Being social takes effort and if you really commit to the “time sink” that is social media, you will understand just how long you are going to have to chase and refine what you do in order to win.
Winning is subjective in that one person’s win in social media, is another person’s fail, it depends on your goals, and whether you’ve selected the right ones.
I list here some ideas on where time is sunk, to give you more of a wake up call. You should never hand over your hard work so easily. It is not something you should do without serious thought on what you receive in return.
Why Social Signals You Cultivate Are Valuable
It should be obvious why on the face of it but in order to explore this idea further I’ve broken this article down into some key areas;
- Cheating (which is referred to as “gaming”)
- Exodus (going beyond just a lack of social retention)
Making the Share Attractive
Is where most people on social media spend 90% of their time. Social media is based around “signals”, a concept you will see me refer to a lot in this article. In order to conform to attractiveness there are lots of hoops to jump to put your audience at ease.
• Visually attractive images
• Eye grabbing titles
• Witty descriptions
• Correctly used hashtags
Then you need the following to seal the deal;
• Deployment at the correct time
• Rabid followers to push up early numbers
Deployment at the correct time puts you in the right window to gain traction. You need the Rabid followers (your circle of common engagers) to bump up the numbers so that your item will appear in the wider viewing sphere.
• You can further endow social share with cash, cold hard cash. Facebook, Twitter and all the big platforms give you a bigger bite at a wider audience with your hard earned doubloons.
Everything snowballs from there (but only if it is good). You could spend the advertising money on something that is actually terrible, so whilst you might get views, you won’t get signals. Signals are what you want. Signals means shares, shares mean visitors, visitors means subscribers, subscribers means direct traffic, direct traffic means potential income stream, but definitely a huge pat on the back from the search engines (which means more traffic).
Engagement is the goal. Not visitors alone.
“Gaming” the System
I’ve seen it advertised many times, and there are many third party bolt-ons to platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Instagram. I would strongly recommend that you stay away from trying to game followers.
Fact: Gamed followers aren’t “real” followers.
Q: What’s better about a “real” follower?
A: Real followers actually engage with your work, and follow your point of view (but might not always agree with it). These people are real in the sense that you’ve provided them something they like in the past, and that they would do something for you in return as a thank you.
It’s also better you know how to gain friends.
All Followers are Fickle – Every Relationship has an Expiry Date
Which is to say that given time, people will abandon you for a number of logical reasons, but may touch base with you in passing again in the future (as long as they didn’t leave for negative reasons).
Social Media is a moving, evolving feast.
You will receive different types of engagers during your journey.
Followers may connect with you purely based on the fact that they are “gaming” their followers. In that case I would recommend that you observe some form of sense-making screen before you allow that connection. Does their association work for you or not? I would say that you should screen all those who connect with you, like you would if this was something you were doing on a personal level.
There are those who have an “expectation” on reciprocity. In other words, they will continue to interact with your work (whether they truly like it or not) as long as you do the same in turn. The ease of that will depend on how much they push out, and for more ‘active’ producers, that intensity might be too much to satisfy. If you stop being their agent (turning in your aid), they’ll stop being your agent but that doesn’t mean they won’t return in future.
- There will be followers who are genuinely interested in what you are providing and who may be experts themselves. These are the kinds of follower who can be quite helpful for you.
- You will receive what I class as the ‘drive by’ engager. They stop for one thing and you will never see them again.
- There are ‘passives’, who you think are stone cold dead, but are actually absorbing a lot of your content without making a lot of noise. These can also be deemed consumers.
- Followers might appear who are actually there to recycle your hard work. Recycle especially if you are ‘famed’ or have followed a route that has yielded gold. Even the Bigwigs get in on this act.
There are many types of engager. The more you do social “right”, the more you attract the “right” kind of engager. It’s not always a matter of it being a dark art either. It is more a method of approach and knowing how to process in a way that looks organic.
Real conversation is important. This exchange identifies where you can talk to someone in a natural way without tripping over on trying to push your agenda, or having an agenda pushed at you. Participation is the aim. If you can recruit people to participate with your universe you can appear to be a successful facilitator. Facilitating will encourage more of the “right” engagers.
The more you are present on social media, the better you do, but conversely the longer you are on social media, the less time you have to perform the work you need to. Hence the “time sink” angle.
Hustling and chasing in engagement does work but you can alienate followers if you micro-manage to a degree where you come across as “pushy”. I was on an email subscription of a blogger, enjoying the man’s work, but he bombarded me each day with information I didn’t really care about, eventually it just was too much and I unsubscribed. Think of any time you’ve unsubscribed from a similar situation.
Smell of Sell
I have an age old saying of “Smell of Sell”. All promotion in social media determines some form of sell. There are many followers who can be turned off by the “Smell of Sell”. This is because in a media rich world, with an advertising saturation, the traditional signals are often ignored or viewed with antipathy.
Taking my Twitter as an example, I try not to be too much of a pedal merchant because it is quite easy to lose people if you push too much of your own old content, or just too much content. You can also lose people if you push too much of other people’s content and none of your own.
That said, social approach is a balancing act. You are an entertainer to a degree, you have to know how to work a crowd.
If you’ve been out too long from appearing “active”, your followers will leave in droves. I’ve done this myself, having left individuals who have “curled up”, and I’ve also been someone who has been inactive for too long, returning to a much reduced follower count. Those engagers who remain are normally; the stalwarts, those who don’t interact very much, those who know you are away, or those who are pedal merchants that always see you as a “mark” regardless of your status.
Social exodus can also happen through saying something stupid that incenses the masses. People may leave in their droves if you go far enough to upset your audience in an “unforgivable” fashion. A social exodus can happen quickly or over a protracted length of time but when the social signals really start to tank, many will vote with their feet.
An exodus event can happen if the bottom falls out of the market you are appealing to, or the platform you are socialising on goes out of business. If you were solely engaged as a video maker on Vid.me, you now have no platform, as an example. Whilst many contributors don’t limit to one platform, many favour a certain platform. If YouTube was to be closed down, think of the potential damage that would have on many YouTubers who depend on the income to keep a shirt on their back.
Social momentum is an important concept because social signals are a token system that requires your constant vigil. If you should step off the gas pedal at any time and are not ultimately consistent in your endeavour, momentum will fade.
Number attraction is a science and it does work. It works because “cream subjects” float to the top and thus you will have a blinkered, filtered, view of what is popular. Naturally most interested souls will gravitate towards what’s popular. Certain numbers on certain social signals invite large amounts of additional attention. It is the queue mentality. Often people might join a queue, not knowing what is at the end of it, but heading there on the theory that other visitors find it good enough to queue for. Consider social signals like adding another arrow to direct you to the pot of gold. The fact that the pot of gold isn’t as advertised is neither here nor there.
I am hugely envious of my net friend Ahmad Imran, over at reasontouse.com. He has kept ploughing on consistently whilst I have dropped long off the boil, and I am sure that he has the improved number to show for that extended effort.
I do not have that luxury. If anything, I have to start from the start. I’ve lost all of my well-wishers, and all of my decent connections through a protracted absence. I’m only left with a solitary stalwart as far as I am aware.
At least I still have Ahmad there to act as a “smelling salt”, someone who would question me if they weren’t entirely sure they went along with it. It is terrible to have a ‘yes’ man or woman who agrees with everything you do because you can be falsely supported on what you think is right, but which actually turns out to be hokum.
You can see why every effort you make to form your following is so valuable. You have to go through the sweat of everything above. If a corporation retcon’s your followers, you are handing them a free steer, a free bite at your hard work.
Whether these corporations have earned this “free bite” of the cherry depends on what they provide you in return. It also depends on whether you consider what you achieve on the internet to be owned by yourself.
If you looked at a very granular level at everything that occurs behind what you do, you might suddenly realise that in a large part, you are a corporate entity, an agent in an unbelievably large information bureau. The only difference between a tangible world entity is that in the real world you get paid on day one. Working on these free platforms traditionally engenders working for free from the start, and accepting that the platform owns a large part of what you do.
The important point to realise is that these corporations would be nothing without your presence so you should aim to extract the maximum from the arrangement, because ultimately, you are owed it through your own proliferation of information.