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 #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.

blogs

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.

changestwitter

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.

engagement_truth

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?

brilliant_not

broken_gubbins

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.

GSME #11 :: Personal Jesus

social-media-asides

I should apologise for being a couple of days late with the Guide, but as history can show this as being Monday when it is in fact Wednesday, I doubt there’s too much of a fuss to be caused anyway. Health issues have inevitably derailed my progress, but they’re also a powerful means of driving social media. If you didn’t know already, drama generates interest.

100517.png

Let’s be honest here: I’d rather not have all this fuss and bother right before one of the most important periods of my life, but the Universe does like to mess with your head at the most inopportune of moments. Therefore, my views last week were exclusively driven by the fact I’ve become my own news story, like it or not. I could choose to read these figures in an number of ways, but at this point I’d just like to think that more people than normal care about my welfare, and that’s where we’ll stop. The better news, if we look at the graph on the right, is that I’m keeping close to exceeding a 2% engagement rate.

How am doing that is part of a structured change to my Tweeting habits.

nervous

This Tweet has a picture, from my phone, of me waiting in the Hospital to see my surgeon on Monday night. If I’d have posted it *without* the picture it would have received less interest, because what the image does is make this less about having a conversation. The image, like it or not, draws you into my story. That’s why SnapChat and Instagram are as immensely useful and compulsive as they undoubtedly are as tools for generating traffic: the brain, in most cases, reacts more favourably to visual stimulus. This means that if I post something with a GIF attached, more people will read it, as is the case with a screenshot or a photograph. Once upon a time mobile download limits might restrict this as useful, but as WiFi becomes de rigeur and mobile devices become portable newspapers and magazines as well as gaming rigs… use more pictures.

surgeon

On the flip side, one well worded, concise and honest tweet is worth an entire blog post.

Picture + personal affirmation, in this case, results in a 9.3% engagement rate, if you didn’t believe me when I said that pictures sell. On the flip side however, being overly personal can turn people off. There’s the individual on my feed for instance who’s almost permanently ragging on their ex-partner for being horrible, and although there is a continued measure of sympathy for the situation, that person does go on Mute when it all gets too much. As is the case with life, balance is everything.

thread

Finally, you don’t need pictures, a personal dilemma or the end of the World to engage an audience. With the right words, a bit of thought and some planning, you can use Twitter to write blog posts, by ‘threading’ a series of tweets together with an appropriate picture at the top. This method of communication is proving increasingly useful for me, and I’ll be making the most of the format going forward. This week, there’s not much else to report really, and with an operation scheduled for the 16th, it will be a little quiet around these parts on Monday anyway.

Time to go practice what we’ve learnt and be ready to start again once all this drama is over.

GSME #9 :: Talk to Me

social-media-asides

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

240417_1

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.

240417_2

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.

verypointed.gif

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

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

GSME #6 :: Fade To Grey

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

030417

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.

options1

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.

budget1

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.

followers6

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:

2703stats

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:

Boost1_final

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:

boost1_Twitter

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:

the_truth

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:

Boost2_final

boost2_Twitter

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:

account1.jpg

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.

nobodycares

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 SPECIAL :: Who are You?

This week, I was blocked by an Influencer for the first time. I know they’re important because they have a six figure twitter account (though not verified, which is a useful indicator to whether a particular @ ‘handle’ is considered by Twitter to be legitimate.) They followed me on the back of last week’s Blog post, so it is understandable they consider my work important. I’ll not be taking my tongue out of my cheek for this whole post, so we’re clear, because I’ve learnt the lesson that often the last thing other people want to you to tell them on a public forum is that you’ve seen through their blag. Oh, and for those of you who don’t know what this means?

blag_definition

So, to the tweet that started this all:

blocked1

I saw this and was genuinely interested. That is the thing to make clear from the outset: I didn’t decide ‘oh let’s see if this person’s being genuine or not’ I assumed because of their reach and their output (more on this in a moment) that this was someone who was selling a service. As an artist (after a fashion) I thought it would be great to check this link out and when I clicked through to the URL?

rubbish1

Nothing. Zip. NADA. Most people would have probably left it at that but I was curious: eleven favourites (but nine at the time I noticed) two retweets and nobody bothered to check the link? I found this a little concerning, and so I tweeted the owner of the account directly:

blocked2.png

The first thing that rang alarm bells on the last tweet was the timestamp: this person was supposed to be in the same time zone as me, but obviously wasn’t. The second thing that rattled the writer in me was how capital letters completely vanished from the second tweet but were very obvious in the first: however, if it’s 6.30 am for that person, maybe they needed more caffeine. However, I’d not get another chance to engage them because after this polite and informative exchange? They immediately blocked me. That’s when I logged into my second Twitter account, took these screenshots and started digging.

My six figure Influencer spends an inordinate time posting complete and utter crap, it must be said: proverbs with lifted internet pictures, silly news stories, plus stuff that might actually be useful but could also turn out to be a lie. Effectively, a user with hundreds of thousands of followers is filling Twitter with noise. The sad thing is, of course, is that your feed and mine relies on accounts such as these for an important and often vital component of daily life: the inspirational quote account, the personal wellness account, or cats/dogs/chickens/animal of choice daily spamathon. Unless you can prove the person behind the picture is who they say they are however, how are you ever to trust their validity?

nobodycares.gif

Remember how there’s that one person you know who keeps warning you that the world is being taken over by robots and you think they’re just over-reacting? They’re not. Right now robot accounts form an unspecified percentage of a lot of Social media: posting those cheesy How To Life Hacks and telling you how to lose body fat with a neat trick is all part of a massive algorithmic network that knows what you buy on Amazon and can find you hot singles in your area. All of this following and favouring and even sharing of data is less and less about how hard you work and more about how much you’ll stump up a month to get the reach for. I’m staring at an offer right now that guarantees me 500,000 people who MIGHT read my blogs for the low low price of $19.99 a month, and it is easy to see how attractive that could be.

The other thing that’s scary, of course, is that nobody will talk about it, because it’s the Wild West out here right now with everybody and Mad Grandma Josephine on the take. In these situations, integrity becomes a useful beacon in a storm of often intentional deception. The streamer you’re watching with 100k followers is likely to have a higher proportion than most who are real people, but they too will be towing robots along for the ride, like it or not. Working out who is real is often as simple as spending five minutes reading their profile before you press ‘Follow.’ Today’s take away from this is simple: don’t assume everybody is real on the Internet any more. Do your homework. If you think something is wrong? It probably is.

Most importantly, never be afraid to question anything you see.