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Tweeting with Zombies

I’m a lucky guy. Although I never received credit (I didn’t have an agent), I was fortunate enough to have done some “script-doctoring” on a few forgettable network TV series back in the 90s. Of course, as a writer, I also had aspirations of penning the next great American novel, or at least one that would be a best-seller. But then Al Gore had to go invent the Internets and I didn’t do much writing for over a decade.

Fast-forward a few years and social media, tablets, e-readers and e-books are changing everything. Indeed, there’s never been a better time to be an aspiring author. You can build an audience on your own, sell directly to your readers and pocket the cash without splitting a penny with a publisher or an agent. As a result, I’ve not only taken the dive back into writing, I’ve become fascinated with how writers are using social media to build their careers (and to sell more books).

In this post, the first in a series about how authors are using social media, I interviewed Jonathan Maberry, author of such zombie brain-feasts as Patient Zero, Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Dead of Night and Wanted Undead or Alive (for more about How Jonathan uses social media and zombies, read the full, extended interview at Addicted to Social Media.com).

Please tell our readers about yourself. Who is Jonathan Maberry?

Zombie Author Jonathan Maberry

I’m a professional writer and part-time writing teacher. I write thrillers, horror novels, post-apocalyptic adventures for teens, movie tie-ins, and short stories. And I freelance for Marvel Comics. I teach a weekly writing class for teens and run a few classes on novel writing for adults.

Before I went full time as an author I had a grab-bag of different jobs. I was a bouncer in a strip club (in my wild youth), a bodyguard in the entertainment industry, a college teacher, the executive director of a writers center, an Expert Witness for the Philadelphia D.A.’s office (for murder trials involving martial arts), and a graphic artist.

I live on Bucks County, Pennsylvania with my wife, Sara Jo.

When, and more importantly, why did you decide to start using social media?

I got involved with message boards early on, but mostly to communicate with like-minded people on subjects that interested me; martial arts, books, film, the paranormal, folklore…things like that.

Then, while teaching a program at the Writers Room in Doylestown, PA, one of my students made a presentation on the subject of a new thing called ‘social media’.  At the time the hot topic was MySpace. I wound up exploring MySpace and then becoming heavily invested in the online community.

That student was Don Lafferty, who is now a publisher, writer and a social media consultant of some note. He frequently advises a number of other successful authors on social media.

What platforms are you on?

I’m all over the place, but I’m most heavily invested in Twitter, Facebook (regular page and group page), LinkedIn, and GoodReads. I rely heavily on Yahoo Groups for my classes and special projects –such as an anthology I’d editing, and we use the message board for posting info, submissions, and so on. I also have a website (www.jonathanmaberry.com), and I belong to Shelfari, LibraryThing, and a bunch of message boards –many of which are connected to writers organizations to which I belong (The Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association, International Thriller Writers, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

For authors, what platforms would you recommend?

The big three are Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. That’s where the crowd hangs out, that’s where they talk, and that’s where the most useful connections are made. I also recommend that all writers join GoodReads and LibraryThing, and also build a website that draws a lot of traffic to one central point.

What’s your social media strategy?

I spend most of my time having fun. I read a lot of the posts other people make, and comment as often as I have something interesting (or funny) to say. I also post a lot of humor. These are dark times, so lightening the mood seems to work. I post links to events and publications by other writers and to items that I feel are of general interest. I’m a science and pop culture geek, so there’s a lot of that in what I post.

So, my strategy is to post positive stuff and generally have fun on the Net.

One thing that has greatly increased the traffic to my platforms and dialed up the volume of interactive posts is to include my readers in my projects. I’ll have contests online for people to name characters (including letting them win the chance to have a character named after them); or to pick the title of my next book; or win something nice like a Kindle or Nook. And, yes, giving out prizes is fun for me, too.

Has social media helped sales? If so, how are you measuring that?

Social media definitely bumps up sales. I see it in the analytics that track click-throughs from newsletters or social media posts to purchase sites like online booksellers.

And with social media I’ve been able to build an international fanbase that I might not otherwise have built. Publishing houses can’t afford to send as many writers on tour these days, and even when they do it’s usually a limited tour.

What kinds of interactions do you see people/fans responding to?

It’s pretty clear to anyone who visits my Twitter or Facebook page that I’m having an enormous amount of fun driving my jet-ski at high speed through the social media seas. Fun is infectious; people want to play with the happy kid in the playground. Try it out. Make a negative post and count the ‘likes’ and reposts then post something fun like a link to a cartoon (I post a ton of cartoons), a fascinating bit of science trivia (zombie ants, for example), praise for someone else’s accomplishments and then see how many MORE hits there are. Positive trumps negative every time.

At the same time I believe that people respond to my integrity. I never bash, never descend to base humor, and I don’t use the Net to proselytize any political agendas. I think that also engenders within them a greater sense of trust in the quality of the products I have on the market. Integrity and good will are hard to fake in anything but the short term, so people who hang out with me online know they’re safe and that something weird or silly is going to happen. We all dig that vibe.

Do you see social media becoming part of the story telling process?

It already is. We use social media to engage interest and to share information. The Net encourages us to get to the heart of our message, and as a result we’ve learned (and continue to learn) how to do that. The 140 character limit on Twitter is brilliant, and the fact that you can post a quick message and a hot link allows people to jump right in.

From a different perspective, some folks are using social media as an actual delivery system for storytelling. The Japanese Twitter novels are an example of that, but that’s been going on for years and I don’t see it catching fire here in the States. That said, I think the door is open for some new kind of multi-platform and interactive storytelling that we haven’t seen yet. I’ll bet money that it will happen. And, yeah, once it’s there I’ll probably experiment with it.

I hear you’re in talks to develop one of your books into a TV series. Do you see social media/Twitter playing a role?

That’s one of those Hollywood horror stories. Sony Pictures had optioned Patient Zero for TV.  They hired Emmy Award winning writer Javier Grillo-Marxuach to do the pilot script, and he nailed it. They brought it to ABC, and we got all the way down to the wire so that it was pretty much a decision between my show and a remake of Charlie’s Angels. And they went with the Angels.

As of now, the option is open again and my agent has been fielding reach-outs from various producers, so we’ll see. We’re all pretty optimistic, however.

Once something does catch fire, social media will be crucial. I’ve seen how that worked for The Walking Dead, a show based on the comics by my friend Robert Kirkman. The production company was all over the Net with that. It was everywhere, and it paid off, because the show was an instant hit as it deserved to be. But without social media buzz, it might have struggled to gain an audience and might not have done so soon enough to get the nod for a second season. Social media greatly helped that show.

Do you think zombies make good tweeters?

They’re relentless and they never tire, so yeah…they’ll be tweeting 24/7 with only a short break for some fresh brains.

Can you recommend any zombie related Twitter accounts, our readers are dying to know (pun intended)?

For more about How Jonathan uses social media and zombies, read the full, extended interview at Addicted to Social Media.com. And if you’d like to read any of Jonathan’s books, click on the links below.

Neal Wiser is the owner of Neal Wiser Consulting, a Digital Marketing consulting firm. You can follow Neal on Twitter (his handle is @NealWiser). Neal is also the Cofounder and Co-host of the Addicted to Social Media Podcast. You can also read more of Neal’s Twitip posts here or on his blog at NealWiser.com.

Twitter’s New Ad System REVEALED

Or, How Twitter Can Make $Billions and $Billions/Year from Ads Alone

For years, people have been offering their opinions on how Twitter should make money. Despite the fact that the company allegedly made $45 million in 2010 and its targeting $150 million this year, those numbers fall far short of the kind of revenues Twitter will need to justify it’s soon to be $8 Billion valuation.

While most industry watchers and armchair quarterbacks point to advertising as the answer, what’s been leaked, rumored, experimented with, experimented with again and announced thus far falls far short of the bold and innovative thinking that spawned Twitter in the first place. If history is any guide, most of those solutions will be viewed as intrusive (remember the Dickbar?), will fail because no one’s considering how users may react and/or will simply not generate enough revenue to satisfy Twitter’s investors anyway. (more…)

Why Twitter Needs Channels

Twitter is a wonderful communications tool and while it does many things really well, there are a few things it doesn’t do so well. One of those things is having discussions about specific topics with specific groups of people. This is often known as a TwitChat.

The Problem

I participate in a number of weekly TwitChats. These TwitChats are often very educational and can be a lot of fun; that is, for the participants. For everyone else, they can be a real hassle.

The problem is that while you’re having a heated debate about the merits of origami (no offense to origami fans), you’re going to have followers who couldn’t care less. Moreover, if you fire off fifty or sixty tweets during an hour long TwiChat, you can really flood some of your follower’s streams. I’ve had plenty of people unfollow me because of this and if you participate in TwitChats, I’m sure you have too. (more…)

4 Reasons Why Twitter Should Buy TweetDeck

Last week, the blogosphere was on fire with reaction to a report by the Wall Street Journal that Twitter is in talks to buy TweetDeck for $50 Million (registration may be required to read the post). The news came as a bit of a surprise as TweetDeck was reported to have struck a deal with UberMedia to acquire the app for $30 Million back in February.

At the time, there was some confusion about the wisdom of the UberMedia deal. Twitter’s response to the announcement was to block UberMedia’s other recently acquired Twitter apps from accessing Twitter’s API. The move was widely viewed as both an overreaction and heavy-handed. Twitter’s justification was that the UberMedia apps had allegedly violated Twitter’s Terms of Service and many TweetDeck users were afraid that TweetDeck was going to be shut down next.

While TweetDeck was not affected by the blockage, a Twitter acquisition could have huge implications for both Twitter’s and TweetDeck’s users. Twitter, which used to be hailed as an example of innovation, has recently been criticized by many “power-users” for its lack of innovation. In comparison to TweetDeck, or other services such as Hootsuite, twitter.com is embarrassingly low-frills and rarely introduces new features. (more…)

An Interview with TweetDeck’s Richard Barley

Richard Barley

Richard Barley

If you use TweetDeck then you may have heard of or met Richard Barley (@richardbarley), TweetDeck’s Community Manager. I first “met” Richard last year when he provided some thoughtful comments to a pair of posts I wrote about TweetDeck, 10 Features I Want to See in TweetDeck and 9 More Features I Want to See in TweetDeck.

I had planned to ask Richard for an interview, but it got put on hold on my end. Finally, after long delay, that interview is here (you can also listen to an extended version of this interview on my podcast, Addicted to Social Media). (more…)

Twitter’s Black Friday Signals an Exit Strategy

Friday, March 11, 2011 was a black day in Twitter history.  On that day, Twitter announced that they don’t want anyone to make any more third-party Twitter clients. While Twitter didn’t say that there couldn’t be any more clients using the Twitter platform (some services would be grandfathered in and all would have to follow a strict code of conduct), but as far as Twitter’s massive eco-system of third-party developers are concerned, the announcement was essentially a cease and desist order.

I’ve previously written about Twitter’s behavior towards its third-party developers and the risks they’re taking if they focus only on developing Twitter-based tools (See Twitter Commits Suicide and Twipocalypse Now). The bottom line is that building a business that is entirely dependent on a single partner isn’t a safe model to follow. (more…)

The End of the 140 Character Tweet and its Repercussions


A note from the Editor: After a too-long haitus, Twitip is back. We’ve got some great posts lined up, and we’re always looking for more. This post by Neal Wiser is the kickoff post to our return to a regular posting schedule. Thank you to all who have stayed with us! – Lara

A few weeks ago, Iain Dodsworth, founder and CEO of TweetDeck, introduced Deck.ly, a new component to TweetDeck that allows users to send tweets greater than 140 characters in length. While exceeding the 140 character limit is controversial to some Twitter purists, other services, such as TwitLonger, do the same. But what makes the Deck.ly move different is that it gives Dodsworth, whose TweetDeck has millions of users, the potential to free TweetDeck from its dependence on Twitter.

Or does it?

On the heels of the Deck.ly announcement, TweetDeck was acquired by UberMedia who already owns several other Twitter apps. Yet almost as soon as UberMedia announced the TweetDeck acquisition, Twitter fired a warning shot across UberMedia’s bow by cutting off access to UberMedia’s Echofon, UberTwitter, Twidroyd and UberCurrent apps for alleged policy violations.

TweetDeck, which is highly, but not wholly dependent upon Twitter (it also allows users to connect to other social networks such as Facebook and Linkedin), continued to operate normally during the shutdown. Perhaps it’s because with the TweetDeck acquisition UberMedia now controls an estimated 20% of the world’s daily tweets and TweetDeck represents the vast majority of that traffic. Any wholesale shutdown of UberMedia that includes TweetDeck would be extremely damaging to Twitter. Conversely, the vast majority of TweetDeck’s traffic goes to Twitter. Clearly, ending the Twitter/TweetDeck relationship, at least for now, would be something close to Mutual Assured Destruction. (more…)

Twitter Commits Suicide (or Twipocalypse Now: Redux)

Over the past few weeks, the Twitterverse has been rocked by events that might have as much an impact on the Twitter ecosystem as asteroids did on dinosaurs. For better or worse, when the history of Twitter is written, these events will be remembered for either the birth of Twitter 2.0 or the beginning of the end.

Twipocalypse Now ReduxJust over a year ago, I wrote Twipocalypse Now: Warnings of a Twitter Bubble and Twitter Fatigue: Rumors of Twitter’s Demise May Not Be Greatly Exaggerated for Twitip. In those posts, I suggested that Twitter and their third-party developers faced significant threats that would need to be addressed in order for Twitter and its ecosystem to not just survive, but to continue to flourish.

I had originally planned on revisiting those topics 6 months later to see how accurate my predictions were. However, Twitter’s rapid growth and evolution suggested something dramatic was on the horizon, so I decided to wait and see what would happen. (more…)

10 Features I Want to See in TweetDeck

love-hate-babyI have a love/hate relationship with TweetDeck. While TweetDeck is a great tool that does so many things so well (the Love), it doesn’t do everything I want and need it to do and it still suffers from some pretty annoying technical issues (the Hate).

To be sure, some of those issues involve Twitter itself earning Team TweetDeck kudos for dealing with the limitations of the Twitter platform. After all, it isn’t easy coming up with the next earth-shattering, must have, whiz-bang feature when the platform you’re dependent upon not always reliable. It’s also no small challenge when your primary competitor, Seesmic, is aggressively introducing new features (listen to Seesmic Founder Loic Le Meur give me Exclusive Seesmic News during my podcast interview last week on Addicted to Social Media). (more…)

When NOT to Tweet

Grandpa Lou_sm2Back in October, my wife’s Grandfather, Lou Roth, passed away at the age of 97. During funeral preparations, someone rather clueless and ignorant asked if I was going to tweet during the funeral. By the way, did I mention this was my wife’s grandfather? I knew Lou for twenty years. He was a great guy and I loved him a lot. So, I looked the offender in the eye and said, “Of course, I’ll tweet; wouldn’t miss it for the world. Which one should I start with…?”

 

“Damn, they’re burying him with that watch we got him for his birthday.”

Or…

“They’re lowering him into the ground now, I hope the winches don’t jam.”

Or, maybe…

“Cousin Jan looks HOT in black.”

How about…

“You’re a %#@&$ idiot for asking if I’m going to tweet during Lou’s funeral.”

Certainly there are times when it’s not only proper to tweet, but also encouraged. For example; tweeting during your child’s school play is not cool (well, maybe just one tweet for friends if you attach a picture of your kid on stage). On the other hand, tweeting during a TweetUp at NASA Headquarters is cool.

Regardless of the circumstance, one would hope that common sense would prevail. However, for those of you who are uncertain, I offer the following guide of common circumstances when it would not be appropriate to tweet.
(more…)