Feeding the Facebook Beast

Yesterday, I talked about how Facebook is not the great promotional tool we authors had been led to believe, and yet some people do exceedingly well on the site. The truth is, Facebook is a beast that feeds on content. It needs a never-ending source of funny, inspiring, informative, controversial, topical, and brief posts that engage users and keeps them liking, sharing, and commenting. The more a post is shared, liked, and commented on, the more visible the post becomes. (Facebook uses something called EdgeRank to keep track of all this, which seems similar to Amazon’s algorithms. Amazon, like Facebook, rewards those who are doing well with additional visibility. In the same way, rich celebrities who already have everything they need, get free perks just because they are rich celebrities.)

When someone interacts in any way with a post on a fan page, for example, it shows up the feed of their friends, but the originator of the content gets the credit. And so the content provider gets more reach, and because they get more reach, Facebook will ensure that this continues by letting more and more fans see the posts, which increases the page reach of the content provider. Because, of course, without content, FB will starve since its users will go where they can find funny inspiring, informative, controversial, topical, and brief posts — places such as Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, or whatever the next big thing will be.

If you don’t have such engaging posts, then even if you have 1500 fans, only about 1% will ever see what you post. If you want to know what attracts attention, look no further than your own feed. What do you see that has been shared a hundred times, a thousand times? What have you laughed at, commented on, shared? Photos with funny, inspiring, informative, controversial, topical, and brief commentary, that’s what. (Well, you do unless you’re a curmudgeon like me, and then such content simply annoys you. If I see one more animal with baby-talk captions, acting like a human, I will probably scream so loud, it will reverberate through the center of the earth and cause earthquakes on the other side of the world.)

All this research the past couple of days into the workings of Facebook has given me a few ideas of what to do with my fan page — contests, questions, quotes from my books, even . .  gasp . . . photos with captions.

14 Responses to “Feeding the Facebook Beast”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I don’t have a Facebook out of a personal choice, so I don’t usually listen when people extoll its virtues. However, I do agree with you: it’s a beast that feeds on itself. Sounds really canniballistic, actually.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Actually, all multi-user websites are like that. It’s just the biggest right now.

      Have you signed up with any social networking sites?

      • rami ungar the writer Says:

        LinkedIn…and WordPress.

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          I’m on both, too. Don’t much use LinkedIn. I forget that WordPress is actually like a social networking site, the way we can connect with people and talk about all sorts of things.

          • rami ungar the writer Says:

            Yeah it is, but it feels less…i don’t know…trivial in a way. Facebook, you can talk about the most random of subjects, but WordPress, you come on with a specific goal in mind: to write about a subject that really interests you and to find others that share that interest. does that make any sense.

          • Pat Bertram Says:

            Yes it makes sense. If it weren’t for my discussion group on facebook, I’m not sure I’d spend much time there. I don’t like playing games, don’t like all the political foolishness, don’t like cute animal pictures, and don’t like sentimental sayings. What I do like are links to people’s blog posts. And I can get that here.

          • rami ungar the writer Says:

            my article about facebook, i wrote that the only thing i enjoyed was palying angry birds. otherwise, i thought it was lame. and you know what? now that i think about it, i remember from a class i took that out of all the “friends” you might have on facebook, you’ll probably only really interact regularly with 150 of them. what does that tell you?

  2. Steven M. Moore Says:

    Hi Pat,
    Interesting discussion. My son and daughter suggested I join Facebook “to promote my books.” I immediately found that my Facebook friends don’t enjoy that (I don’t blame them) and created a fan page where I focus on promoting my writing. I use FB now for interacting with online friends and a share of my blog posts (to remind them about my blog, which is only occasionally about writing and book publishing). Recently, due to the silly season in politics, my Facebook friends are rebelling against political comments (again, I don’t blame them).
    My conclusion: FB for me has not translated into selling my books. It has translated into a wider circle of friends and an online media to share stuff with friends and family. With the new changes (timeline, using me to set up adds, etc), I’m less enchanted with it every day.
    My website has been my most useful tool to connect to readers. LinkedIn is more useful for connecting to services that I might use as an author (most of the people who want to connect are either other authors or editors, marketing people, and PR services–not readers). Goodreads has potential for connecting to readers, but I’ve not found it user friendly and it has become huge. I also RSS my blog there. I have had more fun interacting with the much smaller eFiction community, perhaps because my old professor blood comes to the fore there–most of the people in that community are young, hungry, and exciting authors, although there are readers too. Commenting on blogs, being interviewed, and reading and writing reviews has been fun.
    Negotiating and using social media is often difficult for a writer. Many are like me–introverted and uncomfortable with public exposure. Then again, maybe it’s therapy for us! 🙂
    All the best,

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Steven, until recently, I’ve enjoyed the various social networking sites, but I’m becoming disullusions. I also rss feed my blog to goodreads, and I do get a few readers there, but it’s as hard promoting books on that site as it is anywhere. All those hearts and flowers and curlicues so many Goodreaders use to decorate their user names should have been my first clue. I had a group there, but just like with facebook, the interest waned.

      The public exposure on the internet hasn’t bothered me, because from the beginning, it was all about creating my persona as a writer rather than exposing the real me. The joke is on me, though — I have become the person I tried to portray, so I am exposing the real me.

      From the first time I signed up for this blog, I enjoyed it, and it’s still the one thing I really like doing online. For me, it’s more about defining my ideas and connecting with people than it is about promotion, though I do have my listed books on the right sidebar. (It’s surprising how few people notice them, though.)

      Incidentally, thank you for letting me interview you. http://patbertram.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/steven-m-moore-author-of-sing-a-samba-galactica/

  3. joylene Says:

    Wow, if you’re screaming down there and I”m screaming up here, think of the commotion we can create.

  4. Sarah Butland Says:

    I’m glad to finally read that someone else is having similar experiences with Facebook marketing and that they cringe with the overabundance of silly pictures and meme’s (what the heck is a meme anyway). I try to get fans with content and often see I lose them instead.

    Facebook is seeming to be such a waste of time and now I really only use it to connect with other bloggers for tips and tricks.

    Thanks for writing and reading,

    Sarah Butland

  5. Link Feast For Writers, vol. 23 | Reetta Raitanen's Blog Says:

    […] Feeding the Facebook Beast by Pat Bertram […]

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