Was Facebook created so that authors—and anyone else with something to sell—could use it as free advertising space? There’s been some consternation lately, about posts on Pages not always showing up to people who Like that Page—unless the Page owner pays. Authors (and others) have reacted with outrage. But are they entitled to? An author Page is advertising things for sale. Advertisements usually cost money.
And Facebook is in the business of selling advertising. It’s funded by people who buy advertising. (And they are its customers, not the ordinary user. The ordinary user who is paying nothing to use Facebook is not the customer, they are the product.) So why should Facebook give us authors free advertising space just because we’re selling books, rather than coffee or cars or pet food? Isn’t that a bit entitled of us?
Writers attend courses and panels devoted to how to use social networking sites for promotion, but we never seem to ask the question “should we use social networking sites for promotion?” Who invited us to pimp our books on Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter etc? Do we think we are special snowflakes because it’s books we are trying to sell, rather than some other kind of product? Does what I’m saying here apply as much to bands, artists, actors, film-makers and so on? Most of us can’t afford paid advertising, but then neither can many small businesses.
Goodreads is a very tricky case. It’s a site about books, so it feels natural to promote books on there. But there are problems inherent in putting readers and authors with their differing agendas in the same space. And those problems are spilling over from Goodreads in places.
I’m not saying it’s time for authors to get the hell off of social media (you’ll get me off Twitter when you prise my phone out of my cold dead hand, etc.) My thoughts on this are still evolving. If we can somehow use it for non-obnoxious promo, maybe that’s okay. But I do think we need to stop making the assumption that every site is a promo opportunity and is advertising space that we are entitled to use – without ever paying a penny for it.
We need to stop getting into a frothing rage when a site initiates a change that happens to make it harder for us to use that site for free advertising. The site was not built for us to promote our books.
And when some new website comes along, then before we invade it in a frenzy of entitlement, we need to stop and ask if we are hijacking a space we have no divine right to be in.
As I say, my thoughts on this are still evolving, I love to hear what others think. Are we muscling in to places waving our books without an invite?