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 (after years!), I’m still inclined to say no. After all, the site grows by leaps and bounds on a second by second basis. And so 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 law 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 Okla. Stat. Ann. tit. 40, § 173.2 says,
“Employers may not require employees or applicants to disclose passwords or other information that provide access to personal online social media accounts or require employees to access personal social media in the presence of the employer. A social media account is an online account used exclusively for personal communications and to generate or store content, including videos, photographs, blogs, instant messages, audio recordings, or email.”
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, there are also such laws in Guam and the District of Columbia.
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.
Company pages have become spots you put together on Facebook to support a business (not the same as a fan page).
However, like everything else on Facebook, these pages and their settings do evolve, and they’ve gotten simpler these days. Currently, the following features are available:
Change Background Image/Avatar
Promote with an Ad
Add to my Page’s Favorites
Suggest to Friends
Friends Who Like the Page
People Who Like the Page
Change Background Image/Avatar
This one is rather self-explanatory. Furthermore, a good, bright background image is good, as it shows up when you share the page. In addition, you might want to change these on occasion as that generates an update.
Manage permissions, add an address or business hours, etc. here.
Promote with an Ad
This is fairly self-explanatory. Note that Buffer has said that Facebook ads are a mixed bag.
Add to my Page’s Favorites
So here’s where another company you can link your page to your event pages.
Suggest to Friends
This is basic information such as the company’s location.
First of all, this provides basic click information, including the number of Likes and Views. In addition, you can also see information on age and gender demographics and, most importantly, when people are online.
Friends Who Like the Page
People Who Like the Page
Fairly self-explanatory, except this includes people you are not, personally, friends with.
This goes back to adding a page as a favorite. And it shows which company pages your company has favorited.
I’ve found adding events to be hit or miss. First of all, not everyone RSVPs, and not everyone shows up even if they’ve said yes. However, it provides more exposure and it will bring your page up to people as the event date rolls around. Because even people who are clicking “No” are still looking, at least a little bit. So use with discretion and don’t overdo this. Because not every activity is an event, and not everyone should be invited to everything. Since that’s just plain annoying.
Fairly self-explanatory. In addtion, you can control who can add to your wall. However, keep in mind that if you are free and easy with this, you’ll get more posts but you might also get spam. Although if you shut this down, you end up with Posts to Page. And it’s easy to miss these!
Here you add more detailed information. Hence this includes the company’s address and its business hours.
Fairly self-explanatory. Posts with images nearly always do better than those without, so upload an image if the link you’re sharing doesn’t have one. Make sure you have permission to use the image!
For administrators, you can see what’s going on at a glance. However, this no longer seems to exist on Facebook.
Fairly self-explanatory. Hence add notes like you would on your own personal page. E. g. these are almost discussions. However, the responses are relegated to subordinate comments versus the kind of back and forth that comes from the wall or the discussions page. And this is, admittedly, a nitpicky distinction without much of a real difference. I would, though, suggest that you not use the Notes section for blogging. Instead, get a blog through WordPress (yay!) or the like and do it that way. Because the Notes section ends up a rather poor substitute for that.
Fairly self-explanatory. Hence if you’ve got videos uploaded, they can show up here. However, this is not the same as linking to a video hosted online elsewhere.
Fairly self-explanatory. So just post to your wall but pull down on the post button and select Schedule Post. In addition, if you’ve been looking at your Insights, you should know when people are online. And of course you want to try to post when people will see your posts.
Finally, go to Edit Profile and there is an option for Applications. However, these days, the only ones are Notes and Events.
Facebook, as anyone not living on a desert island knows, is a juggernaut of massive proportions. According to Oberlo, Facebook has about 2.80 billion monthly users and 1.84 billion daily users.
In contrast, according to Worldometers, 1.439 billion people live in China, and 1.380 billion live in India. The US has a bit over 331 million in population.
Hence, daily Facebook usage is the entire population of China + the entire population of the United States. And another 7 million people on top of that. So, Paraguay.
It is the 800 pound gorilla of the internet. And it is rapidly changing our interpersonal interactions, both on and offline. So one of those areas is in the area of internet forums.
Facebook and a forums site like Able2know
Facebook hits all forum sites and not just A2K. For years, I have been seeing drop off on a lot of different sites. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are large, generalized places like Able2know, or small niche sites devoted to something like Star Trek. In addition, I hear about this same kind of drop off in other areas.
Facebook has its fingers in a lot of pies, and it is only trying to get into more and more of them.
Everybody get in the pool
So there are two generalized kinds of interactions (there are more, of course, but hear me out, okay?). One concerns the shallow end of things. You trade information about weather and generalized health inquiries. It’s political sound bites and the zippy pop song.
The other side of things is deeper. Because here is the in-depth political discussion where you really get to the heart of the issues. It’s the detailed information on a health condition or even how to make a soufflé or plant an herb garden. It is the symphony. And online, just like offline, it is a far rarer bird. For you need time to develop that kind of trust. Furthermore, truly, you have to devote some time in order to have such a conversation in the first place.
Swimming with Facebook
Facebook fulfills the shallow end of online interactions extremely well. It is very, very easy to catch up on a superficial level with high school classmates or the like. A Star Wars groups, for example, might ask basic questions like “Who was the best villain?”
George Takei has mastered these kinds of interactions (although, in all fairness, he also writes occasional longer notes). Because these constitute the quick hits that people can like and share, all in the space of less than a quarter of a minute. It works very well for mass quantities of information.
Facebook versus Forums – where Facebook Wins
Topics about one’s favorite song go better on Facebook than on forums as they are a quick hit and posting YouTube videos is simple. It’s colorful and, just as importantly, it’s pretty easy to pick and choose when it comes to interactions there, despite changes in privacy settings.
Other basic interactions (remember a/s/l?) are seamless or don’t need to happen at all. Partly this happens due to Facebook’s real names policy. Also, more people tend to use their real photograph and their real (generalized) location and age than not.
Facebook versus Forums – where Forums Win
What Facebook doesn’t do so well is the deeper end of interactions (the extensive political discussions, etc.), and/or it does not do them well for a larger group of people or over a significant period of time or for a longer or wider discussion.
All of the deep discussions go unsaid. Topics about elections outside the United States (particularly if Americans participate in said topics) are handled poorly, if at all. When it comes to the deeper end of the interactions pool, Facebook is just not a good place for that at all. Another consideration: even now, a lot of people still find that Facebook moves too quickly for them.
Swimming with Forums
For the deep end, it makes sense to collect into forums. You need to get to the heart of the matter. And that takes time, a luxury that Facebook often does not afford, as it scrolls by in a blur. Instead of mass quantities, forums can fulfill a very different niche by instead concentrating on quality interactions.
Forums offer, even for people who use their real names and are fairly transparent about their interactions, a chance to use a persona.
This is because Facebook far too closely parallels to our real lives. There’s just so much posturing you can do about being a famous rock star when your high school cronies are also there, and they remember holding your head when you had your first beer.
The Endless Online Christmas Brag Letter
And Facebook, while it can be a refuge for people to truly show they care for each other (in particular, in the groups, or using notes or chat), is more often a place where people instead get a chance to preen and show off. Like something? Then hit like! Don’t like it? Then either scroll past it or click to hide it, or even report it as spam or as being threatening. And apart from the latter, the person posting the image, anecdote, status, etc. is none the wiser when it comes to your reaction.
But with the forums, even if you do not use your real name, your opinions are still out there, for all to see, whether it’s about global warming or the Designated Hitter rule.
Facebook versus Forums: the Future
My crystal ball says Facebook is only going to get larger and more complicated. And advertising and other ways of keeping forums open is only going to get harder. Unless Facebook finds a way to take a deep dive into topics – and make it easier for people to find their way back after a day or two – then I fear a form of interaction may eventually be lost forever.
That is, unless Zoom calls and the like can rise to such a challenge. In and among the fluff and Zoombombing and other annoyances and weirdnesses, perhaps that’s the way to go. Because I fear that forums are going to bite the dust before 2030, if not sooner.
There is room for both types of interactions. Facebook versus forums doesn’t have to pick a winner. The internet is a mighty big tent. But economics and sheer numbers might award a prize anyway.
Social media balance is sometimes elusive. Yet much like everything else, social media needs to be balanced. Too much, and you’ll alienate your readers. And too little, and they’ll wonder if you’re still alive.
I’ll confine my comments to just blogging, Facebook and Twitter. Of course there are other outlets, but let’s just look at those three.
During the 2012 Christmas season here in Boston, the oldies station began broadcasting all-day Christmas music early. How early?
So it was, if I am recalling correctly, before Veterans’ Day. Egad, it was awful. And then of course other radio stations also began their regular broadcast of holiday music. So it was very hard to get away from it all.
Now, lots of these songs are lovely. This is not me slamming religion – don’t misunderstand me. Rather, it was just … c’mon already! Because it was way too much!
It was not festive. Instead, it annoyed. And the same can be said of social media. If you’re a small outlet, a tiny company, a Mom and Pop operation, here’s a little secret. You don’t need to constantly tweet and update Facebook.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Overdo It
You’ll oversaturate the people you’re trying to endear, and they’ll turn off to your message.
And you’ll burn out.
Also, you’ll run out of things to say.
It continually amuses me when people say something like, “I have a blog.” And they’ll post
their link. However, the last time they updated was 13 months ago, or more, or they’ve never updated. Or it’s a Twitter stream with three tweets, and the account is over a year old. Maybe they have a Facebook page with nearly nothing on it.
Given the number of abandoned accounts, and the number of deceased persons’ accounts on Facebook and the like, followers might be wondering. Have you gone to the great computer room in the sky?
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Underdo It
Your readers will leave you, big time. They may be loyal but today’s audiences are also pretty fickle. You’re no longer shiny and new. So they leave.
Google still indexes abandoned accounts, although the information is out of date. And it can sometimes end up making you look worse than not having a social media presence at all.
You show, essentially, that you no longer care about your subject matter. So why should anyone read what you write at all, if even you don’t believe in it?
The algorithm will smash your site into smithereens. While the exact, perfect information on any algorithm is proprietary and kept secret from us hoi polloi, onething is certain. Newness counts. No posting means you’ve got nothing new going on. And it will push your site down in rankings on Google and YouTube. Facebook also values recency. And as for Twitter? No one will be able to find your stuff.
It’s rather Zen, I suppose, to seek a balance here.
But how do you get it?
The easiest way is to consider the people who you follow where you just love their updates. They don’t seem forced or rushed, and they seem to come in, just at the right time.
Don’t think of really big wigs in social media, like George Takei, Shama Hyder Kabani, Wil Wheaton, Guy Kawasaki, or Ashton Kutcher,
etc. Instead, consider your friends, colleagues, and neighbors, even if it’s people who aren’t making (or trying to make) a career out of social media.
Look at their Facebook walls and their Twitter streams and their blogs. What is it about how they handle those outlets that grabs you?
By the way, recognize that a person might be really good at one form of balance, but not at another. That’s not unexpected, as these are all rather different forms of media.
Your friend who crushes it on Twitter might be just plain awful on Facebook.
Reasons Why You Should Strike a Balance
Posting too much at the beginning can lead directly to posting pretty much nothing later on, so spread things out over time, and you can avoid both issues simultaneously.
Giving yourself a degree of posting responsibility can help you take it all more seriously. Of course you can (and probably should) be playful. But even the silliest of accounts have some form of a schedule, particularly if they’ve gotten large. They can’t just “forget” to post.
Schedule Those Suckers
If you’re really inspired and have a lot to say, that’s great! But unless it’s time-sensitive, use the scheduling features of programs like HootSuite. Or try Facebook’s own post scheduling feature. WordPress and Blogger both allow you to save drafts and schedule them to publish when you want them to.
Spreading the wealth over time will assure your readers that you’re not just some flash in the pan. It will also assure them that you’re still among the living.
Too many posts means that many of them get lost in the shuffle. Too few means that they can loom large, and maybe seem more important than you think they should be. Spread the wealth, and you can avoid both problems.
One more thing about social media balance. While Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. should be mindful, it should also be kinda fun. Overdoing it means that you’re probably spending too much time online. While underdoing it probably means that it no longer interests you that much. Or, at least, what you’re posting out has lost its luster.
Consider what either of those scenarios means to you. Because social media balance matters.
Promoting Writing is important! So let’s say you’re an amateur writer. You know you should be promoting writing with social media. But how do you get started?
Not to worry; I’ve got you covered, whether you’re looking to sell your work or just get your unsellable fanfiction noticed.
I have my Masters’ degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University. I blog, tweet, and go to Facebook pretty much every day. And I did all of that for grades and now for work.
Furthermore, I have been in the social media space for years, long before the term was even so much as coined. I go back to Usenet.
So it may be tempting to just plunge right in and start hyping your work on Facebook or Twitter or the like. After all, everyone else is doing it, right? It seems so easy. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s free. But I want you to take a step backward because we are going to do some basic strategizing. It’s called the POST Strategy.
P is for Personas
A persona, or a buyer persona, is the person who would typically buy your work. This is demographics, generally including gender, age range, and race. It can include highest educational level attained. It can also include marital status or sexual identity, time zone, and sometimes household income.
I know you don’t have the bucks to hire a team to build a demographic profile. That’s okay. You’re more or less covered online, if you don’t mind some vagueness.
Once you’ve got your general demographics together, write a short thumbnail sketch of a biography of them. E. g.
Steve loves science fiction as he enjoys the escapism elements. He’s in his thirties and lives in a small town where he has a technical job. Unmarried, Steve wants to escape into the strange worlds that are a staple of science fiction. Because Steve is bi, and he’s in a small town where that might seem strange to his neighbors, he is semi-closeted. He wants to read about people like him or more or less like him. He enjoys action and adventure but doesn’t mind some romance in the storyline so long as it’s not dominant.
You are writing a description of your ideal reader. That person might be a lot like you. They might turn out not to be. Plus you might find more than one persona. That’s okay, too.
O is for Objectives
We’ve all got pie in the sky notions, where we want to be recognized for our art, published, get an agent, make a mint, and hobnob with the best writers we can think of. Or maybe that’s just me. But you’ve got to be realistic here.
What’s realistic? Breaking even, on a first novel, is probably not realistic. But selling at least one copy to someone you do not personally know? That’s a good, attainable goal. It may not sound like a lot, but you start this way.
And do some measuring, in order to know you met your objectives. Amazon shows sales data, and many places show read counts even if you aren’t publishing for $$ at this time. I personally use spreadsheets but I’ve got a data analysis background so this appeals to me. You don’t need to go nuts! You can get by with just vague ideas, such as to see that sales have gone up, or you haven’t broken 1,000 reads, that sort of thing.
S is for Strategy
What’s your plan? First of all, allow me to suggest one thing right off the top – get HootSuite or Tweetdeck or Buffer or some combination and learn how to use their scheduling features. Don’t be tweeting in the middle of the night. So schedule stuff. Trust me; scheduling will save your offline life.
T is for Technology
So now let’s start thinking about platforms. And do some more research (Pew is awesome!). Where is your buyer persona going online?
Our mythological buyer persona, Steve, is fairly young and male. I bet he likes Tumblr and Twitter. Plus he’s on Facebook because many people are. While he might be on Pinterest (it’s not 100% female), the likelihood is greater that he’s elsewhere.
So what’s your mission? To post your promotional links where Steve is. Maybe Betty. Or Lakeisha. Perhaps Hong. Or José. And change up to reach whoever your buyer persona is.
Want to know more about POST Strategy? Go to the source!
However, this barely scratches the surface when it comes to promoting writing. Because there’s a ton more to know! Where can you get started? I just so happen to have a book for that. And it also just so happens to be free. Ask me anything, here or on Wattpad in the comments for that book. Am I missing something? And do you want anything updated or clarified? I gladly take requests to update the Social Media Guide.
What’s the rest of it? There are really only two areas that I haven’t delved into: Groups and Notes (and keep in mind, FB changes constantly, so these could go away).
Groups: a lot more self-explanatory than you might expect.
They are, of course, a means for people to gather themselves together. Facebook is enormous and so, instead of looking through several million people to try to find someone who likes, say, Star Trek United, you can hunt for a Star Trek group, join it and, voila! Instant collection of people with an interest similar to your own.
Joining in a group affords few obligations. Get invited to a group event? Well, it’s nice to RSVP, but not necessary. New discussion in the group? Well, it’s nice to participate, but you don’t need to. Add photos? Again, lovely, but no one’s holding a gun to your head.
Managing a group differs a tad because it’s good to keep it lively. I’ve already talked a bit about groups before in this series, so I won’t repeat what I’ve said. However, mainly you want to keep discussions going (if any) and interest up. Gathering an enormous number of fans (yes, I know they are called Likes now, but what’s the human term? Likers? That just sounds weird, Facebook) helps with that.
This helps because it’s a somewhat objective means of showing interest in your group or cause or company, but since there’s a proliferation of dual accounts, that’s not necessarily much of an achievement. Plus, since it’s so easy to toss a Share or Like button on any site, and Liking is so easy, having a lot of fans often just means you got your group in front of a bunch of people who are fine with clicking on a Like button, and nothing more. A group with 1,000 fans is not necessarily going to be easier to monetize than a group with only 100.
Notes became yet another means of getting across information. The main difference between them and discussions? The replies seem more like subordinate-appearing comments versus discussion replies.
Yeah, it’s a difference without much of a real distinction.
The main usage I’ve seen for Notes consists of old-fashioned “getting to know you” kinds of notes. You know, the kind where you’re asked your favorite ice cream flavor or the name of your childhood pet. I’ve been on the Internet for over a decade and a half and, frankly, I think I’ve seen all of these by now.
The last bit about Facebook is its very ubiquity. One of the reasons why it is so successful is because it’s, well, so successful. E. g., a long time ago, it hit a tipping point and started to become famous for the sake of being famous, and got bigger pretty much just because it was already huge.
It is well-known to be a worldwide phenomenon. Mentioning it is so obvious, so simple and so well-known that it practically isn’t product placement to talk about it any more, much like mentioning a telephone in a movie isn’t really product placement to give a profit to Alexander Graham Bell’s descendants.
See you online. And, yes, I will friend you if you like.
Podcasting can get you to a wider audience. It’s a different medium from what you might be used to. And it offers practice and the opportunity to polish some skills that you, the writer, might not have realized you needed, such as thinking on your feet and being an interview subject.
Alas, I currently no longer podcast. But these tips don’t go out of style.
Getting Started with Podcasting
What do you need for podcasting? This image is a pretty good summary of what you need –
The good news is that you have most of this stuff already. In fact, you don’t even need everything that’s in the image.
It doesn’t seem to matter too much which type of computer you use. You really just need an Internet connection. You will need some speed, so dispense with dial up if you’re still using it (someone out there is, right?). I would, though, recommend using an actual computer as opposed to a phone for podcasting, as the resultant file is going to be huge.
The image shows a studio-style mic, but the truth is, you don’t need to get quite so fancy. My own microphone is part of a headset. It works just fine and most importantly, the mouthpiece is adjustable. You want adjustability because, inevitably, you’re going to sneeze or cough, or the phone will ring or whatever.
To be able to talk to your fellow podcasters on your show, or to your guests, you’ll need some software. Essentially what you are looking for is chat. My team and I liked to use TeamSpeak. I imagine you could do as well with Yahoo! or Facebook chat. Just make sure that whatever you are using is private. Oh, and turn any sound notifications off.
If you’re going to put your podcast on YouTube (I think this is generally a good idea), you’ll need software for that, too. I use software that came from my school, Screencast-o-matic. The school also uses TechSmith Relay but I prefer Screencast-o-matic. Either way, you want software which allows you to record a fairly long video.
You may not think that you need any sort of visual art software, but I beg to differ. At minimum, your podcast needs a logo or at least a slide that you can slap onto the front of your YouTube video. Photoshop or Gimp is ideal, but Paint or even Microsoft PowerPoint can do in a pinch.
If you are going to use an image that you didn’t make, check the license! I like to use Wikimedia Commons as a lot of their images have open licenses or they just require an attribution and nothing more. But remember – just because an image exists online and you can right-click and save it, does not mean that you have permission to use it! When in doubt, use one of your own images. I like to use scenery images if I don’t have a logo. Scenery can even be something really tiny, such as one flower bud.
For sound editing, the beauty of TeamSpeak is that it allows for sound recording. But you will still need to trim something or other. I have Audacity though I admit I don’t use it for much (I don’t do the sound editing for our podcast). But Audacity is otherwise useful.
You should practice before you try to go anywhere with podcasting. It doesn’t need to be long or involved. Get to know the software. For example, TeamSpeak allows for a push to talk feature. Use it! This will help a lot when you are recording, as you need to consciously press a button for any sound to come out. Practice using this until it’s second nature.
Use Audacity, and record yourself saying something simple and scripted. It can be a nursery rhyme or the like. You don’t want to be doing this for more than a minute or so.
The idea here is to listen to playback. Can you be understood? Are you too breathy? Does your accent push through a bit too much? Do you talk too fast? Every single one of these issues can be fixed, including the accent.
Fix Your Audio
Generally, you will need to slow down and enunciate. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, but at least in the beginning you’ll want to talk more slowly, in particular if you have a thick accent.
If you’re too breathy-sounding, try bringing the mic farther away from your mouth. As for outside noises, you’ll need to close windows and doors, put pets outside, and turn off fans and space heaters. Set your phone on mute.
When you work with co-hosts, practice with them at least once. Remember to not talk over them and, if you’re laughing at their jokes, you need assure that even your laughter is being recorded.
Hosts and Guests
Consider your subject and your potential audience. On the G & T Show, we talked about Star Trek and Star Trek Online. This included the novels and cosplay. We would also branch out to talk about other gaming and other science fiction. Having this broad a topic but with its own limitations made it fairly easy to come up with show ideas. As for guests, our hosts networked at conventions, in the STO game, and on social media such as Facebook and Twitter.
A co-host is an extremely good idea, as otherwise you’re talking to yourself a lot. While you could carry a show by yourself, it’s a lot easier if you don’t have to. Three hosts tends to be a really good number, particularly if the third is not too active. You’ll quickly find your hosts unconsciously dividing into three groups:
The talker – this person won’t necessarily stay on topic all the time, but they can fill dead air.
The organizer – this person understands creating a theme and keeping the show on target. This person often remembers to thank the guests.
The utility infielder – this person can chime in and also cover if either of the first two cannot podcast. Along with the organizer, this person often performs research and gathers potential podcast material in advance.
As for guests, consider your circle, both online and off. You can podcast without guests, and you will most likely need to get a few under your belt before anyone will want to visit.
However, when you do get guests, the usual details apply, e. g. be polite, give them ample time to plug whatever they want to plug, and prepare questions for them in advance. If your guest writes, for example, you might want to talk about the themes in their book, where they get their inspiration, how long they’ve been writing, and how they first became published.
Think outside the box and consider guests a little removed from your basic subject. Hence if your subject is books and writing, why not have a cover artist on as a guest, or a professional editor? Maybe feature a literary agent or a representative from a publishing house.
At G & T we had a Streaming page and used a minicaster. This also included a hosted chat room – the show broadcasted live and the audience could listen and follow along in the chat room. This was not necessary, but it’s fun.
We also blogged about the show, which meant that we took notes (in our case, the utility infielder did this). The blog was a great place to get the URLs in that we may have talked about but our audience might not have gotten the first time we mentioned them. With the blog, we could just make clickable outbound links. We also made sure that a player was embedded into the blog, so that a reader could listen to the show if they would prefer that.
Podcasting and Distribution
We always uploaded our podcast to not only iTunes, but also MixCloud and YouTube. These spread our broadcast even further. We used a regular logo card as the image accompanying our YouTube videos. For special interviews, we made different images, usually with our guest’s provided headshot.
To introduce new segments, we used bumpers. These are just short (less than half a minute long) introductions to various segments (e. g. Star Trek News). Ours consisted of our utility infielder’s niece giving the title of the segment and then some introductory music that we had permission to use (always get permission or make sure that music is public domain!).
Bumpers help because they provide a smooth transition between segments and they can cover up any ragged transitions. We spliced these into the completed file. Our announcer girl also recorded our intro and our credits portion (with music we could use), so we added these as a part of post-production. Again, these provided recognizable transitions for our audience.
Promotions and Podcasting
We promote our show on social media, with mainly our YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. We also have Tumblr, and Pinterest accounts but use them less. Our main promotions come from YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. We also promote at conventions, including a table at Star Trek Las Vegas for the past few years.
Why Not Podcasting?
So what are you waiting for? Why not give podcasting a try?