This series will analyze each of the major social media networks. Some statements will be general, but most of them are going to be geared toward writers.
Today, we’ll start with the obvious one, Facebook. Because of its popularity, I’m actually going to break them up into two posts, the first covering Facebook in general, and the second addressing Facebook Pages.
What is Facebook?
Ah, yes. The big daddy of all social networks. The empire that Zuckerberg built. Facebook is the gold standard on what social networking should be, and the one network I probably need to explain the least. When a new social network comes out, it is always compared it to Facebook (and maybe Twitter).
Since its launch in 2004, it has become an Internet juggernaut and one of the biggest attractions for going online. Over a billion people use it regularly. If Facebook was a country, it would be the third most populous (slightly behind China and India) and over three times more populous than the United States (the real #3). This means that if you are looking for somebody, this is the social network you check first.
One unique aspects of Facebook over most other social networks is that relationships needs to be formed two-way. in other words, if I want to interact with somebody, I need to get their permission first. Once they actively decide to confirm the relationship, then you can catch up on old times.
Of all the social networks, this is probably the one I recommend the most. Not because I think it is the best (my favorite is Google+), but because of the potential of feedback and interaction.
A perfect example: A few years ago, I put my back out while dead-lifting a generator (don’t ask) in my back yard. I fell into a location I couldn’t get out of, I was home alone, my cell phone was in the house, and it took about half an hour of yelling for help before somebody heard me from the street.
What followed was a couple of years where my back would go out after the littlest altercations. Not long ago, I was in my back yard and I bent over to tie my shoes. Well, that did it. My back went out to the point where I couldn’t get up, and I fell right into the same place I got stuck in before. Oh, the irony! Once again, I was home alone, so I didn’t have any family that could help, but I *DID* have my phone.
So I hit Facebook.
I asked that if any neighbors were around, could they swing by and help me get into my house. Five minutes later, I had two people from my neighborhood getting me back into my house.
People are very responsive on Facebook. When I put a question out on Twitter, I might get a response or two. On a good day, maybe three. But on Facebook, I could ask the same question and I’ll generate a lot more feedback. Not only that, but Facebook gets people who interact with me to interact with each other, thus adding life to the conversation.
That said, the argument I first presented when I started this series was that a person will find the most interaction at the social media outlet they invest the most in to. Facebook is it for me, and I think it is for most other people, but others have found more success elsewhere.
Also, Facebook has chatting capabilities that are better than all the others, with the exception of Google+. It’s easy to use and integrates with the messaging aspects of Facebook.
Facebook can be active all day long, and even at night if you are in active groups. Case in point, in case you haven’t gotten word of it yet, there is a great group for writers called The Authors’ Think Tank. Day or night, people will ask writing-related questions, and answers flow in almost immediately to help a writer out.
As with every social network, the best way to use it is to socialize and interact. It isn’t so much talking AT people, it’s talk WITH people. There’s a difference. Read through Facebook, and most posts are people talking at you. But when people talk with you, conversations really tend to explode. Not only that, but people are more mindful and likely to pay attention when they see something from somebody who posts like this consistently.
You say, “The other day I was walking into Smith’s when—“
“Smith’s? Oh, I love Smith’s! They’re the only ones who have those gooey cinnamon rolls. Do you know what I’m saying?”
You blink in surprise. “No. Anyway, I was walking by the doors—“
“They are right by the doors! I promise. I mean, they aren’t as good as my recipe, but it makes do if I don’t have time to cook. You should really…”
Anyway, yeah, not fun. These are not usually the people you keep inviting over for dinner. Who do you invite? The people you have conversations with. As you are telling them your Smith’s story, they nod and say, “Mmmhmmmm.” They even laugh at the right spots. They might even ask which clerk helped you out, since this friend knows a few of them. When you are done with your story, they laugh and say, “You know, that reminds me of when you and I went to Vegas.” You, of course, stop them, because what happens in Vegas is supposed to stay there. Instead, you talk about the first person I used as an example and what a conceited piece of crud they are.
(Oh, ummm… none of the above is based on actual events)
Same with life on Facebook. Be personable. Being a writer on the Internet is more than telling everybody about your book or where you are touring. It is about getting involved with conversations, answering people when they need help, and even helping out by telling all your friends, “Hey, my buddy [insert name here] just released a book. Check it out here:”.
I’m not saying to not promote your work, especially when you have news to share, but people stop paying attention when every post is their self promotion. People stop caring. People just think of them as one of THOSE people. Please, don’t be one of THOSE people! Be personable and interact and you’ll find more success and happiness on Facebook.
Pros – And How to Use Them
It’s The largest. This is the most used social media network. When you desire to put on an event, you are most likely going to get a larger response through Facebook. If you can get your friends to share with their friends, Facebook would be the best place to start.
Friends are one-to-one. So, a relationship must be established to really interact. I think that is why a lot of people prefer this over the others. When you post something, you can be sure that only the ones you have approved can see it. This helps with privacy, but if privacy is a concern there are some cons that I’ll hit on shortly.
Pages. Pages are a way to get more Twitter-ish. Basically, whatever you type in there will be read by anyone who follows you. If you are looking for a way to communicate to a large fanbase–without the need to establish relationships–then pages are a good way to go. I’ll cover this more next week, since I think it deserves a post to itself.
Groups. Groups is a way to talk about what YOU want to talk to, even if you are not friends with the people in the group. It’s like going to a party where you might know a handful of people (or even nobody at all), but they are talking about what you want to talk about, so you head there and make yourself at home. If somebody starts an interesting conversation at this party, you can waltz on it and join it. Or start your own!
Facebook can cause posts to go viral. I post a lot of pictures on Facebook. A couple of them will get a little viral. Of course, not as viral as what celebrities can pull off, but it isn’t uncommon for me to post a picture and when I revisit it later I notice it has had several dozen to even hundreds of shares.
Don’t laugh, this is viral for me. Again, I put more time on Facebook, so that is mostly likely for me to go viral there than the other ones.
Cons – And How to Avoid Them
Overlapping writing with normal life. I see this question a lot: “My name is xyz, but I write under zyx. Should I just have two Facebook accounts?” Well, these days you don’t really need to, thanks to pages. It is one way to separate your real life from your writing world. Tune in next week for more information.
Privacy problems. Did you know that you can control who sees each and every status update and picture you post on Facebook? Surprisingly, a lot don’t. I know several people who have left Facebook because they didn’t want pictures of their children being easily accessible on Facebook. You do have the ability to control this, but I’m putting this in the con column because Facebook sure does not make it easy to do so. If you want to know more, research Facebook privacy on your search engine of choice. Or request another blog on it below… if I get enough requests I’ll be happy to post something after this series is over.
It’s a time-suck! It can suck you in like the Death Star did the first time it crossed paths with the Millennium Falcon, only you won’t have Obi-Wan Kenobi running around turning it off. You’ve got to set limits, or you’ll spend all your free time on Facebook and Farmville and never get your book written. Facebook addiction is a real thing, don’t become one of its victims.
5,000 friend limit. Okay, let’s be honest. Who really knows 5,000 people? But Facebook has a 5,000 friend limit, something that Orson Scott Card ran into when he first joined Facebook. He opened up his profile and, bam, the requests starting coming in. It seemed like the next day, he was on Facebook apologizing to all those he couldn’t accept as friends because he had already accepted 5,000 requests.
Luckily, there are two ways to get past this one. The first is to turn on following, which allows people to follow you without a friend request. There aren’t many privacy concerns since they can only see posts you set as public. Anything you set to “friends only” or other special groups, e.g., “Writers”, “High School Buddies”, and “Family”, will not be seen by those following you.
The other is Facebook pages. Again, I’ll hit on this more next week.
So, until then… I’ll see you on Facebook (but I do love comments here).