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 #8 :: Your Cheating Heart

Last week, if you were paying attention, was fairly significant for this site. That means that after today things won’t look the same, but this Guide will remain plugging away at improving the reach and interest in what is about to become a fully fledged ‘brand.’ In fact, if all goes to plan, I will be updating WordPress on this account to a Business Plan. That means that SEO is going to become rather an important part of what goes on around this parish in the months that follow, but for now I’ll simply mention it in passing. For now, we have Twitter analytics to look at and some more foundation work for the months that follow.

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The peak on the Engagements graph last week was my resignation as @MMOGames’ Warcraft columnist (in anticipation of the Patreon in June) and because of illness, the effort to engage has, I’ll admit, not been as full on as in previous weeks. However, I’m definitely feeling more awake, aware and willing to go this morning: I managed to CoPromote enough posts to get me to 44k Reach, but I’ll wait for my purchased 500k’s worth to hit the account before I use it on summat worthwhile. However, my 28 day stats are looking distinctly encouraging:

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What is happening is the constant drip of what I know are genuine followers and not either a) robots or b) people with their own promotion to highlight. It helped at the weekend that a post I wrote on the Warcraft site appears to have been ‘shared’ somewhere that’s not on my radar. This normally means Reddit but as my WordPress analytics simply list the hits as from ‘search engines’ it is just as likely someone used me to mask traffic for summat nefarious. However, the number of relevant follows that could be as a result means I’ll take whatever, without complaint.

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As you can see, my Warcraft site generates only a handful of hits on any given day. Ironically, the post in question is a less than glowing review of current content, and isn’t something I intend to repeat on a regular basis. However, it gives me an interesting blip on the stats to write about, so you take your anomalies wherever you can find them.

I also considered this week promoting a post using Twitter’s own boost feature. However, when I tried to work out roughly how much this would cost, I could find nowhere where pricing was listed, except from 2012. A quick look at Twitter’s knowledge base revealed why:

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If I have to hand in my credit card details before I am even charged for the service, I’m really not interested. I appreciate this may be standard practice for other services, but as I’m not a massive company but a single person with the most limited of budgets? Nope. Yet again, Twitter are a complete waste of time and CoPromote continues to look like the best move I could possibly have made in order to extend my reach into a completely new and unknown audience. It is odd how these things work out: I’d thought the service would be a complete waste of time, but for what I’m paying (set amount, easily budgetable for) it knocks spots off the ‘professional’ alternative.

Sometimes, the biggest provider is not necessarily the best choice.

GSME #7 :: The Old Songs

Last week, as those of you who follow my other blogs will know, was not exactly me on top mental and physical form. As a result, you would imagine that my experiment might suffer. Instead, I’m beginning to see some genuine return from the good foundations being laid.

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The bars may be down, but in reality engagements are up, coming close to 25k a day. Slowly but surely that rate is staying above a certain threshold too. It is a combination of curation, sharing and an increased use of the visual via artist sharing and Instagram that has helped, but also understanding that if you pitch the right things at the correct audience, amazing things will happen.

The bald guy top left in the picture set here is my mate, and he opened the shop named after his hobby at the weekend. His son is in my daughter’s year at school, and we had many conversations on the School playground before Secondary education sent our children their separate ways. I know he’s given up his old job to make Retro Gaming his full-time profession, and as a result deserves as much help as I can give him, so on Saturday I took some pictures on the phone and sent this out onto the Internet, making sure it hit a few of the right people along the way. This is now my third best performing tweet of the last 28 days, and is living proof that a) pictures sell posts and b) they gain more views if you ensure the right people see them.

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I screenied this last night, yet this morning people are still picking this up and bouncing it around the Retro Gaming community. I get nothing at all out of this either, which is the bigger point to make: I have only a passing interest in Retro but I’m more concerned in getting @TheRetroHunter the exposure I can offer, being at the intersection of where past and present overlap. As of time of writing, this has topped 6k views and at a point on Sunday was exceeding an almost mythical 20% engagement. Having one in five of your audience being interest is truly the stuff of legends, people. If you know the right people to talk to and the correct places to target? Twitter really is an incredible tool for advertising.

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The key here, of course, is that nobody paid for anything. It is proof, if it were needed, that the best advertising is word of mouth and altruism. Having said that, paying for the right things also does have benefit. Behold my boost on CoPromote from last week, which I managed to generate without any purchased ‘reach’:

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Up for 3 days, it bounced around for a while and got me 130k views but, yet again, the physical return for my effort appears to have been negligible in actual interest. This week, therefore, it is time to look at what content I can provide that will retain more of an audience, including a greater use of Twitter Cards in my ‘advertising’. This is one part of the free advertising toolbox I’m criminally underusing, and as a result we’ll be all over the process until I see you again. For now, if you like a retro game and wanna help my mate out, go visit his Facebook page 😀

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.

GSME #5 :: Big Time

This last week’s been quite the revelation for Social Media use, especially when it comes to the notion of popularity. When I show you the bar graph, it should be noted that I’m actually down on impressions for the larger period. However, what I got from the last seven days is very significant indeed:

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I told you that I’d dropped some cash to use CoPromote, which is a sharing platform to allow content creators to reach a larger audience. It was developed initially to allow musicians to increase their reach on various platforms, which includes Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr. My main interest however is Twitter, and I boosted two posts in the last seven days. The results in terms of increasing reach were, it must be said, pretty extraordinary:

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This was the first boost, which I ended yesterday, and as you can see, the stats are pretty impressive. However, you really need to see Twitter’s own figures to put those massive percentages in a proper context:

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CoPromote tells me I reached over half a million viewers, yet the tweet itself only garnered a shade over 6 thousand impressions. Of those, a palty TWO were media engagement. This means, effectively, half a million people utterly ignored this blog post. I know that’s a fact too: I can show you the WordPress stats for last week that effectively prove that point:

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Last week, with TWO active boosts, I almost hit 100 views on Friday, with almost being the operative word. The only reason that happened was because I had two active boosts at that time: here’s the second, with its Twitter stats alongside for comparison:

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In effect, $19.99 has done nothing for my aspirations of reaching a wider audience that reads my work. What that money gives me, however, is the ABILITY to reach half a million people a month in the hope that I can convince them with one, possibly two tweets, that I’m worthwhile engaging with. What I buy with that subscription, I now grasp, is not an instant audience, merely the possibility of one. To make the most of this new-found ability isn’t just a case of firing the same shit out over and over again. I read reviews of this service saying it has no usefulness because you can’t get people to pay attention, but I know that’s not the case. You can make an impact, but only with the right content.

This effectively gives me a month to plan ahead until my $19.99 restocks the Karma bank. To explain what that means, we need to look at how CoPromote works:

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When you first join, a reach score is calculated for the number of Twitter followers you possess, plus any other social network sites you choose to connect (in this case I’m just using my Facebook page to begin with.) Then, my Subscription allows a 500,000 Reach to be automatically applied to the account as a starting point. Every time I share someone else’s post? I get Reach added (green numbers above) and every time someone else shares my post, their Reach on Twitter is deducted from my overall total, hence the Karma aspect. You can, of course, do this for free, but you need to share a PHENOMENAL number of posts in order to build enough reach to justify the action.

The system of filtering and picking posts is not great, but perfectly acceptable: the problem, at least for me is finding content that is relevant to my interests. More importantly still, to make this worthwhile I would have to fill both Facebook and Twitter pretty much daily with content I know full well my current readership would have absolutely no interest in. CoPromote seems to assume that the reason why you use their system isn’t to engage, but simply to advertise, and that’s not why I do social media to begin with. Sadly, this is the mindset of too many people, including Twitter themselves, who are more interested in making money from the platform than promoting the altruistic benefits.

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I’m yet to be convinced this isn’t worth my time however, and so we will continue the slow drip of building Karma again until I have something worthwhile to highlight. My next 500k ‘boost’ will be on April 20th and by then I will have not only have had the chance to refine the searching process and build up a group of other Promoters with interests that better mesh with mine, but to present content that will engage more readers and invite them to read my content, not simply scroll on by. A good workman never blames her tools, after all: it is how you use the things you are given in the best way to produce the most effective results.

This week, as a comparison to this process, I intend to boost the same blog post using both Facebook and Twitter’s own advertising tools. I think I’m more nervous about this than I have been about anything done for a while, but unless you take risks, you’ll never know the benefits.

The only way to find out is to try.

GSME #4 :: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

This experiment is now a month old, and if you measure success by growth… well, we’re still getting there.

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What ought to be mentioned at this point is that I’m spending less time on Twitter than I have at any point in probably the last year, especially at weekends. I’m conscious of filling feeds with pointless ranting (which did happen a lot before, it must be said) and as I’ve focussed on quality over quantity, the numbers have dropped. However, undoubtedly this was one of my best weeks of social media for quite some time, because I have learnt all about how devoted my current audience remains, and that there is a willingness to support me as I move my personal endeavours forward. Here, if I needed it, is the assertion that numbers are not what matters in your social media feed, but commitment.

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The biggest single reason why people press unfollow for me is posting frequency: it is a delicate balancing act to maintain, after all. How much is too much promotion? Of course you want to engage with an audience but there can easily come a point where they get sick of the sound of you, if yours is the only content they’ll see: this is especially true of those who actively curate and don’t necessarily engage actively, but will take an interest if a subject matter stimulates sufficiently. Blogging gives a chance for people to read at their speed and in their own time: tweeting is pretty much about immediacy and quick impact. Getting the two medium to mesh is not impossible, however, as I have discovered this week to my surprise and pleasure.

This was the week I discovered that a graphic can do more for my front facing interests than any number of ranty Tweets will alone. What I should have done here, and will do going forward, is add the Warcraft site’s URL to the Tweet for maximum exposure. I’ll be looking at this as a means to build an audience going forward, but there are other ways to increase exposure. I’ve taken a rather unprecedented step and, for a month I’ll be paying $19.99 to see if I can use somebody else’s software to increase my audience. In the interests of full transparency it makes sense to do this because, as a writer, my subject matter only gets a small showing across the current base of readership I have. If this helps in any way stick me outside of the niche I currently inhabit? Then it is worth the effort. I could have stuck with a free account, but I am reliably informed that now I have a 500,ooo ‘reach’ for my work. It’s all part of the Experiment, after all, so we’ll see how this works going forward.

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That means I’ll be shifting the personal blog posts off for promotion, plus the weekly Blog Guides, and seeing where that gets me. If there’s any improvement (or otherwise) in my reach, it should show in the next week’s figures.

I look forward to seeing if paying for aggregation is worth my while as a niche content producer.