I was inspired by this post in Angela Connor‘s blog. If you don’t know Angela Connor, I urge you to check her out; her blog is extremely insightful and is still one of my favorites.
Her ideas make a great deal of sense, and I think some of this is why the Blizzard forum experiment in real names for users was such an immediate and egregious flop.
The ‘net, like it or not, is for many people a place of masks. You pretend to be younger and thinner than you are. Or you pretend to be unmarried. You pretend to be a Klingon. Or you’re a teenager and pretend to be an adult. Or you pretend to be another gender or richer or lovelier or more conservative or whatever.
And the masks can be freeing to many. Perhaps they were freeing when the ancient Greeks donned them while performing “Oedipus Rex” for the first time. I think there is more of a place for them than perhaps we’d all care to admit. Because there seems to be a value to being able to spread war paint (or lamp black) on one’s face, or wear a Halloween costume.
Screen Name Unreality
And this is not the same as our reality. It is related but not identical. Maybe the librarian who goes out for Halloween dressed as a dance hall girl wants to be known as someone who takes risks (and maybe foolish ones, at that). But when the morning after rolls around, she’s back in the library helping others do research.
This kind of anonymous commenting allows for something like this. Because the sympathetic guy who’s really seething inside gets to call people out. He gets to be a bully and be an all-around racist jerk (I have worse names, but don’t wish to besmirch my blog) behind one screen name. But then he surfs to a different site where he can chat up the ladies with his sensitive New Age guy demeanor, all behind another screen name. And then when the time to log off comes, he goes home and kisses his wife and plays with his children. And this is all one guy.
To comment openly through a full, correct name (usually) medium like Facebook would be to cut off the dance hall girl. And it would stifle the racist jerk, the ladies’ man, and any number of other secret selves in favor of a drab and ordinary world. Even on a news site, which is pretty much the definition of drab unless there’s some sort of a hot story, the jerk, the dancer and the Romeo all want to be free.
But we shouldn’t take their opinions as seriously as the real people. Because, even though those personae live in real people’s skins, it’s the real people who vote, marry, pay taxes, work, make the news and are members of our real society.
The trouble is telling them apart and knowing which one is real.
Life, Liberty … And Facebook for All – Your Home Page
Your home page is vital. Log into Facebook, and it’s the first thing you see. It’s your Home Page. So here’s what’s in it. You can divide it into what look like columns.
NOTE: Facebook constantly A/B tests. Features move around, change, are renamed and resized, or disappear all the time. These are rolled out in stages; your neighbor may have a different-looking Home Page from yours. And this is 100% normal.
Home Page Links
So first of all, column one (left side, top):
Then shortcuts; this is a section you add to or subtract from.
Then column two (center):
Status messages on friends’ pages
Other friend activities
Anything your friends or the pages you follow are sharing
Then column three (right, top):
Groups You Might Like
People You May Know
A list of friends available on chat (at the bottom)
Let’s start with Column One:
So this is a list of the groups you have joined.
These are pages you are following.
So pretty obviously, this is a way to access your entire list of friends.
So you can create groups for any reason. And this includes to support a beloved entertainment figure, promote your business or just complain about people wearing Crocs. So I’ll get into the specifics later.
These will rotate as you access more games, depending upon recency.
Status Messages on Friends’ Pages
So this is the actual News Feed itself. And you can comment on others’ statuses (statii?) or posted links.
Other Friend Activities
First of all, you are served everyone’s activities. Facebook can be a tsunami of data. However, a lot is aggregated; you are usually shown that six people joined a group, rather than separate messages on all half-dozen.
So if you’ve got upcoming events and you haven’t RSVP’d, they’ll show up here, but you can jettison them by clicking the x on the right side. Note that you’ll be invited to all sorts of stuff, including sponsored activities and openings by commercial ventures. And RSVP’ing is not strictly necessary. However, as an event organizer, I have to say it’s appreciated so as to at least get a handle on headcount (and know who not to expect). You need not RSVP for commercial store openings or whatnot.
Whether they’ve made the year apparent is their own business. But if they’ve got the month and day up on Facebook, birthdays will show up here. And of course you’re under no obligation to wish people a Happy Birthday, but it is kind of nice.
People You May Know
So this is based upon some sort of an algorithm whereby Facebook looks at things like your current friends list, their friends, your location and possibly also your school(s) and workplace(s). However, I don’t believe the latter are included at this time. So if you have any mutual friends, Facebook lists them as well. Facebook does not always get this right, or it gets it wrong in interesting ways, e. g. Facebook says I “may know” the spouse of someone I attended High School with. Well, unless I went to High School with the spouse (over 30 years ago), then there isn’t much of a likelihood there.
Hence there are times when this list is bewildering. Hey, Facebook is doing the best it can.
Targeted Advertisements on Your Home Page
Well, they’re as targeted as Facebook can make them. This apparently has a basis in your click activity, your likes, your friends’ likes and whenever you click on an ad to get rid of it. Again, sometimes Facebook can get this wrong in rather spectacular ways; for example, when I wrote this post originally, it showed me an ad for Toyota. And I have neither owned nor contemplated owning one, ever.
A list of friends available on chat
It should go without saying that you should never click on links from chatters you don’t know well. And you’re under no obligation whatsoever to answer anyone’s instigated chat.
So a big part of the Facebook experience is not only playing games but also sharing them with others, or sharing status or links. The way you see and can participate in this sharing is via your Home Page. It is, essentially, a bulletin board between you and your pals. But keep your own wall the way you want it. If you don’t want people to swear or argue politics, etc., that is 100% within your rights.
Life, Liberty … And Facebook for All – Your Profile Page Part I
Let’s look at your profile page part 1.
If you’re a member of Facebook, you’ve seen it dozens, if not hundreds, of times – it’s your Profile Page.
There is also a Home Page, but I’ll cover that in the next segment. Right now, let’s just concentrate on your Profile. Here’s mine.
Profile Page Part 1: Basics
So at minimum, the Profile page consists of the following:
And it also contains:
A space for your profile picture
Information on any mutual friends you might share with anyone peeking at your profile
A small subgroup of your friends
and Your Photos
A share button, and,
On the right side, there are advertisements
NOTE: Facebook is the biggest A/B tester on the planet. They constantly move things around in order to try for an improved user experience. Hence this means you may see buttons moved, resized, renamed, or even eliminated. And it also means your neighbor might see an entirely different configuration.
Let’s start with the tabs.
Up at the top, you can put in your status. There doesn’t seem to be a true limit to how long a status message can be, but after a few lines, it’s excessive. People put all sorts of nonsense in here – including not only statements of their adoration for celebrities but also mundane minutiae such as the scintillating fact that they’re about to go pick up the dry cleaning. If you want to use Facebook at all for your business, your status messages should really be short, somewhat on point and inoffensive (this is also true if you are looking for work and are not using Facebook for any of that – potential employers are watching!).
Below is the wall itself, where friends can post replies to your status (they can also reply directly to the status), send you greetings, send you game requests, etc. You can always delete or hide these messages, which can be a good idea if they are becoming something you’d rather not share with others. People routinely answer all sorts of dumb questions about me (e. g. Do you think Janet Gershen-Siegel has kissed a boy? Gee, I’ve been married since 1992. You make the call.) and I usually just hide or delete those.
You can also hide notifications from various applications so, if everyone you know is playing Farmville, and you don’t care about it, right-click on any Farmville notification and select the hide Farmville notifications button. However, be aware that there are any number of similar or satellite applications (gifts, new gifts or whatever), so you may be doing a rather similar task more than once. Still, understand that you don’t need to ask people to stop sending you requests. Just block the app.
You can add any number of tidbits here. At minimum, you should at least list your marital/dating status, your birth date (the year is optional) and your current city and/or home town. This will draw people in and make it easier for them to find you, particularly if you have a rather common name. You want friends and business associates to figure out that they want you, the Mary Lou in Hicksville, New York, versus the Mary Lou in Mars, Pennsylvania.
Marital status isn’t strictly necessary (and I’ve found it doesn’t stop guys from sometimes hitting on me – eek), but I personally think it’s a nice thing to include. However, of course, no one can force you to do this and naturally it is illegal in the United States for a potential employer to demand this information.
Birth date is kind of nice to have, partly as an identifier and partly to give another piece of information out that’s just pleasant to see. It’s a minor revelation (particularly if you only give out the month and day) and is essentially harmless. And an American employer cannot legally ask for the year. However, employees do have to be of a certain age in order to work full-time at all. Still, if you get that far along in a job application, an employer won’t use Facebook to confirm your age – the employer will instead use official governmental records like your birth certificate for that.
Adding your birth date also means the inevitable onslaught of Facebook birthday greetings.
Biography is optional and, if you use Facebook for business, keep it short, on point and inoffensive. Work history is also not necessary but it can be helpful if you need for people to find you (are you the Mary Lou in Hicksville who worked at AIG, or at the Dairy Queen?). Plus that can add to the networking vibe but keep in mind that Facebook for networking remains a poor substitute for LinkedIn.
Educational information also helps to identify you. Graduation years are not necessary. Likes and interests will show up in part by your typing in here and also by you “liking” various pages. Keep in mind that this can be found, so “liking” a page with a profane name is going to be something that can be picked up by potential employers and clients.
Profile Page Part 1: Photos
These are pretty self-explanatory. Any photographs that you’re tagged in them will show up here. You can collect photos into albums, of course. Also, if a photograph is unflattering, compromising or just plain not of you, you can always untag yourself. Before my parents were not on Facebook, I was sometimes tagged on my mother’s photos so I would be able to find them. I don’t mind this. My profile has enough photographs of me that it’s obvious I’m not her. But you might. So, if this happens, talk to whoever’s doing this. There are other ways of sharing photographs and albums which might suit your needs better.
… And Facebook for All – Your Account Settings Explained
… And Facebook for All – Your Account Settings – in Facebook, how to do you change your account settings? When you pull down on the Account section of Facebook, you see a few choices but they change. Keep in mind that Facebook is continuously testing its format. What worked a year ago might not work now, but these are pretty close to being right although some of the parts have moved around on the page or might now have new names.
First of all, you get a list of your friends. And if you have separate friend lists (say, for work or school), those lists are on the left. Facebook does move these sorts of settings around. By the time you read this blog post, this feature could potentially have been moved. Truth is, it may be gone by now.
You can add friends to various lists, remove them, or delete them from your list altogether. There are also suggested names to be added to various lists (assuming you’ve chosen a list, versus all of your friends). The default here is not only to show the entire list of friends, but to put the ones you’ve interacted with most recently up at the top.
Account Settings: Manage Pages
If you manage pages – and you may very well have that as a task if you are using Facebook for your business – here is a link straight to each page and how to change it. Simply click “Go to Page” and you are transported to the correct page in question. I’ll get into the specifics of what you can do from there later in this series.
This is a part of Facebook that always seems to be changing. It is entirely possible that, by the time you read this blog post, these instructions will be obsolete. I’ll keep everything at a high level and won’t get into too many specifics. So it is divided as follows:
Account Settings: Basics
This section is currently divided as follows:
Name – your real name
Email – self-explanatory
Password – self-explanatory
Linked Accounts – you can put more than one account together
Security Question – self-explanatory
Privacy – control the information you put out there. But do keep in mind: if something is truly personal, the Internet is an awfully foolish place to put it in.
Account Security – you can add some form of extra protection
Download Your Information – save your photos, etc. to a ZIP file
Deactivate Account – self-explanatory
You can join networks, such as identifying yourself with an employer or a school you’ve attended.
Control settings for notifications such as when someone tags you in a photo. I think that the default settings are pretty excessive. I like to know if someone wants to add me as a friend, and when I’ve been tagged in a photograph. Other than that, I’ll just check when I’m online. Obviously, my preferences need not be identical to yours.
Activate a phone and register for Facebook text messages here.
Set a primary language or translate Facebook into other languages from here. There’s currently a rather extensive list, including some languages not written with a Western alphabet.
So track your credits balance, credits purchase history, payment methods and preferred currency here.
This area is undoubtedly going to continue to evolve as questions come up and the increasingly complicated Facebook system breaks in all sorts of interesting and as-yet unexpected ways. So you can even ask a question, and the most common questions are listed. Unsurprisingly, these include topics such as how to delete your account or change your name.
But keep in mind: Facebook won’t answer 99%+ of any questions you have for them. Why? Because they are running an enormous site with a surprisingly tiny number of employees. Hence many of the judgement calls come from bots.
Pretty self-explanatory. Click here and you’ll log out of Facebook.
… And Facebook for All – Your Profile Page, Part II
Your Profile Page, Part II.
First of all, Facebook members have seen it dozens, if not hundreds, of times – your Profile Page.
Let’s talk some more about your Profile. Here’s mine.
In addition to the basic tabs at the top, it also contains:
A space for your profile picture
Information on any mutual friends you might share with anyone peeking at your profile
A small subgroup of your friends
and Your Photos
A share button, and,
On the right side, there are advertisements
NOTE: Facebook continually A/B tests, and so buttons and features move, change, are resized, added, or can disappear altogether. Your neighbor can sometimes see a rather different version of Facebook versus yours. And this is normal.
Let’s look at these in order.
A space for your profile picture
No one is stopping you from putting up a picture that is not, actually, of you. And I’ve seen dogs on Facebook, scenery, people’s children and cartoon characters. Hence it’s a place to be somewhat expressive. However, recognize that, if you’re using Facebook at all for your business (or if you’re simply looking for work), you’ll need to tone this down. If you want to go fairly conservative (which I personally think is best but opinions differ), go with a headshot or a head and shoulders shot that’s fairly recent. And, do make sure you’re smiling.
If someone surfs in and finds your Profile Page, they’ll probably be drawn to whether you’re really the person they’re looking for, and whether you have any acquaintances in common. If you’ve got a somewhat common name (e. g. Gregory Cole), then it’s really going to help out people if they see anyone who you know is in common with whoever they know.
One way I’ve used this information has been in locating High School friends, as we tend to have the same mutual friends. If I see that Jane Smith is also friends with John Jones and Dave Brown (names are made up, of course), then I realize, aha! Chances are good that Jane and I attended High School together. However, sometimes it just means that Jane is a local (if John and Dave stayed in the area after graduation). Or it might mean she’s a younger or older sibling of my classmates. Hence it’s an imperfect system.
A small subgroup of friends
So this is six friends (fewer, if you have fewer than six friends, of course). And it used to be you had control over this, but apparently not anymore.
Whenever you click “Like” on a group or page, it can show up here. A few show up at a time, and they rotate. To take something out of rotation, un-“Like” it. Much older and inactive pages and groups show up less, as Facebook follows social signals in this area, too. E. g. pages and groups that appear inactive or even downright abandoned will lose precious visibility time and space to groups and pages that are up to date and lively.
So note here is where your profile picture shows up in all its glory, and bigger than on your Home Page. Therefore, make sure it looks good here as well as on your Home Page. If you’re going to use Facebook for business (or if you’re looking for work), make sure this is a flattering photograph that clearly shows your face. It need not be full-length (and, if it is, it’ll be smaller on the Home Page, but here it’s all visible) and, for God’s sake, smile!
Plus, photographs also show up on your wall if you upload them and agree to publish them to your wall.
And Your Links
So put a link in your status, or post it to your wall, and it will convert to something clickable. And if it comes from Youtube, it’ll even embed the video. And like most things on Facebook, any link can get comments or “Likes”.
A Share Button
Actually, there are several of these. Pretty much everything on Facebook can be shared in one manner or another, and even off Facebook.
Bottom line: your Profile Page is your face to the world. It is clickable, shareable and somewhat searchable. Don’t want people to know something about you? Don’t put it on your Profile Page.
Offsite sharing is a fascinating concept. Perhaps the most compelling feature of Facebook consists of the availability of the Like Button.
The Like Button and Offsite Sharing
Because the offsite Like Button dovetails beautifully with its presence on the site itself, i. e.,
“The Like button lets a user share your content with friends on Facebook. When the user clicks the Like button on your site, a story appears in the user’s friends’ News Feed with a link back to your website.”
Drag and Drop
Furthermore, the site tries to make it easy for even novice programmers (and people who can really only do drag and drop) to place a Like Button on their own sites for offsite sharing. The premise is irresistible. You add the Like Button, people “Like” your own site, and that information transmits back to Facebook and to the Likers’ friend lists. In addition, their friends, who may not have know about you at all, suddenly do, and the offsite sharing spreads even more. They, hopefully, check you out, Like you, and the process repeats on and on, ad infinitum, or at least in theory. And with enough intersecting friends with enough non-intersecting additional friendships, a few Likes could translate into dozens, if not hundreds, or even thousands, of new people who know about you.
Engagement and Reach
However, engagement and reach are both going down. And Facebook actually has the gall to try to get people to pay for what it does! Quelle horreur!
But, seriously folks, how do you think Facebook pays its bills? They do it with advertising. If users won’t be charged (and Facebook would be mighty foolish to start charging all of those free sources of detailed consumer data), then advertisers will be. And of course that already happens. What gets a lot of people’s undershorts knotted is that the freebie advertising is harder and harder to implement. Facebook seems to push everyone with a page to start buying likes to get more offsite sharing.
Thumb on the Scale?
Whoa, Nelly! Because that would be kind of unethical, if the site was deliberately putting a thumb on an imaginary scale and making it harder for people to reach their fans without paying for reach and engagement.
So, are they doing that?
While the jury is still out, I’m inclined to say no. After all, the site grows by leaps and bounds on a minute by minute basis. And engagement and reach dilute without Facebook having to do a damned thing.
Finally, does the site benefit from making it harder for page and group administrators to connect for free? Absolutely. But do they have to work in order to create this condition?
Nope. Life does it for them.
Offsite Sharing: The Upshot
Beyond issues with Russian interference and how the Facebook algorithm can sometimes tamp down third parties, offsite sharing can work pretty well there. Political and other paid ads, though, are another story. They are a reminder that, every year, Facebook becomes more and more of a “pay to play” platform. Hence if you want to share something from off the site, your shared content might be lost amidst the paid stuff. So be it.
Employee passwords have become a new battleground. Because this issue has begun to crop up, and it will only continue to do so.
So does your employer have a right to your social media passwords?
So before you reflexively say no, hold the phone. Because the truth is, unless the is expressly forbids it, companies can. They can take advantage of a less than stellar economy and less than powerful employees.
As a result, they can demand access into social media accounts and employee passwords. Hence a variety of bills have been introduced around the United States in an effort to address this matter.
First of all, here in the Bay State, legislation is pending. This includes H.B 448, which relates to student data privacy. It also includes, which relates to social media consumer privacy protection. And it includes S.B 1055, which relates to social media privacy protection.
Arkansas and Employee Passwords
Arkansas Ark. Code Ann. § 11-2-124; Code Ark. R. 010.14.1-500 says:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose their user names or passwords to a personal online account; change the privacy settlings on their accounts…”
California and Employee Passwords
Much like Arkansas, employers can’t get into employees’ social media accounts. But an exception exists for investigations into misconduct, per Cal. Lab. Code § 980.
Colorado’s law is Colo. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 8-2-127, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $5,000 for each subsequent violation.”
In Connecticut, the law is Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-40x, which says:
“Employers can be fined up to $500 for the first violation and between $500 and $1,000 for each subsequent violation. Employees can be awarded relief, including job reinstatement, payment of back wages, reestablishment of employee benefits, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
And in Delaware, the law is Del. Code Ann. tit. 19, § 709A. It’s pretty similar to the law in Arkansas.
So in Illinois, the law is 820 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. § 55/10; Ill. Admin. Code tit. 56, §§ 360.110, 360.120.
“If an employer violates the law, an employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor.”
In addition, La. Stat. Ann. §§ 51:1951 to 51:1953, 51:1955 says:
“Employers may not request or require employees or applicants to disclose user names and passwords or other login information for their personal accounts.”
But in Louisiana, it’s okay for employers to push for a look into employee personal online accounts in one instance. This is if there are allegations of misconduct. So stop downloading porn at work!
So in Maine, the law is Me. Rev. Stat. tit. 26, §§ 615 to 619.
“An employer that violates the law is subject to a fine from the Department of Labor of at least $100 for the first violation, $250 for the second violation, and $500 for subsequent violations.”
So in Maryland, the law is Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 3-712. The provisions are pretty close to those in Arkansas.
And then in Michigan, the law is Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §§ 37.271 to 37.278.
“Employers that violate the law can be convicted of a misdemeanor and fined up to $1,000. Employees and applicants may also file a civil claim and recover up to $1,000 in damages plus attorney fees’ and court costs.”
And then in Montana, the law is Mont. Code Ann. § 39-2-307.
“An employee or applicant may bring an action against an employer in small claims court for violations. If successful, an employee or applicant can receive $500 or actual damages up to $7,000, as well as legal costs.”
Then in Nebraska, the law is Neb. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 48-3501 to 48-3511. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
But in Nevada, the law is Nev. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 613.135. This one is very short but it specifically includes blogs.
“Employers may not require employees or applicants to change the privacy settings on their email or social media accounts or add anyone to their email or social media contact lists.”
But just like in Louisiana, Granite Staters will have to provide a look-see if there are any misconduct accusations flying around.
Then in New Jersey, the law is N.J. Stat. Ann. §§ 34:6B-5 to 34:6B-10. So it says:
“Employers that violate the law are subject to a fine of up to $1,000 for the first violation and up to $2,500 for each subsequent violation from the New Jersey Labor Commissioner.”
So in New Mexico, the law is N.M. Stat. Ann. § 50-4-34. This one specifically extends to friend lists.
Oklahoma on Employee Passwords
In addition, when it comes to employee passwords, Oklahoma’s House Bill 2372 says,
“Relates to labor; prohibits employer from requesting or requiring access to social media account of certain employees; prohibits an employer from taking retaliatory personnel action for failure to provide access to social media account; authorizes civil actions for violations; provides for recovery of attorney fees and court costs; defines terms; provides for codification; provides an effective date.”
So this is according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Then in Oregon, the law is Or. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 659A.330. This is another law like the one in Arkansas.
Furthermore, per R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 28-56-1 to 28-56-6:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit for violations. The court can award declaratory relief, damages, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and injunctive relief against the employer.”
So this is beyond the standard where an employer can’t just take a peek whenever they feel like it.
Tennessee on Employee Passwords
And per Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 50-1-1001 to 50-1-1004:
“Employers may not ask or require employees or applicants to disclose passwords to personal online accounts.”
So in Utah, the law is Utah Code Ann. §§ 34-48-101 to 34-48-301. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations, with a maximum award of $500.”
Virginia and Employee Passwords
So in Virginia, the law is Va. Code Ann. § 40.1-28.7:5. It’s not too far off from Arkansas, but an employer can get employee passwords under the guise of an investigation.
Washington (State) on Employee Passwords
So in Washington State, the law is Wash. Rev. Code Ann. §§ 49.44.200 and 49.44.205. So it says:
“Employees and applicants may file a civil lawsuit against the employer for violations and obtain injunctive relief, actual damages, a penalty of $500, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.”
So in West Virginia, the law is W. Va. Code Ann. § 21-5H-1, another Arkansas clone, more or less.
Wisconsin on Employee Passwords
And then in Wisconsin, per Wis. Stat. Ann. § 995.55:
“Employees and applicants may file a complaint with the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for violations and receive appropriate relief.”
Other States on Employee Passwords
In addition, Maryland became apparently the first state to consider the matter, per the Boston Globe, in 2012. Furthermore, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, several bills have been proposed around the country.
However, aside from the ones listed above, only the following states seem to have these laws. Then according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the following states have pending laws (as of 2019): Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New York. And then in 2018, these states considered the matter: Georgia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, and New York.
So these bills come up repeatedly.
Finally, the country still has a long way to go in terms of guaranteeing employees privacy in social media accounts. Hence we all need to look out more. In addition, it might end up a good idea to just out and out refuse when asked for passwords.
Social Media Tips? Yes, please! A while back, Grassroots Giving Group published some great Social Networking tips. I agreed with their ideas but would like to expand upon them a bit.
And they were essentially exploring when Facebook and Twitter are useful. Here are some of their ideas.
Announcements – don’t just announce upcoming or new things but also add links in order to drive traffic. Agreed! However, I would add a targeted landing page. If you’ve got people coming in from Facebook, why not create a new landing page to personally welcome them (e. g. Welcome to our Facebook Friends!). The best part about that is that, since it’s a separate page, Google Analytics will track the clicks separately. You’ve got a fighting chance of getting good metrics, so you’ll know whether your announcement of the opening of a new branch of the Widget Factory played better on Facebook or on Twitter.
Sending shortened website addresses on Twitter – use an URL shortener. Of course! But why not use one (such as from HootSuite or Social Oomph) where you can get some click metrics? Using both a personalized landing page and an URL with click metrics can give you an even clearer idea of how traffic flows. Oh, and they don’t tell you why you should shorten an URL on Twitter (even if the URL fits), but I will: to make it easier for people to retweet.
Planning in Advance – nothing new here. You should keep up with things and plan in advance. Absolutely. And that means, when you’re hot and creative, write, write, write! Keep drafts and ideas going, and also think about how you can expand on your own blog entries or others’ (such as this blog entry). Get yourself a stable of other blogs/blog writers, news sources, etc. Who inspires you? Who interests you? And don’t repeat or steal, of course. Rather, expand and comment. These are perfectly legitimate ways to update your blog.
This Day in History – Commemorate occasions in your company! There must be something you’ve done that is good blog fodder. Of course, not every day is memorable, but it’s another way to keep the pipeline going. If July 12th is an important day in your organization, make sure that the July 12th blog post and Tweets are ready to rock and roll, and they are updated to the correct year. Heck, in HootSuite and SocialOomph (mentioned above), you can schedule Tweets. Why not schedule the Tweets for July 12th (or whatever your special day just so happens to be) and be done with them?
Quote Collection – I like this idea, and I think it can be used for a lot of purposes. This is not only quotes about your specific organization or its work, but even more generalized quotations. Surely there is something from Shakespeare (My Kingdom for a horse!) or the Bible that could work for you in some capacity or another. It can be another jumping off point for creativity.
Ask Your Audience Questions – I think this is more useful if you have a somewhat large and actively commenting readership. While a rhetorical question is lovely, I think it’s just better if you can get at least a little feedback. Otherwise, it feels like you’re just shouting out to the wilderness.
Staff Introductions – this is another great idea. While your site might already have staff biographies, that’s another way to get the readership acquainted with who’s making the product.
Notes From Your Day
Notes from Your Day – I don’t know about this one. Your day, maybe. Mine? I guess this is, in part, centered around the event reviews I’ve done. But otherwise, my days tend to be spent, well, here, blogging. Which may or may not be thrilling to others. But I can see where my coworkers could have some very interesting days. The process of invention is pretty fascinating.
So there you have it. Some pretty amazing ideas for getting and keeping things going. And, while the post wasn’t, specifically, about blogging, it rings very true for that very specific – and sometimes challenging and elusive – task.
Finally, many, many thanks to the Grassroots Giving Group.
I am published, and one issue that comes up, time and again, concerns how people can go about supporting indie authors. In particular, friends and family far removed from the business of writing or social media or public relations or marketing or the like still want to help out.
And for the writers, who may feel strange suggesting or requesting such support, I hope this little guide can do just that. Instead of asking, perhaps they can simply point to this blog post.
However, authors might get better percentages of the take with a particular format. If that is the case, and you don’t mind which format you purchase, you can always ask your friend the writer. While we always want you to buy the book (and a sale beats out no sale), if we have our druthers and it really makes a difference, it certainly doesn’t hurt to ask.
The #2 Way To Support Independent Authors
So once you’ve bought the book, a fantastic way of supporting indie authors even more is to provide an honest review. Amazon, Smashwords, and many publisher sites provide a means of reviewing novels and other creative works. Be sure to review where you purchased the book.Why? Because then you can be listed with verified purchase next to your name. This adds considerably more credibility to your review (and some places require it now).
The Sum and Substance of Your Review
What should you say in your review? If you loved the book, say so. If it was a decent read but not your cup of tea, say that as well, as it’s honest, fair, and remains supportive. After all, not everyone loves the same thing. If you’re not in the demographic group the work is aimed at, then no problem. You gave it the old college try and that’s just fantastic. The longer the review then, generally, the better. Specific references to events in the book, without giving away spoilers, really help. E. g. something like: I loved the character of ___. She was believably vulnerable.
What if you hated the book? Should you lie? Absolutely not – and, I might add, don’t lie even if the author has specifically asked for positive reviews only (an unethical request, by the way). However, if the book stinks (I’ve read books that have made me want to burn people’s computers, they were so horrible, so I know exactly where you’re coming from), then you have the following options:
Don’t post the review at all, and say nothing to the author.
Don’t post the review at all, but mention it to the author. However be prepared for, potentially, some negative push-back, in particular if that person specifically requested just positive reviews. You can sweeten the pot by offering some other assistance (see below for other things you can do to help).
Post a short review. Reviews don’t have to be novel-length! You can always write something like Interesting freshman effort from indie author ____ (the writer’s name goes in the blank). There ya go. Short, semi-sweet, and you’re off the hook. Unless the book utterly bored you, the term interesting works. If the book was absolutely the most boring thing you have ever read, then you can go with valiant or unique (so long as the work isn’t plagiarized) instead of interesting. Yes, you have just damned with faint praise. But sometimes faint praise is the only kind you can give out.
Really going negative
Post a negative review. However, be prepared for your friendship to, potentially, end. Yet is that the worst thing, ever? I’m not saying to be mean. Don’t be mean and don’t take potshots at a person’s character or personality. This is about the book and not about your relationship with the person (although it can sometimes turn into that. But keep the review about the creative work only). However, if the friendship means more to you, then seriously consider options #1 or #2 instead.
Furthermore, many sites have star systems. Adding stars (even a single star) is helpful as this signals to readers that there is at least some interest in the piece.
The #3 Way to Support an Independent Author
Post and/or share the links to either the creative work or the author’s website, blog, Facebook Author page, or Amazon Author page, onto social media. This method is free and anyone can do it. This means tweets, Facebook shares, Pinterest repinnings, or Tumblr rebloggings. Plus it’s clicking ‘like’ on Instagram, voting up a book trailer on YouTube or adding it to a playlist, mentioning the book in your status on LinkedIn, or sharing the details with your circles on Google+, and more. Every time you provide these sorts of social signals to social media sites, the content goes to more people and you are supporting indie authors. Without spending a dime, and barely lifting a finger, you can provide a great deal of help.
The #4 Way to Support Independent Authors
Be sure to follow your friends’ Amazon Author pages, and their blogs. Hit ‘like’ on their Facebook Author pages and follow them on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. There are agents who give more weight to indies with larger social media followings. You can hate the book but still follow the author.
You can also work some magic in person. Show up to any signings or discussions, even if you just drink coffee and don’t participate. Ask for the book at your local library or bookstore. Read the paper version in public (train stations are really great for that sort of thing). And you can also talk to your friends, or email them about the work. Consider your audience, and don’t just spam your friends. However if your writer pal has written, say, a Christian-themed love story, then how about sending the link to your friend who has a son studying to be a pastor?
If your friend is local, try contacting your local paper and asking if they’d do a profile on the writer. They can always say no, but sometimes reporters are hunting around for short feel-good locally-specific blurbs. It never hurts to ask.
The #5 Way to Support an Independent Author
Here’s where it gets to be a time investment. Help them. A lot of serious authors ask questions about all manner of things, in order to perform proper research. Can you help with that? Do you have personal experience, or are you good at Googling?
You can also act as a beta reader when you’re supporting indie authors. Beta readers read either the entire draft or a portion of it or sometimes just the first chapter or even character bios. Here’s where you can be a lot freer with criticism, as this is all private. Is the mystery too easy to solve? The character names are confusing? Or the protagonist isn’t described clearly? The scenario is improbable? Then tell the writer. This isn’t correcting their grammar or their spelling (although it sometimes can be). Instead, this is giving them valuable feedback which will help them become better.
As always, be kind. This is your friend’s baby, after all. But if you can’t tell the difference between Susan and Suzanne in the story, then other readers probably wouldn’t be able to, either. Better that that is fixed before the book is released, than afterwords.
Final Thoughts on Supporting Indie Authors
The life of a writer can be a rather topsy-turvy one. You’re high on good reviews, and then you get one bad one and it depresses you. You write like the wind for weeks, and then you edit it and it feels like it’s garbage. Or you get writer’s block, or life gets in the way.
Sometimes the best thing you can do, as a friend, is to just listen, and be there.
When NOT to Post on Social Media Platforms? Timing, as you might expect, is everything when it comes to posting on social media platforms. After all, if you, say, tweet when your audience is sleeping, they won’t see your tweet. It’ll be lost in the mountain of missed social media communications.
We all have such a mountain of missed communications and connections. Social media just moves way too quickly for us to see, comment on, share, and experience everything. We’re only human, and of course that’s fine. Your mission, though, is to post when your audience will be around, not when they’ll be offline, or busy with work, or settled into bed for the night.
Zzzz AKA La La La I Can’t Hear You!
According to Kate Rinsema of AllTop (Guy Kawasaki‘s great site), the following are the most godawful worst times to post.
But pay attention to your audience. Maybe their night owls. Maybe they live on the other side of the planet.
I’m Here and I’m Listening
These are reportedly the best times to post on social media platforms:
Facebook – 1 to 4 PM
Google+ – 9 AM to 11 AM
Instagram – 5 PM to 6 PM
LinkedIn – 5 PM to 6 PM
Pinterest – 8 PM to 11 PM
Tumblr – 7 PM to 10 PM
Twitter – 1 PM to 3 PM
What About Different Time Zones?
Articles like this often vex me, because there usually isn’t any consideration taken when it comes to customers, readers, and audience crossing time zones.
My suggestion is to take these times as your own, for your own time zone, unless your audience is on the other side of the Earth. Try for some wiggle room, e. g. if you’re on the East Coast of the United States, like I am, you might want to time things for later during the window if you’re aiming for an audience pretty much only in America. But for a European audience, you should aim for earlier in the window but recognize that, with a minimal five-hour difference, you might not hit the window perfectly.
Or, you could set at least your tweets to run more than once. If you do this, though, I suggest spreading them apart by a day, say, posting post #1 on Monday at the start of the window, and post #2 at the end, and then switching them on Wednesday or the like. But repeating other postings is probably going to be overkill for your audience. Try using the #ICYMI (In Case You Missed It) tag when repeating your posts.