Today's good is Facebook.
That's right. Facebook. This is the one year anniversary of when I decided to learn how to use Facebook. I honestly had no idea how to use it wisely and well, and up until then had used it only for personal posts or to chat with longtime friends. I will also admit I posted a lot of bunny pictures.
But a year ago, I realized that it was a gateway to a bigger world. I was working long hours at my job (which had nothing to do with writing) and I really had no social life or free time available. I also had decided to commit myself fully to the writing life, and needed to have conversations and connections within the world of writers. The ways I'd used in the past to relay information or widen my circle weren't going to work. I saw social media--particularly Facebook--as something that could change how I used my time, connect me to other writers, and help me find readers.
I paid attention to how some people were using it, and then combined what they did to make a road map for myself . And it has worked brilliantly: I have about 4000 followers now, and I began with less than one hundred. Those aren't just names: those are people whose websites I visit, who I try to have conversations with, and who I am invested in equally. This website has a few thousand subscribers as well, and that is in part, because of Facebook and what I create on my Facebook page. Those numbers might not seem high to some, but remember, that's by hand: I didn't buy those followers (like I've heard some people do!)..I worked for them, one by one. I expect this number to double in 2015, all on it's own.
I'm sharing Facebook as my daily good today because recently I noticed how many people don't understand it, are overwhelmed by it, or misuse it. But it can be a helpmate, not a hindrance. It is something that can create good in your life, but only if you pay attention to the details. If you had told me a year ago that Facebook would work for me, that it would an important aspect of my writing life (for the days of either/or and writers locked in attics scribbling away madly alone on their novels are long since over), and that I would, well, adore it..I wouldn't have believed you.
Below are ten points I used to create the Facebook presence I have now. I say this with a smile and almost laughing out loud, because quite honestly, it amazes me that it has worked and that I truly enjoy it.
Ten Ways To Make Facebook Good:
1. Be a real person to the friends you have right now: even if you only have fifty. Don't try to get more friends or followers. Focus on the ones you have now. If they like what you do, more people will come. Naturally. Thank people often for what they share, don't just skim through and use the "like" button. Do not friend-shop. Friend shopping is going through some else's friend list and trying to friend people of influence. Bad form. Instead, decide to be a person of influence. Let the influencers you see come to you. If you really want to friend someone who is very much outside of your circle, ask for an introduction though messaging a third party you have in common, or try meeting them on Twitter and starting a conversation there first. This starts a conversation on a firmer footing and you will be creating a relationship, not just adding a name.
2. Limit your time on Facebook and schedule the main chunk of your interaction on it each day. Then, if you feel like popping on to have interactions later on, do it if you feel like it. But don't feel obligated. I spend one hour on social media a day, max. Some people use Hootsuite and other feed tools: these are things which feed links you like into your FB feed. I don't use these unless traveling in a place where being online is impossible, because personally, I think such posts lack intimacy and distance me from the reader.
3. Don't sell things. This includes you. There is nothing more annoying than "here's a screen shot of the piece I wrote for ______, I'm the most popular!" Don't push products, that includes bath oil or your aunt's candle company or the workshop you are running. Never market, or give a glimmer of marketing yourself or anyone else. You can talk about your victories and plans in other ways (see below). Instead, use your FB feed to share other people's work in real ways. Become known as a person who shares other people's work and gets it seen. Sharing other people's work--particularly not just your friends' work--shows integrity and thoughtfulness. If you can show that you can move a piece, a cause, or a topic, people will tend to send you their essays and work, and this is a way you can develop deeper connections with other writers and editors. You also get to read work which inspires you, find more causes which move you, and widen your circle with more diverse points of view.
4. Facebook is where you can talk about your victories, but do it in a real way. Putting things in the context of gratitude is better than self promoting. "I'm really grateful to so-and-so for letting me write on her blog this week. She asked me to write about a difficult topic, ________, and I learned a lot from writing this piece." Make your posts about other people, even when you talk about something you did. If you run a workshop, thank people rather than talking about how great you are. Nobody cares about how wonderful you are, and you don't look wonderful in the least when you make the accomplishments of others small.
5. Never, ever share links in someone else's posts in the comments. It's bad form. (Unless they ask for it, or on the rare occasion it seems sensible.) Especially never your own links, but even the links of other people. For example, I shared a piece from a well known site last week, a beautiful essay. Someone commented with a link by a friend of hers, an essay on the same topic. Now why would I want to keep that comment there? It will prevent people from reading the essay I've chosen. And if it's truly good, that commenter could have sent it to me in a private conversation and let me decide if I wanted to share it. When people comment with links, it takes away from the conversation, it doesn't add to it. This includes linking your own website in comments: for example, let's say I write about going to Paris. Someone might comment, "When I went to Paris, I loved the photography museum and I wrote about it here, on my blog, ____________ (names blog and possibly links)." Tacky. You may think you are getting more readers to your site, and maybe you are, but to most people, you are no longer a writer. You are now a salesperson. Believe it or not, every exchange you have online doesn't require for you to link yourself, your website, or your projects. Comments are a place where you can craft conversations and develop relationships. Not sell yourself. By having an online presence that doesn't rely on promoting your website or work constantly, you will actually gain more readers.
6. Think of your Facebook page as your living room, decorated with the objects you love, and with a coffee table full of beautiful books and plates of snacks for guests. That's right: you play host on your page, and guests arrive around the clock. Just like any good host, you curate the conversation, steer it the direction that works for the group and the theme of your party. You wouldn't decide to have a party at your home and let others host it, would you? If you end up with a guest with bad manners, it's par for the course. But you don't have to invite them back. This is what the block key is for, or you can use the unfollow button and still remain friends but they won't see that you've unfollowed them. Groups are another room in the Facebook house. Sometimes they stop at the front door, like the obviously marketing-your-book-or-brand-or blog groups. In those kinds of groups, you are going to promote yourself and talk about promoting yourself. Not my personal favorite, but can be useful if you blog. My favorite kinds of groups are the ones that are smaller and more intimate....a bit like sitting at the kitchen table with old friends. Here you can be more personal and have a chance of creating lasting friends, supporters, and connections. Make sure with all groups that you (1) turn off group notifications and (2) turn off notifications on any posts you comment on or like, or you'll be inundated with pings. You can also create a group of your own as support--something I've done--and design it to suit your specific needs. I have groups that I discuss certain topics in that I don't post on my wall, and it helps me to have a place to go so that I keep my wall content unified and interesting to who reads it.
7. Decide how public you want to be. If your page is private and personal, that's fine, but if you are a creative, and have stuff to share, you will limit yourself considerably. I took my Facebook page from personal to public: anyone in the world can look at my Facebook page without friending me. This option isn't for everyone, but for someone like me, who gets a lot of email about certain topics I write about, people appreciate that they can have access. The other alternative is to use other social media to share your work, or to start a page that is public for your work and creative identity. The problem with this is that FB keeps most of the posts from pages like that out of the main feed, so not many are going to see what you share. You'll have to use your private FB page to share posts to make it work. All this said, seriously consider friending people you don't know, so that you can share your work more widely. Consider using a pen name, too, as I do: it's helpful and makes me feel more secure in the more public world. The list feature can help you create a mini-platform to share certain topics. For example, if I want to share a link about rape, I'm most likely not going to share it with my whole audience. I will share it with a list of people who I've had conversations with and are engaged with that topic. Or let's take the example of someone who has a private FB page and has started adding writers and editors to it, and can't seem to get past having to share their work with their aunt, sister and co-workers: they could create a list of writers, and just share it with them.
8. Never ask in comments or via chat for editor contacts, or contacts at all. Instead, spend time getting to know the work of the person, and have conversations about that. If they offer information, let it be an exchange between you both, rather than you trolling the Facebook feeds for contacts. And if you do make contacts with editors on FB (which is one of the things I use it for) read all of their work, read their magazine, read their writers, before you ever even have a casual conversation about creating work for them. The same goes for mentors: never ask someone to be your mentor without establishing a relationship first. Think organically.
9. Haters are going to hate. I've got probably a dozen people on my friend list I'd love to remove, but I can't because we have friends in common and it would be awkward. For one reason or another, they suddenly stopped liking my posts or reading my work, and interacting with them is weird. So here's what I do: I ignore them. It's their problem, and frankly success of any kind, makes other people act funny. Jealousy is like grief: it has its stages. Maybe they will work through it, maybe they won't. But if this happens to you and you can't unfriend, simply ignore them. Hopefully you will be able to unfriend at some later date, and frankly if you do well, you'll be lucky to only have a dozen who follow you but aren't your fans.
10. Make your page on Facebook a destination: if someone were to meet you from FB, be the person they would expect to meet from reading your posts. For me, I try to focus on the uplifting inspiring aspects of life and writing, just as I do on my website. People go to my FB page expressly to see what I post, and I enjoy the dialogue and the connection with others. I'm exactly the same in person, I talk about the same things that I feel are relevant. Create a theme for your page that people can expect, and make it personal, real, authentic. It works well to share ideas that are edgy or controversial, because that makes you a real person. It also works well to share pictures of your cat. But what works best is to share what you are passionate about and what lifts people and takes them to new places or points of view. Resharing is nice, as are lovely quotes, but status posts that are personal go farther. Choose 2-6 various kinds of posts per day, and choose wisely.
These aren't universal rules, nor steadfast. They are just what has worked for me.
Facebook is a tremendous power of good. If it's not a power of good in your life, reconsider how you are using it.
My goals for 2015 include falling in love with Twitter!