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 #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 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?

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So, to the tweet that started this all:

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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?

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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:

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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?

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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.

GSME #2 :: Look at Me

Three weeks in, and my Experiment’s not going badly at all. Let’s take a look at the numbers, shall we?

Last Week’s Standings

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Yesterday was a bust, but I think I can be allowed the odd day ‘off’ now and again, especially as it serves as a decent contrast to what came before. New contests were posted March 1st yet the higher engagement occurs on the days afterwards. My feed takes a while to pick up interest, which has historically always been true:at this point I’d also like to show total numbers for the first 6 days of March, which we’ll also use as a yardstick going forward.

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The -8 is important here for a reason: I removed people last week, and some drama ensued. Going forward, I intend to stick at a 900 follower ‘ceiling’ and won’t be looking at engaging anyone else without a compelling reason for doing so. What I am also seeing is a gradual disappearance of a number of long term followers, who aren’t happy that I’ve diversifying interests. They followed me just for Warcraft, and if I start talking about something else…? I’m used to this reasoning that people give, but the fact does remain that if you initially sell yourself as one thing and then turn into another, some of your followers will genuinely lose interest. This just makes me determined to work harder and see if I can build a more general audience based on output.

That means today I want to talk about increasing engagement: how you get people to read tweets, become interested in you as a ‘brand’ and produce content that isn’t just a recycled set of motivational quotes and you moaning about a bad day. It also means we’ll be setting a  second objective on the ‘To Do’ List: we’re not just aiming for 20k hits a day, now we’re looking for a MINIMUM of 5% engagement on each Tweet published. To make that happen? There’s some work to do, but I have some basic pointers for decent returns going forward:

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Pictures engage more than just words

The problem with a daily stream of content is that sometimes you just don’t have the time (or indeed inclination) to make the effort. The fact remains however that if I spend a minute taking a picture and then post that with text? People are more interested. However, my love of the animated .GIF only does so much to enhance this, as many people who access my content via mobiles have only so much data allowance, and so there should not be a desire to just stick one with every 140 characters. It means less random stream of consciousness posting, consideration of what goes in every tweet, and planning of long-term projects to make the most of the engagement I can get.

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Putting yourself front and centre

The biggest single surge of views + engagement last week, by quite some way, was when I broke anonymity and started selling me as myself, and not a ‘handle.’ The ‘alt’ is a major part of what I am: its on business cards, after all, and when I publish articles going forward I intend for a real name to be on all of them. Doing this inevitably opens me up to all sorts of potential issues, but as I’m a big girl now, the trick is to make sure that what gets used and said will always stand up to criticism. That means that drunk tweeting is a thing of the past (sorry those of you who enjoyed the last bout) but I’ve seen how potentially dangerous THAT can be. It also means you might see more pot-plant throwing going forward. If I’m getting frustrated with online stupidity, instead of sub-tweeting and filling my feed with drama? You’ll get this instead:

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Picking topics that your Audience enjoy

What caused a 17.2% surge of interest late week for me? This picture did:

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You don’t even need actual flesh, often the hint of it is enough to get everybody all riled up, and if you don’t know Sex Sells by now then you clearly have not been paying attention. This is however a pretty dodgy avenue to make a living on going forward… but, having said that, I have a few ideas around the topic, like this post on why you never see male pornbots selling women a good time. In more general terms however this proves that I should and will still be talking Warcraft/gaming, perhaps more than I have been of late, because the majority of my audience are receptive. However, other subjects are not off the table: food, media, photography and fitness all have interest, and I can do all of those now pretty much with my eyes closed.


That means, starting today, I’m aiming to make things matter whenever I press ‘Tweet’

Let’s see how well we can do by this time next week 😀

The Great Social Media ‘Experiment’

I’ve been considering for a while what I could do as a regular ‘feature’ to keep this blog ticking over whilst I work on fiction, and for a while the plan was to feature the best Tweets I’d seen over a given week. Except, if I’m honest, this is just another excuse for a News post, and I have that side of things fairly comprehensively covered on the Personal site. However, I want to do more with Social media than I do, because the organic nature of relationships continues to fascinate me. For instance, this morning I made a connection between two people, neither of which either know me or each other, but needed to be united for a common cause. As a result of thinking and connecting the right dots, everyone stands to benefit in the long term. So, it occurs to me that what I need to be doing right now is not dissing the power of social media, but learning to better use it for good.

Therefore, the GSME has begun, and I invite you to join me on the journey 😀

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Right now, the Experiment has only one aim: to see if it is possible to maintain 20k engagements a day by making no effort at all. As you can see by the last 28 days worth of ‘work’ I’m pulling in a shade over 30k already without even considering how to improve. My numbers show a consistent and steady increase in popularity. How can this be possible when my blogs combined are lucky on any given day to garner 500 hits? That’s a good question, and I am going to try and understand (on your and my behalf) exactly what is at play here to make these numbers look as attractive as they undoubtedly are. It gets even better when you look at my ‘front’ page for Twitter interaction:

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I realise I’m quite prolific in the Tweet department (169,133 tweets and counting) but I’m not doing 3k a day, so the first part of this Experiment will be to demystify what some of these numbers really mean: I’m guessing that 3041 is the number of times my user handle gets picked up in a unique place during a 24 hour period. Also, I find it amazing that TEN THOUSAND PEOPLE will have looked at my Profile page in the last month, but it makes me realise that having a decent picture and details in place there might matter more than some would previously believe. Then there’s the all important (and many say vital) followers count which I know is up this month due to the two Contests I’m running being prizes that have generated a lot of interest. That’s how you do this, guys. If you want people to come, incentives do work. However how you then get people to stay is quite another matter entirely, and that’s why I’m here doing this Experiment to begin with.

It also becomes an exercise in translating what is normally dry as fuck and extremely uninteresting information on how the Internet works into something that people will have a passing interest in, and as that’s one of my jobs as a writer, I reckon this whole endeavour might have some mileage. You can expect to see my Experiment posts every Monday starting next week.

Here’s to making sense of stuff most people have no interest in.

All Together Now

I was thinking yesterday about how important Twitter has become to me as a means of communication, but not simply in real time. Any social media ‘expert’ will tell you that the key to using the platform correctly is engagement, and to do so effectively is not simply combining hashtags or imagery. More often than not it can start with the right conversation, especially in a period where the platform’s being used to communicate ideas and feeling in a manner that’s not happened before. Except for me, this has been the means that I’ve generated content for a couple of years, based on the understanding that the people I engage with are the most fertile source of ideas I’m ever likely to find.

This was again apparent yesterday when a conversation over Warcraft hardcore raiding with Sar evolved into what will be my article this week for MMO Games. All the building blocks were already in my head, but without this particular conversation taking place, I’d have lacked the leap in creativity that stuck everything together, and this as a writer is absolutely crucial as a means of fuelling the imagination. Of course, if this were fiction I was writing I’d probably want to do the opposite, and having the opportunity to ‘write’ in public could be full of potential pitfalls. I learnt this quite early on in my writing career from a man who did a brilliant job of balancing communication with a rabid fanbase whilst at the same time never compromising the integrity of his idea.

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This is J. Michael Straczynski (who I’ve been lucky enough to meet) the writer responsible for Babylon 5, which for five years was the subject of a faily concentrated interest and obsession. Back then, JMS walked a fairly precarious tightrope, because if anyone could be seen publicly to suggest a story idea in a forum he (and I) read and that in any way, shape or form appeared in what he was producing? The consequences were too terrible to speak of. Of course, plagiarism is now a constant companion for many people, and with everybody nicking everybody else’s characters (often with a cheeky nod) without even a second thought, the world is a vastly different place. The fact remains however, you credit where due, whenever possible, and you absolutely remember the helpful people on your journey. Without this inspiration on a daily basis, I’d be pretty much nowhere, and it would be foolish not to acknowledge the significance of process going forward.

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The temptation for many of us is to act in a ‘pack’ when a contentious issue appears: some might consider themselves as kangaroos as inspiration, but for others they’ll see only sheep. Social media has a habit of highlighting the dumb and stupid in all things because, like it or not, it is rare people take to the platform to praise. You only have to look at the fight between JK Rowling and Piers Morgan taking place at present to grasp that if you want to be genuinely pleasant to somebody, it’s a hell of a lot harder than simply opening both barrels and taking them down in flames. I will admit I genuinely dread the reactions of certain people I follow now because I know that instead of trying to find the good in anybody, it’ll be a pile of flame-filled abuse that they’ll respond with, because it’s just easier and less stressful to be negative if that’s all you get from engagement. I refuse to let these people get to me, and more importantly I won’t unfollow them, because there needs to be a reminder that your opinion is not the only one that matters. In fact, the overly emotional are as much of a frustration as those who don’t give a fuck.

Somewhere in the middle is where I’d now like to live.

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Elysium’s a hard place to quantify in the virtual world. As the demands of social media make more and more people question their place within it, and whether they want to even participate in the process, there are some hard lessons to consider. Those of us who wish for more empathy will, undoubtedly find themselves in situations where it becomes apparent that it is our own indignation that’s the real issue. You can only blame others to a point: you place unrealistic barriers to entry or restrictions on your own life that can only be extended so far. It is understandable that a notion of control is craved, but eventually there’s going to come a point where the choice is simple: either agree with what you’re given or be quiet. Sure, we’d all love infinite choice, but in this world of 1’s and 0’s you can only do what the programming languages allow. That means, somewhere along the line, you will have to compromise.

For me this is picking one platform to concentrate on: not at the expense of others, but because ultimately I’m only capable of mastering one thing at a time. It means I’ll chase the robots away whenever possible, will defend the right for people to appear as unfeeling bastards because that’s their decision on their feed and grasp that in the modern world, if I want the best I can get, that does NOT mean blocking out everything I don’t agree with. It’s simple to be that person when you think your point of view is all that matters, and I know people on both sides of debates who are just as pig-headed and intractable as each other. The ultimate aim, at least for me, is to find a path that can be walked by everybody, not simply those who agree with my viewpoints. The way to do that isn’t to use Twitter as a soapbox but a meeting place, where the most unexpected of people might grant the salvation you so dearly seek.

As a writer, everybody has something to say I should listen to, at least once.