GSME #20 :: Did it Again

social-media-asides
I have, for some time, lamented the lack of choice that Twitter presents for small businesses. It appears that someone in the company’s hierarchy not only agrees with me, but is working to allow more flexibility for promoting less ‘behemoth’ companies on Social media:

Right now, the invites are under Twitter’s control and are focused according to two very specific criteria: location and interests. Fortunately for me, the initial criteria does include something I’d jump at:

interests

Looking at locations right now, these are limited to a selection of US cities, where, presumably, Twitter use is highest. Therefore I could sign up, pay my $99 (or EU equivalent) and target a month’s worth of output to London, or Leeds… or indeed New York or Canberra, depending on where I’d like to aim my output. Ideally for me the interests option makes better financial sense than going for location initially, because although I know people like poetry in London, I’d be far better off considering a larger sample of potential readers than simply one city.

campaigns

To say this would be perfect for my niche interest/plan to use the Internet of Words as a marketing platform is something of an understatement. Right now you can’t just arrive unannounced however: it appears you need to be signed up for Twitter Ads to begin with, and as I’m not yet at that stage, it is all a bit academic. What this does push me to do however is, when I’m back to term time and the holidays are over, ensure I’m ready to go with content and associated blog posts. This means making sure I publish my Haiku and Micropoetry each week without fail, that links on the blog are kept current, and a continuous stream of content is available.

Once I can do that consistently? I reckon this closed beta will be done, and I can start throwing my money at Twitter.

GSME #20 :: New Shoes

social-media-asides

The more astute amongst you will have noticed that this site has changed appearance. It’s not a seismic shift by any means but… the header image is now different, there’s some stuff organised behind the scenes and (by the time you read this) there will be an archive area for all the Books of the Month we will be trailing and then writing about, plus poetry associated with each month. As we discussed last week, this is all wrapped around my acceptance that if I want to ‘sell’ a Patreon that revolves around the cerebral world of poems and non fiction, I need to be targetting this to people other than those currently following me.

flyingsquirrel.gif

In the revolving bird feeder that is Social media, I already know that keeping up with trends matters rather a lot. Unfortunately, making my content right now is taking up far more time than I’d like, which is leaving the brain less than optimal for self-promotion. Therefore, the plan is to try and improve the site little by little until the end of the Summer Holidays, and then when I’m on my own again in early September (and therefore able to dedicate a bit more time to the promotional side of things.)  Therefore during month I want to try and up the Patreon subscription count from existing followers before I start trying to hook them from other places. That leaves the rest of August to trying to optimise myself effectively.

#lifegoals It can be done ✅

A post shared by AltChat (@alternativechat) on

I think that will be eminently doable under current timescales.

GSME #19 :: Ready to Go

social-media-asides

I am finally preparing myself for the inevitable: producing a Tweet for the sole purpose of promoting. I’ve been doing some research and it is going to need not simply a straight verbatim reproduction of hashtags and the right combination of words. In fact, to get this message to not only be noticed but pay for itself, there are a positive plethora of guides available to insure I get the ‘point.’

safetweet
From https://smartbirdsocial.net/get-your-tweets-noticed/

It isn’t however just the Tweet that matters. If I’m going to do this and make the maximum amount of mileage from the process, EVERYTHING needs a redesign. That will require a new Twitter header, alteration of my biography… in fact, pretty much the entire picture needs a once over to maximise the impact of dropping cash. For someone who is really not that fussed at all about their own self image, I understand only too well how much the virtual one matters. It’s a continuous, constant reassessment of multiple platforms: what looks best, what is attractive to the majority (and not you) and how to use the right combination of image ad word to make your ‘brand’ stand out.

Like it or not, I am a Brand, which means it is time to learn to sell myself.

3c96e-riskreward

I love this graphic, and for many years the concept operated as a benchmark in my gaming existence: is the effort expended enough to balance my final outcome? Will I, once I decide on the budget for reach of my Tweet, pick the right ‘marketplace’ to shove it in? Well, that’s easy. I have a focus, know which accounts I’m looking to use as an indicator of what constitutes the right space to ‘sell’ in. After that, this is the biggest fumble in the dark I’ve ever made. You can just take the money and hope. It is like everything else in life: you don’t take the chance, you’ll never know.

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At least I’m finally getting the hang of the engagement game.

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It might be up and down like a fiddlers elbow, but the trend is positive. The days I don’t do polls, or I take time off to be elsewhere than Social media are now utterly apparent. Of course, there will be those reading this crying foul and accusing me of manipulation people for my own ends… ah yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I am so good at making random individuals bow to my will that yeah, just having these ideas should be enough to render me capable of millionaire status overnight. Except clearly I’m not rich, and people have to want to be part of your scheme. It is a fuck of a lot of extremely hard work and listening to people who know what they are doing. That’s how I’ve got here.

Hard work and good advice are really what matters at this stage, and I’m ready with both. You can watch the changes take place in the next few weeks and then, it’ll be time to start the self-promotion bandwagon on its way…

GSME #18 :: Wake Up

social-media-asides

This week’s cautionary tale has very little to do with reach and engagement, but instead is a warning. I’ve been considering ‘boosting’ some of my IoW Essays via Twitter’s own promotion feature, to see if there is any merit in extending my remit. That can’t be done until I have some actual content to promote, and as of tomorrow there will be three essays from which to choose. I’ve been waiting for this point to arrive, and whilst doing so I’ve been trying to find places where I could also hawk myself about without the need to shell out some cash. I’ve realised today that I should be very careful not simply with what I choose to promote, but also when that happens.

Someone needs to stop me posting anything unless I’m 100% awake.

its_a_trap_star_wars.gif

I’ve now made a complete fool of myself in several places over the last week, all by the simple expediency of posting before I was paying sufficient attention. That means, effectively, any communication with anyone before 9am BST is now off the cards. I need to have drunk at least one cup of tea, possibly several. Most importantly, if I wish to continue to communicate with those I do not know or who don’t follow me, I cannot say ANYTHING confrontational AT ALL. If I see summat I disagree or have an issue with?

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Social media might work best with brutal honesty, but sometimes it is better served with silence. Knowing when to say nothing at all is possibly the best life skill you ever learn. Whether it’s that bloke you know is trying to be genuine but just ends up sounding creepy, or the girl dealing with her breakup by making every tweet about how horrible her ex was… they don’t want to know the truth, your opinion, or indeed any point in between. What they need is the belief that the sanctity of Twitter allows them to shout into the void on this occasion and not get a reply. This is not the time for reminding them that they have 325 people who could all be listening, and getting mightily hacked off, or who disagree with their stance.

Most importantly of all: learn when to pick the battles, and understand that even with the best will and all the planning in the World, sometimes you’ll just screw it up regardless.

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Apart from shooting myself in the foot, it has been a pretty decent week, all told. Once I’ve done my first promotion, there’ll be stuff to report. Until then? I’m making sure I’m fully caffeinated at all times.

The results are already considerably better than when I wasn’t paying attention.

GSME #17 :: What’s my Name Again?

social-media-asides

Before we begin the regular weekly dissection of my engagement numbers, I feel duty bound to point out two things: you’ll see this post posted Tuesday, but the following tweets are dated Wednesday. That’s scheduling, folks, and why you should always check the HTML/headers of your webpages to ensure they’re not lying to you. The reason why I’m preceding all of this? Twitter have added some new, shiny filters to improve your browsing experience:

The first four have been with us a while, but the last two are new, and rather disturbing. Suddenly, you can stop listening to anybody else who might be bothering you, for whatever reason, just as long as they don’t follow you. It is obvious why this would appear attractive as a measure to stop trolling (as is the case with a new account) but just stop for a minute and think about the consequences. Click all of these options and BOOM you’ve created a virtual gated Community, where only you control what comes in and out. Now, initially that might sound great… but then stop and think about how much noise that will effectively remove. It doesn’t just filter out who you consider as the bad people, IT REMOVES EVERYBODY.

It won’t just be newcomers: you won’t be able to talk to a celebrity unless they unclick the option designed to protect them from pondscum like you. If an organisation wants to respond to your Tweet because their product sucks, you have to ensure you follow their feed for that to happen. However, this is nothing next to the horrible realisation that all you’ll ever hear are the people you choose to follow, on the assumption they then choose to follow you. Your gated utopia will be lovely though, right up to the point when someone fucks up royally, the whole thing falls apart, and you’re forced to put a Private lock on your account. In fact, the notion of privacy looks a bit lame now, because if you then refuse to listen to any dissent outside a carefully curated circle, you may as well just go back to Facebook.

The problem with filters, of course, is that there is no indicator at all if you’re being ignored or not. That’s why I’ll be blocking far more aggressively going forward, so that people can be very much aware I don’t listen to them for a reason. I’m not pretending to be supportive and open with one tweet, whilst filtering out all the grief I pick up as a result of the terrain on the side. Of course, nobody should have to suffer abuse and trolling, but if that really does bother you then lock your account and stop building an audience. Choose to walk this path right now and, like it or not, abuse is part of the package. I’m not saying that’s right, and it certainly isn’t fair, but just turning off all the noise is most definitely not your answer.


Now that rant’s over, let us look at how the push to increased engagement is going.

dramas

This is the first time I’ve hit above 3% since the Experiment began, and all it took was a Poll on the other side of MMO verbal abuse to do it:

pollu

There’s now no doubting that Polls are an easy, quick and free way of generating interest in your feed. Following this up with a blog discussing the results is also a decent way of making two days worth of content on the cheap, I won’t lie. I run a Tuesday poll to end Thursday, and then one to stretch from Friday to Monday.

volatile

Overall, everything’s a bit more volatile with the polls in place, and what is really needed is a good dose of consistency. That’s the plan for the next few weeks, and I’ll have a more in-depth look at what’s planned next week.

GSME #16 :: Fix You

social-media-asides

As it transpires, I’m still not done with Social media faffing, and as this landscape is becoming increasingly significant in my understanding of the Internet generally, Tuesday will now be the day I return to this subject matter when warranted. For starters, it appears that Twitter’s analytics finally got fixed, and my effort to regenerate all corners of the social media presence is bearing fruit:

june_totals

I made an important connection late last week, and with that on top of now using Twitter polls to generate engagement and discussion, I’m getting some really interesting feedback from my existing audience. By inviting new people to think more about WHY they play games, or act as they do on Social media, I hope that some of them may have a interest in the Internet of Words project, based on my ability to demonstrate logical thinking and a decent attitude in my ‘personal’ account. I should probably state for the record it is never my intention to exploit anybody except myself. I don’t invent drama to generate clicks, I’m not here to upset people and create controversy. More often than not, that happens without me needing to do anything at all.

upanddownjune

The plan this last week has been simple: get people talking. Using monetary means to drive interest has not worked, buying follows and retweets doesn’t make people read my stuff. That means the next logical step is to ask people what does make them want to engage, and the Twitter polls are proving incredibly fruitful in that regard. However, that means having a good question to begin with, and being prepared to discuss the results without applying a bias to the outcome. This I can do well, it is one of my strengths, and two years worth of objective reporting on Warcraft suddenly stands me in good stead to do so.

sellyourself

However, I’d be a big fat liar if I didn’t look at my monthly Contest tweets and know this is why I’m continuing to make progress. People love free shit and this remains the best money I spend each month. There’s no point trying to deny that this method does give results, but this then 100% relies on me keeping that audience. It is not like buying followers: every person is a living, breathing, unique entity that requires me to engage them. My biggest issue since after my operation has been to do that. Now I have some traction and ideas to throw into the mix? I can work on increasing my 149 engagements. That’s nothing by the way, a pinprick when stuck net to the average viral tweet. I’m not about to become a Global superstar any time soon, and thank fuck for that.

Where I am right now and how things are going is suiting me just fine.

GSME #15 :: Follow You, Follow Me

social-media-asides

Last week, I stated publicly I was going to try and increase the number of followers I have. Amazingly, this appears to be happening.

endofthemonth

If I said this had happened solely via the medium of offering free stuff, it would not be far off the truth, but I watch incoming followers quite closely. It wasn’t just the incentives, and the number of ‘trash’ accounts (robots picking up on hashtags and keywords) is, it must be said, at an all time low. This therefore gives me hope that building an audience may yet be possible, and if I could retain 10 new people a week going forward, that would certainly be a starting point. I’ve found a couple of ways to engage outside the obvious imagery, but starting this week I’ll be using that as a means by which to stimulate discussion. Undoubtedly, this is the way to poke your already present audience into interaction, and to encourage them to tell friends about you.

Of course, Twitter would love you to spend money to build that audience. In fact, it is rather hoping more people do this long term rather than using the platform as a free chat client, but that’s the downside of any Social media space built organically. When gaming companies build chat frameworks around IP and Apps in the hope you’ll use them even when you’re not playing games, well… it all boils down to the same, basic theory. Once you have a ‘platform’ is it enough just to exist within it, or should there always be expansion? In this case, do I want to remain an echo chamber of my own ideals or is it time to allow the opposite viewpoints in. I’d like to promote discussion, in any form, so that means that accepting dissent has to be a long term goal, as well as promoting people generally to turn up and take part. That’s why all this work is done in public, and not via Private Groups or password only Discord, because down that way, inevitably, exclusivity lies.

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Of course, if I followed everybody that followed me, I’d probably be in five figures right now and close to a nervous breakdown. I should remind the new people that Twitter serves as my long-term writing tool and therefore having too much crap to wade through daily is a disadvantage. That’s why Lists are going to become a thing going forward for certain topics, but why also I keep 900 followers as an extremely intentional line in the sand. Curation has become an indispensable tool in making sure I’m listening to receptive people, but still there are moments when people leave and I’m sad, even now. It is the very nature of this platform that you get attached to individuals way more than is true the other way. I think that’s just human nature and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

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However on the flip-side, this means other people end up obsessing about you far more than is healthy. I’m still seeing the fallout from the last particular incident of this even now, the slow drip away of people who followed me because of a certain person and now have decided I’ve changed without them around. I have, like it or not, and that evolution will continue as a constant theme going forward. Asking people for money has made me a sell-out, I promised I’d never go there, and once you break a promise like that…? yeah, I’m just like everybody else. It happens. Principles are great, right up to the moment you need to feed yourself or make a career late in life.

Sometimes, you have to accept you were the one who was misguided and just move on.

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.

preferences

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 #13 :: Boulevard of Broken Dreams

social-media-asides

I’m not going to lie today, I’m pretty hacked off. When you start something as an experiment, one does so with the understanding that the data you’re using is going to be constant and untainted. In the last few weeks, it has been impossible to accurately gauge anything from Twitter’s analytics. If I was being paid to do this for a living I’d feel angry and upset, and I doubt that paying for the service would give me that much extra recourse either. I understand enough about how the Internet works to grasp that this ‘software’ has to be upgraded on the fly: you can’t realistically shut down the Twitter servers for twelve hours a week for maintenance. That means if summat’s broken, it stays that way until you can find the means to realistically fix it ‘live.’

The irony is, of course, that on the other page I’ve quite obviously tweeted, quite a lot, and that’s gathered the interest of a few people:

realtimefuckups

Here’s the issue: according to the metrics, I didn’t tweet anything on June 1st yet garnered over 20k impressions. In fact, the first time Twitter acknowledges I did tweet anything is June 5th. What this has done is made my engagement rate not simply plummet but become a completely pointless statistic to gauge anything by:

tinfoilhat

If I was wearing my tinfoil hat, I’d say May 19th was when all this ‘trouble’ began. I’d also love to know whether the means by which Twitter reports engagement has subtly altered too, because this whole decrease for me now seems off, especially as I know I’m getting bigger engagements overall using threaded content (that is, if I go off on a rant I makes sure each tweet is posted as a reply to the ‘parent’ message.) Needless to say, I can see organic impressions doing nothing but raise as the Summer goes on, because I will be doing my absolute damnedest not only to sell the Intenet of Words, but to use Social media as effectively and ruthlessly as I possibly can.

dramatickangaroo

However, in the interests of balance, I have to make a few observations with relation to the amount of crap I now see in my feed… and, to be fair, it has dropped dramatically. By ‘crap’ I mean random followers who’ll pick up a high performance tweet and effectively flag it with a bot account. As was mentioned last week, hashtagging content used to result in a flurry of robot follows (presumably by websites who charge you to link up with like minded content to extend your reach.) With the demise of CoPromote at about the same time as all these changes came about? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Twitter might not just be taking steps to remove automated followers from its software. It could well be clamping down on those who use Twitter to make money for themselves.

With the potential value of the company long term, I really can’t say I blame them.

I look forward to seeing if a) anyone even bothers to respond now I’ve cc-d in Twitter’s Support account and b) on the amazingly slim chances they do, whether there’s any comment other than ‘we are aware of the issue and are working to resolve it for users as soon as possible.’ I understand how this works with gaming UI after many years of banging a head against the same wall.

I don’t really expect any change now.

GSME #12 :: Everybody’s Changing

social-media-asides

It’s been a few weeks away from the Experiment, what with operations and the like, but I’ve not forgotten the task in hand… except some rather important things have changed since the last time we looked at stats. They are nothing to do with me, and everything around how Twitter itself does business, and they have had a significant affect on the client’s reporting tools at a basic level.

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I knew this blog post on the 17th was coming well before it arrived. The standard infographic data stopped working for a few days beforehand. Tweets would not register any hits, the real-time reporting went tits up and some key figures were royally screwed.

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As you can see, I didn’t gain 3389 followers this month, but for some reason this is is how the details on my account have been ‘reset.’ You can work out when that was: that dip in followers corresponds in the 55% and 47% dip in profile visits and mentions. Something major happened mid month that (I suspect) may also have removed a lot of bot accounts and automated followers, as the number of random new people I used to get as a result of using hashtags in posts has effectively vanished overnight. The meat of the Twitter blog is however far more concerning: focussing on advertising data, syncing accounts across devices and effectively tailoring your ‘advertising’ experience if you don’t have the good sense to opt out.

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The reality of my engagements over the last couple of weeks is that, like it or not, I’ve just not been trying that hard. Mostly that’s been because of recovery from my operation: there was also a Tweet last week that acted as a salutatory reminder that reach is not everything. I made a comment on a message by Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) which he then subsequently retweeted. He justifiably commands a massive online audience, but getting them to interact?

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So I manage 38k views, and only 17k of those are self-generated. The rest are that one tweet, that garnered a less than 1% engagement rate. I can’t even be confident that these numbers are correct, considering that I didn’t do anything last week, according to my metrics. Until there’s confidence that what I’m seeing is in fact correct, it is probably an idea to not place too much store in what I’m presented.

It’s fine, there’s plenty to do in the meantime instead, including addressing a significant issue with a tool I was beginning to enjoy using:

CoPromote has been broken since April 29th, and the last active tweet from the company was on May 13th. If I were a betting woman I’d say that that interruption I saw happen pretty much put pay for good to this form of promotion, which made money that should really by rights should have been Twitter’s to begin with. It reminds me to go and see if my credit card was charged for May, and if it was to make sure that before June that amount is denied. I’m betting that we’ve seen the last of this Company, and that other such ventures will be quietly yet firmly shut down by Twitter going forward.

It means, starting in June, that there’ll need to be some serious consideration on how I use Social media for effective promotion.