Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Hits Keep Comin'

Paused for a moment to examine the on-line reaction to this particular panel: sat back and watched it exponentially spread across this little virtual neck of the woods after posting it. Now I quite honestly still have no clue whatsoever as to exactly why certain cartoons take off the way that they do - there are any number of factors and random elements that go into it. Sometimes I miss the comparative void of ignorance when it was just printed in the paper - until a show or a book release I'd have nothing but comments from acquaintances to gauge the relative popularity of a panel. More on that point at the end of this post...

An example of trolling the subject of an editorial beyond my own limited sphere of influence

One fact that may or may not have bearing on the relative reach of a Facebook post is the actual time of uploading, which plenty of studies attempt to gauge what is the sweet spot to elicit the most views and/or shares. For me it's by 6am on Fridays (to catch folks at work) and Sundays (to catch weekend readers). Another qualifier here on my own comparatively limited circle, which pales next to the audience numbers of other folks and online entities who take marketing a lot more seriously than I do, and have a more mercenary approach to accumulating fans and cultivating a following. I'm quite happy enough lounging in my own neck of the virtual woods without cutting down all the trees to get a better view, an ironic effect of many who seek to increase their visibility.

Another note here in that I often counsel aspiring art students to separate themselves from their work by establishing an independent presence ie keep their personal page independent from that of their actual artwork, which at first seems to be a contradiction, but is a prudent business move.
Partitioning off the art from the creator means more bifurcation and effort, but there may come a point when the waters get muddied and you might wish for a firewall of sorts. For me it's way too late for that, it's all mixed up, and is an amalgamation of who + what I am. It's been a long, slow and organic growth of "friends" many, if not most of which I routinely forget or fail to recognize face-to-face in public. Once you get over 1k, it becomes virtually impossible to keep track, much less juggle all of the requisite interactions. Psychologists claim you only really have a few friends, with another fifteen or so in the next circle outward of this inner core. The numbers climb on social media, with other estimates ranging from an average of 155 to 130, which starts to illustrate the gap in perceived reality that is an insidious warping of what is "real." 

So for that first example cartoon posted up above , at that point of 112 shares, privacy settings allowed me to see only 32 profiles of the folks that shared the post, and of those, only 26 allowed me to see how many Friends they have - ie the potential field of exposure in terms of number of possible views by their friends in turn. That together with my own Friends and Followers = 20k (potential) viewers... multiply that by four (since again, I could only see roughly a quarter of the prospective "audience" based on shares) to get an approximate estimate of maaaaybe 80k Facebook (potential) viewers overall. Now add to that number a few hundred blog views, plus the readership of the Sunday News-Miner (12,500 in meatspace - I don't know their online edition subscriber numbers) makes an easy 90k, certainly within a six-figure reach on many other "successful" examples of relatively viral posts of mine in the recent past.

This was all done back-of-the-envelope about 24hours after posting, with the numbers still continuing to steadily tick upwards: well over triple that amount of shares as of writing this post. That certainly is far, far better than the average number of gallery viewers, or even newspaper readers. Which if that's your thing, is a potentially lucrative opportunity for monetizing or at the very least a significant investment in the ol' "exposure" to attract future clients.

Recently I woke up to check my stats and was astonished to see that unique pageviews to this blog had just crested the half a million point. Quite the revelation while sitting in an outhouse in the middle of Alaska. There's a somewhat symbiotic relationship at this point between The Book of Faces and Ink & Snow: crossposting a link to a corresponding blog post in comment thread whenever I upload a new panel to my page yields at best a boost of approx. fifty views, as it reminds folks there's still another whole side of my online activities. Or at least a different side of me than cats and foodie pics.

Excerpted from Spike Drew This: excellent overview of what we're looking at here

So far I've seen the most popular FB posts (usually cartoons) get 100-200 "likes" and 50-100 "shares" which are hand-in-glove with "likes" but are the real metric by which to crudely gauge popularity. It used to be I'd be thrilled beyond belief to have a couple dozen, now I'm fairly jaded unless it trips over, say, maybe fifty to a hundred. But remember, that's eliciting reaction (like/comment/share) at best of only maybe 20% at best of one's Friends. As an analogy, of the total attendees at any art show in a gallery, how many people actually take the time to leave a comment in the guest logbook that alway's on a pedistal somewhere? And of those that do, how many say anything above + beyond the requisite "great work" or "loved it" etc. Not to ever diminish the importance of even such cursory commentary, but it's a good example of the expected range and depth of input at such an event, and you rarely get feedback that requires genuine interaction beyond the superficial (again, still always a deeply appreciated vote of confidence).

Again with the sample panel posted at the top of this essay, at some point the "shares" might eclipse those of original "likes" and you know that it's truly spun out of orbit from your little world. Then every so often a whale - one of the huge content factories that do nothing but skim off the web and try to score views to garner ad revenue - picks it up and reposts it on their page, which in turn restarts the whole cascading effect again. However, as opposed to Facebook, and unlike Picasa, which has now unfortunately been put to sleep, there's no way now to check how many times people have viewed an individual photo/image in a Google+ album or the archive from the old portfolios, which is a real bummer as I'm presumably well over the 5-million total views mark going off 2015 stats. But oh well, this goes back to the days of old when all there was was endlessly putting stuff out here in print and having no real way of effectively gauging impact or reach. I frequently employ the metaphor of chumming the water... just keep ladling it overboard anyways.

BTW filtering your Friends list from public view is I guess a prudent thing to do, so as to minimize the attractiveness of yourself as potential troll-bait. This quickly becomes apparent every time I have a widely reposted panel, there's an inevitable number of fake Friend requests that follow. I see an awful lot of folks who get caught up with the recurring outbreaks of hacker activity: they're not "hacked" persay, just a cloned account by a scammer who will then target your Friends in turn. So it's important to do a quick check to see if they're already your Friend + who are your mutual/shared Friends, in conjunction with eyeballing their page to see if it's an obviously shallow puppet account. Here and here are some more tips on avoiding this inevitable circumstance.That is, unless you really believe that there really are lonely French models lounging around in lingerie pining for Alaskan cartoons.

In all seriousness though, I'll close with the most important observation of all: even after taking into account all of the disparate elements of online activity, what's really and truly the most important of all is what happens in the realm of reality. Take for example the series of recent gigs I had at the Ester Village Farmers + Crafts Market. Following the Wild Arts Walk event I had all of my crap still loaded up in the back of the Subaru, and took advantage of the opportunity to peddle wares right down the street from the cabin in my own local community. Didn't really sell a damn thing, but that wasn't really the point - these are the kind of public events where you never know who will come by for a visit or what will happen as a result of simply putting yourself out there. Even if it's hours spent being alone at the table it's a chance to get some work caught up in the sketchbook or talk with other friendly vendors. It's always humbling nomatter what direction it goes, busy or dead, and I'm always grateful regardless of how busy or dead it gets. The analogy is the same as with the internet, or one could easily extend it to the motivation behind creating the artwork to begin with.

Just keep making it, and just keep showing up.


  1. Great essay, Jamie. I suppose you'll never fully know who will find their way to you, and in what ways they'll find you. And when they do, you never know what snowball effect one new fan will have on your base. You've got a new one here, way across the continent. I'll be keeping my eye on you and spreading the word along the way.

    1. Thanks Larry: certainly is testament to the reach of the internet, as it is to the shared memories I have with Ray... glad you found me even if under less-than desirable circumstances.
      I know he sure got a kick out of seeing me grow into the artist I am now, starting way back with the cartoons that he was such an early fan of.
      Just goes to show you how much of a difference one can make sharing a laugh especially at such an impressionable age. Good times + good friends, and I'll always hold those memories.