Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

The Beginning of The End of Social Media (at least for Independent Authors)

There's a big "given" throughout this post:  You're already making something awesome.  Whether it's publishing, drawing, writing, or singing, I am assuming that you are creating and that what you're doing is objectively on a professional-ish level.

One of the big, transformative things that social media - Facebook, Twitter, and the rest - brought was a levelling of the playing field.  Everyone had a "voice" that was roughly equal to everyone else's.  Quality would matter more than the size of your advertising budget.

Yeah, that was nice while it lasted.  There are major problems with the two biggest social networks (Twitter and Facebook) that mean they are no longer a useful way to connect with your fans and readers.

Twitter has been an unreliable method of getting information to fans for a while now.  A vast majority of users simply cannot scroll back far in their timelines.  You have to post when your fans (or at least, the most share-happy) fans happened to be looking at their timeline or lists.  Sometimes it worked.  Often it doesn't.

That said, Twitter is still the more egalitarian of the two.  It's not a signal-to-noise problem, it's a too much signal problem.  Some individuals have a great deal of signal amplification, but those positions are largely static... which leads to those individuals being pestered with requests for RTs and mentions.  It's not become completely toxic yet, but Twitter's attempts at monetization (sponsored tweets and beginning to close off API access) are probably only going to make matters worse.

Facebook, on the other hand, made their social network broken on purpose.  We probably should have seen this coming with "popular posts" being at the top of the newsfeed instead of "most recent", but now they've aggressively decided to make money out of making sure that others see your posts.  (Tumblr recently started doing something like this as well, but without the sorting mechanism that makes it broken on purpose.)

Yes, Facebook would seriously charge me $7 to promote a post about how I wasn't going to pay them to promote a post.

I can see the results - over on the Alliteration Ink fan page, I can see how many people saw a particular post.  Note - not clicked on, not read, but simply had it put in front of their eyeballs.  Right around October first, the average number of people who saw any post dropped from 30-40 to only 8 to 12. 

My posts are scheduled, so they're going out at about the same time every day... and this pattern has held for over a week.

To put this in context, that's going from 13% of the likes of the page seeing any post to 4% seeing any given post. 

Let's state this plainly:  If you "like" something, presumably you want to hear from them.  The best scenario there had only 13% seeing what they indicated they wanted to see... which is horrible.  To cut that by a third and then ask for cash to try to get it back to where it was before?

Um, no.

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Catherine Gracey said...

I used to try and explain some of the low numbers of Facebook views on my page. Perhaps people haven't logged into their accounts. Perhaps people have hidden my page from their news feed. Perhaps people haven't scrolled down far enough to see my posts. Unfortunately all of this turns to dust when friends who are always on Facebook tell me that they haven't seen anything from my page in days, and these are people who actively engage with the content whenever they do get to see it. Then the people who do see my content tell me that the share buttons have vanished again, so my posts have no chance of being distributed. I wouldn't pay $7 to force uninterested people to see my posts, but at this point I would consider paying $7 to make all the problems with my page go away and stay away.

Steven Saus said...

If it was a natural outgrowth of the network (like with Twitter), I'd be more forgiving. But since Facebook explicitly created the problem, I'm just pissed off.

rennata said...

I was able to find this via G+. I did not see it on my facebook if you share it there. The idea of paying to make the problems go away just sits wrong with me. It is somehow different than paying for a service. One enhances, the other extorts.

Steven Saus said...

@rennata - I shared it *multiple* times on Facebook, both through my personal profile, my author fan page, and also (I think) through the Alliteration Ink page. So yeah, that really kind of speaks to the problem, doesn't it?