Wednesday, November 20, 2019

More on platform, cause Wednesday..

Hello, your royal sharkness! Are you sick of platform questions yet? I’m trying to build my following, and I have a few questions:

1) Does the ratio of followers to following matter?
I see a lot of people who have high follower counts (let’s use finance terms and call these “inflows”) but only because their following count (“outflows”) is so high (“follow for follow, like for like.”)

Many of them are following far more accounts than vice versa. In these cases, outflows exceed inflows. On the flip side, actual influencers usually only follow 200 or 300 and have follower counts that are orders of magnitude higher.

I assume we need inflows that are a certain percentage higher than outflows (aka “profit,” and nonprofitable channels are likely not marketable)—what ratio should we be shooting for?

2) What percentage of audience engagement should we be aiming for, and how will that change with insta eliminating likes?
It’s all well and good to have thousands of followers, but if they never engage with likes or comments, I’m guessing they won’t mean very much (it doesn’t in the PR world.)

What is the current standard? Any inkling of how it will change with insta’s new like-less format?

My hamster wheel is outfitted with an abacus, as you can see. Thank you for any insight you can shed!

When I look at the social media presence of a prospective author, I don't assess your metrics, I evaluate your content.

First, I want to make sure you're there;
Second, that you're not doing anything stupid;
Third, that you're talking about something other than writing.

Sure, I look at the number of followers you have.
The more the better generally speaking.

I fully understand that when you're building, you'll be following more people than are following you.

My follower/following ratio is quite skewed cause I can only pay attention to so many people before I start to get crazy.

I unfollow or mute everyone who posts too much. I just don't want to be inundated (I had to mute Roxanne Gay for that reason. I'm a devoted fan of her work, and she's amazing and brilliant on Twitter but egad, it was a deluge!)

I look for an indication you understand that Twitter isn't about making statements, it's about engagement.  As in asking questions, responding to questions.

A Tweet like: My first book pubbed today!!
doesn't give me much room to say anything. A heart maybe if I know you.

But, a Tweet like: my first book pubbed today, and I am filled with gratitude for
the folks who helped, even when they didn't know it

That gives me a way in.

Questions are even better.

Big bold political statements are a huge turn off for me.
He's a moron is a good example.

But NONE of this is industry standard. Not even close.
It's how I deal with social media.

This is a question you should put to any agent who does Q&A on blogs, YouTube or #AskAgent.

A variety of opinions will help you triangulate.

For me the bottom line is:
1. Have some sort of social media presence
2. Don't be an asshat.


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

A little TMI

Every night when I thank the Lord for another day I always pray "help me to be a better person," and "forgive me my sins." From now on I'm adding "please God don't let me be an asshat."

Amy Johnson said...

Ha! 2Ns, You could put that on a T-shirt. And OP could have "My hamster wheel is outfitted with an abacus." We might have something profitable here. Reef T-shirts, Incorporated?

Allison K Williams said...

I've spent a few years researching/teaching/practicing social media for writers. It's more important to have an engaged following than a huge following. Influencers need 5-figure followings because they're paid for their opinions mattering to many people. In that sense, Roxane Gay functions as an influencer/social commentator online, rather than as a writer per se.

What writers usually need is mid-four-figures on Twitter and a bit lower on Instagram. Not so publishers go "you can sell books!" but so they see "people are interested in what you share; you are connected to *readers*." Not other writers, not the #writingcommunity. It's great social support to connect with writers you want to interact with, but well-meaning "writer lifts" are basically useless. Follow-for-followers don't care about what you have to say, and you're following too many people to engage with the ones you care about.

Build your following by meeting people in person and mutually following, and making sure your social media is linked in your bio for anything short you write online.

Use Twitter to practice making tight, beautiful sentences. Use Instagram for mini-essays or to develop your ability to see stories in the world. Your readers will (gradually) find you.

But the most important social media for publishers and agents right now is an email newsletter, even if it's occasional, because you own the means to reach those people, and they have chosen specifically to hear from you.

(sorry it's long!)

Lennon Faris said...

I have debated this twitter thing. I see those 'writer lifts' all the time. I haven't yet participated bc it feels artificial.

But it's occurred to me that I might just be old-fashioned. Or biased by my own skewed sense of the best way to do things. If I there are 10,000 people looking at your posts instead of 50, you might get a few more people interested in what you have to say.

I look at people's twitter feeds, too. An agent I was excited about once tweeted something that unfortunately I can't get out of my head. Argh.

Dena Pawling said...

I like Twitter and think I'm doing okay there, based on Janet's list of things to pay attention to. I can't get excited about Instagram, so I'm not there. Besides posting photos of how you envision your characters and scenes in your ms, can someone enlighten me on why Instagram is supposed to be the "in" thing? What do so many people find good about it?

Colin Smith said...

"I unfollow or mute everyone who posts too much. I just don't want to be inundated": No chance of that from me. Especially of late. I need to up my Twitter game. Of course, to unfollow or mute me you need to follow me to begin with. Just sayin'... ;)

Allison: Thank you for sharing your insights from your research/teaching. Very helpful.

Dena: I get why fans might post pictures of how they envision your characters--that's like fan fiction. But for the author to do it? I find that odd. It's hard not to take the author's picture as "authoritative" which, to me, is imposing on people's imagination and making the story less personal to your readers.

Sunnygoetze said...

Great advice!

Jennifer Mugrage said...

2Ns: I love it! "Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord, keep watch over the door of my lips." I think that's the Bronze Age version of "don't let me be an asshat."

Also, "Where words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise." And that's my problem. The longer we blog/tweet, the greater the odds that we will, in fact, say something stupid. Permanently. In public. It's terrifying.

Allison: I am sorry, but I still do not get the e-newsletter thing. I hate receiving them. I would much rather receive e-mail notifications that a blogger I follow has just posted another funny or clever essay. I don't see how newsletters don't alienate readers. Help?

Linda Shantz said...

While I'm in no way an authority on the subject like Allison, everything she shared is what I've learned/been taught in the last two years of trying (and largely succeeding) to grow my art business.

As I'm really just starting to dip my toe into things from the perspective of a writer, the authors I follow on social media I relate to as a reader. The same things I strive to share with my art followers are the things that I get pulled into from authors – relatable content. I get that on Twitter, especially, folks are all trying to get agents' attention, but as a reader I love to see stuff I can respond to – anecdotes that help me feel the kind of connection that is going to make me go look for their books, and want to support them.

Craig F said...

I want to think that only non-fiction needs a platform. I guess that was yesterday.

I am not on Twitter, at the moment. I am human, sometimes, and know that I can be an asshat, occasionally, so I will wait until I have something to write about as a writer, all I need is a positive response or six on my query.

Claire Bobrow said...

Allison: what you said about email newsletters exactly corresponds with the advice given by a marketing expert at an SCBWI event I attended last week. I'm pretty sure Janet has said the same thing, too? However, I still don't have a clue what kind of content an unpublished writer might put in such a newsletter to grow a list organically.

Ideas, anyone?

On the topic of social media, I prefer Instagram. It's where I feel most "myself."

Lora said...

There are a couple authors I follow on both Twitter and IG who are very good at both (in my estimation) and I try to emulate in my own approach to Twitter. Neil Gaiman and Paul Tremblay both post plenty of bookish things, but about others' writing as well as their own. They also post about their families, movies they go to, walks they took and - in Tremblay's case - pickles.

I'm not saying this approach appeals to everyone, but I think it works. I enjoy their posts, and always feel like the door is open to comment if I choose.

Beth Carpenter said...

Jennifer, I have to agree with Allison about newsletters. Yes, people ignore them (my open rate is about 30%) but I know when I have a new release I can tell everyone on my mailing list, not a certain number of random followers who might or might not come across the news on my feed. I only send about nine newsletters a year, when I have news, and usually include a book giveaway and a recipe to (hopefully) entice them to open. I always see a small spike in sales on newsletter day.

Steve Forti said...

And if we have no social media presence?
(Assuming, of course, that I hopefully ever have reason for this to be an issue.)

Emma said...

Oh lord... So in addition to trying to get followers and engaging, I also have to post about things other than writing? This all makes me very sad.

I know it's HOW THINGS ARE so I must deal with it, and I'm trying. But it's painful.

I will keep trying. I must keep trying.

And to everyone else trying: good luck!

Brenda said...

I took a social media course from Dana Kaye through Sisters in Crime. Her best nugget was that at any time someone should be able to look at your last six posts and get a sense of who you are. Mine was pure sarcasm. Adjustments have been made.

As for following back, it’s easier not to on IG because you know you’re going to top out at 7500. I interact quite a bit with my Twitter fav list, I try to respond when people comment or retweet, and I chat via dm with anyone who sends me fails, but generally speaking there aren’t enough hours in the day to one-on-one with everyone I follow.

Chalk it up to experience.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Beth: thanks for the advice. I might be the outlying reader to whom an unread NL = unwanted guilt. :)

We must write the newsletter, Precious. But WE HATES IT!

Beth Carpenter said...

Jennifer, as entertaining as your blog posts are, a newsletter will be a snap. Keep it short and easy to read. And if if you used that last sentence as your subject line, who could resist opening the newsletter?

Barbara Etlin said...

I hate newsletters, too, and never sign up for them. When authors I like have a new book I'd much rather find out through their blog or website or Twitter feed.

Brenda said...

Advice taken. I just unfollowed a couple hundred wrestlers, screenwriters, and musicians. My feed will be more writerly and probably more market wise, but I’ll miss them. They made me feel like I could hang with the edgy kids once in awhile.

Katja said...

OP, I very much understand your question! I too see people on Twitter with a huge amount of followers. When I check out their individual posts, often a lot of them get hardly any likes=attention. So, many followers doesn't mean they ARE actually actively followed.

I have more followers than I follow - sometimes I don't want to follow people back; I have deliberately unfollowed people, sometimes Twitter-God seems to do hocus pocus things and make me unfollow people (or I'm even like: "Really?? Have I ever decided to follow these??" when I read people's profiles that actually do NOT appeal to me...)

I used to 'collect' a following in the beginning by following people first. Hoping they'd follow me back. But now I have come to a point where I'm okay with the number of followers, cause I feel it looks 'okay' (about 1,700). I'm not working to 10K or 100K.
I'm now working on keeping my little 'community' alive. I have got in touch and got to know people through Twitter. Even met some at an even last Saturday which was extremely helpful!

Even though I haven't sold 400 copies yet like yesterday's OP, I have sold SOME copies (just over 60, since July). Most of them through Amazon. And, most of them thanks to Twitter, to be honest. Even though I don't believe that Twitter will generate me sales numbers that I'm dreaming about (not at all, to be honest!!), I am convinced that WITHOUT Twitter, I wouldn't have even sold more than my local ones.

Twitter has opened a door for me. I 'met' some readers and because my novel has a certain topic, I 'navigate' amongst those people. I have also had support from The Reef (shout out to everyone here who has kindly supported me - you know who you are :) :) :) !!!).

One person from the community on Twitter I'm part of has read and reviewed my novel. She is member of a board of a big foundation here in the UK that advocates and supports people who belong to my readership and work on the topic of my book. Her review has been put into a magazine and on the website of that foundation. You know where I'm going...

Without Twitter, I wouldn't have known about that lady and I am utterly grateful I did. (Met her at that event last Saturday and scribbled a whole lot into her copy of my book she'd brought to make sure she knows she kicked things off for me ;) ).

I do find Twitter annoying. There are tag-games, you feel you need to play, you need to keep your name out, you need to think of STUFF to tweet (I once said I'm just scratching my nose because I just couldn't think of anything useful...). But it's part of the business.

I would recommend you do have a platform on social media and keep it at a medium amount of followers and then look after those you've got.

Best of luck to you, OP!!!

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Ha ha, unfortunately I stole that from a meme, so not sure I can use it. But, thanks, Beth!

Katja, thanks for the long comment. It's nice to learn from and gain hope from others' journeys.

Katja said...

Jennifer, I'm SO glad whenever I can help!! (Isn't that often, ha ha)

I hope I didn't make too many mistakes in my long comment... I admit... often (mostly!) I let my personal proofreader - ahem... native English-speaker Fiance - have a read before I post on this holy blog... but, today, I didn't.

And it shows! Should have been "work towards" rather than "work to", I believe. And a "have" instead of "did", maybe. He's still not around - the proofreader...

*whistles, chin up, crosses arms behind back & strolls innocently away* ;)

Fearless Reider said...

It's so helpful to hear how other writers navigate social media, thank you! I know I need to start putting some effort into building something of a platform, but as a staunch introvert, I dread it. I'm a pro at anti-social media, though.

LynnRodz said...

I stopped blogging after 13 years and took my website down. I didn't care for tweeting so I haven't been on it for over a year. I've never gone on Instagram and probably won't. If I do write something political on my Facebook page, I tag it so only my friends can see. (Most of them ignore me by now anyway and I can't blame them.)

I do have a mailing list (not a newsletter) of 4000 and growing. (Who says word of mouth doesn't work, no one, right?) These are francophiles who know my story takes place in Paris and are interested in reading my novel whenever it's published. That said, if an agent wants to look at my social media, they're not going to find much.

Melanie Sue Bowles said...

I'm still not sure why FB is so often discounted. One of my posts from a few days ago has the interaction of over 600 people. It's been shared 35 times. My twitter and IG accounts are like cyber crickets.

Maybe I'm a dinosaur... but I prefer FB.

Emma said...

I hope I'm not too late in the day with this. I wanted to share this post by Emma Lombard, which was unbelievably helpful. I tried the first tip in her post and it worked better than I could have ever imagined. And I'm very timid with twitter, so that's saying something.

Hope that helps someone else.

Colin Smith said...

Here's Emma's link linkified:

Fearless Reider said...

Thank you, Emma and Colin, for that link -- exactly what this skittish newbie needs. Duly bookmarked!

The Noise In Space said...

I was the OP for this--thank you for answering, Janet!

I have to say, I'm surprised with the answer. I thought the metrics would matter more, like what Allison mentioned with mid-fours. Coming from the PR world (I work in financial communication and PR, can you tell from the question?) I'm also surprised there isn't a standard. When I was at an agency, there were set-in-stone rules--10K was the minimum for "micro-influencer," 50K for "influencer," etc.

For reference, I've been trying to build up my name in the food history space, which the hopes that this might lead to some sort of book deal waaaay down the line. I started a food history insta back at the end of July ( and while I've been pretty good at posting on it, the growth has been embarrassingly slow (I'm still at less than 430, but hey, you've gotta start somewhere, right?). I know that the easiest way to get followers is to just go follow a bunch of people, but that felt disingenuous, so that's where this question was coming from. Then again, my page may be so impersonal that it's useless. I'm also garbage with Twitter, so, you know...that's fun.

Does anyone else have other tips for growing your following organically, not in a forced way?

Also, on a different but important note, has anyone heard from EM? Is she okay?

Allison K Williams said...

Jennifer: It all comes down to personal taste. I think that's why it's valuable to be on more than one platform, so the people who enjoy newsletters get that, and the people who would rather hear from you on Twitter or your blog hear that. But since newsletters are opt-in, you're not alienating any readers, because anyone receiving has signed up on purpose to do so. (Signing up addresses without opt-in is bad practice, often illegal, and against most ISP's terms of service)

Claire: Write about what you find interesting and want to share with readers. I travel a lot, so I tend to send short travel stories, plus a couple of links to whatever I recently wrote. I love writer Geeta Kothari's newsletter (she's easily google-able), which is slice-of-life moments with a writing focus. Right now, she's on week 3 of the saga of who is stealing books from their Little Free Library in the front yard, and I'm eager for the next installment! And I agree, Intstagram is where I feel I can be most honest, and I like using it to write micro-memoir. (I'm @guerillamemoir if you want to see what I mean, some captions are deeper than others :) )

CynthiaMc said...

I hate newsletters.

Harlan Coben strikes a good balance between "Hey I have a new book out" and life. He caught my attention one day when he posted a skateboard picture and said "what are you doing this Sunday afternoon?" I posted a picture of my orchids (I was gardening), he liked it, and of course I had to look to see who the guy was who liked my orchids. That led to reading one of his books.

Good guy. Not an asshat.

Aphra Pell said...

I have two twitter accounts - one for my science academic identity and one for my writer identity.

My most liked and interacted with tweet as a scientist was a retweet of a picture of a hyena. 2nd most popular... a picture of a wombat.

My most liked tweets on my writer account are pictures of my pet rats, and retweets of weird animals from medieval art.

My take away from this is if in doubt, break out the furry animals.

Jennifer Mugrage said...

Furry animals unite!

It's so true. I can work for hours on a history or philosophy post, and the one that gets a lot of likes (relative to my small blog) is titled "I Like Bears."

Linda Shantz said...

Oh, yes, furry animals are a surefire way to get engagement. One of the social media business experts I follow gave her dog the nickname "Clickbait."