I’m the administrator for several public pages over on Facebook. One of those pages was created for readers and fans of a series I was involved with to talk to the authors, ask questions about upcoming books in the series, and just be part of the inside group for that series. Readers were vested in us. They saw value in buying our books, because they “knew” us. The interaction between authors and readers wasn’t just about buying our books.
It was, by all accounts (including Facebook’s own analytics with the “Group Insights”) a very active group. Four authors creating content, engaging readers, letting readers have a peek into the process of writing. We had about 200 members, of which more than 150 were active on a regular basis in the group, which frankly was phenomenal. We gradually grew the group of readers. The active members stayed about the same, even when we reached 300 members.
And then someone got the idea to open the group up to other authors for posting. The idea was to bring the readers who follow those authors into the group. I was beyond hesitant. I warned that unless we set some ground rules immediately, our little group would turn into just another “buy my book” drive-by posting site on Facebook, and all the good will we had created with those 150 or so very active members would be squandered. I was told that “we would monitor the situation and if we have to, we’ll set up some rules for posting.”
Anyone care to take a bet as to what happened in that group?
As a founder of the group (not just an administrator), I admit to being protective of the relationship developed with the readers in that group. After a few months of “buy my book” drive-by postings and no other interaction with readers by these authors, group insights revealed engagement was way down. Surprise! (Yes, that is sarcasm.)
I went off on a rant in the reader group. I was told by other authors (in the author group for that page) it was unprofessional, how dare I show the warts and wrinkles of the writing life to readers, and even worse, HOW DARE YOU CRITICIZE OTHER AUTHORS? I made no apologies. I flat out refused to apologize for viewing readers as little more than a potential sale.
Two really interesting things came out of that rant. First of all, it was the most active post in the group for that whole month and readers publicly and privately thanked me for creating it. Secondly, even though at that point, the other admins realized we had a problem and set up specific days of the week for posting “buy my book” posts, group action continued to fall. The readers got it.
I’ve looked at group insights for this group again today. Even though we have garnered even more members, engagement is down. The most engaging posts are NOT the “buy my book” posts. They’re posts of interesting tidbits of history, pictures of period dresses, cute memes…that I and one other of the founding authors create. That being said, I am pulling back further and further from this group. I neither have the time nor the energy to fight what I see as an uphill battle against the drive-by posting. I’m no longer active in that group, and honestly that makes my heart hurt. Some of those readers when the page was started came into my street team. Others became “stalkers” of my author page. Because of Facebook friendships, a few other readers became people I count as friends in real life, even though I’ve never met them.
I’ll put my energy elsewhere. I wish all the authors posting in that group the best of luck. I guess, when you consider the time it takes to post a link in a space that has become little more than a free advertising site and keep on going to the next Facebook page to post the same link, the ROI might be acceptable. It isn’t to me. I NEVER want to view any reader as little more than a potential sale.
My blog is where I do most of my venting about all sorts of things--book scammers, book stuffers, book thieves (I refuse to call them 'pirates' because I won't insult pirates), stupid crap that happens at dog shows. You never know what you'll read in this blog because I don't ever know what I'm going to write until I start writing.