Recently there has been a mass exodus of conservatives from social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Conservatives are signing up for alternatives like Parler and MeWe.
If your audience includes conservative readers, how should you navigate this splintering of social media?
It’s a potentially dicey subject.
As authors, we must react to the world as it is and not as we wish it would be. Authors who live in mental fantasy lands don’t sell books. I have discussed the splintering of our society from time to time, and it is tricky for me to navigate. Novel Marketing listeners (and patrons!) hail from both extremes of the political spectrum. We also have listeners who live in the “Don’t talk to me about politics” camp.
But listeners have repeatedly asked for my opinion, so I feel like I need to chime in.
What is happening?
Social networking sites, and other platforms like MailChimp, have expanded their missions. While they used to function as platforms where people could communicate and connect, they are now functioning as gatekeepers, monitoring what their users can and should say. They are taking more responsibility for what is posted and exerting more control.
If you ask someone on the left, they will tell you these platforms are fighting misinformation. If you ask someone on the right, they will tell you they are censoring speech. The left calls them “fact-checkers,” the right calls them “censors,” but whatever you call them, someone at the platform determines what users can say and to whom.
For instance, last week, MailChimp banned a Tea Party group from using its email service because they were hosting a peaceful political rally. In fact, MailChimp has been booting a lot of conservatives from its platform recently. If you are a conservative and you want to stick with MailChimp, I recommend downloading your email list as a CSV file every week, just in case they kick you off. I’d also encourage you to listen to my episode on How to Pick the Right Email Marketing Service for You.
As for Facebook and Twitter, you can watch the senate hearing about censorship here if you’d like. I won’t rehash that because I expect most of you already have a strong opinion.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter how you feel. It matters how your readers feel.
Maybe you have no problem with social sites censoring content, but if your readers leave those platforms, you will lose contact with those readers and potentially lose sales. And a lot of readers are joining these new social networks. To give you an idea of how quickly these platforms are growing, they were the #1 and #2 apps in the app store for a time.
If you want to catch fish, you must drop your bait where the fish are swimming. If your readers are switching social networks, you may want to switch with them.
An Opportunity for Platform Growth
Most authors will ignore these new social networks and see a corresponding drop in reach and influence.
If you navigate these turbulent waters of change correctly, you will be poised for sudden growth in your influence and platform. If you want to gain followers quickly, joining Parler and MeWe right now is a lot like joining Twitter back in 2008. It was easy to get a lot of Twitter followers back then. I remember because I was there.
One author I’ve worked with switched to Parler a few days ago, and he’s already gained more than 900 followers. Another client who switched in June has over 57,000 followers. There are advantages to being an early adopter and joining new social networks.
From a purely pragmatic perspective, Twitter and Facebook are full. Their users aren’t looking to follow someone new. It is a hard sell to get someone to add yet another person to their feed. Even if they do follow you, your post may not get through the sticky web of their algorithm.
Many people on Parler and MeWe are there to listen. So if you join the platforms to talk, it’s a lot easier for people to hear you. For now, these social networks are quieter.
Here are three steps to take advantage of these changes:
Step 1: Claim Your Name
If you write for a conservative or mixed readership, I recommend you sign up for Parler and MeWe right away. It doesn’t cost money. If your name is relatively common, it might be especially important to claim your name early rather than waiting and wishing you’d claimed your name before someone else did.
You can follow Novel Marketing on:
Parler limits you to one account per phone number, so keep that in mind when you sign up. I was able to claim @ThomasUmstattd and @AuthorMedia, but I don’t have another phone number to use to get @NovelMarketing.
Step 2: Cross-Post
The next step is to cross-post on the new platforms. On Parler, you post whatever you post to Twitter. On MeWe, you’ll post what you normally post to Facebook. It is not much work to post your content in both places. This minimum effort will ensure that the maximum number of readers sees your content moving forward.
Step 3: Post Tailored Content
Each social network develops its own accent over time. Ultimately, the content you post to Parler and MeWe should be in line with the language and customs of the users on each platform. Over time, these platforms will develop their own personalities, and you should adapt to that culture.
Now, let’s look at each platform individually.
What do authors need to know about Parler?
Parler presents itself as a platform for free speech. In their community guidelines, they commit to being “viewpoint neutral.” They are not in the business of policing or fact-checking posts.
More important for authors, Parler does not curate content at all. There is no algorithm to game. Posts are posted chronologically. As a user, you have full control over what you see and what you post. Facebook and Twitter used to work like that years ago when they were better platforms for book promotion.
In short, Parler won’t hide your post about your new book like Facebook does.
Gizmodo reported that Parler had a rule against obscene language. I couldn’t find that specific restriction in any of Parler’s rules, but I would love to find a social network that had a rule against obscene language. Allowing people to swear at each other isn’t conducive to civil discourse. I know I sound like a dad, but I could see a social network becoming quite popular by instituting a policy that says, “If you can’t say it without cussing, perhaps you shouldn’t say it.”
My guess about the purported rule against obscene language is that Parler flags posts with bad language as “sensitive content.” Then they hide that post from everyone who hasn’t opted in to seeing “sensitive content” in their feeds.
In terms of features, Parler is basically a clone of Twitter. Hashtags work the same as they do on Twitter.
One difference is that you’re limited to 1000 characters, so you have a bit more room to say your piece.
It’s also easier to get a verified account right now in Parler. You only need to prove you’re a real human being by submitting a photo of a government-issued ID along with a selfie of your face.
Parler has a very strong anti-bot policy. Every time I log in, I have to type in a captcha and do an SMS two-factor authentication. While that’s annoying, it helps ensure I’m interacting with real humans.
Parler is also growing crazy fast. In the last month alone, Parler has grown from 500,000 to over 4 million active users. That is an insane growth rate. The number of users has doubled, doubled, and doubled in one month. I don’t think Facebook ever doubled three times in a single month.
I am not sure how Parler plans to make money, but with that many active users, they’re likely going to sell advertising.
Like Twitter, Parler is very news-centric right now, and it’s filled with hot takes on current news. This may or may not be the right fit for your brand, depending on your topic and audience.
What do authors need to know about MeWe?
MeWe presents itself as the privacy platform. MeWe has been around for a while, but in its early days, it was mostly used by people concerned about privacy. Now MeWe is growing in popularity because it is seen as being politically neutral.
Since MeWe doesn’t sell advertising or user data, they make money by selling an upgraded user experience. Users can upgrade to a $5 per month Premium membership that provides a special profile badge, more storage for photos, and a few other features.
The blue “Verified Account” checkmark on MeWe will cost you $5 per month. A verified account is free on Parler, but they require a photo of your diverse license.
To set up a business page on MeWe, you’ll pay $1.99 per month, but authors can set up a personal profile for free. If you own a publishing company and you want a MeWe page for your business, $1.99 may seem like a lot. But remember, you don’t have to pay to boost your posts. All your followers can see all of your posts. For that reason, it will be cheaper than Facebook for many people.
Since MeWe makes its money from the handful of users who pay, they have no reason to sell your data. Remember, if you are not the customer, you are the product being sold. Facebook and Twitter sell your attention to advertisers. MeWe does not.
I really like MeWe for this reason.
In terms of the interface, MeWe is more similar to Facebook than Twitter. You can create pages, groups, and events. Consider this your official invitation to join our Novel Marketing Group on MeWe.
From what I can tell, MeWe is less political than Parler. For people leaving Facebook, MeWe is the place to talk about life. For people leaving Twitter, Parler is the new place to talk about politics.
In my opinion, signing up, reserving your name, and cross-posting your content on these new social networks is a no-brainer. The authors who join will likely see a big jump in their followers.
I personally like MeWe better, but that’s probably because I preferred Facebook to Twitter back in the day. However, I also really like the “our users are our customers” philosophy. For that reason, I’m considering moving the Obscure No More Students Only Facebook Group over to MeWe.
I love the idea of social networks that don’t hide your content from your readers. For years I taught people how to build a platform on Facebook, and I felt they did a bait-and-switch when they started charging authors to reach the readers they had already been reaching for free. Of course, that strategy made them one of the wealthiest companies in history, but at what cost?
I am not trying to be preachy or didactic. I’m just trying to help authors navigate a very turbulent time in history. When I recommended that authors leave MailChimp, I never anticipated MailChimp would start purging accounts for political reasons.
Every time I talk about cultural topics like this, I get angry emails, and I lose patrons. My episode on How to Survive Cancel Culture cost me several patrons.
For the record, I still stand behind everything I said in the How to Survive Cancel Culture as an Author episode. I am, and have always been, in favor of free speech and against book burning, book banning, and censorship.
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