Tag Archives: Twitter

Writer, spread the word!

“The bare minimum requirement is this social media platform you’re building.”

BY now, I hope you’re a regular online publisher, consistently uploading articles in your field of expertise. You have configured your website to automatically send your articles to your web of fabulous social media assets. As a result, you should notice you’re attracting a bit of a following – other bloggers, facebookers, tweeters and social media users. If you’re somehow thinking that your titles will eventually reach readers without this process, good news, I am graduating you from Write, Regardless! right now, because this course is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’ve come to terms with the reality that it doesn’t matter if you want to be a traditionally or independently-published author (or life has chosen one of these pathways for you), the bare minimum requirement is this social media platform you’re building.

The endless journey

Here’s a harsh reality: the distribution of your work will be your task for as long as you are publishing. The job of informing potential readers never stops. Let me say that again: it never, ever stops. I recently read No Picnic, the autobiography of Australian film and television producer Patricia Lovell, the force behind the screen version of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Lovell’s book gives a fascinating insight into the journey of the independent creator, and one of her memorable revelations was how the role of marketing and publicising her films was lifelong. Decades after they had disappeared from mainstream movie houses, Lovell was still selling her creations to TV networks, foreign territories, and video and DVD distributors. Each phase of this required new artwork, marketing packages, and adopting new forms of communication. If you want to create, you must make marketing, publicising and distribution a part of your life. It will often take more time and energy than writing.

Doubling your distribution

You may have noticed that using the automated ‘publicize’ function (spelled that way on US-originated WordPress) on your website does not give you much choice in the wording of your posts on your social media assets. When sending them to Twitter, it gives you no chance to add elements like #hashtags to the tweet. This can limit the extent to which your distribution is operating, so here are some simple ways to boost the distribution of your online publishing.

Top Twitter tips

Twitter is one of the greatest shop windows the publishing world has ever seen. Embracing it takes some fortitude, because it’s a shallow experience most of the time, but it is also what you make of it, in a maximum of just 280 characters! The first step is to come to terms with what #hashtags do when used correctly. For many on social media, they’re a clever (albeit useless) way to underline your point, like saying #PeopleCantUseHashtags – see what I did there? Using such pointless hashtags will connect you with no-one, but adding #auspol to your tweet on your review of a politician’s latest book will put that article in the pathway of thousands of political enthusiasts. #Auspol is short for ‘Australian Politics’, so you can probably guess what #qldpol and #vicpol stand for, right? Hashtags I often use include #LGBT, #MarriageEquality and #Writing.

The difference a hashtag makes

Here’s an automatically-generated (‘publicize’ function) tweet. It looks pretty, but there’s no hashtags.

Here’s a manually-created tweet on the same article. Note the hashtags, and the ‘retweet’ and the ‘like’ the tweet attracted, which is a small, but effective, boost for the article on Twitter.

To make a tweet promoting your article, simply copy and paste the URL of that article (the web address – everything that appears in the box at the top of your internet browser) into the tweet. Twitter will automatically reduce it in size to no more than 20 characters, leaving you another 260 to use in the tweet. Watch how other tweeters make tweets work – short and sweet, pithy and pushy, or just plain funny. It’s up to you, have fun!

If your tweet gets ‘retweeted’ it means another tweeter is sharing it with their followers. Give another tweeter a thrill and retweet their tweet to your followers. Retweets are distribution gold.

Facets of Facebook

Walking the Facebook tightrope as a writer with articles to promote and titles to sell can be wearying. Facebook is free, but over time Facebook Page account holders have been encouraged to buy (or ‘boost’) posts, and as that facility took off, Facebook began to curate who sees posts on Facebook Pages (business account) and Timelines (personal account). To counter this limitation, I often manually post an article to my personal Timeline at a different day/time in the hope that it gets a greater reach. Facebook keeps its functionality very secret, so no-one knows how the algorithms really work.

“The most effective way to use these systems is to participate and reciprocate.”

Targeting social media users

One great workaround for the Facebook algorithms is being able to target, or ‘tag’ people into your Facebook post. I use this function to alert some of my followers to an article they may be interested in, or linking to a business, such as a bookshop that is stocking my books. You simply type the @ symbol before the Facebook Page name, or a Timeline name (to tag me you’d type @MichaelBurge:AuthorArtistPublisher) and it creates a hyperlink to that Facebook post, drawing attention to your article and a providing a link to that business, a win-win for you and them.

Public vs Private

All posts from a Facebook Page are automatically public – everyone can read them. Posts from a personal Facebook Timeline can be set to public or private, as you’re posting, or afterwards. If you want a post on your personal timeline to be distributed by your followers to all their followers, you need to set it to public. Keep on top of Facebook’s regular changes to the ways its system works in this regard.

facebook-privacy-memeSocial media etiquette

There is none, you must set your own standards. Some people will not follow those who don’t follow them back (#TeamFollowBack). Others hate tweets and posts that seek to promote something, and blatant self-promoters get regularly unfollowed. There are all kinds of traps – getting blocked, trolled, overlooked – it’s a minefield, and now and again you’ll see some poor soul trying to ‘keep it positive’ on Facebook because they’re ‘sick of all the negativity’… LOL. Newsflash: Nobody owns Facebook! All you can do is stick to your pathway and not compare yourself to others – be aware that many social media accounts have purchased those 250,000 followers just so they look popular and relevant.

Reciprocity is free

Across my first years on the social media, I found the most effective way to use these systems is to participate and reciprocate. If we expect others to read our articles, we are rightly expected to read theirs. A little give and take goes a very long way. Now and again you’ll feel the heat of a rampant social media abuser. Ignore them or block them, delete the mess they’ve left on your timeline, and move on. Social media fights are ugly.

Real life is still better

Nothing sells your message more than meeting you in person, allowing others to gauge your demeanour, enjoy your personality and your level of humanity. In addition to social media distribution, I encourage writers to put themselves out there on occasion (I force myself to). Go to events – you can post Facebook content from such gatherings, or ‘live tweet’ from them to your social media audience (as a journalist would do), and spend time meeting people who may be interested in your work.

WRITE REGARDLESSRecap

As you create your books for publication, it is important – many, including me, say imperative – that writers build a distribution network. One of the most effective ways of starting is on the social media, but it’s just the beginning of a process that will continue for as long as you seek readers for your books.

An extract from Write, regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

Stand up, citizen journalists

TRY
CALLING CARD Citizen journalism does not open every door.

IN May, 2014, a very simple tweet went out on the afternoon before Fairfax journalists agreed to strike in protest at the company’s plan to cut 80 jobs, mainly in production (layout and sub-editing) and photography.

Since the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearings would continue through the strike, a citizen journalist (CJ) asked whether any CJs were available to cover the following day’s ICAC events in lieu of Fairfax. After all, the hearings were only getting more interesting with every new day.

I was mentioned in the tweet, so got swept-up in the replies, but my tweeted suggestions that CJs and the MSM work together during the strike fell on many deaf ears.

“Stand down CJs,” one tweeter advised.

“Don’t cross the picket line,” another warned.

Which posed the question – are citizen journalists comrades of mainstream media journalists, or are we not?

When the Fairfax redundancy announcement was made, it didn’t register at my workplace – a Fairfax title in Queensland – where I was a part-time sub-editor, because we had our heads down meeting our deadline.

I say “we” about citizen journalists because my paid employment as a part-time sub was nothing like my unpaid output as a citizen journalist, which took up a huge chunk of my week as a sub-editor and writer for No Fibs, my own blogs and other sites.

No Fibs’ editor-in-chief, Margo Kingston, a former Fairfax employee, also identifies as a citizen journalist, most recently in her self-funded reports from the Leard and Bentley blockades, mainly via Twitter.

No Fibs ‘pages’ are filled with articles by academics, public servants, corporate employees, authors, carers, business people, welfare recipients, estate agents and many others who identify as CJs, and a few trained journalists.

We journos amongst them are a mish-mash of survivors from the wash-up of the mainstream media, the shipwreck of which occurred long before this week’s latest round of redundancies within Fairfax.

Which tempered my response to the strike. I empathised, but the axe has been hanging over my journalist’s head for years. It’s become almost impossible to secure gainful full-time work with my subbing skills, and I work alongside plenty of highly-skilled, under-employed journalists.

That day’s strike in the south barely registered up here.

FAIRFAX STRIKE Photographer Kirk Gilmour and union representative Andy Zakeli lead editorial staff striking outside offices of the Illawarra Mercury in Wollongong, May 8, 2014.
FAIRFAX STRIKE Photographer Kirk Gilmour and union representative Andy Zakeli led editorial staff striking outside offices of the Illawarra Mercury in Wollongong, May 8, 2014.

Because many of those who were shocked by Fairfax’s job cuts placed the strike at the very centre of journalism as we know it, and, far more surreal, they were expecting readers to notice Fairfax journos wouldn’t be reporting that day.

I weighed into the Twitter debate about whether a CJ could be described as a rat for reporting from ICAC that day, citing lack of pay and lack of affiliation as reasons why it would not be the end of the world if one had.

In the process I was turned into some apologist for the ‘dark forces’ ending our careers, but it has not washed, that argument, ever since I came to terms with why I believe the media has been killed by every single user of the social media’s Publish Button. Journalism will survive, but the media as we knew it is already dead.

It’s very confronting, this moment of realisation, for all journalists – seasoned, emergent, and student. I feel most for the students about to begin a lifetime of HECS debt in return for a degree which will not sustain them with a career. They have been lied to by institutions out of touch with the reality of a dying industry. Savvy 18-year-old tweeters already have more of an audience than most media graduates.

Citizen journalists are perhaps more in touch with the point of journalism – as one tweeter pointed out, journalism is ultimately about communicating to an audience, without whom the job is a one-way street leading nowhere.

We know the role requires much more of individuals than mainstream journalism ever did – taking photographs in addition to writing; creating headlines in addition to stories; proofing our own work and not just writing it; and uploading it onto the largest distribution network the world has ever seen: the social media.

Many citizen journalists struggle with this workload, and there is very, very rarely a pay cheque at the end of weeks of research and/or travel.

Some mainstream journalists have taken to the social media via blogs to complain, and the plethora of spelling errors, layout mistakes and grammatical knots reveal an embedded reliance on production colleagues that may not find sympathy in the wider workplace. Journalists need to be match-fit and multi-skilled, not merely insightful writers.

There is also the issue of access: try blagging your way into a press conference without a mainstream media logo on your lapel, yet citizen journalists manage to get in and report.

For one of us to turn up at ICAC that day and live tweet would not be an onerous task. Twitter has provided easy access to our audience, and journalists of all stripes, including Fairfax staff, have rushed to capitalise on Twitter in a way which outstrips mainstream media circulation by an unlimited degree.

That mainstream journalists want the right to access that free distribution network through live tweeting, and get paid, opens them to accusations of having a foot in both the problem and the solution for journalists worldwide.

WRITE REGARDLESSI defend my colleagues’ right to strike and I understand why they did so, but I will also defend any unpaid, unaffiliated citizen journalist who live tweets during a mainstream media strike, as long as they report the truth and they hashtag properly. Crorcet silplneg is oatpnoil.

And in the end, the only journo who crossed the picket line that day was a Fairfax employee.

An extract from Write, regardless!

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

You cannot burn a mummy blog

BOOK BURNING Nazis burning works of Jewish authors, and other works considered "un-German" in 1933.
BOOK BURNING Nazis burning works by Jewish authors, and other works considered “un-German” in 1933.

OVER one weekend in April, 2014, a ripple of panic went through the social media in Australia. I was alerted to it by one of my Twitter friends.

Word was that Vanessa Powell, described on her Twitter profile as a “refugee supporter”, had been sent two anonymous tweets by the federal Department of Immigration and Border Protection. They could have been generated by anyone, from lowly staffer to the top man, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison.

In vague legal terms, the tweets asked for Powell to remove a post from her Facebook which the department found “offensive”.

I don’t know what Powell’s Facebook post was about, and I don’t want to know. That is not the point.

“If criticism of the government on the social media comes with legal threats, the next step is to put the same pressure on anyone who reads it.”

As I checked the story to see if the accounts were real and the issue was not some Twitter spook-fest, I noticed a smattering of tweets in my feed from big tweeters – those amongst us who have large followings and make no secret of their stance on the incumbent government.

“Cleaning my Twitter feed” was a common thread, as what the cry “fascists!”.

“First they came for the mummy bloggers, now they’re coming for us,” was another, referring to the announcement last week of a crackdown on public servants’ use of social media to express personally held beliefs about politics, which had gone as far as suggesting people dob in friends who are critical of the government.

Storify was quickly posted, using very emotional language, but the message was clear – very soon after the Abbott government oversaw legislation broadening freedom of speech and the right to be a bigot, these government tweets were asking for less freedom of speech and bigotry from Vanessa Powell, if indeed her Facebook post was bigoted.

I thought back to my own tweets, and considered, for a moment, whether I should be worried.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter would know I am critical of the Abbott government. I participated in and reported on March in March, which was a nationwide vote of no confidence in Mr Abbott and his policy directions.

I voraciously tweeted my anger about Julia Gillard’s indefensible stance against marriage equality.

I tweeted my thanks to the Liberal Party’s Senator Sue Boyce for crossing the Senate floor last year in support of it.

I tweeted my support for the Liberal Party’s member for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone, when she stood against her own cabinet with her constituents during the SPC-Ardmona negotiations.

No-one who read all of my No Fibs interviews for the 2013 federal election would have grounds to accuse me of bias. I interviewed every candidate who agreed to be interviewed. That my local sitting Liberal MP Andrew Laming refused cannot be construed as bias. I reported factually when he reneged on a deal to speak with me, I reported his public appearances during the campaign, and was pleased to find it was not difficult to find something positive to write about his policy approaches.

At the Bowman candidates’ forum, he announced his support for civil unions for same-sex couples. This is a step which has seen the eventual legislation of gay marriage in other countries, such as New Zealand and the United Kingdom, one which I believe we will need to take here. My local member supports it. Tick.

I don’t need to delete my tweets, because I am politically fair.

Mr Abbott and his ministers cop a heavier load of my ire, sure, but as far as I am concerned, it’s the government which gets the big magnifying glass over its head. Mr Abbott said much to this effect while he was in opposition.

I can see why social media users step up and fill the gaps they observe in the ALP’s commentary on the Abbott government, particularly where Lib-Lab have policy overlaps. I have seen more brilliant one liners on Twitter than I have from the opposition benches at question time.

I can see why social media users become a de-facto media, especially in the wake of such events as March in March.

MARCH IN MARCH Briabane, March 2014.
MARCH IN MARCH Brisbane, March 2014.

The aftermath of March in March has been fascinating from a media perspective. First-time and seasoned protestors came out of the woodwork, and when there was a glimpse of the mainstream media (roving news camera operators, mainly), it felt like an affirmation.

When my partner asked why it was significant to see commercial networks at the Brisbane march, I replied that all our social media friends who might be perplexed, offended, or concerned about our involvement would see the images on the evening news and the messages of the event might sink in a little more.

But the mainstream media dropped the ball on March in March. The Sydney event, in particular, may as well not have happened, or been a ‘stinking lefty hippy fest, with very, very rude signs’ as far as the mainstream media was concerned.

I have spent the past two years saying to anyone who will listen that the mainstream media is no longer resourced to cover such events, particularly on weekends. Fairfax journalist John Birmingham of The Brisbane Times captured the fallout perfectly.

The effect of this media failure cuts both ways. Australians who expected to see themselves marching on the evening news started coming to terms with the death of the mainstream media. Australians who expected the march would go unnoticed because they have some control over media output started coming to terms with the fact that the social media is the only widely distributed media left, and it’s well beyond their control.

Which is why I think the government wants to send fear messages through the social media, and is demanding absolute loyalty from public servants, even in their private social media.

If criticism of the government on the social media comes with legal threats, the next step is to put the same pressure on anyone who reads it.

WRITE REGARDLESSThey used to burn books they didn’t like so that people couldn’t read them.

But you cannot burn a tweet. You cannot burn a mummy blog. You cannot burn the internet.

Isn’t that great?

© Michael Burge, all rights reserved.

An extract from Write, regardless!