GSME #7 :: The Old Songs

Last week, as those of you who follow my other blogs will know, was not exactly me on top mental and physical form. As a result, you would imagine that my experiment might suffer. Instead, I’m beginning to see some genuine return from the good foundations being laid.

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The bars may be down, but in reality engagements are up, coming close to 25k a day. Slowly but surely that rate is staying above a certain threshold too. It is a combination of curation, sharing and an increased use of the visual via artist sharing and Instagram that has helped, but also understanding that if you pitch the right things at the correct audience, amazing things will happen.

The bald guy top left in the picture set here is my mate, and he opened the shop named after his hobby at the weekend. His son is in my daughter’s year at school, and we had many conversations on the School playground before Secondary education sent our children their separate ways. I know he’s given up his old job to make Retro Gaming his full-time profession, and as a result deserves as much help as I can give him, so on Saturday I took some pictures on the phone and sent this out onto the Internet, making sure it hit a few of the right people along the way. This is now my third best performing tweet of the last 28 days, and is living proof that a) pictures sell posts and b) they gain more views if you ensure the right people see them.

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I screenied this last night, yet this morning people are still picking this up and bouncing it around the Retro Gaming community. I get nothing at all out of this either, which is the bigger point to make: I have only a passing interest in Retro but I’m more concerned in getting @TheRetroHunter the exposure I can offer, being at the intersection of where past and present overlap. As of time of writing, this has topped 6k views and at a point on Sunday was exceeding an almost mythical 20% engagement. Having one in five of your audience being interest is truly the stuff of legends, people. If you know the right people to talk to and the correct places to target? Twitter really is an incredible tool for advertising.

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The key here, of course, is that nobody paid for anything. It is proof, if it were needed, that the best advertising is word of mouth and altruism. Having said that, paying for the right things also does have benefit. Behold my boost on CoPromote from last week, which I managed to generate without any purchased ‘reach’:

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Up for 3 days, it bounced around for a while and got me 130k views but, yet again, the physical return for my effort appears to have been negligible in actual interest.Ā This week, therefore, it is time to look at what content I can provide that will retain more of an audience, including a greater use of Twitter Cards in my ‘advertising’. This is one part of the free advertising toolbox I’m criminally underusing, and as a result we’ll be all over the process until I see you again. For now, if you like a retro game and wanna help my mate out, go visit his Facebook page šŸ˜€

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 #1 :: Learning to Fly

Last week, I started a journey to see how good (or otherwise) I could get at ‘doing’ Social media duringĀ my normal online life. To avoid an Oscar-style SNAFU I’ve already prepared my pictures beforehand on this one, so let’s see how I managed with my first objective from last week, could I sustainĀ 20k engagements a day without really trying too hard?

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This number is totally doable as a starting point. I only scored 17k yesterday because I was hungover and didn’t really push anything particularly hard, but as you can see in the week it isn’t difficult to hit 40k for me when there’s summat going on that gets my feed all engaged to begin with. In Thursday’s case it was a bit of a Warcraft-related moment, and that taught me some important lessons on how the right combination of factors can really get your numbers soaring. However, to understand what makes the best combination of factors in engaging a reader… well, first you need to grasp exactly how these numbers are calculated.

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I’ve piced one of my most popular tweets this month to use as an example: The first bit (5832) in this case is simple enough:

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I know why its popular, I’m giving away free stuff. However, there is a world of difference between people just looking at your work and interacting with it, and that’s where the 385 comes in:

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That number is key: ideally you can have less impressions and more engagements and the tweet is more successful, at least in terms of delivering the right message to the correct people. That’s the percentage number, by the way:

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Oh and in case you don’t think that’s right, I even did the maths for you to prove the point:

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Shift your decimal point 2 spaces and BOOM there you go. This tweet may have had a squillion people look at it, but it fails in terms of making people sit up and listen (though for the record, 6% is massively good, see below.) To give you a better idea of exactly what has happened to any particular Tweet, Twitter also allows you to see the breakdowns, as follows:

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The truth is that out of nearly 6000 people seeing this one tweet I’ve managed 71 retweets, as of Sunday afternoon when I did this research. That’s neither simple or easy, it must be said. That’s also pretty insignificant when placed alongside accounts with sixĀ figure followers. Hey, nobody said this was going to be straightforward, and if your ‘dream’ of success is thousands of people favourite-ing your every word? Well, if truth be told you don’t need the numbers for success. What could be argued matters more is the ability to engage an audience, not have them simply go ‘yeah great’ and not read a word you wrote.

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Then we enter the realms of quantifying success.Ā If you just want to sell yourself regardless, then all you want is clicks, right? Well, no, becauseĀ as I said that 6% engagement rate means I’m targeting my stuff at pretty much an ideal audience. As an example, take a look at how Hootsuite got their engagementĀ sorted once the analytical tools came out.

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Even going up into the tens of thousands of clicks, this only manages a 5.3% engagement rate. What this says (and makes me now sit and think) is that it isn’t just what you offer to an individual in terms of marketing that matters. Being self-effacing obviously has merit, and accepting that maybe it isn’t just about being the best or the cleverest either. Honesty sells, as does genuine emotion: humour, sadness and most importantly of all in the current climate, empathy.Ā If you have enough balls to roast people I suspect that too will work well on engagement rates, but that takes bigger kahunas than I doubt I’d ever be able to get my hands on.

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It also proves that my love for the GIF has a lot to do with my current social media success, quite away from the giveaways. In fact I’ve garnered more people with my sense of humour and a well placed loop of imagery than has ever really come from the free stuff, and that’s an important lesson to learn going forward. This week’s homework therefore is looking at ways to raise my engagement rate without having to reach for the easy answer. There’s more than one way to sell yourself, after all, and knowing that I don’t need massive numbers just more interest?

That’s an interesting subject to ponder going forward.

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.Ā 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 rabidĀ fanbase whilst at the same time never compromising the integrity of his idea.

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This is J. MichaelĀ 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 concentratedĀ 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 asĀ kangaroos as inspiration, but for othersĀ they’ll see only sheep.Ā 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.Ā 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 masteringĀ one thing at a time. It means I’ll chase the robots away whenever possible, will defend the right for people toĀ appear as unfeeling bastards because that’s their decision on their feedĀ 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.Ā 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 listenĀ to, at least once.

Send in the Clowns

Many of you will have no idea of what I’m talking about, but yesterday Facebook made a lot of noise in my part of the world. Activision Blizzard have done a deal with the social media giant to allow players to ‘stream’ playing computer games such as Hearthstone and World of Warcraft directlyĀ using the Facebook Live API.Ā I’ll be honest, I had no idea what this was until yesterday lunchtime: now I’ve signed up for updates. Now, there are those of you who will know that I refuse point blank to have anything to do with the ‘Friends and Family’ aspect of the platform. In fact, I deleted my personal Facebook some time ago. However, my ‘gaming’ site remains and suddenly looks an awful lot more attractive as an advertising platform for someone like me: more flexibility than You Tube, a better set of abuse controls than Twitch will ever possess. Mostly, it will becomeĀ an amazing place to sell yourself.Ā 

That alone is the potential that many people will now be considering with something close to mercenary zeal.

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My Twitter feed, yesterday.

It is an indicator of the general barometer of opinion that many people won’t see Facebook as anything else other than a place where you share baby photos or argue about politics. They won’t be able to reconcile ‘streaming live video’ (whether it be of an online MMO, a live event or indeed your Aunt Mabel baking her famous Chocolate Cake) with a platform that makes its money from ads about losing belly fat or ’15 Things you Never knew a Goat could Do.’Ā With platforms such as Snapchat and WhatsApp being bigger draws than text-based mediums such as Twitter, Facebook will know that to keep themselves in the frame they need to offer the best of both whilst maintaining their ability to market at the same time. By providing gamers a live video stream without any of the start up required in other formats, which often require additional effort or outlay? Frankly, it’s a license to print money.Ā 

There will be people already rubbing their hands together in glee.

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Of course, many people assume that ‘logging into Warcraft’ using Facebook means they’ll be no choice in the matter, but assuming that this development is equivalent to what the developer did with Twitter? You’ll never have to worry about the thing unless you make a decision to stream.Ā Unless you make a conscious choice to share your information? Nothing changes. However, such is the distrust of certain sections of the planet with the organisation, it won’t matter how many times you tell players this, they’ll still choose not to believe you.Ā In the end, that’s just a product of the world we live in. My Facebook ‘page’ which is just that, just a piece of stuff attached to an account I never use and won’t post to, full of stuff that has no interest to me whatsoever. That’s not going to change any time soon. I’m not linking my family to this, or asking the people I know who don’t play games to take part.

However, in terms of long-term marketing for (lets say) me writing a book and maybe getting it published? Then I might be interested. I could be pushed into streaming and perhaps the odd Video Blog. The potential is certainly there for the platform.

Now we have to see just how good it is when the Real World gets hold of it.

Bohemian Like You

Twitter’s a dangerous game. Except it *isn’t a game.*

Twitter is one of those places where The Rules, such as they are, appear to be quite strongly ingrained. One of those involves the concept of the ‘Subtweet’ (which we have discussed before) and how individuals use this to express their displeasure at behaviour from specific individuals on their feeds without the necessary inconvenience of naming them. However, the subtweet ‘gambit’ only works if the person doing the talking is actually aiming to abuse someone to begin with. The assumption, and this shows just how negative many people expect Social Media to be, is that you’ll always moan at someone without naming them.Ā 

The thing is, maybe it was’t aimed at you to begin with. Perhaps it wasn’t aimed at anybody at all.

A perfect example of this came yesterday, when my annoyance at people not actually reading what I write and simply interpreting what they want surfaced over several weeks worth of blog replies, after a particularly fraught morning. Ironically, that then was exactly what happened with someone else,Ā because the assumption now seems to be that when anything is said on Twitter with some kind of ‘generic’ or ‘vague’ subtext this clearly means that response you just made to my post, and therefore I must be moaning at you. In shock news I don’t spend every moment of my day obsessively checking my Website for the latest feedback, because otherwise no life at all would ever be had.

My day yesterday, in .GIF form ^^

As this is now the second time an incident of this type has taken place in as many months, I sense I’m stuck in a bit of a cleft stick: I thought I’d been clear enough in the last few weeks to make sure I could manage any misunderstanding. It now occurs to me, because I’m slow and often quite dense, that I’m not actually the whole problem. If someone else is following me and decides to leave because they don’t like what I’m writing, I’m still doing a job. I’m making them think, regardless of the sentiments that may be generated. That isn’t about my words, it’s their interpretation of what is presented, and if all you are looking for is a view of the World where you agree with the people around you? Actually, I get that, probably more than a lot of people might initially believe I’m capable of. But I know there are two sides to this story, even if some people would like to ignore the bad.

This is what I am. Especially the outfit.

The upshot of this is… well, nothing. Even if I don’t say anything I know is aimed at a specific person, someone is still capable of assuming I have, as the number of people who follow me continues to rise. My point is to those people who follow others on Twitter and become overly obsessed with what they read?Ā Don’t. It’s dangerous and unhealthy and will only lead to you getting far more upset than the person to whom you focus your interest, because moreĀ likelyĀ than not they’ll not even realise you’ve gotĀ a problem to begin with. That’s me this morning, and I now know that for my own sanity, there’s going to need to be a far more active policing of my personal spaces than there has been previously.

Hopefully this will simply stop the problems before they start, but you can never tell.

Reach for the Stars


OMG ADDICTION.

My writing has changed over the years, mostly (I know) as a result of being read by people who I don’t know. There would be those that argue that this is all wrong, because the process shouldn’t be about what other people want, but more about what you need to say, and this is of course correct. It is incredibly easy to offend people by being honest: this I know from personal experience. Then you have to sit down and perform what could easily be equated as spinning 250 plates on 249 sticks: except, of course, if you start off with that mindset, you’ll never going to succeed to begin with. Writing isn’t for anyone else’s benefit than your own, and if you’re doing it to make a point at a particular person, you’re on a hiding to nothing before you begin.

If someone upsets you, this is your salutatory reminder that you’re on the Internet and you should walk away.


Keep them coming…

The longer term issue, at least for me, is the understanding you’re not taking things as seriously as maybe other people do. Using that word implies that you’ll be doing your absolute best at all times to boot, because you don’t live life by half measures. Yes, there are days like today when I’m cold and tired and wishing I could just shove my face full of chocolate, but this achieves nothing. Lying to myself or going back on commitments I have made to better health and long-term well-being are very easy to forget on days when you just want to roll up into a ball and wait for the Spring. It is being able to take a step back from the moment and find a bigger picture to grasp that is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to cope with as a writer. It is just so simple to get so utterly wrapped up in a narrative, to the point where you don’t think about anything else, and that is the moment when your reality stops being just that, and becomes something else entirely. Even in a fantasy world, you need belief. There needs to be an understanding of limits and expectations.

Just because you can live life to extremes doesn’t mean you actually should.


FULL SET GET IN.

Knowing when to walk away is a life skill I wish more people would practice, along with not just opening their mouth and spouting the first crap they come up with or deciding that their way is the only way anything ever gets better. From time to time I clear out my Twitter Mute List on Tweetdeck, only to inevitably add the exact same people back into the list the moment they appear, with the understanding that as my audience grows, I only feel comfortable with people who are actually listening. That means not objecting to the way I do things even if that clashes with their own ideologies, allowing me to have a difference of opinion without it becoming an International Incident, or simply just being decent. What I ought to do, and what I suspect will now start to happen, is that those who I mute that I actually follow will be quietly removed over time with the minimum amount of fuss, and by that I means I’ll force them to unfollow me too. Yes, you can do this: blocking someone will make them unfollow you, and unblocking will then leave them none the wiser. Except, in this case, I just told you how it works. So, if you get that old ‘Unfollower Bug’ thing going on with me in the weeks that follow, you’ll understand that I’m not just doing this for the numbers.

I’m here to enjoy this trip, and some people don’t seem to get that.