the big deal about Facebook? Didn’t our mamas tell us not to do
something simply because everyone else was doing it?
“Would you jump off a cliff . .
Yet the rules have changed a bit
from Mama’s day. If you’re not on Facebook, you’re missing out on the
hottest Internet commodity since Google. You need to be on Facebook because
everyone else is doing it. And you can assure Mama it’s not even close
to jumping off a cliff.
Developed in 2003 by Harvard
dropout Mark Zuckerberg (Who needs Harvard to become a billionaire?),
Facebook was intended to be an electronic “yearbook” and cyber hangout
that reflected real-life relationships.
Instead of calling or e-mailing,
friends could connect by Facebook messages or posting notes on one
In Facebook’s early days,
members had to have a high school or college e-mail address. But since
opening to the public in 2006, Facebook boasts over 175 million
members. And its largest demographic is not the eighteen to twenty-four
crowd, but middle-agers. Like me.
I joined soon after Zuckerberg
opened the site. I invited other writers to be my “Friend,” as well as
readers. I “friended” kids from church who’d gone off to college.
This year, my family joined—even
my seventy-something mom. I’m in contact with a cousin I haven’t seen
in thirty years. And thanks to the wizardry of scanning, millions of
people can find the most hideous picture of me at fifteen posted on
Facebook by one of my brothers.
How popular is Facebook? Very.
In 2008, presidential candidates joined Facebook as part of their
campaign strategy. Political parties post events and meeting times on
Facebook pages. Any organization or company with a message to the
public is on Facebook.
Artists, writers, musicians, and
celebrities have Facebook pages. Ministries, churches, and businesses
are joining this cyber community.
What does Facebook mean for
writers and publishers? With so much oral and visual noise in the world
creating competition for books, it’s critical to have a cyber
footprint. I expect to find my favorite authors there.
are five observations.
1. Facebook is easy to use.
Unlike MySpace or Xanga with customizable pages, Facebook member pages
look the same. I don’t have to spend valuable minutes trying to find
the Add Friend button because the user changed the background and the
commands are white and invisible.
2. Authors and publishers can
create “Fan” pages as a way to target Facebook users who are truly
interested in their books. I
a fan page to target those who
would be most interested in hearing about my writing milestones and
Posting book and writing updates to my entire friend
base is sort of like sticking a flyer on the windshield of every car in
the parking lot. Some will be interested, but many will be annoyed.
While I still have my main Facebook page and continue to add friends, I
used my fan page to blast book updates.
3. Research! Several times I’ve
asked for ideas or help on some aspect of my current project from my
Facebook friends. The answers were almost immediate, fun, and helpful.
Writing late at night, I was happy to learn that there are people out
there ready to talk and offer help. I learned how a convertible top
worked on a ’66 Cadillac via midnight Facebook advice.
4. Facebook posts let me keep
up-to-date on what readers, reviewers, and other authors are doing.
While I’m looking to build a fan base, I also want to be a fan.
Commenting on friends’ walls about their experiences and news deepens
our two-way relationship.
5. Online book clubs, reviewer
sites, promotional information are all there. Join a reviewer site or a
Facebook book club to spread the word about your own work or to learn
The main question is “Do I need
to join cyber communities? Isn’t it time consuming?” Yes, you need to
join. And, no, it’s not time consuming once you learn the ropes and
develop a routine.
consider that online communities are a two-way relationship. It’s not
simply about promoting your work, books, or publishing house, but also
about meeting others and developing a relationship. It’s rewarding and
interesting. Yes, I’ve gained readers through Facebook, but I’ve also