Saturday, April 26, 2014

Farmville online or how do you get followers

No - not Farmville the time soaking computer game but Farmville the practice of getting "likes", "+1s" and "followers".
Every day my inbox is jammed full of invitations to get Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram and blog followers or clicks. It's very much like the click farming of the 1990s. People would advertise 1,000 clicks to bump up website hit counters when the more savvy of us could just go in and change the counter starting number from 0 to 17,338. If that was not possible with the hit counter, it was no problem just to keep hitting refresh on the browser.  There were people willing to do that for money though. That, to me was just bananas because I never pay any attention to website visitor numbers. I never did back then and I don't now. 
Twitter follower adders are great if you want to add lots of bots to your Twitter following. I had 0 Twitter followers and engaged a few Twitter follower bots - I hasten to add that I never paid a dime nor would I ever have paid a dime. Within 3 months the Twitter account had amassed 2000 - 3000 followers. None of those followers ever answered direct messages nor did they respond to messages designed to provoke a response. Then the number of followers topped out and I just wasn't getting any more. Thus I set up a few other Twitter accounts and did the same thing. Across the lot there were 14,000 followers the last time I looked. Using one of the cross-referencing tools it was interesting to discover that about 75% of the followers on each account were identical. Clearly 75% of my Twitter following were bots and nothing but. Out of interest I check my webstats for this site and if I get one visit a week from a Tweet, it's a lot. Out of 14,000 "followers" I have perhaps one genuine follower on my (mostly) abandoned accounts. Each of those accounts sends 20 canned messages a day. Again, this is all done through a free service. There's so little point in paying for anything online regarding follower farming nor in online advertising to farm followers. I laugh when I see people advertising 1,000 genuine followers. What are they doing? Selling slaves? There's no way to guarantee people's interest and that interested people will continue following a blog or Twitter account. 
Having now thoroughly dismissed all the Twitter follower generators we have other follower generators and click farmers. They all operate in the same way - selling fake likes, fake clicks etc. At the moment my Facebook page has 12 likes only. I set it up 3 days ago.  I learned my lesson from Twitter that Farmville is to be avoided. 
Clearly with all forms of click farming being statistical only and therefore not worthy of even one cent, how do you get real people to see your website? The answer that's often given is that you have to provide engaging content. That's not the answer though. People will only see engaging content as engaging if they actually find the content in the first place. How do you stand out and be seen amidst the cacophony of people yelling "look at my site, look at my site" and people paying to scrabble to the top of the search engine rankings? This answer is elusive and nobody has ever given this answer before. The answer is very vague and has to do with generating engagement, the rules for which change more often than most people have hot dinners.
After years of ignoring Facebook and concentrating on Twitter and Foursquare, I am now trying Facebook. I've done all the usual things - promoted my sites on Craigslist and on forums but promotion there is very short-lived and pretty ineffective. Playing the search engine game by saying "get your naughty photos here" will only work for a short amount of time. Search Engine Optimization only works very briefly and then needs to be done again. For sites with no traffic or minimal traffic, that's a poor investment especially since the self proclaimed gurus don't guarantee their work will produce any results.
So, how do you get followers? It's a bit like getting friends online and friends in real life. Forums are part of that, Facebook is part. Twitter is part. The rules for getting followers are:
  • Make friends with people and let them look at your site "it's not quite finished yet but it's getting there" will intrigue people enough to look.
  • Produce short but engaging articles. My articles are way too long. An article should be no more than a screen full.
  • Use available media such as photos or diagrams or graphs and include them in your articles.
  • Provide video content. 
  • Use forums/craigslist/Facebook groups to promote your site. I join in discussions and include links to relevant articles in the discussions.
  • Remember - if people don't like your site, it's not personal. They're not saying no to you. They're saying no to your product. 
  • Add a method of interaction such as a comment feature on your website so people can discuss things.
  • Add a method of contact. Generally Twitter comes into play here because it affords countability without the risk of spam or junk phonecalls.
  • Also note that some people can have a bad day and give you stick because of it.  Some people's bad days are permanent.
  • Don't oversell your website. Nobody wants to hear about your website every other sentence.
  • Remember your target is people. People like to be treated as individuals. Don't alienate your audience.
I currently have 6 followers on YouTube and 2 on my blog and 12 likes on Facebook. None of those are solicited. I have about 800 followers on LinkedIn but as with Twitter, engagement levels are low enough to make the LinkedIn followers I have seem a bit - well - automated and I know there are LinkedIn follower adder packages out there.
There is no magic formula. It's about personality and how you approach the solution. "Oi mate! Look at my website" is less likely to get viewers than "Yes - I've come across that problem before - I've even written an article about the solution and it's here". That's how you get viewers and responders.
An alternative way to get followers is by going the negative route. Write articles that are deliberately confrontational. Write an article that argues that the US President is a member of the Ku Klux Klan or that animal rights activists are into bestiality and pedophilia. Perhaps write an article about cooking for coprophilia fetishists. Write something that people love to hate. That way word gets out about your site.
Some of the most profitable sites for photographers are the pornography sites. Every generation of young men has a sizable quota willing to view porn and crucially fool enough to believe it's worth paying to see pictures of naked women.

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