How Facebook Can Improve User Interface for Authors
Admit it, Facebook is the main go-to social media platform of… well, just about everyone. Even the older generation is jumping on the Facebook bandwagon, and why not? You can meet people in countries you’ve never been to, or follow (and sometimes even interact with) your favorite celebrities. Facebook stores are cropping up for just about every product under the sun. Why then, does Facebook seem to single out authors in particular, punishing them for seemingly innocent infractions of mysterious “policies” that no one seems to recall ever reading?
I myself was a victim of this oh, about a year ago. At the time, I was on my laptop and wanted to make a list of the groups I was in. So I went to each group, copied the URLs, and pasted them into a Microsoft Word document to save on my computer. You know, in case something ever happened, such as getting locked out of my account and having to make a new one. I did not post in the groups, simply copied their addresses. That is, until I got the dreaded error message.
UH-OH. IT LOOKS AS IF YOU’RE USING THIS FEATURE TOO MUCH!
Say what? I wasn’t using any feature (at first I thought posting too quickly or posting too many links), but whatever Facebook. I put my list aside and went on doing something else, not thinking too much about it. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I could no longer post in my groups! Yep, I was in the dreaded Facebook “jail”! What had I done to deserve this? Apparently, you’re not allowed to visit too many groups too quickly, even if you don’t post a single thing in any of them.
And I’m not the only author to feel the wrath of Facebook. It seems to be a common theme in just about every author’s discussion group. Not a week goes by that I don’t see at least one mention from a Facebook author about being unable to do this or that, and some of the “sentences” are over two weeks! So, what can we do about? Honestly, not a darn thing. Facebook themselves must make the next steps to become more author friendly.
Okay, so Facebook does offer pages, and anyone can set one up with a minimum of effort. Heck, I have a double handful of them myself: for my business, me personally as an author (since I now publish for others), two of my book series, and so on. Pages are a good way for authors who want to keep their personal profile private to publish public posts for their pen name. Authors can attract and interact with readers without running too closely to Facebook’s friend limitation.
The problem with pages is that they’re difficult to see. They rarely pop up in one’s news feed unless you’ve already liked the page. Even then, it’s a crapshoot if your page drops in someone’s lap. Recently, I’ve seen author posts about trying to decide to dump their Facebook pages. They’re just not getting enough visibility, unless the author pays for ad space. That’s right, you have to pay to get your posts in front of people even if they already follow your page.
Facebook’s reasoning is to not flood people’s inbox with a bunch of ads. I say people who have liked a page are probably interested in what the page is all about. If not, and they don’t want to get numerous notifications, simply unlike the page. Easy, right? They have no problem unfriending people for different religious, political, or personal issues. The same can be said of a page. You don’t like it; there’s the virtual door of the unlike button. You can only invite a certain number of people to like your page before Facebook tells you that you can only invite by sharing. To help rather than hinder authors, Facebook needs to stop putting forth so many restrictions on pages.
These Facebook groups are becoming more popular with authors, as they set up “street teams”. These are usually small groups of dedicated readers and friends who help the author by sharing information and posts. Groups offer additional features (like the ability to upload files) above Pages. There are often more interactions than with pages. Group admins and members can start polls. Facebook offers three types of groups: public, closed, and secret.
But here again, there are rules. You can’t post too many times in a single period, the timeframe of which seems to be completely arbitrary. This seems to be whether you post links or just regular posts. One can’t comment on too many posts at once, either. These include groups that you started or admin in. And you can’t invite people into groups, giving them the chance to decline, you can only add them.
As mentioned above, there is this magic button called “leave group”. Hey, there’s even a way you can be a group member and shut off all notifications from said group. The instructions for this should pop up the first time a new member visits a group. Also, changing the group settings to allow for ‘inviting’ people rather than adding them without their approval will help ensure these members really want to be there. This will allow authors to better utilize Facebook groups.
Many authors like to create book cover or release day party events on Facebook. These parties are an excellent way to attract their readers, who might also bring some friends. Events are be set up and used like temporary groups. After the event is over, it remains in the “past events” folder of attendees’ events tab, so people can return to see what, if anything, they might have missed.
Facebook puts restrictions on events, as well. One can only invite so many people before they’re allowed only to invite by sharing. Again, you can only post a certain number of times within a certain time, and no one seems to know what those numbers are. People attending an event must click the “going” button before items show up in their news feed. Those who decide they no longer wish to take part in the event can remove themselves from the event by clicking the “going” button and changing their preference. No one forces them to stay if they don’t want to be there.
There are many ways Facebook could help authors where events are concerned. One way would be offering an option marking the event as sales related when an author creates the event. Then, when someone accepts an invitation to attend, a pop-up could inform them the event revolves around sales. That way, people could decide to opt out if they don’t want their news feed clogged with event posts. Creating a notification option like groups have, to receive highlight notifications once an hour (or once a day for events lasting longer than 24 hours), would give people a chance to reduce the number of posts they see.
Facebook and Advertising
The social media platform Facebook is, of course, a company first and foremost. They survive on monies earned via advertising. I think all of us understand the value of that and how important it is to a corporation. Many times, I’ve seen advertisements from famous authors (or their publisher) or big companies. There are plenty of these kinds of ads all across Facebook’s platform.
Independent authors find it difficult to get ads approved through Facebook. First, their requirement that a picture in the ad can only have X number of words is limiting. We’re authors and we sell books; book covers have text on them already. This makes it difficult to produce ads to pass through the approval process. Changing this requirement would make it easier for more people to take advantage of Facebook’s advertising option.
Charging a small flat fee to those creating an event for sales purposes would bring Facebook more revenue. Especially if those who paid for the event were not restricted in their use of the event. I know I wouldn’t mind paying a fee of, say $5 for each book release event, and there are probably a lot of authors who would agree with me.
In conclusion, Facebook could be an invaluable tool for independent authors and small press publishers. However, some policy changes must be implemented before the platform can lean toward favoring authors. The modifications suggested in this article are minor, and would benefit both authors and everyone else using Facebook. Rather than continue to punish authors, Facebook could become a partner with them.
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