily to roll up my sleeves, pound the pavement, churn out my best material, leverage my connections – and go through the steps that I know to be right and good and productive – to realize my dreams. It will happen….

  10. Mark – this was a great article! Very insightful and inspiring.

    But why, oh why, can’t I e-mail it? So frustrating to only have FB, Twitter and Google Plus as options. If I want to send it to my business account, or someone who isn’t on Facebook all of the time, I can’t.

      • No cutting and pasting! haha πŸ™‚ Thanks for looking into something quicker. I’m pretty happy with AddThis as a social sharing tool.

  11. This is amazing πŸ˜‰ I love how you connected being passionate about music & Mr David Bowie with creating the article about various tips and tricks… Instead of being bored from reading another ‘you-can-do-it-you’re-awesome-just-remember-to-blahblahblah’ I want to read more such articles! (Especially those connected with music πŸ˜‰ Great job!

  12. I fully agree with Bowie. Talents borrow and genius steals. The wonderful strategy “Use light ammunition first and then the cannon” yields to victory. I being beginner in the field will love to follow these guidelines.
    Haider Jafari

    I will appreciate if someone guide me to the websites looking for the copy bloggers.

  13. Mark,

    Very interesting read. Like many before me, I was not a Bowie fan. But I can respect him for his creativeness and gumption.

    As a blogger and aspiring online marketer I see all the points well laid out above except for #3. How do you brand yourself and/or you company a certain way to then change it all up over and over? Wouldn’t this confuse clients and readers?
    Or are you saying to take a portion of personality each time and gear it to different aspect of business or for different situations?
    Or am I really off?


    • Good question!

      Let’s stick with Bowie for a moment. It’s very telling that his fans were happy for him to switch between different characters and identities during the seventies, but a lot of them were disappointed when he stopped doing this and reverted to ‘David Bowie’ in a suit in the eighties. So you could say his brand was built on (ahem) ch-ch-changes.

      For an example of a company doing this – I’m on the editorial board of the magazine Magma Poetry, which has a different editor for every issue. So each issue has a different colour and cover, and showcases a different taste in poetry. But this ‘difference’ is a key part of Magma’s brand.

      An online example might be Benny Lewis of – every 3 months he learns a new language, which gives a different flavour to his online presence as he absorbs and writes about his current language and related country/culture.

      So that’s one way of doing it, where change is integral to the brand. Another way would be to refresh or redefine your identity as your company evolves. Copyblogger has just undergone a major overhaul of the site, which is the latest of several as the site evolved from Brian’s blog into the InterGalactic Empire – ahem, Copyblogger Media. πŸ˜‰

      Still another option is the one I think you’re suggesting – having several micro-brands under the umbrella of your overall brand. So to take Copyblogger Media again, there’s itself, plus Scribe, Premise, StudioPress, Third Tribe, Teaching Sells – each of which has its own identity and culture, but is also aligned with the overall Copyblogger ethos.

      Or to use personal example, in addition to my two business blogs, I have a poetry site with a completely different look and feel, and a completely different audience. It represents aspect of what I do, and by having it separate to my other sites, it means each one has a much more distinctive identity than if I tried to lump them all together or sacrifice one in favour of the other.

      Make sense?

  14. Just finished reading an article about Steve Jobs by Malcolm Gladwell at The New Yorker, talking exactly about the same concept of stealing and then tweaking to make it fit your idea and vision – much the same as described here about Bowie (and others). It’s a concept that makes sense, and I’ve certainly read often that all the great painting masters seriously copied to learn how others worked and to perfect their own style.

    I’m a huge David Bowie fan and understood quite a bit about his early struggles and career transformations – it’s all a key reason as to why he is so loved as a performer. You’ve noted a number of strong and clear points by using Bowie as an example regarding social media and networking strategies – something I’m in need of! Thanks for the post Mark.

    • Yes, originality is a relatively modern aspiration. Back in the Middle Ages, the idea was simply to do the best job possible – which, everyone knew, meant learning from the masters. Originality was a side-effect.

  15. Hi Mark,
    thanks so much for this post. I am working on my internet startup which revolves around living out an aspect of my personality. I have just adopted a portion of your post as my mantra, possibly even my mission statement (not to be published of course, for my eyes only).

    You wrote, “realized the artistic potential of authentic storytelling β€” focusing on one aspect of your personality (or company, or brand) that has particular appeal to your audience, and projecting it to them in vivid words, visuals and/or sounds.” which I have translated into: “I realize the artistic potential of authentic storytelling β€” I focus on one aspect of my personality (or company, or brand) that has particular appeal to my audience, and project it to them in vivid words, visuals and/or sounds.”

    I love changes and evolutions in personalities-I think that is why Madonna has such staying power. I am constantly reinventing myself. I love the idea that what I am going to be doing in my next venture will allow me to express all the different aspects of myself. As I evolve and express this evolution “in vivid words, visuals, and/or sounds”, possibilties become inevitabilities-they are no longer just dreams. Working from the point of view of storytelling makes complete sense to me-you have given me another missing piece to my puzzle.

    I too have learned the hard way in my history of entrepreneurship. I will not have to learn these lessons twice.

    Gratefully yours,


  16. I know David Bowie very well. Have loved him since the 70’s and still consider him one of the musical greats of this time or any, for that matter. I love how you were able to weave Bowie’s career and history into a case for how to market online. Nice bit of writing!

  17. Love Bowie and love this article! πŸ™‚

    I think there’s a certain nerdy subset of the “creative” personality type that tends to get obsessed with the need to be ORIGINAL.

    I’m one of them. Cookie-cutter formulas are the devil. Redundancy drives me nuts. I try my damnedest to avoid repeating myself, like ever. So much so, that during one songwriting phase, I wrote lyrics that had no chorus. If someone had pointed out that I still had a repeating musical section, I probably would’ve nixed it as well.

    Realizing how much this obsession had been holding me back, I had to learn that there are other ways to be creative where copying is actually encouraged. Whereas I’d always looked down on “crafters” who enjoyed following recipes and instructions, I discovered that I did really enjoy reverse engineering and copying audio equipment… and eventually gave into the joy of just photocopying the circuit boards and reprinting them for my own use. So much easier!

    But still, as I went along experimenting with different ways of expressing myself, I found it hard to escape the inner judgment of imaginary and real-life friends harshly criticizing me for “stealing” and trying to “rip off” other artists. Were my friends REALLY so judgmental? Well, in some cases, yes! But in most cases, it was just my imagination, fueling a constant anxiety that someone would notice that some little detail was actually a little trick I pulled from another artist I found on the internet… And how FURIOUS they would be!

    Effin’ nerds. Can’t go anywhere without running into a hundred of them and their snarky comments. Unless I turned off the internet, but why would I do that?

    Suppose I need to get me some therapy. Gonna go copy some sh!t and enjoy it this time.

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