The Dark Side of Metrics–Writer Friend or Ticket to Crazy Town?
Last week, we talked about the bright side of using metrics. Writers tend to go pale and look for the scotch when someone mentions analytics. Yet, if we don’t ever look to a standard of measure, then we can float around aimlessly, wasting valuable time on busy-work. We have better things to do than focus on meaningless statistics…like, um, write great books.
Metrics–Helpful Ally or One-Way Ticket to Crazy Town?
Yet, as amazing as social media might be, it presents a a sticky problem…there is no way to accurately measure social marketing. Last week, I mentioned Klout and Jami Gold brilliantly pointed out that it’s measurement rests on game theory. For those of you who have slept since your last economics class:
Game theory is a mathematical method for analyzing calculated circumstances (games) where a person’s success is based upon the choices of others.[1Game theory has been used to study a wide variety of human and animal behaviors. It was initially developed in economics to understand a large collection of economic behaviors, including behaviors of firms, markets, and consumers. The use of game theory in the social sciences has expanded, and game theory has been applied to political, sociological, and psychological behaviors as well. (per Wikipedia).
Since animals and humans are complex, the decisions and results of those decisions are complex as well. Game theory is merely a mathematical model that helps glean a “good idea” of what had an effect where. Thus, if there is an uprising in Egypt, analysts have a way of making “good guesses” what will happen when and where and how. If the financial market in Greece is unstable, economists can discern what moves have a better chance of helping the Greeks recover, versus helping them head-first over a financial cliff.
But, at the end of the day, this is all game theory has to offer…a good idea. A guestimation. A die-hard…maybe.
Just a Maybe, Baby
Traditional publishing has many traditional habits. They looooove metrics because it does give a sense of power and control. We can look at a web site and see how many unique visitors we are getting and when they stop clicking and move on to go look at Internet porn instead of our latest cookbook. We can see where we get most of the site’s traffic.
Is that ad we paid for getting anyone to stop long enough to take a look? Better yet, how many are taking a look? And how many are BUYING? And, if sales jumped up in the last quarter, what did we do differently? Can we model this elsewhere?
Metrics can be very handy this way. Ahhhh, but social media (Klout included) is not as neat and clean as “how many clicks is the ad getting us?” Thus, what can happen is we start treating social media the same as we would a metric that measures how many people clicked to BUY on our book widget.
The number of friends on Facebook and followers on Twitter are virtually meaningless numbers out of context, and Klout is a “good guess of influence” not a biblical truth.
A Slave to the Numbers
Thus, what can happen, even with Klout, is that we start paying more attention to the numbers than to the behaviors that really matter. Social media cannot be measured like a static web site. Thus, fretting over “how many friends” or “how many followers” we have is just a good way to get an eye twitch. When we hover over the numbers like a Jewish grandma, we risk losing sight of the real priority.
There are a lot of writers on social media who are working hard to build a brand and an author platform. This, to me, is WONDERFUL news. But there is a dark side.
Unless vigilant, writers can easily get too fixed on the social platform and forget what the platform is being built to support….finished books/our career as authors. We don’t have an author career to support if we don’t have lots of awesome finished books to SELL. Yesterday, Rachelle Gardner touched on this subject in her post. And, after some time to mull over her points. I do think we are saying a lot of the same things.
Many writers are worrying about creating a brand ahead of time. Yet, we can never fully be an author brand until we have good books to sell.
As a social media expert, I cannot make you an author brand. Don’t trust ANY social media expert who claims she can make you an author brand. Only YOU can make yourselves a brand.
What I am here to help writers do, is to lay the foundation and the support beams to eventually become an author brand. Using our NAMES instead of @BookDiva is like laying rebar to support the finished brand. Rebar is only a part of a building, much like our names, our social media activity and our blogs are only part of a finished brand. I am here to help you guys lay the correct foundation from the wisest, most cost-effective (time) materials. But I can only help with the foundation and framing. The finished product is all up to you as writers.
If we stop at rebar, concrete and support beams, we don’t have a building. We have an unfinished mess that is only useful for racoon habitats and a hangout for homeless people and underage drinking. Agents are like real estate agents and we are the contractors. We (writers) build the structures that agents sell (our books/us). Yet what are we asking them to put on the market?
Where I think agents are getting frustrated is that many writers, eager to be successful responsible professionals, are using social media. Yet, instead of focusing on the final product–fantastic books supported by a solid author platform–many writers are getting fixated on the rebar and concrete, and agents can’t sell that. They are in the business of selling finished structures.
When we become a slave to the numbers, we lose out BIG. Why? We lose sight of the big picture. Yes, having a successful blog will likely help with book sales. But staring at the blog numbers, and changing behavior every time there is a hiccup can get us scope-locked on the wrong thing. We start adjusting behavior to skew the numbers in our favor, and, to the extreme, we become no better than the monkey wearing out a lever to get a banana dropped from the ceiling.
I still think Klout is very useful. Klout measures things that matter in social media. For instance, it measures if people are reposting our content, and, if so, how far is it traveling? Thus, the higher the Klout score, the more influence we are exerting. If we are having an influence on others, then it is safe to say we have a good chance of generating word-of-mouth for us and our books. Thus, if we are on Twitter and Facebook and our Klout score is 25, then we have a problem, and, yes, we need to modify our behavior.
Maybe we need to spend more time on Twitter. Checking in once a week isn’t enough. Perhaps we need to get better at sharing with others, talking to others and perhaps we need to look at WHAT we are posting/tweeting. If no one is finding enough value to pass on our message, we should take a look at what we are serving. Those are good modifications to behavior anyway. If our Klout score is in the toilet, then it shows us that we really are wasting time on social media. Thus, if we don’t change some things, it is best not to be on Twitter at all.
What is Enough?
Creating an author platform is a lot like losing weight and getting in shape. We need goals and we need to push ourselves. Yet, it is psychologically unhealthy to get on the scale every hour on the hour or take our measurements three times a day. It is also doing more harm than good if we are in the gym six hours a day. Balance is key.
As writers, our priority ALWAYS needs to be the book. But the platform is the foundation that will support our success. So my tips to make you successful and keep you sane:
Ignore the number of followers and friends.
I never look at mine unless I have to tell someone the current number. Be kind, supportive and authentic and trust people will respond favorably.
Ignore minor deviations.
I don’t pay attention if someone unfollows me. If they don’t want to hang out with me, their loss. As far as the blog, I check in throughout the day, mainly because I am approving comments and I happen to see them on the dashboard.
Only pay attention to monthly or quarterly numbers on the blog.
I only pay attention to the monthly numbers and, even then, I make no changes unless I see a decline lasting more than three months. There are other influences that can affect the hits. For instance, back in May when Osama bin Laden was apprehended and killed, my blog TANKED. People also apparently cared more about the MASSIVE earthquake in Japan than my witty repartee. Imagine that.
Numbers-wise? May was a HORRIBLE month. But if I was a slave to the numbers, I would have been running scared and changing my blog format and topics. Stuff happens. Keep an eye on the big picture.
We don’t need celebrity Klout (especially fiction authors).
Yes, Snookie got a book deal. I have no explanation for that other than the world is supposed to end in 2012 and perhaps that’s a sign.
If you are a non-fiction author, work to get that number up there, but again, just check in periodically. You just need a ballpark range, and, if you want to publish NF and your Klout score is the same as your mother who can’t work the Internet…then get to work.
Fiction authors? Just look to make sure you are engaging and influencing. If you are taking the time to be on social media, then just make sure it isn’t a total waste of time. If an agent expects you to have the same Klout as Justin Bieber, then maybe look for another agent. Her focus needs to be on the quality of your fiction, and, if she is a slave to the numbers, then that will likely trickle down and affect your career and creativity in a negative way.
Klout is a Best Guess, Not the Bible
Yes, people can manipulate the numbers. But people who use tricks to manipulate numbers that don’t reflect a reality only hurt themselves. Don’t worry about them, just focus on YOU.
At the end of the day, HAVE FUN!!!! Finish the book and write the best book ever written. Then use social media to create a support network of awesome people vested in your success. They hang out at #MyWANA if you haven’t been by.
So what are your fears? Concerns? Do you feel better?
I do want to hear from you guys!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of October I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Some of you might not know, but on top of writing and teaching, I am also running for Vice President of the Unites States of America. I am part of the Piper/Lamb 2012 Ticket–Finally a Pair in the White House.
Follow the campaign at Piper Bayard’s blog. This week, our solution to Health Care. Granny Care–Putting “Care” Back in Health Care
25 Reasons You Won’t Finish That Story by the HILARIOUS Chuck Wendig
Six Prescriptions to Cure the Heartbreak of Being Published by Ruth Harris via Anne R. Allen
How to Get Guest Posts on Big Name Blogs and Land Dynamite Interviews over at Writer Unboxed
Hands-Free Drink Holder–SHUT the Front Door! by Natalie Hartford
The Undie Chronicles–THUNDERWEAR by the hilarious Jenny Hansen
Why is Your Klout Score Important? by Lauren Dugan
Are Blog Tours Really Worth It? by Jody Hedlund
Healthy, Wealthy and Wise–Lessons from Steve Jobs by Diane Capri
Wagons, Ho! On the Trail with Jody Hedlund Help Bridgette Booth (an amazing woman, person and writer) for a good cause.