My publisher did everything she could to drill it into my brain: there’s nothing more important than establishing a platform.
When it comes to creating a literary presence, your platform is everything. Without a presence on social media, how could I possibly expect to sell any books? I took her word for it, even as I wondered how Stephen King and the like managed to get the word out a mere 30 years ago with no help from the Internet.
Literary agents won’t touch a new author with a ten-foot pole unless he has established a platform. It’s quite the catch-22. No presence, no agent. But there very reason to hire an agent is to help establish presence. It makes your head spin.
Still, I listen to the advice of those more experienced. I’ve spent considerable amounts of time trying to establish an online platform, with varying degrees of success.
I pick up followers on WordPress, Twitter, and Instagram at a slow but steady pace. And let’s face it: I’m a nobody from Nowhere. It would be unrealistic to expect some kind of meteoric rise.
My biggest presence is on Facebook., where I have two pages. One is personal, which tracks my day-to-day happenings. I’ve somehow managed to draw some 4,600 friends there. Considering the limit is 5,000, I have to express a certain amount of pride.
A year or so before my book was published, I created a page based around it. At first I called it I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This, after the book’s title. In time, however, I came to realize the page was moving beyond the book itself. Music, after all, never stops. So I changed the page’s name to CirdecSongs, like all my other sites.
My friend Erik Oldman, guitarist for metal/fusion band Sons of Ra, told me the magic number for followers on such a specialized page was 2,000. Hitting that number opened up new possibilities, he said. You’re nowhere near your potential until you have 2,000 followers.
Made sense to me.
Facebook’s “pages” feature prominently displays your number of followers. So imagine my excitement this past spring when I saw my number reach 1,960. I was getting close. I put out an appeal for a few more clicks on my personal page. The number swelled mildly to 1,980. And now I’m at 1,962.
Say what now?
Not only have I not hit the magic number, I’m actually going backward. What the hell is going on? I can’t say for certain, but I’ve narrowed it down to three possibilities:
1. I’m doing it wrong. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know enough about social media and how the algorithms work. Clearly, this is something I need to study. Initially, I reserved my CirdecSongs for music-oriented topics, period. Then my part-time social media consultant (aka my teenage daughter) said that approach was boring. She said people want to know about you in other contexts. So I slipped in bits of “food porn,” mentioned when I was on the road, and connected my page to my Instagram, which could go just about anywhere. That seemed to work for a bit. Now I’m stalled.
2. The Ban, the Temporary Lift, and the Backlash. When I started the CirdecSongs page, I made it clear that there would be no discussion of politics or religion. The irony of music frequently being a vehicle for those very topics was not lost on me. Still, it was a slippery slope, and one I didn’t want to find myself falling to the bottom of. It’s not that I lacked the courage of my convictions. I lacked the time to sit around arguing about them.
A music journalist I admire told me privately that I should speak out more about social injustice. While I didn’t disagree with him, I also knew I was nowhere near as established as he was. My time hadn’t come yet. Oddly, that same journalist blocked me from his platforms earlier this year. Absolutely nothing led to this event. One day, I was an avid follower singing his praises. The next, I was blocked. I’m guessing my career in law enforcement had something to do with it, as he was severing pretty much anything perceived as “right-wing” from his world. He’s free to do what he wants, of course. I only wish he had talked to me first.
I did my best to maintain my page’s relative objectivity. The George Floyd incident, however, was too much for me to bear. I had to speak out and make it clear I was not the type of cop who would do such a thing, and I would not support any cop who did. Nor would I vote for anyone not interested in the advancement of social change. I also suggested that anyone having a problem with my stance was free to unfollow me. A few people took me up on that offer.
One follower took the time to DM me to tell me he was leaving, and why. He became even more furious with me when I made it clear I wasn’t going to argue about it. I simply wished him “adieu,” and went about my life. I make no apologies for my stance. The elimination of those people simply made room for others. Breaking my most sacred rule by opening my mouth may have cost me. So be it.
3. I haven’t ponied up. Facebook is happy to maintain the CirdecSongs page. But they have also made it clear that I can increase my presence by paying to reach further into their world. To date, I have declined. That may be a mistake. Investors and real estate barons often say, “You have to spend money to make money.” I don’t know why I thought my page would be any exception. Clearly, it isn’t. The fact my “likes” and comments seem to come from the same people should’ve been a huge hint early on. Alas, the Hendrix Stubborn Streak runs deep. And now that music and journalism are a full-time part of my world, it’s well past time to rethink my position. I suppose I’ll do what I have/need to do.
When it comes to building a platform, I have a lot to learn. Every success is celebrated. Every mistake is a learning experience. Here’s hoping by the end of the year I can make my way through that magic barrier, and good things await me on the other side.
You can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently at work on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell.
It’s also possible that when FB from time to time removes millions of spurious users and bots, scouring the web from Moldova and Indonesia, they cut into your followers a bit. I also wouldn’t buy their ads – at base, FB is a criminal organization running a kind of addiction business. If you buy ads you’ll initially get some more hits but they’re unlikely to be genuine and then you’re stuck in a loop where you have to keep buying more and more ads just to avoid going backwards. My 2 cents, and I’m very biased. I stopped posting on my New York People And Places photography page about 2 years ago. I continue to get wholly spurious new followers, saying, Hi, to me almost every day from places like Nigeria and Malaysia. It’s a shell game.
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If you’ve been reading my Crotchety Man posts you will know that I deleted my Facebook account in July. Why anyone would be on Facebook is, quite frankly, beyond me. It’s unattractive, complicated and irritating. But the worst thing about it is that it insists on inserting adverts everywhere. I wouldn’t care so much if the ads were of some interest to me, but they’re not. I wouldn’t mind so much if the ads were unobtrusive, but they’re not – in fact, they are carefully designed to draw your attention away from the posts you were planning to read. Perhaps some of those disappearing followers are just fed up with Facebook. I doubt if it’s anything to do with your ban on politics and religion.
If I were you I’d just keep on being Cedric Hendrix. Let your personality do the talking. I’m sure the rewards will come in time.
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I agree with stoneyfish above…I know of several folks who have deep-sixed Facebook due to multiple reasons with the tensions over the past 6 months or so really wrecking havoc on content…face it…FB has turned into a place where people dump their political views / opinions far too often…I can’t believe this platform will continue to prosper and grow with a growing number of dissenters…it’s better off that you find a place NOW where your readers can enjoy your content without all the BS distractions.
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I call Facebook “Old People with an Axe to Grind.” I’d bail, too, but that’s where the overwhelming majority of my followers are. There’s no getting around it. So I’m stuck. For now.
I left Facebook quite a while ago for a variety of reasons, but when I did have an account there, I had a couple of art pages (I’m an artist). I did, on the last one, pay for a few ads – not a huge amount of money as you can set a limit and stick within it, but really that didn’t help because of how Facebook works – they still didn’t show my page to enough people for it to make a difference.
Blogging is probably also not the way to do it, UNLESS you can invest a lot of time and energy to be more personal. I’ve been blogging – on various sites – since 2004 and if there’s one thing I know its that the more you can comment in other people’s blogs (as yourself, not as your ‘work persona’ all assuming they are different) and get to know them, they more they will be interested in anything you produce, whether it’s a book, a painting or a plate of food. You don’t have to put forth your political or religious views, or write about anything you wouldn’t normally, you just have to be yourself.
I personally think that right now, with the pandemic going on and all the other stuff in the world – including riots, fires, and your country’s coming election – nothing is going to to be working very well in the creative sphere because apart from using it to help people take their minds off their woes, it’s really not being regarded as terribly important. That’s sad, but I think it’s true.
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