Social Media

Google is making a giant change this week that could crush millions of small businesses

20 April 2015

From Business Insider:

On Tuesday, April 21, Google is making a major update to its mobile search algorithm that will change the order in which websites are ranked when users search for something from their phone or tablet.

The algorithm will start favoring mobile-friendly websites (ones with large text, easy-to-click links, and that resize to fit whatever screen they’re viewed on) and ranking them higher in search. Websites that aren’t mobile-friendly will get demoted.

About 60% of online traffic now comes from mobile and Google wants users to have a good experience whenever they click on a mobile link.

The company announced its impending changes back in February, giving webmasters nearly two months and plenty of information to make the changes necessary to keep their sites from disappearing from mobile search results. But the update is still expected to cause a major ranking shake-up. It has even been nicknamed “Mobile-geddon” because of how “apocalyptic” it could be for millions of websites, Itai Sadan, CEO of website building company Duda, told Business Insider.

“I think the people who are at risk are those who don’t know about it,” Sadan says. To him, that mostly means small businesses.

“Come April 21, a lot of small businesses are going to be really surprised that the number of visitors to their websites has dropped significantly. This is going to affect millions of sites on the web,” he says.

Link to the rest at Business Insider

PG says authors may wish to check their websites on their cell phones and tablets.

Send PG a note via the Contact Page if TPV’s mobile-friendly plugin causes you any problems or doesn’t work.

My Haters, Myself

14 April 2015

From Slate:

Jennifer Weiner has sold millions of books, spent a combined five years on the New York Times best-seller list, and amassed 109,000 followers on Twitter. Last week, she descended into the basement of New York City’s Ace Hotel to share a handful of her self-promotional secrets. The talk, sponsored by the PEN American Center, was titled “How to Be Authentic on Social Media,” but its true subject was how to promote your book on the Internet without making everyone hate you. Weiner advised authors to tweet about the things they love (for Weiner, it’s the reality TV romance competition The Bachelor); to tweet about the authors they love (Roxane Gay and Gary Shteyngart are two of her favorites); and to tweet about their own projects “sparingly, carefully, modestly, thoughtfully, and absolutely as little as possible”—and let their now-loyal crew of social media followers spread the word. The talk was a handy primer, charmingly delivered. But it referred only obliquely to Weiner’s true social-media innovation: Co-opting her haters into her personal brand.

In 2010, Weiner coined the term “Franzenfreude” to mock the extensive and fawning media coverage that met Jonathan Franzen’s latest novel, Freedom. When Franzen unexpectedly returned the slight, frowning upon “Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promotion” in an essay published in the Guardian in 2013, Weiner cannily recast Franzen’s dig as a badge of honor, changing her Twitter bio, for a time, to “Engaging in Jennifer Weiner-ish self-promotion.” Years of sustained, adversarial brand building followed. On Twitter, she’s dubbed Franzen“the worst Internet boyfriend ever,” branded his literary allies “Franzenfriends,” and gleefully organized an “unFranzen” party to coincide with Franzen’s keynote address at next month’s BookExpo America.

. . . .

Weiner is a master of what I’ve taken to calling the haterbrag. Think of it as the humblebrag’s evil (but funner) stepsister, a bit of social media sleight-of-hand that turns an insult into an asset. When Weiner cast the “Weiner-ish” line out to her followers, she jiu-jitsued his scorn, presenting herself not as the victim of a withering putdown by the great American novelist of our era, but as the accessible everywoman who stands in opposition to a stuffy highbrow jerk.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.

14 April 2015

From author Delilah S. Dawson:

It’s 2012. I’m sitting at a table in the front of the room, a microphone poised to capture my every word. At this local writing conference, I am considered a rock star. Everyone in the audience wants what I have–a three-book contract with a traditional publishing company. Their eyes are hungry, their pens poised over notebooks. We take a question from the crowd.

“How do I build a platform and make money with my blog?” a woman asks.

“Build a time machine and go back to 2005 and start your blog then,” I say.

. . . .

From the very beginning of my writing career, I’ve been told that publishers want a writer to have a brand, a platform, a blog, a built-in army of fans. But that was 2009, and now it’s 2015, and that doesn’t work anymore. Book blogs become paid services, giveaways become chum pits, conference-goers dump purses full of business cards out in the trash to make room for more free books that they won’t read. It is virtually impossible to get your blog seen or your book discovered. We are glutted with information, and yet our answer to “How do I get people to buy my book?” is social media marketing, which is basically throwing more information out into the void.

Why?

1. Because Twitter doesn’t sell books.

It is a sad fact that if every one of my Twitter followers–which is 9,631, as of this post– bought my next book, HIT would hit the New York Times bestseller list. BOOM. Easy. One success like that helps an author with every stage of their career, raising their advances, giving them more bargaining power, and lending them a sort of street cred that even my grouchy Luddite grandfather understands and respects. Looking at my sales numbers, my followers are not following me for the purpose of buying my next book, and that’s totally okay. They’re probably there for my brownie recipes and #badscarystories. But the point is that whatever a publisher sees when checking my Klout score doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales. Whatever form of alchemy causes a person to click BUY IT NOW runs deeper than simply hearing the message every two hours as if the author is an insane cuckoo clock.

2. Because Facebook hides posts for blackmail purposes.

Back in 2007, Facebook was beautiful in its simplicity. You posted something to your personal page or your Fan/Author/Brand page, and everyone who was your Friend or Follower saw it. Since then, however, Facebook has recognized the error of allowing us to speak to our friends for free, and now, of my 1836 Fans, only 3-10% see any given post on the Author page that they have chosen to follow for the express purpose of reading my posts. If I pay $20, I could bump that number up to 30%. I would have better luck randomly mailing postcards to strangers. No matter what I say or how beautifully I say it, my message doesn’t reach the people who have asked to hear it.

. . . .

Are you seeing the thread here?

Social media is PUSHING.

And today’s reader doesn’t buy things because the author pushed them.

As a reader, I want a book to pull me.

When I see a book’s name pop up again and again among people I trust, I want to read it.

When the cover is beautiful and the hook is compelling, I want to read it.

Link to the rest at Whimseydark and thanks to Scath for the tip.

Here’s a link to Delilah S. Dawson’s books

How a Troll-Spotting Algorithm Learned Its Anti-antisocial Trade

12 April 2015

From MIT Technology Review:

Trolls are the scourge of many an Internet site. These are people who deliberately engage in antisocial behavior by posting inflammatory or off topic messages. At best, they are a frustrating annoyance; at the worst they can make people’s lives a misery.

So a way of spotting trolls early in their online careers and preventing their worst excesses would be a valuable tool.

Today, Justin Cheng at Stanford University in California and a few pals say they have created just such a tool by analyzing the behavior of trolls on several well-known websites and creating an algorithm that can accurately spot them after as few as 10 posts. They say their technique should be of high practical importance to the people who maintain online communities.

. . . .

[T]hey have a list of users who have been banned for antisocial behavior, over 10,000 of them in total. They also have all of the messages posted by these users throughout their period of online activity. “Such individuals are clear instances of antisocial users, and constitute ‘ground truth’ in our analyses,” say Cheng and co.

These guys set out to answer three different questions about antisocial users. First, whether they are antisocial throughout their community life or only towards the end. Second, whether the community’s reaction causes their behavior to become worse. And lastly, whether antisocial users can be accurately identified early on.

. . . .

This clearly shows that users who are later banned tend to write poorer quality posts to start off with. And not only that, the quality of their posts decreases with time.

And while communities initially appear forgiving and are therefore slow to ban antisocial users, they become less tolerant over time. “This results in an increased rate at which [posts from antisocial users] are deleted,” they say.

Interestingly, Cheng and co say that the differences between messages posted by people who are later banned and those who are not is so clear that it is relatively straightforward to spot them using a machine learning algorithm. “In fact, we only need to observe five to 10 user posts before a classifier is able to make a reliable prediction,” they boast.

That could turn out to be useful. Antisocial behavior is an increasingly severe problem that requires significant human input to detect and tackle. This process often means that antisocial users are allowed to operate for much longer than necessary. “Our methods can effectively identify antisocial users early in their community lives and alleviate some of this burden,” say Cheng and co.

Link to the rest at MIT Technology Review and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Yahoo Has Apparently Decided It’s Time To Really Cash In On Tumblr

9 April 2015

From ReadWrite:

Yahoo is planning an internal reshuffle that could effectively end the independence of its most popular acquisition, the visual blogging platform Tumblr.

The Information reports that CEO Marissa Mayer spoke about the major changes inside the company at an offsite meeting with executives. She also reportedly asked Tumblr CEO David Karp which Yahoo executive he’d like to report to from now on.

Yahoo spent $1.1 billion to acquire Tumblr in May 2013, and it looks like the company is finally planning to seek a return on that investment. Tumblr’s highly visual format makes it possible to serve native ads—that is, ads that are barely distinguishable from the content around them, and thus less intrusive to users.

. . . .

Unfortunately, and almost certainly by coincidence, Tumblr rolled out a new dashboard redesign on Wednesday, the same day the news broke about Yahoo. Tumblr users immediately started to blame the site’s overlords for the unwelcome change.

“…yet another useless addition/change implemented by yahoo, no benefit to the flow of things whatsoever,” one blogger wrote.

Link to the rest at ReadWrite

PG says this is another reminder that you take a risk when you put your content on someone else’s platform instead of something you control, like a blog linked to a URL you own and which you can move, content and all, to any one of dozens of other locations whenever you feel like it.

Social media witch hunts: “We’re the merciless ones!”

31 March 2015

From Salon:

Jon Ronson’s new book “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” is a departure of sorts for the bestselling humorist/journalist. Instead of interviewing paranoid extremists (“Them”) or bizarre military researchers (“The Men Who Stare at Goats”) or convicted murderers (“The Psychopath Test”), he had heart-to-hearts with a publicist, a science journalist, a software developer and a caregiver for adults with learning difficulties. What drew Ronson to this collection of fairly ordinary people is an ordeal they all shared: public shaming in the age of social media.

. . . .

Justine Sacco, the publicist, tweeted a lame joke meant to parody racist attitudes toward AIDS, then boarded a flight to South Africa while Twitter erupted with calls for her head on a platter and gleeful jibes about the nightmare that would greet her when her plane landed. Jonah Lehrer, the journalist, got busted for plagiarism and fabrication and then somehow ended up apologizing at a podium while tweets accusing him of being a “sociopath” and a “delusional, unrepentant narcissist” scrolled up a giant screen behind him. Hank, the developer, made stupid double entendres about dongles with a buddy while sitting in the audience at a tech conference, offending another programmer, Adria Richards, and setting off a string of events that would end with both fired and Richards subjected to horrendous online harassment.

. . . .

All four, and a handful of others whose fates Ronson describes in “So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed,” had their lives wrecked when hoards of digitally empowered crusaders descended on them. All lost their jobs. All went through periods of depression and withdrawal. “It’s not like I can date,” Sacco told Ronson, “because we google everyone we might date.” Some, like Lehrer, were more culpable than others, but their stories left Ronson with nagging doubts about the tools he’d once idealized as a means by which “giants were being brought down by people who used to be powerless.” He decided to investigate what he calls “the great renaissance in public shaming.” And he was frightened, badly, by what he found.

. . . .

I was so happy that you were able to help Lindsey Stone, whose name I hesitate to even mention.

Lindsey is quite happy to be part of the conversation. Being talked about in the way that I’ve been talking about her is actually better than having it all vanish. There are few things more traumatizing than being cast out into the wilderness by the masses, and there’s nothing better than being brought back in. So Lindsey — and Justine [Sacco], too — doesn’t really mind being discussed now that people are discussing them in this new way.

Was it Justine’s case that pulled you into the story of social-media shaming?

I was already in the midst of this when I came across her, but when I did, I just thought, “This is unbelievable.” There’s huge numbers of people willfully misunderstanding this woman for their own ideological ends and those people who were doing it: they’re us. I identified both with Justine and also with the people who tore her apart. And I thought: We’re punishing Justine, gleefully punishing Justine, with this thing that we are the most terrified might happen to us. That’s not a world that you want to live in.

. . . .

Some version of what happened to Justine really can happen to anyone, clearly, because how many followers did she have beforehand?

She had 170. And when the New York Times was fact-checking the excerpt they ran, she told them that no one had ever replied to any of her tweets, either.

She thought she was just sending this stuff off into the void.

Exactly, which is why I don’t buy the slightly cold argument of “Live by the sword, die by the sword,” and when you broadcast on Twitter you should expect these things to happen. Justine had no reason to suspect that.

. . . .

I think what people also don’t realize — or maybe they just don’t care — is that jumping on someone and telling them how terrible they are isn’t actually a great form of persuasion. It makes people dig in their heels and get defensive.

Yeah, although I know that Lindsey believed every negative thing that was written about her.

Oh, that’s terrible!

It was awful. I reinterviewed her a couple of weeks ago for the BBC and she said she read everything and felt worthless. I really think that when she said “worthless” she meant it; poor Lindsey believed everything. I think Justine had more self-esteem. Even me, with all my self-esteem [laughs] when a little flame war happened after the New York Times extract, I didn’t reply to everybody and I muted everybody but I read it all and it definitely made me feel anxious. I was, like, waking up at 4 in the morning and immediately going onto Twitter to see if anything else had happened. Even my tiny rain of shaming had an impact of me.

Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Dave for the tip.

When You Know It’s Time to Move On

30 March 2015

From author Elizabeth Spann Craig:

In October, my agent received an email from my editor.  I have a release scheduled in the Southern Quilting series this June (book 5).  My editor knew my contract for the series was about to run out and asked me to come up with some ideas for additional books for the series.

I developed two book outlines but never emailed them.  My editor wrote my agent last month to say that print sales had decreased (I’ve no doubt…they’re only a fraction of my digital sales for my self-published books) and Penguin Random House wanted to stop printing the series.  Instead, they were interested in my exploring their e-only line, InterMix.

And…I asked for my character rights back.

The publisher promptly returned a non-renewal notice for the series and a permission grant for me to continue it via self-pub.

I know my ebooks have been selling well—I get royalty checks.  I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid here.  I know what I need a big-five traditional publisher for…expansive print distribution into bookstores.  But this is now becoming less and less important as indicated by my publisher moving away from printing this series.

I read my agent’s email and immediately knew I wanted to self-pub the series before I’d even finished the email. I’m fortunate enough to have a decent reader base at this point, making this the right decision.  Would I discourage everyone from accepting an e-only deal?  I wouldn’t.  But I’d add that we really need to go into these types of arrangements with our eyes open.  What do we want to get out of it?  We should do some soul-searching.

. . . .

Important for writers, I think—don’t let these types of decisions become personal.  I love my editor…I’ve had a fantastic working relationship with her.  My agent and I have worked together well.  This isn’t about relationships…this is business.  This is about my making a living.

I think they understand that. There are no hard feelings.  I’m not just taking my ball and going home out of pique. E-only isn’t a good fit for me…that’s all there is to it.

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Spann Craig

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s books

When TPV was birthed in 2011, Elizabeth was already operating a thoughtful blog and PG has linked to quite a number of her posts over the years. Additionally, Elizabeth also has an active Twitter presence and has maintained that during the period PG has been following her.

Why I Quit Goodreads (or, The Bookternet Is Not Safe for Women)

29 March 2015

From BookRiot:

A few months ago, I quit Goodreads.

Partly, I was paring back my social media life to those that are most useful to me  (Twitter) or make me happiest (Instagram). Partly, I found the Kathleen Hale controversy profoundly upsetting. But mostly, I was just sick of being harassed. I was tired of being questioned by authors or rabid fans about my three-star reviews (by the way can we talk about how a three-star review is not a bad review, people?), messaged and spammed and poked at to read someone’s self-published magnum opus, and invited to everything all over the world always. But those are minor annoyances. The Kathleen Hale controversy snapped into focus something I had always kind of wondered about: as a woman, putting my views on the internet is an act of risk-taking.

And this is gendered, folks. I don’t think Hale would have stalked a male commentator, and I know my male colleagues here at Book Riot get very different reactions for saying the same things my female colleagues do. This is about being a woman who wants to exercise her voice, and this is about the people who will always read that voice as a threat.

Once, a week or so before I deleted my Goodreads account, I gave a book that shall remain nameless a two-star review. A man claiming to be the author’s publicist messaged me to ask that I reconsider. I ignored the message (I never had that many followers on Goodreads and it seemed to me that I was a small potatoes target) and, a day or so later, received an angrier message, this time demanding that I take down the review. I wrote back and noted that I had made some positive points about the book but that overall it didn’t work for me. Reviews on Goodreads, I noted, are personal reflections for the most part — mine certainly were — and I wasn’t condemning the book as a whole. The person wrote back and asked, “How would you like it if people used the internet to say mean things about you? It can be done, you know.”

. . . .

It got me thinking about how often I read articles on book sites (not, blessedly, this one, with its carefully managed community and moderated comments) where I have wanted to join in the discussion, only to read the comment threads full of male aggressions and personal attacks, racism and sexism and threats of violence, and think: no, this is not for me. My voice is not welcome here.

At least once a week, now, I scroll past a comment thread and move on.

This is a problem that is wider than us in the bookternet but it is, make no mistake, a problem in the bookternet. We were supposed to be the safe space for intellectual discussion of this act of reading that we so love. And yet.

. . . .

When I say the bookternet is not safe for women, I mean it. Thankfully I have never been physically attacked or directly harmed by my experiences tweeting and blogging about books. But I have certainly been made to feel unsafe, to live on the defensive, to question the motivations of those who engage with me, to block first and ask questions never. That’s not the person I want to be, but it’s the person I must be if I wish to have a public voice on a big platform like Book Riot. If I have to choose between my sweetness and my voice, my voice will always, always win. It has to.

Link to the rest at BookRiot

Conversations in Private Author Loops

27 March 2015

From author Courtney Milan via Smart Bitches, Trashy Books:

Courtney Milan says:

Look, there’s a reason I haven’t said much. I’m still untangling things. There are a lot of things that I need to untangle. I’m sorry that’s not convenient–I conveniently wish I could untangle this easily, too.

But here is one thread of about 45 tangled threads that I think I’m finally clear on: There is an intersection between Jane being on author loops and the lawsuit.

Everything that crosses Jane’s eye about Ellora’s Cave is discoverable by Tina Engler–someone who has allegedly inflated the 1099s of former editors who testified in the suit in retaliation for their testimony, an action that will cost them time and money to correct. A lot of authors–and I mean a LOT–are being very cautious about what they say because they don’t want to be retaliated against. I understand that worry and I’m not going to tell people to put their careers on the line when they’ve got a living to make.

Now we come to those private author loops. Because that’s where we do a lot of processing behind the scenes, including processing of the questions regarding the EC suit. On private author loops, authors have asked each other questions like this: Do I say something in public? Is it worth the risk? They still have six of my books, and they’re still paying me and I need that money to pay rent. Or, maybe the calculus goes, They haven’t paid me yet but I think they will and I can’t afford not to get it. I can’t speak up.

Ellora’s Cave is going to ask for discovery of any and all communications received by Jane in any form regarding Ellora’s Cave. If Jane was on any of those loops? That stuff is discoverable. Even if Jane as Jen didn’t respond or instigate the discussion. Even if she never used the information.

It is a huge risk to speak frankly in front of someone who may be compelled by court order to report your speech to the person you are talking about. There’s even the risk that, as a result of that speech, you may be compelled by subpoena to testify in court. These are risks that are vastly different in kind than the risks authors normally assume–and Jane spent six months on authors’ loops not disclosing that a court could compel her to put everything said in front of her about Ellora’s Cave in front of Tina Engler.

Link to the rest at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books and thanks to Phoenix and several others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Courtney Milan’s books

Visual Check

26 March 2015

PG is trying out a new WordPress plugin that is designed to make TPV easier to consume on mobile devices. Basically, the plugin is supposed to know when someone is using a mobile device and send them a mobile-friendly layout instead of the one they see when they visit TPV with a web browser on their computer.

PG’s past experiments with this type of plugin resulted in some people getting the mobile version on their computers and others getting a broken mobile version on their smart phones or tablets.

The plugin will be activated immediately after this post appears. If you could respond with your experience, particularly if you have problems, it would be much appreciated.

UPDATE: Between the comments and the emails, it appears that I need to find another plugin. I’ve deactivated this one. Thanks for giving me feedback.

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