Category Archives: Social Media

Sharing the Results of My Not-So-Grand Experiment

Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago I announced I would stop blogging every day, and cut the frequency of my output down to something more like a couple of times a week. There were a few reasons for this, but the main one was that I just didn’t feel like I was getting any kind of personal return that justified the time I was putting into it. I’m not necessarily talking about money here (though it would not hurt my feelings at all if you were inclined to buy one of my books). But the simple truth is that blogging every day had become more of a burden than a joy. Are times you should stick with things even when you don’t enjoy them? Sure. But there are also times when you should cut your losses and think hard about why you’re voluntarily participating in something you hate.

Anyhoo, I was thinking some of you blogger geeks might like a little insight into the results of my experiment. I was going to call this “running the numbers” but I’m not actually going to give you any numbers. Unfortunately “running the vague comparative value statements” doesn’t have quite the same punch.

What happened to my traffic when I stopped writing new posts every day? So far, absolutely nothing. Actually there might have been a slight downtick, but really things have been running on a pretty even keel.

How is this possible? Well, the majority of my traffic isn’t and never has been visitors flocking to new posts. Actually, the majority of my traffic comes from people Googleing the word “clockwork” and finding this post. I have no idea how or why this happens since it’s not anywhere close to the first page on the Google results, but…whatever. It just goes to show that you never know which posts are going connect with readers. It also goes to show that SEO is a powerful force in the blogging world. You are making the most of it, right? (Hint: always use tags.)

But even putting aside the comparatively stable  number of visitors to my blog, this experiment has still been a huge success. On my side it’s freed up time for me to spend with my family and work on my other writing projects (though sometimes I still feel like I’m stuck in the mud). It’s also meant I can take more care in crafting the blog posts that I do make. Not that I was sloppy before, but I’m only one guy and writing an average of 500 words a day for public consumption on top of doing my real job and other writing projects means there’s bound to be some lag in quality somewhere.

But also, and I think more importantly, I believe the switch has been good for you the readers. If I’m updating every day, there are a lot of you who just aren’t going to be able to keep up with that volume. After all, I’m under no illusions that I’m the only blog you’re following. Scaling back the posting time means that your RSS feed or inbox isn’t getting slowly back up with posts you haven’t had the time to read. Even if all those posts were really good, basic economics teaches us that value is a function of supply and demand, which means that the more “supply” of my blog you have, the less valuable it will be to you.

So those are my thoughts. What are yours? Have you experienced anything similar with your blog? Has the change of pace in posting affected your opinion of the Unsanity Files blog? Think I’m full of hot air? I’d love to hear what you think, so drop a line or ten in the comments and share your blogging wisdom.

HOW TO GET A BAZILLION FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER WITHOUT REALLY TRYING!!!

Writers, we need to talk. I know you’ve been told that social media is the holy grail of indie marketing, but I think some of you may have gotten the wrong idea.

Here’s what happens. You’re on Twitter right? And you look around you and say, “I need more followers to hawk my wares at. How else am I ever going to make it as a writer?”

Well I am here to tell you exactly how you get bunches and bunches of people following you. Are you ready? Here goes:

Find a bunch of people who’s “follower” to “following” ratio indicates that they follow back, and then follow them. And if they don’t follow you back within a week or so, unfollow those ungrateful jerks and look for more accounts that are ripe for the picking. And when you hit Twitter’s limit on the number of people you’re allowed to follow, gripe and whine about it like the shameless leech that you are.

Don’t worry about silly things like “connecting” with people or “making friends.” Don’t try to learn anything except how to expand your Twitter empire. And definitely don’t make an effort to be interesting in any way.

Okay, since it was theoretically possible that some of you didn’t get it, THAT WAS SARCASM!

Over the months that I’ve been on Twitter I have come to hate this practice with a purple burning rage. It’s part of the reason I’ve stopped automatically following people back. It’s not that I’m not grateful for the people who really are interested in me and what I have to say, but there are just so many people out there engaging in this practice that now I only follow back people who engage me in actual conversation.

But the thing that really tipped me over the edge enough to post about this, was that recently I read a blog post recommending in all seriousness exactly the kind of follow trolling I just described as a legitimate way of building your platform.

[Head Explodes Here]

Here’s the thing. I get it. I know you want to be the one with thousands of followers and a massive Klout score. But instead of follow trolling, I have a better idea.

Try having something to say.

Be funny. Be interesting. Be informative. Be just plain weird if you want to.

And I’m not saying you can’t give up your humanity, and only tweet something that’s interesting or witty. Talking about your normal boring life is fine too from time to time.

But whatever you do stop playing the numbers game. Because I can promise you the thousands of people who are following you back just because you followed them, aren’t going to have nearly the same level of involvement with you as the people who are following you because they want to hear what you have to say.

I’m not saying quantity doesn’t matter. I’m just saying quality matters more.

So stop looking at Twitter like a marketing platform, and start looking at it as a digital world filled with amazing people, with insights to share, jokes to tell, and advice to give. Because that’s what it is.

Twitter is made out of people.

And that is it’s power.

[No, you’re not getting a Soylent Green reference. Seriously, have you people even seen that movie?]

The Musical Fruit

I’ve never been good at tooting my own horn. And don’t get me wrong, I try. My parents even had me taking lessons for a while. Maybe its the fact that my lips get tired after a while, or maybe emptying my spit valve is just too disgusting for me to think about. I don’t know what it is, but after years of trying I’ve decided that becoming a professional trumpet player just wasn’t in the cards.

So I decided, “Hey, I’ll become a writer. No tooting of horns required there.” Only I was wrong. The horn of need follows me, it HAUNTS me. It lives in my dreams, and I am forever falling into the darkness of its terrifyingly smooth and circular mouth.

That’s right. Because as a writer, I have to do a little something called, (gulp), self-promotion.

I have to get out there and tell people, “You know that money you were planning on spending a deep-tissue massage for your gerbil? Well maybe you should take some of that money and spend it on my book instead.”

And it terrifies me.

Why? Well for one thing there’s that tiny nagging fear at the back of my mind whispering that I’m really not that good. It doesn’t matter that I’ve had a number people who are not my mother read my story and generally conclude that it is of acceptable and even admirable quality. I still can’t help thinking of myself as a hack. A wannabe.

And that’s a terrible place to be. Because what self-promotion is saying is, “There are people out there who would love to read what I’ve written, and it’s my job to make sure they know about it.”

Wow. Just writing that sentence was hard. In fact, you know what? Writing this whole blog post has been difficult for me. I’ve been dithering away the morning by doing chores and finishing a book I’ve been reading all because it’s become increasingly apparent to me that I’m not good at this self-promotion thing.

That has to change.

It’s not that I need to become some egotistical windbag, constantly spamming my Twitter feed with how great my work is, but there’s no point in putting the work into writing the book if no one ever reads it. Otherwise I might as well stuff it in a trunk somewhere.

Because the truth is, if I’m going to have the balls to sell my work at all that means I have to believe that you want my story more than you want your dollar. That you will, in fact, find my writing to be worth more than many of the other things your dollar might have bought you.

Still, it isn’t easy. This isn’t an instruction guide. It’s not me telling you that I’ve solved the problem and here’s how you can too. But maybe just recognizing that I’ve got some issues is a good place to start.

If you’ve got some advice to share I’d love to hear it.

In the mean time, this might be the proper place to announce that I’m giving one of my short stories a nice official roll-out announcement on this blog tomorrow. I’ll be wincing at my keyboard as I try to say nice things about my own writing. So stay tuned for that.

Blogging about Blogging about Blogging

Woah. You guys…the comments section on yesterday’s post. Just wow.

You guys gave me a lot to think about with this blogging thing, and I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one struggling to find my niche. And after hearing all of your thoughts, concerns, opinions, et cetera, I think I have a little better focus now.

To me, the overarching theme in the sentiments that almost all of you expressed was this: different people like different things.

For instance some of you expressed a desire for a blog to be focussed on one topic, for it to have some overriding theme that connected all of it’s posts together. Others said that as long as a blogger speaks with passion in his own true voice, that is enough to build a following.

And here’s the thing: I don’t think either side is wrong. There is no blog that is going to appeal to everyone. This is something we bloggers know, but then often manage to ignore.

Also, some bloggers are far better at writing topically than others. For instance, I love Jody Hedlund’s blog where she writes in a very informative manner about writing and social media, but I also enjoy Jess Witkins blog where she talks about her life and occasionally discusses the speed bumps she encounters on the way to writing her first book. And my main man Don Whittington somehow manages to combine the two by talking about a particular piece of art each week, and then transitioning into incredibly moving and deeply personal thoughts inspired by the piece.

So I’m here to tell you that no one has the definitive answer as to what to write about on your blog. Chuck Wendig is proof you can get by rather handily writing about writing (though as we saw yesterday, not everyone is going to like his approach). But you can’t be Chuck Wendig and neither can I. That’s not to say you can’t write about writing. Just do it your way.

Which leads me into the first of my two rules for bloggers:

1. Be yourself.

Unless you’re a serial killer. Then maybe try being someone else.

Actually you know what, scratch that. I bet people would throng to read a blog written by a serial killer.

You can fake being someone else for a little while, but in the end you’re going to burn out. Which leads us to rule number two.

2. Stick with it.

And really this is good advice for anything you want to do in life. You want to write a book? Stick with it. Want to build a good marriage? Stick with it. Build a one to one scale model of the entire world in Minecraft? Stick with it.

Because lets be real here: you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have posts that bomb. You’re going to have moments of crisis where you wonder if your blog is going in the right direction. All of that is fine.

Screwing up is not the end of the world.

Giving up is.

Huh. That’s has a nice ring to it.

Anyhoo that’s it. Really. On those two principles I believe you can build a successful blog. It’ll take time. All good things do. But if you keep pressing forward eventually you’ll find the right path.

Of Battling Bloggers and the Zen of “Duh”

I don’t usually like to respond directly to other blogs, but I thought today merited some exception to that rule. See, on Wednesday Kristen Lamb tried once again to whack us in the noggin with the idea that as writers trying to grow an  online audience, blogging about writing is not a good idea.

This is not new. Kristen has been talking about this at least since I started reading after her at the beginning of the year.

Then Austin Wulf, another blogger I like and respect, answered back with a post arguing against Kristen Lamb’s main points. I recommended you read both blogs for yourself if for no other reason than the fact that they represent two very well argued and opposing viewpoints.

But here’s the deal: I’ve been thinking a lot about this blogging thing lately. More importantly I’ve been thinking about audience numbers and how to expand them. Of course I’ve always wanted more readers, but for a long time it was something almost academic, simply a way to fuel my pride about my blogging ability.

But about a month ago something changed. I released an ebook called A Prairie Home Apocalypse or: What the Dog Saw. Many of you who are loyal readers of this blog bought the book, and I thank you. But about two weeks after releasing the book my numbers basically hit a brick wall. I’d sell one every couple of days, but the numbers just weren’t there. I’d tapped out my audience, and now I was swinging in the wind. And I don’t know about you, but the prospect of making money really makes me perk up and pay attention.

So I started thinking about what I could do about it, and what I came up with was this: maybe I shouldn’t be blogging exclusively about writing.

Because I believe it does limit my readership to a certain extent. Looking back over posts of the past, some of the most popular by SEO numbers have absolutely nothing to do with writing. And now that I’m further along in my blogging career SEO is a big part of bringing in traffic.

Now there are clearly writers that can pull off writing about writing and garner an audience by the boatload, but as far as I can tell all of those writers are named Chuck Wendig. I am not named Chuck Wendig, nor do I have even an iota of the man’s skill in crafting pithy punchy posts.

Which is why you may have noticed in the past few weeks, that I haven’t been writing as much about writing. Instead I’ve been dabbling in other topics that interest me to see what kind of reaction I can get from the audience at large. This is not to say that I’ll never blog about writing again, but after all this time, I’m finally starting to think maybe Kristen was right all along. And even though it did take me a while to realize it, I’m not ashamed.

Sometimes you have to understand something for yourself. You hear it over and over, and one day it finally clicks and you’ll say, “You know that thing everyone tried to tell me I should do for all those years. Maybe I should give that a shot.”

And the people who tried to tell you for all those years are smacking their heads with their palms and saying, “Yes, what a brilliant idea. Maybe you should try that.”

And that’s okay. Because sometimes you just have to learn it on your own.

Addendum: don’t worry. The economics post was a bomb, so you won’t have to worry about seeing Money Mondays anytime soon.

Addendum 2: I have a new/old short story out for the Kindle. It’s a terrifying little tale that mixes science fiction and horror into a delightfully spine-tingling concoction that I call Derelict. Maybe you should check it out.

The Viral View

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that most Friday’s I do a book review. Basically this review involves me talking about whatever I happen to have just finished reading at the time.

But lately I’ve been thinking about reviews a lot. Most people would look at a review of a book or a movie as a simple examination of the works strengths and weaknesses, a condensed rundown to give the reader some idea of whether or not they might like this particular book or movie.

But lately I’ve started to think of reviews as something else: viruses.

Okay, there’s no need to back away like that, and…whoa, where did that straight-jacket come from. Have you been carrying that with you the whole time?

I’m not crazy. Well, not with this anyway. Just hear me out.

Reviews are often tagged as being “spoiler free”. This means that the reviewer has not included any information that would “spoil” the readers enjoyment of the work being reviewed. But is any review, truly spoiler free?

Because I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I watch a movie or read a book after having read a review of that book I’m watching for the things the reviewer pointed out.

Weak third act structure? Yep.

Poorly developed characters? Check that one off the list.

Cunning use of white space? Got it.

Except those ideas aren’t my ideas. They’re not my opinions. I’ve been infected with the reviewer’s point of view.

It’s possible I might have made those same assesments on my own, but now I’ll never know for sure. Because I let myself be infected with the virus.

In truth this idea applies to far more than just movie reviews. We interact with others on a daily basis, taking recommendations, sharing opinions, transfering information. When you get right down to it none of the ideas in our heads belong to us. They’ve all come from somewhere external.

Immanuel Kant hypothesized that ideas like time and space existed “a priori” outside of external influence, because, he reasoned, thinking would be impossible without them. But with all due respect to Mr. Kant, he’s never lived in a universe without time. Simply because neither he nor any of us is capable of imagining how thought might occur in such place does not mean that such a thing is impossible.

In fact the idea for this very blog post, came from listening to someone else talking about how they tried to watch movies without any preconceptions and work out wether they liked it for themselves.

You might think that I’m leading up to saying that I’m going to discontinue the Bizzaro Book Review and let you all discover your own books without preconceptions.

But if you think that, then you obviously don’t know me that well. Because seriously? I have a chance to infect all of your brains with my ideas? Get me a ticket on that train.

Call up the CDC and tell them there’s a madman in Florida cooking up idea bugs in his garage. Make sure you scream as loudly as you can.

And don’t mind the men with the special jacket with the long sleeves. They’re only there to help.

A Cure for Exploding Head Syndrome

Dear Twitter,

We need to talk. See, there’s this thing you do, not all the time mind you, but on specific occasions that is getting really irritating.

I’m talking, of course, about your practice of trying to be humorous about current events. This is on the whole, not a terrible thing. But two things cause it to become tedious in the extreme.

First, most tweeters aren’t that different.

Second, most tweeters aren’t that funny.

So what you end up with is a tweet stream filled with people making the same exact joke over and over and over again.

Let us take for example the recent non-event that was “The Rapture.” It might behoove us to ask why such a ridiculous notion gained such widespread interest in the first place, but such questions are beyond the scope of this letter. Instead, let me just say that if I had seen one more, “Well, I’m still here guys, hur, hur, hur” tweet on the twenty-first, my head very well may have exploded.

Can you imagine the mess that would have made, Twitter? Can you imagine the look of shock on my wife’s face if she had walked into the room and found my body crumpled on the floor amid the shattered wreckage of what had once been my shapely and brilliant head? Not so funny now is it?

I suppose that in some ways this phenomenon is an inevitable part of developing an ecosystem of information between individuals that all live on the same planet, but it is irritating all the same. This is why I’m send out a call to you to do your part to prevent head explosions.

And just how can you do this? Why, by using the Double Bass Test of course.

What’s that? You’re not familiar with the Double Bass Test? Well then allow me to enlighten you with a quote from the best time-traveling romantic detective ghost story ever written, Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

“I’m a private detective.”
“Oh?” said Kate in surprise, and then looked puzzled.
“Does that bother you?”
“It’s just that I have a friend who plays the double bass.”
“I see,” said Dirk.
“Whenever people meet him and he’s struggling around with it, they all say the same thing, and it drives him crazy. They all say, ‘I bet you wished you played the piccolo.’ Nobody ever works out that that’s what everybody else says. I was just trying to work out if there was something that everybody would always say to a private detective so that I could avoid saying it.”
“No. What happens is that everybody looks very shifty for a moment, and you got that very well.”

The essence of the Double Bass Test is in asking yourself, “Is this joke so obvious that thousands of other people may be making it even as we speak?” If the answer is yes then don’t make the joke.

The Double Bass Test can also be useful in everyday life as our quote illustrates. Of course there will be times when a Double Bass Joke slips through the cracks, but on the whole you will be well served by following this principle, and thousands of beautiful heads everywhere can be saved from an awful and gruesome demise.

Sincerely,

Albert Berg

P.S. My book is on sale in the Kindle store for 99 cents. I’m not very good at promoting these things, but if you were on the fence because of the price (and believe me I know what it’s like to balk at paying three dollars for a book because you just don’t have the expendable cash) then maybe this is a good time to snatch it up. I’ll probably keep this sale going until the end of the week. So there’s that.

P.P.S.

Yesterday was National Towel Day and nobody told me. This makes me sad.