Fodder For the Facebook Machine

I have a discussion group on Facebook, Suspense/Thriller Writers, that is constantly evolving because of the site’s ever-changing policies, and what was once fun, has now turned into a burden.

In the beginning, when I was new to Facebook, the groups were pretty much worthless. They were mostly discussion groups where no one discussed, but I found a way to make it work. At the time, FB had separate areas for links and promos and such. I was fine with whatever anyone wanted to post — I just wanted the discussion group. And it was a great discussion group. Each week I’d ask a different author to pose a topic, I’d email the group members, and we’d have an interesting discussion. I learned a lot from those people.

Well, Facebook couldn’t leave well enough alone. They changed the group format, and since our original groups didn’t fit in with their new format — we had too many members — they planned to get rid of all of us. Eventually enough people complained, and they let our groups remain, but they changed them completely — got rid of the discussion forum, took away the ability for Facebookgroup administrators to send messages to the group, and combined everything else into one huge mess on the wall.

Members of the group left in droves. They couldn’t stand the constant barrage of promotion. Finally, we decided to ban any sort of promotion from the wall and turn it into strictly a writing discussion group. (No publishing, formatting, or promotion questions are allowed — this is strictly a group to discuss the craft of writing.) It actually worked well. As a thank you to the members for adhering to our rules, I set up a separate event every Saturday. Well, FB decided there was something wrong with that, and took away my ability to set up events. So I set up a separate group for promotion.

All went fine for a while until FB decided to change things again. Instead of ignoring groups, they decided to promote them — and the groups with the most members got the most promotion. Sounds great, right? Wrong! Now every author on FB who has a book to promote is made aware of our group, and we’ve been inundated with new members. Members, I might add, who don’t pay attention to the group rules, which are pinned to the top of the wall for all to see. (It’s amazing to me how often someone will “like” the rules or comment about how great the no promo rule is, and then immediately post a promo. I guess people think rules apply to everyone else but them?)

I spend way too much time every day deleting promos and banning those who posted the promo link. I used to give people the benefit of the doubt, but if I didn’t ban them, they’d simply post something else. (Doesn’t anyone get the point of soocial networking? You don’t constantly beat people over the head with the links to your books. You get to know them and then let them find you.)

I realize that FB is not a public site — we are all fodder for the great FB machine, and are subject to whatever changes they deem necessary — but all these machinations are burdensome. Still, the group is worth saving. How often on the internet, and especially Facebook, do you find a group of people who help each other with the craft of writing? So I’ll just deal with the frustration and hope that eventually the gods of Facebook decide to turn their attention elsewhere.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

5 Responses to “Fodder For the Facebook Machine”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I always wondered what happened to the people who do that posting. Thanks for doing the hard, thankless work, Pat. We appreciate it.

  2. Kathy Says:

    Argh! My love/hate relationship with Facebook – it drives me crazy and I try to stay away but, of course, that’s where the people are.🙂

  3. Chuck Thurston Says:

    Move to a group on LInkedIn, which is a more professional (in intent, anyway) social medium. I started one called North Carolina Writer’s Network, but I am the only member, and not sure how to populate. That is the big prob with groups. Sooner or later the originator wants to hand it off, people move on, the discussions flag and the thing just disappears, or the contributions just wander off topic into gossip, jokes, drivel, etc., etc. I’d like the thoughts of others on this.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Linked in is even more promotional than facebook, at least when it comes to the publishing industry, even though it’s supposed to be more of a professional network site. LinkedIn is a lot less personal and it’s harder to keep track of the discussions. I’ve kept my FB group going for five years, and I’ll continue despite all the ways FB sabotages it. It takes a lot of work to keep a discussion group on track, and this is a good group, so it’s worth it. It hasn’t wandered off into gossip or drivel. it’s only the new people who don’t follow the rules.


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