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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Facebook Knows All, Sees All, Confuses All

By An Anonymous Person in the Facebook Protection Program

For the most part, trying to figure out Facebook is an exercise in futility. About the time you think you've uncovered all of Facebook’s secrets, the Dark Lord changes everything. Very frustrating.

I’m sure we’ve all seen “the rules” about what not to post:

What you post
What people read
I’ll be away on vacation for a week starting Friday.
Here’s your chance, burglars!
Religious screed
Hey, gang! Let’s argue about whose religious beliefs are correct.
Political diatribe
I’m a dangerous radical, heartless philistine, or hopeless nincompoop.
Rumors and “warnings” found on the internet
I’m gullible.
Copyrighted images, etc.
Sue me for everything I own. I’ve always wanted to live in cardboard box under an overpass.
Unkind things about other people
You’re next, bucko.
What you ate for breakfast
I’m the life of the party in the real world, too.
Drive-by “buy my book” messages (including up-to-the-minute news about Amazon sales rank and reviews)
Like the bandana and six-gun? I’ve always been a snappy dresser. Now hand over your money or the Kindle gets it.

Honestly, the one rule everyone should remember about all social media is very simple: If you wouldn’t do something in a roomful of strangers in the real world, don’t do it on social media either.

There’s another reason for approaching Facebook with a modicum of caution: According to the Dark Lord’s terms of service, everything you post on Facebook belongs to Facebook. Forever. Post something you regret, and you can’t take it back, even if you delete the post from your timeline. Get used to that blush setting fire to your cheeks, because you’ll be wearing it for the rest of your life.

Far more difficult than determining what not to do on Facebook is figuring out what to do. Take your Facebook presence, for example. If you’re an author, should you start a Facebook Page or stick with a personal timeline? Or do you need both? And for the love of Cheez Whiz, what the heck is a group?

First, some definitions:

A timeline or newsfeed is a personal presence. This is how most of us are accustomed to interacting with other Facebook users. When we post jokes, memes, quotes, links, random cat pictures, etc., we’re posting to our personal timeline. We “friend” people using our timeline, and they friend us back using theirs (or not, if we’re in the habit of relentlessly promoting our books or revealing what we ate for breakfast).

A Page is a commercial presence. Businesses and celebrities establish Pages because Pages allow a few things timelines don’t. Page administrators can post polls, run contests, offer freebies, share event schedules, and track who’s viewing and interacting with what. Page owners also can compare their Page’s statistics (views, interaction, etc.) to those of other, similar Pages.

A group is essentially an online club. Facebook groups bring like-minded people together about almost every topic under the sun (some of which you do not want to know about, trust me). Some groups allow anyone to join; some require membership approval. The Prairie Rose Publications group, for example, is an “open” group. Anyone can obtain access to the loony bin simply by clicking the “Join” button. Jacquie Rogers’ Pickle Barrel Bar & Books, on the other hand, is a “closed” group. Jacquie or one of her minions must approve anyone who clicks the “Join” button before that person is allowed to dance on the bar with the rest of the Wild Bunch. All posts in a group are delivered to every member, unless a member elects not to receive them.

Back to the question about authors, Pages, and timelines.

I’m not a proponent of authors establishing Facebook Pages. That doesn’t mean I’m dead-set against author Pages — just that I believe authors should think long and hard before diving in.

Why? For one thing — and this is especially true for debut authors — Pages are effective only when their owners post fun things that aren’t overtly promotional, and then spend a significant amount of time interacting about the posts with followers. An inactive Page is much, much worse than no Page at all. Inactive author Pages look like just another billboard for a starving writer. How much attention do you pay to billboards, online ads, and TV commercials? If your answer is “not much,” you’re safe in assuming you’re among the majority. Even worse, Pages with lots of posts but no interaction from fans make an author look either dreadfully dull or desperate to sell books no one wants to read.

That leads to the second point: People can’t “friend” a Page like they do a timeline. Instead, they must become fans or followers by “liking” the Page. There are quite a few negatives attendant upon that system, some of them psychological, but the biggest drawback is this: Facebook’s algorithm displays Page posts much less frequently and to a smaller audience than posts on personal timelines. Every post on your timeline can be seen by all of your Facebook friends. Posts on a Page will be seen by only a small percentage of fans and followers unless the Page’s administrator pays Facebook to show the posts to more people. That’s part of the way Facebook funds its existence.

An exception to the “pay Facebook” model happens when Pages produce content so compelling that people from all over the place find the content by themselves, “like” it, comment on it, or share it. If the material gets lots of attention, Facebook will make sure more people see it for free. So-called “viral” content has intrinsic value for Facebook, so of course the Dark Lord wants to increase the “reach” of the Page that generated all the chatter.

Pages belonging to well-known, bestselling authors typically get great reach on Facebook for free, but those Pages have tens of thousands of fans and followers who would share the author’s every word even if he or she wasn’t on Facebook. The ironic thing there is, bestselling authors and other celebrities generally pay someone to manage their Facebook presence for them, so their fans and followers aren’t interacting with the big shot anyway.

You’ve probably seen folks post things like “Like and share if you know the answer” or “Hit like if you love puppies” to both Pages and timelines. That’s called “like baiting,” and it’s considered spam. Although like baiting does increase interaction with a post, thereby potentially expanding its reach, Facebook is cracking down on the practice by shutting the accounts of people and companies who do it (unless they pay Facebook for the privilege).

The other thing that makes Pages a less-than-optimal promotional channel for individuals is this: They’re a pain in the patootie to generate fans and followers for. You’ve probably seen authors post “Please like my Page!” all over the place. Maybe one or two percent of the people who see those messages actually go like the Page, and those who do usually are other authors who want a Page like in return. Ideally, an author Page should attract readers. Authors read, too (or should), but the round-robin approach to marketing probably isn’t the best use of time and energy.

There is one advantage to maintaining a Page that individuals may want to consider: Facebook caps timeline friends at 5,000. Once you reach 5,000 friends, you’ll have to start a Page (for which fans and followers are unlimited) or begin deleting less-active friends so you can add new ones. My advice? Cross that bridge if you can’t swim, but try treading water first.

Prairie Rose Publications maintains a Facebook Page as well as a group. We’re working to build the audience for both. Everyone is invited — in fact, encouraged — to join the group, like the Page, and start or participate in conversations in either or both places. (Those who are published by Prairie Rose, don’t make us round you up. Nobody wants to see you dragged to the corral by your boot heels.) By the end of the year, PRP hopes to be running frequent, legitimate contests and other fun stuff both in the group and on the Page.

Bottom line, at least in my opinion: Individuals, especially authors who are just starting to build an audience for their work, would do better to stick with a personal timeline and join groups than put time and effort into a Page. People who use Facebook want real interaction with real people. They’re much more likely to friend a real person than they are to like a Page. The personal approach — making Facebook friends feel wanted and appreciated as people, not dollar signs — is much more effective than any advertising you can buy.

Authors: Can you offer any Facebook tips or tricks?

Readers: What do you like and dislike about Facebook?


  1. I've made some really great connections via fb. I enjoy commenting on different posts and catching up with other authors. It is how I became aquatinted with Cheryl and Prairie Rose Publishing and all of my new author friends. Its also been a way to keep in touch with old school friends and to keep in touch with some of my folks who enjoy my books.

  2. And that's perfect, Barn! If nothing else, Facebook should be fun. Keeping up with family and friends and making new acquaintances is a great reason to use Facebook. Coincidentally, the more fun you have with something, the more likely you are to stick with it. Having fun with Facebook is an excellent way to make a name for yourself, too. People get to know YOU, not just your books. :-)

  3. I agree with the drive-by poster. I think some new authors dive into the page pool way too early and end up sinking. The pages I notice that work are those of authors like Jude Deveraux and Diana Gabaldon with their three hundred thousand fans+ (makes me sick) :) Also, I think there's a fine line on your timeline or page about promoting books. I'm still trying to figure that one out, but I know authors who post nothing but "buy my book, see my book, oh here's my book, here's the side view of my book, and check out the back" and absolutely nothing else usually end up annoying more than promoting. Now I'm off to FB to see what trouble I can get into. :)

    1. Rustler, you never have any trouble finding trouble anywhere. :-D

      At the risk of tarnish both of our reputations, I must agree with you about authors who view social media as their promotional oyster. I can't blame them...but at the same time, I can blame them. Social media has changed the world. In some ways, it's made promotion of any product easier. In others, it's made promotion more difficult by stirring up constant noise.

      In today's new publishing landscape, even traditionally published authors bear the lion's share of promotion for their books. The unfortunate thing about that -- aside from the time investment -- is that most authors aren't salespeople. They couldn't sell heaters to folks in Wyoming (for example ;-) ) if their lives depended on it. That's why they write books instead of selling used cars.

      The sad fact is, the more an author shoves her book in everyone's face on ANY social platform, the more potential readers tune her completely out. IMO, treating Facebook as a playground -- posting about everything EXCEPT your books, except on rare occasions -- actually increases interest in an author's work. Readers are more likely to take a chance on a book by an unfamiliar author if that author is a familiar, and friendly, face on Facebook. :-)

      (Now destroy that "I agree with you" part before anyone sees it, would you?)

    2. The "agree" part is destroyed.

      I find this whole promotion of social media thing is similar to walking through a mine field. And what can be frustrating for a newbie, like me, the book is a huge part of my life and I want to share the exciting news with my friends when something happens with the book, but at the same time I don't want them to groan when one of my posts pops up....Ahhhh land mines all around. DARN YOU SOCIAL MEDIA!! No really, it's been a great way to meet some amazing people...even a Texan who shall remain nameless. :)

  4. Nicely said. Now having said that, I do have an author page, but not one that I use a lot. I though long and hard a few years ago about starting it. One reason I chose to go that route, I do so many dang things I wanted to find a place where I could just talk about the writing.

    However, the author page doesn't get used as much until fall and winter when I have time to post the research etc. that I am working on. The rest of the year it is the haiku, photos and basics on my personal one. Oh the joy of wanting to do everything and only getting half of it done...but the joy for me is in the trying. Now, back to my regular schedule. Oops, this is my regurlar schedule, read my favorite blogs, comment and then on to the rest of the day.

    SIGH! Doris

    1. PS I do have to add, Social Media has added to my creative life in ways I never would have expected. For that, well I will not yell and scream too loudly when they mess things up..who am I kidding, I scream at the top of my lungs. Don't mess with my friends!

  5. Fantabulous post, anonymous!

    Author page--I have one, I struggle to utilize it, I sometimes forget I have it, but I'm loathe to dump it altogether. So, will let it sit for now.

    I agree that it's tricky using my personal timeline for friends and family as well as book promo stuff. But, most people ignore what doesn't interest them. I do it too. So I think tis okay. I try not to promo unless I have a reason to. FB is my morning chat with friends, and I really enjoy it.

    I will say--the biggest response I tend to get, in terms of posts, are when I post something personal, when I talk about my writing or something related to it in a personal way. That's hard sometimes, because we have a natural inclincation to remain guarded. But a true connection only happens when we're willing to be vulnerable, to share ourselves. I also believe, however, that we must always be vigilant in how we present ourselves, and we should only ever do what we're comfortable with. This will be different for each person.

    Great article and food for thought!!

  6. Dear AP in the FPP--I hope you are being properly protected. Wouldn't want the FB po-lice to come down on you.
    My take: Thank you, thank you, thank you. When I fist signed on with FB, I had no idea how the thing worked, and over these few years, I decided I know even less because they keep changing the rules.
    After a year or so, others encouraged me to set up an Author's Page, which I finally did. I've never like having it--with its measly 256 Likes. I used my FB Timeline for everything, even promotion on a not-so regular basis. gave me the courage to delete Celia Yeary, Author. It takes 14 days for it to be gone--I'm sure FB thinks I'll change my mine--but I won't this time. Others have failed where you have succeeded, and that is to spell out why I do not need a Page.
    I feel so much better. It was so discouraging to see neg. interaction on it all the time.
    Why I like FB: FB is my playground. It's a time killer, but it's interaction in ways I can choose.
    I do not discuss politics, religion, or social preferences of others. I try hard not to be negative--just stay positive and supportive of others. I don't pour out my personal worries and woes that are truly serious--if I do anything like this, I put a comic bent to it. It's helped me to connect and meet other writers, and people in my town and in my church. This is all good. A man at church hugs me every Sunday, and says, "There she FB pal." He does this in front of my husband who has a FB account, and even with his brilliant mind and a PHD he cannot figure out FB.
    What I don't like now is the constant barrage of paid ads advertising books. I'm not saying I'd never do it--but if I see the same author doing this day after day, I delete her from my Friends list. Not going to put up with it.
    Thanks again--you have made my day.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Anonymous,

      After rethinking my original response, which was negative and unproductive to this conversation, I decided it best to delete it.


  8. I've been on Facebook for a long time--since only college students were invited and others entered at their own risk. My author friends thought I was crazy because everyone knew you should concentrate your energies on MySpace. I could only find one other author in all of FB.

    When I joined, the timelines were called personal pages. The timeline concept hadn't been invented yet. There was a widget for comments, and just about everything else you can think of. If you played a FB game, it was a widget on your page. Over the years and the many FB changes, I've made my own way.

    The first thing I noticed when authors started joining, was they were all very me-centric. In the changing world of social media, this didn't strike me as an effective tactic. Authors were no longer perceived as pedestal material--readers wanted to interact, not be talked down to.

    That's when it struck me--we're in the entertainment business! Everything we post on FB should entertain our readers. They come to us for what they want, and we should have it available, but in our own unique style. That is called "branding" (not in the livestock way). But cramming what we want down their throats is a sure way to alienate them. WIIFM. Relational marketing.

    Pickle Barrel Bar & Books came about by reader request--they wanted a place where they didn't have to hunt for me, and they could post, too. The name came about because in the 1800s, the general store was their Facebook, and people gathered there to gossip, usually up front where by the pickle barrel.

    My one caveat is not to tie all your ribbons on one social media outlet. MySpace, Bebo, and countless others have gone down the tube. FB very well could be next. Or not. But have a presence elsewhere, even if you only post there once a month. There's Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and others. I've never gotten any mileage out of LinkedIn, but that doesn't mean others haven't. And always keep your ear to the ground for the next great thing.

  9. Kathleen -- This was a very interesting post which gave me a lot to think over. I’m about a week behind on reading my blogs, so sorry I’m late responding.

    I got that page and group thing mixed up. I set up a page for Robyn Echols Books, but when I went to set up the same thing for Zina Abbott Books (my pen name for my historical novels), I accidently set it up as a group. Forget about trying to get it changed. I could shut down the group and set up a page, but I would lose all the people who have liked the Zina Abbott Books group.

    Here was my thinking on setting up a page for my books and writing adventures:

    1.) I personally “like” pages based on topics. That does not mean I want to get all the jokes, or family photos, or religious, political, social posts from these people I don’t really know. I like reading little personal comments from my circle of friends and family, but not from “I-don’t-know-you-from-Adam people just because the person has a great page on gardening, nature, artwork or astronomy, etc.

    2.) I figure the same goes with me--people may be interested in my book news, research and writing adventures, but maybe they don’t want their timeline bombed with the 10-20 comments, jokes or sayings I may forward most days. I have been pleasantly pleased with the amount of positive social interaction I’ve enjoyed with other writers who have “friended” me even though we have never met. On the other hand, I sure don’t want to deter potential readers because they don’t agree with my religion, politics or stand on some social issues.

    3.) For between $5-$20 (or you can spend more, but I’m a tightwad) I can “boost” a page and have it seen by more FB users than my “friends.” I have picked up “likes” from names I do not recognize when I’ve done that. On the other hand, I joined a blog hop where I offered a nice prize in exchange for readers subscribing by email and leaving a comment at the bottom of the blog. I received 2 comments on the blog, about twice as many comments on my Facebook page where I posted the notice about the blog hop, and 29 people signed up to receive my blog through Feedspot. I know that only because Feedspot notified me and asked me to sign up with them, which, after an internet search to determine they are legit, I did.

    So, I’m not sure what the best route when dealing with Facebook is. For now, I’m keeping what I already have set up and I’m hoping for the best.

    1. Robin, I like the way you investigated your options. So much better than making blind guesses, isn't it? Thank you SO much for taking the time to share your experiences with us. I learned something from your comment, and that's always a good thing, IMO. :-)

  10. I am a reader and review books I read. I also try and post all newly released books for authors on my timeline. I do this so all my friends will see them and hopefully go to the link and read about the story and buy it. It is my choice what goes on my page and I choose to do this by advertising new books that come out of authors of genres I like.. Hopefully this help new authors or seasoned ones with sales of their books.

    1. Shirl, we so appreciate all the reading and reviewing you do, sweetie. You are a very, very special lady to many of us. In fact, I wish more authors could "meet" you -- not for reviews, but just because you're one of the warmest, most caring, nuttiest people I know. Everyone who has the good fortune to be your friend is blessed.

      BIG HUGS!!!!