Trying to Be Heard Above the Facebook Noise

I’m sure it seems as if I’m obsessed with Facebook, considering all the posts I’ve been writing about the site lately, but the truth is, it confuses me. What’s the point of having thousands of friends if only a few of those “friends” show up in our news feeds, and our posts show up in only a few of theirs? Why do we have to post silly sayings and quotes by other people to attract attention to our own writing? Why are we supposed to upload colorful images and share cute pet photos? What does any of that have to do with our books? Shouldn’t the books be enough to attract attention?

I do know the answer to that last question. If you are James Patterson, mention of a book is news, but if you are Pat Bertram, it’s blatant self-promo.

There is so much noise on Facebook, with everyone screaming “Looka me, looka me,” like kids on a playground, that it’s almost impossible to hear the quiet writers who just want people to check out their books.

I thought if I posted intelligent questions, I’d attract intelligent friends, and the ones I interact with are exceedingly intelligent. The trouble is, they are in the same position I am in — looking for quiet readers in a noisy world.

I’m a writer, right? I should be able to think of witty things to say that will make people want to get to know me and my books, but my wit deserts me when it’s most needed. When I do think of something witty, it’s at three o’clock in the morning. I’m not about to wake fully, turn on the light, write down my witticism, and then lie there for hours, waiting in vain for sleep to return. (My wit centers more on puns, anyway, such as: Waiting in vein. Is that what vampires do? Well, maybe “wit” is a bit of an exaggeration.) So what passes for wit, passes with the night, and in the morning I don’t remember. (Probably just as well if “waiting in vein” is the best I can do.)

One of my favorite people on Facebook, who manages to be intelligent and witty and post cute pet photos, is Malcolm R. Campbell. (He also happens to be a darn good writer.) Malcolm once said that he’s written more to promote his books than he did to write them. (See? I told you he was witty. Or at least truthful.)

It’s kind of pathetic when you think about it — you rip out your heart and throw it into your book, and then you have to take what’s left of you and spent it on sites like Facebook. Is it worth it? I’m not sure. For a long time, I thought it was. I was having fun, and there was always the hope of hitting some sort of friending jackpot. But now? It seems like . . . noise. Something to block out.

Still, wit aside, I do have a modicum of intelligence, a bit of computer savvy, a tinge of knowledge about the workings of the human psyche, so I should be able to make my voice heard above the noise, right? But in the back of my mind is the small question, what then? My books aren’t the next erotic vampire bondage serial killer novelty, so will my being heard make any difference?

Why Facebook is Not the Great Promotional Tool It Once Was

Are you one of those authors who joined Facebook, hoping to find fame and fortune, and have only found . . . Facebook?

After my books were accepted for publication, and while I waited for them to become available, I spent a lot of time researching how to promote online. The first unanimous suggestion was to get a website, the second was to maintain a blog, and the third, of course, was to create a presence on social networking sites. I’d already done the first two, so that left the third option. How hard could networking be? Add the maximum number of friends, post status updates and blog links, create discussion groups as a way to get to know other authors. Sounded like fun.

At first, it worked the way it was supposed to — I made a lot of friends, had some great discussions, promoted my online release party via Facebook and MySpace. I even sold some books.

And then . . . nothing. Sure, I still had friends, but sales dropped off, and when my next release party came around, almost no one stopped by. (By then, MySpace was practically defunct — everyone I met on MySpace had migrated to Facebook.)

Many authors have had the same experience as I did. So what happened? Why, after all those articles about how great Facebook was for promotion, didn’t we get the results we hoped for? Because of the ever-changing face of Facebook, that’s why.

When I joined Facebook, it was at the tag end of the free-for-all, where anyone could post anything and all of your “friends” would see it. Events and requests to “like” a page weren’t hidden in your notifications as they are now, but were almost impossible to miss. You pretty much had to respond one way or another. Groups were much more effective than they are now. Group administrators could send a message to everyone in the group, and there were group discussions boards (which is what I used the group messaging for — to announce the weekly discussion).

One by one, all the functional parts of Facebook (those that worked best for promotion, that is) have disappeared, to be replaced by . . . not much of anything, actually. If you post something on your fan page, it shows up in the news feed of only a small percentage of people. They say 10%, but it’s more like 2%. My current reach — the maximum number of people per week who could have seen my posts — is 285. Considering that I post something every day, that means FB shows each post to only about 40 people a day, which is a very small fraction of my 1487 “likes.” If I want more people to see my posts, I can pay to get more views. Bizarre, isn’t it?

I don’t know the statistics for profile views since they aren’t posted on the site, but going by my own feed, not many people at all see anything — just the same few people every day. And now that anyone has the ability to shut off the posts of anyone they want, you could be seeing their posts, and they won’t see anything of yours.

Apparently, Facebook read the same books and articles we did about how to promote on the site, and they are doing everything they can to prevent our promotion efforts from being very effective. (They want to be the only ones making money.)

The first self-published millionaire who subsequently wrote the book about how to make a million via FB, cheated by maxing out multiple accounts — you can only have 5000 friends, so he had more than one account going at the same time. But that should come as no surprise now that he has been outed as having purchased scads of reviews.

So, if you are not getting the results you hoped for by promoting your books on Facebook, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not your fault at all. It’s the fault of all those who came first and scammed the system before you had a chance.