Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Easy Come, Easy Go - The Social Media Conundrum

One of the big hurdles many content creators struggle with involves establishing, growing, and maintaining a presence and following on social media. Like it or not, social media platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook have become all-but essential to help cultivate and retain an audience beyond the venues where one's work already appears.

A particularly-tricky aspect of this process involves formulating and executing an effective, individualized social media strategy based on a variety of factors, which often aren't given a lot of consideration by content creators until they find themselves in some form of trouble.

While an exhaustive analysis of such considerations would be well beyond the scope of a blog post, here are a few key concepts I believe are worth pondering that may be applicable and useful for folks trying to enhance their social media presence.

#1 - Determine Your Endgame and Focus on It

Why are you on social media? Do you want to be famous? Are you trying to promote a product? Do you enjoy sharing your opinions with others, or engaging in public debates? Are you attempting to educate people regarding a particular subject? These and many others are all valid, proven uses of social media but as one might suspect, attempting to achieve more than one of them at a time can be problematic.

As a general rule, content consumers tend to favor stability and consistency from content creators. For example: If a person follows you on Twitter because you post something clever or interesting about a particular subject, they may just-as-likely unfollow if your next Tweet is about something totally unrelated.

It's certainly possible to build a community of followers on social media without maintaining a rigid focus on a particular subject or goal, but it's absolutely a more difficult, time-consuming, and potentially-risky path to take.

#2 - Keep Your Opinions to Yourself, or Don't

This might seem like an obvious point and it certainly relates to #1 in terms of consistency, but I believe it also warrants individual consideration.

Sharing personal opinions about things on social media is one of the fastest ways to both gain and lose followers. One might assume that the gains are always based on ideological agreement, while the losses are simply down to an opposing viewpoint but it's sometimes a bit more complicated than that. Some content consumers simply inherently approve or disapprove of content creators expressing their opinions on particular topics, regardless of whether or not their own tendencies align. A classic example of this sort of mindset that pre-dates social media manifests in people's thinking and behaviors concerning celebrities who express their views on subjects beyond the form of entertainment that led to their fame.

The key takeaway here is understanding that expressing opinions about literally anything on social media will often attract or repel potential followers. It's up to you to determine whether or not that's a good thing, or conducive to your overall strategy.

Again, it's certainly possible to build a thriving social media presence by consistently expressing one's opinions on a variety of subjects but it's a far trickier thing to accomplish, particularly as the range of topics being touched on broadens.

#3 - Play the Long Game

One of the worst, most unproductive things you can do as a content creator where social media is concerned is to focus exclusively on short-term success or failure. Constantly obsessing over follower numbers, or the performance of individual posts, or any sort of excessive, micro analysis of one's social media metrics, then making knee-jerk adjustments based on such assessments, is usually a recipe for disaster. With the exception of an essential response to a catastrophic faux pas or blunder, a far better, more effective approach is to think long-term, and periodically evaluate larger sets of data to get a clearer, more consistent picture of your overall social media performance.

Look at where you are now versus three months ago, or six months, or last year. If your numbers are up or down for that span of time, that's a much better indication of the effectiveness of your strategy. Of course, even if you're doing well, there's always room for improvement and it's certainly easier said than done to not be affected by short-term wins and losses, but it's critical to recognize that effective participation in social media is more of a marathon than a sprint.

Case in point: One might look at my current subscriber and follower numbers on various platforms and not be particularly impressed; however, the fact is that my social media presence has consistently grown year-over-year. Moreover, its slow growth makes sense given my intentional choices to directly address a variety of topics, while sharing opinions on even more.

I have no doubt that I could easily accumulate many more followers, much more quickly by adopting the techniques mentioned above but my social media endgame has always been to build a dedicated, core audience with diverse tastes, who appreciate the range of subjects I tackle, and my personal style. That's not the sort of thing that happens overnight but I consider it a more satisfying and worthwhile goal than pursuing the sort of easy come, easy go engagement I might otherwise cultivate.

At the end of the day, I primarily use social media to promote my creative works but I've also come to understand and appreciate that many people, particularly my most active followers, prefer to know (at least to some extent) something of the person behind the content they experience. I think social media is a good tool for accomplishing that and hopefully, this post has given you some useful, new ideas about how to wield it more effectively.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Nobody Succeeds Alone

As I wrap up the marketing efforts for my latest novel, "309," I wanted to take a few moments to acknowledge and thank the folks who've helped me in various ways throughout the process. It would of course be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to do that for every individual but hopefully, the following shout outs will properly convey my gratitude to everyone:

To my Customers and Readers

I have to start with you folks because ultimately, you're the ones who've made "309" a success. Every time one of you buys the book, or reads it, or tells someone about it, you make it that much more "real" and present in the world. I can't thank you enough for that.

To the Book Bloggers and Reviewers

If not for you, a lot of people wouldn't even know that "309" exists. If not for you giving me, a relatively-unknown, independently-published author a chance, and an honest review, "309" would just be another book lost in an ever-expanding sea of releases. I am truly grateful for all the time and effort each of you has graciously provided in support of my work.

To all the Helpful Folks on Social Media

Every like, every share, every comment, indeed every action associated with my efforts to promote "309" on social networks like Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter has helped to increase people's awareness of the book. As I've said in the past, the internet is in many ways a numbers game and everything you have done has pushed "309" closer toward winning that game.

Some Additional Thoughts

When I was a kid, one of the biggest, most pervasive falsehoods perpetuated throughout American culture was the notion of the self-made individual. Actually, back then, the concept was almost exclusively invoked in the masculine, describing the mythical "self-made man," a fella who through his own skill, grit, determination, and will succeeded at a given task, or in a given field, alone, often in spite of an opposing individual, group, or obstacle.

This fable was frequently trod out as a means to motivate folks, particularly young people, to pursue aspirations and ambitions beyond the limitations of their socioeconomic class, with time-tested mantras like "If you work hard enough, you can accomplish anything," or "you've got to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" frequently used as a sort of battle cry by a multitude of individuals seeking a better set of circumstances than those they'd been born into.

The problem with this mindset has proven to be twofold for our society as those who espouse such a philosophy, who happen to achieve a measure of success in life, often wrongfully assume that they are the sole architects of that success, while those who fail in similar efforts often do so because the philosophy prevents them from recognizing the critical element missing from their approach.

Perhaps one of the greatest revelations brought about by the Information Age, and the consequential ubiquity of communication resulting from it, is the irrefutable evidence indicating that literally nobody in this world succeeds at anything of significance without the assistance of others.

A political leader is nothing without their supporters, a celebrity is nothing without their fans, an employer is nothing without their employees, a writer is nothing without readers of their work, and so on. No matter how self-sufficient one might be, or think oneself to be, it is all-but-certain that they rely on somebody for something vital to their existence on a daily basis. In a deliciously-ironic twist, the more successful, prominent, and influential a person becomes, the more that generally proves to be the case.

Thus, I often find myself pleasantly surprised by and deeply appreciative of people who support my creative efforts. There are so many worthy voices in the world, constantly vying for attention and struggling to reach an audience, that content creation can often feel like whispering into a hurricane and hoping to be heard.

I bring all this up not to boast of my limited success in this regard, but to acknowledge just how meaningful every bit of support I've received for this project has been. Hopefully, "309" will continue to flourish and reach an even-wider audience of readers as time passes but if nothing else, I'm very humbled by and grateful for the support and love you all have shown it so far.

Thanks again!

- Michael -