Some Thoughts on Facebook
I’d like to share a few thoughts on Facebook today. As you might be able to guess from the image, they are not going to be all that positive. A lot of authors are on Facebook. Many of them attribute the success of launching their careers to the wide reach of this social media platform. Long established authors (i.e. anyone who was published before around 2004, several epochs ago in social media time) use it almost like a personal info channel to communicate their new releases and interact with fans, offer contests, let them post pictures of themselves reading their books, and so on. But my experience has been markedly different.
First a little history. After launching my book Into the Vast, I realized that I probably needed to be more involved online and have some way for readers to find out about my books more readily. In retrospect, I should have realized this before I published my first book. But since that you can’t change the past (unless you write historical fiction), I did the best I could and threw my hat in anyway.
I started with zero friends and jumped in immediately with an author “page” as opposed to a personal account. Although I got quite a few likes right away and I did interact with a few people at first, over time those interactions fell off and I stopped getting any new likes or shares of my posts. It became clear to me that, apart from a few stalwarts, my Facebook posts weren’t really engaging that many people.
I switched glasses when your back was turned!
Then I started noticing that not only was I getting very few likes and shares, I wasn’t even getting very many views. I did some reading online and found out that Facebook had shifted the way pages work so that very few of the posts get seen by those who have liked the page. If you’re wondering about the details behind this, I’d recommend this excellent article. But from what I can gather the new system works like this: if you hit “like” on a “page” (as opposed to a personal account) or share or comment on a post, then Facebook will keep showing you posts from that page. If not, in all likelihood they will not show up unless the author pays Facebook to make them show up.
Basically, Facebook is holding back posts for pages and reserving them for those who are willing to pay. They’re a business, I can’t fault them for wanting to make money, but for me it became increasingly obvious that Facebook was never going to reach that many readers. Why create content for an outlet where I know no one is going to see it? I already have a website for that, right?
It seems like Facebook only works for people who already have a lot of friends or likes (in the case of a page), for authors or public figures or businesses who have a lot of name recognition and a fan base. For those like me just starting out, it is not a way to really get exposure or generate interest. Like a spark without a pile of kindling, it’s really hard to get much of a fire going if you are not already widely known. Sound doesn’t carry in a vacuum.
Down, but not out
So why have I not given up on Facebook entirely and just deleted my account? Well, I decided to open up a personal account instead. This way people would get all of my posts and not have Facebook’s advertising machine filtering them out. Unfortunately I did this long after my books came out and so most of my Facebook friends had either already read my books or probably aren’t interested in them anyway which is fine. I post about other things there most of the time anyway. I do of course talk about books and writing but most of that isn’t really about my own work, just literature in general, things I’ve enjoyed reading, thoughts on the art of writing, etc.
Another reason I decided to keep my Facebook shingle out was because, through the magic of this web site, my posts still get forwarded to my Facebook accounts anyway (they also get sent to twitter). So that way I can sort of have my cake and nibble on it too. This website (and my newsletter) is really my main focus when it comes to sharing my thoughts. It serves as a funnel from which to trickle down my ideas into the social media sites for the few folks who would find them there, they’re still available.
So that’s the long and the skinny on my less than marvelous relationship to Facebook. The website was what I cared most about, honestly, anyway. Do I wish I had more engagement on Facebook? Sure. And maybe some day I will, but for now, I’m just enjoying writing novels and short stories and posting to this website when I can manage.
So what about you? Has your mileage varied? Do you use it mostly for communicating with family and friends? Keeping up with the news? Posting pictures of your cat? Or do you find the whole thing a waste of time? Let me know in the comments below.