Category Archives: AALBC.com

The Results of a Decade on Social Media

One of the most profound changes I’ve witnessed on the web, in the past decade, is the rise of social media.  Here I share my insight and experience in an effort to help you utilize social media more effectively, or as I always say;

“Use social media; don’t let it use you.”

I’ve been building websites for over twenty years.  My first website was created to promote a business I ran selling personal computers. A more recently built site is used in conjunction with a college course I teach on web design.  AALBC.com, was started in 1997, and is the most prominent website in its niche.

AALBC.com is also my livelihood, as a result I have to follow trends on the World Wide Web. Over the last 10 years this required me to keep up with social media.  I have a presence on all of the major social media platforms and have used them as both; as a regular user, for personal purposes; and for marketing, to help promote AALBC.com.

The graph below, derived from data collected by Google Analytics, shows the top 10 social media platforms that have sent traffic to AALBC.com over the past 10 years.

image002

Over the past 10 years Facebook has made up close to 73% of all the social media traffic AALBC.com receives.  Twitter is a distant second at just over 8%.

The bar chart below shows the relative amount of traffic from all social media sites over that past decade, including MySpace and BlackPlanet (remember those sites). Again, Facebook is the leader with Twitter a distant 2nd.

ranking-top-24-socila-media-over-10-years

The following graph is most telling; It looks at the top 5 sources of social media traffic to AALBC.com, during the first 6 months of 2016, and how those 5 sources have performed over the past decade.

top-5-social-media-ver-last-10-years

We see quite clearly that Facebook has always been a much better source of traffic to AALBC.com than any other social media platform, and that dominance has grown dramatically over the last three years.

Given the fact the Facebook is on track to make up 90% of all of my social media traffic for 2016; one might argue that I should invest more time and money on Facebook to grow my presence and increase engagement there.  But…

…social media is not the only source of traffic.

While Facebook is projected to be the dominant source of social media traffic this year, it is also projected to be less than 8% of my overall traffic.  Over the past 10 years Facebook has only contributed 2% of our site’s overall traffic; and the bulk of that traffic was generated in 2016.  Twitter is projected to contribute less than ½ of 1% to our overall traffic this year.

% Total Traffic
Last 10 Years
% Total Traffic
2016 (projected)
Facebook 2.07% 7.76%
Twitter 0.24% 0.48%
Pinterest 0.05% 0.20%
Disqus 0.08% 0.19%
Total All Social Media Sources  2.86% 8.83%

Considering that all of my social media activity over the last 10 years has resulted in less than 3% of my overall traffic (ignoring the surge in Facebook traffic in 2016), one can argue that any resources (knowledge, time, and money) allocated to social media marketing would be better utilized in other areas.

This was indeed the conclusion I arrived at in 2015.  The table below on looks at the last 3 million visitors to AALBC.com (period ending April 2015) and shows where those visitors came from.  The table shows the vast majority of traffic to AALBC.com originated from organic search.

Click image to read more our last three million visitors

Click Image to Learn More About This Table

Since search is a key source of traffic I decided to spend much less time on social media marketing (SMM) and to work harder on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Today given Google’s dominance, SEO means making sure your site makes meets Google’s technical standards. As a result, I decided to completely overhaul AALBC.com with SEO in mind.  The meant among many other things, optimizing AALBC.com for mobile devices.

It also meant creating the type of content that will rank higher in search results.  In my case, it meant concentrating on building quality content that is unique.  For a book website, like AALBC.com using the same book descriptions that every other bookseller uses will no longer cut it.  I needed come up with a unique take and add value to information about books that is already common elsewhere on the Web and provided by much larger sites including Amazon.com and Google.

I increased my focus on building direct relationships with other sites and creating content that they would like to link to. I also worked to help those sites understand why linking to each other’s sites is important.  I’ve noticed that I can get more visitors from a link on another website than I can from a social media website, and with far less effort.

I’ve observed that social media websites work to encourage engagement on their platforms. Facebook, for example, said using their platform for organic reach (people you can reach for free) has been made much more difficult. This is true across the social media landscape.

I’ve watched my engagement on social media decrease despite the fact that my number of fans and followers have increased.  All the time and effort I invested in building my presence on social media was wasted, as the rules were changed and social media became pay to play.   Of course there is the very real risk these platforms will shut down or change so dramatically that all of work will simply be discarded.  I worked to create a substantial presence, and attracted thousands friends, on MySpace; which was all lost as MySpace went through several redesigns.

At the end of 2015 I greatly reduced the time spent on social media for marketing purposes, and I work to ensure what little time I do spend on SMM is utilized as efficiently as possible.  Also, I rarely use social media for personal purposes.

In the winter of 2015, I initiated the following 10 tactics as part of my social media marketing strategy

  1. I don’t pay for promotion on social media (buying ads).
  2. I don’t actively seek new fans or followers (I welcome them, but you will never hear me say, “follow me on…”
  3. I don’t post content directly on social media—I only share links, with a brief description, to my website where my content resides.
  4. I only post a links once.  Very popular content will be posted more than once, but this is rare.
  5. I do control how AALBC.com’s content is shared, by using tools like Facebook’s Debugger Tool.
  6. I always use images when posting on social media. Links will images are clicked more often.
  7. I do respond to comments I receive on social media, but I don’t initiate conversations on social media unless there is no alternative.
  8. I removed all social media applications from my cell phone.
  9. I do encourage social sharing. I share content on other websites by using the social sharing buttons on their website.
  10. I engage with others on their websites, not their social platforms, whenever possible.

The Results

My social media traffic for the first 6 month of 2016 has already exceeded the traffic I’ve gotten from social media for all of 2015 and all of 2014—combined!

Interestingly, despite greatly reducing my activity on social media, traffic to my website from social media (from Facebook in particular) has increased during the first 6 months of 2016, both as a percentage of my overall traffic and in terms of the number of visitors to the website: social media is a larger portion of a growing pie that is traffic to AALBC.com.

I’ve discovered that building content that appeals to AALBC.com’s visitors, which also meets Google’s technical guidelines, is actually more effective in generating traffic from social media than working to strengthen AALBC.com’s presence on those social media platforms. I guess the old adage applies;

“Content is King.”

Despite all the hype and attention paid to social media, social media has no content of its own. The only content social media has is the content that we give them.  Content is indeed king, but it is not free.  Both Facebook and Twitter and are now paying for content in an effort to attract new users and increase engagement.  On top of that Facebook is also battling a 21% decrease in personal sharing.

Adding AALBC.com’s content to a social media platform enriches the social media site and impoverishes AALBC.com.  My strategy of limiting the use of social media to notifying readers about content on AALBC.com, while facilitating sharing of information, has allowed me to invest much more time creating content for AALBC.com and and engaging with readers here.

social-media-icons-2010The effectiveness of this strategy can change tomorrow, but change is the very nature of the World Wide Web.  Anyone unable to easily adapt to change would never be able to run a website for more than a few years—certainly not as a business venture.

Back in 2010, I used to be a strong proponent for using social media and even gave workshops on the subject. However, the Web is a very different place in 2016 than it was in 2010 and my tactics and strategies have changed, out of necessity.

There is one constant however, no website can survive without support from visitors—not even Facebook.  AALBC.com survives because visitors read and share our content through social media, email, and even word of mouth.  Visitors buy books from our website, and authors and publishers purchase advertising or participate in our discussion forums to promote their work. This is the only way we can survive.


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Bestsellers Lists, Authors, New Books & More – June 2015

Power List Spring 2015

Multi-Title Authors Find Success on Spring 2015 Edition of the Power List of Best-Selling African-American Books More ▶

Books published by Brown Girls Books dominate AALBC.com’s Bestsellers list for the period March to April of 2015.


Authors You Should Know


J. Ivy: Hip-Hop PoetJ. Ivy: Hip-Hop Poet

J. Ivy is a hip-hop poet, musician, actor, and speaker. He received a Peabody Award for his performance on Russell Simmons’s Def Poetry, as well as a Grammy Award for his contribution with Jay-Z on Kanye West’s The College Dropout album. J. has also collaborated with John Legend, RZA, The Last Poets, The Roots, Common, Mos Def, The Black Crowes, Bob Dylan, and many more.

He supports his community through his Write to Live Academy and the Dear Father Initiative, which encourages young people to explore careers in the arts. If you know a young man, or even an older, one troubled by a lack of a relationship with their father, share J. Ivy’s work with them. Check out our video of J. Ivy, at work, uplifting Black youth here ▶


Jaz Johnson: 21-Year-Old-NovelistJaz Johnson: 21-Year-Old-Novelist

Jasmine “Jaz” Johnson was born on December 13th, 1993 in Bridgeport, Connecticut and has been writing as long as she can remember. Jaz’s passions include art, writing, and graphic design. Her first novel, Sibling Secrets, was published in 2010.

This young writer is so very impressive. At 21, she has already published novels in several genres including, science fiction, and romance (or borderline erotica as she describes it). Readers of any age will enjoy her work. Writers of any age can draw inspiration from her example. She has a life goal of owning a bookshelf of her own books, and being surrounded by the lives and worlds she’s created. I’m sure she will realize that dream. More ▶


Regine L. Sawyer: Creator of Black ComicsRegine L. Sawyer: Creator of Black Comics

Sawyer is the founder of Lockett Down Productions and coordinator of Women in Comics NYC/International. We’ve published a video of Regine describing both her work and publications. She spoke with AALBC.com during the Bronx Book Fair. More ▶


Dr. Condoleezza RiceDr. Condoleezza Rice

Rice has authored and co-authored several books, including Germany Unified and Europe Transformed: A Study in Statecraft, with Philip Zelikow; The Gorbachev Era, with Alexander Dallin,Uncertain Allegiance: The Soviet Union and the Czechoslovak Army and Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family, which we reviewed back in 2010.

Unfortunately many in the Black community have marginalized Dr. Rice’s remarkable, often unprecedented, accomplishments. A few weeks ago she spoke at my daughter’s college graduation. It was a excellent speech and an inspiration to many. While  ainstream media gushed over Steve Jobs graduation speech a few years ago,
Condi’s speech, arguably more impressive, was overlooked by the media. You may watch the speech here ▶.


Banke Awopetu-McCulloughBanke Awopetu-McCullough

Banke is a native of Rochester, NY. She holds a Bachelors of Arts in Drama and African and African-American Studies from the University of Virginia and a Masters in Adolescent Education from Roberts Wesleyan. McCullough’s literary style has most been influenced by hip hop music and classic African-American literature.

Her latest novel, Always Want More (Mill City Press, October 2014), tells the story of Tracy Mitchell whose rise in the hip-hop journalism world was swift and fierce. Having secured a position at her dream publication, Real, she hopes to write stories that make an impact. You’ll also enjoy the book’s trailer and book club discussion video. More ▶


Book Reviews


Child, Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check Myself Before I Wrecked MyselfChild, Please: How Mama’s Old-School Lessons Helped Me Check
Myself Before I Wrecked Myself

Toya Graham was at home watching TV coverage of the recent Baltimore riots when she spotted her only son, Michael, in an unruly crowd of kids taunting and throwing objects at the police. Without giving it a second thought, the shocked, single-mother of six sprang into action and rushed right down to the scene to retrieve her misbehaving 16 year-old. Cell phone cameras caught Toya lecturing and slapping Michael silly as she dragged him away…

In Child, Please (Tarcher, May 5, 2015) author, Ylonda Gault Caviness, has belatedly come to embrace more of her mom’s supposedly-antiquated approach after becoming exasperated by the challenge of rearing her own three daughters. “Any fool could see, Mama had the whole motherhood thing down to a science,” she concedes. “Now, in my forties, I finally get it.” More ▶


Book Recommendations


The Ultimate Betrayal by Kimberla Lawson RobyThe Ultimate Betrayal by Kimberla Lawson Roby

AALBC.com, Power List and New York Times bestselling author Kimberla Lawson Roby is back with the 12th book in the Reverend Curtis Black Series, The Ultimate Betrayal (Grand Central Publishing, June 9, 2015)

It’s been four years since twenty-eight-year old Alicia Black, daughter of Reverend Curtis Black, divorced her second husband, the most womanizing and corrupt man she has ever known. Since then, Alicia has been dating her first husband, Phillip Sullivan, a wonderfully kind and true man of God whom she’d hurt terribly by cheating on him. Alicia has worked hard to prove herself worthy of his trust once more, and when he asks her to marry him again, she couldn’t be happier. Until Sunday 21st only, buy The Ultimate Betrayal for 33% off (less than Amazon)..


Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the one hundred fifty years since the end of the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, the story of race and America has remained a brutally simple one, written on flesh: It is the story of the black body, exploited to create the country’s foundational wealth, violently segregated to unite a nation after a civil war, and, today, still disproportionately threatened, locked up, and killed in our streets. What is it like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it? And how can we all—regardless of race—honestly reckon with our country’s fraught racial history and free ourselves from its burden?

Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, September 8, 2015) is Ta-Nehisi Coates’s attempt to answer those questions, presented in the form of a letter to his adolescent son. More ▶


Michelle Obama: A Life by by Peter SlevinMichelle Obama: A Life by by Peter Slevin

Michelle Obama has been catching a lot of flak again, this time for her remarks during a recent commencement address at Tuskegee University [another brilliant speech]. The First Lady has been under the gun ever since the 2008 presidential campaign, when her detractors playing “gotcha politics” quoted something she said out of context to suggest that she hates the United States.

But Michelle was making more complicated points than the simplistic sound bites she’s been reduced to. For that reason, it is appropriate that her biography opens with an in-depth analysis of a very emotional speech she delivered to Anacostia High’s graduating class of 2010. More ▶


Grant Park by Leonard Pitts Jr.Grant Park by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Grant Park (Agate Bolden, October 13, 2015) is a page-turning and provocative look at black and white relations in contemporary America, blending the absurd and the poignant in a powerfully well-crafted narrative that showcases Pitts’s gift for telling emotionally wrenching stories.

Grant Park begins in 1968, with Martin Luther King’s final days in Memphis. The story then moves to the eve of the 2008 election, and cuts between the two eras as it unfolds. Disillusioned columnist Malcolm Toussaint, fueled by yet another report of unarmed black men killed by police, hacks into his newspaper’s server to post an incendiary column that had been rejected by his editors. Toussaint then disappears, and his longtime editor, Bob Carson, is summarily fired within hours of the column’s publication. More ▶


$$ The Twenty Million Dollar Race $$ by Vincent Armstrong$$ The Twenty Million Dollar Race $$ by Vincent Armstrong

The kidnapping of a precious six-year-old girl by the Mafia leads to an outrageous ransom demand of twenty million dollars. With only six weeks to deliver the high price ransom and save the girl’s life, an unprecedented race to attain the money by the abducted girl’s family quickly ensues. As the days tick down to the deadline for the ransom to be paid, a vicious crime spree on an unimaginable scope and level evolves as the entire country becomes glued and riveted to this mega media story (Magic Rainbow, April 19, 2015). More ▶


Events


9th National Conference of African American Librarians - August 5-7, 2015 - St. Louis, MO9th National Conference of African American Librarians – August 5-7, 2015 – St. Louis, MO

The Black Caucus of the American Library Association is excited to return NCAAL to it’s original biennial conference schedule. New to NCAAL 2015, is a Wednesday through Saturday schedule, allowing conference goers to take advantage of lower transportation rates typically available on Tuesdays and Saturdays. The new schedule also provides a wonderful opportunity for attendees to stay over and explore the city of Saint Louis once the conference concludes Saturday afternoon.

Exhibitors are invited to participate in the 9th National Conference. The association continues to work to make its conferences relevant and enjoyable for the hundreds of librarians who attend Learn more about their biennial conference ▶


Wade HudsonIn Search of Diverse Book Buyers Panel Discussion at Book Expo
America

You may watch the video of the “In Search of Diverse Book Buyers” panel discussion, which was held during Book Expo America. The panel took place, May 28, 2015, in New York City, and was recorded by Clyde Davis of Fathers and Sonns.

The panel participants were Wade Hudson of Just Us Books; Marva Allen of Hueman Books; Troy Johnson, webmaster of AALBC.com; and Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati of the The African-American Children’s Book Project. Lloyd-Sgambati, who organized this panel, has also launched the Preserve a legacy, buy a book! campaign. More ▶


Film Reviews


Bass Clef Bliss (★★★★)Bass Clef Bliss (★★★★)

Directed by Patrick Scott, Bass Clef Bliss is an alternately heartrending and uplifting biopic chronicling the tight bond between a mother and son as together they confront an assortment of daunting challenges associated with autism. Scott makes a most impressive debut here, as he oh so delicately balances the access he was afforded to his subjects ‘daily lives with their plausible concerns about personal privacy.

Besides focusing on Terrence and Therese’s trials, tribulations and ultimate triumphs, this informative documentary features a cornucopia of facts and figures about autism, courtesy of both experts and anecdotal evidence. Did you know that in 1985, 1 in 2,500 babies developed the disorder, and that today the number is about 1 in 68? More ▶


Watch the full movie; “Finding The Funk,” a Film by Nelson George, Narrated by QuestloveWatch the full movie; “Finding The Funk,” a Film by Nelson George, Narrated by Questlove

Did you miss Finding The Funk’s network debut? You can now stream Nelson George’s exploration of the funk bloodline for free via VH1.

The documentary film, Finding the Funk (2013), is narrated by ?uestlove and features words from D’Angelo, George Clinton, Sly Stone, Bootsy Collins, Nile Rodgers and scholar Michael Eric Dyson, and many other visionaries and performers who help us navigate through the tangled bloodlines of musicians and showmen which have defined the lineage. More ▶


Related Articles & News


Pros and Cons of Mainstream and Self-Publishing by C. Liegh McInnisPros and Cons of Mainstream and Self-Publishing by C. Liegh
McInnis

There are two basic routes to getting published, mainstream and self-publishing. Mainstream is when one submits one’s work to journals/magazines and publishing companies to be published. Self-publishing is when one decides to publish one’s own books. They both can be equally effective although the mainstream manner is the most respected because it allows one to reach a larger audience more quickly and it has an aura or illusion of validation. Although self-publishing does not offer the validation from the establishment, it offers a satisfaction of artistic and economic control of one’s work. Yet, the most effective manner of publishing is to use various aspects of mainstream and self-publishing simultaneously. More ▶


Cynique's Corner - Culture, Race & Economy Discussion ForumCynique’s Corner – Culture, Race & Economy Discussion Forum

“Screw all these dysfunctional, self-absorbed, narcissistic, exhibitionist idiots who make up the freak show carnival of celebrity.”

For daring to share with the world her angst about being a woman trapped in a man’s body, “Bruclyn” has become the anathema of the Religious Right, the poster child for the LGBT community and an enigma for ex-wife Kris Kardashian. But, since “she” had the money to remedy this mix-up via plastic surgery and hormones, she has earned the honor of appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair, flaunting her new identity, all glamorous and feminine, skillfully made-up, sporting long hair extensions, implanted boobs, not to mention her big feet and the tucked-in penis she couldn’t bear to part with… Cynique is just getting warmed up. Read more and join the discussion ▶


Our African-American Literature Discussion Forum is Now Mobile!Our African-American Literature Discussion Forum is Now Mobile!

Join the conversation and talk about books you’ve written, or books you’ve read. You may exchange views with authors, avid readers and those who wish to learn more about Black literature and publishing. You can also share rich media content without worrying about being bombarded with ads, having your privacy invaded, or having what you see be determined by efforts to maximize revenue.

Thumper’s Corner, the name of our African-American literature discussion forum, was started in 1998 and has been continuously running ever since. Historically, Thumper’s Corner has been a very special and popular area of our web site. In recent years however, participation has waned as social media gained in prominence. I hope this recent upgrade to our platform will encourage more participation. Join Us ▶


An On-line Advertising Primer for AuthorsAn On-line Advertising Primer for Authors

For a book, several factors determines the effectiveness of a online advertising campaign; (1) the reputation and name recognition of the author; (2) the quality of the book cover or banner and; (3) the potential reader’s interest in the subject. In general, an advertisement for a book with an ugly cover, by an unknown author writing about a subject no one cares about will perform worse than a book with an attractive cover, by a well known author writing in a popular and timely genre or subject.

Notice I did not mention anything about quality of writing. One can not determine the quality of a book’s writing solely from the banner or book cover. That information is best conveyed on the landing page; where readers who click the advertisement are sent. More ▶


A Tribe Called NewsA Tribe Called News

A Tribe Called News was founded on Howard University’s campus and seeks to be the voice of millennials of color.

They cover everything from culture to feminism. They believe the voices of millennials are timely and valuable to the conversations happening in communities of color. To contribute please emailatribecallednews@gmail.com.


Obama’s BookshelfObama’s Bookshelf


Waiting to Exhale
 by Terry McMillan, Richard Wright’sBlack Boy, and W. E. B. Du Bois: A Reader is on President Obama’s Bookshelf. What’s on your bookshelf? ▶

DMessage from AALBC.com Founder Troy Johnsonear Reader,

As always, I encourage feedback on our eNewsletter. Most months I experiment with different types of content in an effort to better serve you. This month I’ve recommended a couple of books, from brilliant writers, that do not come out until the fall. Does notification of books, that far in advance, interest you? Let me know what you think about that, or anything else, by emailing me or posting a comment on our discussion forum.

As always, remember to show your support for the writers and institutions we cover, with your paid subscription to our newsletter.

Peace & Love,

AALBC.com eNewsletter – June 9, 2015 – Issue #226

Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

Join the Fight for Independence on the Web

This article is intended for writers and other content providers, who are active on social media and have a goal of generating revenue from their content.  However, people who use social media to share photos and thoughts with friends and family can benefit from reading this article too.

The best way to experience AALBC.com’s content is not through the peep hole of a 140 character tweet or a stripped-down, plain text post on a Facebook wall, but by visiting the website and enjoying our curated, multimedia content.  This may sound obvious to anyone reading this blog post.  However, given the energy I’ve invested posting content on a variety of social media platforms, it might not be obvious by observing my behavior.

As a publisher of book reviews, interviews, videos and articles, I generate revenue by attracting visitors to this website.   For over 16 years I’ve been pretty good at it, particularly when you consider the content, books written by or about Black people, is not the most popular subject on the Web.

After years of experience using social media to market AALBC.com, I’ve noticed several adverse trends.  As a result, I’ve decided to not allocate my increasingly limited resources to social media.

“So Troy, why bore us with the details?  Why don’t you stop whining, take your marbles and leave social media already?”

Well this is issue is much bigger than me or AALBC.com.  In fact, I’ve been doing relatively well, compared to my peers, using social media to drive traffic to my website.  Consider a snapshot of the insights of an AALBC.com Facebook post highlighting the work of Peniel E. Joseph (less than 24 hours old at the time of this writing):

Peniel Insight Image

There is nothing unusual about this post. Some of my posts perform better, and others perform worse, depending upon the metrics considered.  As you can see (click the image for a enlarged view), the Peniel post was viewed 1,827 times in less than 24 hours and the link was clicked six times.  While this may not sound like a lot of clicks, the ratio between the number people who saw the post, and the number who clicked the link it contained, is relatively good.  Besides, it only took about 10 seconds to share the information.

“Now I’m really confused Troy.  If Facebook is working for you, then what are you complaining about?

The popular belief is social media is a mandatory tool for anyone interested in promoting their business.  The vast majority of us have brought into the hype without question.  The reality is everything we do on Facebook, to drive traffic to our websites, enriches Facebook and depreciates our websites.  The minor, short-lived, benefit some of us might extract individually is simply not worth what we give up collectively.

everythEverything we do on Facebooking-we-doPrior to the popularity of social media, generating traffic was much easier.  It was very common for a writers to refer visitors to other writers’ websites.  We had related links pages, web-rings, blog rolls and other ways of promoting and supporting each other online.  Today there better tools that could allow independent websites, acting together, to be much more effective at promotion that Facebook can alone.

The more power we give to Facebook, social media in general, the less control we have over what is seen on the Web.  I suspect you have already noticed the effect of social media’s dominance of the Web; scandalous or celebrity driven content is recycled and dominates what we see; sponsored content (paid advertisements) masks itself as news and editorial; and advertisements are embedded everywhere you look.

Another profound and troubling problem is the ongoing weakening of platforms dedicated to promoting Black books and authors.  In a 2011 article, Black Book Websites Need Love Too, I noticed that we were losing Black book website’s at an alarming rate.   That trend has continued; the remaining sites are receiving fewer visitors and generating less revenue as a result.  With less revenue, the ability to create content and attract visitors is diminished, furthering increasing downward pressure on revenue.  Pretty soon the website is no longer a viable business—assuming it ever was.

It is an extremely hostile environment for independent websites today.  Despite social media new websites have virtually no chance to build an audience.  So not only are we losing what we had, new websites are discouraged from ever launching.

Ironically, these conditions tend to drive people to social media even more, because it is much easier to establish a web presence on a social media platform than launch and maintain an independent website.  But the result is more people competing for attention on that social platform and everyone ends up being heard by fewer people.  The writers and potential readers are the losers.  The social media platform is the only winner.  Indeed, the more we struggle to be heard, by being more “social” or paying to promote posts, the more the social media platform profits—whether we connect with our readers or not.

If what we are losing from independent websites was compensated by equivalent content on social media, it would not be so completely tragic.  Not surprisingly, social media has failed miserably in delivering the richness and variety offered by individual websites.  This is understandable as the goal of social media is to maximize revenue for their owners.  Independent websites, on the other hand, are primarily driven by their mission.

Social media is seemingly an impossibly tough opponent in the competition for visitors.  As writers and owners of websites we can not continue to exacerbate the problem by fueling our competition with content and sending traffic directly to social media with every “Follow me on Facebook” request.  The trick is to exploit social media, not to allow social media to exploit us.

AALBC.com is not immune to these pressures.  I’ve been able to grow and monetize my eNewsletter, obtain concessions from vendors, use my time more effectively and leverage the support of partners in creative ways.

Actually, I’m not pulling up my social media stakes completely.  I plan to continue to share some of AALBC.com’s updates with on social media, but posts will executed remotely from AALBC.com, using AddThis.  For automated social media updates I’ll use Twitterfeed.  I suspect my remote and automated updates will eventually be shown less frequently by social media and therefore become less effective, but I will continue to adapt my strategies as I have done over the last two decades.

I will only engage with readers on independent platforms.  Engaging with readers on social media platforms about AALBC.com content is the activity that saps the most of my time and provides social media the most value.  In the past I often found myself engaging with readers on AALBC.com and multiple platforms over the same content—I can no longer afford to do this.

Today writers struggle over the effective management of their social media.  This is understandable as they are often judged more by the number of Facebook fans and Twitter followers than the quality of their writing.   Again, many say social media is a requirement—in fact I was one of these people.  When you consider the fact, the majority of top earning authors barely use Twitter and many don’t even have an account, you have the question the value.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers.  This is a tough problem, but not an intractable one.  If we do nothing, diversity on the World Wide Web will continue to decline.  In exchange, we will be left with a handful of social media platforms algorithmically determining what we see and how we see it, invading our privacy and profiting from the content we provide.

My goal is not to get rid of social media (though personally, I would not miss it for split  second).  My goal is to ensure that independent websites not only survive, but thrive.  The last thing I want to see is a world where the presentation of Black books (our culture really) is controlled, owned and operated by a corporation, solely driven by profit.  With the closure of the most of the Black owned bookstores over the past decade, we are essentially at a place today where Black books can only be purchased online from Amazon.

Remember, as writers it is our content that provides the most value to social media.  It is time we work together to reap the fruits of our labor and stop the digital sharecropping.

I’m working with others to develop strategies for us all to utilize our collective websites, to share and promote our content.  If you are interested in learning more, sharing your experience or joining our effort, email me at troy@aalbc.com or share your ideas in the comments below.

Finally, if you are a writer with a website send readers to YOUR website and encourage them to engage you there.  If people are desperate to find you on a social media platform, they know already how to do it.  Social media does not need any additional promotion, but our websites certainly do.

Join the fight for independence on the Web.