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 …

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?

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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… 

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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.

#GSME18 :: Forget You

I did wonder at the end of last year whether Twitter would have a relevance for me in 2018. As it transpires, there’s more than ever to discuss in the world of Social media. 

It’s rather satisfying to see that the Real World [TM] is finally catching up with a truth many hardcore Twitter users have known for years. It’s the Social media equivalent of Gold Farming in online games: you wanna look cool and clever? Just buy the followers you need. This expose also explains why I’ve seen a significant drop off in followers from accounts a) clearly only looking for reach and b) randomly following me out of the blue. Sure, it still happens, but the practice is now finally being weeded out and shut down. Of course, you won’t stop the thing completely, but there is now at least an acknowledgement the practice takes place.

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The Tweetdeck platform now likes to tell me who other people on my Friends List are following presumably in the hope I’ll consider doing the same. However, I’ve started to consciously buck the trend of courting followers. At this point I have little or no interest in actively promoting myself using any of the platform’s tools: I’ve even ignored various invites to join the Beta of their ‘all in’ promotion tool. Right now I’m happy to sit on the sidelines, slowly removing followers I’m confident either aren’t real or who are detrimental to my mental health. Sometimes they fall in both camps, but the number of robots or automated accounts is beginning to level out. I’m now looking for clearly-curated streams, with a real person behind them, and this policy is beginning to pay dividends.

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Half a million impressions in January, considering my current output, is a decent baseline to improve on going forward. It gives a guide to what I’m capable of, and now I’ve stopped caring about ‘growth’ in terms of audience, there’s more space to simply work on the content. I’m interacting far more regularly with the people who are around, which is a more satisfying situation that becoming frustrated with negativity. Accentuating positives, amazingly, does work.

You can, therefore, expect more on the Great Social Media Experiment going into 2018.

I Think We’re Alone Now

Last week I got a couple of shocks via Social media. All of them involved people having conversations where it was abundantly apparent they’d forgotten the Internet is public.

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We’ve all experienced a moment in our lives when something’s been posted on the Internet we wish hadn’t. Once upon a time, there were no delete buttons. You did not get the chance to reverse your decision. However, crucially in current conditions, even deleting an offending post will not mean you’re off the hook. All those people I watch remind themselves ‘I must delete all that stuff I said in the morning’ are already far too late to fix the damage done. If someone else can see it, they can screencap it. Sure, there are ways to spoof Twitter to make it look as if someone said summat they didn’t, but this is largely beside the point.

You should not be saying in public anything you will regret, ever.

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Yet I watch people who accuse others of being troublemakers when that’s exactly their own modus operandi: casual racism, sexism and all points in between. Pronouncing righteousness, reinforcing stereotypes, and the by now almost metronomically predictable subtweeting. Yeah, I get those other people piss you off. If it is that much of a problem, then remove them from your feed. Use a mute button, block them but do not sit and complain. If someone professes an opinion that you do not ascribe to, this is not a reason to hate them. It is a reason to keep them in your feed and learn from them.

The Internet is not just here for your benefit.

Tolerance is in short supply right now and is sorely needed in every walk of life. It is possible for us all to learn from each other, in so many different and surprising ways. Telling other people how to think and act has taken place for thousands of years, the only difference now is that the stage on which it happens is far larger than ever before. The sensitive and susceptible are in danger of believing everything they read as truth. It is already happening.

I wish more people would start thinking and stop posting.

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:

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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:

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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 #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

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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…