The news about Facebook’s embroilment in a data-harvesting-cum-political scandal kind of makes us all want to unfriend the platform for good.
For sure, our collective conscience would be cleaner and we’d all be a lot less distracted without it. Some of us would probably even feel a vengeful twinge of self-righteousness seeing Zuckerberg and his cohorts caught at last with the smoking gun that proves their invention is not only bad for us, but just downright bad.
While a breakup with Facebook might inflict some short-term suffering on most folks — pain from the loss of online friendships and a hollow void in that space between minutes that status updates used to fill — for writers and authors, it would pose a nearly existential dilemma.
For better or for worse, Facebook is still the platform for authors from a community-building and visibility perspective, with its unsurpassed power to spread the word, engage readers, and generate promotional opportunities. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat combined could never pack the same punch that Facebook schmoozing can.
Throughout all my years as a writer and a publicist helping writers, a few constants about Facebook have reinforced this belief:
Yep, Facebook connects friends. Meaning, generally, you have an actual, organic connection with most of the people in your Facebook network–especially on your personal page, and even on your author page if you don’t use boosted posts (advertising). Even as your network grows, there is typically a common thread among the people who join it: friends from high school, from college, from your first job way back when. People your older sister knew when you were kids who you kind of remember drinking your first beer with. Even old love interests.
Most other social platforms bring a lot more total strangers into the mix. But when real friends are involved–or friends of friends, or ex colleagues and ex lovers–the interest in what you’re doing and what you’re writing is a lot more real. Authors have told me time and again that Facebook has had an incredible ability to interest people in their books. That people were actually listening. And that they cared enough to comment, shared, make introductions and, yes, to buy books.
Think about it. If someone you used to tease or have a crush on in high school wrote a book, wouldn’t you be the least bit tempted to read it?
Book club invitations
This is something else I’ve seen time and again: with all those friends come invitations. When they see you’ve published a book, people you know or once knew magically crawl out of the woodwork and open their doors. Neighbors, teachers in town, your kids’ friends’ parents….Invitations suddenly pop up in your message box. Beyond your own network, book clubs have Facebook groups. Joining them, or “friending” the organizers is a great way to get a foot in the door.
Speaking and writing invitations
You never know where connections forged on Facebook may lead — especially when you start connecting with fellow writers. Many authors I’ve worked with have been invited to guest post on blogs and online outlets by simply interacting with like-minded authors and bloggers on Facebook. I’ve seen speaking opportunities beyond book clubs materialize too, such as at Rotary clubs or schools. All of which brings more connections, and more visibility…
Encouragement of sales
Although it’s nice to fantasize that your author event at a brick-and-mortar bookstore will drive significant sales, it’s (almost definitely) not going to happen.
That’s because most sales happen in one place these days: online.
Facebook gives you the venue to link to your book’s Amazon page, converting regular people in their pajamas into paying customers if you’ve come up with something clever or interesting to say. Make sure your posts are genuine, and only post about your book once every five or six posts. You don’t want to be “pushy”, but you do want to celebrate your book and make sure others know it’s out there!
Exposure to new opportunities
Facebook is the place to soak up knowledge about all sorts of new opportunities you can seize. Facebook’s “events” feature — one if its most popular features — allows you to find author readings, get-togethers and conferences that you can attend to foster connections with the writerly community in your area. (Keep in mind, this will also be a great place to create an event about your upcoming launch party or reading).
Aside from events, Facebook can also reveal new contests or outlets to submit your writing to.
User Friendliness – Even for Social Media-phobics
Even in this uber-connected world there are plenty of social media phobics — especially in the writing community, surprising though it may sound. Some feel, understandably, that something as precious and well-thought-out as a novel shouldn’t be touted around in a noisy, careless echo chamber filled with Trump memes and live videos of the Kardashians. Others simply can’t get their minds around all the likes and retweets and hashtags and feeds.
But while it’s far from perfect, Facebook is relatively simple to use. And once you’ve gotten the basics down, there’s no need to learn too much more.
So if Cambridge Analytica-gate has brought you to the brink of unfriending Facebook, my advice is: let it go. Friends do have flaws. And if you’re resistant to jumping into the social media fray but are hungry for community, conversation and some exposure, I’d say: give it a try. While you’re at it, join the Writer Unboxed Facebook Group if you haven’t already. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised – and rewarded.