Social Media: Which Ones Work for Me?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been more resolute in my determination to add to my blog.  This isn’t a coincidence.  In that same time frame, I received word that I needed to expand my platform in order to be more attractive to a publisher.  With that in mind, I’ve been working on new content for the blog, exploring ways to make this blog more attractive to my friends, colleagues, and strangers.  Of course, as I am doing this, I have also started evaluating the vehicles that drive readers to my blog: social media sites.  In this next session, I’ll take a look at the major social media sites that I’ve used to generate traffic for my blog, and how they’ve done.

Facebook – In case you’ve been under a rock for the past ten years, you know that there are hundreds of millions of people on Facebook.  The last time I checked, this figure was more than 1.8 billion.  To put it in perspective, there are somewhere in the realm of 7.5 billion people in the World.  Take out the 1.4 billion in China (because Facebook is currently banned in China).  That means, there is a Facebook account for 1 in every 3 to 4 people in the World who could easily obtain a Facebook account. These penetration rates are probably even higher when you consider just how are of age to have their own Facebook account (of course, you would also have to take into account the people who have multiple accounts… CHEATERS).  Let’s assume everybody’s playing by the rules, that the Harvey Dents of the World don’t have a new account for each of their personalities, and that the little Stewie Griffins aren’t pretending they’re 16.  Thus, per the World Bank ~74% of people are over 14, so it’s probably no more than 5 billion outside of China who are over 13 and over).  In essence, penetration rates are creeping ever so slightly toward half of the population.  So, what does this mean?

This means, as you might expect, that Facebook is a pretty powerful marketing tool; in fact, most of the traffic that runs through my blog comes from Facebook.  In a totally unscientific observation of this over time, I’d venture to say that over 90% of my views come from links generated via Facebook.  In circumstances where I’m not posting the links to my own blog, I actually see greater volumes of traffic come to my blog.  In other words, when other people link to me through Facebook, and I let them do it for me, my numbers are better than I could ever get on my own.  I guess I ticked off the wrong people far too often on Facebook (maybe I shouldn’t have been so critical of Kobe).

Facebook generates more traffic, but most of this traffic is silent. I have seen a few comments come through, and mostly likes on the Facebook end.  I can thank my former coworkers for that (and hope their Pokemon Go harvesting continues to go well).  This traffic is entirely from the US and Canada.  This makes sense, given that I am unaware of any Facebook friends that reside outside of North America or below the Rio Grande.

Because Facebook is so ingrained in how I market myself and how I reach out to people, I think that this is an important time to call attention to Facebook’s second purpose.  If the first purpose of Facebook is to “connect with friends and the world around you,” the second purpose of Facebook is to market.  Facebook has done a good job of improving its marketing algorithms.  Right now, I’m seeing an ad for Direct TV and an ad for Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering along the side.  Many of my friends are advertising something.  The first ads I see in my news feed relate to mutual likes (Comic Book Resources), followed by my friend posting about a Sonoma State University basketball game.  Does it matter that some of the marketing comes from Facebook and its sponsors, and others come from my friends?  Not much.  It’s there.  Is it irksome? Well, I think that depends on how you feel about the ads themselves.  As mentioned, Facebook has become much better about that – or maybe I’ve just become much better in handling my settings.

In a recent email, one of my friends posited that he had actually lost friends (and gave a good example) because of his activity on Facebook.  Having been Facebook friends with this guy since Facebook first came to my alma mater – in that brief period of time when every SMC student envied Santa Clara – I can definitively state that this guy does not post a lot on Facebook.  He may not post on Facebook, but his habits did all of the talking for him.  He’s a gamer.  Back in 2009, when this was all the rage, my Facebook feed would be filled with “Xavier has just planted corn! Check out Farmville” or “Xavier just used the word BUTT in Scrabulous! See if you can beat him!”  Sorry, Mr. X, but it doesn’t matter much to me if you did pass the Green Hills Zone on Sonic the Hedgehog.  That’s not the news I’m looking for.

I haven’t tested this yet, but here are some things that I find as best practices for Facebook:

  1. When using a Facebook-related app, do your best to minimize what the app posts to your timeline. Your mother, your fifth grade teacher, and your first crush from middle school don’t care that you grew virtual corn, but they still care about you.
  2. Avoid posting about meals. It’s one thing if you’ve put together an amazing spread that you never thought you’d be able to pull off, but everybody’s seen Costco’s hotdogs before.  If they want, they can see them in person.
  3. Post something in between all of your posts about your book or your blog. I need to do a better job of practicing what I preach, but about 1 out of every 3 of my posts in the month of February were about my blog.  Yes, others were indirectly about my book or writing, but I also weighed in about movies, and basketball, and the weather.  The point is, if all anybody ever sees of you is whatever you’re marketing, then you’re going to lose friends very quickly.
  4. Show interest in others. It doesn’t matter if it’s not in your wheelhouse.  Eric’s met Tommy Wiseau at the Olive Garden? Right on, brother!  Hope he asked if Lisa was still tearing him apart. (Obscure reference, I know, but: https://youtu.be/fM7qNm_Mmrw?t=1m45s) You don’t need to reach out to everybody, but it helps to reach out to somebody, on occasion.
  5. Personal message people sometimes. Not all of the details of your interactions with Theresa need to be made public.  If you and Theresa have your own little references, then you might not want 20 people taking that away from you anyway.

Twitter – Ah, yes, Twitter.  I remember when I was still a teacher, and one of my students claimed that only old people use Twitter.  I hadn’t, at that point, either.  Now, I am one of the estimated 319 million users.  Yes, 319 million vs. 1.4 billion cited by Facebook.  If 90% of my traffic is from Facebook, maybe 7% is from Twitter.  I definitely see the impressions on my Twitter account, and am able to track these a little better than I track Facebook; people clearly see my tweets, but I don’t generate nearly the volume that I’d expect based on those rates.  Maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll have 1 in 20 people who have viewed my tweet click the link.

A colleague of mine has suggested that this might be because Twitter is so saturated.  Twitter has struggled lately, and (at least one man’s opinion, and not really my own) it may be related to the fact that it’s a Wild West, with advertisers wearing the white hats, and everybody else shooting from the hip.  My colleague thinks it might be political, a reaction to something said by el jefe.  I think it’s the lack of personal buy-in.  Unless I post information about me all over my Twitter, people don’t know me from that jerk that just spit in their Coke.  Beyond that, it is a constant steam of information, some more useful than others.  If I look through my list of people that I follow, I’d say that it’s likely that I haven’t seen posts from them in the past month. It’s likely that they have better things to do, or need more than 140 characters to capture their thoughts.  More recently, I’ve opened up Twitter in my browser to see the same person’s posts repeating, no fewer than one out of every four posts, as I scrolled down.  This is spam; it’s no different than those people that comment on a blown 3-to-1 lead every time the Warriors or Indians are mentioned, or “they should’ve run the ball” every time the Seahawks are mentioned.  It stopped being funny a long time ago.

When it comes to Twitter, I’m a relative newcomer.  I never thought it was for me, until it was drilled into me that Twitter is an effective way of marketing yourself, especially if people don’t know who you are. Still, I have picked up one or two best practices as they relate to Twitter.

  1. Use hashtags to gather a foothold, but use them sparingly within a tweet. After all, what do you think is more effective?

#Check out my #new #book, #FieldsofGold.  #Free for the next ten days on @Amazon @AKAPress

Check out my new #book, #FieldsofGold.  Thanks @Amazon and @AKAPress!

If I see the first tweet, I’d know that the author is desperate.  The second one has fewer words between hashtags, but it appears more innocent.

  1. Shoot for fewer tweets, but know the best time to reach your audience. Are you looking to sell to hip 20-somethings?  If so, then you probably don’t want to tweet at 8pm on a Friday, they’re probably out; if you tweet at 8am on a Saturday, you have a different reason, but the same problem.  Similarly, don’t dump a ton of tweets all at once, or even within twenty minutes of each other.  Imagine seeing ads for the McRib every five minutes.  Even if the McRib is your thing, you’re going to get sick of seeing that same ad every time you click on a site.
  2. Strategic use of @ mentions is the key. If you’re trying to get the right audience to look at your book about stamp collecting, you might get a few people to follow you out of sheer numbers if you mention Miley Cyrus. However, your odds of finding the right audience through Miley Cyrus are about the same as you lassoing a meteor and riding it across the Atlantic.  I’m not saying it can’t happen… except I am.  The only thing you’re going to receive by trying to promote stamp collecting to Miley Cyrus’s followers is a viral beat-down.

LinkedIn – I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen traffic from my LinkedIn postings, and this might be a bit of ove-rsaturation, because all I ever see on LinkedIn, aside from “Congratulate Toby on five years at Starbucks” are comments surrounding “look at my blog,” or “watch this presentation I gave for the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.”  By the way, if you’re marketing yourself for WASC, teachers everywhere are going to cringe when they see that post!  Nevertheless, LinkedIn is the Facebook where you put on your Sunday best and spit shine your shoes.  You might have that Bart Simpson slingshot in your back pocket, but your potential employers and colleagues don’t know that!

There’s about 3% of my readers that I cannot pin down.  I’ve made mention of my blog on NaNoWriMo, Google+, and even MySpace, but these come from either an unlisted source or from Google search.  I have investigated other social media sites, such as Wattpad, GoodReads, Quora, and Reddit, but you have to be very circumspect in how you market on these sites.  Particularly in sites that target readers, the site’s users are there to read books and legitimate reviews of books; they are not there to read somebody constantly promoting themselves.

When I bring up myself in Google search, my blog didn’t even come up until recently, and even then I need to use very specific search terms, “jowenenglish” being one of them, so it’s a surprise to me that I am getting respondents from Google search.  I guess you just need to find the right mix for my name to appear.

What social media sites am I missing?  Have a favorite social media site that works for you? Mention it in the comments below.

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