What is it about social media?

Right, I know I’m not the most reliable blogger or tweeter in the world, but there are times when you just have to get on with the day job, and writing a 1,000 word commentary doesn’t always fit in with it.

Today, for example, I am immersed in the middle of an almost two month long battle. Coming up for air to think about the twenty-first century isn’t so easy.

It was partly because of that that I began to investigate all these new social media gizmos. Well, it was the publisher, in fact. They told me that they wanted me to focus on things like Twitter and Facebook, and I trundled off into the middle distance to think hard about them.

How much good are they, though?

From the publisher’s point of view, they’re great. They need little publisher intervention (read for that, cost, expense, investment) and no staff involvement. The author is working hard at getting his or her ideas over, but the publisher can sit back and rake in the profits. That’s the idea.

Good cover!

But does it work?

Well, the crucial bit is, getting your ideas across. If you’re contacting lots of people, well, then you’re risking success. Because the more people you contact as an author, the more may discover they like your work.

But how do authors use the social media available. I was thinking hard about this over the weekend. Why? Because I got really, really close to 800 followers on Twitter, and my Facebook users have almost reached 5,000 again. I say again, because eight months ago I went through an extensive process of trying to evict people. Did it work? Did it heck.

People keep on contacting me. They are writers, they say, and want to join and network. That’s nice, but I don’t anticipate selling too many books to people who contact me hoping to sell theirs. There are others, who use Facebook as blatant marketing. They ask to become a friend, and then post asking me (and my FB friends) to go to their site, buy a book and “like” their pages. Well, I’m afraid I don’t stay friends with them for long. I chuck them off. I’m not working on my pages in order to sell other people’s works. Genuine friends, yes. If I could help Paul Johnston, Stella Duffy, Ruth Edwards, Quintin Jardine, I would. They are real friends of mine. I like to help my friends.

But no, my FB pages are there for two reasons. One, the “author” page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Michael.Jecks.author is purely to help sell books. Come on, you all know that really, if you’ve seen the page – and if you haven’t, please go and “like” it!

The other page is my personal one. Yes, if you search for me, you’ll find it. But this isn’t really a direct selling page. It’s the one I do use for friends, family and a select number of FB people who have become friends. Not friends I’ve met, but folks I’d genuinely like to meet (Tom, yes, and you too, Paul, and you, Loren, amongst many others).

So, I really do not want to have a load of people putting comments on which are purely to flog their own books. Nor, because I detest them, do I want invitations to join damn silly games on there. Which is why they get removed as soon as I find them. As are the increasing number of invitations to become over-friendly with extremely pretty young women who think my mugshot shows me to be particularly handsome. First, I am not that good looking, and second, I am not that gullible. So those messages too get removed.

Does Facebook sell books? I doubt it. Almost all the people I know on it have got to find the pages because they knew my work and enjoyed it. It brings no new readership.

But then there is Twitter. Now, this is a site I do like, because it’s like knowing that there is a good conversation going on, into which I can dip when I get time. Like a dinner party, and I’m serving the food. I can’t keep hold of every comment, but when I come in with each course, I can rejoin the chatter. It’s fun. And does it sell books?

Maybe it does. But like I said earlier, I was up to nearly 800 users on Saturday, and I watched for some time to see when I would cross that barrier. But although I kept scoring more and more users, there were some dropping out all the time too, and I wondered why. There didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.

In the end I did a quick search and found something called Twitter Unfollow Tracker. Weird. All of a sudden I learned of a huge number of odd followers whom I had wondered about when they said that they were following me, but who suddenly dropped me like a hot spud. So I began to look at them.

There were a surprising number of financial services people. Hmm. There were a lot of folks who sold themselves as internet media consultants and the like. Hmm again. Looking through, I realised that there were quite a lot of folks who were befriending me, and then stopping their following a few days later. Some were faster, others slower, but on average they’d go within four days.

That was when I had an email suggesting I try TweetBig. Aha, I thought, what is this?

It’s a software firm that provides you with the potential to increase your followers. It asks you what sort of follower you are interested in, what sort of hashtags you want to emphasise, and then wanders off into cyberspace and sort of kicks over the bins and rootles around in order to find people you’d be interested in. Then it contacts them, friends them, and if they don’t reciprocate, it drops them again.

This way, apparently, people can increase their followers rapidly.

Now, I looked at some of the folks who’d followed me and then dropped me. Many, I didn’t follow back. Why? Well, if it’s a firm selling media consultancy, I don’t have the time to read their blogs or the money to hire them. There’s no point. If it’s a company selling Chryslers in Delaware, likewise, it’s not of any interest to me here in Blighty. I like to drop in on pleasant folks who are interested in and talking about things which interest me.

However, if you look at the sort of folks who do this trolling, they end up with 30,000, 40, 000, or more followers. Well, I wonder how many sales they get from all those?

There are others, too. A strange number of people whose tweets I’d followed seemed to fall off the radar. Very peculiar, but a number seemed to link to me for a week or so, and then ditch me. Well, it was hurtful. So I reciprocated on that, too!

But what is the point of this social media. We are told by the firms concerned that they really want to bring people together in the internet age. They are companies with interest in people. They don’t want people to become isolated.

So, how do they achieve this? They stop people talking face to face. They prevent normal dialogue. They sell the ability to use a telephone, yes, a device to allow you to talk, as a means of typing messages. This is not a way to increase communication except in the most non-human manner.

The companies want to help people. Then they allow other companies to link in and sell applications that take all human contact away. There are systems which store and forward your messages, so that when you’re away, your followers still get their momentary fix of your comments. Theoretically. There are all too many which allow you to automatically follow someone, or send a message to people who have followed you. This isn’t adding to the sum of human joy, is it, now?

But these kindly, humanitarian, social-based companies are there to help. They are the new businesses, not nasty old capitalist firms, but organisations which depend upon nice folks who only want to communicate.

And now they all take adverts.

So, let’s get these things clear in our minds, eh?

Social media. What’s it all about?

It’s about huge businesses making money for themselves. Along the way the occasional author or alternative businessman may make a few dollars as well, but that is a fortuitous event, not a by-product.

Will I continue to use FB and Twitter? Yup. Twitter I find rather fun, although with adverts and sponsored trending, it’ll become a great deal less so. FB is enjoyable, and can be useful for marketing, I think.

But let’s not fool ourselves that either of them is a serious business medium for selling books. They are not!

Boy, was I young then. Those shelves are now full of my books!

5 Responses to “What is it about social media?”
  1. Interesting post, Mike. Periodically, I’ll ask myself: Social media, what is it good for? Sometimes I tell myself, absolutely nothing. :) But, you know and I know that it’s really good for something, and that is DIY marketing and building relationships. The problem with social media platforms, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, etc, is that it takes a lot of time to use them consistently and build relationships (and it’s also easy to make an ass of yourself on them). And, to those marketers and “experts” that say that social media should not be a time suck and you should only spend 10 minutes a day on social media, I say bull hockey. They don’t know what they’re talking about. And I agree with you, it’s also about companies making a lot of money, especially when they go public.

    PS I recently got my first virtual gig (via a Twitter connection) doing social media community management. The client I’m working for is an academic author. Looking forward to reading more of your most excellent books!


    • Many thanks, and yes, I can see that they do work sometimes for businesses. My problem lies around the time I waste trying to keep up with the various social media sites. Branch Out serves no useful purpose for me – it’s debatable as to whether LinkedIn does, to be honest. I think Googleplus will end up being my contact system of choice, purely for the connections via Android, but that will mean either everything will become identical, based on blog comments and twitter messages being duplicated across media, or I’ll have to work even harder to keep them all in sync. Realistically, that ain’t going to happen!
      Thanks for the comments, Karen. Appreciated!


  2. Beth says:

    Fourteen months ago, I started a blog because I had been learning from some writers I respect, especially Leighton Gage, that mid-list writers were out there on their own, no longer promoted by their publishers. I was talking about the unfairness of it all to everyone, frequently. One day, my daughter presented me with the bare bones of a site, told me to name it, choose an avatar, and start writing instead of talking.

    So I started putting the reviews I had posted on Amazon on the blog which is called Murder by Type in that all the murders are actually committed by key board. The goal has been to bring attention to writers who are not James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark (whose books I have not read), and to blog about the writers whose books I never miss.

    I began with the books of the authors on Murder is Everywhere, Timothy Hallinan, Leighton Gage, Cara Black, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Michael Stanley (Michael Sears and Stanley Trollip, Dan Waddell, and Jeffrey Siger. There are some other posts about books, real crimes that have led to books, posts from guest writers, and posts I have shamelessly lifted from Murder is Everywhere.

    There is no way I can tell if reviews have translated into book sales but, in fourteen months, there have been close to 40,000 views of the blog. I have no idea if this is good.

    Recently, I tried to set up a separate page on Facebook for the blog rather than having everything going to my own Facebook page but I have not succeeded in getting the new page on Facebook. My webmaster is my daughter who knows a bit about web stuff but she is very clever and she eventually figures things out. Unfortunately, on occasion, her real life prevents her from dealing with the mistakes I make in my online life. So, I think we are Facebook friends but I don’t know that for sure.

    I have not yet read any of your books but I will, soon. I was a history teacher. The Plantagenets, especially John of Gaunt and Richard III, are favorites.

    If any of your fans wants to do so, they can check the information on http://www.murderbytype.wordpress.com and then forward reviews of their favorite Michael Jecks books and I will post them on the blog. There is a different book everyday.


    • I’m really grateful for your input here, Murderbytype. And it’s efforts like yours that make writing feel worthwhile, because while folks are out there and bothering, hopefully writers can continue to perform their craft.
      I’m impressed with that count – 40,000 hits is brilliant. Far better than most involved with crime writing. I’ll be searching amongst my friends on facebook now, wondering whether the various folks there are actually you! And thanks for the offer of review space on your site. With luck, soon one or two will start contacting you. In the meantime, I’ll definitely be looking at your blog.


      • Beth says:

        I apologize. I thought my name would show up on the post.

        I’m Beth Crowley and I am looking forward to reading your books. I do have something of a queue which delights me very much.

        In the About and Review Policy pages on the blog, you will get an idea of what I am doing.

        I have not yet made it to Bouchercon but I know that some of the Murder is Everywhere bloggers were there, none of whom I have yet to have the opportunity to meet.

        I look forward to receiving reviews for the blog


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