Why

To kick-start my Internet Month, it seemed like a good idea to start asking questions of the place in which we all live. I’ll be honest, it has begun better than could possibly have been expected.

Reading my feed today, someone made the comment that generalising about the bad in people seems to have become a fairly predictable means of guaranteeing retweets and follows, and I think he’s spot on. Outrage generally appears to be the order of the day for some, and responding to that fallout a predictable (and often just as pointless) upshot for many others. After one person’s made the point for you, there is no need to keep recycling moral indignation, yet that is exactly what happens. Looking for an antidote to this, I’ve decided for the next month to let the impetus out of my hands, trusting those around me to interact.

Then we see how many of that number are willing to have a discussion.

This message (and follow) today was as good a validation of the process that I could possibly have wished for. Sometimes, it isn’t simply about spewing random facts or ideas into the ether in the vain hope someone will be interested. What matters more is to find out what it is that motivates people away from the reasons they use Twitter in the first place, and to remind others that it is just as important to take part as to stand on the sidelines and watch.

Now all that has to happen is for me to provide the questions which will stimulate healthy debate and not start fights …

Oh, Joy

As a writer, there are days when knowing what to write is a tough ask. I can remember weeks when I was paid to produce words about one subject where finding an angle to cover was nigh-on impossible, and there’d be lots of frustrated staring at a blank screen, hoping inspiration would be forthcoming. Then there are the days when, like today, I wake up to find some random hooligan’s dropped into my Social media mentions with an inflammatory comment, clearly hoping to start a fight. Part of you dearly just wants to respond and to hell with it, when the sensible course of action is to ignore and block.

I reported him as spam too, for the record, because twats like that deserve all they get.

Giving everybody a voice will, inevitably, have its shortcomings. The people you’d like to speak won’t (because sensibly they understand the consequences when they do) and those who are unable to cope with the pressure of expectation inevitably fail to cope and implode. There’s also a thousand points in between: the wannabee Internet celebrities, the Experts, people writing books (or selling them) and then there’s the advertisers desperately trying to jump on everybody’s coat-tails.

Making sense of the Social media quagmire used to be a problem, but that’s really no longer the biggest challenge. Reality, such as it is, now accommodates shortcomings in the platforms: no edit function on Twitter means that stupid remains, often with a prophetic ability to return from the past to taunt the present (see American Presidents) The nerdier of my Nethead buddies will tell you that if you do fuck up, the Internet never forgets, which is often enough of a threat to prevent someone like me from even starting the post I’d like to write.

Today, for instance, is a case in point.

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When I look back on the moments which have defined my journey online, 99% of the issues stemmed from other people’s drama. If you take a breath, consider the consequences and then don’t say what you think so many of the issues would just go away. I’m getting better at not vague tweeting, and my subtweet GIF’s are beginning to gather dust. More importantly, when I look at all the people who have been removed from my online experience in the last year, none of them is missed at all.

It’s great these people are popular and liked by others. I get how important they are in the Community, or the community or even the community. You don’t have to like everybody. Yes, you can respect them, and understand them, plus you can occasionally be a wee bit jealous. All these emotions are perfectly acceptable, and very human. The fact remains, if you are friends with everybody, I’m going to look for a catch. Genuinely good and decent people can be so without everybody being their besties.

Adults get how Social media is only a version of reality.

As I become more comfortable with my own voice on contentious subjects, there are undoubtedly casualties. I’m not interested in NSFW sexualisation of computer game characters, or women who decide to use their bodies as means to forward their careers. Neither of these preferences has changed over decades, it is just that with Social media shoving stuff in my face 24/7 I need to impose my preferences on it, and not the other way around. It all comes back to curation: if you don’t like what you’re given, it is your job to alter that, not other people’s.

Spending more time making online life more bearable is an effort worth making.

The Fix

Yesterday, after someone popped up on my  Twitter feed that I had blocked, I went on a bit of an impromptu exploration of my account. What I found made me stop and think about how Twitter has changed in the last few years, and that those of use using the platform for promotion purposes need to look quite closely at what it is we say and do.

The first major takeaway from this exercise was that, based on my profile and activity, the web-based version of the platform decided I was male. This is not on reflection as much of a surprise as it was yesterday and explains why so much of the advertising that drove me off using the Mac OS version of Twitter was targetted in the way it was. I’d never go back to using the web-based interface either because of the adverts, and it remains the #1 reason why I can’t ever take Twitter seriously (as is the case with Facebook.)

On further inspection, there’s a list of ‘interests’ generated on the web API which (presumably) are used to tailor the advertising I don’t look at.

The eight items that remain hidden (and unclickable) are something of an issue, but not nearly as much as the fact that there are things I’m associated with that I don’t understand:

kaurie2

Okay I get the majority of these (and woman’s pants/trousers are clearly an item of interest) but WTF is kaurie2 and WHY do I have THREE mentions of it? One assumes it’s a mistake or a programmers oversight… but, REALLY?

wtfit

There is also the means by which you can ask Twitter exactly how it uses data in order to tailor content to you. In my case that is a 13 page .PDF file which includes all the commercial Twitter accounts the company feels I would have an interest in. Twitter ‘creates these audiences based on similarities between (your) account and the accounts included in tailored audiences’ and even by opting out of all the specific tools that sell to me, I cannot remove myself from being sold at. There’s a number of out and out spam accounts on this list, apart from a number of fairly obvious other high-profile names… and some not so obvious ones…

hillary

Yes really, I’m on her list, despite being a) not eligible to vote in the US and b) not being American. Twitter, your metrics need a SERIOUS overhaul… 

americanpetroleum

If these things matter to you and if you’re interested in how robots and algorithms already are arbitrarily labelling your future… maybe take some time today to see what companies Twitter has decided you need to be an audience for.

THE RESULTS WILL SURPRISE YOU.

GSME #24 :: Stupid Girl

social-media-asides

On Friday, I did something stupid, and paid the price by being soundly roasted to a crisp on Social media. What did I learn from this? Thing number one is that if you decide to start a fight, the benefits can initially appear more sensational than the personal trauma that results:

brokenly

At its peak, my self-destruction was garnering over 25% engagement. That’s the stuff of legends and ultimately, completely unsustainable. The only way you’ll keep that amount of interaction going is to reply to every thread until your eyes bleed and you’re down to zero followers. In fact, there were so many responses and retweets the entirety of my analytics went tits up for the whole of Friday. It was only when I checked this morning that the real numbers were revealed:

numbersa

The truth, in retrospect, is that engagement for the day was a modest 1.9% overall. 65k impressions means absolutely nothing, in the larger scheme of things, and tells me (if I needed to know already) that most people love to sit and watch other people having a fight. It is the same mentality that makes drivers slow down when there’s a road accident. That’s not what I started my journey for.

It is certainly never going to happen again.

alone

I know when I’m in trouble, and gut has always served me well in instances of drama. However, what I severely underestimated in this case was the responses of those with whom I interact. This is probably the most important lesson of all when ‘doing’ Social media: not everybody is your friend, and ‘business’ is something that some people don’t like to think you’re mixing with their pleasure. Someone asked me a while ago how you know who to trust and the reply has not changed since this entire journey began.

Everybody has the potential to destroy you whether you fuck up or not.

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What matters more in situations such as this is how you conduct yourself after the event. In my case, I issued a public apology on Sunday and wrote a blog post where I withdraw myself from making any contentious comments on the subject in public. This used to be my job, until I stopped writing about that particular game in order to concentrate on the Patreon. If there is a contentious opinion to express from now on, it will be posted on my Blog, where there’s a better chance of presenting my opinions with some depth. My job now, especially this week, is what should be taking priority.

Friday didn’t happen to get either views or attention, I just wanted to discuss an idea. This post however is capitalising on this spectacular failure as a basis for constructive criticism. If I wanted to use anyone as an example of how not to do Twitter, it would be me. I can’t say this won’t happen again, of course, because nobody is perfect.

I can say some very important lessons have been learnt and acted upon.

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 #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.

I think that will be eminently doable under current timescales.