Friday, June 12, 2015

You "Like" Me! You Really "Like" Me!

By Art Taylor

Here's a confession: I'm addicted to the "likes" on my status updates.

My wife makes fun of me for this. "How many likes do you have on that status update now?" she'll ask. "Have you checked in the last three minutes? What are you up to now?" But she's guilty of it too. On those occasions where we've both shared the same bit of news or the same photograph, it becomes like a contest. And then beyond the "likes" themselves comes a different contest: "Well, at least I got more comments than you did."

This is, apparently, a societal problem, an epidemic one even. See the New York Magazine article on it here.

And now that my publisher, Henery Press, has asked me to create a Facebook author page in addition to my personal one... well, that's a whole nother level of neediness and anxiety, right? (I won't invite you to like my new page, since that invitation is clearly implicit here. But I will say I'm giving away an ARC of On the Road with Del & Louise on the page this weekend, so... click, click, clickety-click even if you don't like, like, likety-like!)

Will any of those status updates—or even that ARC giveaway—ultimately, directly, lead to a sale of my book? Who knows? And—frankly—who cares?

By this I'm not saying I don't want people to buy my book when it comes out. I do! And you should! (Yes, you!) But what I don't want is to feel like I'm consistently crafting status updates with an eye toward some marketing, toward some bottom line—because I think that's a mistake.

And I don't think that's at odds with the "like" addiction that I mentioned.

In conjunction with my job at George Mason University, I've overseen social media marketing for the Fall for the Book festival for many years. As part of a small team, we've looked at our FB audience's demographics and the days and times they're most likely to be browsing pages. We've scheduled posts at specific intervals and with a specific range of subjects (general literary news vs. a recent review of one of our authors vs. an update about one of our events). We've crafted FB ads and paid to boost specific posts, often to carefully crafted target audiences (people ages 18-35 within a 30-mile radius who like Neil Gaiman, for example). And there's two things I can tell you:

  • I've never seen any proof that someone has read one of those date, time, place of author event updates and then gone to the event itself specifically because of that update.
  • No matter how much crafting or boosting we've done, people are more likely to "like" a photo of a couch made out of books than an update about the date, time, and place of the next author event on our schedule. Always.
So does that mean that Fall for the Book should slow down the attention it's giving to social media? Not a whit. Because what we are doing is connecting with people and then reconnecting with people and maybe giving them a little something to smile about or a chance to reaffirm the plans they already had go to an event they heard about elsewhere or just a link to a review of their favorite writer's new book—and in the process to build Fall for the Book as not just a resource but even a friend of sorts, the kind who shares some of your tastes, some of your interests, likes a lot of the same things you do, and wants to talk about them.

There's those words again: "like" and "share" and "connect" and—yes—"friend."

Bluntly stated: Those folks—and we all know them—who view social media first and foremost as a marketing tool are doing it wrong. The person who posts only about his new book and where you can buy it. The person who friends you and then immediately asks you to like her author page. Even worse, the person who friends you and then immediately posts on your wall a message about his latest project or author page or buy link.

That's not friendship, is it?

I'm not friends in real life with all of the people I'm friends with on Facebook. Some of them I haven't even met and may never meet. But I do feel a connection with many of them. I've laughed with many of them, and my heart has gone out to many of them, and I've been delighted to find that some of us share the same enthusiasm for hot dogs or Taco Bell or a rare bourbon or that we grew up reading Danny Dunn or that, just today, we're so many of us fans of Ornette Coleman and maybe listening to his music in our separate far-flung offices and apartments and whatever.

Maybe some of those folks will buy my book when it comes out. Maybe not. But in either case, that seems secondary to the connections here—as it should be.

I like them—simple as that—and it makes me glad that they like me.

...though again, maybe I'm a little obsessive about that.


Gerald So said...

Hi, Art.

Online interaction has given me a few head starts on real-world friendships, and a few people have told me they attended events because they saw them on my blog and Twitter. I agree, though, that social media shouldn't be a means to just one end (i.e. sales). The best communication meets several goals at once, not least of which is genuinely connecting with/befriending people.

Art Taylor said...

Thanks for chiming in, Gerald--you got here even before I did!
I like that phrase "head start" here. So often I've met people in person for the first time after knowing them a long time online, and it seems like we're already old friends--which is great. I'd count you among those, in fact, after all of our interactions and then seeing one another in person (at Bouchercon, as I recall).

In all cases, though, I think you're right: social media may have several benefits, but it should never be a means to a specific end, especially if that end is financially motivated.

Thanks again!

Gerald So said...

Likewise, Art.

I believe we met at B'con 2011, though it might have been 2008 in Baltimore. More than once, I've decided to attend panels because you were moderating. :)

Art Taylor said...

Yep, yep, Gerald--St. Louis! That's what I was thinking. I could picture the room—it was a short story panel—but couldn't recall the larger place! The nature of a conference, I guess--with everything looking like "hotel" wherever you are. :-)

joshpac said...

As always, Art, you've got interesting things to say. I like!

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, Josh!

Allan J. Emerson said...

I like your post...I really do like it! Made me laugh.

Unknown said...

Do you also get obsessive about the number of comments on your blog posts? (I decided I'd better leave one, just in case.)

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, Bonnie! Glad for comments here too, yes! The pressure is always on....

Robin Spano said...

Oh Art. I'm going to go to your Facebook page right now.

civil litigation solicitors burnley said...

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David Moss said...

And I just added almost an hour to your page views (though I have to confess I was outside having coffee for 50 of those minutes). But seriously this post was eye-opening and helpful.

Art Taylor said...

Thanks, David! I'm not even sure how the statistics for page views work, but I'll take it! And appreciate your kind words on the post itself. :-)