The Marketing Mod(?) Guide(???)
Succeeding on social media is a roll of the dice, but you can increase the odds by incorporating timeliness and relevance.
Both depend on one thing: your audience.
Your audience and the algorithm
So, what’s a social media algorithm? Algorithms are made by people who are trying to be smarter than every other smart person in the world for the sake of earning money for the corporations that feed their families. Now some of these people are the best software engineers that money can buy, while the rest are ordinary people like you and me, so if you think the sum of their average intelligences is below your intelligence level, you’re more than welcome to try and outsmart the smartest people on the planet. For the rest of us, it’s about understanding how much we can give to social media sites without them taking more than we can handle. Otherwise we burn out. It's not a coincidence that social media sites happen to be black hole vortexes which suck all sense of self-worth out of our person if we approach them incorrectly.
Outsmarting the algorithm is a high risk play. Maybe you’re up to the challenge.
For this guide we present two high-level approaches:
Approach A: Playing smart (Top-down approach)
Figure out what it wants. Social media algorithms don’t exist out of nothingness; they are created with aims and goals. The company is trying to make its users spend more time on their website.
Research the company’s goals. Look at their feature rollouts, look at what they’re announcing to the media, try to figure out the strategy they’re aiming for. Make a few different types of social media posts at different parts of the day and different times of the week to see which ones do better, and try to think back to the company’s aims and objectives (since software engineers have to design the algorithm, and get approval before they do things to the core product, right?)
Timing your social media posts is a strategic decision which should be determined from input from macro trends (AKA what you get when you search “best times to post on social media”), intersected with info points from the micro level you’re working at: the unique audience of your zine. In other words, the researchers’ audience might not reach the niche of your fandom’s zine space. If you’re already running a Twitter account that produces content for a fandom, then you already have some information when that fandom’s followers are most active. Through experimentation, you can see when the subset of that fandom interested in zines is most engaged with you and your project.
Timing depends 100000% on your audience.
If you want to try applying more brains, you might be able to further divide this into targeting potential contributors, buyers, and/or supporters which share your content because they like it.
Approach B: Give them what they want (Bottom-up approach)
Why bother trying to figure out a long term strategy when your zine project is a short term, one-off project? Social media sites want people to stay on them. They want content for free. Then the answer is to just give it content.
Twitter likes emotional information that can be shared in small bites.
Tumblr users are looking for just a little more, something that users might look at and want on their own blogs.
Instagram is aggressive and the way it takes scheduling to an extreme reflects this.
(THIS ABOVE LIST IS FOR EXAMPLE PURPOSES ONLY. Chances are it might not apply to your project and your audience, make your own list!)
Ask yourself if you're aiming for more people showing interest (= Likes, Follows), more people boosting or sharing (= Reblogs/Retweets/Shares), or more engagement (= Replies)?
It's easier to make a post that's good for one or two objectives than all three.
Algorithms might be designed by people who want them to do something, but the way they ultimately make a decision is based on the data they ingested. Data implies a large trove of existing information: posts made by you and by other people. Since they’re based on existing posts, they’ll look for consistency in new posts. If you have a post that’s done well, keep posting similar posts in a similar pattern (similar type of content, similar times of day, similar days of the week)—don’t change the way you post without “easing” into it—and help the algorithms assume your hot new content is just as interesting and relevant.
Since data acts on what is already there, you might need a lot of posts to pull this off depending on the platform and followers/engagement.
At the risk of sounding ominous... Remember that when you try to learn the algorithm, it’s also learning you.
General advice for success
To succeed at social media, you need to identify your own expectations.
How many units are you aiming to sell?
How much of people’s individual, personal time might you need in order to make that number of sales?
Look at other projects similar to yours, and calibrate your expectations based on how much time and energy those people are investing onto their projects. Stay up to date with trends. Observe what your audience is. Are you in need of a new audience? You can only reach as many people as you are trying to reach. Aside from other websites, or others’ Discord groups, might there be anything you can leverage from your real life? Be creative.
Your zine is the combined efforts of every mod and every contributor and everyone who has filled in your interest check and everyone who has ever engaged on your posts. Reach out to everyone, and interpret other people’s information under the lens of your own data/audience.
Put your best foot forward, be the best version of your combined selves, and work together to make it the greatest success you can get (without dying)!
Running good social media is a full-time job that people are paid to do; and,
In the current zine space, social media platforms have made “success” one of the few problems in the world that can be solved by throwing more people at it.
Social Media & Zines by Witchy (2019) has actual information on what you could try to do.
A write-up from Slumber: Marketing your zine (2020) - also actual ideas on this page, promise.
The wonderful Rainylune’s Instagram guide has recent information on how social media companies are making decisions in the 2020’s.
Supposedly Tik-Tok’s algorithm works on how long a person spends on each video? (source) That is so clever and makes so much sense. That's so smart. Hello.
More advice to help plan for socials during production is available in the section “Shipping and fulfillment”.
Where would everyone be without @bubblysage's work on Fan Events Hub, which maintains a list of active promotional accounts and other resources?
@neneneems on Twitter has made a Marketing Checklist (2021)!
Those people on serious, longer-term projects, such as creating a brand, these are not covered in the scope of this guide. Technology changes and humans do not; instead of playing catch-up, we recommend 1. looking up successful marketing books which predate the Internet, or 2. finding old educational web pages which look like they were made in 1999. Further, with so much of marketing being auditory, we are also fans of podcasts for this area.