Back in the earlier days of the internet, in the years that came before the juggernaut that is Facebook (other social networks are available), The Internet felt more like a community than it does now. What? I hear you cry. What can be more community-like than Facebook? Let me tell you…
Before Facebook, before this incarnation of my online journal, I like many millions of people would post daily (sometimes hourly!) ramblings of our thoughts and lives. It was the Facebook of its day.
But there was a difference
LiveJournal was a blogging site. Yes, it was sometimes – sometimes often – used for snappy or cryptic one-liners or howlings of despair when emotions were running high or spirits were low, but these would always be followed up by something more substantial. You could also post these often person ‘journal entries’ to any number of ‘friends filters’ (or indeed completely private) quickly and easily allowing you to control exactly who can see and comment on what you write.
Facebook also allows you to do this too, I hear you cry! Yes, yes it does. Well, it doesn’t allow you to screen-before-posting comments, choose who out of your friends can comment (or comment without being screened first), or prohibit comments entirely.
It’s not my platform
The Intricacies of how and where you can comment are niggling details, as our the friends filters. The big thing is that Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram… amongst others…) is not My (or Your) platform. You are tied into how the new age of social media sites look, feel and behave. Facebook in particular chooses what to show you and then shows it to you how it wants to show it to. LiveJournal may not have been more your own website but you could personalise the look of every page exactly as you wanted it to, and to some degree embed it in in your own website, and you controlled exactly what you wanted to see. And it was easy to do all of that. When your friends or contacts commented on your posts the comments stayed on your journal, together, forever.
Those were the heydays of LiveJournal, it was the place to be, but it was only for a subset of people. Most people seemed not to be introduced in putting their voices online… Until Facebook. I think its fair to say that the big growth period for Facebook was between 2007 and 2009. Suddenly everyone wanted to share everything and instead of doing it in a safe arena where you could control what you shared with whom, they all wanted to do it an environment controlled by the website and in many cases in public or semi-public.
We’ve reached a point now where people blog here and there and everywhere and share it on Facebook and Twitter, and then the conversation takes place on Facebook and Twitter and not with the original post. This is fine, you might say, the converstation is still being had… It’s not okay though. People are not following my blog for my blog, they’re not enagaging with the post where it was posted. They’re seeing these posts on their social media stream if their social media stream decides to show it in amongst the cat videos, the moaning about Mondays, and the cute cat videos.
I’m not convinced that people are even reading the posts behind the link, but rather just liking and sharing based on what we expect it to say. I observed this disengagement on the bus last year, and wrote a poem about it.
Engaging the disengaged?
So as authors we have our author platform that we have spent hours over designing and tweaking and looking just right. We have our homepage and our call to action, we have our books, our blog, some nice little extras, and our newsletter sign up, but how do we actually get people to see it? Once you get some visibility, you can use that visibility to build more, but when your visibility is precisely you and your cat who is draped across your laptop morning, noon, and night, how do you put your author platform in front people?
Short of crafting your social media posts in the form of annoying, spammy clickbait how do you engage your readers to actually click the link, read, enjoy, comment, and share when for the most part they are scanning their social networks on their phone, and swiping down, liking this and liking that, and moving on?
What are your experiences of building your platform and making it actually visable to people who might be interested outside your own personal sphere of influence? Comment below with your thoughts…