Tag Archives: social media

This Entrepreneur Skipped College and Made $1,037,100 In Five Months

Alex Tew didn’t give a damn about paying his “dues.”

At 21, he was about to start a three-year business management course at the University of Nottingham . . . but there was one significant problem: money. He didn’t want to be saddled with ridiculous student loan debt he would work years to pay off. Most students his age just shrug and accept that society “requires” them to play by the rules. Tew’s mind was in a completely different place.

After brainstorming ideas to make some extra income to pay off the loans quickly he decided to launch a basic website that would sell one million pixels on the homepage to advertisers for $1 each. A truly strange idea in 2005 that has since been copied ad nauseam.


Though Tew is from England, he thought “million dollar” was more attractive than “million pound” from a marketing perspective. There are more Americans online as well, so he decided to go with US currency. For the record, I think he was right!

The pixels are too small to see individually, so they were to be be sold in blocks of 10×10 for a minimum purchase of $100. Each advertiser could choose what pictures they wanted to display in their allotted space and to where they wanted the pixels to link. The plan was ingeniously simple . . . but Alex had no idea if it would actually work.

“From the outset I knew the idea had potential, but it was one of those things that could have gone either way,” he remarked on FT.com. “My thinking was I had nothing to lose (apart from the 50 Euros or so it cost to register the domain and setup the hosting). I knew that the idea was quirky enough to create interest . . . . The internet is a very powerful medium.”

The first few sales rolled in slowly — mostly to family and friends — propelled entirely by word of mouth. Word spread more quickly as people heard about the site. The BBC picked up the story and it blew up. Visitors poured in. Advertisers lined up. After only one month, the site had made more than $250,000. After two months, it topped $500,000.

Demand spiked around New Year’s 2006 when only 1,000 pixels were left. In the interest of fairness, Tew auctioned the remaining slots off on Ebay to the tune of $38,100. He’d just made $1,037,100 in five months. Media attention was largely praiseworthy, calling the idea a brilliant example of novel, innovative advertising and entrepreneurship in the internet age.


Naturally, others were less enthused. Don Oldenburg of the Washington Post called the site “a cheap, mind-bogglingly lucrative marketing monstrosity, an advertising badlands of spam, banner ads and pop-ups.” He went on to write “it looks like a bulletin board on designer steroids, an advertising train wreck you can’t not look at. It’s like getting every pop-up ad you ever got in your life, at once. It’s the Internet equivalent of suddenly feeling like you want to take a shower.”

Commentary like this always makes me laugh because it’s a prime example of how deeply ingrained the “pay your dues” mentality runs in many of us.

Oldenburg (perhaps appropriately named?) seems to imply that perhaps Tew doesn’t “deserve” such praise or reward because The Million Dollar Homepage doesn’t follow procedure. It’s way outside the box. It’s ugly.

At the very root of his complaint, he probably feels like Tew’s success wasn’t earned. I get it where he’s coming from. To witness a stupid, simple website like this make more in five months than most traditional employees make in an entire career might be infuriating and mind-boggling to some.

It triggers the same type of rage you feel when you see an invention on late night TV and think to yourself, “I could have thought of that!” I’ve been there. The urge to give in to jealousy and envy is strong. But, to the hackers, misfits and rebels of our generation, these types of massive wins by the underdogs of society are simply validation that we’re on the right path. Their success means that we can do the same.You are part of this new world and the opportunity to make such massive strides is yours as well as Alex’s.

Am I telling you to go out and build another Million Dollar Homepage? Of course not. It probably wouldn’t work. The allure was in the novelty. What you should be paying attention to is Tew’s trajectory and overall approach to creating his life. His willingness to take risks. His rejection of the “time spent” model and his playful approach to ethically skipping steps and getting ahead. This is how you need to start thinking.

Jace Hall told me years ago, you don’t need to pass through “B” to move from “A” to “C.” With creativity and hustle, you can live the life of your dreams now. Not in 30 years.

Oh, by the way: After the success of The Million Dollar Homepage, Tew dropped out of the business degree he was fundraising for in the first place. And not a single due was paid. Take that, establishment.

And lots of parents and grandparents won’t like this new truth. Even some of your friends won’t like it, because if you don’t have to pay your dues, that means you can be successful NOW. And that’s scary to a lot of people.

It’s pointless to think this isn’t true. Alex Tew and people like him prove it every single day. He built a simple website, advertised it and he made over $1 million in five months. No dues paid whatsoever. If anybody’s convinces you to let go of this antiquated mindset, let it be Alex.





LinkedIn hits 500M member milestone for its social network for the working world

LinkedIn recently crossed an important and exciting milestone. We now have half a billion members in 200 countries connecting, and engaging with one another in professional conversations and finding opportunities through these connections on LinkedIn.

What does this mean for you?

This community represents 10+ million active jobs, access to 9+ million companies, and with more than 100,000 articles published every week it’s helping you stay informed on the news and views impacting your professional world. A professional community of this size has never existed until now.

But it’s often the small, simple actions today that can lead you to bigger opportunities tomorrow. And access to this community has never been easier because every new connection represents a potential new opportunity.

Your network can accelerate your career

With each connection you make, the total reach of your professional community grows and so do your career opportunities. Every connection…

  • Reflects an average of 400 new people you can get introduced to and begin to build relationships with;
  • Encompasses 100 new companies who may be looking for the skills and talents you offer; and
  • Represents connections to an average of 500+ jobs.



Pornhub launches ‘Snapchat for nudes’ so you can put filters on your genitalia

Pornhub wants to help you step your sexting game up and turn your dirty NSFW selfies into totally SFW nude pics – which is why the adult entertainment giant is launching its very own ‘Snapchat for nudes.’

Available for free on the App Store and Google Play, Trickpics is a simple image manipulation tool that lets you cover up your genitalia with various Snapchat-esque stickers and graphic animations. The app currently offers over 15 filters to choose from, but Pornhub promises more are coming very soon.

While Trickpics works merely for image manipulation tasks, you can use the app to edit your nudes and then share them with friends and lovers via third-party messaging apps.

The good thing is that the tool requires no registration, which means you can play with Trickpics as soon as you’ve downloaded it to your device. To use its filters, you can snap photos with your camera or alternatively load it with images from your gallery.


Among other options, Trickpics has various filters like the ‘Knock Knockers’ for the ladies and the ‘Dick-In-A-Box’ for the gentlemen. Although the app currently works only with images, Pornhub plans to eventually also introduce video filters.

“Selfies have become a popular form of self-expression it today’s society. They are essentially the self-portrait of the digital age, capturing individuals in all their glory,” said Pornhub VP Corey Price. “[Y]ou have the duck face, the bathroom pose, the obligatory gym pic, and, whether or not many of us want to admit it, the nude selfie.”

“We are proud to announce our brand new app that provides graphic animation which overlays an image’s NSFW components to create a SFW, shareable image. Our fans can now share sexy pics with a twist, in a fun way that evokes their creativity,” he continued.

In case you’re curious to browse through the cheeky filters, you can head to the official Trickpics page here. Pornhub has integrated an interactive filter gallery so you can easily check out its collection in action (you might need to disable your adblocker to use it though).

Now head to this page to download the ‘Snapchat for nudes’ and go spice up your genitalia pics with some fun filters.




Scale matters: Advertisers are opting for Instagram over Snapchat

Instagram is mimicking Snapchat, and Snapchat is feeling the pain.

Eight months since Instagram rolled out its Stories feature and just over a month since it launched ads on it widely, it has already surpassed Snapchat. The feature not only has more people using it daily (200 million versus Snapchat’s last reported 156 million) but is also increasingly attracting more ad dollars. Agencies tend to drift where the action is, and, right or wrong, the general feeling is Instagram is on the upswing while the early buzz over Snapchat is fading.

“Many of our clients are deprioritizing Snapchat,” said Tom Buontempo, president at Attention, KBS’s social media arm, who declined to provide names of specific advertisers but whose clients include BMW, Carvel, Novartis and Spotify. “It’s no secret that Instagram has Snapchat in the crosshairs.”

Instagram Stories, like Snapchat, lets users create multiple ephemeral videos and string them together for a 24-hour period. Brands have increasingly been using Instagram Stories, both to post organic content as well as to run ads. A combination of Instagram’s pure reach, targeting and retargeting capabilities and a more interactive relationship with reps has made Stories an attractive bet for brands. Meanwhile, Snapchat’s growth has been a concern for the past few months, with Instagram Stories’ rapid rise coinciding with its slow-down. Since Instagram Stories launched in August, Snapchat’s growth has fallen 82 percent, according to TechCrunch.

While Capital One, Nike, Ben and Jerry’s, and Netflix were among 30 brands that tested out ads on Instagram Stories before they were widely rolled out in March, brands including Honda, Apartments.com, Chobani and Five Hour Energy have run ads on the platform more recently.

Honda, which ran an ad on Instagram Stories for its “Flipbook Series” campaign on April 10, to market the Honda Clarity, chose Instagram over Snapchat for the campaign, because it let the brand tap into the scale of its 1.4 million-plus existing Instagram fans, said Mike Dossett, associate director of digital strategy at RPA, Honda’s agency. Brands already have large audiences on Instagram and often have to do absolutely nothing to get instant engagement at scale on their Story posts. Plus, they can easily tap into Facebook’s underlying infrastructure.

“From buying and optimization to measurement and reporting, Instagram ads (including Stories) are embedded directly within the Facebook ads ecosystem that buyers know and understand,” he said. “That undoubtedly removes a barrier for advertisers with entrenched processes or less nimble buying protocols.”


For Ben and Jerry’s, it was all about scale. The brand was a part of a beta test between January and March, and ran ads on Instagram Stories to promote its new Pint Slices. The ice-cream maker saw a higher CPM rate than its usual benchmark, according to Jay Curley, Ben and Jerry’s senior global marketing manager, and the brand plans to run more ads over the summer.

“In general, we want to serve up relevant stories to our fans wherever they are,” he said. “We have a robust following on Instagram, and people are not only spending more time there but also consuming Stories there.”

It’s also far easier to buy ads on the platform as opposed to Snapchat. Unlike Snapchat, which does not have self-serve advertising options outside of on-demand geofilters (although one for Snap ads is expected soon), Instagram provides marketers with a unified dashboard for buying and tracking ads, making it easier for clients to target and track analytics across a more unified dashboard, said Attention’s Buontempo.

The larger Facebook ecosystem also provides for more nuanced targeting, said Ben Kunz, svp of marketing and content at Mediassociates. Brands can reach people with specific interests in ice cream, for example, or match targeting to their own CRM lists, with all of Facebook’s data toys at their disposal. Instagram also has more flexible buying options, letting buyers buy ads on a performance-based cost-per-click basis apart from a cost-per-thousand impressions basis.

“Both Instagram and Snapchat stories are clever full-screen immersive mobile ad experiences, but taking over a mobile screen is no longer exactly rocket science,” said Kunz. “So it’s not the ‘billboard’ space that matters; it’s the quality of the data behind it. Better audience data always equals better advertising performance.”

Still, it’s not a zero-sum game. Clients have been increasing their Instagram budgets overall to tap into Instagram Stories, said Danielle Johnsen Kerr, director of social and editorial strategy at Deutsch, but they aren’t necessarily shifting already-allotted Snapchat dollars to Instagram. Snapchat’s young audience is still a draw for advertisers, and the platform has also been making efforts to ramp up on measurement and to roll out more self-serve options. Ben and Jerry’s, for example, will also advertise on Snapchat in the summer.

“But it is dependent on the audiences our clients are trying to grab,” she said.



Three Keys To Crafting Successful Videos On Social Media

Five years ago, companies would come to our agency with a fairly simple demand: “I need a social media video.”

To fulfill this request, we’d identify the customer’s target demographic, develop appealing creative for that group, and deliver a single video for the brand to publish on Facebook and potentially Instagram.

Due to the emergence of Snapchat, Instagram Stories, and a revamped ad platform on Facebook, creating one piece of content for video campaigns is no longer an effective strategy. Modern consumers have become masterful ad-skippers. According to a Mirriad study, 90% of consumers regularly click the “skip” button when marketing videos invade their browsing experience. Unfortunately for marketers, outlets like Snapchat and Instagram Stories only make ad-skipping easier.

Consumers have turned to social media platforms because they want to receive news, entertainment and information that is specifically tailored to their interests. Along the way, they’ve learned to completely ignore pieces of content and messages that don’t immediately grab their attention.


Dozens of social platforms exist and each one features a unique group of people with unique desires. It’s foolish to believe that posting the same video everywhere will drive results. If agencies and brands want their content to be seen, they need to make it fit into this highly selective climate.

The Bite-Sized Approach

Rather than distribute a single video throughout every social media platform, modern agencies should instead embrace a fractionalized approach in which the “big idea” (or the backbone) of a campaign is custom-tailored to each site.


This means strategically creating several videos instead of one big video — something my agency recently did for Red Bull. To promote the upcoming Red Bull Air Race in San Diego, we filmed stunt pilot Kirby Chambliss zipping around the sky while skydivers in wingsuits performed aerobatics around him. After shooting with over a dozen cameras, we cut the video into seven unique deliverables that would each fit seamlessly into a social outlet: Facebook, Instagram, Instagram Stories, YouTube and Red Bull’s website.

Video marketing has evolved into an entirely different beast and we have to constantly adapt to stay relevant. Here are three principles that help our agency create successful campaigns in this new climate:

1. Urgency. TIME Magazine declared that goldfish now have longer attention spans than humans. Keep this top of mind when creating videos for social media, as you’ll have between half a second and five seconds to capture users’ attention.

Work hard to hook viewers with stunning imagery within the first few frames of the video, but no matter how tempting it is, don’t lure them in by flashing something irrelevant on the screen. Instead, try having the first few seconds of an ad provide a visual teaser of the best, most relevant part of the video.

For example, if you’re promoting a direct-to-consumer fashion line, starting your spot with a time-lapse unboxing segment will be much more engaging than simple product shots. After you’ve hooked the audience, you can cut away to the explanation of how your product or service works.

Movie studios, in particular, have taken note of the way digital audiences view content. Many promotional trailers — like this one for Jason Bourne — now broadcast brief ads for themselves before the actual trailer begins.



4 easy ways for real estate agents to boost their business with Google AdWords

With today’s online-first consumer marketplace, real estate agents must be as savvy with technology and marketing as ever to rise above their competition. Especially with the influx of millennials entering the real estate market, creating and maintaining a captivating online presence is a must.

Advertising through Google AdWords makes it possible for any agent to harness the undeniable power of online marketing, while staying cost-effective. The tool from Google allows you to select your desired audience and choose which search terms your ad will appear next to in the Google search results that relate to those keywords.

Putting the power in the hands of the advertiser, AdWords gives real estate agents creative and executional control. As a cherry on top, you only have to pay for your ad when the internet searcher clicks on it.

For real estate agents who are interested in opening a Google AdWords campaign, here are a few questions to consider from a user’s standpoint:

  1. Where will your ads take me? The last thing we want to see is for you to draw up a huge, elaborate Google AdWords campaign without thinking about what the internet searcher will land on. Before you put a campaign in motion, ensure your website is well-presented and well-written. If your site cannot easily handle all the leads pouring in it as a result of the advertising campaign, you’ve wasted your money.


  1. What do you want me to do? Make your call-to-action one of the first things the user sees when clicking through your ad. People online have notoriously short attention spans. Considering this, make sure they know what you want from them — their contact information, newsletter signup, or buying or listing a home with you.


  1. How can I work with you? Google AdWords allows you to easily list your business’ information and connect with the leads you’ve worked hard to garner. By having your address and contact information appear as part of your ad campaign, users will not have to frantically try to track you down and lose interest in the process. The most important thing for capturing a lead is making sure you are easy to get a hold of.


  1. Can you work in my area? The beauty of Google AdWords campaigns can be found within its customizability. Ads can be tweaked for variables like ZIP codes or specific neighborhoods so they can pertain to each unique user. Since real estate is such a community-based and location-specific industry, you can get extremely targeted with your advertising campaign to personally reach every lead.


Real estate agents are now able to take control of their own digital marketing. In an online-first marketplace, this becomes increasingly important. Google AdWords gives you the power to customize your campaign to connect with the right leads for your business. Keep these considerations in mind before putting together a cohesive AdWords plan, and users who land on your site will appreciate the personal touch.



How to Go Viral and Make Yourself Wildly Rich

Remember Candace Payne, the “Chewbacca Mom,” from literally three weeks ago? I know you do, because she was completely unavoidable; the four-minute clip of her laughing while wearing a roaring Chewbacca mask quickly became the most viewed Facebook Live video of all time (or at least since people actually started using it about six months ago), racking up more than 150 millions views.

Last week, it was revealed that Payne has made almost $500,000 since streaming her video, reaping rewards in the form of gifts, fees from talk-show appearances, and a handful of all-expenses paid holidays.


Of course, Chewbacca Mom is just one of many viral stars who’ve made serious, life-changing sums following their 15 minutes of fame. In the past year alone, Swedish vlogger PewDiePie earned an estimated $11.8 million via his YouTube videos, while the Sunday Times reports that British beauty vlogger Zoella earns at least $71,000 a month.

But how feasible is it for the average person to make it to that point? YouTube has more than a billion users, who collectively watch 4 billion videos every day. According to experts, 71 hours of footage is uploaded to YouTube every hour. Since the average clip lasts around 4.12 minutes, from the moment a new video is uploaded, users are competing with over 1.4 million other videos, not counting the trillions of videos already on YouTube and other similar platforms. The odds of going viral are so low that marketing and production company Curveball Media Limited has claimed users have “more chance of getting shot, dating a millionaire, or being flown by a drunken pilot than getting 10,000 views” on a video.

But if by some stroke of sheer dumb luck your video does go viral, how do you capitalize on that and cash in? I spoke to viral content studio the Viral Factory’s founder, Matt Smith, to find out.

VICE: The Chewbacca mask mom has supposedly made almost $500,000 off a single video—how is this even possible?
Matt Smith: I haven’t looked at the last view count, but the first way is obviously just monetizing the video. YouTube and Facebook will pay tiny amounts for each view, as long as you’ve gone into your account and switched on the relevant advertising deals, so effectively, whenever you look at any video with advertising around it, the user is getting paid. So [Payne] will be getting a check from Google because obviously her video’s been seen gazillions of times, and that’s a decent chunk of change.


In fairness, it sounds like a lot of that sum has been given to her in the form of various gifts, rather than in cold hard cash.
Yeah, I heard that Kohl’s sent her some money, and I imagine she will be getting appearance fees. She was on [The Late Late Show with] James Corden, and I’m guessing she made some money off of that. There will also be agencies like us who go, “My god, she’s really hot right now—what can we get her to endorse?” I don’t know specifically about her, but I know there are plenty of other fifteen-minutes-of-fame internet celebrities who have done quite well out of appearing in ads.

Like who?
Well, for instance, “Overly Attached Girlfriend,” the [girl who was a] massive meme on YouTube and Reddit with the crazy eyes—we did a video with her for Samsung that she got paid for. We had the initial idea, but she helped us with the execution and the writing, because obviously it was her character. We flew her out to London, and she’s the main aspect of the video. That’s one thing I can tell you about because we did it, but I’ve seen lots of others, like the Delta Airline inflight safety video. It’s got Charlie Bit My Finger, it’s got the hamster, it’s got the rainbow guy… it’s got the bloke from the Will It Blend? campaign—just loads and loads of internet celebs. They would have all been paid quite decent money to be in that, and there’s a whole bunch of them. It’s a thing now where those people are legitimate celebrities, so they get paid and they get featured in stuff.



Is it feasible that everyday YouTubers and Viners could make this kind of money, or do they need something to go wildly viral before anyone takes real notice?
In theory, anyone could do it. A lot of the people who have had their fifteen minutes of fame are pretty much ordinary people. The Chewbacca Mom is so obviously an ordinary person, which is one of the reasons the video is so great, because you’re totally with her. She’s so obviously just having fun and laughing her head off; there’s no agenda behind it, there’s no nothing, she’s just an average kind of Joe—or Josephine. So yes, it can happen, but you have to do something different. Although she’s a normal person, she’s done something actually pretty exceptional. That video is gold. You know, if we as an advertising agency who specialize in making viral videos tried to make that video, I think we’d fail. It’s almost impossible to conceive of it and direct it and cast it and make it as a film. The fact is it was great because it was completely spontaneous and off-the-cuff.

So it was just one moment of magic?
The odds are fairly stacked against the chances of your average person achieving that. But once it’s done, I think increasingly there are mechanisms that there weren’t ten years ago. I’ve met quite a lot of people at various conferences who had exactly that fifteen minutes of fame, but a while ago, and they found it very hard to make any money. In fact, some of them were upset by the fact they had all the downsides of fame and perhaps they didn’t necessarily want all that attention, but they made zero money from it because the structures weren’t in place. Now, they would probably be contacted by agents.

What kind of structures are you talking about?
YouTube has a representation system where they will talk to brands, and they will put forward their celebrities, so if you’re a girl who does makeup tutorials on YouTube and you’re really popular, YouTube will put you forward to makeup brands, fashion brands, etc, and help you monetize that. I know for a fact there’s a talent agency in LA that specializes in accidental YouTube celebrities. So these days, if that happens to you, even if you’re not that keen on the attention—some people obviously love it, some people hate it—but at the very least, you can make a few bucks. I mean, £350,000 [$500,000] isn’t bad, is it?


Take me through your working process—how are you able to determine what will go viral and what won’t?
As I said before, I think stuff like the Chewbacca mask is really tricky from a creative point of view. What we do is write loads and loads of ideas, and spend bloody hours thinking, and going, “Is that going to work or will it not work? How do we make it work?” We get it wrong sometimes, but more often than not, we get it right because we have the resources that the clients give us to spend on production. We can get really good people involved, we can use photo production, special effects, etc. So that’s one way. It’s not failsafe, but it’s decent.

How long after uploading something are you able to tell if it’s going to be successful or not?
Well there are algorithmic ways to predict viral content, so Facebook probably knew before more-or-less everybody else that the Chewbacca mask lady’s video was going viral, because they would have spotted it even when it was only seen by very few people and shared by very few people. I’m pretty sure it would have shown up on someone’s dashboard somewhere, saying, “This thing is going crazy—it’s on an exponential curve and it’s being shared a lot, far more than anything else we’re seeing today.” Again, YouTube has that. They can spot something that has been made and that is trending or starting to trend pretty much before everyone else does. So those are the two ways [of telling if something is going to go viral or not]; one is predicting it by just being very creative and making good stuff, and the other is, once the content is finished, if you’re the content distribution platform owner and you’ve got sophisticated algorithms, you can probably spot it.

What tips do you have for people who want to go viral and make loads of money out of it?
Think very carefully. That’s what I tell my own kids. They go, “Oh, Dad, can you help me go viral?” and I say, “Oh really? You want to go viral? Why do you want to be famous?” It’s crap being famous. It’s nowhere near as good as you might think it is. Just take a deep breath and go, “Why am I doing this again?” because you’ll have the piss ripped out of you. You’ll become a target—especially if you’re young. But if you’re someone who goes, “Well, actually, I just really want to be famous, so I’ll put up with the downsides,” I think on the internet it’s all about being human. Show your real self and then do something kind of exceptional, but as a normal human being.



Before You Scroll, Try This Mindful Social Media Practice

How many times a day do you check into your social feeds? How many times do you hit refresh in one visit? Our need to be social can backfire on social media, when we accidentally activate the comparing mind, which is a source of much unhappiness. Of course, this can happen offline, too. But the toll looms larger online, with of all those perfectly curated images of people’s lives inviting us to compare our insides to other people’s projection of their outsides.

For teens and tweens, who are actually hardwired for self-consciousness, the constant comparing and curating, which used to end with the final bell of the school day, when kids could go home and put on their sweatpants, is a twenty-four-hour-a-day job. Socializing and social comparison begins first thing in the morning and ends last thing at night. Predictably, psychology research consistently shows that social media is making kids unhappier and more narcissistic.

The sheer volume and instant nature of digital media means that when we log in, we are drinking from a fire hose of emotional stimulus. We can be anywhere in the world and be met by friends’ posts that trigger joy, resentment, sadness, laughter, grief, jealousy, and more—all within moments. None of us, adults or children, are wired to take in that much emotional content at once without reacting.

Research also reveals that social rewards and punishments feel the same online and off. If someone interacts with us in a positive way online, we get the same neurochemical rewards in our brain as we would in person. When we (or our children) are rejected or ignored online, we get the same feeling of rejection as we would in person. More interestingly, the sense of emotional attack activates the same part of the brain as physical attack does. Emotional pain is just as painful, just as real, as physical pain, whether it comes from the virtual world or not.

Mindful Social Media

Yes, social media is contributing to a new era of adolescent (and adult) social stress, but when we accept that it is here to stay, we can also see it as a new opportunity for connection and mindfulness, if we build it. Mindfulness tells us there is insight to be found in anything when we approach it with mindfulness, and that even includes social media.

Try this social media mindfulness practice to explore what your favorite sites are communicating to your subconscious:

  1. Find a comfortable, alert, and ready posture. Shrug your shoulders, take a few breaths, and bring awareness to your physical and emotional state in this particular moment.
  2. Now open your computer or click on your phone.
  3. Before you open up your favorite social media site, consider your intentions and expectations. As you focus on the icon, notice what experiences you have in your mind and body.
  4. Why are you about to check this site? What are you hoping to see or not see? How are you going to respond to different kinds of updates you encounter? By checking your social media, are you interested in connecting or in disconnecting and distracting?
  5. Close your eyes and focus on your emotional state for three breaths before you begin to engage.
  6. Opening your eyes now, look at the first status update or photo, and then sit back and close your eyes again.
  7. Notice your response—your emotion. Is it excitement? Boredom? Jealousy? Regret? Fear? How do you experience this emotion in the mind and body? What’s the urge—to read on, to click a response, to share yourself, or something else?
  8. Wait a breath or two for the sensations and emotions to fade, or focus on your breath, body, or surrounding sounds.
  9. Try this practice with one social media update, or for three or five minutes, depending on your time and your practice.

Noticing how social media makes you feel can help you discover how to use it more mindfully. As you become more aware of the emotions you’re actually inviting into your day when you visit social media sites, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how often to visit those sites.

And, keep in mind, the science of social media is more complex than we might think. For example, research shows that the more we look at others’ carefully curated social media status, the worse we tend to feel. But, the opposite is also true: if we look back at our own updates, we often see the positive aspects of our life presented and tend to feel better. So consider scrolling through your own updates sometimes, as you look at everyone else’s.

Technology does not define us, despite social media trying to put us into categories and reduce us to a series of likes and interests. Examining and changing our own relationship to technology opens the door for us teach through example and to practice new ways of making technology foster community and wellness.



Social Media Marketing Evolves

As social media platforms evolve, adding new tools, mobile offerings, and enhanced personalization, indie authors are evolving with them. Facebook, Twitter, and the other major platforms are more crowded than ever, requiring authors to find more creative ways to be heard above the noise. Compounding this challenge is that these platforms have been adjusting their algorithms to filter posts for perceived relevance. (For example, this summer Instagram introduced a new way of ordering posts “so you’ll see the moments you care about first,” as the company described it in a statement.) This results in promotional messages being pushed lower on users’ feeds or filtered out altogether, putting added pressure on authors who are seeking ways to attract followers and gain attention.

One way around this is for authors to put greater effort into tailoring their social media messaging. “It’s important for authors to interact in an organic way—don’t set up your Facebook page and just say, ‘buy my book,’ ” says Carol Palomba, social media manager for the author submission service Writer’s Relief and its Self-Publishing Relief and Web Design Relief divisions. She has taken to advising the indie authors she consults with to avoid promotional language in their posts and, instead, to “talk about yourself, where you’re getting inspiration from, and share what would be of interest to readers and followers.”

Another way to stand out in a crowded social media landscape is to pay for ads outright. That has been the experience of Mark Dawson, an author of 25 self-published novels who has found significant success promoting his books through paid Facebook ads. He currently spends almost a quarter of a million dollars a year on Facebook ads alone, and has expanded from using them to sell his own books to teaching other self-published authors how to do it for themselves through his Self Publishing Formula service.

Since 2013, Dawson has experimented with a variety of online and social media platforms. He has found that Twitter offers “cheap, targeted clicks” that work well when he is going after a preexisting audience. For example, his spy/action novels share elements with the books of James Patterson, so he has created ads that explicitly say: “Do you like this book? Then you’ll like my book.”

“By looking at the whole thing holistically, you can put together an ad that is compelling,” Dawson says. “Then users click over to the store or sign on to my mailing list.”

Dawson has set up Lead Generation Cards on his Twitter account so that people who follow him receive a mention tweet back (not seen by others) that encourages them to sign up for his mailing list in order to receive a pair of free books. He emphasizes that building a mailing list is one of the most important ways to use social media, calling it “one of the most valuable assets authors can have these days. I can launch a new book into the top 100 on Amazon with the right email campaign.” And, thanks to the evolution of ad technology, it is getting easier for authors to use their promotions to directly sell books. The expanding availability and use of buy buttons on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere allows for direct calls to action to be embedded into ads or profiles, decreasing the number of steps a potential customer must go through from seeing a promotion to making a purchase.

Dawson says that, though Google Ads have worked for him, their high cost makes them less appealing. He has been doing some experimenting on Pinterest and LinkedIn as well. But it’s Facebook that has proved by far the most valuable for Dawson.

That’s not to say that it’s simple to succeed on Facebook, especially as its popularity has grown. When Dawson began using Facebook ads two years ago, “there was no one doing it,” and he was getting a substantial return on investment for his advertising dollars. This has tapered off as more authors and other marketers have embraced the service, and clicks have gotten more expensive and the audience less receptive.

But the number of potential readers on Facebook and the service’s tools to target them appeal to Dawson. “I can say, ‘Find more people like the people on my mailing list,’ and if you have enough points of accurate comparison, you can get a lookalike audience to send your ads to,” he says. While his mailing list is approaching 70,000 addresses, by delivering ads to a lookalike audience, the potential audience rises to millions, rather than tens of thousands.

Value in Video

An increasingly popular social media tool is livestreaming, which allows authors to directly interact with viewers, fans, and prospective customers, whether answering questions during a q&a or tracking their live reactions during a cover reveal. The recently launched Facebook Live has seen steady growth in number of livestreaming accounts and views. For authors struggling to stand out in a crowded newsfeed, the platform is ideal, as Facebook has been working to promote the service and those who stream on it. At least at the moment, if an author goes live, his or her friends receive a notification.

“You will get attention from folks who haven’t been watching what you’re doing,” says Julie Broad, speaker, indie author, and founder of Rev N You Training Inc., which specializes in tips for investing in real estate. Broad has used video to promote her books and events for years, but she believes that now is a particularly good time to get into livestreaming. “Next time you’re in a cool spot that will make for a great background or you have something really exciting to share around your book, go live,” she says.

YouTube Live is also a tool that she has found useful. Using that, Broad livestreamed a fund-raising event she held to promote her 2016 personal-improvement book The New Brand You. She did three burpees (a full-body strength-training exercise) for every person who bought three books at the event, called Burpees for Books. Proceeds from the sales went to the Canadian Red Cross and Believe in Youth.

In addition to offering real estate tips, Broad advises people on how to build their personal brands. She has found some of her greatest success with YouTube videos, which allow for longer messages and tips, and which she has used since releasing her first book, in 2013. While she continues to use YouTube, she has updated her approach to the service in intervening years. “YouTube now favors videos with higher quality when they show recommended videos—for example, HD- and 4K-shot videos are more likely to show above lesser-quality videos with similar content,” Broad says. She adds that she also has found that “good content is not enough to get attention.” As with so much in indie publishing, even if it’s self-produced, it doesn’t have to look it: good lighting, professional editing, and sleek use of sound effects and titles are all important.

Beyond the Big Guys

While Facebook and Twitter are the biggest platforms for authors seeking to interact with their readers, more-niche services appeal to authors who are especially looking to stand out. “There are more platforms than ever before, so that means there is more opportunity than ever before to connect with readers through social media,” says Keith Ogorek, senior v-p of marketing at Author Solutions. “The key is to really understand where your potential readers are gathered and use that platform to reach them.”

Ogorek says authors have found success with BookGrabbr. The service allows authors to share extended previews of their books with readers who post about the books on social media sites, with BookGrabbr then tracking analytics and impacts on sales. Though it’s a paid service, Ogorek has found that “it can really help a book get discovered and shared through your social network.”

The key, Ogorek says, is to focus on the particular platforms or services where readers are most likely to be. Romance authors will find a ready audience with highly visual posts on Instagram and Tumblr. Offering quick tips in Facebook Live or YouTube videos works well for self-help. Authors will find success by zeroing in on certain platforms, and on specific services within those platforms, and learning the nuances of what works and what doesn’t.

To help make sense of all of this, analytics have gotten better for authors. Rather than just looking at how many followers they have, authors can assess how engaged they are, how influential they may be, or how to reach others who are similar.

Ogorek urges indie authors to use these questions to guide their investments in social media and go beyond simply working to increase their numbers of friends or followers. “You are better off having 100 people follow you who have 1,000 followers who they can reach than having 1,000 who have 10 followers,” he says.

It is also key for authors to commit to platforms for long enough to see results. Those expecting instant success will likely be disappointed. But authors who embrace the process, gathering data from the analytics and using that to shape their decisions, are far more likely to learn from each step of their social media marketing efforts.

“There’s time involved,” stresses Palomba, of Writer’s Relief. “I’ve had people who run a Facebook ad and feel disappointed because it didn’t result in a lot of sales.”

Self Publishing Formula’s Dawson expresses a similar sentiment. “I’ve heard people say, ‘I spent $50 on Facebook ads and they aren’t working,’ but this takes time,” he emphasizes. “Some hit on the right combination early; others have to test a bit to get there. You need the data, need to test it and continually figure it out before you start to see a return.”



4 Steps to Selling More Books with Less Social Media

When I ask new email subscribers to tell me their number one book marketing challenge, the answer is overwhelmingly the conundrum that is social media: it takes too much time, and the results are difficult to measure. I agree.

Without a solid understanding of how social media does and doesn’t work, authors resort to the splatter method. But trying to hit every social media channel is a poor marketing strategy. On the contrary—you can successfully sell more books with less social media in four steps:

1. Find, build and target your proprietary audience.
2. Choose a primary social media channel for engagement and selling based on five specific criteria.
3. Designate social media outpost channels to direct potential fans to your primary social media channel.
4. Create a content system designed to foster engagement first and sell books second based on authentic author interaction with fans.

Authors in my online classes are amazed at the amount of time this primary channel system adds to their writing schedule and how effectively they can reach readers on just one channel.

Step One: Find, Build and Target Your Audience

The first step to selling more books with less social media is finding, building and targeting your proprietary audience. Nobody writes a book for everybody. To sell effectively, you need to define your target before you shoot. In this step, there are three main strategies: discovery strategies, content strategies and growth strategies.

Audience Discovery Strategies

Finding your readers shouldn’t be like playing Where’s Waldo. Here are a few tactics to find out where your readers are on social media.

• Survey your own readers. If you don’t know the social media preferences of your readers, ask them. You can send out a free survey on Survey Monkey or Google Forms to all your readers via email and social media posts. Find out who they are (demographics), where they spend their time on social media, and what other authors they read.
• Check free general use statistics on Pew Internet and other free data sites. Pew Internet provides the most reliable and extensive data on social media use worldwide. There are reputable marketing sites like HubSpot, Buffer, Marketo, Nielsen, Social Bakers and others that also publish free periodic data reports on social media use.
• Check your social media channel data. Most major social media channels will give you data about your followers.
• Check with your professional associations. Some writer organizations, such as Romance Writers of America, offer data about the genre’s readers to members.

Audience Content Strategies

Today, many of our marketing efforts are backwards. We think a platform will deliver an audience, but a platform simply delivers a message to an audience we have already built.

We can develop specific content for our audience once we understand who they are. In Jeffrey Rohr’s book Audience, he explains that our proprietary audience is made up of three parts or segments of people. They have different motivations for being there, different buying habits, and are in need of different information. Rohrs explains:

• Seekers are looking for something of personal interest. You gain them by giving them the kind of relevant content they are looking for. They are usually not ready for personal contact. They are seeking information, not connection.
• Amplifiers are looking for content as well, but for their own audiences. They will magnify the reach of your content by sharing it with a motive of gaining credibility or helping their own audience. These are often reporters, influencers, advocates, consultants, reviewers and bloggers.
• Joiners are your most valuable asset, according to Rohrs. They are the mother lode because they respond to your calls to action: subscribe, follow, pin, register, join or buy. They willingly give up their personal information for value. They volunteer to be marketed to. And they will share valuable content with their friends.

When it comes time to crafting valuable, engaging content, this is our backdrop. We’ll look at content extensively in part four of this series.

Audience Growth Strategies

One of the most common mistakes authors make in social media marketing is not understanding how to use social media, websites, email, and other media to actually grow their audience, not just to sell to them.

The best example of implementing this strategy is email marketing. You use your email list primarily for communicating with fans about new releases and sales, and to publish newsletters. But you also use social media to grow your email list with sign-up forms, solicitations for advance reader teams, and other loyalty tactics—all ways to effectively grow your reader base.

When used correctly, social media is a vehicle you can use to be found by new readers, engage fans at a deeper level, and grow your following.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll delve into how to find the best primary social media channel for sales and reader engagement. It’s time to start spending less time marketing and more time writing.