GSME #14 :: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

social-media-asides

It is time to get my writing aspirations back on track, and that meant today some serious thought over why I’m here and what’s happening long term with blogging as a future. This morning, a simple objective was publicly set:

There is a plan for this, that will play out across the week. I make no lie that it will involve incentives. This is a harsh reality in which we live, and I am well aware that to promote any ‘brand’ means getting dirty, providing sweeteners to help highlight what you do. I watched this play out across a weekend of ‘vintage’ bicycle festival: you pay to ride, and countless companies throw free stuff at you in the hope that you’ll like it enough to take the plunge and become a long term consumer. Our rider bags for Eroica were stuffed with alcohol, cosmetics and other gubbins. Free beer was offered during the ride, and when you completed. All of this has a purpose: buy into the lifestyle. That’s what I’m doing here, and if I’m up front about that, there’ll be no confusion.

The problem is, right now, that I’m not really terribly happy how Twitter’s platforms are being altered in order to make the company more relevant. We’ve spoken at length about the issues with analytics (that is still going on) but today my web-based platform of choice altered for good. On the back of last week’s ‘cleaner’ redesign (which owes a lot to the Android version of the UI) a fundamental change came into play that it took a while to work out. However, thanks to one of my most trusted followers, the answer was incredibly simple, once it became apparent some fundamentals have altered in Tweetdeck’s filtering functions.

At 5pm this evening, random tweets started appearing in my timeline from people I did not know. More importantly, these were accounts I did not follow, but in many cases had direct relevance to stuff I’d been discussing in my own timeline. The ultimate indignity was when Teresa May appeared, out of the blue, ON HER OWN ACCOUNT (that I’m positive nobody on my timeline would ever retweet). A sneaky switch to Hootsuite to check it wasn’t just a glitch showed promoted tweets are now appearing in their timelines, where this was not the case before. More significantly, it then became apparent what the issue was: these were cleverly picked posts being presented as ‘retweets.’ The thing is, unless I can see who’s retweeting them, or unless they are quoted, there is no way I can associate them with anyone I know on my feed. Once I worked out these were what Tweetdeck considered as a ‘retweet’, the filtering is a no-brainer.

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One click of a button and the noise effectively vanished. It is now apparent that Twitter’s not mucking about with trying to promote new followers: by presenting ‘retweets’ that match the same content I’m talking about? There’s a better than average chance I’ll follow someone. The key here is, of course, these messages are anything but random. They were carefully targeted, just as that alcohol and other products were at the weekend. The problem with me, sadly, is that I won’t ever play that game if you don’t ask first. Just giving me everything and hoping I’ll click won’t work. In that regard, I will probably need to make sure I start using my own personally curated lists going forward so I can avoid all the noise. Today was a salutatory lesson in what a company will be prepared to do in order to make their product marketable.

Personally, I want nothing to do with it.

GSME #10 :: Back and Forth

social-media-asides

Ten weeks into our journey, and there’s a moment to stop and take stock of the last two and a bit months:

April was, like it or not, my quietest month for a while, which probably has a lot to do with me taking time off at weekends and being less involved with the gaming side of of my feed overall, as I prepare for the new project. I’ve also started quite aggressively blocking and ignoring people who simply join in the hope I’ll follow them back, simply for audience numbers. Despite this, I’ve seen an up-tick in new followers. All told, I’m pretty satisfied with where things stand, even though (as I discussed in the week) the CoPromote attempt to get the new venture some publicity pretty much was a waste of time and effort. However, things aren’t as woeful as they perhaps first appear.

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I effectively took the weekend off, and that’s demonstrated by the end of graph tail off. However the rest of the week was really rather robust: only Tuesday and Wednesday had anything to do with the CoPromote push, Friday was all my own work. In fact, these numbers give me hope that my forward planning could really start to show some results. Plus, having wanted to keep my engagement at 2% or above, today’s rate is already showing I don’t need an excessive number of tweets to do that, just to use the right content when I do.

The next couple of weeks will show a real split for focus: I’ll be setting up analytics for the IoW site once we hit early July, but until then I see no point in worrying over the details. There’s no intention to stop running or creating any of my other content either, but I will be amending posting days and content in the next two weeks. Basically, it will be all change yet with a focus on getting a better quality of response overall. I’ve decided that numbers really don’t matter nearly as much as getting a decent return on interaction and education.

I also still have some CoPromote reach to spend, and there are some new plans for that going forward.

GSME Special :: Baby I Don’t Care

social-media-asides

Normally I’d wait until Monday for an update on the GSME, but I feel that this needs to be written now, whilst the revelation is still fresh in my mind. I woke up to a mass of emails this morning, happily informing me that I’d almost exhausted the 500k’s worth of CoPromote shares I’d stored in three days. The results of that share, when you look at them, are pretty spectacular:

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50 plus retweets and 482 thousand people. WOW. That is indeed impressive, right up until the moment you translate that to my web stats:

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That post was read 100 times. 31 times on Monday, 37 on Tuesday and 33 on Wednesday. Not a single person signed up for web updates, and (possibly) one person joined my Twitter account. I stopped the boost this morning because, honestly, I think there’s no point.

CoPromote’s entire business revolves around the understanding that if you’re willing to share someone else’s work, there’s a benefit to yourself. The problem, of course, is that many individuals simply won’t care about anything except what they stand to gain from the equation. As long as you can be seen to be doing something that appears to benefit others, it doesn’t matter about whether you take an interest or not. Looking at the people who shared me, and I have a long list, many undoubtedly did so so just in order to add my reach to their totals. How do I know this? Because that’s exactly what I’ve needed to do myself, sharing content that is not appropriate to my feed just to keep the numbers ticking over.

The truth of ‘sharing is caring’ is, in this case, pretty much a lie.

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There’s a deeper truth here to be considered: I can see on my list people who shared my work with (it appears) nothing in common with me, except the fact I shared their posts previously. One assumes therefore their reasoning goes along the lines of ‘well if they did this for me and I do that back, maybe they’ll do so again.’ This is the moment that my husband would accuse me of being overly cynical and I’d look at that glass of water over there and know it is both half full and empty simultaneously. It would be lovely to give everybody the benefit of the doubt, right up to the point where you’re proved correct in your outlook. Assuming most people will be using this service for free, that means an awful lot of sharing to allow you to do the same. That means a feed full of stuff that could effectively be curated without you ever having to write a word. I can totally see the appeal of that for certain people, and then it stops being about one person hand curating their output and becomes something completely different.

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What you have then is a Twitter account full of other people’s work making your output look both relevant and vibrant, that nobody effectively reads. The problem with CoPromote for me, like it or not, is that it’s not a network that meshes with my interests long term. I could use it to float the occasional general interest piece, maybe with lots of pictures or a lighthearted subject matter but honestly, it is not what I need to sell my extremely niche interest project. Fortunately to discover this only cost $40, so there’s really no harm done. If I’d have gone full out with Twitter I would ironically have a far better chance of reaching the exact audience I want, because I can specify the particular type of user I’m trying to reach, but if I attempted to spend the same amount of money doing so? I’d undoubtedly have gotten about the same return, probably less. Effectively, if I want to sell the IoW, I’m going to have to do so for myself.

When I sit here and think about that conclusion, it isn’t a surprise at all.

GSME #9 :: Talk to Me

social-media-asides

This week, it must be said, has the potential to be a game-changer.

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My numbers are down overall for the week, which is due to one thing alone: I didn’t do the work. Instead there’s been a phenomenal amount of back end work, which will continue I fancy for the next four weeks, as I organise and put in place all the parts of the disparate puzzle that will become the Internet of Words. I’ve made the decision to have a separate Twitter account for that ‘brand’, away from what is being done here, because the subject matters are so very different: it is only where the two worlds meet here that the overlap will be noticeable. I’m looking at separate tools for that account’s potential growth, but for now we’ll focus on what happens here in the ext seven days. As you can see, I’ve quietly tipped into another multiple of 100 this morning. What I’m more interested in is the 6% increase in mentions, and the fact I’ve got some idea now of what is effectively doable in terms of long-term engagement.

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The plan therefore this week is to stay above 2% engagement and to try and work towards 3%. Next week I plan to make my own graph of how engagement has panned out in the last ten weeks, as that’s a reasonable time frame to show how effort relates to result. The way to keep that number high is to lay off the unscheduled ranting (which I’m getting progressively better at, it must be said) and focus on content people like: pictures, useful articles, insights on my life. I successfully scheduled from WordPress this morning, and have reactivated Hootsuite after an absence.

I’m paying for it, so I may as well use it, and it is proving already quite useful for showing up the holes in my social media ‘strategy.’ That means that this week’s maintenance task, like it or not, is to go redesign a bunch of effectively dilapidated Google+ pages to make sure that niche is covered come Patreon launch. I also have a Post-It note with ‘Pinterest’ on it for my art projects, plus the visual side of the project which is also going to be featured via Instagram and Flickr.

Needless to say, this morning my brain hurts.

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If I can get all this right, I’m hitting large areas of effectively undiscovered audience with a concerted effort. My CoPromote 500k reach is sitting freshly delivered for April too, and that means that tomorrow there’ll be a post here with some mission goals and a Call to Action, which I hope to repeat on the Facebook page. I’ll consider it a success that I get one person to be interested at present, especially when there’s effectively nothing to promote until June 1st. The key, of course, is to build interest in an engaging and attractive manner.

If I can get everything to mesh together effectively, who knows what I might be capable of achieving.

GSME #6 :: Fade To Grey

As is sometimes the case in Experiments, this week hasn’t exactly gone as I’d planned. However, before we begin, let’s look at the old Engagement scoreboard:

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There’s a few things to mention, most notable of which is that in the last seven days I didn’t use CoPromote at all and still the numbers are up. That will change this week, as I’ve almost built up 100k ‘credit’ to use on something worthwhile, but it is as much about writing a decent post to hook people in to reading long-term as it is just churning out rubbish, which seems to be how some people view Twitter to begin with. The plan going forward had been to boost myself using Twitter’s own range of ‘advertising’ tools and last night I cleared a block of space and time to do just this.

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The range of options is pretty decent: I can, it appears, pay money to get followers (recommended for accounts with an audience of under 1000, I’m told) plus be charged in any myriad number of ways. This was the first thing that put me off: what I could manage for the cash I have available was woeful at best. Obviously the more you pay, the better your chances of reaching people, though it would be unfair to say that’s the only way this works, because it isn’t. An awful lot of Twitter’s advertising however expects you to not only specifically identify and target an audience, but understand how that works to begin with, and I can see this putting off huge numbers of potential smaller users.

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The fact remains, that if paying a tenner A DAY for what might only be seven clicks is not, it must be said, the optimal use of my cash. In fact, if I’m honest, CoPromote’s reach function did more than that, and I pay $19.99 a MONTH. The only difference is what is promised in terms of Impressions, and I can make that happen myself via persistence and little grey cells. Maybe this is part of the reason why Twitter as a company fails to make money but continues to win in terms of being the most organic and accessible of mediums. Perhaps if they tweaked their selling model for smaller sellers, there might be an upswing in interest.

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It doesn’t take a genius to understand how the basic principles operate, but the work involved for me in identifying a niche audience (which is effectively what I am, like it or not) is not currently worth the return. If I were a Warcraft streamer, however, this could have some genuine merit, or indeed if I was trying to sell my product in a larger market. In that regard, and because I know a number of people have been waiting to see what I think of this, I’d say it may well be worth the effort if you have the cash to back it up. It will also help if your market is well known, and can be easily targetted using specific keywords. I have so many applicable keywords right now for what I do, and as I currently refuse to refine those terms? This is a service I can happily leave well alone.

In fact, you’ll probably get far more out of this completely free guide to optimising your account than is ever going to result from a small business using Twitter ads. As is also the case with Facebook, these companies seem to only be interested in those prepared to spend big in able to make their point, and that effectively prices me completely out of the marketplace. More importantly, I get to help out a friend by granting her post a few extra views, which I’d far rather do than chuck money at a huge company that doesn’t seem that interested in my business to begin with.

Sometimes, your answer means not taking the obvious route.

Introduction to Blogging

I am a noob. I’ve been writing now for 42 years, and there are still days I cannot string a coherent sentence together. Despite having an English degree, I am lost without a spell checker. However ‘good’ anyone tells you they are, we’re all noobs when it comes to words and bad days. You never stop learning how to write until you’re not writing any more… and no, I’m not going to get all maudlin on you before we’re out of the first paragraph. In the week, a very good friend of mine asked if I’d be willing to offer some advice on how I cope with three blogs on the go simultaneously, and it seems like a fairly decent shout, to be honest. There is a method to it, and I am more than capable of sharing that. Therefore, once a week on Fridays from now on (and no this doesn’t get me out of anything else, don’t worry) I will present for you How to Blog Gud, or at least what I’ve learnt having done this for nearly a decade.

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You don’t need to be fit to do this, but you will require a level of organisation that has to start with one question: what are you going to name your Blog? This might seem quite tenuous or indeed pointless when all you want to do is write, but trust me when I say to you that the name you pick has a great deal of relevance going forward. First of all, if you want to have a custom domain, a Twitter handle to advertise your efforts, or even a Facebook page with the Blog name writ large, you’re going to need to pick something that nobody else has. Ironically, naming will probably be the single most difficult part of this entire process, because it can become a reflection on what you finally evolve into as a writer. I’ve owned the laughing-geek.com domain since May 2004. I knew that was going to be my online identity well before I got around to making it into a functioning website: I’m not suggesting that level of organisation to begin with, but so you understand where I’m working from, La Geek Qui Rit matters as a ‘brand’ I can be identified with.

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Before next week, therefore, I’d like you to think about not just what you’d like to call yourself, but what you’re going to be writing about. As has previously been established, I run three blogs because, as things stand, there is a need to separate the distinct subject matters I write about. This is my Writing Place, and the Warcraft Blog… well that’s pretty self explanatory. It might therefore seem odd to have La Geek Qui Rit existing at all but as I discovered, it is useful as a place that runs alongside the two, that binds and effectively ties all three together. People like things to be distinct and separate when it comes to blogging, far more so than is accommodated on Social media, which thrives far more on the random and unpredictable. Some of my friends don’t even know the Warcraft blog exists, others have only ever seen my Writing… and the ‘personal’ blog is becoming slowly more popular than both. With these different places, I can grow and evolve as an author.

If blogging will be a serious or long term concern for you, then it will need to reflect the diversity of your interests, or the specific nature of your desires. You will need to decide what you want to do with it, and how long you think it will last. The name really does matter, more than perhaps anything else you’ll decide before we go forward, as will exactly what it is you want to write about. I strongly suggest that you spend an hour in a quiet moment with a favourite beverage of choice and think really hard about what it is you want to achieve, and list at least 10 ‘general’ subject areas you could cover on any given day. If all of those are gaming-related? You’re a gaming blogger. If you’re covering a far wider range of subjects? The you don’t want a name that just sells you playing.

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After that? Well, it’s about an hour’s work and you can be blogging almost immediately. All the hard work is in this first step, and if you’re reading this and are not sure how to proceed, I AM HERE TO HELP 😀 I’ve helped name countless Blogs over the years, and my names have in some cases long outlasted the friendships that encouraged people to write in the first place. If you are stuck for a name, I’ll be happy to brainstorm with you, just come find me @AlternativeChat on Twitter. I love helping people take this important first step, and it cements my commitment to help people start writing and communicating their ideas to a wider audience. Plus, any opportunity to get people writing is okay in my book.

Without further ado: what are you going to call yourself and why?

GSME #1 :: Learning to Fly

Last week, I started a journey to see how good (or otherwise) I could get at ‘doing’ Social media during my normal online life. To avoid an Oscar-style SNAFU I’ve already prepared my pictures beforehand on this one, so let’s see how I managed with my first objective from last week, could I sustain 20k engagements a day without really trying too hard?

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This number is totally doable as a starting point. I only scored 17k yesterday because I was hungover and didn’t really push anything particularly hard, but as you can see in the week it isn’t difficult to hit 40k for me when there’s summat going on that gets my feed all engaged to begin with. In Thursday’s case it was a bit of a Warcraft-related moment, and that taught me some important lessons on how the right combination of factors can really get your numbers soaring. However, to understand what makes the best combination of factors in engaging a reader… well, first you need to grasp exactly how these numbers are calculated.

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I’ve piced one of my most popular tweets this month to use as an example: The first bit (5832) in this case is simple enough:

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I know why its popular, I’m giving away free stuff. However, there is a world of difference between people just looking at your work and interacting with it, and that’s where the 385 comes in:

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That number is key: ideally you can have less impressions and more engagements and the tweet is more successful, at least in terms of delivering the right message to the correct people. That’s the percentage number, by the way:

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Oh and in case you don’t think that’s right, I even did the maths for you to prove the point:

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Shift your decimal point 2 spaces and BOOM there you go. This tweet may have had a squillion people look at it, but it fails in terms of making people sit up and listen (though for the record, 6% is massively good, see below.) To give you a better idea of exactly what has happened to any particular Tweet, Twitter also allows you to see the breakdowns, as follows:

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The truth is that out of nearly 6000 people seeing this one tweet I’ve managed 71 retweets, as of Sunday afternoon when I did this research. That’s neither simple or easy, it must be said. That’s also pretty insignificant when placed alongside accounts with six figure followers. Hey, nobody said this was going to be straightforward, and if your ‘dream’ of success is thousands of people favourite-ing your every word? Well, if truth be told you don’t need the numbers for success. What could be argued matters more is the ability to engage an audience, not have them simply go ‘yeah great’ and not read a word you wrote.

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Then we enter the realms of quantifying success. If you just want to sell yourself regardless, then all you want is clicks, right? Well, no, because as I said that 6% engagement rate means I’m targeting my stuff at pretty much an ideal audience. As an example, take a look at how Hootsuite got their engagement sorted once the analytical tools came out.

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Even going up into the tens of thousands of clicks, this only manages a 5.3% engagement rate. What this says (and makes me now sit and think) is that it isn’t just what you offer to an individual in terms of marketing that matters. Being self-effacing obviously has merit, and accepting that maybe it isn’t just about being the best or the cleverest either. Honesty sells, as does genuine emotion: humour, sadness and most importantly of all in the current climate, empathy. If you have enough balls to roast people I suspect that too will work well on engagement rates, but that takes bigger kahunas than I doubt I’d ever be able to get my hands on.

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It also proves that my love for the GIF has a lot to do with my current social media success, quite away from the giveaways. In fact I’ve garnered more people with my sense of humour and a well placed loop of imagery than has ever really come from the free stuff, and that’s an important lesson to learn going forward. This week’s homework therefore is looking at ways to raise my engagement rate without having to reach for the easy answer. There’s more than one way to sell yourself, after all, and knowing that I don’t need massive numbers just more interest?

That’s an interesting subject to ponder going forward.