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Getting 60 thousand pageviews with 2 carefully constructed posts (maxklein.posterous.com)
45 points by azharcs on Jan 8, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 49 comments

Max misappropriates value from follower count. He says that the new followers that were valuable were "real business men with high follower to followee counts" (um, spammers?) and that the second article got him followers that were "unimportant people with low follower counts"

This is backwards. Get those first kind of people to follow you and they may retweet your stuff once in a blue moon but it's just noise amongst the rest of their noise. Get a lot of that second group to follow you and those people will GO TO BAT for you. They're real, engaged followers. Your tweets are far more likely to register with them (or even just be seen) and they can just as easily start network effects that reach the big boys anyway. As a whole they're far more valuable than 1000 of the 'real business men'.

Excellent point. Twitter accounts with moderate followers represent real people that are more likely to be engaged with your tweets. The "big boys" are more likely to be using Twitter as a broadcasting marketing tool. The former group are more likely to become your users/readers/customers.

I think the most valuable twitter user is he who followers 100 people but is followed by 10.000 people. Do you disagree?

That depends on the 10,000 people. If they're all outside the demographic that I'm interested in or if the person that follows me never retweets stuff that interests my demographic then it's useless.

In general though, assuming there is some bond between you and the person that follows 100 people and the 10,000 people that follow him in turn contain some real live bodies that are in the right demographic he/she will be a useful follower.

Personally I have not seen much action on twitter from people with 10's of thousands of followers, they are usually fairly reluctant to re-tweet unless it suits them perfectly, exactly because of their large following, and also because people with that many followers usually have those for their own glorification and not specifically as a tool to communicate with people with who they have a strong (2 way) bond.

That's quite interesting. I don't actually know how that works since I've obviously never had more than 200 followers. I see the point though - I have revised my opinion hereforth.

As a "reader" on Twitter I usually dont follow anyone over a few hundred followers unless they are really interesting. Because mostly it is just noise.

I suspect the demographic of their followers isn't hugely useful for "sticky" readers.

According Duncan Watts' research[1] the crucial factor in spreading a trend is how susceptible the population is to persuasion, not how persuasive the first person to start it is.

You chose themes that your chosen population was already very susceptible to passing on.

[1] http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/122/is-the-tipping-point...

So, essentially we've been social engineered :)


Knowing that I might be a bit more reluctant to visit maxklein.posterous.com links in the future.

You´ve not been social engineered - you´ve received a post that was personalised for you. I don´t write to gain twitter followers - I really don´t care - but in order to test my theory, I needed some type of metric, and that seemed like a relevant one.

My further posts are no longer going to be manipulated in that manner -- well, till I think of something interesting to try out again.

The only difference between what I did and what lifehacker or any such site does is that I explained afterwards.

(Sorry about the weird apostrophe, I got a new macbook and it has a strange keyboard).

You´ve not been social engineered - you´ve received a post that was personalised for you.

It was personalized for us? So you're saying: In the process of creating the post, you designed it in ways that would appeal to the sorts of individuals that frequent Hacker News?

That sounds... a little like... social... engineering.


Social engineering is the act of manipulating people into performing actions.

We can get pedantic, but Jacques accused you of doing exactly what you're doing.

Alright, you are technically right. Which is the right kind of right.

The phrase "technically right" implies you think I'm wrong in some other way. Yet here you've said specifically that your goal is to manipulate people and then reveal how they're being manipulated. So, you're socially engineering people.

Thanks to this one article, everything you attempt to write from now on will be hounded by people criticizing you and calling out manipulation. You're Max Klein the con man. If you're sincere about your goal that won't deter you, but don't kid yourself into thinking the locals here will be a fan.

I'm ambivalent, myself; what you purport to do is what a thousand marketers have written about before you. What do you have to say that has not been said and critiqued before? If you're really committed to writing something interesting, that's a question you need to answer. If your goal is just fameballing, then expect fame, but fame's not as fun as it looks.

> You're Max Klein the con man

I think that's a little strong.

That's not how I think personally. I'm curious to see how this plays out myself.

That said, I remember how vicious Hacker News got back when Valleywag was allowed on this site. Hell, look at how they get about TechCrunch's style of journalism. People don't like being told they've been manipulated, and they hold grudges. When somebody goes out of their way to tell an entire community that they've been manipulated, that community isn't going to be happy with the person who pointed it out.

Hopefully, Max, you're not offended by my choice of language? I didn't mean to deride you with it. It was more a warning that to an angry group there's little difference between a would-be magician and a shyster.

  That's not how I think personally. 
  I'm curious to see how this plays out myself.
Wait, are you trying to social engineer readers here into thinking Max is a con man?

I'm not offended - I welcome it. My aim in the blog is deconstruction, and if I ever wrote gossip or poor rumours, I'd stop. If I ever did manipulate for whatever reason, I would always tell it afterwards. It's not safe reading in that manner - I may decide to experiment with the people reading.

Fair enough! I'm interested in seeing what you do next.

> You´ve not been social engineered - you´ve received a post that was personalised for you.

That's your interpretation, mine is different. You've used your reputation to get me to visit your site, specifically not the text of those links. You've written interesting stuff in the past and I wondered what this was about. (edit: reputation+title = click, reputation alone or title alone would probably not have been a click, but that's after the fact).

> My further posts are no longer going to be manipulated in that manner

So you say.

> well, till I think of something interesting to try out again.

See, that's what I mean. You've abused your reputation in order to do your experiment, and you've succeeded in your goal. Now I'm going to be more wary, and will think twice before I click, no matter how enticing the title. In fact, the more enticing the title the less chance that I'll click because that will make it more likely that you are pulling another stunt.

> The only difference between what I did and what lifehacker or any such site does is that I explained afterwards.

A good magician never explains his tricks to the audience.

I know that that is a fine line here, but even though I'm sure you have good intentions and you are in a way making up for tricking people by explaining it I can't help the feelings that it creates.

Trust is a fragile thing, and in some sense you have broken that trust.

You've taken 'link bait' or 'title bait' one step further and created 'article bait'. That's an achievement in its own right, and I find it quite impressive that you managed to pull this off but at the same time you've shown yourself more than willing and capable of doing this with intent.

> I don´t write to gain twitter followers

No, but you write "My aim in both cases was to increase my name recognition. I wanted the right people to be aware of "Max Klein". "

If twitter followers are a measure of that then we can use that to gauge your success and effectively you were trying to gain a following.

That's what social engineering is all about. It's a hacker term for getting people to do what they otherwise would not do by outsmarting them. That's not limited to getting passwords over the phone by pretending to be the sysadmin.

There are a lot of blogs there talking about tech and talking about money. I could join their ranks and just write the same stuff I write here.

But I choose not to. What I want to write is a meta blog. A blog where the things I write to pull people to my site are further explained and analysed. Like getting traffic by writing an article about how to get traffic and in that article analysing the traffic the article itself would get. That is the experiment I want to do.

Yes, unfortunately, you are my test subject, and it is your choice if you choose to participate or not, but I think it will be interesting.

So I am the magician explaining and analysing my tricks. Not everyone likes that - some just want to see the magic.

The basic mistake you make is that as both the audience and the test subject you lose perspective, it's one thing to stand on the sidelines and see you do great stuff with text in order to really achieve something.

If you had a specific goal other than 'increasing the name recognition of Max Klein' then that would be cool with me.

Say you invent a gadget and you apply this technique and you sell a million of them and document it. That's the exact same thing but with one major difference, there is a concrete goal.

The audience itself is not the goal, and neither is simply increasing your name visibility. It's like a branded box with nothing in it. Other than your 'cleverness'.

By closing the loop and making the whole thing about how to attract visitors you are like a spammer that mails you a guide on how to get traffic, the guide tells you to spam people and send them guides.

There is no real goal here.

That's a harsh analogy, but that is the way it appears to me.

So, what do you really intend to do with the audience that you have got ?

Are you going to get to some kind of conversion goal or is it just a numbers game ?

Actually, I do have a plan. I was intending to phase it in, but it makes no difference if I say it now:

Step 1: Write interesting articles where I deconstruct the art of gaining name recognition, and in the process gain a lot of name recognition. At some point, I will have a following of about 1000

Step 2: I am going to challenge one of the established software players that I am going to make software that is better and more loved than theirs

Step 3: I will program and release something very promising. My followers will spread the news. It will grow

That's my overall plan. There is software I am developing where I am going to stake my reputation on. But what's a reputation to stake if you have none, ey?

That makes more sense. But you have to keep in mind that the method chosen puts the horse behind the cart.

That method only makes sense if the people whose name recognition you are now coveting will be in some way very closely related (or will even be) the consumers of your eventual product.

Only then it makes sense, or you'll have to go through the whole rigmarole again by the time you are ready to approach your customers, which will have cost you time and effort.

So I would bet that that is the case because otherwise it would not make much sense to cultivate this particular audience.

Again, I'm very impressed with your ability to do this, if you can transport it easily to fields outside of the one you are currently active in (software development) then there probably is a metric ton of money to be made exploiting that talent.

Another problem I foresee with your approach is the timing. If you are right now busy creating a target audience for a product that doesn't exist then you are effectively opening a window of opportunity without the ability to fill it.

If you had used your talent to attract 60,000 prospects to your product you'd be laughing all the way to the bank now, whereas right now all you have is an impulse whose momentum will be long gone by the time you're ready to go to market.

It seems to me that your timing is off, but time will tell.

Now that's interesting, a social engineer + software developer = new kind of entrepreneur? The plan: outsmart people in the social space (creating a momentum) and then start selling them software (creating long term effect).

The problem here is how actually you create good software

Well, I work in research doing software mainly, so technically, I am competent.

Now you should be well settled in for applying to YC

I did in the past and was rejected. I don't need to anymore, this month I will make 15k in revenue + still have my salary. I'm comfortable.

> A good magician never explains his tricks to the audience.

Illusions, jaquesm.

I don't know who downvoted you. You're right.

Perhaps mine is a niche view here — certainly it is — but if your goal is simply to get eyes then writing blog posts is the wrong way to go about it. People react to programs, photographs, and music more than they do to writing.

I've seen my writing consistently hit the front of Hacker News. It provides exciting spikes, yes, but when you launch a single webapp you see a vastly greater traffic from the same sources.

So, which is the goal? Is it popularity, or is it craft? If you want popularity, blogging's the wrong game. If it's craft, posts like this are self-defeating and lose you face in the eyes of the people who might be interested.

most 37signals posts are social engineering at work.

Agreed, which is why I stopped reading them.

Overexposure doesn't help either.

That is basically the problem I have with this whole approach. I make a good bit of money on a site that has on the order of 15,000 visitors per day. It's sticky as hell and we charge an arm and a leg. People stay for 6 months or longer. I spend 0 on marketing, it's all word of mouth.

If you get 60,000 people to visit your site with two articles (which is really a talent) then you should have a plan ready about what you're going to do with those people.

Just getting them is 1/100th of the job. The other 99% is keeping them, and getting them to really participate in something. Not to use them as guinea pigs.

Everybody can generate impulses, maybe not of this magnitude, but it's doable.

The trick in running a successful internet business is not to be able to generate impulses, even though that is a part of it, the trick is to have all your ducks in a row and to provide a pipeline of activities executed in parallel.

Each of those steps in the pipeline (I'm not going to enumerate them, but they're pretty obvious) lead to a single goal, which is to form a long term relationship with a customer or a user.

If that's not the end goal then you are executing before you are ready to do so, essentially you are using your powder before it's time.

Agreed, although you can go for the 37signals model:

  * Build up a following of devoted disciples
  * After a while start trying to sell them stuff

In the extreme it actually works better than the opposite "build that and they will come" approach. Though I think the better one is as usual a balance of two

I wrote the articles to test my theories on what captures attention on the internet

I don't have any analytics installed on this site

That seems counter-intuitive?

To me this reads purely like deliberate controversy to get some notoriety. The posts you mention I actually read (both I think) and found one of the 2 to be of interest. To suggest they were some sort of trick just seems weird.

This article was as informative as someone who would write "Getting 60K pageviews by a carefully constructed competition"

It's not hard to get page views.

I have approx 30K page views per post and great discussions around them and re-tweets up the yazoo, but it's based on what I find interesting, what I want to spend my time on. Not on writing content that isn't important to me.

The real metrics you should look for is average time spent on site, number of page views per visit unique visitors, what kind of discussion you can generate around it, if people start contacting you for your input.

That's worth something and it's solid.

Did anyone else not want to click that, just based on the title?

Exactly, that was my feeling.

He is clever though, you have to hand him that.

But by showing his hand and how 'clever' he's been the author has possibly completely undone the effect.

There is an unwritten social contract between content creators and audiences, they don't mind being duped (if it isn't blatantly obvious), but don't rub it in.

Isn't it a hackers' website? Also, isn't there a question on the YC application form asking how one hacked something non-computer?

I once had a blog post get 100,000 uniques in a day: http://www.nextthing.org/archives/2005/08/07/fun-with-http-h...

That was back when Digg could still drive traffic. The Apple interns e-mail list liked my post, and they all upvoted it on Digg (there were a lot of interns).

The point here is to be able to reproduce it on will

While we're on the topic, am I the only one who noticed that posts starting like "Am I the only one to think that..." or "I'll probably get downvoted for this but..." tend to get upvoted a lot?

I cringe whenever I see this. Usually, the poster's opinion is somewhat obvious and would definitely not get downvoted if it were just stated. But adding the "lone sane person" spin to it seems to get a lot more upvotes anyway.

I have a personal policy of always downvoting such comments when I see them, (1) to reduce the distortion caused by the effect you mentioned and (2) in the hope of slightly discouraging them.

Couldn't be said better

Shocker, the topic of your blog post determines reader interest and demographic. Isn't most writing for public consumption carefully constructed? One of the tenants of a good author is knowing your audience and writing for them.

I'd like to know how would you get the world to know about your article unless you post it on HN and have small number of twitter followers?

It depends on what you have to say and how well you go about saying it. A very few people reading your stuff can get the ball rolling. If one of the major aggregation sites picks up on you you could easily see a few thousand visitors from one article. And possibly much more than that.

If a few of those put you in their reader the next post will get traction a bit quicker, assuming you keep the quality constant.

It's a long process but the value of the kind of following you build up like that is likely a lot higher than from 'stunts'.

If you build a solid reputation and you continue to treat your audience with some respect, they're likely to be loyal for a long time.

edit: and if you're just writing to up your follower count in twitter then you have to stop and ask yourself what the actual goal is that you are trying to achieve. The number of people following you on social news sites does not automatically translate in to clout. It's just an abstract, a number. If it makes you happy to see a larger number then go for it, but other than that the question is: "what are you going to do with those followers?"

Are you going to somehow harness the power of the people that receive your tweets / posts or is it just a numbers game?

For some, it is apparently all about the numbers. Others, with far smaller 'followings' meanwhile (but with a good plan and some respect and serious intentions) will move mountains.

If you want to achieve some goal it is unlikely that a simple increase in your follower count is going to help you to achieve that goal. It's just a (very small) tool that may help you along the way when used wisely. And when used badly it can cut you just as easily. Reputations are built up slowly and destroyed in a heartbeat.

Writing for the simple task of getting followers is redundant.Write your articles and landing pages first,and get everything ready for production, with NO followers.Then simply go to http://gdi.bz/twitterads and follow the simple instructions for getting 10,000 followers in 60 to 90 days.(I'm not sellin' anything here,It is one hundred % free to do) These will be targeted followers for whatever niche you are writing about.Then,after you have your 10,000 followers.look on my twitter profile http://twitter.com/tristanginnett and look for the auto-post software in my updates, that will auto-post YOUR blog,affiliate,website link out 24 hours a day.

If you get to the frontpage of HN, then about 8 services willl link to it automatically on twitter. If your content is good, it will get retweeted, someone will post it on reddit and so on.

The core point lies in your content - you can't force people to like shit they don't like.

The core point lies in your content - you can't force people to like shit they don't like.

Forget all the shit some people are trying to sling at you and stick to that maxim. It doesn't matter what your intentions are or your ultimate goal is - as long as you're providing people with things that they find interesting, you're getting it right in my book. I enjoyed your posts - well done.

Nothing so special in here. Thats exactly the ways movies have worked, from times immemorial.

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