Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Problems with Facebook

In April of 2012 I decided I needed to start developing an online presence for Leigh Fischer in anticipation of a summer release of  Rising Tide: A Novel. I had been on Facebook for years and had watched it transition from strictly college students attending an "approved" university to everyone and their uncle. I watched as it grew from a place to merely keep in touch to a one stop shop to see what your friends are doing and buying every damn moment of their life.

Personally, I have some issues with Facebook. On a personal level, I really don't care to see what someone is eating for dinner. Most of the time it looks like a pile of slop; I don't think I have a single "friend" that is a chef and "plates" their dinner in a way they warrants a picture. But this constant insight and constant feed is what made Facebook attractive to me as a brand. All it takes is one person clicking "like" on my book and dozens if not hundreds will see it.

I had some experience managing FB pages for various clubs and activities, I had also managed my personal page since '05. How difficult could it be to create a page for my pseudonym? Turns out, bloody hard. 

FB has come a long way from the days when you had to have an approved .edu email address, but they have recently prohibited aliases. Apparently, it is to maintain the integrity of FB and protect users. What it actually does is make it difficult for people operating legally under an assumed name. The amount of personal information that you have to enter in order to get an account forces you to develop a back story and fabricate information for your pseudonym. This, I do not like. As I have said, my nom de plume is for my own protection and to assuage my own insecurities, it's not because I get off on lying to my readers.

Making Friends
If you are a FB user, you have seen a spammer profile. We all know what they look like: one picture, limited history, completely random friends, no personal information. I am not a spammer. I have a legitimate goal of providing a product and service to an interested audience.

Getting my account to where it is today, took a lot of patience. FB makes it nearly impossible to make new friends. As I tried to reach out to potential readers, I got flagged and locked. The first time my account got locked it was for two days. Then 5 days. Then 2 weeks. The last time my account got locked, I could not contact new people for 30 days.

With patience and no help from FB, I currently have more than 200 "friends", regular content and updates, wall and post interaction from "friends", and a small amount of organic friend growth.

Fan Interaction
I also maintain a product page on FB for Rising Tide. Advertising has contributed largely to the growth of that page (to be discussed in a later post). What I do want to discuss is the restrictions placed on page managers trying to contact their fans privately.

Before I went exclusive with Amazon, I was providing free copies of my book to people that "liked" my page and made a public comment about me or my book. This was fairly effective but holding up my end of the deal became difficult. FB does not let a page initiate a private message with a fan. The fan could message Rising Tide and then I could attach the book in the response. Or the fan could friend Leigh and then I would then have full access to contact the fan. Or the fan could email me a request.

These options all add an additional burden to the fan and also raise privacy concerns. I do not ever want to be seen as a spammer or a risk to my readers, but FB policies make it difficult for you to not come across as creepy. Ultimately, I ended up shifting solely to email distribution for free copies and have gotten some of my most effective and interactive readers from this method.

FB does not want you to use a pseudonym (which is perfectly legal providing you are not committing illegal acts and you are prepared to disclose it to authorities). Instead, they direct authors, celebrities and other alias users to create a product/group/service/company page, but then they restrict the interactions page managers can have with people that have already indicated their interest in the product or service. In conclusion, Facebook is crap for meeting new people and developing meaningful interaction between a brand and a fan.