Category Archives: Social Media

6 Social Media Tools Every Writer Should Know About

This post is prompted by a conversation I was having with my dad, who runs Magic at Events. We were talking about whether it’s best to schedule Twitter updates or not and he pointed out that there’s no way of knowing when the best time for a tweet is. When I pointed out that there are some sites that can figure it out for you, he asked me “how do you know about this stuff?” And my answer was “someone told me”. And then I realised I’d been told about a lot of stuff and I should really pass on that knowledge. So here’s 6 Social Media Tools That I Think Are Cool And You Might Too.

Don’t get me wrong here. The purpose of this post is not to say “I use Twitter/Facebook/etc and so should you”. Some social media sites aren’t for everyone. This is strictly about tools; stuff you can use for a specific purpose other than networking.

Twitter

Put aside the networking aspect and Twitter becomes a fantastic search engine. It’s great for gauging mood, measuring conversation or getting real-time updates. Most of the time you’ll probably use Google, but I recommend making Twitter your secondary search engine. I’ve found links, blogs and people full of information on subjects where Google had let me down. Set up a dummy account and start searching!

Buffer

I’ve already written about whether or not scheduling social media posts is a good idea but, if you’re convinced, this is the tool to do it with. You can link it to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ Pages, LinkedIn and App.net. The advantage to Buffer is you don’t have to pick a time for each update. You pick your posting times in advance and drop updates into a queue. You can still specify a certain time for an individual update if you want to. Otherwise you can sit back and let Buffer post for you!

Tweriod

The service that sparked this post. Say you want to schedule your posts but you don’t know when to do so. Tweriod can help you out. It only works with Twitter at the moment but it will analyse your followers and tell you at what times your posts have the greatest potential for reaching them.

Google Alerts

Not quite social media, perhaps, but a good tool all the same. A Google Alert will send you an email when it indexes something matching a search term. Say you want to keep your ear to the ground regarding Branwell Bronte. Set up a Google Alert and, instead of having to search every day, Google will send you an email as and when something is posted.

Mention

The next level from Google Alerts, Mention can perform the same service but will trawl blogs, Facebook, Twitter and so on as well. It was suggested to me as a way of keeping track of people who post links to your website; that way you can thank them accordingly! That’s a great use for this tool but it’s a good way of keeping up to date on a certain topic, too.

An RSS Reader

Instead of visiting a dozen different sites to keep up with news on those things you like, download one RSS reader and read all those blogs in one place. Personally I recommend Flipboard but there’s plenty of choice out there.

Do you agree that these are handy tools? Do you disagree? Have I missed any out? Let me know in the comments!

5 Blogs Every Indie Writer Should Read

So you’ve picked your RSS reader (maybe off the back of my recommendation). What do you fill it with? It’s true that us writerly types like to have lots to read, but the truth is there are so many blogs out there it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff. Well here are five blogs that I think can help a writer of any stripe.

Lindsay Buroker

If you’re planning to self-publish your work, Lindsay’s blog is required reading. She writes unflinchingly about her experiences of self-publishing: what’s worked for her and why, what didn’t work, and what lessons she’s learned. Start reading now.

The Passive Voice

If you’re looking for news about books and publishing you can’t go wrong here. This blog is a great aggregator of other stories and a great way of keeping your ear to the ground. There’s a strong pro-Amazon bias though, so watch out for that; it can be a bit obnoxious.

Buffer

This probably seems like an odd one, but the Buffer team blogs about things like time management, life hacks and online marketing; all things a modern writer needs to know about.

Writing Excuses

This one’s actually a podcast but since they’re basically audio blogs it counts, right? Hosted by four writers of different stripes, they discuss an aspect of writing each week from their unique perspectives. Both entertaining and illuminating, I’m an avid listener and I’m sure you will be too.

The Digital Reader

This blog is an excellent resource for news surrounding ebooks and ereaders. As this is the foundation of income for the majority of indies, it’s good to know what’s happening in that world.

I’m always looking for new blogs to read, so please do let me know what your recommendations are in the comments!

Is Scheduling Social Media Posts a Bad Idea?

Ever had three updates to post to your social media account but you don’t want to post them all at once? Or got an update for a specific date or time in the future? You’re not the only one, judging by the army of scheduling services like Buffer, Hootsuite and SocialOomph. These are services, often free, where you can set a post to publish at a specific time on a specific date. Handy, right? But wait; there’s a few things to bear in mind before you start scheduling.

You’re Not Online to Engage With Your Audience

If you’re posting good content, people will respond to it. Only you’re not there for the conversation. While your Friends, Fans and Followers (FFFs) are trying to talk to you, you’re off doing something else, leaving their responses going ignored.

Some People Don’t Like Scheduled Posts

There’s an argument that if a piece of software is posting the content then your profile isn’t too far removed from a bot. Whether or not you agree with this is irrelevant; the fact is that some people believe it and scheduling your posts may mean they stop being an FFF.

Scheduling Can Run Afoul of Current Events

Worse than ignoring your FFFs is a scheduled post hitting the Internet at a bad time. Take the example of Kim Kardashian, who posted condolences to the victims of the Boston marathon bomb but obviously forgot to switch off her scheduled posts. 24 minutes after get best wishes, she sent a tweet promoting her mother’s appearance on TV. The backlash got nasty.

Looks grim, huh? Maybe this scheduling lark isn’t the best idea. But there’s two sides to every coin, and plenty of good things about scheduling.

Catch Your Followers When They’re Online

If someone tweets and no-one’s online to see it, does it still make a noise? No. Posting something when none of your FFFs are online is completely pointless. Scheduling it for when they are means you don’t have to remember it for hours only to get distracted and forget what time you were going to post and damn is that the time shoot I’ve totally missed it and now I’ll have to wait some more and so on and so on.

Avoid Spamming Your Followers’ Feeds

You’re scrolling through your feed and suddenly it’s taken over by one user who’s posted thirty-seven updates all at once. How annoying. Let’s skip all those. Not good, right? You don’t want to be that guy. Spreading updates over the day avoids flooding your FFFs’ feeds.

Increase Your Exposure

The flip side of that coin is that if you’re dumping all your updates at, say, 6pm, anyone who checks in at 5pm won’t see them. Spreading your updates over the day increases exposure.

Do you schedule your social media posts? Or do you think it’s a terrible idea? Let me know in the comments.

VAT regulations will mean ebooks prices increase.

Would You Trust Facebook With Your Credit Card?

I recently wrote a guest post at New Media Angels about the future of Facebook. It was sparked by a discussion as to whether Facebook was doomed and what it ought to do to avoid such a fate. I outlined a few steps that I thought would preserve Facebook’s future and one of them was allowing you to buy things via your Facebook account. Since then people have asked a few questions, but the number one question has been this: “why on Earth do you think I’d give Facebook my credit card?”

It’s a fair question, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to respond.

My thinking behind the Facecoin idea was simple. Right now Facebook has one revenue stream: ads. That’s not enough to ensure survival in my book. So they need to diversify. Get a few fingers in a few pies. And micropayments is an emerging pie. The only real contender is Bitcoin. Bitcoin, however, is not a well-known name. Facebook is. And if you’re faced with a name you know and a name you don’t, a lot of people will pick the former without even asking about the latter.

But, of course, Facebook isn’t a name you can trust. That’s why step one of my plan was to rebuild trust. I’m not convinced their reputation is irreparably damaged. And once they’ve changed their image, I think people wouldn’t balk at handing over their details. Especially younger users, who might not have been online when Facebook was so distrusted. After all, we trust PayPal with our credit card. Why not someone else?

Let me put it this way: imagine a new social network, Safebook is unveiled tomorrow. Safebook does everything Facebook does, down to the finest detail. But it makes no claims to your photos or data. It makes it easy to manage your privacy. In fact, it encourages privacy. Privacy might even be a default. And Safebook also lets you pay for things, just like PayPal. Why wouldn’t you dump Facebook?

Now imagine if Facebook turned into Safebook over the next year. Now tell me you wouldn’t hand over your card details.

Replacing Google Reader with Flipboard

Are you still mourning the loss of Google Reader? Still not found a good replacement for it? Rocking an iPhone or Android phone? Then I’ve got the app for you: Flipboard.

Flipboard was intended as a social media aggregator, allowing you to add streams from Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and et cetera. That meant my early experiments with Flipboard were doomed; I like my social media segregated rather than aggregated.

But when they announced the imminent doom of Google Reader I immediately thought of Flipboard. So many RSS readers relied on Google whereas I knew Flipboard did not. The work of a few minutes had Flipboard acting like a far superior version of Google Reader.

Adding Feeds

A screenshot from Flipboard.How a single feed looks in Flipboard.The search bar in Flipboard.

Start with the button in the top-right hand corner. On the home screen it’s that red button; the red disappears when you’re in a feed but it’s still there. Hit that and it will offer you a search bar. Use that bar to either search for the name of the blog (James T Kelly, perhaps?) or type in the blog’s URL (http:// and all, like this: http://www.jamestkelly.com/feed). Scroll through the search results until you find what you’re looking for. I find typing in the URL has better luck than searching by name. Tap the blog you want to add and a new tile will appear in the app. Each new feed gets its own tile. Not sure which blogs to add? Check out these 5 blogs every indie writer should read!

Read Pretty

RSS readers used to be bare-bones affairs, which was exactly what was needed when they first arrived. But we can afford ourselves more luxuries these days. Flipboard turns your blog roll into your own personal magazine. You can either tap each tile to read a single blog, or use the Top Stories tile to read an aggregate of all your blogs together.

Create Your Own Magazine

Flipboard has also introduced Magazines, a way of adding individual articles to a collection that can be viewed and subscribed to by anyone. I’ve been playing with it and even created my own Magazine, Writers, Right?. You can also create private Magazines to collect your favourite articles.

So I’m actually kind of glad they pulled the plug on Google Reader. What about you? Which service did you pick to replace Reader?

Has Amazon Ruined Goodreads?

It’s a burden being right all the time. Not too long ago I wrote a post stating that Amazon needs to embrace social media. And what happened? Amazon bought Goodreads, the leading social media site for book readers. Did I call it or what?

Well, not really. I had imagined Amazon introducing some homegrown social solutions. But I forgot the Golden Rule: when you’re as big as Amazon, you don’t have to make your own products; you just have to buy other people’s. So Amazon saw what Goodreads had created and got them some of that. But is this a good thing for readers?

Otis Chandler, one of the founders of Goodreads, claims that he sold the site to Amazon for three reasons:

• Greater reach – Amazon can extend Goodreads services to all of its customers now;
• Ereader integration – Amazon can now bring social interaction directly into the reading experience;
• Independence – Amazon will keep their hands off the wheel.

Yeah, I’m not buying that last one.

That Goodreads was an independent entity was what made it so great. It fostered a truly open environment and encouraged free discussion. Goodreads was somewhere you could go to talk books online without a salesman taking notes over your shoulder. But now it has a vested interest in making you buy from Amazon. Cue heavy advertising, links aplenty and pretty soon features will be exclusive to the Kindle. And Goodreads will exist solely to build up Amazon and break down its competition.

Are there any upsides to the deal? I’m not counting all these social reading ideas; reading will always be a solitary experience no matter how many buttons you add to the ereader. But Amazon will bring money and resources to the party. That might help Goodreads develop their mobile app, for instance, or improve the online interface. And it’s unlikely that Amazon are going to mess much the site, other than channeling buyers to their site. So the Goodreads we know won’t go anywhere any time soon.

But the data belongs to the Mighty Zon now. That will be a bitter pill for some people to swallow.

But perhaps I’m being too negative. What do you think? Is Amazon going to break Goodreads or can things only get better?

Why Amazon Needs To Be More Like Facebook

Amazon’s review system is broken and open to abuse. Certain writers were posting damning reviews on competitors’ books and glowing reviews on their own. Others were paying strangers to leave reviews. And readers were swarming good books with bad reviews because they didn’t like what it had to say and wanted it to fail. It’s all bad voodoo and something needs to change. So Amazon decreed that no writer is permitted to review books in their own genre. But that punishes every writer for the sins of the few. And it doesn’t stop the swarming problem. So what are they to do?

Easy. Make Amazon more like Facebook.

Sounds strange? Not at all. There’s three good reasons for my cockamamie scheme.

1. Transparency

A major problem with Amazon reviews right now is the anonymity; anyone can create multiple accounts and hide behind a username. Obi1 can swarm a book and drag down its star rating. lukes88 can post fake reviews of his book. But Facebook demands your real name. And a picture. There’s nothing to hide behind.

2. Conversation

Furthermore such a system wouldn’t even require formal reviews. Each product page could collate conversations about the product. So sending a public message to a friend suggesting they check out a book pops up as a “review”. And though these people are strangers, a shopper can see someone making the effort to recommend the book. That’s a strong review in and of itself!

3. Judge and ye be judged too

Doing all of this will also mean that when I review a book you’re better equipped to judge me as well as my review. After all you can see my activity. You can see I’m a writer, for instance. You can also see that I have a hardcore devotion to Michael Jackson. And look, I’ve liked a page called “Vote down this Michael Jackson book”. My review probably isn’t legit…

If this all sounds like an extreme solution to the problem, it shouldn’t be. If readers can’t trust the reviews on Amazon then Amazon itself becomes viewed as unreliable as the reviews it allows to remain on its site. And the same applies to others; Goodreads, for instance, has suffered from swarming as well.

Trustworthy reviews are vital to any online book seller. Removing the anonymity and adding a social element can go a long way towards restoring them. And then I can review books again.

Would you like to see Amazon become more like Facebook? Or would you avoid that like a big, corporate plague? Please let me know; I’m interested to hear what people think!

Lessons From Randi Zuckerberg’s Facebook Mistake

So it turns out even Randi Zuckerberg, sister to the more famous Mark and former Facebook employee, doesn’t understand Facebook privacy settings either. She thought she’d shared a photo with her nearest and dearest, but it turned out that complete strangers could see it too. (Click the link to read Gizmodo’s sympathetic take on the incident.) There’s a huge debate here as to whether Facebook is making their privacy settings too complicated or whether we just lack “human decency” as Randi would have you believe. But whilst that’s going on, here’s five things to take away from Randi’s mistake:

1. You Are The Product

Social media businesses are just that: businesses. They need to make money. Letting you share photos, videos or status updates doesn’t pay the bills. All that sharing is a carrot to get you in their door; once you’re there, they’re going to sell to you or sell you to others.

2. You’re Also The Carrot

The key to success of a social media business is a large user base. They want as many people using their service as possible. If you’re part of a social network, you work as an advert to all of your friends and colleagues, who then advertise it to people they know and so on.

3. Stories Keep Us Engaged

One of the problems Google+ had in the early days was that it was a ghost town. Nothing was going on. People signed up, had a look around and realised this party was dead.

Stories are what show up on your feeds. Geoff liked a photo is a story. Sandra checked in at the waffle house is a story. Any activity is a story and it’s something that is likely to keep you interested and engaging and clicking those like buttons. Because the more buttons you click that more data Facebook has about you that it can sell.

4. Privacy is Anathema to Social Media

Privacy settings allow you to stop yourself being a carrot and a storyteller. You can restrict certain posts to certain people, or even hide your profile altogether so that no-one can find you. But that means you’re not pulling your weight. You’re not bringing in new product and you’re not keeping it in the warehouse with your posts.

Privacy is death to a social network.

So when Facebook makes its privacy settings opaque, it’s trying to stay alive. It’s trying to keep the product productive. So it keeps the default settings to public. To keep a thing private, you have to check a dozen boxes. Which is where Randi Zuckerberg went wrong: she missed a box and allowed Facebook to create a story even though she didn’t want it to.

5. There’s No Privacy Online

Randi Zuckerberg went wrong by thinking she could put something on Facebook and keep it private. The Internet is not a small room of your nearest and dearest. It’s a huge Roman amphitheatre where the smallest whisper can be heard from every seat and the whole world has tickets. Say a word and, if it’s interesting enough, it’s spread like wildfire.

The only secret to social media is to treat it like that amphitheatre. Want to show someone an embarrassing photo? Don’t do it in the amphitheatre. Email it or use a private cloud storage facility. Any service, in fact, other than social media.

Because chances are the photo you don’t want them to see is exactly the sort of photo that they’ll love to share with everyone. And social media businesses will do anything and everything to let them do that.

Twitter Followers Don’t Matter; RRFs Do

Anyone noticing a trend? It’s possible I’ve already written about Facebook in a similar fashion and now I’m banging on about Twitter. But bear with me: it’s worth reading.

Talk to anyone who uses Twitter for five minutes and one word is bound to come up: followers. Twitter users always want more followers. Why? Because the bigger the crowd the further your voice will travel. More followers equals more people who can see your tweets. Makes sense, right? So it may come as a surprise to many to hear that Twitter founder Evan Williams is advocating a move away from the follower count. Surely he’s lost his marbles?

Not at all. He just knows that it’s quality, not quantity, that matters.

Evan Williams is now advocating the importance of the retweet over the follower and he’s absolutely right. In fact I would go further and advocate the RRFs: Retweets, Replies and Favourites. Because a follow means only that someone has clicked a button that says “follow”. It doesn’t mean they like or even read your tweets. It’s literally just the button thing.

An RRF, on the other hand, means that someone has:

• read your tweet;
• enjoyed it enough to click a button that leads to engagement;
• engaged in a public fashion that increases your exposure to other Twitter users;
• opened the door to further and continued engagement with you;
• given you a way of actually measuring which of your tweets are popular and which are not.

In short, the number of followers you have is a false comfort and an unreliable metric. But the number of RRFs your tweets earn? They’re pure gold.

You might agree (I think you should) or you might think I’m talking pure cods wallop. Get opinionated and leave a comment!

Why Lots of Facebook Likes Aren’t Important

Facebook Page owners are getting uptight because Facebook want to charge them to reach more of their fans. Kristen Lamb has written a good blog about it, which you should read if you haven’t already. In essence a lot of Page owners are missing the point. Too many of them view social media as a broadcast channel instead of an engagement avenue.

Billboard Networking

The number of likes a Page has is often taken as an indicator of success. But this is a fallacy. As an example, I recently saw a Page with triple-digit likes that had single digit entries into a competition. Why? It had adopted billboard networking.

Because a billboard can’t tailor itself for its audience, it needs to get in front of as many eyeballs as possible. If it can broadcast its message to thousands of people, a handful of them might notice. They play statistics and win on the 24% of people they influence. But imagine if you met someone at a party who wore a sandwich board and refused to speak to you. A large number of people would see the board. But I don’t imagine it would work too well.

Yet this is the essence of billboard networking. People approach your Page expecting to meet a person and instead they see only “Buy my book. My book’s on sale. Check out my book.” Cue a lack of engagement and that dearth of competition entries.

Social networking

Social networking is the complete opposite of billboard networking. It’s a conversation, in which you engage people on a one-to-one or one-to-few basis. At that same party, it’s the guy who spends the evening with a handful of people who share common interests and a similar sense of humour.

That guy won’t reach as many people as the sandwich board. But he’s deeply engaged with those he does reach. He’s talking but he’s also listening, and the discussion will range from books to weather to food to whatever. In social media terms, he’s posting questions and sharing good, funny and useful content. If and when his book comes up in conversation, the people he’s talking to will pay more attention because he’s not selling them something; they’re just talking.

So stop being a billboard and start being social. Stop chasing after likes and try finding friends instead. Sure it feels good if our Page has 15,000 likes; we feel popular. But if none of those 15,000 talk to you, you’ll be the loneliest popular kid around. And the girl with 50 likes who all talk regularly will be having a pretty good party without you.