Let’s say they have an opportunity to go on an expensive band trip through school, so after discussion, you agree on a cost-sharing arrangement. If they don’t follow through on fund-raising, keeping them home means you:
- Deal with friction as you demonstrate that you intend to uphold the contract, as would their employer, banker, etc.
- Witness their dawning distress as they understand they’re missing their one chance to short-sheet the band captain’s bed.
- Say farewell to the first weekend in twenty years in which you have the house to yourself, so you could have hot monkey sex whenever and wherever you want. (Except the front hall, because despite the proclivity for using phrases like “hard” and “good wood” when discussing adult fun, no one in their right mind would ever, under any circumstances, consider a red oak staircase to be a marital aid.)
Anyway, on November 1st, when I knew I had another post in me in the Stop Feeling Like an Author Wishbone series, I got myself into one of these let-me-show-you-what-I-mean-by-screwing-myself-over situations. (Totally forgot to pimp-out the referenced Writer Unboxed post earlier, so let me rectify that: Solving a First-World Blogging Problem.)
I conducted a social media experiment to make a point and ended up depressing the hell out of myself. This is how it worked:
To develop a sense of how easy it is to game Twitter-follower counts, thereby demonstrating the need for a thoughtful, individualized social media strategy, and not mindless pursuit of a number “just because.”
- Set up a brandspanking new Twitter account in November with a silly name, bio, and avatar.
- Restrict all my tweets to quotes related to the topic loosely referenced by my avatar. In other words, there would be no interaction, no retweets, no creativity, and no “social” aspect of my social media account. I was simply sharing material available to anyone with Internet access.
e.g. If my topic had been “flutes” I’d tweet this from Brainy Quotes:
I can never make up my mind if I’m happy being a flute player, or if I wish I were Eric Clapton.~Ian Anderson
- Go to the Twitter profile of a social media guru whose audience consists mostly of writers. Follow their 100 most recent followers without any attempt at discrimination other than eliminating obvious spambots.
- Every few days dip into their pool for another 10-20.
- After a decent interval, use Just Unfollow to begin eliminating those who didn’t take the bait of my follow. Reciprocate everybody who initiated a follow, except when they were obvious spambots.
But old habits die hard, leading to a few flaws in my methodology:
- My Twitter manners are ingrained, so that I couldn’t not reply to one genuinely funny person.
- I had to add a silly quote or two of my own, so I’m probably underestimating the power of teh funny.
The ultimate results:
It took me 14 days to hit 206 followers. I lost interest entirely November 20th, at which time I’d done exactly 20 tweets and gained 242 followers, most of whom were writers or social media folk.
I received 20 direct messages which included:
- Request for True Twit validation – 1
- Messages which indicate a hacked account – 6, all from separate tweeps
- What I consider to be tweep-originated-spam – 4 OMG you should totally follow my Facebook pages!; 1 OMG you should totally watch my Youtube video!; 9 direct sales or website links
The bottom line: Between 25-30% of the writers following a social media guru will follow a to-me nonsensical account if it means they get a follow back.
I don’t know about you, but I found this depressing, particularly because at one point I was one of those numerically oriented people. Plus I’m not exactly taking the Twitterverse by storm. Where the hell are my non-discriminating followers. 😉
For a while I succumbed to deepening cynicism–what I mean by being a victim of my own social media sting.
Then I grabbed a brain. I stopped looking for what was wrong about these results. I realized I hadn’t kept the big picture in mind. We humans can be infinitely inventive and resilient.
For example, today’s sullen, resentful teenager will grow up. They can become a sullen, resentful, adult who patronizes psychotherapists and speaks, inexplicably, of nightmares involving bass clarinets.
People like me can start out using Twitter in a self-oriented, fearful manner and become part of a community, despite themselves.
60-75% of writers on Twitter have taste enough not to follow me, even when I’m in disguise.
And finally, the weekend might be altered, the front hallway might be off limits, but red oak works nicely in headboards.
Or so I’m told…
When was the last time you hooped yourself while attempting to educate another person?