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

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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

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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.

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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 #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.

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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?

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.