GSME #25: Robot Love

social-media-asides

If there’s one thing I hate more than Robot Twitter accounts, it is real people who pretend they’re not using follower tools when on Twitter. Once upon a time, it was really easy to spot the people who’d be using Crowdfire (or any of the numerous ‘grow your audience’ online apps) because as soon as you followed them, a DM would unceremoniously appear asking you to sub to their YouTube Channel. Not anymore. Individuals are getting smart, and they think their schemes will lure you into participation but really… it’s the same shit, just in a different package.

Last week I received what must be the smartest DM I’ve been sent for a while.

deception

This is really clever, because it uses a typo as ‘confirmation’ that the person sending the DM is clearly a) human and b) paying attention to me… except, of course, I wasn’t in this guy’s notifications. This was sent before I’d had a chance to post anything. The account I get sent to was for some shitty energy drink that also increases my intelligence (the irony was not lost on me) so of course I sent him a DM back to see if I’d get a reply back and (unsurprisingly) there’s not been a peep from him since this message. He’s blocked now.

DM’s are becoming a good benchmark for whether the large-follower new arrival is worth my time: how they’re written, whether the person is listening or not, or if they’ve spent any time even reading their Twitter feed. That’s why I also make a point of going to the person’s Tweets and Replies section on the official Twitter webpage to see if they interact a lot with people. The latest person to turn up was a lovely bloke who’s using music to help people with depression:

dm_stuff2

It’s all very legit, and he spends a fair bit of time talking to the people who buy his stuff but, I’ll be honest, it is not the kind of ‘relationship’ I’m looking for, however worthy the cause. I think that the DM message was what really turned me off, because I’d never send out random stuff like this to anyone who followed cold. I’d find ways to interact with them using the platform as it is intended to be used. What these ‘robot’ apps do is build numbers, but have no soul. For me, it matters far more to do the work, and sometimes pay the price for caring too much about the people who follow me.

skatersgonnaskate

How people do business is entirely up to them. I have said before that I feel that treating people like statistics will ultimately make everybody’s lives less fulfilling, and individuals using the platform like this simply reinforce that feeling. This is your weekly reminder that simply following everybody who follows you has pitfalls, and sometimes thinking before you click a button will have long term benefits to your health.

Everybody, after all, has their own particular reasons for wanting you to follow them.

GSME #23 :: Big Log

social-media-asides

So, I should have done this a long time ago, on reflection.

thismonth

This is the true measure of progress since Twitter reset its UI in the Summer. In four months, I have picked up one new follower. This is what happens when you systematically remove the elements that exist within Social media whose sole purpose is to self-promote a chosen few. Like everything else (SEO, marketing, brand identity) there are a very specific set of rules one needs to follow to become a success.

Those can be summed up in two statements. Either you:

Are genuinely successful and organically gain an audience with a genuine interest in your life, brand or product;

OR

You create a completely fictional representation of the exact same thing using robot followers and reciprocal follow-backs.

From a distance, most users will be hard pressed to distinguish the two.

everheard

It is the biggest and worst kept secret on the entire platform. If you pay enough money, you can be an overnight success, but if you never listen to anybody else or indeed contribute anything of note? What is the point of existing?

Then there’s the moments when the robots try and convince you they are human, and the humans think they’ve been clever when really, they’re dumber than rocks. However, in amongst the trash are some real treasures. Anna was one of them last week: she’s been trying to follow me for a while, and with 16k followers you’d think she might be worthwhile, but her Twitter’s a stream of quotes and pictures and little if no reality injected. Looking at her biography, she appears ‘real’ enough:

Student. Writer. Gamer. Slytherin. Bookaholic. Dork. Programmer in Training. Founder of [Account 1] and [Account 2] Part of the Response Team at [Online Employer]

[US LOCATION] · [Website here]

The two Twitter accounts she’s founded have no content, plus the company she works for is involved in curating automated content for Twitter. When I followed her, the first thing that was sent from her account was as follows:

awesomesauce

She almost had me, until I followed her from my Patreon Twitter and the exact same message was sent there, too. For a second I hoped that maybe I’d found someone who wasn’t playing the game, or simply here to show how easy it is to manipulate people into following but no, I was wrong. Anna was the straw that broke my social media ‘back.’ Fictional popularity is probably is the most insidious concept I can imagine, but has become a perfect metaphor for the current state of humanity.

The saddest thing of all is that Anna may well be real; going through her website there’s a response form, details of her education… and that she’s training in computer forensics. Ironically, right now, she’s reading 1984, which is particularly apposite with the level of doublethink operating here. If my investigations have awoken the real Anna’s interest, and she’s come here to read about what I have to say, I wish her luck in this future career, but I’ll keep you blocked. I have enough mindless crap on my feed without promoting any more.

The time has come to promote only reality in my journey.

GSME #22 :: Too Much

social-media-asides

Apologies, it’s been a few weeks, and I’ve not been giving Social media the attention it once had, at least in terms of numbers. There’s a couple of reasons for this, and it is probably not a bad idea at this point to break those issues down. After what was eight months of pretty much concerted effort to improve my presence by artificial means, it became apparent at the start of September that this is largely pointless. My market is so niche it has proved really tough to sell to, and I need more experience at understanding Twitter’s advertising setup before any more cash is dropped. What I’ve learnt from three days has provided significant pause for thought.

Let’s break down what I was able to conclude from my brief flirtation with Twitter Advertising.

1. Too Much Noise

resultsw

So, I spent £26.04 before I called a halt to my campaign, because it was abundantly apparent that nobody cared about my post. Of those 9,325 impressions, not one resulted in a website interaction. Of course, I am as much to blame as anyone else for not making my ‘campaign’ attractive, but honestly I shouldn’t be selling myself anyway, its the work that matters. There is just too much noise on this platform for someone like me to get heard without having someone famous expound my ability, or a major magazine or publication picking me up. As I won’t sell myself? I’m effectively screwed.

However, there was some peripheral interest in the contents of my feed and yes, I’ve picked up a few followers in the process. However, I’m more likely to just luck out organically over time, because my ‘product’ is not something that can be conventionally sold. If I changed that, there would be more luck. I’m just not sure I want to just to take advantage of what Twitter can do.

2. Talking to Real Users

removal

Last month I went to some length to remove people I believed weren’t actual human beings from my feed. I’ve since seen a virtual halt to follower increase, based (one assumes) on the fact I refuse to deal with the bots. Ironically a lot of the people I know are human are far more annoying than any of the robots, who often post quite useful filler material for my feed on dull days. It just goes to show that not everything is as black and white as people would like.

I’ve reconciled myself to having to find alternate means of advertising in the next three months and getting ready to start again effectively in 2018.  It is no big deal, and I’m prepared to rethink lots of things to improve my chances. What I don’t want, however, is to compromise what I’m becoming just as a means to create an audience who isn’t human. Sorry robots, it is nothing personal I assure you.

3. Creating Content over Advertising

begina

There was an important epiphany after my advertising ‘investment’ and that’s that being a company of one person means that sometimes, it doesn’t matter that you’re not being read by tens of thousands of people. Right now I’ll take a regular, dedicated audience who care and whose names I can remember. I’ll spend some time working hard to build up a following and not expect everything to happen tomorrow. After that? We’ll see where things stand.

What is most apparent in the nine months since I began this journey goes back to a basic understanding, that true success isn’t necessarily years of hard work. Sure, that helps, but often it is the sparks of unexpected brilliance along the way which allow this to change the entire course of your journey. I need to stop worrying about trying to control everything, and let some of the unexpected be just that, good or bad.


With this in mind, as of next week, the GSME will be undergoing something of a redefinition in terms of scope and objectives…

GSME #21 :: Secret

social-media-asides

Today’s story is about how a portion of the Internet really is a secret society, run by a select few individuals who know the rules for success. If you choose to enter their world, you might become ‘rich’ beyond your wildest dreams.

The problem is, that success grants no guarantee that you’ll survive outside Cyberspace.

It begins with a guy I ended up blocking on Social media several years ago because he was just too honest for his own good. The time he took great joy in telling me how much of an idiot I was (he was right), it was time to walk away for good. It was a shame because I got on well with the woman who’s now married to him, and I miss her warmth. In the end, however, his toxicity was too much. It was this man who told me that if I truly wanted success online, my URL needed to be #1 in Google’s search rankings.

If it were not for him, I’d have never jumped down this rabbit hole to begin with.

seo-services.png

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is the holy grail of successful online marketing. It relies on what used to be known as ‘spiders’ but which are more commonly referred to as search algorithms, which effectively act as the arbiters of all online information. Search Engines produce increasingly relevant results when you’re looking for an answer to your question, based on what it gleans from your webpages. To make sure you have the absolute best chance of being noticed and ranked above everybody else, all your back end code can be tweaked to ensure it is as attractive and engaging as possible to the algorithmic harvesters. WordPress offer this service now as standard if I chose to upgrade my blogs to a business plan. It is pretty much accepted business practice that if you want to even start being successful online from scratch, you’ll need a robust SEO plan.

This does not simply extend to the web: social media now operates under the same rules. The hashtag, which celebrated it’s 10th ‘Birthday’ as a tagging device is now being used alongside other metrics and indicators to allow smart programmers a way to offer the potential of instant overnight success to anyone, assuming of course they’re prepared to pay from the privilege. You know those annoying auto Direct Messages that people sometimes send when you follow them on Twitter? This is the next step up: employ increasingly sophisticated algorithms to precisely target your exact audience, use the bots to follow them, and then wait to see if they interact.

followback
If the searching were done by real people, there’d be no worries about unemployment, but this isn’t the case. The future is less and less about people talking to each other organically and more around what robots THINK we should talk about, or what is needed based on the mechanical analysis and breakdown of billions of conversations each day. I’m about to start a Twitter ad campaign for the Internet of Words tomorrow, and am all too aware that my search terms need to be spot on in order to allow their algorithms to find the right audience. I’m spending £100 on my ad campaign: for the same amount I could use software from the company above and simply follow everyone I think might be interested before selling at them.

Except I’d argue that’s not how true success is generated.

The problem right now is that people follow me because I hashtag, based on nothing but the desire to exploit their niche. They completely miss the point of how Social media works best, and that automated traffic effectively strangles the strength of the network itself. None of these companies, none of the SEO experts or Social media gurus talk to each other at all, they just retweet each other or content they think will be popular, in the hope that people will fuel their continuing development. Actual conversation is pointless, because you can’t schedule it. Talking smack about your mates is worthless, when it wastes good bandwidth and makes you look like a real person. Nobody wants that on Twitter. You’re here to sell stuff, not have relationships.

I’ve started asking people who I suspect are playing the Algorithm Game why they’re following me, to see if those ‘using’ these systems will be honest or not. Amazingly, there’s a lot of honesty from the people behind the facades: some admit the platform being used, others try and hook me into their schemes by targetting content directly at me. So far, in what must be several hundred accounts of this type, only one person’s done a decent job of selling at me, and she remains as my sole reciprocal follow. We’ve not exchanged a social word since she followed me, but her advice has been more helpful and gratefully received than anyone else’s in that time.

millions

Many of these people don’t like being asked what they’re doing when you challenge them for filling the Internet with what is often crap. Until Twitter cracks down on the automated component of the interface, and removes those who are effectively gambling and exploiting the genuine population of the platform? You need to be vigilant, and look at any follow that doesn’t appear as if a decent conversation is going to occur from your follow. The biggest issue, of course, is that most people think the only way you’re a true success on Social media is with a bazillion followers.

Until that bubble is comprehensively burst, this story never gets a happy ending.

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.

its_a_trap_star_wars

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?

walkaway

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.

verystrange.gif

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.