It’s been a pretty great week. My new piece on Colin Kaepernick and the shenanigans EA pulled with him in Madden NFL is finally up, and getting a good response. Kaepernick Derangement Syndrome is a real thing. I don’t understand why people think DM’ing me or commenting on my pieces about him with long screeds that impugn his character and never once mention police brutality is any kind of winning strategy…
My piece on how #RiseAndGrind culture is really a secular prosperity gospel movement got the most attention and some interesting comments. Nevertheless, I’m going to dedicate this week’s discussion entirely to replies to my piece, Getting My Social Media Life in Order. It was overlooked in the face of some of the sexier stuff I posted, but I found the comments really helpful and thought they might be useful to some of you as well.
First off, let me say something I should have said in the piece: I consider Medium a form of social media. It’s the platform I’m having the most success on, and I have no intention of pulling up stops and moving on. It’s going to become more difficult to compete, and I’m still a pretty small fish, but I see a window of opportunity for myself and others. I do think we all have to diversify, though. It’s a crazy out here in these Internet streets. So, I’m going to start branching out more.
In addition, in the piece I mulled over the value of starting an Instagram account, and decided to pull the trigger. I’m still working out my posting strategy, especially for the stories feature. You can find me at www.instagram.com/kitanyaharrison. This was my first post!
Now to the comments:
Art Kavanagh had this suggestion:
If I were going to go back to Facebook, instead of having a page for followers to like, I’d set up a group (e.g. “Kitanya Harrison readers”) and encourage them to join it. That way (I think) there’s a better chance they might actually see whatever you share. As far as I can see, maintaining a Facebook page is a waste of effort.
I think a group is probably a better idea than just a page by itself, and I’m definitely considering it (are any of you guys interested?). I think the issue with Facebook is that it very deliberately killed organic reach to prop up its ad product. The real question for anyone who wants to be successful on Facebook is: what’s your ad budget? For me, it’s $0. I really only share my articles to the page, so it’s not much effort to maintain. I’d have to add more content to the mix to make it valuable, but I’ve decided to backburner it for now.
Jonathan Greene shared the following:
My view on social has changed. I am trying to get rid of it all because once you start that cycle of having to promote your new piece on every network it just takes time away from writing. And also gives you more networks to have to respond to. Comments on Medium, comments on FB, comments on Insta, comments on Twitter. Before you know it you will be spending more time on marketing when those networks are all outside of your control.
For those of you who haven’t seen it, Jonathan wrote a pretty scathing piece about the changes that have been happening at Medium (Terry Masson, you wanted to know more about what’s happening and why it’s upsetting so many users — the article explains a lot). I suppose because I’ve been on the platform seriously since only May and have been having a pretty good run, I’m more optimistic. I’ve also been able to build some relationships with the editors that I know give me a leg up. It also helps that I write things that can get clicks. It’s not deliberate, though, and I think if I ever try to start reaching for clickbait, things will take a downward turn pretty quickly.
I consider promotion part of the job, so that’s what I’m trying to figure out now with social media. I’m not looking to build a massive following — just places where people who might enjoy it can come across my writing, and where I’ll share my thoughts a bit more casually. It takes only one high-value share to change the trajectory of an article, but it has to be somewhere people can see it. I’ve found a way to be responsive to the comments here on Medium without bogging myself down, so I think there are ways to do similar things on other platforms. I’m trying to figure out what works for me, and will probably end up culling the herd when I figure out where the most upside is for me.
Ezinne Ukoha has been on Medium basically since the beginning, so I thought her POV would be especially valuable to you. She also has misgivings about the changes that are happening.
I’ve been writing on Medium since 2013, back when it was “invitation-only” and my friend and dope ass editor had a collection here called “Culture Club” which later became “Those People.” I had just quit my god-awful corporate job and I was finally ready to be a full-time writer.
I did it all for free, although she was kind enough to pay us when she could and that was greatly appreciated.
I was so excited to have a platform for my voice, and I basically used Medium to develop my writing skills, and the payback was the response and encouragement that I got from readers who discovered me.
Back in 2016 — Medium named me one of their “Noteworthy” writers, and that was both awesome and validating. The exposure was amazing, and that’s basically how I grew my number of followers. That, and keeping up the momentum of daily posts.
Medium has been good to me in more ways than one, and I feel like I’ve gotten pretty much all I can in the time that I’ve been here. I expect changes to occur and while I’m not that excited about some of them, it’s just the reminder that nothing good lasts forever, and at some point you have to take the accumulation of your work and figure out how to leverage it on your own terms.
When the program began last August, and I was initially invited to be part of the first batch of paid writers, the feeling of getting a good amount of money for my hard work was beyond words and I will always relish that period.
Now, things are a bit odd, and despite no changes on my end, that flow isn’t consistent and I know it has a lot to do with shit that’s totally out of my control.
That being said, I hear you about making the effort with social media, because I’ve been working hard to do the same. It’s not a natural instinct for me so it’s a learning process.
I’m better than I was a year ago — but I know I need to do more.
I think I got really lucky with the timing of when I decided to take Medium seriously. I may have caught the last bit of that upswing Ezinne is talking about, and I’m holding on for dear life. There’ll still be opportunities, but I think as more established writers with large social media followings come on board, the pickings are going to keep getting slimmer. So much isn’t in our control — that’s the case on all these platforms. They tweak the algorithm, and suddenly your steady income dwindles. At this point, I think for anyone with a smaller following, consistently putting up decent numbers on Medium requires having the editors’ attention — that’s the high-value share. I think it’s worth it to keep posting to try and get it. You probably have much better odds than you will on Twitter, etc.
I understand why building out something where you have more control is more attractive to others, and I’ll probably eventually do the same. No matter how successful a writer becomes, it’s always a battle to produce fresh, interesting material that connects with your audience.
As important as Medium’s editors are, they’re not the be-all-end-all. One of my most successful articles, Alexa is a Fed, got shared a lot and has better numbers than most of the pieces the editors championed, so it’s possible for your work to find an audience. (I think that snappy headline did a lot of the heavy lifting.)
C. M. Barrett raised an important practical question:
The biggest challenge I find is trying to track and analyze all the changes that take place on all social media platforms. If I were rich, I’d hire someone to do this. If I were rich, I might not be writing so much. (I don’t believe this.)
I wonder if there’s a Medium social media publication. It would be so great to have the information that’s doubtless circulating in one central location. and, no, I’m not going to organize it, but if someone does, I promise to be a faithful reader.
The best piece of practical advice I can give to anyone on this point is to follow Gary Vaynerchuk. He’s a social media expert, who produces a lot of useful content. He produces too much content for me to keep up with. (Honestly, I had to stop following him, but I check in from time to time for a refresher.) I discovered Medium through him. A year ago, I was focusing on my fiction writing and spending most of my on Wattpad, which he also recommended. I had some success over there as well, but Medium is a much better fit, because it’s much easier for me to produce high-quality essays than it is to write good fiction. Volume matters. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s only about quality. You have to keep reminding people you’re around. They have too many other choices. Also, unlike most other online venues, on Medium, you can get paid while you build your following. It might not be much, but getting some money for snacks out of it is a win, in my opinion.
Gary is… a lot. And he might rub some of you the wrong way. He’s quite brash. Go into consuming his content focused more on how he uses the different social media platforms strategically. Because of his prominence, he’ll always be in the beta testing of any new feature, so his followers will have a leg up on how to use it. Get ideas for building your own strategy, and tailor it to fit your needs. He also has a search engine where you can look for answers to social media questions he takes on his Q&A show. His book #AskGaryVee might also be a good investment if you’re looking for details on how to think about your social media tactically.
Now that things are stabilizing for me on Medium, I think I might circle back to Wattpad and maybe post a collection of some of my favorite essays.
Marley K. offers what I think is really great advice:
I think the motto is if you don’t adapt to changes in technology (and business) you get left behind. You can leave and go to other platforms, they will eventually change and/or go away too. Nothing stays the same. Not only that, people are fickle. I have been a social entrepreneur for quite sometime, and to put it nicely, there is nothing sexy about what we do. We aren’t giving anything away, and if while there are lots of readers of quality content, there are more readers of trash and it appears social media sites love to promote worthless content. When you got to social media, you’ll be competing with big fish their too.
Not only that, some people don’t want to go all over the place registering to different sites just to find you. I think our readers and writers are very special people. They are the ones bringing us to the big dance. Adapting to change, pleasing your readers, doing what you love and making money is a balancing act. You’re a business, a brand, and a writer, Not just a writer. I think you’ll be fine whatever you do. You just have to decide what type of businesswoman you’re going to evolve into. I enjoy Medium. I left social media to come here. The quality of the engagement is better.
I could never engage on social media like I do here on Medium. Unless it changes drastically, I’m here. Just wished it wasn’t getting so difficult to find my favorite writers.
Everything is changing all the time. It’s what makes life interesting and difficult. I agree wholeheartedly about the quality of the engagement on Medium. My fear is that the trolls that have been nibbling around the edges will fully infiltrate. Most of the “bad” comments I get are low-quality, regurgitated, right-wing talking points. I ignore them. A certain kind of person keeps trying to explain to me why capitalism is infallible. I mostly ignore them too. And the racists who don’t know they’re racists turn up sometimes. I could see it getting to the point where I just don’t want to deal with it anymore, but I’m nowhere near there yet.
I appreciate the quality of the content on Medium. I’ve come across writing that wasn’t for me, but I’ve yet to come across anyone who wasn’t making a genuine effort (I suppose I don’t frequent the topics that encourage lazy listicles). Most of the readers I’ve interacted with on this site appreciate the craft of writing and understand that it takes effort. There also so many people really striving to improve as writers. It’s a great ecosystem in that respect. It’s part of what worries me about Medium becoming overrun with published writers with publicists. Everything changes, though. The celebrities eventually take over every platform. It’s possible for niches to thrive, though, and that’s what I’m hoping I can accomplish on Medium — making an accessible home for my writing where I can make money.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoy what’s coming up next week!