Tag Archives: Social Media

I Like Round Numbers and I Cannot Lie

6 Mar

I knew this was coming–my blog hit 1,000 followers! (blank stare) I should be happier about this, but I hit a happy equilibrium / burn out between me and my social media a month ago, so I wonder what all those numbers I collect actually mean.

I started this blog back last summer as a way to build a community and get people interested in my books. As I remind myself, I have sold more books than I ever have before I started reaching out on social media. However, I have to remind myself of that multiple times a month, because the number is still not very high.

Now that is my own fault–promoting yourself does not come easily or naturally–I’ve had many people comment on this blog that “I didn’t know you wrote books!” So that means I’ve either designed my website wrong that you can’t see the “Books” tab, or I need to curate the mobile function that it’s a lot more obvious that I’d like you to read my books. I also don’t plug my books with every post; because I’d like to think I would lose my readers than I would gain if I did that.

So I have to ask myself–what do I gain from building my social media community? For the record, I’m close to my 5,000 follower limit on Facebook, over 4,300 on Twitter, approaching 7,000 on LinkedIn, and around 550 on GoodReads. I think I’ve actually gotten more sales from Twitter than my blog, but I put daily love into my blog, and little elsewhere. So what I’ve realized is:

Twitter: people want bite-sized morsels of fun… they don’t want to read a blog. However, you’re more likely to grab their attention with a blurb about your book, that will attract them to go read it.

Facebook: people want slightly larger morsels, but this is the home of the meme, and occasionally seeing what your friend’s kids are doing. I’m finding it less effective in getting the word out.

LinkedIn: Mostly an online resume, but there’s a significant number of folk who actually use the social media function. I’ve gotten a lot of interest and some traffic to my blog, but whether that actually translates into purchases is beyond me.

GoodReads: Here’s actually book readers who are excited about reading books! My exact audience! However, it is the hardest to attract new followers, and hardest to get traction.

So what does the future hold for my online presence? Well, if you’ve read my whiny post up to this point, don’t worry–I’m still going to write my blog. I get great personal satisfaction from writing 300-500 words a day, I have a dedicated group of 100-150 readers who actually care enough to look at my daily extreme moderate rants. I’ve also found some great readers who have excellent comments. I treasure you all.

For the rest, I’m planning on cutting off most of my Facebook friends (or the ones that I don’t have a shred of connection with), and just using that as a repeater for the blog. Continue plugging away at GoodReads, tread water with my LinkedIn, but plug my book more on Twitter. But what do you think? Am I whining too much? Should I get on Instagram? What possibilities have I not explored? Let me know in the comments below!

Armchair Anarchism

14 Feb

When I was in college, me and my friends ran for student government as the Armchair Anarchist Party. We got the title from a song; at the time, it was oddly appropriate. But when everyone is an armchair whatever, who can tell the difference?

Mind you, calling ourselves “armchair anarchists” was appropriate for us. Our party platform was to disband the Student Government Association, whose primary duty was to teach students how to do student government. It was not the only one. The dorm students had their own council, the African-American students had their own council, hell… even the professors had their council–which students sat on!–which supposedly allowed staff, students, and administrators the ability to practice joint governance. So if we got rid of one student council, we figured, there was still plenty of opportunity for students to be involved.

This did introduce me to third party politics, something I’ve been involved with off and on since I could vote. I was one year too young to vote for Perot, the last independent presidential candidate that actually had a shot of winning. I first voted in the Reform Party Primary, the party that Perot actually founded (and was around for one election), but that did manage to get the governorship of Minnesota… but that might have had more to do with their candidate being Jesse “the Body” Ventura. He turned Republican for his reelection campaign, then turned conspiracy theorist after he left office.

The problem with any political affiliation is that people within it don’t believe it means the same thing. To take my own party, the joke with Libertarians is that they’re Republicans who like to smoke pot… and there’s some truth to that. There’s also disaffected conservatives, civil libertarians, followers of Ayn Rand, minarchists (like myself–look it up), and folks who should never be allowed near a microphone.

In the end, like any volunteer organization, people in political movements get burned out and become inactive. That doesn’t mean they’ve changed their opinions, they’ve just shifted to the armchair and will talk about it. They already tried to do something about it–let someone else carry the banner for a while.

The problem is that with social media, you don’t have to leave your armchair to spout your new world order. You can find your brand of crazy out in the world and there will be those who agree with you. There won’t be enough of you in one spot to do anything about it, but at least you can grumble together. Addressing that point, the Free State Project has been trying to get 20k libertarians to move to New Hampshire, figuring that would create a critical mass to change that state’s politics (which is already leaning in that direction). At time of typing, they’ve convinced 5,000 to actually move, with another 19k pledging they will. I wish them luck. I wish I could move to NH, but I need a job there (and convince my family to move there) to accomplish that.

So every so often, I feel motivated to do something to change the world. Inevitably, real life intervenes, and makes it difficult to carry the banner further, but we need to respect the attempt. And if we’re not living in my anarchist village utopia, at least I’m living in Arizona, not California. 🙂

What do you think? Are you armchair whatever? Are only the activists worthy? Let me know in the comments below!

If Only You Could Send Me…

24 Sep

So someone tried to scam on Twitter. They claimed to be a poor boy whose mom was sick and him and his two sisters had just run out of rice. And your only salvation is a Twitter follower you met yesterday? Yeah, right…

I’m a pretty caring person – homelessness is actually one of the few causes I give a damn about. However, I’m also jaded, and don’t believe things at face value. The guy with the sign on the street in America might be hungry, but he’s not going to use the money you give him to get food. He can raid trash cans for food. He’s gonna use it for whatever is going to make him happy. Drugs, drink… hell, getting a new cell phone. Every homeless man in America has a smartphone. So if I give something to a man with a sign, it’s water or food, not money.

So when I give to the homeless, I give to Family Promise. That’s a great charity that specializes in not only providing shelter and food for homeless families (because most shelters are gender-divided, so sons can’t stay with their mothers), but also provides employment assistance, does interview training, and provides transitional housing to get them off the street. When I’m feeling particularly soft, I give to Phoenix Rescue Mission, St. Mary’s Food Bank, and the Salvation Army… all charities I respect.

Even when I lived in India, there were the homeless that I respected/knew and the ones that I knew were part of a racket. There, people were obviously hungry, but there is a scam where kids are hired/forced/coerced to look cute and bug people for change. However, that money went to their pimp… don’t have a better name for it. Just like pigeons, if you pay one, you suddenly get a swarm of homeless kids that start asking for money, and you have to yell “baas!” (A rude way to say “get away” in Hindi.)

Interestingly enough, this happens electronically too. The reason I even know about the Phoenix Rescue Mission, St. Mary’s Food Bank, and the local Salvation Army is because Family Promise sold my contact information to them. I was rather annoyed by that – damn it, I gave you money – that doesn’t mean I want to be put on the “sucker” list and get swarmed by homeless advocates.

So that’s how I balance compassion with logic. Part of me still worries that I just shut off a starving boy in… Africa? Gambia. West Africa, that’s right. English is a primary language. But if you’ve got money transfer software, you can take your mom’s cart, drag your sisters along, and sell whatever she sells on the streets of Bangui. But that’s what makes the scammer/beggar’s message so insidious. They are trying to appeal to your best nature. But they think you’re suckers. Look at all those silly people going to work and I get to be free and people give me money for nothing. Suckers.

Am I too jaded? Is there a better way to balance compassion with logic? Let me know in the comments below!

I Hate Social Media

23 Sep

Here’s my terrible admission: I hate social media. Yeah, I’m on five different platforms and I kick out a blog post everyday, but I hate it. If I could hire someone to do this for me, I would. So why the %&$* am I still here?

I apologize, this is a continued whiny post from yesterday, but I figured this deserved its own rant. If you continue reading, you have been warned.

So why am I still on social media? Simple–so I can get people to read my words. I mean, that’s the great democratization of the Internet. You want to be heard. That’s what anyone wants, right? When I ran for Congress ten years ago (8% of the vote for a third party) what I learned on the campaign trail is that everyone has an opinion and everyone has an issue. Well, you can join an organization for your issue (Mine? Cigar and pipe smoking rights), but your opinion? Someone needs to listen to you.

This is what sucks about being a political candidate. You have to listen to everyone. Issues you don’t care about, people who can’t edit themselves, folks who ramble on and can’t stay on topic. And since everyone’s vote is the same, you’re going to stand there and take it.

When trying to sell something low cost like… my book, everyone’s purchasing power is roughly the same, so just like on the campaign trail, you have to reach out to as many potential readers as you can. It’s like campaign signs on the corner. No, you’re probably not going to their website, but when it comes time to go to the ballot box, you’re going to think, “Oh, yeah, that name sounds familiar,” and click it.

Sound stupid? Yeah, it is. But it works. Historically, in a “safe” district where one party has held the seat for decades, the candidate can die and still get reelected. That’s how powerful the familiar is.

I feel safe saying this further down the blog, but WordPress is my favorite. People who read blogs are “readers” and hopefully want to read my books. So I spend the most time on it. Twitter is my second favorite, mostly because I’ve muted all the political rants out, and have focused on the #writingcommunity. So I’ve carved out a small pocket of internet peace. Who knew?

Facebook is next and I was ready to leave it before I starting my writing jihad. Now it’s there to just repeat my blog and occasionally find out what my hobby club is doing. Goodreads falls after them. I’m still mad they got rid of Shelfari and I had to absorb that into Goodreads. But… it has readers and I go where the readers are. Finally is LinkedIn. When I was a travelling consultant, this was vital to getting the next job. Now that I’ve had the same job for two years… eh, it’s where I put my online resume. But I get a strange amount of feedback from it, better than Twitter, so I keep at it.

Am I alone? Are you compelled to stay connected even though you’d rather disappear into the woods? Are there some platforms you prefer above others? Let me know in the comments below!

Return on Investment

21 Sep

Well, that’s disappointing. This has been the third month of my social media expansion and although I now have 7800 followers across 5 platforms, my return on investment has been… far lower than I wanted.

Okay, this is going to sound like whining, and… maybe it is. Thankfully, I haven’t spent any money yet (although maybe I should), but I have invested a significant amount of time into Albigensia Press and getting its name out there. How much? It takes me about 20-30 minutes each day to write these blog posts and another 30-60 minutes each day to grow followers. I do this 6 days a week, so let’s just call it an hour a day. So I’ve spent 78 hours of my life building this up.

So I was estimating a 1% return on investment. The hope was that 1% of the people who follow me would actually be willing to buy one of my books. That’s a hideously low number, but considering the miniscule amount of marketing I’ve absorbed over the years, I thought that was significantly conservative.

<whine mode> Turns out I was way over estimating. I’ve sold (drum roll please) exactly 9 books in three months! Are you #*$&@#($ kidding me?! That’s a tenth of a percent! Exponentially smaller. What the #*$& do I have to do?! </whine>

Am I concerned with the money? No. No one becomes a writer (or teacher… and I’m both!) to become rich. The investment I want is for people to actually read my work. Now if you’re reading this (sigh), I guess that counts. After all, this blog does force me to build up my writing ability, and… that’s investment, right? But it’s hard to be hopeful. Especially since this takes a significant amount of time out of my day.

Now here’s the positive spin – nine books is more than I have ever sold than in the last 10 years I started publishing my own books. So I guess if I look at it from investing a significant amount of time, I get a significant increase in readers, then… I’m on the right path. But man, it’s hard to be positive.

Now… am I about to stop? No, because as I explained above, I am making progress. But Lord, I was hoping to make more progress. Are you on the same path as me? Did your grounded expectations turn out to be woefully optimistic? Let me know in the comments below!

Prayer Reimbursement

20 Jul

Prayer really is the first social media; everyone has access to it, some people “post” more than others, and some have more “followers.” You run into the same problems as other social media. You don’t like somebody’s prayer, you’ll mute them. You might “unfollow” someone after they do or say something you find offensive. And yet, it still one of the most effective forms of mass communication on the planet!

Let me approach this idea in a non-judgmental way. I happened to come across the term “payer management” on someone’s site and misread it – I thought it would be a catchy title. But the more I think about it, social media is a good metaphor for prayer. You start off following one god because one of their followers invited you to join them. You go along and start following other followers in the group, because you like what they have to say, or they bring the funny, or make good music.

If only your worship team was this cool.

Many people stop there. Others will start following other followers to see what they think, or to get a different insight into their prayer life. Some with try out other traditions – or follow those from other traditions – to read more posts. Some people actively cultivate followers. Some post really radical things that you may or may not be in agreement with. Even if they don’t, there’s a wide variance of prayer out there, even in the same religion. The difference between a Charismatic Catholic and an Irish Catholic church is just as vast as an Orthodox synagogue and a Reform synagogue. You might recognize some of the same words and songs… but that’s it.

But let’s get back to the title – reimbursement – what do “pray-ers” get out of it? Same things as social media; a sense of community, of connecting with something more, and sometimes, getting something they want. Your goal in prayer may be to connect with the infinite, but it also may be something more concrete. You may want to heal a sick friend or to get a better job. That’s why marketing on social media (and religion) is such a big industry – there is a goal in mind. You may want to save souls or pitch the Sleep Bible app on Cable TV.

Whether you “speak it into existence” or you get a direct benefit as a “follower,” prayer has a direct impact in people’s lives, and has for thousands of years. Okay – have I butchered this metaphor enough? Am I way out of line? Tell me in the comment section below!

Friending, Following, and Feelings

15 Jul

Stranger Danger! “Why are you following me?!” “I don’t know you!” As I’ve been reaching out more in social media, I’ve been reaching out to a lot of folks I don’t know personally or never met. I look at a lot of profiles, get some messages back, and I’m sensing that it’s a reflection of how you react to strangers in real life.

Women: “You’re trying to hit on me, you perv!” Yeah, ladies, you’ve got reasons to be concerned, I know. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that flirting with a woman who lives a thousand miles from me has very limited value, so if I reach out to you, it’s not because I want to send you a dick pic. Of course, I’ve also been married for 15 years, so I’m less likely to be, “God, so she’s so hot!” I also realize that I’m a middle-aged, middle-income guy with an extra 50 pounds, so I’m not gonna bother trying to attracting the hot chick. Waste of my time.

Men: Less concerned about strangers, but also less likely to friend you back. We’ve got a specific agenda, and if your profile doesn’t fit that agenda, men might follow you back… they might not… depends.

Twitter: Much friendlier to expanding, but also, we expect a lot less from the ones we follow. There’s only so many characters to express your opinion, and provides nice bite-sized forms of entertainment. So since there’s less at risk, there’s less worry to follow back.

Facebook: Longer form, so now there’s more concern. However, still pretty friendly to reaching out. Less expectation of entertainment, more cute pics of your kids, pets, food, et al. Maybe follow a link, but usually not. A lot more political minefields to run through.

LinkedIn: This is your virtual resume, but a lot of people (including myself) post stuff socially. I feel like it’s harder to expand your connections, because the stakes are so much higher there (after all, this could mean the difference between getting another job or not). Thankfully, since I was a consultant for six years, I already had a pretty amazing Rolodex (when was the last time you saw those?), so I’ve got a bigger audience. On the other hand, people are less likely to check out links because it takes more effort to follow the feed.

GoodReads: Yes, this is social media, but not a lot of traffic. Second hardest to get friends, and precious little benefit from it. But you never know – my fellow readers are the ones who I want to cultivate. However, it’s not your first destination on the social media stage, so I can understand you might not see my friend request for a… week?

WordPress: Hardest to get followers, but damn, once you do… they are dedicated. After all, these are people who like to blog, so they like to read blogs, too. So do I! 🙂 Since this is my goal to get people to read my writing, I value these followers most of all.

In my opinion, if 70% of communication is non-verbal, then to suddenly be limited to the 30% would make anyone unsettled. Therefore you’re less likely to reach out to strangers. Does this reflect your experience? Tell me your experience in the comments section below!

Double Secret Probation

7 Jul

So for the second time, I’ve gotten hit with Twitter’s double secret probation. The problem is that the list of rules on their website is HUGE and they don’t bother to list which specific violation you’ve done. Frustrating? Oh yeah.

Of course, I know what I did. I’m trying to expand my social media presence, and the way to do that is to connect with more people. So instead of doing the natural, organic way of reaching out to people, I quickly look through my stream and say, “Oh, that person needs a #writerslift, I’ll jump on that.” “Oooh, they suggest following these three people… now there’s three more!” Then you get rid of (most of) the people who aren’t following you. And sooner or later, you hit some arbitrary number that the Twitter bot decides, “You’re a bad boy for following a ton of people all at once” and puts the brakes on you.” That number was originally 300, now apparently it’s 50-100? What the hell?

Although I spend a lot of my efforts on Twitter, I find it interesting that I get the least return on my time investment. The point is to drive people to come here to my website… so they can see my writing and decide if they want to read more of it. After all, this is a “press.” However, according to my stats, I get more people from LinkedIn and fellow WordPress bloggers than Twitter! Twitter is just… easier? Nah, Twitter is just the first one that was recommended to me.

What has been your adventures in social media? Have you been put on double secret probation? Put your story in the comments below!

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