Who are You?

Twitter have been working hard over the past few months to clean up their act: removing fake accounts, discounting locked accounts from follower numbers and all manner of tomfoolery is being employed in an attempt to make our timelines more representative of reality. Except all this work is largely pointless when you think all a robot is made up of is automated code and all anybody on a sock account wants to do is to spread hate speech. My feed is teeming with robots, and it is time to start weeding them out.

This account is typical of many that are quite possibly advertising a real person, but it is most certainly not them using their account in a fashion that would be considered as ‘normal.’ The Follower (singular) that we share is the biggest giveaway: an account with massive follower numbers that retweets only scheduled, curated content. These are not ‘people’ I could have a conversation with, but they provide the filler which increasingly is holding sections of Social media together.

Their output, almost exclusively, is retweets of other accounts that pick up hashtags and then send them onward. In this case, the #amwriting and #amediting snared me. I did honestly go back more than a week to try and find evidence of actual humanity but none was forthcoming, and a look at the followers? Nobody I had in common except that single account. They’re a MASSIVE red flag and I want nothing to do with them.

After a while it becomes really easy to separate the reality from an automaton. Even if Liam is a real person, he’s using robot software to like simultaneously, and that’s an instant turnoff. It’s like when I follow someone and they then immediately DM me a thank you which is clearly an automated response. If I can write and curate every tweet, so can you.

When the person who follows you tweets in another language, it should not be an obstacle to communication. I follow lots of people for whom English is not their tweeting language of choice, and it really is not an obstacle to understanding. Not reading my tweet and (again) only following that one account? Your language of choice is irrelevant. SHOO.

I can do this all day and night. Let’s see who blinks first.

The GSME: Back in Time

On March 14th I decided, after a fair amount of consideration, to sign up for Twitter’s Promote Mode beta. I’ve spoken about this in previous GSME articles, that it could be a great idea for someone like me in order to advertise myself without having to worry about micromanaging a bunch of stuff through often unwieldy UI selection screens. I’m just over halfway through my first month, and honestly?

I’m beginning to grasp how much will have to change in my own feed to make this exercise worthwhile.

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In basic terms, this is exactly the same deal as Co-Promote used to offer, but for a lot more money. That system offered me a ‘vague’ target audience based on what was, at times, pretty inaccurate interest tagging. Twitter allows me to pick the part of the globe I can promote in, and 5 ‘areas’ in which these tweets get promoted. After that, I have no control over what gets picked.ย The algorithm then selects tweets, from my timeline, and off they go into the wider world: this has resulted in some quite amusing exchanges with random members of the public.

I might get some people take interest in my feed, I might also get the odd random follow, but I’m more likely than not to get someone tweeting me directly to askย ‘WTF is this tweet being promoted by Twitter?’ย That’s been the overriding thing I’ve noticed. I might have 14% more people looking at my Tweets, but when most of the actual engagements are people calling me a c-word or telling me to fuck off? This is not either relevant or helpful. It means that ANYTHING I say or do in my timeline has to be an advert, or a way to sell myself, or indeed a combination of the two, and here’s where the bigger problem lies.

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I cannot say ANYTHING that isn’t targetted specifically at my audience, and lose the vital (and rather importantly) organic nature of how my growth took place initially. Sure, if I’m cute I can stack things up, and I can cut out the ‘irrelevant’ nattering that does often take place. However, this isn’t a true reflection of my feed either.ย Sometimes it is the spontaneous and brilliant which defines me, and having no say at all in what gets thrown out into the world is, quite frankly, less than brilliant.

However, the interactions I’ve had with WTF Joe Public are a demonstration that yes, people do read their feeds.ย So, this month I am considering the potential of exploiting this randomness, with full knowledge given to you guys well in advance. I should be turning a negative into a positive and using the bizarre nature of the algorithm to start selling my own random nature. It is time to find out whether I can begin to use the platform to promote myself, in a manner that befits the truly organic nature of Social media.

It is time for some new ideas.

#GSME18 :: Forget You

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

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

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

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

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

GSME #26 :: End Game

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The Great Social Media Experiment is taking a rest until December. There are a number of reasons:ย the most significant one remains the most important.selling-yourself

I fully understand the significance of the online sell: so much more than that was the case when all this began, and with honesty in tow. There does have to be a measure of sacrifice to the online gods if you ever want success, and right now that’s in direct conflict with the means at my disposal for creating such content. Every single picture taken and uploaded, each Tweet composed… all have the potential to transform your fortunes.

This outlook also fundamentally alters the perception of people around you. Having people scream you’reย a sellout, you only care about yourselfย whilst totally believing that’s my plan? This year I’ve learnt a lot about where I want to be, as well as those people I’d like to have around me. No longer is there the feeling I need to be nice to those who think they’re owed something. This has stopped being about knowing the right people and, as each day passes, becomes more about understanding myself as a priority.

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When I come to look back on 2017 it will, I’m sure, be with the eyes of someone who finally grasped the truth about the Internet.ย If all you want to see is stress, anger and idiocy… then that is all there is to be seen. Only when you take the time to dig deep, and truly accept that you are part of the problem, does it become possible to move past so much of the negativity that currently exists.ย That onus is on you, and you alone.ย For me, organisation and purpose have become their own rewards.

When I re-start this project in December, Social media will work for me.ย I don’t need your skanky pretend followersย or promises that if I do X then Y will instantly follow. I’m about to create my own means of controlling the ebb and flow of data and interest. Then, if I fail, I can at least say I tried to be an innovator, which matters infinitely more than being part of a flock of foolish, ignorant users. The future, at least for me, is innovating with my rules.

GSME #25: Robot Love

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If there’s one thing I hate more than Robot Twitter accounts, it is real people who pretend they’re not using follower tools when on Twitter. Once upon a time, it was really easy to spot the people who’d be using Crowdfire (or any of the numerous ‘grow your audience’ online apps) because as soon as you followed them, a DM would unceremoniously appear asking you to sub to their YouTube Channel. Not anymore. Individuals are getting smart, and they think their schemes will lure you into participation but really… it’s the same shit, just in a different package.

Last week I receivedย what must be the smartest DM I’ve been sent for a while.

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This is really clever, because it uses a typo as ‘confirmation’ that the person sending the DM is clearly a) human and b) paying attention to me… except, of course, I wasn’t in this guy’s notifications. This was sent before I’d had a chance to post anything.ย The account I get sent to was for some shitty energy drink that also increases my intelligence (the irony was not lost on me) so of courseย I sent him a DM back to see if I’d get a reply back and (unsurprisingly) there’s not been a peep from him since this message. He’s blocked now.

DM’s are becoming a good benchmark for whether the large-follower new arrival is worth my time: how they’re written, whether the person is listening or not, or if they’ve spent any time even reading their Twitter feed. That’s why I also make a point of going to the person’s Tweets andย Replies section on the official Twitter webpage to see if they interact a lot with people. The latest person to turn up was a lovely bloke who’s using music to help people with depression:

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It’s all very legit, and he spends a fair bit of time talking to the people who buy his stuff but, I’ll be honest, it is not the kind of ‘relationship’ I’m looking for, however worthy the cause. I think that the DM message was what really turned me off, because I’d never send out random stuff like this to anyone who followed cold. I’d find ways to interact with them using the platform as it is intended to be used.ย What these ‘robot’ apps do is build numbers, but have no soul. For me, it matters far more to do the work, and sometimes pay the price for caring too much about the people who follow me.

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How people do business is entirely up to them. I have said before that I feel that treating people like statistics will ultimately make everybody’s lives less fulfilling, and individuals using the platform like this simply reinforce that feeling. This is your weekly reminder that simply following everybody who follows you has pitfalls, and sometimes thinking before you click a button will have long term benefits to your health.

Everybody, after all, has their own particular reasons for wanting you to follow them.

GSME #20 :: Did it Again

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I have, for some time, lamented the lack of choice that Twitter presents for small businesses. It appears that someone in the company’s hierarchy not only agrees with me, but is working to allow more flexibility for promoting less ‘behemoth’ companies on Social media:

Right now, the invites are under Twitter’s control and are focused according to two very specific criteria: location and interests. Fortunately for me, the initial criteria does include something I’d jump at:

interests

Looking at locations right now, these are limited to a selection of US cities, where, presumably, Twitter use is highest. Therefore I could sign up, pay my $99 (or EU equivalent) and target a month’s worth of output to London, or Leeds… or indeed New York or Canberra, depending on where I’d like to aim my output. Ideally for me the interests option makes better financial sense than going for location initially, because although I know people like poetry in London, I’d be far better off considering a larger sample of potential readers than simply one city.

campaigns

To say this would be perfect for my niche interest/plan to use the Internet of Words as a marketing platform is something of an understatement. Right now you can’t just arrive unannounced however: it appears you need to be signed up for Twitter Ads to begin with, and as I’m not yet at that stage, it is all a bit academic. What this does push me to do however is, when I’m back to term time and the holidays are over, ensure I’m ready to go with content and associated blog posts. This means making sure I publish my Haiku and Micropoetry each week without fail, that links on the blog are kept current, and a continuous stream of content is available.

Once I can do that consistently? I reckon this closed beta will be done, and I can start throwing my money at Twitter.

GSME #19 :: Ready to Go

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I am finally preparing myself for the inevitable: producing a Tweet for the sole purpose of promoting. I’ve been doing some research and it is going to need not simply a straight verbatim reproduction of hashtags and the right combination of words. In fact, to get this message to not only be noticed but pay for itself, there are a positive plethora of guides available to insure I get the ‘point.’

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From https://smartbirdsocial.net/get-your-tweets-noticed/

It isn’t however just the Tweet that matters. If I’m going to do this and make the maximum amount of mileage from the process, EVERYTHING needs a redesign. That will require a new Twitter header, alteration of my biography… in fact, pretty much the entire picture needs a once over to maximise the impact of dropping cash. For someone who is really not that fussed at all about their own self image, I understand only too well how much the virtual one matters. It’s a continuous, constant reassessment of multiple platforms: what looks best, what is attractive to the majority (and not you) and how to use the right combination of image ad word to make your ‘brand’ stand out.

Like it or not, I am a Brand, which means it is time to learn to sell myself.

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I love this graphic, and for many years the concept operated as a benchmark in my gaming existence: is the effort expended enough to balance my final outcome? Will I, once I decide on the budget for reach of my Tweet, pick the right ‘marketplace’ to shove it in? Well, that’s easy. I have a focus, know which accounts I’m looking to use as an indicator of what constitutes the right space to ‘sell’ in. After that, this is the biggest fumble in the dark I’ve ever made. You can just take the money and hope. It is like everything else in life: you don’t take the chance, you’ll never know.

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At least I’m finally getting the hang of the engagement game.

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It might be up and down like a fiddlers elbow, but the trend is positive. The days I don’t do polls, or I take time off to be elsewhere than Social media are now utterly apparent. Of course, there will be those reading this crying foul and accusing me of manipulation people for my own ends… ah yes, that’s exactly what I’m doing. I am so good at making random individuals bow to my will that yeah, just having these ideas should be enough to render me capable of millionaire status overnight. Except clearly I’m not rich, and people have to want to be part of your scheme. It is a fuck of a lot of extremely hard work and listening to people who know what they are doing. That’s how I’ve got here.

Hard work and good advice are really what matters at this stage, and I’m ready with both. You can watch the changes take place in the next few weeks and then, it’ll be time to start the self-promotion bandwagon on its way…

GSME #15 :: Follow You, Follow Me

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Last week, I stated publicly I was going to try and increase the number of followers I have. Amazingly, this appears to be happening.

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If I said this had happened solely via the medium of offering free stuff, it would not be far off the truth, but I watch incoming followers quite closely. It wasn’t just the incentives, and the number of ‘trash’ accounts (robots picking up on hashtags and keywords) is, it must be said, at an all time low. This therefore gives me hope that building an audience may yet be possible, and if I could retain 10 new people a week going forward, that would certainly be a starting point. I’ve found a couple of ways to engage outside the obvious imagery, but starting this week I’ll be using that as a means by which to stimulate discussion. Undoubtedly, this is the way to poke your already present audience into interaction, and to encourage them to tell friends about you.

Of course, Twitter would love you to spend money to build that audience. In fact, it is rather hoping more people do this long term rather than using the platform as a free chat client, but that’s the downside of any Social media space built organically. When gaming companies build chat frameworks around IP and Apps in the hope you’ll use them even when you’re not playing games, well… it all boils down to the same, basic theory. Once you have a ‘platform’ is it enough just to exist within it, or should there always be expansion? In this case, do I want to remain an echo chamber of my own ideals or is it time to allow the opposite viewpoints in. I’d like to promote discussion, in any form, so that means that accepting dissent has to be a long term goal, as well as promoting people generally to turn up and take part. That’s why all this work is done in public, and not via Private Groups or password only Discord, because down that way, inevitably, exclusivity lies.

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Of course, if I followed everybody that followed me, I’d probably be in five figures right now and close to a nervous breakdown. I should remind the new people that Twitter serves as my long-term writing tool and therefore having too much crap to wade through daily is a disadvantage. That’s why Lists are going to become a thing going forward for certain topics, but why also I keep 900 followers as an extremely intentional line in the sand. Curation has become an indispensable tool in making sure I’m listening to receptive people, but still there are moments when people leave and I’m sad, even now. It is the very nature of this platform that you get attached to individuals way more than is true the other way. I think that’s just human nature and there’s nothing that can be done about it.

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However on the flip-side, this means other people end up obsessing about you far more than is healthy. I’m still seeing the fallout from the last particular incident of this even now, the slow drip away of people who followed me because of a certain person and now have decided I’ve changed without them around. I have, like it or not, and that evolution will continue as a constant theme going forward. Asking people for money has made me a sell-out, I promised I’d never go there, and once you break a promise like that…? yeah, I’m just like everybody else. It happens. Principles are great, right up to the moment you need to feed yourself or make a career late in life.

Sometimes, you have to accept you were the one who was misguided and just move on.

GSME #14 :: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

social-media-asides

It is time to get my writing aspirations back on track, and that meant today some serious thought over why I’m here and what’s happening long term with blogging as a future. This morning, a simple objective was publicly set:

There is a plan for this, that will play out across the week. I make no lie that it will involve incentives. This is a harsh reality in which we live, and I am well aware that to promote any ‘brand’ means getting dirty, providing sweeteners to help highlight what you do. I watched this play out across a weekend of ‘vintage’ bicycle festival: you pay to ride, and countless companies throw free stuff at you in the hope that you’ll like it enough to take the plunge and become a long term consumer. Our rider bags for Eroica were stuffed with alcohol, cosmetics and other gubbins. Free beer was offered during the ride, and when you completed. All of this has a purpose: buy into the lifestyle. That’s what I’m doing here, and if I’m up front about that, there’ll be no confusion.

The problem is, right now, that I’m not really terribly happy how Twitter’s platforms are being altered in order to make the company more relevant. We’ve spoken at length about the issues with analytics (that is still going on) but today my web-based platform of choice altered for good. On the back of last week’s ‘cleaner’ redesign (which owes a lot to the Android version of the UI) a fundamental change came into play that it took a while to work out. However, thanks to one of my most trusted followers, the answer was incredibly simple, once it became apparent some fundamentals have altered in Tweetdeck’s filtering functions.

At 5pm this evening, random tweets started appearing in my timeline from people I did not know. More importantly, these were accounts I did not follow, but in many cases had direct relevance to stuff I’d been discussing in my own timeline. The ultimate indignity was when Teresa May appeared, out of the blue, ON HER OWN ACCOUNT (that I’m positive nobody on my timeline would ever retweet). A sneaky switch to Hootsuite to check it wasn’t just a glitch showed promoted tweets are now appearing in their timelines, where this was not the case before. More significantly, it then became apparent what the issue was: these were cleverly picked posts being presented as ‘retweets.’ The thing is, unless I can see who’s retweeting them, or unless they are quoted, there is no way I can associate them with anyone I know on my feed. Once I worked out these were what Tweetdeck considered as a ‘retweet’, the filtering is a no-brainer.

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One click of a button and the noise effectively vanished. It is now apparent that Twitter’s not mucking about with trying to promote new followers: by presenting ‘retweets’ that match the same content I’m talking about? There’s a better than average chance I’ll follow someone. The key here is, of course, these messages are anything but random. They were carefully targeted, just as that alcohol and other products were at the weekend. The problem with me, sadly, is that I won’t ever play that game if you don’t ask first. Just giving me everything and hoping I’ll click won’t work. In that regard, I will probably need to make sure I start using my own personally curated lists going forward so I can avoid all the noise. Today was a salutatory lesson in what a company will be prepared to do in order to make their product marketable.

Personally, I want nothing to do with it.

GSME #13 :: Boulevard of Broken Dreams

social-media-asides

I’m not going to lie today, I’m pretty hacked off. When you start something as an experiment, one does so with the understanding that the data you’re using is going to be constant and untainted. In the last few weeks, it has been impossible to accurately gauge anything from Twitter’s analytics. If I was being paid to do this for a living I’d feel angry and upset, and I doubt that paying for the service would give me that much extra recourse either. I understand enough about how the Internet works to grasp that this ‘software’ has to be upgraded on the fly: you can’t realistically shut down the Twitter servers for twelve hours a week for maintenance. That means if summat’s broken, it stays that way until you can find the means to realistically fix it ‘live.’

The irony is, of course, that on the other page I’ve quite obviously tweeted, quite a lot, and that’s gathered the interest of a few people:

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Here’s the issue: according to the metrics, I didn’t tweet anything on June 1st yet garnered over 20k impressions. In fact, the first time Twitter acknowledges I did tweet anything is June 5th. What this has done is made my engagement rate not simply plummet but become a completely pointless statistic to gauge anything by:

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If I was wearing my tinfoil hat, I’d say May 19th was when all this ‘trouble’ began. I’d also love to know whether the means by which Twitter reports engagement has subtly altered too, because this whole decrease for me now seems off, especially as I know I’m getting bigger engagements overall using threaded content (that is, if I go off on a rant I makes sure each tweet is posted as a reply to the ‘parent’ message.) Needless to say, I can see organic impressions doing nothing but raise as the Summer goes on, because I will be doing my absolute damnedest not only to sell the Intenet of Words, but to use Social media as effectively and ruthlessly as I possibly can.

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However, in the interests of balance, I have to make a few observations with relation to the amount of crap I now see in my feed… and, to be fair, it has dropped dramatically. By ‘crap’ I mean random followers who’ll pick up a high performance tweet and effectively flag it with a bot account. As was mentioned last week, hashtagging content used to result in a flurry of robot follows (presumably by websites who charge you to link up with like minded content to extend your reach.) With the demise of CoPromote at about the same time as all these changes came about? Well, it doesn’t take a genius to work out that Twitter might not just be taking steps to remove automated followers from its software. It could well be clamping down on those who use Twitter to make money for themselves.

With the potential value of the company long term, I really can’t say I blame them.

I look forward to seeing if a) anyone even bothers to respond now I’ve cc-d in Twitter’s Support account and b) on the amazingly slim chances they do, whether there’s any comment other than ‘we are aware of the issue and are working to resolve it for users as soon as possible.’ I understand how this works with gaming UI after many years of banging a head against the same wall.

I don’t really expect any change now.