Thursday's Thoughts: The Social Media Quagmire

Thursday, March 3

Blogs, Websites, Facebook, Twitter...sometimes MySpace...where does it end?  I'm in complete awe of authors who manage to do it all, especially when writing is their second full time career.  I bow down, and completely understand when an author attempts to scale back because all of the social media can take over the time they spend writing and more than likely time away from family and friends.

As a blogger I have both a Twitter account and a Facebook page.  Not for personal use, because I just can't seem to find the time to keep up with all of it, but solely for the convenience of followers of Seductive Musings.  Admittedly I don't interact much using these other tools other than to have the blog posts broadcast to both Twitter and Facebook...and even then I don't do this manually but with automatic updates. I'm not looking to gain lots of "likes" using these tools.  Basically I'm just cross-posting the content on the blog to these other sources because I know that some people prefer to use Twitter and Facebook just like I prefer to use Google Reader to try and keep abreast of authors that I love to read, so I do it for them.  I know it's important.  But as the popularity of Facebook increases, everyday I see more and more authors gravitating towards it as their main way to interact with readers (ie potential buyers of their books) sometimes at the detriment to what I feel is their best marketing tool...their own website. 

A few weeks ago author and blogger Beverley Kendall from The Season Blog had a post talking about the NEED for authors to use all of these outlets to help spread the word and I wholeheartedly agree, because fans and readers have come to EXPECT them.  And after all, these are all FREE resources to help get the word out and interact with readers.  That is invaluable. But she was also wondering how effective it is and what readers get out of it.  I thought this was a brilliant question to ask because as I said before Facebook seems to be taking over the world :)

I of course had to share my two cents worth in the comments, and here is what I said (which has been slightly edited to delete things that I've already mentioned in this post):

This is such a great question Beverley! One that I have actually been pondering myself when I read on one author’s blog (her personal website blog) that all of her most recent info had been posted on Facebook….not on her website....

My preferred method of interacting with an author is through their own website or blog. I subscribe to their feeds and read them whenever I see there is something new. I KNOW that Facebook is seen as the end all and be all and many authors are practically abandoning their personal blogs and focusing on Facebook and/or Twitter, but I think this is a HUGE mistake. I think it’s shortsighted. Facebook and Twitter are all the rage now, but so was Myspace not so long ago and I think you can see by the comments by many others here that they are closing Myspace accounts left and right. Will that happen to Facebook? probably not, but one thing I know for sure...when I find an author that I want to learn more about, look at their backlist, or contact….I don’t go to Facebook or Twitter first. I go to their website. That should in my opinion ALWAYS be where there most current info is because it is DEDICATED solely to them with no other ads, or distractions. Authors who are spending their limited time focusing only on Facebook will find themselves always chasing their tale.

I’m not saying these social media tools don’t have a purpose, because getting your name out there is important. I’d be more interested in knowing how many books are being sold via Facebook, or whether it’s just more social interaction. When I go to Facebook it’s to win something or read a comment, not to buy. But when I’m on an author site and I can see the cover, read the blurb, read the excerpt and any other extras that entice me to spend my money where it is conveniently located together, and presented attractively, and there’s a handy buy link right there….I’m gonna use it. I think a better use of Facebook is to entice potential readers to visit your actual website where you can really wow them with your books, not have their interaction with you begin and end on Facebook (but I’m sure Facebook is happy about that).

As a reader it kind of makes me upset when authors do this. I’ve seen this happening more and more and I really don’t like it. Mainly because you never know which author is choosing to do what at what point in time. I would need to keep a spreadsheet to know where I need to know more about author X because of all of the authors I like to read.  There's no way I can remember all of that! At what point will an author decide to focus their efforts more on Facebook than anything else and how will I know when that happens? If I happened to only follow Myspace and an author hadn’t updated it in a while, should I just assume that there’s nothing new to tell? What happens when the next social media frenzy starts? All those people that followed you on those social sites will be left behind…maybe to find you somewhere else….maybe not. Which is why I will always say your website as an author should always be the most important AND consistent marketing tool they should have. It should be the most comprehensive and interactive way for an author to interact to their readers. The others should be supporting tools that get them to your website and if they are fun while doing it, then all the better....

Yeah, it was a long rant, but what can I say I feel strongly about this topic.

I decided to have this as my Thursday's Thoughts post because it happened again this week.  Now, the author I am going to use as an example is one of my favorite authors and I think she is an amazing person (no, I don' t know her, just from what little interaction that I've had with her).  Maya Banks's newest novel in her KGI series, Hidden Away, released on Tuesday March 1st, but unless you "like" her on Facebook, or receive her emailed newsletter you might have forgotten about it with the plethora of great books that were released this week, because there was not one mention of it in a new blog post.  Yes it's on her home page, but if you use a RSS reader like I do...unless there's an update notice I don't visit...and even then I don't always go to the website but read it directly in the reader.

Luckily I signed up to receive her newsletter and she had an announcement in it that she was having a HUGE and I mean huge party on Facebook to celebrate.  Did you participate?  I know a lot of people did because by the time I commented on some of the giveaways there had hundreds of comments.  She gave away some seriously coveted prizes!  Some of them were like lottery winning amazing!! getting to be a character in one of her books, or ARC's for all of her books from 2011 to one commenter.  I would have loved to have won that one :)  Anyways, she gave away over twenty prize packs, but this was not shared on her website or blog, but it was tweeted about.  Why wasn't the news of a new book being released not shared on her blog?  Why wasn't her Facebook party announced on her blog?  

On Wednesday Maya gave away a few things on Twitter to celebrate, and again it wasn't on her website.  I found it because I was checking to see what had been posted on Twitter compared to what was posted on Facebook for this post.  I didn't go back and re-check her Facebook page to see if she mentioned it there, but I don't remember reading about it on FB. So I'm thinking that probably only people who follow her tweets (and have time to read them) would have known about this.  Obviously she doesn't have to do any of this;  she did it to celebrate and thank her fans...but by not posting to her website she more than likely inadvertently left out some of her reader fans.  

One of the things I found especially interesting from Beverley's initial post were the comments from readers in response to her questions.  It seems like if you like Twitter you use Twitter, but not really Facebook or blogs.  If you like Facebook, then you probably don't really use Twitter, or really visit blogs.  Fans don't really seem to crossover to these other methods of social other words they stick with what they like and know.  This makes a lot of sense to me because we are all creatures of habit.  Which means that each method that you use to "share the love" is equally important.  

I also found it interesting that many readers said that the main reason they followed an author on Facebook or Twitter was for the giveaways or special insight into characters or their motives that were posted only in those places that they couldn't get anywhere else...hmmm does that mean that they wouldn't have followed using Twitter or Facebook if the content would have been available on the blog/website?  Granted the numbers are more than likely skewed because the readers who commented to Beverley's post probably prefer to interact via blogs first, the other two as secondary methods which I know is not always the case.

Many readers also like to use Twitter and Facebook to interact and become virtual "friends" with their favorite authors that otherwise they normally wouldn't be able to do.  I think this is especially true of Twitter.  Back to Beverley's question, which is how much do you want to interact with your favorite authors?  And several commenters said that they only use Facebook for family and friends, not for authors.  This also made a lot of sense to me because of what is posted on your wall.  Maybe you don't want your friends, family coworkers,  and employers knowing that you like to read an author that writes erotic romance. (in Maya's case)  That's not all that Maya Banks writes, but I do think it's what her many fans "know" her most for.  Because let's be honest if it's on the internet you could be held accountable for what you say, do or even read including what's on Facebook.  And if you think your employer, or potential employer is not checking your Facebook profile then you are sadly mistaken.  I'm sure you've all heard stories of  teachers who have posted racy photos or videos, only to be fired when their employers found out about it because they view this as a violation of a morality clause.  I've seen this on/in the news several times (not locally, but across the nation).

So is it such a stretch that an employer might view erotic romance in the same way they do anything else they deem questionable?  After all how many times have you heard romance, not even erotic romance, termed as porn (which I don't agree with at all)?  I know I've read that thought many times.  If a reader isn't comfortable reading a romance in public because of the cover and how they may be perceived by those around them, do you think they are going to "like" you on Facebook which is essentially broadcasting their reading preferences to the entire world? My guess is no.  Which means that not ALL of your fans are using Facebook despite what Facebook or the media are telling you. And don't get me started on the perils of sharing TMI with your fans because sometimes there is such a thing as knowing too much, which ends up changing your perception of an author which then leads you to stop reading/buying their books.  I haven't done this, but I know a few people who have.

I've said it before, and I will say it author should use her website as her most important media tool.  Period.  If something has to give it should NEVER be your website.  If it relates to your selling your books any info about that you'd like to share with readers should always be on your site...character insights, thoughts, contests, giveaways...whatever it may be, then cross-posted to Twitter and Facebook.  Because those tools are important.  I really do understand that.

Now I'm not saying that everything on Facebook should be on Twitter or your blog because obviously sometimes it is just interacting with reader fans.  I also understand that the landscape of marketing your books has changed drastically in a very short amount of time and finding the right equation is still being evaluated.

I'm by no means saying that Maya should have used her website for the party over Facebook, because she's obviously finding value with her interaction with her Facebook "likes", but I do think that each social media vehicle that she chooses to use should have announced the release of her book (out of sight out of mind for some of us) and any resulting celebrations on her blog as well as her newsletter.  Not because of the giveaway, really that's not what this post is all about, but because readers need to be reminded about the books they want to read.  We forget, we need reminders about why we should go buy the book, entice us...make us what it BAD!  Because with gas prices soaring again, with no end in sight, which will have a trickle down effect on the cost of EVERYTHING else, money is going to have to be spent more carefully so the reason why I should buy your book over one of the other 50 or so major romances that were released this week needs to be brought front and center to my attention.  After all that is why authors are told to use all of these social media sell their books.

I know this is long, and some of you may not even care, but I really feel that authors may be doing themselves a disservice by focusing more of their attention in places other than their website.

Authors, what are your thoughts on this?  How do you balance it all?

Readers like me...what do you find yourself using and for what purposes?  Do you use the three biggies, website, Twitter and/or Facebook equally, or do you find you have a preference of one over the other so have let the others slide?  Are blogs/websites going the way of the MySpace dinosaur?  I know that's a bit of an exaggeration, but maybe not so far off in the future as Facebook gains in popularity.

I probably should have done a poll to ask these questions but I 'd rather it be more of a dialogue with reasons.  I'd love to know your thoughts.

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Susanna Carr March 3, 2011 at 1:47 AM  

I agree that the author's website should be the definitive source of information. It's the one place I can go to and find out everything.

As a reader, I don't want to go from one place to another like a scavenger hunt to find out about an author's book. Rather than having me go from the website to Facebook or Twitter, I think the social media should direct me to the website.

And I really don't like the idea of a member's only section.

And how to authors do it all? I know many of them hire someone to do their social media. Facebook, twitter, blogs, even e-mail. I think if you're having someone do your social media, you should be up front about it, but that's not the case. You may think you are speaking to the author, but you're really talking to their assistant or social media specialist.

JenM March 3, 2011 at 8:39 AM  

Here's my biggest problem with Facebook - it is dangerous because it gives random people that you don't know that well way to much personal info about you and that can lead to identity theft. We have a private account on Facebook under an assumed name that we use to keep up with our relatives but nothing else. I'm shocked and amazed at what some people are willing to post on their Facebook pages.

As for Twitter, I don't have the time to follow all those tweets so I've never signed up for an account. I just stick with the blogs. If either Twitter or Facebook becomes dominant, then I'll reconsider, but right now, I'm staying away from them.

Pamk March 3, 2011 at 10:33 AM  

I am a reader only and most info on new releases and contests and the like is though google reader. I follow most of my favorite authors on twitter and facebook but I have a hard time keeping things straight on those sites. Much easier to see blog updates through the reader. I almost missed Maya's release and only saw her contests cause another blogger blogged about it.

Booklover1335 March 3, 2011 at 1:35 PM  


I have mixed feelings about members only benefits...although I do feel that author newsletters are often a version of this since sometimes special content is included in them...and I am ok with that because it's delivered directly to my email in box...if I have to sign in or create a password to view on a website then that's where I draw the line.

Hey Jen,
I completely agree that you have to been extremely careful about the info that you share on Facebook. Just hearing about the people that were robbed while on vacation because they mentioned it on Facebook is scary.

As far as Facebook and Twitter I think they are dominant now and gaining importance each and every day with every new member account that is created.

You and I are the same. I use my Google reader to keep up with all of my favorites. I think it is by far the easiest way to manage it. I'm so glad that you didn't miss out on Maya's Facebook party. I didn't see it mentioned anywhere (but I am also behind on my blog reading) so it's good that you read it on another blog. Weren't some of the prizes that Maya offered great! I thought they were unique and very tempting :)

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts!

Jane March 3, 2011 at 6:21 PM  

I'm not on Facebook and I don't tweet, so I missed out on many of contests held exclusively on those sites. Many authors just communicate through their Facebook pages and I miss a lot of the info because of that.

Artemis March 3, 2011 at 8:03 PM  

Great blog post today! I thought for sure it would generate more feedback. I saw Maya's Facebook contest, but for the life of me I can't remember where. *blonde moment* And yes, I did participate. Nope, didn't win.

MySpace was never MyThing. Too many adds, flashy thingies, etc., etc., etc. I don't sing like a bird either. I don't have the time to waste. And for some reason, I can't say what I need to in, how many characters is it anywho?

Yes, I do FB, but I am slowly becoming bored with it. I follow many authors there, along with connecting with family and friends. Also, I am getting very hesitant about sharing - TMI. FB tends to get hinky with its wall posts at times; which really pisses me off. Oh yeah, I'm past the age where I could care less who sees what on my page. It's the age of: I'm old enough to know better, young enough not to care.......... That is what defriending is for. LOL!

I'd rather connect with my favorite authors on their websites/blog and via their newsletters. Or on blogs, such as this fantastic one. I want to know about WIP, new releases. A contest is just the icing on the cake!

See ya' around the web!

Booklover1335 March 3, 2011 at 10:09 PM  

Jane I feel your pain...I miss out on a lot too because there's just not enough time in the day. Thankfully I can still find time to read each day...even if it's just for a 1/2 hour to an hour. It makes me happy so I always make time for it...and as they say, when I'm happy everyone else around me is happy :) Thanks for commenting!

Booklover1335 March 3, 2011 at 10:12 PM  

Hey Aretmis!

Thanks for hanging in there and reading the whole thing :) You never know what will cause people to make a comment...maybe some of my blog readers don't really care enough to comment, or it's quite possible that when they saw the length they decided to skip it or maybe save it for later. It's hard to say. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for leaving your comment :)

Ivy March 4, 2011 at 11:05 AM  

I do FB but only a bit for MR & to keep up w/ friends back home (I hate to talk on the phone). Usually if I'm on the computer it's researching, reading etc..not socializing.
I missed the Maya party though, bummer. W/ the "real" job my computer time has been reduced. Oh well, maybe next time. Love the Thursday's thoughts theme though..

Christina Phillips March 4, 2011 at 9:33 PM  

I found this blog post and the comments so interesting, since I often wonder if I'm on the right track when it comes to utilizing social media. I'm going to link to it from my blog :-)

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