Social Media

The End of Twitter

30 January 2016

From The New Yorker:

It wasn’t that long ago that I—and many other people I know—would have argued that Twitter was more than just another social network. I would have told you that Twitter was more like a utility, a service so fundamental that I could imagine a scenario in which it was literally underwritten. Twitterneeded to exist. A stream of those hundred-and-forty-character tweets was how you found the most crucial, critical, and thought-provoking stories of the moment.

When bombs went off during the Boston Marathon, in April of 2013, users sat glued to the feed, suddenly privy to something visceral and real, somethinghappening. And Twitter provided the view, an unedited, unscripted look into the world as it changed, through police-scanner blasts, eyewitness reports, and grainy citizen-journalist photography. It was raw, but it was streamlined.

But cracks in Twitter’s façade had been showing already. Changes to the product made it hard to follow conversations or narratives. A lack of rigor in verifying reliable sources made information suspect or confusing. More troubling was the growing wave of harassment and abuse that users of the service were dealing with—a quagmire epitomized by the roving flocks of hateful, misogynistic, and well-organized “Gamergate” communities that flooded people’s feeds with hate speech and threats. The company seemed to bewholly unprepared to handle mob violence, with few tools at its disposal to moderate or quell uprisings. Even its beloved celebrity users couldn’t be protected. In August of 2014, Robin Williams’s daughter, Zelda, was driven off the service after a series of vicious attacks.

. . . .

In the yearlong stretch leading up to Dorsey’s return, the number of active users on Twitter only grew by eleven per cent. Even more troubling was the service’s penetration in the U.S.: it remained completely flat for the first three quarters of 2015. Facebook has surpassed the company by orders of magnitude, but it’s hardly Twitter’s only foe. Instagram, WhatsApp, and even WeChat all now have more individual users than Twitter does. Snapchat has almost caught Twitter, too.

In Facebook’s case, the company has demonstrated its mastery of product focus and long-term commitment to user experience. While Mark Zuckerberg’s empire sent users sloshing to and fro on the seas of privacy invasion in its early years, the past five years have seen the company come to dominate and define the concept of a social conversation.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Julia for the tip.

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Why Twitter Doesn’t Work with Sarcasm, Chap. 823

21 January 2016

From The Atlantic:

Here’s an illustration of something I understood in principle but have been reminded of in specific.

In the wee hours of last Friday night, I finally finally finally said adieu to a long story that will be in the March issue of the magazine. On Saturday, groggily, after guzzling coffee and doing the crosswords and generally moaning, I decided to turn on the TV. There, on a “mainstream” network (NBC), I saw something I hadn’t expected. It was a soccer — sorry, “football” — match from the English Premier League, Leicester City v. Aston Villa. On the good side, Leicester is the land of some of my forebears. On the bad side, for me, I am just not a soccer/ football fan.

People who have watched Saturday-daytime TV in recent years apparently know that EPL matches are a standard feature. I haven’t, and didn’t. And I made a mistake I won’t make again, putting out a sarcastic tweet .

. . . .

I’d forgotten a reality of the world of Twitter. It’s a different audience, an unknown-by-the-author audience, especially as a message gets passed around. Over the next few hours, outraged responses poured in by the metric ton. All of them were self-righteously outraged about my closed-mindedness, and old-style thinking, and “major fail,” and so on. I have never before received anything close to this volume of response on Twitter, and it has never been more vitriolic. And all of it from people taking obvious (to me) sarcasm right at face value.

Live and learn. I have learned that on Twitter, you cannot assume that you know the audience. In particular, you cannot assume that an audience beyond the one you intend will recognize the difference between sarcasm and sincerity.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Nate for the tip.

PG confesses that he only uses Twitter to send out links to new posts on TPV. It happens automatically with no effort from PG.

Whenever he has gone to see what others have to say on Twitter, he has wished he hadn’t. Writers Digest has a Twitter list of agents. PG checked it out. The experience was short-lived, but nonetheless quite regrettable.

If you examine The Passive Voice’s Twitter presence (@PassiveVoiceBlg), you will discover that TPV has over 55,000 followers and follows 51,000 Twitter accounts.

Lest you think PG is bloviating out of both sides of his mouth, he will disclose that 2-3 years ago, he signed up for a trial version of software that claimed it would automatically get him lots of followers on Twitter. After the trial was over, he did not buy the software, but he still had 55,000 Twitter followers and was, in turn, following 51,000 Twitter people he didn’t know.

Twitter’s stock price has been in a long decline for the past year. PG wonders if investors figured out that 99% of Twitter traffic is created by software programs.

Google Keys: E-A-T and YMYL, Are You an Expert?

21 January 2016

From Indies Unlimited:

[A] couple of months ago, Google released a 160-page document that explains search quality evaluator guidelines. If you’re a glutton for punishment, you can read the whole thing right here.

. . . .

Here’s the basic concept. Google wants to make sure that people who are posting and writing about “Stuff” are experts regarding “Stuff.” In other words, it’s trying to find spammers and other unsavory types by examining their content to determine if it really is all that.

There are two new acronyms that are important in this process. You may have already run across them — EAT and YMYL.

EAT: Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness. Google evaluators use this metric to rank pages. As its name implies, this metric determines if the author of the post is truly an expert on the subject matter. Here are some of the key components of an “Expert” article or post.

  1. The website has a positive reputation for its topic
  2. The page and its content is expert, authoritative, and trustworthy for what’s being discussed.
  3. The page contains enough main content relating to the subject discussed.
  4. The website contains the usual About Us, Contact, and other appropriate tabs.
  5. The website is maintained and edited regularly and frequently.

So, how does Google know if you are an expert? Google claims that you don’t have to be a doctor to discuss medical advice (although it helps you in the search ranks if you are) however, it claims that it is looking at how helpful, detailed, and useful the information provided is. The key is how detailed your content is. A cursory overview will not gain much traction in the EAT world.

YMYL: Your Money or Your Life. Yep, that’s what it really stands for. In Google’s effort to keep people safe, they examine any page that asks for money or dishes health advice. They want the “Experts” to write these types of pages. What falls under this category?

  1. Shopping or financial transaction pages
  2. Tax, investment, or other financial advice pages
  3. Medical advice pages
  4. Legal advice pages
  5. Any page that would be harmful if possessing less than expert advice

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited and thanks to Deb for the tip.

New Comments Plugin

13 January 2016

SECOND UPDATE: I received some problem reports for plugin #2. I just installed plugin #3. Let me know how this one works.

——

UPDATE: I zapped the first comment plugin I tried and installed another. Let me know how you like this one.

PG received some reports that the Comments plugin he has been using for a long time was returning error messages under some circumstances.

He’s installed a new plugin to help manage Comments.

If you have any reactions, pro or con, to the new plugin, feel free to drop a comment here. If, for any reason, the Comments aren’t working for you, PG would appreciate a message sent via the Contact page.

The Author Who Cyber-Stalked Me

11 January 2016

From author Jeremy Duns:

Back in 2012, best-selling British novelist Stephen Leather openly boasted on stage at the Harrogate crime festival that he used fake identities to promote his books online. The panel was recorded, but the nub of it was when Leather said this:

‘As soon as my book is out, I’m on Facebook and Twitter several times a day talking about it. I’ll go on to several forums, the well-known forums, and post there under my name and under various other names and various other characters. You build up this whole network of characters who talk about your books and sometimes have conversations with yourself.’

I didn’t think this was ethical, and asked Leather on Twitter how he justified deceiving people into buying his books on the say-so of comments they had believed were from genuine fans of his – rather than simply from himself in disguise. In response, Leather quickly blocked me and became personally insulting.

. . . .

As Leather was refusing to clarify what precisely he had done, I started looking myself to see if I could find some of the online identities he’d boasted about (or ‘sockpuppets’ as they’re often called).

Leather is one of the UK’s bestselling authors – in 2011, he was the second most successful British author on Kindle worldwide after Lee Child and ahead of Ken Follett, Agatha Christie and Terry Pratchett.

. . . .

To have so many websites seems confusing to me from a marketing perspective. On the other hand, having this many sites widens his online reach, in that if you Google him lots of these come up on the first few pages, which gives an impression of a writer everyone is talking about. Note, too, that most were set up after 2012. As a result of Harrogate and its aftermath Leather had a lot of bad press online, and so a plethora of sites might have helped draw attention away from them for anyone Googling his name. But note, please, the following:

  • Stephen Leather has set up a lot of websites.
  • All but one of those I found were registered using the company GoDaddy.com.
  • Leather most often registered these sites using his name, but occasionally he withheld that information. Nevertheless, common sense tells us from the context, designs and content that he set up all of these sites.
  • All the sites’ domain names end ‘.com’. No  ‘.nets’ or ‘co.uks’ or the like for Leather.
  • The sites have similar names, as you would of course expect, but look at how they are similar: authorstephenleather.com and stephenleatherauthor.com, for instance. He likes variations of domain names, and switching nouns to the front and back of the url. He only used a hyphen in one domain name. He doesn’t use pronouns (eg ‘thebestsellingauthorstephenleather’ or ‘theofficialstephenleather’)
  • He has set up a lot of websites that have very similar, though not precisely the same, content. It’s an unusual strategy. Most authors I know of have just one website, or perhaps a site and a blog on the side. Leather has set up a dozen, and three blogs, and most of them are still accessible.
  • But one site, spidershepherd.com, has an automatic redirect attached to it.

. . . .

Leather initially denied having any connection with this account, but eventually admitted he was running it. He changed the account’s handle from @thirdparagraph to @firstparagraph, and continued insulting people who had criticized him. A recurring theme was that he was hugely successful, and that anyone criticizing him was a failure, and must be jealous.

. . . .

The @firstparagraph account is still running. He still promotes his own work in it, but now has a theme of posting pictures of cute kittens. This means he can keep his ‘official’ account, @stephenleather – the one most of his readers and his publisher will know about and see – ‘clean’, while under his hilarious kitten guise he can throw out thinly veiled barbs at his critics without damaging his ‘brand’.

Back to 2012, though. On looking deeper, I found an even more unusual sockpuppet Leather had set up. After a self-published writer Steve Roach had repeatedly criticized him for his promotional tactics on Amazon, Leather set up two Twitter accounts in Roach’s name. This served two purposes: firstly, he could recommend his own books from behind the disguise, fooling people into thinking the recommendations he was making for his own books were from another writer; secondly, he could exact revenge on Mr Roach for having crossed swords with him by spamming everyone with how wonderful a writer he was while posing as Roach.

Link to the rest at Jeremy Duns and thanks to Barry for the tip.

Here’s a link to Jeremy Duns’ books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG is not acquainted with either Mr. Duns or Mr. Leather. He will make an observation on one element of Mr. Duns’ post, however.

It is not a bad idea to acquire domain names that are variations of an author’s name (JaneSmith.com, JaneDSmith.com, JaneDianeSmith.com, etc.) The purpose of this is to prevent someone else purchasing a domain name similar to the author’s and confusing the author’s fans.

You can either leave the related sites completely dormant and just pay a renewal fee once per year or you can very easily set the related sites to automatically and seamlessly redirect anyone going to them to your main site.

For the record, PG thinks that sockpuppetry, cyberstalking and pretending to be someone you’re not online are all bad ideas. Certain types of cyberstalking are crimes – see, for example, California Penal Code Section 646.9 , California Penal Code Section 422 and 18 U.S. Code § 2261A.

Being exposed as a sockpuppet, troll, etc., is simply bad business for an author. If you do it often enough, someone is bound to find out who you are, then you’re exposed as a jerk and potential book purchasers may remember you for that instead of the desirability of your books.

Sour Grapes: Publishing Industry Insiders Bemoan The Rise of Outsider Book Bloggers

9 January 2016

From The Digital Reader:

The Times of London recently took up the cause of the literati who are dismayed that they should have to read the same books as the hoi polloi book bloggers that persist in publishing their reviews online.

. . . .

The literati have been lamenting for years now that the general populace is literate and capable of sharing its opinion on the internet. Some have even gone so far as to proclaim that book bloggers are harming literature.

“Eventually that will be to the detriment of literature, Peter Stothard told The Independent in 2012.”It will be bad for readers; as much as one would like to think that many bloggers opinions are as good as others. It just ain’t so. People will be encouraged to buy and read books that are no good, the good will be overwhelmed, and we’ll be worse off. There are some important issues here.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Barry for the tip.

 

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Best Practices for Author Facebook Pages and Groups

22 December 2015

From author Kirsten Oliphant via Jane Friedman:

As one of the older students in my MFA program at twenty-seven, I was forced to join Facebook. Without it, I would have missed out on important communications with my fresh-out-of-college classmates. (Like what time to meet at the bar after workshop.) By the time I started utilizing Facebook as a platform-building tool, it was in the post-apocalyptic landscape after the algorithm change.

If you don’t know about this shift, Facebook stopped showing page updates in the newsfeed of those who Liked the page. Instead, Facebook created an algorithm that neutered organic page reach, supposedly to increase user experience. (Which not-so-coincidentally increased the use of paid ads and boosted posts.)

To get a real sense of the impact of the algorithm, here is a quick example:

I have about 2,600 Likes on my page, but the last link to my blog showed up in only thirty-one user’s feeds. This means about 1.5 percent of my audience saw my post.

With this kind of algorithm, is it worth your time to utilize Facebook for your platform?

Yes!

. . . .

Many people expect authors, bloggers, or public figures to have a page. A page functions with the creator at the center. Interactions come from and return to her like spokes of a wheel. The currency of a page is the number of Likes, but that number isn’t necessarily a good metric of engagement or success.

To see growth and engagement, pages need consistent and frequent posts. That means pages are a lot of work with no guarantee that people will see it to appreciate it. Some people choose not to use pages for this reason, or they simply set up a Facebook page like a landing page with basic information, and send visitors to an email list, blog, or Facebook group instead.

A Facebook group functions more like a web, where connections don’t have to move in a linear way from the creator at the center. The moderator often initiates conversations, but members interact more with one another and can also be active contributors. Groups form around a topic, blog, book, area of interest, or even simply around a person. Groups are not (yet) affected by an algorithm shift, which means that your members will see more of your posts than people who Like your page.

Groups can be very effective even if they are small. My podcast’s Create If Writing group has under 150 members, but is far more active than my page. The last link to my content was seen by thirty-two people (about 20 percent of the group) and had several Likes and comments.

Rather than simple numbers, interaction and the sense of community is the metric for successful groups. Some writers utilize Facebook groups for book-launch teams, beta readers, or thirty-day challenges, and some use them as a private group exclusively for email subscribers.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Here’s a link to Kirsten Oliphant’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

The Impact of Goodreads Choice Awards for Authors and Publishers

14 December 2015

From Goodreads:

For authors, winning a Goodreads Choice Award—the only major book awards chosen by readers—represents a tremendous achievement. But the impact can be far greater than most people realize.

Winning a Goodreads Choice Award can boost a book—even a bestselling book—into higher levels of awareness and drive more sales. Case in point: The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, which won Best Historical Fiction in this year’s Goodreads Choice Awards.

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Before its win, about 475 people were adding The Nightingale to their shelves each day. Compared to most other books, this is impressive (especially for a book published nine months earlier) and enough to make the book a bestseller. Additionally, the book has really resonated with readers, boasting an almost-unheard-of 4.53 average rating based on more than 83,000 ratings. (The more people rate a book, the harder it is to maintain a very high average rating as no book is the perfect fit for every single reader.)

But the Goodreads Choice Awards was about to take it even further. On the day it was announced as the winner for Best Historical Fiction, about 9,300 people added it. That’s more than an 1800% increase!

. . . .

For a book like The Nightingale, winning the Goodreads Choice Award is especially important. As Kristin Hannah herself said in a recent post on Facebook, “Most year’s best lists are compiled by critics who don’t even consider commercial fiction (especially novels by, for, and/or about women), so it is so important—and meaningful—to hear what real readers love.”

Link to the rest at Goodreads and thanks to Suzanne for the tip.

How to Build (and not Build) an Author Site

6 December 2015

From Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego:

When I released my first book four years ago, I wasn’t convinced I needed an author site. After all, an Amazon Author Page includes most of the basic elements needed to establish a web presence, and it’s free to boot. I decided to build one anyway for the experience I’d gain in doing so, and now it’s time for a major rebuild. Here’s why.

As in every other aspect of learning how to self-publish, there’s an endless amount of low-value (and sometimes downright wrong) “how to” stuff out there, as well as an infinite number of service providers that care a lot about getting your business, but little (if at all) about helping you get business. They’ll be delighted to sell you a formulaic site, take your money and say “good luck” (others are very good, by the way, so shop around). Finding the straight story about what’s worth doing and what is simply a waste of time and money is a challenge and a chore.

In point of fact, having a simple, static web site is likely to have little to no value at all. So paying hundreds of dollars to set one up, or spending a lot of time to figure out how to do it yourself for free, will be right up there with buying a press release – an almost complete waste of time and money. At the other extreme, setting one up and going wild with it, but in the wrong ways, may be an even larger, unproductive time sink.

. . . .

It’s important to start by recognizing that there are four things an author site must do as well as possible:

  1. It must provide a clear, compelling reason for a visitor to buy each of your books, and make it as easy as possible for a visitor to make an impulse buying decision (e.g., include buttons linking to your book or author page at each major distributor through which your books are available).
  2. It should help build your brand, which includes you as well as any sub-brands it would be smart to create (e.g., specific book series and characters).
  3. Along with related promotional activities, it must help you establish a growing number of identified followers with whom you can communicate, both independently as well as via posts at the site. That way you can let your readers know when you release a new book, and hope to enlist them to help you promote it.
  4. It must be easily discoverable by people making appropriate web searches.

. . . .

Many author sites (including this one) devolve into efforts to connect with other authors rather than acting as effective sales tools. Why? Because authors are more likely to interact, and it’s nice to be noticed. So the author starts to serve the audience they’ve been able to attract rather than continue directing their efforts to the more difficult goal of acquiring a reader base.

. . . .

So let’s take it the next level down. What types of features should your site include?

  1. Obviously, your books should be very prominently displayed. Those authors that don’t have lots of news and opportunities for engagement to update should be sure that their books are the most prominent elements of the home page. I said “obviously,” but surprisingly enough, there are many author sites where this is not the case.
  2. You should tell your readers enough about yourself to allow visitors to connect with you as a person, since the person that writes the books is – or should be – part of the brand in order to permit your brand-building efforts to be as effective as possible (again, not as obvious as it sounds). If you are a fiction writer, consider making the style of your bio hip, flip, provocative, confessional or whatever in order to support the particular brand image that you want to create (that’s another serious topic, but one for another occasion). In any event, the text that introduces her to her readers shouldn’t be something appropriate to embed in a resume. If you want, you can stop here. But you can take this a lot further with a blog in which you share insights about, for example, how and why you write what you do, and what may be coming up next (much more on this topic to follow).
  3. Further to the same point, the banner of the site should feature your  name, and not that of a specific book or book series (in some cases it may make sense to have a separate site to best build the brand for a series).
  4. For each book, the site should have a separate page, with a description, large size image of the cover, as well as other features of the author’s choosing, such as outtakes from reviews, references to prizes the book has won, endorsements, etc. But keep each book page short – no more than a screen or so. If you want to include more, do it via links to additional pages or sources. And, of course, include those Buy links.
  5. Include sample chapters from each book, with more Buy buttons at the end.
  6. Include a newsletter sign-up form in the side bar on every page, as well as invitations to use that form (with links) wherever appropriate within the main body of other pages.
  7. Never use your home page as your blog page. Put that under a separate tab.
  8. Keep the structure of the site and the navigation clean and traditional – make it easy for a visitor to find what they’re looking for by putting things under tabs with titles they’re used to.

Link to the rest at Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego

Here’s a link to Andrew Updegrove’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Engaging Audiences through Twitter in 15 Minutes a Day

1 December 2015

From Jane Friedman:

Twitter is one of my favorite platforms. Using Twitter, I found my first writing mastermind group, landed podcast interviews with power influencers like Problogger’s Darren Rowse, and was once retweeted by Vanilla Ice. Twitter is the quickest way to interact with both the authors you love and the readers you hope to have for your books.

But, like any form of social media, Twitter can devour your time. Being intentional has helped me get the most out of Twitter in the least amount of time. I want to share with you a 15-minute daily plan that will help you utilize Twitter to connect with influencers and your ideal audience. I only wish I could travel back to 2009 and give this to myself!

Before we dive into the details, you need to think about your goals and the kinds of people you want to connect with on Twitter. It is important to be a creator (sharing your own content) and a curator (sharing the content of others). Be intentional about the tweets you create and curate. Ask yourself if your tweets will be relevant to the audience you want to build or will help you connect with influential Twitter users.

. . . .

Each of these tools is free, but has a paid version. My recommendation is always to use free unless the paid version has something that saves you time or makes you more effective.

Hootsuite or Buffer will help you create lists (which you can also do natively in Twitter) and schedule tweets. These are not the only Twitter tools, but by far the most popular. Buffer has some great Chrome extensions, while Hootsuite allows for unlimited scheduled tweets. Pick the one that works best for you. I almost never use Twitter itself, but manage Twitter through Hootsuite.

Manageflitter will help you manage followers. Making exceptions for those who share fantastic content, I will unfollow users if they do not follow me back. (I usually give them a few weeks to follow back before I unfollow.)

. . . .

Step 1: Create Lists

Before you can manage Twitter in 15 minutes a day, you’ll need to set up lists and populate them with relevant people. Using Buffer or Hootsuite, create a few basic lists centered around your activity: “tweets I’ve sent,” “mentions,” “my tweets people have retweeted,” “direct messages,” “my scheduled tweets,” and “my home feed.” Those help you manage your own feed.

Then create lists based around the influencers whose content you plan to share. As an example, you might have lists like these: “Writers I Love,” “People Tweeting about Writing,” “Bloggers Who Review Books,” “Publishers & Agents.” You have the option to set your lists as private, which means they are not visible. Private lists are especially important if you choose list names like: “The People I Really Like” or “Influencers I Wish Were My BFF.” Here is a glance at a few of my lists in Hootsuite:

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

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