Human directionals, or, sign spinners, can cause you to notice a new business or alert you to a change in an established business...when they aren't texting, talking on the phone, or using the advertising sign as a sun bonnet.

Sign spinners make me laugh.

I am assuming you have them in your neck of the woods, though I have to admit I’ve seen more sign spinners (or, as I’ve learned the industry terms it: “human directionals”) since we’ve moved to Florida than I ever noticed in the mid-west. I’m talking about the human billboards, the modern version of the old-time sandwich boards, who stand along the streets and spin, shake, twirl, and jiggle a sign to catch your attention.

It used to be (mostly) going out of business sales that I saw them, but here in Bradenton and Sarasota, I see them for gold and silver buyers, housing developments, car service shops and car washes, pizza and sandwich shops, gyms, and tax preparation services, complete with the spinner dressed as Uncle Sam or the Statue of Liberty.

They make me laugh for two reasons.

The first one is the same reason I laugh (or cringe, depending on my mood) when I see the same TV commercial over and over and over again. The sign spinners are supposed to catch our attention and drum up business, right? But if I’m not already in the market for selling my gold, is a sign spinner going to change my mind? If my car needs the oil changed, am I asking myself, “Where did I see that spinning sign the other day?” or am I comparing prices, quality, and service? And, despite having a desire to own a 3/3 condo overlooking Sarasota Bay or the Manatee River, you jiggling a sign at me that promises a condo for “half off the original $499,000” isn’t going to get me to come in.

The second reason the spinners make me laugh is when I see them texting, talking on the phone, or otherwise NOT spinning, moving, shaking, or even displaying the sign. The psychology behind “human directionals” is that we all become so immune to static advertising, that when we see moving advertising, it will at least catch our attention. When the sign spinner isn’t moving the sign, it just becomes another billboard. Even someone in the market for the service or product won’t notice an unmoving sign. Even worse, when I see a spinner holding the sign the wrong direction and texting instead of spinning, I am left with a bad taste in my mouth.

What does this have to do with writing?

Fair question.

The last few weeks I’ve sort of felt like a spinner who’s taken to texting instead of doing the job he was hired to do. I’ve started to blog “out of duty” on several occasions, and felt the content was flat and uninspired.

It is easy to “just do what we have to do” as writers (and “platform builders”) and forget that the WHY behind doing these things is really what is important. If I just blog so there is something new on my site, I am like the distracted sign spinner who knows she is supposed to stand by the road and hold the sign, but doesn’t quite understand the deeper reasons for the activity.

Dear reader, I attempt to update my blog three or four times each week, but there are times when that just doesn’t happen. I hope you understand, and are willing to stick with me. And, I promise to not be a texting sign spinner. I’ll publish content only when it is worthy of your time.

Thanks for reading, and Happy Writing!

Spinning Our Signs – The Right Way to Get Noticed
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  • I’ve only ever seen the sign spinners in CA, but I haven’t been to FL since about 1986 or so (and really, what 5 year old can see out the car – at least before booster seats?).

    I know that feeling too well. I’ve actually written posts that I felt were flat and left them as drafts. That way, I dont’ let myself off the hook, but I don’t publish stuff that I feel is garbage. Although, I did post one I was so-so on, and it was the most popular thing on my site to date. It got retweeted a couple times, reblogged, etc. So, take your state of mind with a grain of salt.

    • A grain of salt, yes, but also, just being okay with having some lulls in blogging if the content isn’t worthwhile…I think that’s all I mean.
      I wonder if the sign spinners are more prevalent in warm climates. Like fire ants? πŸ™‚

      • I would think they are. I doubt they can spin much in gloves. I’m not sure about the fire ants analogy though πŸ™‚

        • Really, though, 98.785% (scientifically measured) of all “sign spinners” don’t do much beyond the basics: “Hold this sign without dropping it or falling down.” I’m not convinced gloves would be an impediment for most of them.

          • Hmmm. Maybe it was a new thing last I saw it (that was, maybe 2004). I had heard that the youth got paid based on how many tricks they could do, but maybe that was just in that particular place. I haven’t seen anything like it since, but then, I haven’t seen sign spinners but at a few closings so it’s not much of a comparison.

            On the other hand, if they’re just holding it, gloves wouldn’t be an impediment, but then, why not just put out a sign stuck in the ground like one of those garage sale signs? It would probably be as effective and a whole lot cheaper.

  • Oh, and my favorite spinners are the ones who can do funky spins with them. πŸ™‚

    • Ah, yes, the COOL ones. Some of them really “get jiggy with it”. That’s how cool I am. I still say, “get jiggy with it.”
      The real question is: have you ever bought a product or service based on how funky the spinner spins his sign?

      • “funky” or “funkily” in my question?? “Funkily” I think. So edit it in your mind when you re-read it.

      • No, but I only lived in CA for 10 weeks – in a furnished apartment with a company car (it was a posh 10 weeks). I didn’t really buy much other than gas and groceries. I haven’t seen them elsewhere… except for store-closing events. I would have gone into one, in that case, if it weren’t for the sleeping toddler in the car who would have not appreciated the endeavor.

  • I’ve got to see some of these people..there are no sign spinners getting jiggy in rainy Winchester, England

    • Most of them aren’t much to see, but occasionally one runs across an animated one. There are videos on you tube, I believe if you search for them. Thanks for stopping by and reading. πŸ™‚

  • I’m with you: we need sane ways of ‘building a platform’ that don’t crowd the writing we mean to produce and then share.