Fall at Its Finest

We experienced an ideal fall weekend, with cool clear mornings quickly giving way to sunny skies and mild temperatures. Our campsite was surrounded by a thick forest, making it feel like we had traveled a great distance to get away from the metroplex, when in reality we were only 20 miles from home. This is why we love Loyd Park.

We arrived at 6:30 on Friday evening and began settling in. Our Date Night dinner was followed by a crackling campfire and then finished with a couple episodes of “Jack Ryan” on Amazon Prime.

Saturday morning found us immersed in a series of articles in The New York Times about Donald Trump’s use of Twitter and how it has shaped his presidency. Because both of us have jobs that involve social media, we were appreciative of the deep reporting and extensive analysis. One excerpt is instructive:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to determine with certainty how many of Mr. Trump’s more than 66 million followers are fake. Some studies of his followers have estimated that a high proportion are likely to be automated bots, fake accounts or inactive. But even a conservative analysis by The Times found that nearly a third of them, about 22 million, included no biographical information and used the service’s default profile image — two signs the accounts may be rarely used or inactive. Fourteen percent have automatically generated user names, another indication that an account may not belong to a real person.

How Trump Reshaped the Presidency in Over 11,000 Tweets, The New York Times

That got us thinking about social media and its influence in our lives. In late 2017, Facebook said it had discovered at least twice as many fake users as it previously estimated, perhaps as many as 60 million accounts. It’s thought that more than 48 million Twitter users — nearly 15 percent — are “bots,” accounts designed to simulate real people. Essentially, there are three types of bots: Scheduled, watcher, and amplified. Scheduled bots are messages that get posted based on time. Watcher bots monitor other accounts and post when something changes on those accounts. Amplification bots boost other accounts by automatically liking and re-posting messages from those accounts. Social media’s currency is influence, so follower counts matter. People see a high follower or retweet count and assume that the account is influential. As a result, they’re more likely to amplify the message by sharing it or following the account.

Jon has spent five years building an audience for his department’s Twitter and Facebook accounts. @UTSW_Radiology on Twitter currently has 787 followers; @UTSWRadiology on Facebook has 546. The follower count may seem low, but if the objective is meaningful engagement with authentic accounts, his success rate may actually be higher than the president’s.

It’s difficult, however, to offer a nuanced analysis of social media engagement to busy executives accustomed to high-level bullet point reports.

That’s why we write this blog “for ourselves, our memory, and our family.” It’s not about growing our audience. Rather, it’s about telling our story. “All are welcome to follow along,” we say. But our livelihood isn’t dependent on increasing our number of followers. Other bloggers have entered into vendor relationships that their drive content, but not us. We write for ourselves. We report our travel adventures and detail our love of Airstream unencumbered. Hence, we are truly unpaid brand ambassadors, both for Airstream and for our national parks.

We like to think that such unsolicited testimony is itself influential.