Why Facebook Pages and Ads Have Lost Relevance for Indie Authors

photo credit: Neil. Moralee via photopin cc

photo credit: Neil. Moralee via photopin cc

There was a golden time, not so very long ago, when Facebook pages actually mattered to indie authors. Your Facebook page was a critical component in your social media efforts and, for many authors, was central to your platform. Well, that has all changed. For a while, Facebook was hot on this “Promote” thing… and no one used it.

So, Facebook changed course and instituted a new name for the exact same thing. Now, instead of “Promote,” they call it “Boost.” Big shock, as with most rebranding efforts that don’t reflect a reworked product, people probably aren’t more interested in using “Boost” than they were interested in using “Promote.” Why? Well, if other authors are anything like me, they look at that “Boost” button and say, “Why do I need to pay Facebook to show my posts to people who may not be interested in my page?”

The answer, of course, is that Facebook is desperately trying to monetize itself and justify its IPO. All of that is fine. I get it. Facebook is a business and it wants to make money. Here’s the thing. Instead of finding a better way of making money, Facebook is now trying to force you to use “Boost” by preventing people who follow/like your pages from seeing your posts. So the question now becomes, “Why do I need to pay Facebook to show my posts to people who specifically, intentionally followed/liked my page for the purpose of seeing my posts?”

The answer, of course, is that you shouldn’t. But what about Facebook Ads, you ask? Well, I could keep going on about why Facebook pages aren’t relevant and talk about Facebook Ads, but I don’t need to do that. Instead, I’ll let Veritasium’s Darek Muller explain it to you…with graphs and metrics and awesome. Check out his videos below.

Is Authenticity a Dead-End?

photo credit: Funkybug via photopin cc

photo credit: Funkybug via photopin cc

Authenticity is one of those terms that haunt creative circles. You hear about how you need to be more authentic, or find your authentic voice, or how so-and-so is so authentic. I think that authenticity is an overblown notion. After all, at our most authentic, human beings are actually pretty miserable, unbearable creatures.

Think about it, authenticity is when you strip away all of the pretense and reveal the unvarnished person. That describes people during the first 5-45 minutes they are awake. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m no bundle of kittens during my first hour of consciousness. I know this. I actively avoid engaging with other human beings during that hour because of it.

When you strip away all of the pretense, you discover the not-so-secret truth that people are flawed. They have short tempers or biases that make you uncomfortable. You discover that they’re a lot less charming in private. Authenticity is simply the revelation of things that good manners and social mores are designed to smooth over.

My hypothesis is that people don’t actually want authenticity. What they want is something that feels genuine and is consistent. Take Tom Hanks, for example. By all accounts and evidence, he is a grounded, decent human being. Those facets of his personality come through in interviews and people’s reports of private interactions with him. He feels genuine and he does so consistently.

That doesn’t mean that he isn’t cranky before that first cup of coffee. That doesn’t mean he lacks personality flaws. The exposure of those things would be authenticity. He wouldn’t benefit from that and, frankly, neither would anyone else.

Tom Cruise, by contrast, doesn’t come off as genuine. He feels authentic. The couch-jumping, Scientology, Brooke Shields and…and…and…all of it reads like someone who chooses not to hold back the things most of us do. He wears his flaws right out there on his sleeve and has been soundly punished for it in terms of public perception. The irony is that, when Cruise isn’t being authentic, he’s reportedly a nice person.

I’ll grant you, most of us don’t live under the kind of scrutiny that Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise face on a daily basis. Most of us wouldn’t ever want to live that way. The lesson, however, holds true. I may have very strong feelings about political issues and expressing them would be a blow for authenticity, but it doesn’t serve my readers to expound on my political leanings.

Holding back inflammatory or obnoxious thoughts and impulses may be inauthentic, but it isn’t a failure to be genuine. It’s an acknowledgement that some ideas are inherently divisive and have no place in a professional forum. It’s recognizing that we refrain from some behaviors for the very good reason that it’s polite to do so. Holding back those things doesn’t alter my basic personality. If I’m a curmudgeon, that will come through. If I’m essentially kind, that will come through. That is genuine and that is something to which readers can connect.

I think that maybe it’s time for us to worry less about being authentic and spent more time working to be genuine. I suspect that you’ll connect better with your audience and connect with the right audience for what you have to say.

Stephen Colbert’s Twitter Crisis and Personal Brand Management

photo credit: somegeekintn via photopin cc

photo credit: somegeekintn via photopin cc

If you haven’t heard, Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report,” recently became embroiled in an apparent racism controversy that started on Twitter. This situation serves as an object lesson for us all in the importance of personal brand management. If you aren’t up to speed on the controversy, here are the highlights.

On the March 27, 2014 episode of “The Colbert Report,” they ran a segment mocking the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation. The letter written about the foundation by Dan Snyder, the Redskins’ owner, reads like a Johnny-come-lately attempt to feign cultural sensitivity and whitewash 80+ years of stereotype perpetuation.

Colbert, whose show revels in the satirical, suggested that he too should start a charity based around a character named Ching-Chong Ding-Dong (played by Colbert himself) that caricatures Asian stereotypes. Colbert’s proposed charity would be named “The Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

After the show aired, a now-deleted tweet appeared on the @ColbertReport account, the official account for the show. The tweet read, “I am willing to show #Asian community I care by introducing the Ching-Chong Ding-Dong Foundation for Sensitivity to Orientals or Whatever.”

Unlike the actual show segment, the apparently racist tweet sparked a furious backlash on Twitter. Those outraged by the tweet employed the hashtag #CancelColbert to signal their discontent. Needless to say, careers in entertainment have been derailed by less and Colbert distanced himself from the tweet on his personal twitter account.

In a shocking show of accountability, Comedy Central announced that the @ColbertReport Twitter account is not managed by either Stephen Colbert or his team, but is a corporate account. (Update: The @ColbertReport twitter account has been deleted.) While some people will read that as Comedy Central doing spin control for a popular show, it’s not just possible, but quite likely that Colbert has nothing to do with that account.

Marketing departments frequently take responsibility for creating Facebook posts and Twitter content. What happened here is that someone in Comedy Central’s marketing department was asleep at the wheel, took an inflammatory line out of context, and flung it out into the digital ether.

So what can we all learn from this from this about personal brand management? When Colbert signed on with Comedy Central, he gave up a certain amount of control over his personal brand. To some extent, we all do this when we outsource. What Colbert didn’t do is something that businesses do on a regular basis. He didn’t insist that people posting in his name understand his voice and his brand.

Colbert’s core audience isn’t going to abandon him and his detractors already hate him. So he doesn’t gain or lose with either of those groups. Where this brand management failure is going to hurt him is with the people who might have started watching, but won’t because of this incident. Some might claim that those people should fact check first. Should they? Probably, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is that many, perhaps most, of them won’t fact check. They’ll assume the racist accusation is true and store it as a heuristic for all things Stephen Colbert.

Colbert’s personal brand is, in some ways, forever tarnished by something over which he had no direct input. The same thing can happen to any of us. The lesson to be learned from this is that your brand is fragile and keeping control of it is vital. If you do use an assistant to ghostwrite and post to your blog, or outsource tweets and Facebook updates, check their work. Make sure they genuinely understand your voice and the values on which you build your personal brand. As Colbert’s Twitter crisis shows us, it only takes one wrong move to ignite a firestorm.