Tech Tips for Writers: The Numbers Game of Social Media

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Ever feel like you’re in a popularity contest and everyone else is ahead? Sometimes social media can feel that way, especially when you’re just starting up your brand. There’s an ever-present temptation to build, build, BUILD upon those numbers so you can brag at conferences how many likes, followers, and fans you have.

But beware. Resist the temptation. (**waggles fingers at your eyes.**)

There may be a benefit to having bragging rights when it comes to your popularity, but remember that what you’re going for in social media is ENGAGEMENT.

Yes, your reach (the number of people who see your content) is important. And the more people you can reach, the better, right?

Not necessarily.

As an author, you are, in effect, a small business. You’re a brand. Which means you’re in social media to market your brand. (Yes, you’re there to have fun and learn, too. But let’s talk about selling something–in this case books.) In marketing, you need to reach the right people at the right time with the right message. Sounds easy, right? (Hint: it’s not.)

In order to reach the right people, however, you have to know who they are. Are they the 5,000 followers or fans you purchased online from a click farm…or are they the 500 followers you’ve built up by engaging and interacting online yourself?

I’m guessing you don’t need me to answer that.

Quality vs. Quantity

Last year an interesting study compared Tiffany and Wal-Mart’s social media activities to see which giant was more successful.

In the first half of 2013, Tiffany & Co. garnered the highest engagement ranking of any retailer–defined as fan actions per post–by focusing on relatively few but aspirational, high-quality, image-driven content. In contrast, Wal-Mart published more posts than any other retailer but generated far less engagement per post.

Overall, Tiffany & Co. had 5.3 million fan actions in the first half of 2013 and Wal-Mart had 11.8 million. However, Wal-Mart published nearly six times the number of posts in that time period.

Wouldn’t you rather get more bang for your buck? Me, too.

So know where to find your audience. Are you looking for older women? Pinterest is your best bet. Are you looking for men outside the U.S.? Then Google+ is where you should be.

Also know when to put your message out. Posts between 11 AM and 2 PM have been found as the best time, with Thursdays and Fridays the best days.

Work smarter, not harder.

Thwart the Spammers

When I get a suspicious friend request on Facebook, I always go to that person’s profile to determine if it’s a spammer or if it’s a real person. (How can I tell? The person has only a few friends or we have only a few friends in common. If the profile picture is a man and the gender claims to be female. If they’ve joined Facebook in the last week. These are a few red flags.) 99 times out of 100, it’s a fake FB account. And what is astounding is that I see the number of my connections who have blindly accepted this friend request.

Look, we all want to be NICE. I like having friends. I’m not saying don’t friend me on Facebook. But if you’re a spammer…yeah, don’t friend me on Facebook.

So check your friend requests. Beware of spammers. Be choosy. You don’t need more friends, more followers, more fans.

Facebook Down Plays the Likes

Even Facebook is down playing the number of likes a page has. Check out where the likes are in the old fan page design:


Now see the new design:


Hard to find it, isn’t it? The likes are on the far left hand side of the page, under the photos. Likes, fans, and number of followers are not the end result. The end result is to find people who care about what you’re doing/saying and to build relationships.

How to Gauge Your Social Media Success

  • Are you getting out what you put in?
    If you aren’t bothering to spend time on social media, then don’t be surprised not to get anything out of it. Yes, Lady Gaga has tons of followers, but even she posts obsessively on Instagram.

  • The stats
    You can use Google Analytics, Klout, Wildfire’s Social Media Monitor, and even HootSuite to keep track of your analytics. It can help you determine which messages are working and which are not. Facebook Insights will tell you all sorts of interesting info on your fans, too.

  • Are users engaging with you?
    Do you get retweets? Reposts? Repins? If you do, then chances are you’re successful.

  • Do you enjoy it?
    If the answer is no, then find a social media platform you enjoy and stick with it. There are many to choose from and you may find Instagram or Pinterest more interesting than Twitter or Tumblr.

So whether you have 5 or 5,000 fans, have fun on social media and remember: it’s not just a numbers game.

Joanna Shupe can mostly be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Unless you’re a spammer.

Leave a comment


  1. Thanks for the great post!! Now all I have to go is go and figure out analytics…:)

  2. dawnmariehamilton

     /  June 3, 2014

    Great post, Joanna! I’ve been hearing a lot about this lately. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Thanks for this great post! The Tiffany/Walmart quality-vs.-quantity experiment really says a lot about how to work smarter. After dragging my feet, I’ve just discovered the joy of Pinterest and now count myself among the mildly obsessed…OK, maybe a little more than mildly :-\

    • Pinterest is fun, that’s for sure. You can spend a lot of time there before you realize it!

    • RoseAnn DeFranco

       /  June 3, 2014

      Diana…I have a fear of Pinterest. I’m convinced if I ever get on I’ll spend all my writing time making cupcakes and homemade ornaments. It will become my new passion and I’ll collapse under a mountain on fondant.

  4. Very nice. I always get so much out of these techie posts!

  5. Jenna Blue

     /  June 3, 2014

    Love the tech post, Joanna! Thank you!! Seriously, I learned A LOT. And double bonus, now I know when to schedule my own blog posts!

  6. RoseAnn DeFranco

     /  June 3, 2014

    I love the Tech Tip posts, Joanna. In theory I feel like I have a good knowledge base of what to do or not do, but in reality I find the time investment overwhelming. Lately I’ve been focusing my writing time on writing because all the social media platforms take me down a time suck worm hole. I have to believe that eventually it will all come together!

    • It can definitely be a worm hole, and I think we’re conditioned to think more is better. I hope that I’ve shown here that less can sometimes be more.

  7. Awesome post as usual, Joanna! Thanks for all the tips and I will be sure to put them to good use.

  8. Wonderful post! I feel like I’m doing everything I can, but end up on the evil hamster wheel of social media. Your tips put it all into perspective – be smart and deliberate…and have fun with it! I’m excited to streamline my efforts. Between 11am-2pm on Thursdays and Fridays, of course.

  9. Really interesting insights. Thanks so much for sharing – especially about Pinterest. As a middle-aged woman, Pinterest is far and away my favorite social media site. Great to know–demographically speaking–I’m not alone.

    • Glad you found them useful! I admit that Pinterest is really fun. One can spend a lot of time there! Thanks for stopping by.

  10. Thanks for sharing! I appreciate your insight. It’s hard to know where to spend our time on social media.

    • That is certainly true! It can be so overwhelming. I think you have to pick what you enjoy and go with that. We can’t be expected to be everywhere ALL THE TIME. Thanks for stopping by!

  11. I always learn something useful and interesting from your social media lessons, Joanna! You really know your stuff! Thanks for sharing all that knowledge with us. Can’t wait for the analytics post!

  12. Jaye Marie Rome

     /  June 5, 2014

    Joanna, you had me with your hook in this post! You’re right, it’s tempting to follow these teases. Luckily, I’m not a slave to advertising. However, if you attach a photo of Hugh Jackman or Benedict Cumberbatch, you’ll get my attention every time, lol!

    Thanks for narrowing down the peak times for visibility. I have such a hard time keeping up with it all. Twitter just makes my head spin. This new feature on facebook, where you can designate your “close friends” so you don’t miss their posts, is making me crazy, because every post is getting tallied at the top of the facebook page. So I log on and see, like, 166 notifications in three hours. I’m already disengaging that feature.

    I’m so glad one of us Femmes is up on all of the tech stuff. It’s so helpful. Thanks for continuing to post these.


    • Hi Jaye!

      If you do add folks to a “Close Friends” list, you can turn off notifications for each friend. So it won’t clog up your notifications that I’ve liked XYZ’s post on Hugh Jackman. 😉

      I did that for mine, and now I can check the Close Friends list whenever I want. Instead of being notified. Make sense?

      On your friend’s home page is the drop down menu starting with “Friends”. Pull that down. Make sure “Get notifications” is NOT selected.

      • Jaye Marie Rome

         /  June 5, 2014

        Ah, but you can clog up my notifications with Hugh posts any time!


  13. I used to accept all friend requests, but when I started getting PMs from these dudes with the most ridiculous claims of instant love at the sight of my picture, I decided enough. I look for exactly what you said, and ignore them. Until now, I’ve just let them sit on my friend request list, but I really need to refuse the request and make them go away. I’m curious though, do you know if they’re notified if their request is refused?

    Great post, Joanna.

    • Hi! No, they are not notified they have been refused. You won’t show up in their friend list. If you don’t refuse the request, it will just say “request pending” on their end indefinitely.

    • BUT — you should refuse those weirdos and report them to FB for spam!!!!

  14. Great post, Joanna! Love your tech savvy ways and your willingness to share your knowledge with us 🙂

  15. Hi Joanna

    Thanks for cramming so much useful stuff into one post! Like many writers, I’m engaging with social media while feeling I’m never doing enough, and that messes with my head 🙂 which really needs to be getting on with the next book. I’ve always wanted to find a means to keep the social networking effective, boxed into a rational timescale and FUN!!! Because I hate waking up in the morning knowing I’m going to have to grapple with something draining and marginally effective. Thanks for reassuring me that interesting, friendly posts are best, that concentrating on a couple of platforms (for me, Twitter and FB) is ok and that having 1600 followers mainly won through active cheerfulness is better than 16000 bought as a job lot from some virtual packager.

    • Glad you found it useful! Social media can be so overwhelming, if one lets it. And you said it best–we really need to be getting on with writing the next book above all else.

      Thanks for stopping by, and good luck!

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