My drug of choice is writing––writing, art, reading, inspiration, books, creativity, process, craft, blogging, grammar, linguistics, and did I mention writing?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Some Questions From And About Facebook (Mailbox)

Where do you find the time to write? Any good online promotions. How to get a big page? Have I been hurt by the new algorithm? Does the page make it easier or harder to be a writer? 

[Remember, keep sending in your questions to chris.brecheen@gmail.com with the subject line "W.A.W. Mailbox" and I will answer a couple a week.  I will use your first name ONLY unless you tell me explicitly that you'd like me to use your full name or you would prefer to remain anonymous.  I think five question posts might count as two posts.]   

Daniel asks:

How do you find time to write while manning this page as well, is it the wine? Enquiring minds were wondering.

My reply:

Pffffft. Who needs wine. I limit my addictions to ADD meds, thankyouverymuch.

I mostly find time in the couch cushions. Along with change with which I am able to order avocado toast. I'm just kidding. I can't afford avocado toast. I'm basically a millennial–at least since having lost a decade playing Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid.

It's a job, Daniel. I put in the hours because if I don't, it doesn't get done and then my hundred and fifty bosses will call me into a meeting with the Bobs who will ask me what I would say I do here.

Besides making 18 year old movie references, of course.
Image description: "The Bobs" from Office Space
Running my Facebook page takes me about an hour to 90 minutes a day. I don't have to sit down and give that entire effort at once (in fact, it doesn't work like that even if I want it to), so I can often slip a few minutes here or there while I'm on my phone at the grocery store, but the total is somewhere between one and two hours. That's everything from finding the memes I post on Pinterest or Tumblr or somewhere to logging on to post several times a day to skimming the comments and making sure no one needs to be banhammered. It may not seem like much (or conversely it may seem like I'm always on my @#%&ing phone if we're hanging out), but it adds up easily to about 10 hours a week.

MJ-"I thirst for the blood of dudebros."
Image description: Moljinar 
Writing itself runs me 4-8 hours a day most days. Occasionally less or more if I'm really struggling or on a roll respectively, but that's a good guestimate. It includes a blog post almost every day, probably some work on something longer I'm currently tackling, usually some kind of political or social freeform on my personal page (proto-blogs I call them since many end up being retooled into full posts) and a little bit of my fiction.

I don't really have a "typical" week for watching The Contrarian. It might average around 15-20 hours a week but that A) varies greatly from week to week and sometimes comes in at six hours and sometimes comes in at 30+, and B) could be three eight hour days spread across the week or five days in a row of driving him home from school and just hanging out for an hour until someone gets home.

When I petsit, I usually only spend a few minutes a day doing the feeding and cleaning up (and maybe the walking) that is required, but occasionally a pet requires more or takes me an hour or so of driving a day to get to and fro. Plus the day I show up and the day I leave basically require shopping and packing for however long I'm going to be there.

Shit, maybe I should start drinking.

[Note: I added the link to Daniel's question]

Anon* asks:

How do you do a successful online promotion?

Hell if I know. Let me know if you find out.

The only "promotion" I've ever really run involved a Kickstarter AMA (ask me anything) that I don't think led to a single person pledging anything. It was a fun and interesting evening, but the only people who asked me anything either had already given me money or were really excited to help, participated to help, but couldn't really afford to spare any cash. I didn't see any new pledges that day or for a couple after, so I think it was pretty much a bust. Interesting experience though.

If you mean as far as spending money through Facebook to "Promote Your Post," I did a few of those back before I moved out on my own when I had a lot more money to burn, and they were okay, but never really worth how much I was spending. I would drop a chunk of cash, get hundreds, maybe even thousands of likes on that one post, and a bunch more followers on the page, but both analytics would be concentrated in places like Egypt or Indonesia (where FB promises us they aren't just paying for "Like farmers"). And if I tried to limit the audience to countries like the US and England, the price would skyrocket for the estimated engagement–like five dollars per 80 people who just SEE the post.

I've no idea how that ranks compared to regular ol' advertising, but it seemed super spendy for what was either just a FEW more eyeballs or a lot of people who weren't good about any further engagement.

Since I moved out on my own and had to cover rent and shit, I've promoted like two posts. Both were set to promote to only people who had already liked the page–essentially paying Facebook it's Payola scam to show my own followers the content they asked for–because I had important news that I wanted to make sure got seen, and both were something like $10. Neither one did particularly well, and it is clear that FB wants me to fork over thousands even just to promote to the people who've already liked the page.

Frankly, I get about ten times more reaction just by politely asking people on the occasional post to engage with it if they don't mind–that way more people can see it.

[*Note. This question wasn't really anonymous. It was from a pile of questions of which I lost the names. Long story but the short version is that I thought I would be able to get back to the source questions when the time came, and then several months went by, and they are hopelessly buried.]

Celeste asks:

How did you get your page so big? I'm trying to grow my own page and I can't even seem to get to 1000 followers.

I understand. Everyone is always super into my big, throbbing d....

.....ata analytics.

Technically this is in my FAQ, but I suppose being specifically about the size of the Facebook page is kind of new.

I don't really know much about social media or how to promote things. I'm not up on SEO. I've never taken a correspondence course on social media manipulation. I just kind of get a feel for what's working and do that again and again. Here's what I can tell you that I learned about Facebook.
  1. A very small business with a very small audience should do a personal profile instead of a page. The max friends an account can have is 5000 (though with infinite followers), but FB will show a lot more of a profile's posts to its "friends" then they will a page's posts to its followers. If you think you are going to grow over 5k, get a page, but if you're just the local bakery or something, a personal profile might be a better choice.
  2. FB's analytics are essentially useless. They may accurately track how many followers you have, but the data they are providing you beyond that is essentially always intended to entice you into purchasing a promotion because wouldn't you like more people than this to see your fine post?
    Fuck Voyager entered a temporal distortion again, didn't it? Half this status is from twenty minutes in the future.
    Image description: A picture of FB analytics where a post that has
    8 reactions and 7 shares, FB somehow claims has only been viewed twice.
  3. If you do open a page, the majority of your posts should not be what you're promoting. They should not be YOU. This is where you sell your soul a little. Facebook is essentially trying to make money from you and they can't do that if you're happy, so they throttle all the content you post, PARTICULARLY if your page is only posting one page (or website). Their algorithm can smell whatever it is you really want to put out there, and that's what they'll hold hostage.  SO....if you want develop a robust page, you have to be putting up comics and memes and other people's writing and whatever you find that has anything to do with the topic, essentially drawing eyeballs to your page so that your self-promotion hits as many of them as possible. It may mean you're digging through pinterest at 4am to find "Funny Writing Memes" but the price of being internet famous is not one everyone can pay. (*breathes on and rubs fingernails on vest in case that "internet famous" bullshit was too subtle*)
  4. Spread out your posting. If you post six memes in a row and then nothing for the rest of the day, people will get annoyed and think you are just clogging up their precious feed. If you post the same six memes spread out throughout the day, people will think your page is "on fire" and "lit" and other synonyms for immolation. I don't know where the perfect balance of things are, but on a good day I post a new post at least one but no more than two hours after the last one and include NO more than three posts of my blog per day (usually two). That seems to work.
  5. People are savvier than you think about being jerked around for the sake of your numbers. You post that shit that is designed almost exclusively to be provocative and it will quickly have the opposite reaction that you were hoping for. Link bait, clickbait, missing persons (with no specific info), that shit where it's like can you name a word that starts with A and ends with E. Or if every single post is begging for likes, shares, and comments. All of that gets old quickly.

Hassan asks:

Has the new algorithm hurt you as much as other businesses?

Should I eat toast tomorrow morning?
Image description: A flowchart algorithm
My reply:

Not much that I've noticed. At least not yet.

It's always hard to tell if I just posted something that didn't stick to the wall or if FB is yanking me around, so I tend to look at analytics in bigger chunks like entire weeks. So far I can't see much difference.

Not that FB isn't a bucket of sphincters trying to squeeze another round of ad revenue from the stones of page admins, but the hardest hurt pages seem (this time) to be publishers. And this time it's rapacious eye seems to have passed over the likes of me.

Specifically pages like news sites that only have a FB page because every major business has a FB page, but that publish no other content but links to their own material have gotten throttled way back. So a meme page that drops a link every ten posts (like mine) is probably okay, but a page like Huffpo (that only ever posts links to their own articles) has found their FB engagement reduced by something like 90%. Some online blogs that have gotten their traffic primarily through Facebook have essentially shut down, and basically gone out of business.

Someday FB is going to tweak something that hurts me or enough that I'll have to revisit the cost/benefit analysis or some dudebros will use their tears to fuel the Zuckerberg "community standards" engine and then I'll be trying to act cool on tumblr where all the new generation hang out and make fun of our gum-toothed voices over on Facebook.

Rachel asks:

Does running a page make it easier or harder to be a writer?

My reply:

What a spectacular question!

I've been trying to read Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird to write a review for this month (though I haven't gotten much further than the intro, and may have to stop reading it before bed if I want to finish it in a reasonable timeline), and your question reminded me of something I read night before last that must have gotten through even though I was already drifting off.
While others who have something to say or who want to be effectual, like musicians or baseball players or politicians, have to get in front of people, writers, who tend to be shy, get to stay home and still be public. There are many obvious advantages to this. You don't have to dress up, for instance, and you can't hear them boo you right away.
This might be true for Lamott, but I've been able to hear them boo me right away, and I think anyone writing in the modern era is going to hear them too. Sometimes the booing starts within just a few seconds of hitting "Publish." That is tough to adjust to and a rough maelstrom in which to try to find one's authentic voice, but it also means your skin starts to resemble a smooth, polished armor exoskeleton when it comes to feedback.

Running a page gives me reach and I honestly think a lot of artists who are a lot more talented than I am (and should be doing better than I am by every conceivable bellwether), but they lack reach. I've had a professor who was writing literary caliber prose, and he doesn't make a dime that isn't from teaching because he considers the whole online promotion to be really distasteful and promoting other people's work as an exchange beneath him. But whether they don't want to self promote at all, don't like non-traditional routes, or simply don't care for being expected to do a song and dance number in addition to their writing, they haven't been able to find their audience. (An audience I know would appreciate them if they could find each other.) Many are beside themselves with frustration when they see my numbers or find out that I'm a working writer these days.

I'd say the page makes it harder to be a writer in some gestalt sense of the word but much easier be a writer in terms of worldly success bellwethers.

I lose a lot of time moderating comments or looking for silly macros to fill in the space between self promotion. I have to deal with a lot of negativity and manage an aspect of "The Business of Writing" that can consume a lot more writing time than I am happy with, but I can trace back 75% of my current writing income and 90% of my blog's traffic to Facebook, so I think, given the choice, I'll pick the reach.

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