Network(ing): The Movie

Something I’ve noticed over the past year or so now that I’m actively submitting work and starting to promote projects on social media, is what a weird wasteland of dysfunction it often becomes.

These are just observations from my own point of view, as someone who likes social media and one who has run ads on several platforms for different purposes. Some have worked to varying extents and some have done absolutely nothing. I’ve also marveled at what publishers, production companies, networks and others have put into their own campaigns — both those that have succeeded and those that have not.

As one example, on Twitter, I follow and am followed by lots of writers. I mostly follow writers and artists of various kinds. I know that in recent years the publishing industry would like their authors to build a platform for marketing purposes, and many of the writers I follow have done just that. Most of them follow thousands, or tens of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands of people. So on the surface, this would appear to grant them considerable reach when they post things. I’m a bit skeptical of the actual effectiveness of this strategy myself. I’ve looked at some of my online writer friends profiles and counted the posts that have received no visible engagement, and the ratio looks similar to other accounts that follow far fewer people.

Will they be ‘seen’ by more people than those of us not following so many? Almost certainly. What that means in terms of actual sales or word of mouth only they can say. A percentage of the posts I observed in my very informal survey had no likes or re-tweets, so several of them may only have been a part of a larger number of people’s scrolling.

I’m also not sure that the entire premise of building a following/follower platform at those scales is not the primary factor in my own personal Twitter feed degenerating into a sort of ‘mutually assured mass marketing availability’ pact. In which we are mostly just a part of each other’s numbers for the network. The engagement between us, even those of us creative types working in similar genres and mediums is not a given either. I will RT other writers at times when they share things of interest, or are promoting some of their work, and many have done the same for me. At other times, I’ve seen messages and tweets go unanswered either between myself and another person, or between two or more other people that I follow. Things can get lost or left unfinished in the sheer volume of interactions and new posts popping up on the screen.

This is where that whole idea sometimes doesn’t work out as well as we would like. When I started doing my part in promoting one particular work on this platform, it got some re-tweets. Not as many as were hoped for certainly. But that is where these numbers work against us. As of the time of this writing, about ten percent of my followers are verified accounts with substantial followings. Some of the indie authors among my followers also have thousands of followers and follow that many or more. So the odds of one of our influential Twitter friends seeing any of our posts among the massive numbers of tweets that will swarm their feed every time they open the app are pretty low.

We can, of course, ask some of our more influential friends for re-tweets and such. But that misses the point. A lot of this does not happen as organically as you might think. But then again, some of the craziest things go viral, and some of the most well crafted, well executed marketing campaigns can fall flat on their faces.

My experiences with actual advertising on such platforms as Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and Google have been similarly hit or miss. Some campaigns have boosted individual posts reach, or resulted in more follows or likes for that profile page, and others have seemingly had no impact whatsoever. All of those campaigns were for different things, some creative projects such as my writing, some for a small business, so a variety of methods were employed. What works for one thing may not work so well for a different product or service.

Some of the accounts I follow are relentlessly self promotional. They are all marketing, all the time. I am mystified by why anyone would think this is a good approach. It’s like expecting us to want to tune in to a channel that is nothing but commercials. Why would you do that? At least as far as Twitter goes, my timeline is as likely to include random observations as any mention of my current projects. RTs of things I found amusing or interesting at the time, what show(s) I’m watching, music I’m listening to, or games I’m playing. I would hate my own timeline if it was nothing but carnival barking.

Moving forward, I do plan on expanding my reach, though probably not to the extent one of the industries I am involved with would like. I don’t want to just go for bigger numbers on the network, I’d like to find better networking connections overall. Numbers by themselves aren’t going to help. Engaged, interactive people on any of these platforms will.