Archive for the ‘marketing’ category

Why I added Bradley Dalton to my Twitter spammer list

October 13th, 2010

On 10/13/10 7:36 AM, Bradley Dalton wrote:

Hi.  Thank you for your question.  I don’t know which account you control.  What likely happened is the following:

You followed one of the five accounts I control.  (@purplepopple , @ozziesport are the two most likely culprits.)   I looked at the e-mail that notified me of your follow.

I likely looked at how many people you followed.  If you followed more than 1,000 people, the chances of you reading my Twitter stream was minimal.  People with more than 1,000 people they follow who continue to follow tend to be what I characterize as Twitter spammers.  They follow people with the hopes of getting follows  back where the person they follow will read their Twitter stream.  This makes a person a spammer: They are sending unsolicited requests to strangers, using a medium that has social pressures that tend to demand that you follow back in order to be nice. They don’t offer anything in return (what did you offer me?) that the person being followed would find valuable.  (I’m not interested in Viagra either)

I’ve heard arguments this type of follow isn’t spam because the person being followed doesn’t have to return the follow.  That’s bullshit in a social world.  It wouldn’t be spam if the person who initiated the follow sequence first decided to add the person to a list.  There isn’t social pressure to reciprocate by adding a person back to their own list.  They also don’t get return follows.

Having too many followers to actually follow wouldn’t be problematic.  Another way to get around spam following when you have a huge number of followers to the point where you can’t keep up with them but still want to follow is to engage them.  If, instead of following first, you had engaged me in dialog so that I’d want to follow you as clearly established that you wanted to  engage with me, were interested in what I was doing and offered me some value, I would likely follow you and then your return follow isn’t spamming… but rather follows the social norms of the community.

Now, as I don’t know your account situation, I might have added you to a spammer list for another reason.  That reason would involve having on your Twitter stream a statement like “Get 100 Twitter followers”.  If that’s the case, it demonstrates some one is not interested in providing value to the people they follow but instead are interested in improving a meaningless metric: Number of followers.

I hope that answers your question.  I would be happy to remove you from that list if you could offer me a clear and coherent rational for why, using my own definition for what a Twitter spammer is, you are not a Twitter spammer.  I love Twitter.  I’d love it more if people weren’t constantly sending Twitter follow spam and obsessing over the number of followers.

Geolocation based search

May 15th, 2010

I’ve been kind of neglectful at Fan History of late.  A lot of this is because I’ve started a research degree focusing on sports fandom in Australia.  One of my interests has been Foursquare, because by watching sports venues, you can get an idea of geographic patterns in a fan community, see mobile phone penetration and kind of gauge the size of a fandom.  There are some really interesting patterns that I’ve begun to explore on Ozzie Sport.

Sites like Foursquare make the geographic component of online activity more important than ever before.  As more and more local businesses get online, finding relevant content so you can find a business near you grows more important.  This also applies to fandom: We want to find like minded fans in our area so that we can make new friends where we’ll have the chance to meet and maybe get together for a hot chocolate and discuss the newest episode of Survivor.  Or maybe, you can find a real time gathering of Twilight fans who are going to see a movie together.  That way, you don’t need to see it alone and can do a lot of squeeing over it with people who will appreciate your love of the books and movies.  If you’re a sports fan, sites like Foursquare can help you find local fans.  You can make the link to their Twitter account or their Facebook account, see if they are some one who seems like they share other interests with you… and if you’re both regularly attending games, then maybe you can find a new friend to go matches with.  Or if you’re a sports team, maybe you can use location services to see what you’re fans are saying about the venue and issues like parking or restrooms, and then figure out how to address these in real time.

Most of the time when people want to search, they go to Google. …  Or these days, they search on Twitter.  For location based search, these can be problematic.  Doing a search for “Harry Potter” fans Canberra is not likely to pull up relevant and timely results.  You can sort of do that sort of searching for events on Facebook or but searching those limits the results to pages on their sites.  One site working to try to address the problems in location search is  They’ve currently got search on for a couple of major cities.  (Sadly, none in Australia or I’d be all about using them on in order to get additional data.)  It is pretty cool in the bits that I’ve looked at.  If I want to see what Chicago folks are saying about the Blackhawks, it is pretty easy.  (And I shouldn’t have to worry about as much spam, unless it is originating from Chicago based spammers.  I also don’t have to worry about what San Jose fans are saying about the Blackhawks, because who wants to worry about another team’s fans raining on my love parade?)  If you get the chance, it is worth checking out.  There is some room for improvement as I can’t easily find links to the originating tweets and what content they do search is a bit limited, but the potential is there.

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this post.  One of the people involved with the company asked me if I might promote it and  as I like to promote things that I see as interesting and relevant to fandom, I’m happy to do that.

Fandom history then and now

February 25th, 2010

During 2006 and 2007, I had several conversations with people where I said that the model of fandom developed online from 1998 to 2006 was fundamentally dead.  The major changes for this involved shifting business strategies, strategies that required content creators to actively engage and develop their fan bases as they had never done before.  You couldn’t risk shutting down whole sites or categories on a site with a cease and desist letter. The impact would be negative and newsworthy.  Fans would rally to protest such actions if taken on any scale and the demographics of fan communities had changed so that content creators couldn’t assume that fans would do anything to avoid going to court.

To counter fannish usurpation of their branding, message and ability to market themselves, I predicted increased engagement as a form of control  Why use legalities to shut down conversation when you can channel the message, host the content, define the rules, use other forms of media to help define a fan community to better build your brand?  It was the logical business decision, and one that content creators have slowly adopted.

The net result of this shift includes an increased speed in terms of how fast fandom moves, a diffusion of power structure in fan based communities, breaking down barriers between creators and fans as each use each other for their own purposes, and an overall blurring of the lines between entertainment/general popular culture fans and more hard core fandom. At the same time, as business models change, technology and how people interact with it are changing.  Things that were once very hard to access are becoming more readily accessible.

There are just a lot of changes that are happening really, really fast.  It can and does often feel overwhelming.  (And then, today, Ozzie Guillen got on Twitter.)

There feel like a lot more choices in what to be fannish about.  Television for example is no longer limited in the United States to the major networks in order to get original programming.  It also isn’t limited to premium, pay extra for a station original programming for original dramatic and comedic television.  Increasingly, “cable” stations are creating their own original programming.  If a show is bumped from network television, some networks are picking these shows up.   Added to this confusion of more original programming, it is easier to access original content from other countries and countries that don’t speak English.  Consumers aren’t limited to expensive imports on VHS.  The prices have dropped and getting things on DVD is really easy.  BitTorrents are another option.  YouTube is another place to find that content.  It is easier to make friends with some one across the globe who might share their interests with others.  (I introduced an Australian friend to Kings.  Then, two days later, the announcement that the show was canceled hit.)  This wasn’t the case even five years ago.

Content producers are accessible like never before and they aren’t afraid to try to manipulate fans for various reasons.  Heck, there are currently several projects out there which seek to use fandom to crowdsource the funding of movies or crowdsource the writing of scripts.  Crowdsourcing is becoming more and more frequent.  It just doesn’t begin to compare to the engagement of content producers.  They will interact with fans on Twitter, create fan pages on Twitter, set up contests, solicit fans for ideas, comment on their own performance.   They have blogs.  they answer e-mails. They publicly thank fans for their support online and off, and have been known to name fans by name.  Gone are apparently the days of jms where content producers were afraid to engage fans like that.  People seeking book deals model that behavior to develop their own fan bases because a large fan base can help you get published as publishers know you have a built in audience.

The media is also increasingly engaging fans.  (Even as some are trying to disengage from companies like Google to better lock their content.)  They haven’t been as active in trying to get copyrighted material removed from fansites.  They engage with fans on Twitter, create Facebook fan pages, encourage people to comment, create official accounts on services like Buzz and Google Wave.  They will promote fansites, treating them as a normal part of the discourse involving a movie or show to the point where movie and television show and now used interchangeably with the term fandom.  The media distinction for media fandom between super fans and passive consumers of a product is eroding.  Media access to the power players, what the media has to say as a result of those connection has a greater impact on wider fandom than ever before because the information isn’t just consumed by hard core players who can act on it but an increasingly activist traditionally passive consumer base.  Knowledge gained from the media, easy access to power players on social media and media willing to give serious, non-demeaning attention to fan activism is a  new cycle that begets real results.  It makes it easier to participate in because the barriers are fewer and there are fewer barriers for passive consumer to become small time activists.

The acceptance of fandom, especially around anime, television, sports, video games, movie, theater and actors, has made it easier for fans to bring their friends and family into the community; spaces are harder to define as purely fannish, business or professional.  (Even content creators are breaking these barriers.  It isn’t just fans.)  It isn’t something you need to keep as in the closet as you once had to.  One of the results of this is that the size of fannish communities are exploding: A community that might once have had 500 people may now have 50,000 people.  As a consequence, personal interaction and the development of purely fannish relationships can be harder to make and we fall more into regional patterns again, where were assign greater value to the people online that we can and have met in person.  (It is like fandom during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.)  This can and does lead to a diffusion of fannish activity as people try to make their experiences manageable and not overwhelming while still maintaining that identity as part of a larger group.

When there is a larger group identity, it can be more powerful than it ever was before.  Fans can get together and run a fan run convention with budgets of a hundred thousand dollars.  Fans are networked enough so that they can raise large amounts of money for charity efforts when things that impact our greater society happen.   (Just look at how they responded to Haiti.)  The amount of money that fans are capable of raising in a short time period is like nothing that fans could do even four years ago.  They might have been able to raise $250,000 before but it might have taken them several years to accomplish that.  If their community has the right connections, it could just take a few days.

Scale and size and eroding boundaries boundaries between traditional components of fandom have fundamentally changed definitions of fandom. Things have been sped up.  The amount of communities is huge.  The amount of activity is insane and trying to quantify and qualify what type of activity that is has become increasingly difficult.

In short, we really need to begin to get a grasp on this and document it for the sake of fandom history.  On the other hand, this is just overwhelming in the extreme.  As a fan historian, who likes to document some things happening in the hear and now, it is discouraging.  There is just so much data that it is hard to process. I’m overwhelmed at how to document the then and document the now. I know what’s going on but all that’s going on makes it hard to find a starting point.


How accurate are RapLeaf’s numbers? Can social media metrics be trusted for fandom studies?

January 10th, 2010

Yesterday, I was poking around the Internet to see if anyone had done any large scale demographic study of the characteristics of online fandom because sometimes, I feel like I’m the only person doing this. Most of the research I see relies heavily on survey work, which can be tremendously self selecting in terms of population. As a result, I tend to be generally distrustful of this work for demographic analysis or where it doesn’t speak to a small select population and isn’t a case study.

I did find one small study posted on Scribd titled Study on Sports Fans Demographics on Social Networks.  It was done by RapLeaf.  It had some interesting conclusions like half of hockey fans are female, compared to 40% for basketball and 35% for baseball.  It also concluded that 85% of sports fans are under the age of 35.  Fascinating.   They didn’t go much into their methodology much, beyond that they did this across social networks.

I’m rather skeptical of RapLeaf’s methodology here.  If I go to Facebook’s advertising demographics page, I get 26,240 female fans on ice hockey in the United States and 61,420 male fans of ice hockey in the United States.  (Ice hockey being necessary because in some countries, the hockey means field hockey.  In others, it means roller hockey.)  For the Chicago Blackhawks, 135,000 (55%)  fans are male and 112,00 (45%) are female.    For the Boston Bruins, 33,780 fans are female and 56,740 fans are male.  These numbers are a bit different than 50% and I’m not sure all the major social networks combined are going to get populations larger than Facebook.

Are there more than 90,000 American ice hockey fans on bebo, LiveJournal, LinkedIn, blogger, Quizilla, MySpace?  Are there more than 243,000 fans of the Blackhawks on those networks when combined?  Maybe but I some how doubt it.

Quantcast has some demographic data up regarding gender breakdown of visitors to the NHL’s website.  Quantcast thinks that 59% of the visitors are male and 41% are female.  That’s much more in line with what the team specific data from Facebook is pulling.  The NHL also has a much bigger contributor pool, with about 2.1 million US visitors a month.

If you look on RapLeaf’s site, they give you a sample report for the data they provide, which includes a gender break down for users of various social networks.  One of the sites they offer a gender breakdown for is LiveJournal.  LiveJournal does have a gender field for its users to fill out and they use this information internally; there is no public display.  In fact, when they it looked like they might have made that information public, people complained loudly.  There are no indications from RapLeaf’s site that they have a partnership with networks like LiveJournal or LinkedIn where they are given access to this non-public data.   Where exactly are they pulling that data from?  It really begs the question of accuracy of RapLeaf’s numbers in this case.

I’d love to see a real demographic study about the composition of sports fandom and other fan communities.  It is a fascinating topic and can really go a long ways towards explaining how communities interact with each other, how they function and allow researchers to make better comparisons across communities.  I’m just not certain that the social media metrics provided by marketers, the only population that really seems to be working on this, can be trusted with their numbers any more than academic researchers with self selection survey populations can.

Today’s spam follow loser is @LtGenPanda

December 30th, 2009

I’ve blogged about it before but I need to do it again. If you have more than 1,000 followers, do not follow me first unless you have a good reason and are willing to communicate with me. Otherwise, you are just a spam follower, trying to get me to follow you to help your numbers. You’re never going to read me and you offer me nothing back. You’re a Twitter follow spammer.

Who ever told you that your followers have value ($35,000 in sales for every 2,000 followers) needs to be beaten upside the head and then Twitter’s founders need to tell you to stop it because you’re going to turn them in to the next MySpace. Stop it. They are wrong.  Those Twitter followers only have value if people follow YOU first.

Today’s Twitter follow spammer is @LtGenPanda.  They have 25,000 followers and follow as many.  Yet, this particular Twitter follow spammer loser continues to follow others. He offers nothing in return (aside from his complaints about his Twitter client) and won’t ever communicate with me.  He appears to have no common interests to imply why he would follow.  (Except maybe we’re both in the Chicago area.)

@LtGenPanda, stop the Twitter follow spam.  If you really are interested in people, add them to lists… you know, so you can actually read those people you find interesting and not burden those of us who don’t want to have some sort of implied relationship back with you.

Today’s Twitter Follow Spammer is @StreetKingEnt

December 18th, 2009

In my continuing saga of pointing out Twitter follow spammers, today’s follow spammer is @StreetKingEnt. Like our previous Twitter follow spammers, this one has thousands of followers: 47839 followers to be exact. He follows 48054 people, or did when he followed one of the three Fan History accounts he followed.

Street King is now spamming you!

Unsurprising: He didn’t add any of the accounts he followed to lists.  He’s never going to read any of these accounts because two haven’t tweeted in at least six months.  The other one he followed has been busy tweeting about the problems of Twitter follow spammers.  He’s not selective.  He’s just gaming the system for autofollows to improve his follow count.  He’s never RTed fanhistory, never mentioned us, is never going to interact with us, isn’t offering content that we’re going to read, etc.  All he needs is those two dead accounts to have autofollow on and he wins.

Twitter needs to take action to stop this follow spam.  If you have over 2,000 followers, Twitter needs to ban you from following people first. 

Minor league teams and their use of social media

October 21st, 2009

How are minor league teams leveraging social media?  This is my perception of that and is based on an e-mail I wrote.  It has been altered slightly to make it more a blog post.

From the teams I am familiar with, as a fan and having talked to some people involved with local teams, the emphasis when it comes to online presence is e-mail marketing.  They get people to subscribe to their announcement lists when they buy tickets online, do post game follow ups with people who attended to ask them to attend another game or survey their experience at the game.  That’s really good with soliciting feedback, and getting people who just saw a game to commit seeing another one.

When it comes to e-mail marketing, some teams are more successful than others.  Not all are as compliant as they could be in regards to US laws regarding CAN-SPAM.  One team does not make their e-mails that viewable for people who don’t view images with e-mail; their e-mail announcements to subscribers contain just one big image.

Many teams use Twitter.  The Chicago Red Stars, a local Chicago team in the women’s professional soccer league, live tweet their games.  They also @ reply to people who mention them, often mentioning deals on ticket packs.  Other teams are doing similar strategies with Twitter.  The teams with a better, comprehensive social media strategy are duplicating or promoting the content from their other online presences on Twitter: They link to YouTube, Facebook, what their players are doing in the blogosphere, encouraging people to follow players.

Teams use YouTube to brand themselves.  They have their own channels where there are interviews with players, clips from games, clips from television coverage of their team, commercials for the team, advertisements for team apparel, etc. The teams most successfully leveraging this space are ones that have detailed descriptions on their videos with keywords that will attract a wider audience.  (YouTube is the second or third largest search engine out there in terms of volume of search.)

Facebook Fan Pages are also a popular tool used by teams.  They have some content duplication with Twitter and Facebook but other content too.   They mention training camps, opportunities to meet with the team during the off season, information on player signing.  They talk about what players are doing during the off season, like playing for the national team or training/playing with other clubs.  They might give health updates.  They mention changes in the front office and other news around the league.  They link to blog posts that

Teams are still using MySpace.  (Facebook hasn’t killed it and the demographics for the site are different for both the US and Australia.  It is the 13th most popular site in Australia.)  Most of the updates that teams do are blog entries.  Some of these are press releases.  They are also using the space to upload videos and photos, sharing the same content from Facebook and YouTube.  The better teams are making sure there is some original content on each network they use.

Some minor league teams are also creating, or their fans create, a presence on LinkedIn in order to network.  The level of activity on these networks tends to be smaller.  The goal is to allow fans to network.   These groups tend to be smaller.

Those five networks, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn, tend to be where most teams place an emphasis.  It makes sense as these are the most main stream places to capitalize on the largest audience.  People on those sites, with the exception of LinkedIn, tend to expect that there will be a presence for those teams.  There are several networks that aren’t being leveraged that teams should consider and that they may not because most social media people define those places as the Internet and stop. These networks include Flickr, LiveJournal, bebo, Ning, orkut and  Each has advantages that an online presence can help.

The teams that are most successful in using those networks are ones there they have the same style of writing across all their networks: Professional and friendly.  Teams that are successfully using social media to attract and keep an audience that they want to convert into regular attendees to matches also brand their logos and colors consistently across the different platforms they use.  If they can’t use their own background, like the case for Facebook and LinkedIn, the accounts have their own logos showing for all posts they make and wherever else they can brand.  Teams successfully using social media are also updating regularly, even during the off season.  There is generally new content on all their networks at least once a week, if not more.  Those three things are important: Consistent writing style, consistent branding and regular updates.

Fan Fiction’s Predictive Value for Nielsen Ratings

September 25th, 2009

On January 15, 2009, CSI had one of its highest rated episodes all season.  On that day, people published 26 new pieces of fan fiction, the most stories posted on the same day as an episode had aired. On September 25, 2008, CSI had it third lowest ratings day all season and people posted zero new stories on that date.

Fan fiction is a really popular outlet for fan expression of interest in television shows.  The stories are creative, explore plot lines in the show and, according to many fans, help market a series in a positive way.  Fans often argue that their activities mirror larger interest in a show, and that producers should pay more attention to them and cater to their fannish interests as the example provided seems to demonstrate.  Fan Fiction’s Predictive Value for Nielsen Ratings tests this fan theory and answers the question: Does the volume of fan fiction published in the period around when an episode airs correlate to Nielsen Ratings?

To answer this question, fan fiction daily posting stats were gathered for the one week period around television shows where fan fiction communities existed and Nielsen Ratings were available for that show.  The fan fiction data was compiled from six archives: FanFiction.Net,, FanWorks.Org, FicWad, SkyHawke, and Freedom of Speech Fan Fiction.  The Nielsen Ratings data included over 720 episodes representing thirty-nine shows.  Once this data was compiled, it was analyzed using Pearson’s Correlation and linear regression. 

The results confirmed what many fans already suspected: Levels of fan activity, specifically in terms of the production of fan fiction, mirrors interest specific episodes of television.  Fan fiction can be used to predict Nielsen Ratings.  The predictive value is strengthened in several cases when it is broken down by network, genre or specific television show. The best networks for predicting Nielsen Ratings are CBS, The CW, Disney, Fox and USA. Comedy, crime comedy, crime drama, medical comedy and sports drama are the best genres for predicting Nielsen Ratings.  The strongest correlations for  television shows for predicting Nielsen Ratings are Burn Notice, CSI, Eli Stone, Friday Night Lights, Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, Hannah Montana, Heroes, iCarly, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Life, Prison Break, Psych, and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles.

This information is potentially valuable to parties with a vested interest in a television show’s performance.  By analyzing content patterns around periods with high volumes of fan fiction and high Nielsen Ratings, comparing that to periods of low posting volume and lower Nielsen Ratings, producers can make changes to maintain high interest amongst fans.  Non-American television networks and advertisers can better predict how their shows will perform.  This method of analysis can help organizations save money as it is cheaper to monitor and track than other analytic tools.

A copy of Fan Fiction’s Predictive Value for Nielsen Ratings can be found at . The appendix can be found at .

Wiki adminning: Different strategies to deal with conflicts

August 27th, 2009

We’ve been busy watching our recent changes on Fan History. An incident recently came up and we had a fair amount of behind the scenes discussion on how to handle it. After exploring our possible actions, we analyzed where our desires to take these actions came from. They can best be summarized as follows:

  1. Desire to thoroughly document a topic, be completely truthful, provide multiple perspectives and be as unbiased as possible.
  2. Desire to behave ethically, enforce our policies in an ethical and consistent way, and to adhere to the norms of the community of which we are a member.
  3. Desire to avoid drama, possible negative publicity for the wiki, and personal attacks aimed at our admin staff.

This situation is one that many other wikis are likely to deal with. The problem with these motivations is that plan of action for each requires a different response. The plan of actions will have different outcomes when implemented. The desire for the first will almost certainly run afoul of the third one. The desire for the second one could likely piss off both sides who will see you as negating the first one and resulting in the third one not being met. It is a messy situation to be in. When you’re faced with a similar situation, our advice is to write down the pros and cons of implementing a strategy based on each desire. Examine those pros and cons and then implement the solution that will allow you to sleep at night. There is no right answer.

Gaming the Twitter system… or how not to market on Twitter

August 24th, 2009

There are ways to market yourself on Twitter and to market your brand. My preference as a user of Twitter is if I mention a brand, they comment at me. I don’t necessarily want them to follow me with me following them in return. My comment is probably a one off and I likely won’t mention them again. There is no reason to watch me. There is no reason for me to follow them unless I want to get marketed at.

I don’t want random brands commenting at me using @ replies. There was some spammer who was @ replying to lots and lots of people with info on their Blackberry application. The problem? I’ve never mentioned Blackberry on Twitter and I don’t own a Blackberry. That’s really annoying and Twitter should really crack down on those more.

The one that also annoys me is the brand, personal and business, gaming for followers. The most recent one I’ve run across is EcoInteractive. They have something like 64,000 followers. They follow something like 67,000 people. This is some one gaming the system for followers. (I wrote exactly how to do that on this wikiHow article.) (It is a big myth that you get followers because of great content.) EcoInteractive goes around and follows people and hopes that they get follows in return. According to EcoInteractive, this is nominally because of shared interests. When pressed repeatedly on Twitter, EcoInteractive sadly could not come up with a reason why they followed me. I don’t tweet about environmental issues. I’m not interested in following people and don’t follow environmental related Twitter accounts. The lack of being able to point to tweets, blog posts, a website I list relating to that make EcoInteractive’s actions abundantly clear. This is seriously annoying. I get the e-mail that EcoInteractive is now following me. EcoInteractive has so many followers that I clearly won’t be able to establish any sort of relationship with them because EcoInteractive has 67,000 people they watch. Are they EVER going to read my content? No. It isn’t possible to follow that many people and maintain relationships. Does EcoInteractive have a tweet stream that I want to read? No and if they did, I would have followed them to begin with. EcoInteractive is engaging in the wrong sort of brand building. EcoInteractive is engaging in possibly destructive brand building, especially when EcoInteractive can’t articulate why they followed me and when they have so many followers to begin with.

EcoInteractive and others like EcoInteractive are one of the reasons why I like Twitter less and less. I don’t mind being marketed at. But this brand and similar brands don’t give a shit about who they are marketing at just so long as they can improve their metrics. That’s dumb and it isn’t how you market on Twitter because then you piss off people like me and it does more harm to your brand than good.

And frankly, Twitter should start punishing people and brands with over 10,000 followers who are clearly trying to game the system by following others first with the hope of getting an auto follow in return.

Laura’s link building philosophy

July 8th, 2009

I’ve been trying to get some jobs link building of late.  I do a lot of it for Fan History.  I really enjoy the process.  I really enjoy seeing the pay off.  The problem with getting a job link building is that different link builders have different philosophies about how they do it.  Why?  There are many possible paths to success.   My philosophy on how to link build also impacts how I would charge.  Total links doesn’t play in to it for me.  The bigger question is how many pages does the site have that they want to appear in a search engine? 1? 10? 50? 500?  One is really hard. 10 to 50 is less hard. 500 is fairly time consuming.  Thus, if I’m doing link building for you, my ideal way to charge  is a flat rate based around the number of pages you have that you want additional search engine exposure for.

My favorite way of link building involves using OnlyWire.  You use them for free by placing a widget on the site or paying $2.99 a month.  I’ve found it is worth the $2.99.  You just need to register for the accounts to set them up.  Every time I submit a link, I get about 7 to 9 links posted total.  There was ways to do more if you want to verify those submissions.  The more pages you submit using them, the better because it increases your visibility. If there aren’t a huge number of pages, say only 50 pages, the best solution is to time the links out to one a day to five a day.  (If you have several thousand pages, then 50 a day.)  This way when search engines look at your site, they see links continually coming over time.  You’re also less suspetible to a search engine peak followed by a massive fall off if your search engine visits don’t result in organic linking.

(Not all the services that onlywire links to are rel=follow.  Still, links on Twitter are valuable because they appear in search.  Fan History gets around 2 to 15 visits a day from Twitter search.  Links that are rel=nofollow stil have value of creating additional brand awareness.  They are also capable of getting visitors from clickthrough.  It is worth the time to build some of those.)

My second favorite way of link building involves allows you to post to multiple microblogs, blogs and status updates.  This is helpful if you have established accounts with actual followers or friends.  You don’t want to abuse the status updates and microblog updates that often as your network won’t appreciate it.    Most of the links are nofollow but those links could be followed by your friends and followers.  Link building is generally all about search engine placement but you need to remember that getting those links in front of others in different situations could lead to the creation of organic linking that can help your SEO efforts.  The blogging option is best here in some ways.  Yes, there is the issue of content duplication leading to penalty but if you’re not making the same post 50 times, it shouldn’t be that problematic.  (You just shouldn’t post the same content to your own website that you’re posting using this method.)  More of those networks have follow links that microblogs.

After those methods, my next favorite suggestions for link building are finding relevant communities on LiveJournal and InsaneJournal and posting to them.  When you’re doing this, you should always make sure you follow the rules so that your post will stay.  These community posts help with creating brand awareness, getting rel=follow links and getting additional traffic.

After that, my next stop would be AboutUs.  There, I’d fix up the page about the website and get the links changed to rel=follow.  In addition, AboutUs does a fair job in driving some organic traffic.  I’ve found them to be better than Mahalo in that regards.  I’d also put the domain on articles similar to my domain in the appropiate section.  If there is content related to those other sites, I’d insert links on those pages.

I’d then go to SocialMedian and submit a bunch of pages.  They don’t give me much organic traffic because Fan History doesn’t have an audience that meshes particularly well with them.  Still, I’ve found that they work well in this regards.

If I’m doing some topic that is niche related, at this point I start looking for specific sites that cater to that niche that are similar to ones I like that have a fair amount of traffic.  There are niche sites for automobiles, for medicine, for fundraising.  These are where you really work on getting main page links submitted.

The next step really depends on the site in question.  Depending on the type of site, there are a number of places that I would add links to.  They include FanPop, AnimeNewsNetwork, Mahalo, Chickipedia, IMDB, Wikia, and Yahoo!Answers.  I’ve found that these sources can really help with getting organic traffic.   There is some search engine help but this is primarily about getting direct visitors.

After that, I’d go the route of finding relevant blogs and e-mailing (or tweeting at) folks.  I’d explain my site or project to them and ask if they could link to it in a blog post.  There are a lot of really nice people out there who will do that.

If I’m still going, I’d then try submitting to DMOZ and Yahoo’s directory.  Submitting a few doesn’t take much time but they may never add your links so it isn’t a high priority in terms of doing things.

If I’m still going after that, I post on Quizilla.  I start posting to MySpace groups, bebo groups, orkut communities, yuku message boards, etc.  You’ve always got to check the rules involved for that before posting though.

What is not part of my link building philosophy?  Commenting on blogs just to get link bait.  That is a waste of time and effort unless your comment is on point.  (That takes reading the actual post.)  If you sign with the name of your link instead of your real name, you are optimizing around the wrong term and you’re sending a signal to the blogger that you’re commenting spamming/link baiting.  It increases the chances of the comment being deleted.  It isn’t worth the time for a one shot deal.

My philosophy with link building is that you need to behave ethically, follow the rules where you’re link building and try to be a good citizen.

Using Twilight to promote another fandom?

June 30th, 2009

This morning I received an interesting email from one of the fan groups for Fiction Plane, an alt/rock-group which has been around for a number of years of which I am a moderate follower. Fiction Plane opened for The Police on the first half of their world tour in 2007-2008, perhaps not unsurprising given one of the members of the group, Joe Sumner, is Sting‘s son. While that tour did manage to boost their visibility to the public, it didn’t really do much to get them on the charts or bring them widespread success, at least here in the U.S. where they maintain a loyal, but not especially large following.

Well, some fans are trying to think of creative ways to promote them, especially with a new album due out later this year. And what they’re proposing is a campaign to get a Fiction Plane song on the soundtrack for the next Twilight movie, “New Moon”. They’ve created a Facebook page for the campaign as well as having a thread about it on one of the main fan sites.

Undoubtably, the widespread phenomenon that is Twilight brought a big boost to the popularity of the bands featured on the soundtrack of the first movie. When I looked at statistics for the Twilight group earlier this year, many of the most popular artists within that fan community were those featured on the soundtrack album. That said, are the demographics for Twilight compatible really with Fiction Plane fans? I’m not sure. My experience is that FP fans tend to skew older. They’re not so much a band that appeals greatly to the teen, tween, and young adult crowd the way Twilight does. I don’t know that I would hear their music being really compatible on a soundtrack with, say Paramore. But, I could be seriously mistaken on that, so who knows.

I think, more importantly, Fiction Plane fans need to come up with a serious plan if they want to make this happen. An on-line Facebook group isn’t going to do the trick, and as the film is due this November I would have to imagine much of the negotiation for soundtrack music may already be long completed (perhaps they’d be better aiming for “Eclipse”?) Petition drives can be effective but only when well organized and focused on the proper individuals — and truly huge in volume. Big enough to get media coverage. The cynical part of me is far too convinced that getting on the soundtrack for a sure-to-be blockbuster like “New Moon” is something that takes a good deal of record company and corporate dealings and is driven by demographic studies far more than fan-driven efforts. That said, I wish them well — I just hope these fans don’t get too disappointed if they find that a grass roots campaign like this is up against huge entertainment industry hurdles.

SEO advice: Commenting on blogs

June 29th, 2009

This topic came up on and it is a common topic for people looking to improve SEO. It is important to know about because if you’re running a fansite or fan fiction archive and wanting to learn SEO through link building, this method is probably one of the first one’s you’ll see.

Commenting on blogs can help increase your traffic in two ways: 1) Click throughs on your name or from links in your comment. 2) Search engines if the links are not rel=nofollow.  For the second, the advice is that the more you comment on a diverse range of blogs, the more search engine juice you’ll get and the more visits from Google you’ll get.  Bad SEO people encourage you to comment as much as possible where ever the links are rel=follow.  What these bad SEO people fail to tell you is that doing so can actually hurt your SEO because you may end up on blacklist as a spammer.  People report spam to services they use like akismet, disqus, etc.  They develop their own internal blacklists.  Your hard work commenting will go to waste as comments disappear.  You risk worse for your site.

If you want to avoid the possibility of going into a black box because of your commenting, remember the following advice:

1. Read the article that you are responding to and respond accordingly.  Title isn’t enough to demonstrate that.  “This was interesting.  I will read more of your blog.”  is generally a sign that a comment is a spam comment and that you haven”t read the post.  (If you want to say that, e-mail the author of the blog.)
2. Comment once in reply to a particular blog unless you’re willing to do a lot of number 1.  Several comments of  “This is fascinating.  I learned a lot from it.”  That is a great big signal that you’re not reading and you’re spam commenting.
3. Reply with your real name.  If you comment with “Gold 4 Warcraft” instead of “John Doe,” people will REALLY think you’re link baiting/spamming and delete your comments.  If you really want to optimize for “Gold 4 Warcraft,” then blog commenting with that as your name is likely not the SEO method you want.  Comment as if you’re a real person.
4. Watch what referrer you use to visit a blog with rel=follow. An easy way to spot comment spam is if a person self googles to see if their newly created link shows up, if the visit came through Disqus (and has 100 similar comments to their names) or includes SEO or other search terms that indicates that you are looking for a chance to link bait.

If you want to comment for SEO, follow that advice so that your time is not wasted and you don’t get punished for spamming.  If you are paying some one for SEO and they advice blog commenting and don’t follow the above advice, fire them and get your money back.

Disqus spam: One way to identify

May 8th, 2009

I’ve found the niftiest way to identify spam comments on disqus that might otherwise slip through the cracks: Your referrer logs. The comments that are questionable of it they are spam or not, half the time the company or an individual searches for the title of the author with in about 6 hours of the comment being posted. So if you get a comment from Unsecured personal loans or something like that and a person searches “Unsecured personal loans” power by disqus, then the comment is probably spam.

If you’re a marketer and you don’t want your comments identified as spam while engaging in link building activities:

  • make sure your comments address the post that you’re replying to,
  • your comments are in reply to the newest post (rather than a comment three months old), and
  • that you don’t search yourself to find out if that link appears (and then click on the search link to verify).
  • Race!Fail: Search terms generating visits

    March 15th, 2009

    Over at Fan History, we’ve mostly been reading about Race!Fail. Our reading has been helped along because another admin and a contributor have been developing a list of links related to Race!Fail.  I first noticed a few search visits a few days ago as a result of the articles and so I was kind of curious as to what people were interested in Race!Fail as it pertained to Fan History’s content and how they interacted with it.  So we took a poke through Google Analytics and the following table should give you a good idea.  We thought it was interesting.  (Coffeeandink?  Not so interesting.  Patrick Hayden? Much more interested.  Will Shetterly? Not as fascinating as Elizabeth Bear.)

    Fan History's Race!Fail related keywords as of March 15 2009: bear eliazbeth novel race bear poc elizabeth blood and iron   racefail coffeeandink coffeeandink outed elizabeth bear   writing the other   elizabeth bear + racism elizabeth bear cultural appropriation elizabeth bear debate elizabeth bear literary elizabeth bear open apology elizabeth bear other elizabeth bear race elizabeth bear race fail elizabeth bear racism elizabeth bear racist elizabeth bear racist character elizabeth bear wank elizabeth bear writing the other elizabeth bear   blood iron racist elizabeth bear   racism elizabeth bear   racist elizabeth bear   wank elizabeth bear, racism elizabeth bear's racist comments fandom wank elizabeth bear fandom wank race fail fandom wank race fail 09 higher races doctor who wiki kerfuffle doom cultural bear livejournal race wank livejournal racewank neilsen hayden race wank nielsen hayden race fail patrick nielsen hayden bear elizabeth patrick nielsen hayden deleted journal patrick nielsen hayden race fail patrick nielsenhayden wank patrick nielson hayden bear racism race and fandom race fail race fail 09 wank race fail nielsen haydens race fail wiki race fail   + nielsen hayden race in fandom race wank race wank meta livejournal racefail 09 racefail 90 bear racefail fandom wank racefail fandomwank racefail patrick nielsen hayden racefail wank racefail, patrick nielsen hayden racefail/wank09 racewank race-wank racewank 09 racewank 2009 racewank hayden stargate race fail teresa nielsen hayden  teresa nielsen hayden racist teresa patrick race nielsen hayden the doom race wank theresa nielsen hayden race science fiction theresa nielsen-hayden   wiki coffeeandink wiki race fail will grace list wiki will shetterly race fail writing the other elizabeth bear writing the other   elizabeth bear writing the other, elizabeth bear

    The most commonly searched for phrase getting here was Elizabeth Bear Racism.  The most pages per visit?  Race-Wank.  Interesting stuff.

    SEO question: Increased search traffic, fewer pages per visit?

    February 27th, 2009

    I have a question for those who do Search Engine Optimization! If you see your search engine traffic increase, do you tend to see a downturn in the average number of pages visited per visitor?

    It looks like that way for Fan History. Is this normal?

    Templates are not mandatory but blanking is still vandalism…

    February 11th, 2009

    Over on the wiki today, we had a contributor blank a number of articles related to the Rescue Rangers fandom and then set up redirects to the Rangerphiles wikis with an explanation of “Since templates are not mandatory, and the Ranger Wiki carries a lot more information about CDRR fans, I changed this article into a Ranger Wiki redirect.” Needless to say, these edits were immediately rolled back and the contributor was banned.

    Templates on Fan History are NOT mandatory. We use them because we’ve found that they increase the number of contributions that we get. People feel more comfortable editing articles when they have an established framework to contribute to. The templates also help give an idea as to how we organize, what is and isn’t allowed, where emphasis on the wiki is placed. Sometimes, people who know wikis really well come in and remove our template format. So long as they keep the information, that’s fine. The article about Elwin Blaine Coldiron is a great example of that.

    But you cannot just blank an article and say that information is available elsewhere. It doesn’t work like that. Blanking is vandalism. And while YAY! GO YOU! AND YOUR FANDOM’S EFFORTS TO DOCUMENT ITS OWN HISTORY!, that doesn’t mean you can vandalize a wiki, violate its rules in order to promote your own project. And you most certainly can’t use a redirect to try to get our traffic. A redirect should be for wiki articles on our site only. Otherwise, that redirect implies a relationship between our project that doesn’t exist. If you want that, you let us know.

    We have relationships with other sites and other wikis where shared documentation goes on. (Police Wiki is our biggest and most important relationship.) We don’t redirect. We MIRROR content and we have article boxes on top of those articles that say the content is mirrored. We have different audiences, different purposes, different rules… and those mirrored articles are based on a relationship where both wikis are willing to play by the same set of rules for those articles.

    What was done, blanking and redirecting to an off site wiki, amounts to a form of black hat wiki promoting. We normally would probably ban for two weeks. This particular user was banned permanently. He’s edited before. He should know better. And if you want to promote your wiki (or any site for that matter) on Fan History, there are a lot of ways to do that. You can put in a see also section for interwiki links. You can add links in the external links section. You can put an article box on the top, saying that this series of articles is being jointly worked on on Fan History and your wiki. You can cite your own wiki all over the article.

    Templates aren’t mandatory. Promoting your wiki is fine. Citing first hand sources is awesome. But blanking is still vandalism and redirecting is still black hat promoting. Also, it annoys us.

    The market and the medium are NOT separate conversations

    February 10th, 2009

    I occasionally read Anime News Network’s Chicks on Anime because as some one who tries to keep up with fandom, it is helpful to know what is going on in the industry and they discuss topics which are relevant to fan community. Knowing this information, being exposed to the topics discussed there, it makes doing my job at Fan History that much easier and helps to insure that we’re covering things.

    So I read the latest post with some interest. The first part was kind of really disappointing because they had a fansubber involved in their discussion and they totally under utilized that person. It was like one of the panelists, Bamboo, had a set agenda of things that they wanted to say and they weren’t going to let the fansubber get in their way. Fine yeah. Whatever. Disappointing.

    Let’s move on and read the second part and hope it can improve. But nope! Fail. The Sara and Bamboo crap in the first part continued on in to the second part. Only this time? They managed to pull out the offensive with their disconnect. This time, they really managed to piss me off. I don’t know if Sara and Bamboo realize it, but they sound like privileged academic oriented elitists who don’t have to worry about the real world. And when they talk about the anime industry? When most of the consumers of that don’t necessarily fall into that cushy group? When they talk about people who would love to be involved with the industry but can’t because they lack the money? Just ARG! PLEASE SHUT UP AND GO AWAY!

    These two chicks on anime don’t seem to get it: Money and financial compensation do matter to the health of any industry, especially the creative industry. Because, you know, lack of financial compensation means only the elite, those who are financially privileged, can be involved. If you have to worry about where your next paycheck is coming from, if you can’t spend the necessary time to get the training you need, then you don’t have the incentive to produce.

    Trust me. I know this. I’ve seen it happen in fandom often. I’ve also heard about it from my friends who are artists. In the fan fiction community, some of the best authors can’t write as often as their fans would like them to because the authors aren’t getting compensated for their work in any tangible sense other than getting praise and adulation from the fan community. Those that are really, really good at writing, those that want to make a go at it as a career, they have to write original fiction. For most of them, that means loads and loads of marketing of themselves, something that takes time away from writing. And it also means continuing to work because even when they do sell, they don’t make enough to quit their day jobs. It can be stressful to watch, especially when your friends trying to make the leap to professional writing from the working class. That stuff is hard to balance.

    And that’s writing. All you really need there is a basic computer. Forget animation and art. Those require a lot more of a financial commitment. You’ve got to buy a lot of art supplies. You’ve got to buy special computers. You’ve got to buy expensive software. (Or you have to use pirated stuff and hope you don’t get caught.) Money. Money. Money. I know of a few professional artists who are pretty damned good at what they do. It would be fantastic if they could continue to produce more… but you know what? They can’t. Why? They need real jobs in order to pay for their continued involvement in the art community as artists. The lucky ones can stay in industry by working as art teachers. And by art teachers, I mean on the collegiate level. That requires more money as you need a lot of training, including a Masters degree, in order to get to that point.

    Did I mention that it pisses me off, the suggestion that you can remove money and marketing and a discussion about adequate compensation from any discussion about fostering quality in the world of anime? It does. Sara and Bamboo obviously don’t live in a world where the above matters.

    Let’s not forget another piece of underlying subtext to the message that Sara and Bamboo, our lovely chicks on anime, are conveying: Talent is hereditary and doesn’t need to be cultivated. The best artists will naturally emerge and be compensated for it as people recognize their inherent talents.

    WHUT? Also, WHUT? Seriously? Talent is not hereditary. You aren’t born a great artist. There is no genetic gift where you just born a great manga artist or a stupendous animator straight out of the womb. Artists need to practice, to have their inherent talents cultivated. It takes time. Sometimes, that time stretches into years. The time required developing any inherent talent means that they cannot be concerned about making a living because if they have to worry, they can’t produce. They’ll lack the time. Or they’ll be so distracted that when they have the time, they can’t produce their best work as a lot of people just do not work well under pressure. Because who pays the rent for a Room of One’s Own?

    Sara and Bamboo seem like a lot of non-professionals who wrongly make that assumption that talent is inherited and doesn’t require a lot of nurturing and training. Thus, they undermine fair market value because they place art and animation on pedestal. It is something that they hold sacred, where they refuse to place any concrete monetary value on art because how can they fairly value that wonderful work? Of course, this is again based on the assumption that the talented will automatically rise despite their lower class status because our culture inherently recognizes talent and quality.

    What does this mean? Those lovely assumptions that Sara and Bamboo have? It means that we, the consumer, get an inferior product, where the overall quality of what is brought to the market is inferior. Why? Because the only people who can produce are the non-paid hobbyist who labor out of love.

    This attitude in turn has the trickle down effect of hurting the industry as a whole. Why? Because if you refuse to pay for quality work, then the product being brought to market will be inferior which means that consumers are much less likely to purchase it. If that happens, then everyone on down gets hurts. This includes your publishers, your book and DVD sellers, your anime specialty shops, anime conventions, professional bloggers, retail employees, magazine publishers, etc.

    So Chicks on Anime, Bamboo and Sara? Please shut up about that which you don’t know. Money and compensation of artists matters. You can’t separate this from the issue of quality and health in the anime industry. All you’re doing is hurting the rest of us.

    Twitter doesn’t necessarily translate into traffic

    February 7th, 2009

    The conventional wisdom appears to be that the more followers you have, the more traffic you can generate for whatever links you plug on Twitter. (Or the more popular are, the more standing in the community you have, the more important you are. There are a whole slew of reasons to try to get thousands of followers.) It is one of the reasons that our Twitter follow list is so large.

    The conventional wisdom, that Twitter drives traffic, is probably wrong for 95% of all link mentions. The exceptions would include big companies offering deals that you can’t find elsewhere and Internet/real life celebrities who have a large audience of navel gazers.

    Let’s quickly take a look at Fan History’s traffic from Twitter.

    Fan History traffic referred from Twitter

    Our Twitter feed updates automatically up to 10 times an hour when people make edits to the wiki. So far, we have over 7,000 updates. We have over 2,200 followers on Twitter. With this in mind, you’d think we would be getting over 100 visits a day from Twitter. Nope. According to that chart, on a good day, we’re lucky to get over 10 visitors a day.

    Other sites probably have similar issues with Twitter: The site doesn’t generate much traffic for them. The level of interaction probably doesn’t matter much. The frequency of link inclusion doesn’t. Most small sites creating a Twitter presence with the hope of getting traffic from Twitter probably would be better off spending their time elsewhere. What happens on Twitter largely looks like it stays on Twitter.

    Of course, I’d love to be proven wrong. Anyone else, fansite or social media wise, who wants to share their metrics in regards to Twitter is more than welcome to and to explain how they manage to get traffic from Twitter.

    The 2.0 World, and its impact on fandom

    February 4th, 2009

    An interesting new on-line journal launched this month, Live 2.0, which focuses on the changing face of live entertainment: sports, music, theater, etc. The premier edition pointed out how, in our current technological age, so much of where entertainment consumers spend their money and how they spend their money has changed. Stewart Copeland, drummer of The Police, is interviewed in a fascinating look into how the ‘record album’ (or these days more likely the compact disc) has become so inconsequential as compared to the live concert as far as a musician earning his keep. The concert promoter now trumps the record executive. As Copeland points out,

    “The idea of a concert as a catalyst for selling a CD is bass-awkward now. You make a CD and go through all that hassle and give it away, as Madonna has done her deal with not Universal, but Live Nation, and as Prince gave away his album, and as Radiohead [has done]; it’s the other way around now.

    Let’s just make a record so that people will like us and come to the show.”

    The future for a musician is much more in finding a niche market, for the big, big names like U2 are much fewer and far between, and marketing must embrace not just advertising in a few music papers but the internet, television, radio, and even “making sure you get your tune onto Rock Band or Guitar Hero”.

    Russ Stanley, VP of Ticket Service and Client Relations for the San Francisco Giants, is also interviewed and talks about how the team has stayed on top of current trends to successfully market the team and grow ticket sales. “Embrace creative ideas” and “Think Technology” are the first two points raised, showing how simply doing things as had been done in the past no longer works.

    So what does any of this have to do with fandom? Well, think about it. For a very long time, one of the long-standing models of live, in-person fan interaction and communication was the convention. Fans would travel the state, the country, even the world to meet other fans in person to discuss their favorite books, movies, television series, or simply be able to spend a few days with people who shared their interests in parts of fandom, be it slash, fur, science fiction, etc. Beyond these conventions, many of these fans had few ways of interacting beyond letter- and/or fan-zine communications, fanclubs, and other mail-based activities. Conventions have thrived for most of a century, beginning (arguably?) with Philcon in 1936, with few alterations in their models for content, marketing, attendance, and organization.

    And yet, I believe few today would argue with me that the convention as modeled in the past is dying. Hotel costs have skyrocketed, and many such facilities are no longer interested in the business of renting out all of their meeting rooms at a low rate for an entire weekend to a convention when they can fit in 3 or 4 shorter events, weddings, church groups, or what-have-you over the same amount of time, get large catering contracts and other extras out of the deal. The internet has made communicating with other fans of shared interests much simpler and faster, and possible from the comfort of one’s own living room. There’s no need to trek to MediaWest every year to buy the newest fanzines to get your fan-fiction or art fix; there are more stories than anyone could possibly read in a lifetime available on-line. Convention dealers face lower profits due to the availability of much genre merchandise on-line and often at discount prices via ebay, Amazon, and other large vendors. Many smaller, local conventions find themselves suffering and dying out, or at least facing dwindling attendance numbers where only the largest events that offer wide varieties of programming seem to thrive and continue, such as DragonCon or highly commercial events such as those put on by Creation Entertainment. Cosplay and gaming may continue to give members of those fandom interests reasons to continue attending live events, but they are but two parts of a wide spectrum of fandom interests.

    So perhaps it is time for fandom to look towards other models of live interactions and events, such as the BarCamp. Much more interactively generated by “users” (ie, attendees), the BarCamp breaks with the more rigid convention model, can take place in a wider variety of venues (utilizing, say, university facilities or business spaces), and looks for corporate sponsorship to cover costs instead of asking for membership fees from attendees. BarCamps embrace Web 2.0 ideas and technology to stay on top of current trends instead of lagging behind them and clinging to outdated models of interaction. Anyone can start up a BarCamp, and without the high financial burdens or risks involved in even organizing a small convention where hotel blocks must be guaranteed, meeting rooms booked, other conventions attended in order to promote your event, or even guests contracted.

    This is part of why I will be very interested in seeing how Camp Fandom comes together for this year, as a fandom-specific event taking place utilizing the BarCamp model. Will other fandom camps follow, perhaps specific to certain fandoms, genres and interests, just as conventions in the past did? It will be interesting to see.

    What other impacts will the “2.0″ world we live in have on fandom, and how fans consume and interact with our canon sources, be it movies, television, music, sports, etc? These are interesting questions to consider, and I’d be curious to continue this discussion and see what others think. I think we’ve already seen the “niche” market affect media fandom in the sense that we are no longer a world where only Star Trek, Star Wars, and a few other large name fandoms rule fandom-generated content. There are “niche” fandoms for virtually everything these days, and communities for sharing works about them. Even within each individual fandom, like say Harry Potter, there are communities, mailing lists, and fanworks for every sub-interest imaginable: genficcer-only, slash and het pairings of all kinds, AUs, any kink imaginable…you name it. And those involved in large-scale fandom activities such as running multi-fandom archives, conventions, etc, need to be aware of the wide variety of users that are potentially out there beyond what they might be familiar with inside of their own niche, and decide who they wish to serve: only those within their special interest, or the ever-wider world of fandom out there today.

    Fan fiction, social media & chasing the numbers with quality content (Hint: Doesn’t matter)

    February 2nd, 2009

    Writing quality content...Fan fiction in this case isn’t about numbers, or so many people suggest. Social media is. But social media shouldn’t be about numbers. Social media should be about having quality conversations where there is some return that you can measure from that, so numbers shouldn’t matter that much. And the fan fiction community might say it isn’t about numbers but lots of people obsess about the number of readers they have and how they can improve those numbers…

    … and the quest in both social media and the fan fiction community is often characterized by that chase for numbers. The goal is to increase your metrics. More readers. More followers. For fan fiction, that’s measured in hits to your stories. In social media, that is sometimes measured in the number of followers on Twitter. In both cases, the conventional wisdom is that if you provide high value content, quality content, people will discover your work and read more of it. You’ll eventually get more followers on Twitter, become a Big Name Fan or even possibly leverage a book deal drawing on your fan base from your high quality fan fiction. CONTENT! CONTENT! CONTENT! This post on problogger Darren Rowse is just one of literally dozens that suggests that in social media. And in fan fiction communities, just go to almost any community and you’ll see people try to reaffirm that idea. Quality content is king! If you have high value, quality content, people will gravitate towards you! Content! Content! Content is king!

    Except it is not. If you’re chasing numbers, quality matters very little. What actually matters is figuring out how to game the system in a way that is not black hat and that gets results. This is true both with fan fiction and with social media.

    If you want readers for your fan fiction, don’t write Savage Garden hetfic or Wheel of Fortune Pat/Vanna White fan fiction. There isn’t an audience there. (If you do it right, there might be an audience for it that could be leveraged if you can get it to go viral. But there probably is not a large established audience for that.) You write something more popular like say… Twilight, Naruto, High School Musical. You then write popular ships. You feedback popular writers to get great name recognition and feedback lesser known authors to get niche attention. You create a LiveJournal account, a twitter account and possibly a mailing list dedicated to your work. You follow all the cool kids, join the biggest communities and post your stories there. You interact with your readers, participate heavily in meta-discussions, and generally become known for your activity as much if not more so than your fiction. All of that makes your content pretty secondary to what you’re doing story quality-wise. You find other ways to game the system to get readers. You write long serialized stories, which tend to draw more readers and help maintain an audience over an extended period of time. You make sure the story features popular pairings. You link to it in your sig everywhere. You submit it to sites like Fan History and FanworksFinder. You submit your personal fansite to sites like DMOZ, IMDB and FanPop. You find out what days to post to get more traffic. The content is secondary to what you do in order to get readers.

    Social media is pretty much the same way, only with Twitter? It pretty takes much less work than fan fiction in order to get your numbers up. You want to get a lot of followers to the tune of 2,000+ so people will take you seriously as some one who knows what they are doing in social media? First, you find some one who is following a lot of people in a short period of time and then follow everyone who follows them. (Ideal ratio? They are following 4+ for every 1 following them.) Go to Twitterholic and following anyone with 1,000+ followers/following where there is an imbalance with more people the person is following them than people following them because those people are likely trying to inflate their follow count too and are likely to follow back. As you’re doing this, people will start to follow you who are meet those criteria. Follow them and followers who look like auto follows. Make sure you have some content on your account that isn’t obvious spam and update regularly so you don’t totally set off alarm bells. Try for some minimal interaction. You can easily get 2,000 followers a month after starting that. In ramping up those numbers, quality content matters little because the system is built in with a huge number of people also trying to game the system to get followers. Yeah, you can try to produce quality content on Twitter but if your goal is numbers, it isn’t the best and fasted way to improve your metrics at all. Quality content is again secondary to working the system.

    The ideal of quality content leading to followers and readers is a myth. Yes, it can’t hurt… but that would lead to the conclusion that those who have the best talent and produce the highest quality results always come out on top but a quick look at the music, movie, television, acting and book publishing industries would tend to disprove that. Plenty of sub-par product succeeds where quality languishes in obscurity, and promotion tactics (or lack thereof) can often be the reason why. I think a lot of people putting forth this myth assume their content is quality, or they are part of a system that doesn’t want to be honest with how people get ahead with some of these metrics that people value: Follow counts and number of times your story was read.

    Fan History is optimized for strange key phrases… like incest wiki.

    January 9th, 2009

    Over on twitter, I’ve been having some conversations with SEO non-fandom folks about key phrase optimization. The major question I’ve had is would a site rather be optimized to have one keyword as the top search result or ten keywords which appeared as number ten in the search results? The answer tends to be context specific. I’d love to get more opinions on that. What are your thoughts?

    As a result of these conversations, I went looking through Fan History for phrases where we’d been optimized near the top. One phrase that I see about once a day is “incest wiki” which Fan History ranks number 2… right behind Wikipedia. (And ahead of Fandom Wank, and FanLore which are both fandom wikis. And ahead of wikitionary, simple English Wikipedia.) This phrase that we’re optimized for gets us an average of 4 visits a day. (Where the average visitor for that keyphrase visits 2.5 pages per visit.) It isn’t one we were looking for optimization wise but we’ll take it because there is a huge community of incest fan fiction fans around and there have been some large discussions about it that have had an impact on fandom.

    The incest article could use a lot of work because it really isn’t as good as it could be. If you’re knowledgeable about the subject, please contribute.

    Oh people! Fake suicides do not get us what we want…

    January 2nd, 2009

    Yay! for Blizzard! A 17 year old idiot wanted Blizzard to do something for him. When Blizzard wasn’t giving the kid what he wanted, well according to a newpaper report, the kid pretended to be suicidal to further his attempts to get what he wanted.

    Blizzard acted pretty responsibly when they reported the kid. Why take a risk with that? Especially when you’re a corporation? It would be a PR nightmare if the kid actually committed suicide as a result of Blizzard’s inaction. And the police were right on the money to charge the kid. Idiots shouldn’t be rewarded for their stupidity and hopefully this lesson will make others think twice about doing the same thing.

    Related wiki articles: Warcraft.

    Well ouch. MySpace turns super fan unfriendlier…

    December 30th, 2008

    MediaPost is reporting that MySpace has come up with a new way of dealing with infringing fans. Instead of DMCA takedown notices, cease and desist letters, etc., companies can now overlay the content on your MySpace contributions with their own advertisements:

    Once a site publisher enables Auditude, every piece of content gets a unique ID. First, a content owner has to supply Auditude with copies of all content it wants “fingerprinted,” and Auditude adds it to a database. Once deployed on MySpace, for example, the technology can scan every digital file queued for uploading to see if there’s a match within the indexed content. It can then take any action the content company prefers, including blocking the upload. MTV Networks is one of the first entertainment companies to sign up for the MySpace service – and it’s going the ad route for content from BET, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central.

    That kind of sucks the big one. It probably helps explain why MySpace has never really caught on big with hardcore fandom who have instead opted for services like LiveJournal, FaceBook, Quizilla, FanFiction.Net, YouTube, etc. Well, that and a number of teen fandom friends I have music wise were put off when they posted their bandfic, bandslash when they were contacted by people that they characterized as pedophiles.

    That sort of heavy handed tactic could result in a loss of people tuning in to MySpace because it is hugely intrusive and doesn’t offer any form of recourse. (Of course, considering that MySpace offers some unique things that you can’t get elsewhere and a lot of people won’t ever notice that, and it will help MySpace with their revenue stream, I can’t see any change happening to dissuade media companies from responding this way to alleged copyright violations. )

    Generating traffic for your fansite? Use a method that generates positive metrics!

    December 22nd, 2008

    Over the past year, I’ve spent a lot of time learning the ins and outs of generating traffic for websites. A lot of this learning happened because I have some great friends on Twitter, some awesome friends in the wiki community, and met people at two Chicago area barcamps. They’ve given me advice directly, and linked to blogs and sites that give advice. This advice has been one of the major reasons that Fan History has changed the way that we do some of our promotions.

    When you’re generating traffic for a fansite, you should have three goals:

  • Increase repeat visits to your site;
  • Increase the time spent on your site; and
  • Increase the number of pages visited per visit.

    When you’re link building, you want to spend more time on links which will bring in a higher quality visit. Pure visitors are great but they aren’t the most useful metric around. Would you rather get 10,000 visitors who spend 10 seconds on your site and view one page? Or 1,000 visitors who spend 10 minutes on your site and visit 20 pages? The second one is the type of visit that builds value for your fansite. It means people are more likely to come back, more likely to register, more likely to contribute to your site, and more likely to refer people to your site.

    Ever heard of digg? A lot of fandom people I know aren’t that familiar with it but it is a hugely popular site. If you can get your site on the front page of digg, you can probably get in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 40,000 unique visitors. Ever heard of StumbleUpon? More of my fandom friends have. StumbleUpon, if your site is stumbled right, can get you a few hundred visits a day. A lot of fansites would kill for that. (If the increased traffic didn’t kill their sites.) Those stats make it seem like it would be a no brainer: use both to try to increase your traffic! Lots of visitors!

    Another way to generate traffic is by wanking. Make fandom_wank or sf_drama and you can probably see another 1,000 to 3,000 visitors. If you’re linked through metafandom for being controversial, you can expect between 500 and 2,000 visitors depending on how many posts you’re linked on, how controversial you are and what day of the week it is. But like digg and Stumbleupon, these are cheap visits. Most of the visitors you get through wanking are wank navel gazers. They come in, view one page, spend between 10 seconds to 1 minute on your site, then go. They generally don’t repeat. In fact, because of the tie-ins to wank, they are less likely to be repeat visitors than if you had been linked through Digg. This is because your reputation ends up getting smacked around and you become known as a wanker. And once the wank winds down, your traffic levels off to prewank levels. The high in increased visitors doesn’t hold. You’ll get a massive drop off. So using wank to generate traffic, unless you’re specifically running a wank-type site like fandom_wank or EncyclopediaDramatica, isn’t a good idea. It doesn’t help build value by increasing the visits to your site, increasing time spend on the site, or increasing the number of page views per visit. (It is why Fan History mods don’t intentionally go around wanking; it doesn’t help our more important and valuable metrics. Quality over quantity of visits. And when we have wanked, our traffic tends to fall off a cliff about two days after the wank dies down. We’ve known this for over a year now when we first got the numbers to demonstrate it.)

    Want some real numbers for that? Fan History’s numbers:

    Average digg visitor to Fan History views 1.76 pages and spends 35 seconds on the site. Stumblers view an average 2.27 pages per visit and spend 1 minute 25 seconds on the site. It is harder to separate the wank traffic but the metrics are pretty similar because wank happens all over. But we were mentioned on ranty-rie‘s LiveJournal recently. The average visitor viewed one page, spent less than 10 seconds on the site and didn’t come back.

    If you’re trying to build valuable traffic, what are valuable ways to link build to get visitors who come back, spend time on your site and view multiple pages? Personal e-mail. We have a couple of people on hotmail that we’ve e-mailed who ended up spending over an hour on the site and viewed more than 20 pages in their visit. On gmail? The average visitor views 21.77 pages and spends 21 minutes on the site. Positive mentions with attached discussion. Sidewinder blogs about Fan History on her LiveJournal pretty regularly. Our referrers through her? They view 21.5 pages and spend 11 minutes and 52 seconds per visit on average. (And most of them come back and view the site again.) Another good way to get traffic is to link to sites where the sites are small enough to watch and view every referrer. Fan History does that and people who come in with a referrer of a stat counter, they spend nearly 27 minutes on the site and view an average of 20 pages in their visit. Plugs on message boards also work really well if the message is about the site and the comment invites other comments or discussion about the site. We got mentioned on and the average visitor spent 7 minutes on the site and viewed 13 pages.

    What does that mean? You want to build high quality links where you invite people to participate and be involved. You want a link where the discussion, overall, will have a positive tone. Doing that increases the time spent on the site, increases the number of pages viewed per visit and increases the amount of times a visitor visits your site.

    Don’t go for a cheap route of wanking or using services like digg. They don’t help your increase the value in your metrics.

    For information on Fan History’s metrics in general, see Quantcast, Alexa and Compete.

  • Compete.Com… Good but not always accurate

    December 3rd, 2008

    Compete, Alexa and Quantcast are the big three sites in terms of people trying to get a feel for your traffic. They all have varying degrees of accuracy.

    In October 2008, Compete said we got 6,215 unique visitors which, um, no? So off. Quantcast had us at about 33,000. If you estimate just US based traffic (which Compete.Com might be doing), we still had 18,400 or so according to Quantcast. Google Analytics had us getting 34,690 unique visitors and 39,708 visitors during October 2008. Google Analytics said that 21,913 of those visits were from Americans. Both Google and Quantcast’s numbers make sense. (And both pull directly from our site.) Compete.Com just way off.

    Even Alexa in terms of Rank fares better and more accurate when measured against Quantcast. It is off by about 40,000 compared to the 100,000+ that Compete.Com is off.

    Compete continues to be off in other areas. Compete.Com says that the top five phrases driving traffic to Fan History are:

    1. cincoflex
    2. may chang
    3. 373/111
    4. sleeping with the enemy draco hermione
    5. naomi novik astolat

    Er. No. Google Analytics says those searches gave us the following hit totals for October 2008:

    1. cincoflex – 3 visits
    2. may chang – 0 visits
    3. 373/111 – 0 visits
    4. sleeping with the enemy draco hermione – 0 visits
    5. naomi novik astolat – 1 visit

    Google Analytics tells me that the top five search phrases leading to visits for October 2008 actually were:

    1. dbz wiki – 220 visits
    2. sakura lemon – 189 visits
    3. naruto fanfiction – 131 visits
    4. adult fanfiction - 120 visits
    5. cassandra claire – 114 visits

    Compete could mean total searches pulling up Fan History? Maybe? Really, that could be what they say when they talk about keywords driving traffic to our site, searches that people do which pull us up? Probably not but let’s compare to what Google Webmaster Tools says are the top searches pulling us up:

    # % Query Position
    1 11% dbz wiki 5
    2 10% fandom history 2
    3 9% bandflesh 7
    4 8% fan history 2
    5 8% fanhistory 2

    Nope. Nothing on the list that Compete has and Webmaster stats make much more sense there.

    Just not impressed with Compete’s October numbers as I’m waiting to see them update our November numbers.

    Fan History traffic

    November 22nd, 2008

    I haven’t looked at our traffic sources for the main wiki in a while so I thought I would do that today. The following are traffic sources for Fan History on wikis, on social networking and bookmarking sites and other links where the links were added most likely by Fan History admins. (I attempted to remove some of the organic linking.) It doesn’t include all sources. (DMOZ, Yahoo!Groups, etc. were left off but didn’t give much traffic.)

    Fan History Wiki traffic sources

    LiveJournal continues to be a major traffic driver for us. I chatted with another wiki maintainer about this. We’re both LiveJournal users and have been for years. We tend to get trapped into the idea that LiveJournal is the be all, end all of getting traffic. It is a nasty little problem. I think we’re both trying to break it. Still, if you’re on LiveJournal, it isn’t a bad way to generate traffic and improve your SEO.

    AnimeNewsNetwork is our next biggest traffic source. We have a lot of anime and manga related material so this makes sense for us. This source has converted visits to edits a couple of times so happy about that.

    Wikipedia is great if you can get links added. Just don’t get yourself banned for linkspam.

    Wikia has a lot of specific topic wikis which can be a great way to get traffic if your content relates to those wikis. I’ve found if you ask, that can help get those folks to be involved with adding links to your site on those wiki.

    FanPop is great but the traffic that we get from them? It involves about 400 links on their site and it doesn’t necessarily help with SEO. It can be great for you if you’re trying to generate traffic but at the same time, it feels like a lot of work for very little reward.

    FanFiction.Net links are not our additions. Fan History is working on becoming a sort of phone book/directory of everyone in fandom. Given that, people will link to the articles about themselves. I’ve found this to happen the most on LiveJournal, smaller fandom specific message boards and on FanFiction.Net. So if you can get links like those, fantastic. :)

    Twitter links frequently come about from links on our twitter accounts, and on my primary Twitter account. We get the occasional visit from others who link on twitter but not that often. I tend to think that is because we have some content issues. Our content isn’t as comprehensive as it could be… which is a major problem for wikis.

    Yahoo!Answers can be great. It doesn’t take much time and the hits are good. This source, outside of Fan History and Google, tends to be the biggest source of traffic for FanworksFinder. The exposure here tends to be better than FanPop, even though you get fewer hits from it because the potential audience feels a lot bigger.

    IMDB feels like FanPop at times. We have probably 30 links over on IMDB but they don’t get us much traffic. Still, great site to be linked on considering their credibility and the SEO value.

    StumbleUpon is just not something that I’ve ever figured out how to do well. Woe. So we’re just not getting much traffic from it.

    We’re still trying to figure things out in terms of generating traffic with a limited budget and limited time. It is really educational and there are things which I know we could do better. (Get more twitter followers, working on improving our interactions on services like LiveJournal, MySpace, FaceBook by being more interactive. Following up on comments, etc.)

    I’ll close this little summary of our traffic with the following:

    Despite its opponents’ claims that people used the software to post lewd or libelous comments, Third Voice didn’t go down in a lawsuit. The company’s conundrum was much more banal: Third Voice couldn’t generate enough advertising revenue to raise consumers’ awareness of its free service, and it couldn’t generate enough consumer awareness to raise the advertising revenue it needed to stay in business. Third Voice Trails Off…

    Talking about my friend and encouraging her to use social media

    November 19th, 2008

    I love to chat with Angelia Sparrow (wiki). She’s a professional author who writes male/male romance novels and short stories. Her genre isn’t something I would read but our conversations teach me a lot about the publishing industry and the writing process.

    Because I’m a friend (and occasionally a pushy and selfish one at that), I want to help her do well. The best way that I know how I can help her to succeed is to suggest ways to harness social media. She doesn’t always follow my advice because she’s got a family, another job, is trying to write and doesn’t necessarily have the time nor skills to play the social media game effectively in order to do it successfully. She’s also writing for a niche audience that isn’t ever likely to make it possible for her to become the next megahit author. (If she does, I’d be the first to congratulate her.)

    But even with out that, there are a few small things you can do which don’t require much time and effort that can help increase your visibility and she’s done some of them. First, she has a website. It is The site has contests involving her work. These help increase her audience of people who might want free stuff and rewards her fans. She also has a blog which she updates pretty regularly. It includes announcements, reviews, etc. It also has rss feeds. (Hard to believe but some blogs don’t have rss feeds even now.) This means that her new posts show up on rss search engines, on Google’s blog search and Google will regularly check her blog for updates.

    She’s also engaged in social media elsewhere, including on LiveJournal, a blogging community which has a large and active fan fiction community. She’s been there forever. This presence means that she can leverage her fan fiction audience for her non-fan fiction writing. The audience she built through years and years of involvement can be used to help her sell books and her short stories. LiveJournal (wiki) loves to celebrate its fan writers gone professional. Or even its professional authors who just happen to use the service. Plugging your work, asking for help or advice for your work, all of these fit into the culture of LiveJournal’s communities. No one is going to question her doing that. In fact, they are more likely to celebrate it.

    I’m totally in love with twitter so I’ve spent a lot of time badgering my friends to use the service, even as I tell them it isn’t for everyone. Thus, last night I was happy to find out that Angelia Sparrow is on twitter. If you’re a professional author (or even a fan fiction author), twitter can be a great way to connect with your audience, to maintain relationships, to reward fans, to let them know what is going on. Her twitter follow list is small and she could probably do with having a few more replies at people she follows so she utilizes twitter for its strengths more… but that she’s on there? Great. It is another way to connect with her fans. Still, if you’re not looking to spend much time on twitter, what she’s doing is probably the right way to go about it until she has a better reason and more time to engage.

    Another thing she’s doing right (but could probably do better at) is she has a FaceBook page, is planning to create (or has created) a fan page for her work and created an event on FaceBook for her book release. These don’t require much time and effort to maintain if you’re talking about only a small potential pool of interested people. FaceBook has a lot of people on it and you can connect with your personal network of alumni, professional acquaintances, former classmates, friends and fans. Those people are just there. The site might not be intended as a way to create or utilize your fan base but FaceBook gives you the tools to do just that. So use them to do that and connect. And Angelia Sparrow does.

    The one thing that I like when I give advice to Angelia Sparrow is that for her, she’s selling a product: A book or a short story in an anthology. This means that she doesn’t necessarily have to obsess over where her traffic is, how many visitors she gets a day, taking traffic from FaceBook or Twitter and trying to convert those visitors into visitors to her site. And then having to make that sell in terms of clicking on ads or buying services on her site. Analytics aren’t the be all and end all. The end game is using the right social media strategy to help her writing and sell her books. (Which can be bought from a couple of places like her publisher or Amazon.)

    She does what she needs to do. She engages in a way that allows her to make good use of her limited time in her busy life. She connects to her core audience. So while she isn’t a major player in social media, isn’t cutting edge with how to utilize social media to generate sales, she’s still taking the right steps, steps that anyone who is in a similar position should be taking. I don’t think she probably is aware that she’s doing that because I think she’s just doing what feels right for her. Awesome.

    What day is the most popular day to publish Death Note fan fiction?

    November 15th, 2008

    I was looking at the Death Note fan fiction community size article which tracks the number of new stories posted to five different archives. I was curious as to what date of the week was the most popular for posting stories because conventional wisdom is that one of the best days to post fan fiction is Monday or Tuesday because Saturday and Sunday are slow days for getting feedback.

    Average number of stories uploaded by weekday

    In the case of the Death Note fandom, Sunday is the most popular day of the week to upload.  Monday is the next most popular date.  Thursday is the slowest.  … With almost half the average amount of stories that are uploaded on Sunday.  So if you want your story to stand out, it might be best to publish it on Thursday so that the eyes that are there can find your stories amongst the other new stuff.

    Don’t do that! TPTB might find out!

    November 13th, 2008

    I used to read a lot of posts about how certain actions should not be taken lest the powers that be crack down on that fan, and as a consequence, all fans. (And these types of posts still exist.) There was frequently a Chicken Little “The sky is falling!” type pile on when some people were perceived as crossing lines that others felt that would bring down the wrath of others. CousinJean, the Star Wars self published novel, FanLib are three of the more visible examples to parts of the meta community over on LiveJournal.

    And guess what Chicken Littles? The sky never fell. TPTB never unleashed that backlash. That whole exercise appeared to be more about social cohesion in a narrow community of fandom than it was ever about a real potential backlash. None ever happened. For all the talk of OTW creating a legal group because FanLib‘s existence was going to lead to a crack down and fans would need protection? No crackdown. TPTB weren’t going to do it. There was too much of a risk that they would lose in court.

    When I see that argument these days, I really just roll my eyes. “Don’t do that! The Powers That Be MIGHT FIND OUT AND BRING PERIL TO OUR HOBBY!” Yeah. Right. These days, companies and individuals either actively seek to find out what is going on in fandom or hire out to have some one monitor what is going on for them. Your Harry Potter is 10 and doing Snape who is in his 30s fan art that you’ve posted publicly on a social networking site like DeviantART or LiveJournal or InsaneJournal? They know about it. That people are selling their works at conventions, on eBay, auctioning them off for donations to their favorite charities, that people are raising funds and making money in some form off those works? They know all about that too. And they haven’t done anything major about it in a long time.

    So go screaming about how that’s the way things are, that by selling your fanart, the person is going to bring down the wrath of the intellectual property holders down on innocent, non-profiting fans. All you’re doing with that is demonstrating that you’re not cognizant of the existing business climate and its models, of what businesses are doing and affording yourself more privacy than you actually have: TPTB already know.

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