Monday, 13 January 2014

The Facebook Game

Facebook. Love it or hate it, it's the biggest social media platform on the planet. It used to be fun and easy to use. A place to post updates about your personal and/or writing life. A way of maintaining a dialogue with family, friends, and readers, depending on how open you chose to make your account. In addition, author and book pages were a key part of communicating with your readers.

Then came strange algorithms that worked out how important your posts were in relationship to the millions of other status updates, and not long after promoted posts. Pages have become complicated and costly. If you want to be sure your readers or followers see a page update, you have to pay. Otherwise only a handful (and I mean a handful) will see it. Even if you do pay, there's no guarantee enough of the right people will see it. And this pay to promote posts option doesn't just apply to pages - there's also a promote post option for main account status updates.

All of this was making me seriously doubt why I even had an author page and book pages. I tried paying to promote a few posts and they appeared to make no difference to my sales or number of followers The money I paid was used up within a few hours - the window of opportunity to see a page update was ridiculously small. It just didn't seem worth the money. So, I decided to keep my pages as nothing more than window dressing that readers could visit via an eBook or website link.

Then came something even more irritating - the ticker list.




This gem applies to your main account. Facebook says it's a real time feed of your friends' activities. Here's how it actually works: the less status updates you like for a particular person, the less likely they'll end up in your news feed. In other words, stop liking enough of someone's updates and they'll stop showing up at all. How many likes are enough to keep them in your news feed is unclear. But wait a moment. There's a handy ticker list on the top right hand side of your Facebook page, which lists all the status updates you are now not getting. Confused? You now have a news feed and a separate smaller list to check.

I tested my assessment to make sure I was reading the situation correctly. I stopped liking and commenting on two friends status updates. Within a few days they'd vanished from my news feed and now only appear in my ticker list. 

What does this mean? If you don't want to miss status updates you either need to be constantly checking your news feed and ticker list and liking everything, or checking friends individual pages. Also, if you want your status updates to at least appear in another friends ticker list, you need to like your own updates to ensure they are more visible. Worse, if you're using an app to view Facebook, the ticker list simply isn't there. For those of you who predominately use an app to view Facebook, you will no longer be able to see all your friends status updates.

Seriously? Do I have time to worry about such things? Do any of us? Am I cynical in thinking that the ticker list is one step on the ladder to making all posts invisible unless paid for? I'd much rather pay a monthly subscription fee than this nonsense.

The easy answer would be to close my Facebook account. I don't want to do that for two reasons: I enjoy the social aspect of the site and it's my main point of contact for my writing group, Untethered Realms. Instead I'm refusing to let Facebook suck up my time in an endless game of 'how visible are my status updates?'. I will post as and when, as I've always done. When I have the time I will read my news feed and like and/or comment. Will I worry that I'm losing important updates or that no one is seeing mine? No. Life is too short for such unnecessary worry. And there are successful authors out there who don't use Facebook. It's not the end of the world.

What do you think? Did you know about the ticker list? How important is Facebook to you both personally and as a writer? Will the latest changes influence how you use Facebook?

As always, I'd love to read your input. 

47 comments:

  1. I'm with you on this, Ellie. In fact, I don't post anything like enough on Facebook to keep a high profile - if I have spare time I prefer to get back to my writing rather than spend a lot of time on Facebook.

    The theory is that good writing sells itself, but there's a difficulty with that, too. If people aren't reading it, it won't sell itself. It's a vicious circle.

    Not only can I not afford to pay for advertising, but I'm just not convinced that most advertising serves any useful purpose. Like you, I've tried it and it's done nothing for me. If anyone has a good idea how to solve all this I'd love to hear it.

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    1. I don't think there is any easy answer, Tony. As fellow writers have repeatedly told me, just keep writing until something hits the mark. When it does, write more of the same.

      I agree with spending time writing rather than on Facebook. In the end it doesn't matter how long you spend on social media if you're not actually writing.

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  2. After a couple of weeks of FB, I decided the site was a control freak and walked away from it. FB is sorta like the slot machines: it pays occasionally to keep one in the game but the house always wins.

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    1. What a great analogy, Kittie. I don't think helps if someone has an OCD personality either. It's to easy to spend hours just checking your feed.

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  3. Sounds complicated. Really glad I'm not on Facebook.

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    1. I think you're better off without it, Alex. You're also a prime example of how you don't need it to have an Amazon bestseller.

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  4. The only way to assure seeing someone’s posts is to click on the Notifications button at the top when you Like a page or Friend someone. That puts the responsibility squarely on the viewer, not the owner of the page.

    There are several homesteading and DIY pages I Like and read without ever clicking ‘like' on any of their posts. Of course, FB never shows me their updates because of that, so I’ve had to go back and ask for notification.

    It’s all about the money--like that's anything new in this world. FB skews their process to earn revenue.

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    1. As far as I'm aware even if you click on the notifications button on a page or friends account, it still doesn't guarantee you'll see their posts. I agree about it being about revenue. What I don't like is how complicated they're making it.

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  5. I know, right. I just had this conversation on FB with a few peeps the other day. Honestly, the whole FB thing is getting to be quite taxing. I have enough more important life issues to concern myself than 'liking' my own status or constantly checking on one of my friends. But then again ... oh, geez! I just don't know.

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    1. And there in lies the problem. Should I like? Should I not? I'd better check my feed anyway. It wouldn't hurt. Damn. I've just wasted 30 minutes of my valuable writing time.

      Totally get where you're coming from, Sheri.

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  6. I just stopped trying. I had a friend who paid for exposure and got a whole four more likes on her page. Not worth it.

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    1. Another example of how little attention is paid to Facebook advertised or promoted posts.

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  7. I totally forgot about the ticker list. I've had it switched off since it became a "thing". It was annoying. (Ticks ARE annoying! lol) I also keep forgetting that I'm not seeing everything I should in my feed. I think I'll turn my ticker back on. To sum up: I'm ticked off.

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  8. AMEN, Sister! LOL. I'm in the "Hate Facebook" list of people. I've been on it and off and back on, over the past couple of years and I'm so tired of reading either trivial, idiotic messages, and/or "Oh, look at me!" stuff. It is such a waste of precious time. Your post has just convinced me to close it again. I'll write an "announcement" on my page, leave it for a day or two for people to read, and then Adios Amigos! Thanks, Ellie! :)

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    1. P.S. I decided to not totally close it, but I posted a message that I won't be "Liking" or commenting, or posting anything, but that I can be found through my blog or website. Thanks again, Ellie!

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    2. A good idea, Becky. It's always worth keeping the avenue open for the future.

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  9. Haven't heard of that, but I'm glad to know. Yeah ... as the old saying goes, why fix something that's not broken? Good thing my main focus is blogging and using Facebook mainly for family and friends. :)

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    1. It's all about revenue streams, David. Truthfully, I'd be happy to pay a small monthly fee to avoid all this nonsense. I do understand it's a business, but it's becoming impossible to understand or navigate.

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  10. I don't use Facebook, but this sounds way too complicated for me to think about!

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    1. It causing a lot of people headaches. Is it worth it?

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  11. I recently realized about the ticker list. Since that side of the page contains ads, I typically don't even look over that way. FB has gotten really stupid lately with its content. At the moment, I'll still be on there because I do like other features of FB, but it's time for something new to come up and give FB a run for its money.

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    1. I agree, Cherie. I much prefer using Twitter. It's quick and simple to use. We need something like that to replace FB.

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  12. I once signed up for a facebook account and bulked a bit at all the personal details it wanted. I went ahead anyway and created an account. I have no idea if it still exists because after a few visits my password failed to work, I could not be bothered to find out why and I have never been back. Sounds like I have not missed much.

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    1. It has its good and bad points. It can be a great way of communicating with friends and family around the world. It can also be an incredible waste of time. I guess it's about getting the balance right.

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  13. I did not know that about the ticker. There are people I haven't heard from in a while and now I know why.

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  14. Sounds like one more reason (as if I needed any!) for me not to bother with FB.

    Some of the more reasoned advice I've seen about social media for writers says not to fret about being present everywhere (FB, Twitter, blog, web site...) just for the sake of it, and certainly not because someone says you "should". Pick those avenues that work for you, and do them well.

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    1. Excellent advice, Botanist. It's to easy to waste time on social media.

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  15. Personally, I don't worry about it. It would suck up my writing time.

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  16. I'm not very good with any of the social media outlets. Seriously, even with my blog I'm winging it lol! I didn't know the thingie in the corner had a name but now I do :-). I just like what I can, enjoy the posts I can and am understanding that those who get a chance to see what's happening with me, well, glad they can. One thing I am working toward is tagging a bit more often when it comes to things I really want lots of people to see.

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    1. I think it's the same for most of us, Angela. We're all learning on the job. Someone else mentioned about tagging people more, and that's something I've started doing. It's a great way around FB's stupid policies.

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  17. Its as if you read my mind! You seem to know a great deal about this, just like you wrote the novel in it or something. I think that one could do by incorporating pics they are driving the message home somewhat, but instead of the, this is great blog. A fantastic read. Ill definitely be back.

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    1. Thank you, Sandy. I'm only offering my humble opinions.

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  18. Great post. FB has its uses for staying in touch with people and especially groups like Untethered Realms, but it's awful as an author platform. I've taken to posting my news on my main profile which gets me way more post likes than my page. I only hope FB will tweak it all back the way it was when enough people complain about it.

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  19. I'm slowly closing down my personal FB, and since the algorithms changed for my author page, I'm getting 75% less traffic, so I rarely bother updating that.

    FB sucks. It was set up for friends to connect, but they want to be in charge of the friends I hear from.

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    1. It does suck. I'm getting three or four views for a page post. Why bother?

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  20. I'm with you 100%. I enjoy the social aspect and also UnRealms but otherwise I think it has become a waste of time. The changes have made the author pages a total joke I think. I already suck at social media and this just makes it more frustrating.

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    1. It's certainly frustrating. The only reason I'm staying on FB is for Untethered Realms.

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  21. Hi Ellie .. I don't do FB - though had lots of Birthday wishes recently through the site - others obviously do keep up. I don't have kids and tend not to interact on FB with others' families who I don't see that often ...

    So I'm not time wasting on it either .. I'll see what happens .. but it's like gambling .. totally addicting and I hate that .. or the thought of it ..

    But thanks for all the input and information I'd have never have known otherwise .. cheers Hilary

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    1. It is addictive, Hilary. I also think you have to be careful what you post and how open you make your account.

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  22. I understand your frustration. I've almost given up on Facebook pages. 417 folks have liked my page and Facebook showed the last post to 7 (seven) of them. Not including hyperlinks in posts increases the exposure rate, but showing a post to 1.7% of the people who liked a page is frustrating. Makes me wonder how much I'm missing from pages I've liked.

    The ticker list is fine, but only in real time. I don't see anything that happened 10 minutes before I sign on unless Facebook drops it in my feed.

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    1. My last page post got three views. With 298 likes, that's 1%. And like you say, how much are WE missing.

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  23. I didn't know about that - and to my mind Facebook just gets more confused each time I go to it. Which, to be honest, is only occasionally...

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    1. You're not missing a lot, Simon. I'm really only keeping my account open for my writing group and a few friends who live a long way from me.

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