What I Love… And What Frustrates Me… About Snapchat

I’m proud to say that this was one of my first-ever Snapchats.

Snapchat has been the subject of much controversy in the past – mostly from people who have never used it. I know a lot of people have been vocal in their criticism of the ease with which teens could use it to send pictures of their naughty bits to one another. To be honest, they haven’t ever needed SnapChat to do that.  And, in a further moment of not-so-surprising honesty, I’ve never used Snapchat for that either. 

It’s like anything: you can use it sensibly, and be careful who you add to your contacts, or you can be an idiot and endanger any bit of credibility you ever had. Snapchat is definitely not alone in that regard. 

Contrary to all the negative press it has had, Snapchat is actually pretty cool. 

The process is simple:

  • Take a snap, choose who you want to send it to, and send it. 
  • If you want everyone to be able to see it, you add it to your “story”.
  • If you don’t, people will only see your snap if you actually send it to them individually. 
  • You can choose how long you want the photo or video to last. Once the time you set expires, it’s gone. 

It’s important to remember that people can take a screenshot, and people can be offended, so common sense and decency are still required. 

I have great fun using Snapchat for quick, easy contact with my family and friends.  It’s also a great way to quickly and easily share a moment in your day in ways that are hard to otherwise express. 

In that respect. It’s super duper effective. 

It’s actually great for introverts because we can communicate meaningfully without actually having to make, or answer, a phone call. I have found that if you send enough Snapchats, they know you’re okay and what you’re doing, and don’t actually try to call anywhere near as often. That may sound awful, but if you ask any introvert you know, they’ll tell you it’s a fact of life: talking on the phone for any length of time is hard, especially if you’re tired or unwell.

I also use it to share my comedic genius with the world. You’ve got to take your opportunities where you can get them, after all. 

My absolute favourite use of Snapchat, though, is when my family use it to send me baby spam. I’m one of those aunties who can never get enough pics of my babies so Snapchat offers a great way for them to send me pictures without all the cranky “we don’t want baby spam” whiners on Facebook and Instagram getting their noses out of joint. Snapchat makes it easy to be a lot more direct and “one on one” with your pictures. 

You don’t even have to take a photo every time. You can just use the instant message function if that’s all you want to do.  But then… why wouldn’t you take a photo every time when you’ve got those filters to play with? 

Seriously, the Snapchat  filters are fantastic. One minute I’m a washed out, permanently exhausted 50-something English teacher, and the next, I’m a cat… or an emu… or a pirate… or whatever the filters of the day offer. Sometimes, I have instant makeup and smoother, younger skin. Sometimes I can add a piercing or a tattoo. Finding out what the filters are each day is as much fun as using them. 

Its easy to edit a picture using the menu at the top right of whatever picture you take This allows you to:

  • add text, labels, and/or stickers
  • crop your photo
  • doodle or write on your picture
  • attach a URL or website to your image
  • cut out part of your picture to create a sticker

You can also easily save any picture you like to your phone’s camera roll, using the little down arrow icon at the bottom left of the image.


There isn’t really a lot that annoys me about Snapchat, but I probably should mention:

  • The silly, click-bait stuff they post on the “discover” page. Ugh.  Once I’ve looked at my friends’ stories, I swipe away from the page. 
  • On specific dates – Christmas, New Year, that kind of thing – the ’Snapchat Team’ send pictures or videos that you have to watch to get rid of them. Some of them are clever. Others… not so much. 
  • Occasionally, there will be a filter that makes me look uncannily like my brother. I’m really not so keen on those, but it is kind of fun freaking out his daughters and our sisters with the pictures. And no… I’m not going to show you what I mean! 

For me, the frustrations are very minor compared to the fun I have with the app. It’s a keeper. 

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What I Like… And What Frustrates Me… About Twitter

It seems to me that people either love Twitter or can’t stand it. I am definitely in the former category, for several reasons:

  • It’s direct. You follow someone? You see their tweets. You don’t follow someone? You live in blissful ignorance.  My feed is full of creative, positive people and exactly zero politicians. It’s a great way to filter reality. 

    Everyone who follows me can see my posts in real time, without any interference from the platform itself. Twitter sends every tweet into the world without trying to make a buck out of me to do it. That in itself is a refreshing change among social media platforms. 
  • Retweets are brilliant for extending your reach easily and painlessly.. With one click, someone else can share your post with all their followers, too. Not only does this take your content further, it can also result in new followers and interactions.
  • It’s brief.  Say what you want to say in 280 characters, preferably less. And that includes your hashtags. 
  • Hashtagging is easy.  Start typing a hashtag, and Twitter will actually suggest the most popular tags for you that start with those letters. It doesn’t get easier than that. 
  • Connecting with others who have the same interests is easy. Once again, hashtags ply a key role here. Searching for a tag you are interested in is a simple way to find people using that tag in their posts. I have found great people, interesting content, and some excellent books doing exactly that. 
  • I also like just scrolling through my feed and seeing what pops up. There is invariably something I want to respond to with a like or a bookish or bloggish post that I want to check out. I can spend as much or as little time as I have, put it down, and come back later. In that sense, it’s pretty cruisy. 
  • Lists. You can create lists of accounts you want to group together. I have lists for authors in different genres. I also have a list for my favourite accounts called “Don’t Miss a Tweet”.

    By going to a particular list in my profile, I can see only the tweets from the accounts in that list. It is a great way to cut through the voluminous white noise of the Twittersphere, and saves heaps of time when I am busy, because I see exactly what I want to and nothing else.

    Lists can be made public or kept private. While I keep my “Don’t Miss a Tweet” list to myself, I make my genre lists public so that if someone is looking for Fantasy Authors or Poets, they can find a ready-made collection in no time flat. I may not have every author of a particular genre in my list, but you may be sure that the ones on my lists are worth checking out.   

That all sounds pretty great, doesn’t it?

However, no social media platform is without its pitfalls. 

My dislikes include, in no particular order:

  • Trolls and fake accounts.  It’s easy for people to hide behind a social media account with a fake name and create mayhem. Whether it’s bullying or bullshit they are into, there’s not really a lot to stop them. 

    I overcome this by being very choosy about who I follow, and by making extensive use of the “unfollow” and “block” functions the minute my spidey senses start tingling. 
  • Direct messages.  Some people appreciate direct messages, but I am not one of them. It seems to me they are all either spamming a product or creepers trying to seduce me into giving them money or naughty photographs. 

    I overcome this by never looking at my inbox. 
  • Tweeting can be hot-and-miss. The life cycle of a tweet is short, and I f followers aren’t online when you tweet, they can miss your content. 

    I overcome this by recycling my content, using different tweets on non-consecutive days so it doesn’t get repetitive or boring. 
  • Clickbait. This is the term for anything exaggerated or sensationalised to make you click on a link to read the story. Ugh. 

    Once again, the blocking function has proven to be really effective in getting rid of these accounts from my feed. 

Overall, I find Twitter much more user-friendly than Facebook, but I doubt that I would if I hadn’t taken the time to learn how to keep my Twitfeed positive and focused, and free of politics, gossip and drama. 

What I Like … and What I Don’t… About Instagram

I really like Instagram. 

It’s easy. A nice picture, a few well-chosen hashtags, and you’re done.  Scrolling through your feed and liking posts is easy too. 

Of course, there are ways you can make things more sophisticated. Adding your post to your story is relatively straightforward. You can add posts to highlights that show up in nicely organised groups on your profile. You can save posts into collections. You can follow favourite hashtags as well as individuals. 

There’s no obligation to do any of those things, so you can really keep it as simple or make it as fancy as you like. 

I really enjoy looking at other people’s creativity in pictures, so I’m right at home on Insta. I’m happy to look at their books, their cats or dogs, their holiday snaps, whatever. I love baby pictures. I enjoy memes. Some people want to post about their books all the time. Some people hardly ever post about their books. Either way, I’m cool with that. I like the fact that we all have freedom to post as we please, and we’re all able to get on and play nicely in the Insta playground. 

I like the simplicity of responding to other people’s posts. Liking is easy. Commenting is easy. 
I do occasionally think it would be nice if there were a choice of reactions like there is on Facebook. Other days, though, I consider it in terms of “a heart is a heart is a heart” and am grateful that there isn’t more value given to one response over another. 

It has been really encouraging and motivating to connect with other people with similar interests through the use of particular hashtags and “follow loops”, which are basically posts where authors or other people with common interests respond and then follow one another. I’ve found so much inspiration, and received so much encouragement and feedback, from other authors and Indie creatives on Instagram. It’s a great way to become part of a very positive and proactive creative community. 

The challenge of developing my own creative identity on Instagram has been beneficial in terms of incorporating my own style and branding so that my Instagram profile is consistently “me”. I want people to be able to look at my profile and understand something of my personality and commitment to what I do. There’s a lot more to that than “buy my book” posts. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but well worth it in terms of consistency and style, and as a means of establishing some credibility.  

And, of course, there are things that frustrate me.
These fall into two groups: less pleasant aspects of the app itself, and my own personal peeves. 

First up: the less “user friendly” elements.  

  • Using the wrong hashtags – or more correctly, hashtags that have been abused by others, can cause your posts using those tags to be shadow banned. That’s a nerdy way of saying fewer people will see them. Don’t panic, though – there are ways to find out which tags are  thus afflicted, and so avoid using them. 
  • Scammers that look like legitimate shopfronts frequent Instagram. They’re as capable of using a pretty picture as anyone else, it seems. It pays to check out any business or site before clicking through from an Insta ad – and that’s the voice of experience talking. I got caught out once, and learned my lesson very promptly. 
  • The challenge of gaining visibility for posts. It seems that no matter how many followers I have, there’s a natural cap on how many “likes” or views my posts seem to get.  Just like Facebook – which owns Instagram – there’s an algorithm running that appears to how many of my followers see my posts. The more likes a post gets, the more visible it is to more people.  Of course, they’re quite happy to encourage me to boost my posts and pay for them to show my posts to more people. Forgive my cynicism about that, won’t you?


Secondly, my “pet peeves”:

  • Bookshelves arranged into rainbows.  I just don’t understand. I get that it’s pretty, and I like rainbows as much as anyone… but it really gives the book nerd in me enormous anxiety. Wouldn’t that mean a series of books is separated on the shelves? And how does one find anything if different genres and categories are all mixed up on the basis of the colour of their covers?  This is clearly a hard no from me. 
  • People who appear to be commenting in response to something I post, but they’re really spamming me with their own content. Ugh. That’s just rude.
  • People who follow in the hope that you’ll follow them back, and then unfollow you. Especially those who don’t just do it once. There are a couple of accounts with a really distinctive  and instantly recognisable handle that keeps on following me, then unfollowing and following again a couple of weeks later. Frankly, I wonder why they bother, but it is amusing. Do they think people aren’t going to notice that? 

The verdict: Instagram is generally a very positive and enjoyable place for me. The things I don’t like are opportunities for me to practise being a grown up and just keep scrolling past them.
It’s an Insta-heart from me. 

Why a Heart is Better than a Thumbs Up

In the ever-evolving state of affairs that is the Facebook algorithm, there is one recent change that is actually quite easy to work with. Facebook now places more value on the other reactions than it does on the standard  “thumbs up” or “like”. 

I can understand why.
It takes just a little more effort, so it is easy to see why it might be interpreted as a more thoughtful and deliberate response to a post than simply hitting the default. 

It’s all part of their reported change of focus from content to engagement. It may be that this is a way to still be able to increase the reach of our posts, and boost our audience engagement at the same time. 

So, I’m trying to respond accordingly: 

  • I’m using the heart and surprised “wow” face more. I don’t know how much difference it makes, but for something so simple, it’s worth a try. 
  • I’m responding to the posts I make via my pages and groups with those “power responses” using my personal account in the interests of pushing my posts to gain more reach and engagement. 
  • I’m trying to respond with more comments, even if it’s just an emoji or a gif, in addition to using one of the response buttons. Obviously, I can’t do this for every post because I don’t want to spend my entire life on Facebook. I may have to be choosy, but there are posts out there that deserve a little extra love, so I’ll try to give it to them. 
  • I will still use the “thumbs up” to acknowledge posts. I don’t want to stop using it altogether, because then the others will become the default, and everything will undergo another adjustment. 


It’s all positive interaction and engagement, so it can’t hurt. 

Hopefully, it will be contagious. If people see more hearts and wow faces, and additional comments, they might start using them too! 

Facebook’s Delicate Community Standards

Facebook’s “community standards” did not enter my thoughts last night when I was posting about what I love and hate about Facebook. Had I been writing that post today, it would have been a very different story. 

This afternoon, I set up a new page on Facebook with the aim of extending my reach to new readers by using a popular bookish hashtag phrase, What To Read, as the title. 

As soon as I had set up the page, Facebook started coaching me to complete certain steps to make my page more visible. 

Profile photo: check.
Cover photo: check. 
First post: check. 

Oops! My first post violated Facebook’s delicate community standards. 
Want to know what it said? 

So… people can freely incite hate, vilify and shame others, put up pictures of them humiliating themselves… but I can’t suggest that my friends might like a page about books? 

Wow. 
Maybe I should have said something dumb instead. 

May the fates be in my favour when I actually start encouraging people to read. 

***

Update: it took me three attempts to share this blogpost on Facebook.
If they don’t want me to be snarky, they’re going the wrong way about it.

What I Love… and What I Don’t… about Facebook.

There’s no doubt about it: Facebook is one of the most popular social media platforms on the planet.

Like anything, it can be fantastic if it’s used the right way, and it can downright dangerous if used for sinister purposes. 

There are some aspects of Facebook I really enjoy:

  • Being able to connect with my family and friends all over the world in real time. What a blessing! When I’m homesick for someone I love – there they are! When I’m lonely – my friends are right there! I can see their pictures and videos, and respond to them right away. I can chat with them, talk with them, and send them stupid memes to cheer them up when they are down or unwell. 

  • Being able to connect with like-minded people all over the world. As part of the Indie author community, I have received so much help, encouragement, knowledge, advice and good direction from people in Facebook groups.

    It has also been a very great pleasure for me to be able to pass some of that knowledge and advice on to others, and to encourage them in their journeys.

    Similarly, I’ve made some wonderful lifelong friends in a particular grammar-nerd group, and have met two of them on one of my trips overseas.  I can’t imagine not knowing them or being able to talk with them.

  • Being able to find things I’m interested in via the pages people create. I’ve discovered some wonderful blogs to follow, some great information on specific topics, and I can’t tell you how many excellent Indie books I’ve found to read. That number has to be in the hundreds. 

  • Being able to permanently hide things from my timeline that I don’t want to see. This is generally anything racist, hateful, or politically zealous. 

  • Being able to permanently hide things from my timeline that I don’t want to see. This is generally anything racist, hateful, or politically zealous. 
  • Memes, jokes, and videos that make me laugh. Some of that stuff is pure gold.  
  • The block function. It’s really good. 

Of course, with the good comes the not-so-good. 

There are things I really hate about Facebook. 

  • The fact that they don’t show me everything my friends post. If my friends think it’s worth posting, I probably want to see it. But no… Facebook gets all choosy about showing me their posts, and when showing mine to them.

    Of course, they’ll tell you that boosting your post will get it shown to your friends. For $13, your post can reach… er, how about no? I’m not giving them money to show my posts to my own friends. They should do that for nothing. 

  • That dratted algorithm. It seems any moron can make a stupid post that will go viral because people “like” and  respond to it, but you can’t post a link for a product, or a blog post, or an event, or a website outside of Facebook without them suppressing it so that maybe 3% of the people who follow you or your page will actually see it.

    And every time you get clever about how to communicate your product/event/website to your audience, they change the algorithm so you are actually  no further ahead, yet again. 

    I know: it’s a business. But if they showed my stuff to the people I know, I’d probably be more interested in giving them a bit of cash to show it to folks I don’t know. 

  • The perceived freedom some people feel they have to deride, belittle, criticise, mock and bully others.  In a not-so-surprising coincidence, this correlates very closely with one of the things I hate most about people in general.  Just because they’re hiding behind a profile picture or an avatar, they think they can say what they want to and have no consequences. 

    Not in my world, Julie.
    Block, block, block.
    Fixed. 

The verdict: As much as I hate it, I love it.
I’m definitely keeping it.

But if I ever meet that algorithm in person… it may just walk away with a black eye. 

Why You Need To Outsource Book Promotion

In yesterday’s post I discussed the importance of book promotion and the ways in which I can prepare for and present my upcoming new release in ways that will attract readers to my book.

Even though I provide book promotion for other authors, I would not ever suggest that what I do is everything they need. I certainly cannot achieve all the book promotion I need on my own, either. 

That’s why I believe it is necessary outsource some of my book promotion on a regular basis. 

There are some excellent reasons to do so:

  • Other people can do things I don’t know how to do
  • Other people reach different audiences and followers
  • Other people use different platforms than I do
  • As I pointed out yesterday, people are far more inclined to take my word about someone else’s book than about my own.  

In terms of what’s available, there are a number of options to consider:

Genre specific promotion: Some promoters focus on one or two genres and have invested significantly in reaching that specific audience. 
Using this kind of promotion ensures that your book is shown to people most likely to be interested in it.

Things to consider: It’s generally not inexpensive. While you’re getting established and building awareness of your book or profile as an author, you can’t expect to break even. 

Book blogs offer a variety of ways to promote your book.
Some offer a read and review service.
Some create posts from your book’s reviews and use that to generate publicity.
Others use their social media reach to promote with ads that may be created by them, or by you. 

Things to consider: this is usually either free or inexpensive, but usually not genre-specific. It will put your book in front of readers, though. 

Social media platforms all offer ways to use one of your posts to create an advertisement by paying to have it shown to people who don’t already follow you. This can help you get new followers, if not book sales. 

Things to consider: the costs can add up if you’re not paying attention, and you set the price up front so that you pay regardless of whether or not your boosted post is actually successful.

Amazon Ads promise to show your book to readers in various ways.
You set up your promotion using your author central account, and set a “price per click” amount.  
It is either genre or audience specific, and there are options for ways in which you might reach different readers.

Things to consider: your “price per click” amount is not a guarantee.
It is really more like a bid to compete with others wanting to advertise their book in the same genre or audience as yours. If you set your price per click too low, you’ll get very little response. 
Amazon ads are also inclined to work sometimes and not others depending on the current algorithm over at the Zon, which means that the exact same ad that worked for you last month won’t work again now. Have fun working that out. 

What I do: I tend do a bit of most of those things. 

  • I engage some genre specific promotion for my horror titles from time to time. I will also do this for my upcoming fantasy release. Some services are more effective than others, but there are two I have found to be really good. 
  • I also buy some promotional services through a multi-platform service that has a very good level of audience engagement for a variety of genres. This has proven to be very good promotion, and I will use that service again. 
  • I usually have Amazon ads running for two of my books at a time. I have mixed success with them and the results vary greatly, so this is not sufficient promotion to gain consistent sales. 

Doing those things allows me to use my own Facebook and Twitter profiles sparingly. The last thing I want to do is sound like I am hawking my own wares all the time, as that is the the quickest way to put people off. 

When I do post on my personal profiles, I try to maintain a fine balance.

  • I generally try to stick to about one tweet in 50 for my own books. That will change this week, as I have a new release coming up. My ratio will change then to one in ten, which equals once a day.
  • On Facebook, I avoid any more than one post a day about my own books, and always post via my page. From there, I share it onto my personal profile and into one or two groups that I own or administer, and where I engage regularly with other members. 

What I don’t do:

  • Boosted Facebook posts. In my experience, this is a total and utter waste of money. The actual audience reach of a boosted post has never been anywhere near what was estimated when I was setting up the promotion, and I don’t think it has ever won me a book sale. 
  • Use the same promotion or service every month. Variety is the spice of life, after all.  
  • Spend more than I can afford. This should be a no-brainer, and entirely self-explanatory. 

Sadly, nothing is guaranteed. All you can do is try different things and see what works for you.

Obligatory disclaimer statements: because it is the 21st century and people can be nasty, it’s necessary for me to state the following:

  • I don’t have all the answers. I’m simply stating what I do, why I do it, and what I have found to work or not. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa: our books are different, and our readers probably are, too.
  • This post is in no way designed to direct you to my book promotion services. If that is what you think of me, please do not seek to engage my services. It’s entirely possible that we may not be able to play together nicely.

Pondering Promotion

One of the things I do in all the spare time I don’t have is creating book promotion for other Indie authors. 

Over the past few years, I have learned a lot about creating promotional images, writing effective tweets, putting images and text together for different platforms and using it all to put books in front of people who hopefully want to read them. 

Ironically, it’s a process that works better when you are advertising someone else’s book and not your own. If I tell a person that Charlie’s book is good, they are likely to take my words at face value. When I tell them my book is good, they tend to assume I have no idea. 

I have been pondering these things afresh while organising the preorder promo for ‘A Rose By Any Other Name’. 

Despite my obvious bias, it’s up to me to get my book seen by readers.
How can I make people want to read my book? How can I pique their interest? How can I get their attention? 

Those are the million dollar questions every author or promoter mst ask. 

The key lies in making them attractive to the target audience. An interesting story, well written and thoroughly edited, proofread, checked, formatted and checked again. A great cover that catches the eye and suits both the story and the genre. Promo images that are varied in colour and style, relevant to the story and genre, using clear and appropriate fonts. Not too wordy, and not too plain. 

Hopefully, those things will combine to have a positive effect. 
The fact is, before you can sell the book, you have to be able to sell the idea of the book. That’s why blurbs and taglines matter.  That’s why a cleverly worded tweet will sometimes have more effect than a beautifully written excerpt. 

Don’t get me wrong. A great excerpt is an effective way to win a reader, but you’ve still got to make people want to read it in the first place. 
So, for the next ten days until the book’s release date on June 14, I have prepared a bunch of teeets, some short Facebook posts, three different 16×9 promotional images ideal for Facebook and Twitter, and three square promo images for Instagram. 

There are hints but no spoilers. There is a mixture of information, humour and invitation. The hashtags are varied so that I reach more users than if I just stick to four or five basic tags. The images are different colours and styles, but all consistent with the story and genre.

Every post must have:

  • A promotional image that includes the book cover
  • Some information about the story or character
  • Clear indication of the genre
  • The link for ordering/buying the book
  • A mixture of popular and useful hashtags 

My goal is to achieve preorders for my book so that it has some sales momentum as soon as it launches, and then to continue promoting it to generate sales after that. That means creating different images, different tweets, and so on, on a regular basis. There is, after all, no such thing as “set and forget” promotion. 

***

A Rose By Any Other Name’ is available for preorder here

118 Days.

Holy Toledo!

I have achieved a 118 day blogging streak. How’s that for a consistent effort?

I just wanted to say thank you for the encouragement to everyone who has motivated me by reading, responding, liking or commenting on my blog posts.

They seem like such small things to do, but they really are significant in the life of a blogger.

They help me know I’m not just typing into a void.
They help me know I’m not alone in this big old bloggerverse.
And it’s fair to say that they remind you of the same things.

Thank you for sharing the ride with me so far.

Stay tuned, folks. For my next trick, I plan to see how far I can make the streak last!

Attention: Facebook

Due to recent trends, my algorithm has been realigned.

You may notice that your invitations to boost my posts or create advertisements will receive zero attention. Some may be marked as spam due to lower perceived relevance to the audience. 

If you won’t show my posts to the people who do follow me, I most certainly will not be paying you to show them to people who don’t. 

Because, as you say so often yourself, “it’s all about engagement”. 

Fortunately for the rest of us, there are other places to “engage”, too. 
Are you aware that Twitter neither suppress nor hides anything I post? As soon as it’s sent, BAM, it’s out there for the whole Twitverse to see.

We’re you aware that WordPress allows me to use tags, categories and SEO to make my posts available beyond those who already follow my blog? And they do it free of charge. Ingenious, no?  

I’ll still give you a little attention, Facey. But not as much as you want. And not to help you make money. From what I have heard on the news, you’ve already got quite enough out of people like me.