What Is the Real Purpose of Facebook? WIIFM? (What’s in it for me?)

I’ve been asking this question of myself for quite some time. I’m told over and over again by social media experts that I need to be on Facebook.

Okay, so I’m on Facebook. I have 581 friends. Do I know them all? No, I sure don’t. Some are actual friends and relatives while some are authors and others are from the publishing industry or associates in some form. But, there are some I don’t know who they are. I think they are people that asked to be my friend, and being the nice person I want to be I accepted them as friends. I also noticed I lost some “friends” because I complained of getting tweets, from the same person,that go to Facebook on an hourly basis. At least I think that’s what happened. Or, maybe they just didn’t want me to be their friend anymore.

These are my random observations:

Because I have 581 on my list I get to see over 2500 posts per day. These range anything from receiving an Easter egg, to a quote, to wanting me to join some online thing I don’t even know what it is (like Farmville,) to tips on how I can promote my book, to someone wanting me to buy their book, to someone wanting me to buy my book, to someone wanting me to buy their book …to…the list goes on. (Yes, I know, I repeated it 3 times!)

I do have a side-bar on my computer screen that puts up the posts as they come up so I don’t have to go to the Facebook page every hour, I can just glance over and if it interests me I can go to Facebook and read more or make a comment. (The good to this is my neck gets a workout.) But, every time I do go to Facebook I have 300+ “most recent” posts. There is no way I have the time to read everyone of those.

I can tweak my Facebook account so that I don’t get that “Farmville” stuff or finding out what color my ear is…oh, maybe it’s aura…well, whatever it is… but every day someone comes up with a new one and there it is, front row and center.

Because Facebook limits the number of friends you can have, we do have an option of being a “fan” of someone. I’m not quite sure about this “fan” thing yet or what the purpose of it is. Maybe it’s to declutter.

Some people use Facebook to trash the establishment, trash the government, trash anything that doesn’t conform to their beliefs. At the same time, they try to convince us of their beliefs. They use Facebook as their platform.

Some people have all their Twitter posts go to Facebook. Haven’t got a clue why I need to see a post simply as: ok.

The puzzling thing for me is why don’t some people put their photo on Facebook? I just don’t get replacing myself with a bag of peanuts.

So, here I am in the mish-mash of Facebook and wondering what it has done for me. That wiifm question. I have more random observations:

It’s great to keep up with relatives and reconnect with them. It’s nice to have school-buddies on my list and keep up with what they are doing rather than waiting to find out at the high school reunion.

I’ve been posting links to articles that I post on my personal blog. I do have a few people that will occasionally comment and I know some read the articles every time because I see the stats. But, I average about 1% of my friend list. That’s pretty darn low for the effort I put in especially if I was relying on getting a following through Facebook only.

I write weekly articles about topics in the publishing industry and my tweet announcement ends up on Facebook. Again, very few of my “author/publisher/publicist friends” link to the blog to read it. Those that do, I truly appreciate it. But it’s obvious many” friends” I have on my list aren’t interested in my articles, especially if they are in the same industry, but, that’s okay, because I rarely click on links of those that post anyway. This makes the “two-way street” scenario a reality.

It’s fun to text through Facebook with my grandkids. I’m told by them they rarely use email and all communication is done on Facebook. I feel like I’m really “kewel” when I can fb with them.

I haven’t sold one book on Facebook, but I haven’t tried either. Personally, I think it’s tacky trying to convince my “friends” to buy my book. Those that know I’ve written a book know where to find it if they really want to read it. My friends aren’t my target audience. Besides, I don’t want to feel obligated to go to their plastic bowl parties just because they bought my book.

And, oh all those invitations to events. I once had an “event” I posted on Facebook. Funny thing…none of those that invite me to their event showed up. I believe in reciprocation.

I’m not about to use Facebook as my platform for bashing anyone or anything. My beliefs are my beliefs and I think it’s unethical to bash other people’s beliefs. There must be other platforms, like blogs, to do this on. So, please, find like-minded people on other platforms – platforms for bashers. Yes, I know…I’m repeating myself. I have a huge beef with this one. I’ve deleted some “friends” off Facebook because of this issue.

And hey, do people really want to know I just spent 5 minutes brushing my precious, the most-cutest-in-the-world, dog? Well, probably not, but some sure do think I want to know they just did.

I really don’t care who became friends with whom (and 33 others) or who joined what, but Facebook seems to want to tell me. And furthermore, Nic, my assistant just told me there is a contest of who can get the most friends. Huh? The last thing I want is to compete and boast “ha ha, I have more friends than you do!” Good grief! Send me to a therapist if I do.

And, I’m sure I can come up with a lot more observations. But, by now, if you are still reading this, you are either relating with me, nodding your head, and laughing hysterically, or you are thinking I’m a real ding and just don’t “get it.” If it’s the latter, do I care? Nope.

Okay, now tell me, am I the only one that feels this way? Is this something you have thought of but didn’t want to say it for fear you might loose some friends? And, I go back to the original question: What is the real purpose of Facebook? WIIFM? Here is your chance – give me your thoughts and observations.

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Posted on April 4, 2010, in Internet, Publicity & Writing, Social Media, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 23 Comments.

  1. We all like to hear our own voice, that is fb for sure. Add to that the thin possibility that we can actually communicate (text) back and forth with at least a few people who are actually friends and fb will remain popular, imo. But we also have realized some of the limitations of shouting everything we do to millions of people at once. I wonder what the shout-Vs-listen ratio is on fb or twit-ter? 100 to 1? How about a graph using fb statistics: plot posts versus posts read.

  2. Hi Irene:I would have to say I agree with your opinion of the viability of Facebook in general. As far as keeping in touch with family and friends it’s a priceless tool (particularly with family oversees!) However, as a marketing tool for authors, this has been my experience. I have on the average about 360 friends. Initially, when I friended many of these people I had in mind to market my book and post book signing events, etc… to generate sales and word-of-mouth interest in book signings. The first time, it worked well. A decent percentage of "friends" attended the signings or ordered the book. They were people I actually knew. After that, they’ve either ignored me or hidden me in the news feed. My thought was they’ve done that already, they’re not going to pay attention to this again and again. In order to get the same response each time, I need to "friend" another 360 people every time I want to use this as a marketing tool. As my husband has always said, "it’s a numbers game." I don’t know another 360 people, and I’m not certain that 360 strangers would carry the same interest. Yes, Facebook is a great place to get to know people on some level, but asking them to invest in you requires a whole different level of "friendship." The question then becomes how much time can I realistically spend on Facebook to use it as a marketing tool if the effectiveness is dependent upon "numbers." I’m interested to hear what other authors have to say about this. Donna

  3. I totally agree with your opinion of fb and whether it truly helps with platform, marketing or…anything really. I have a general account and a fan page for my book (something suggested to me to do by a fellow author). I also have a group page to put information on for local parents of children with SPD. But it’s becoming a pain keeping up with it. And the annoying thing is when you go on there to do a few things,people want to ‘chat’ and get upset when you say you don’t have time. I’m not truly to be a snob–most times I don’t have time to chat, fb, tweet or other things because I have one (or all four) of my kids right here!!I know I have met some wonderful people and I can keep up-to-date with how family and friends are doing (since, for some reason, they’ve forgotten how to use a phone or to write) and I know it’s easier to tweet or fb because you can just reach everyone at the same time instead of contacting individually. But I still don’t ‘get’ it. I think you have to spend a great deal of time on there in order to find it useful and I just can’t be online that much!! Thanks for this article. I’m going to link to it the next time I blog over at WOW!

  4. Like you, I don’t understand how Facebook can be useful to an author. I blog twice weekly about Carlisle Indian School topics that don’t find their way into my books. That is a way of sharing tidbits to people who may be interested but would otherwise have no way of hearing of them. These are obscure items to the general public but are appreciated by the few who care, especially by their descendents. I do have a Facebook page because one of my sisters chided me into it. This weekend I received a message from the granddaughter of one of Carlisle’s legendary football stars. So, it served the purpose of helping her to find me when my blog and website apparently didn’t.

  5. I think the main business benefit of using social networks like Facebook and Twitter is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world who share you interests. It’s not just about meeting potential customers for your book, you also benefit from meeting other authors or experts in your field or genre and meeting others in the publishing industry.In addition to meeting authors (potential customers for my books) I have met lots of book publishing and marketing folks through networking. With these new contacts, I have done teleseminars, exchanged guest blog posts, shared resources, and given and received business referrals. Participating in Facebook groups is a good way to meet people who share you interests. Search for groups using keywords in the search box at the top of the Facebook screen and also see what groups your friends belong to. Introduce yourself on the group wall, join in discussions there and invite other active members to be your friend or join your Fan Page. You don’t "sell" your book on social networks. You meet people and develop relationships there. People will begin to recognize your photo and your name and some will find your posts of interest. A certain percentage of these people will visit your blog and sign up for your newsletter/opt-in list and some will purchase your books. Social networking is just one part of the process of developing your author platform and promoting yourself and your book. I think one reason some people are disappointed with social networking is that they don’t fully understand how to use it. You can find social networking articles, free podcasts, and other resources on this page: http://bit.ly/6t3bMVDana Lynn Smith, author of Facebook Guide for Authors

  6. Hey Irene-try activating facebook lite.http://lite.facebook.com/settings/defaultsite/i suggest clicking the link to ad a fast switch bar at the top in case you want to toggle between standard and lite.lite cuts out 90% of the garbage..~~also, if you are going to be using facebook for self promotion, two accounts would be recommended. one for to 500 people you do not know, like an extension of your standard RSS feed. the other for you and your 30 real people.i have seen a number of authors do this and it is accepted pretty well by their fans.

  7. Hi Irene, I want to leave you with part a poem out of "Scattershot""The postman leaves us sheaves of ads, then runs.We riffle through them , hoping to findhand written letters.But no one writes letters anymore,Too bzIM,trashing beautiful languages,slouching toward illiteracy.But "change is good," they say.CG

  8. Hi Irene ~Well, you beat me to the page! I was going to write a similiar piece echoing your same sentiments. It must be our generation — I just don’t get why it’s so important. Recently I’ve heard people are dropping off because it’s too time consuming. I did corner some people from their 20s/30s and 40s who swear by facebook for their work — events and announcements. I think they have special sites where they build a fan base, but for the social networking thing, the only time I reach out to fb is when I’m lonely. It’s like going into a coffee bar with some buddies, some you know and some you don’t. You can come and go as you please and carry your coffee around with you. That’s my two cents! In any event — great article!!

  9. Jean Feingold

    Yes, Irene,I laughed at your story. Your Facebook experience has reinforced my decision not to join. As a freelance writer, I don’t see how it would help my business. My spare time is better spent doing other things. I don’t tweet either. While it might help me find long lost pals, I’d be more likely to encounter the 500+ people I don’t know who want to sell me a book, an online course, or something else I’m not looking to buy. I should probably have a blog and a website, but I’m still figuring out what I have to say that people would care enough about to invest the time and energy. Instead I concentrate on making a living writing articles and things people have agreed to pay me for and trying to complete the elusive novel.

  10. Deborah Godin

    I’m in agreement with what you wrote, too. I really enjoy my FB page, connecting with people in a way that’s much less time consuming for me than blogging was, and I’m still in touch with some of the same people. Like most people, I have a group w/in my friends list that I’m most active with, and they’re all either old friends or people with common interests. I don’t like the idea of marketing through FB, at least not actively. I have several photos albums there, and one is of my book covers. I also posted a ReaderViews book review in my FB notes, but it’s just there in case anyone happens to check it out–I would never post it on my wall or on my friends’ walls. Really, FB is just for my own enjoyment!

  11. Martha Hannah

    Irene, Hello!Been reading your articles and enjoying them. I like the strength of your articles and the positions on which you stand. This Facebook thing – Larry and I have delayed in jumping headlong into that process. I’ve been watching on the sidelines, thinking "What’s the purpose in all of this?" Each time I hear yet another media publicist tout Facebook as one more sure-fired thing to do on the how-to-sell-books list, my mind tabulates how many hours it would eat up versus how quickly my time evaporates each day. The last thing I need is more busy work. Sure, we need to learn more about social media and sure, it’s important to always build your author & publisher platform, but I cringe to think the whole effort would result in too often learning how someone likes to scratch their cat. It’s wonderful to read such an article from someone else in the publishing business. Thank you for your candor!

  12. It was great to learn that I wasn’t the only person able to live without Facebook! Sometimes I almost felt guilty going to the grocery store and not posting that I had bought a loaf of whole wheat bread! Keep up the good work. Bobbie Greer

  13. Loved your article and the humor. I have 2000+ followers on Twiter.Who the hell are they? People who want to sell me stuff. I want a dialog with like-minded people. Facebook, like you said, a mix of friends, relatives, and friends of friends and relatives. For me it is a slow (read VERY slow) awareness-building medium. I like snappy comments, and the reinforcement I get from a few people, and connecting with old friends from the past who just heard about my book. I like the "social" but it can be an awful time-waster. I do use Facebook; in fact, most of the people on it are age 50+. Still don’t get twitter. Where did all those people come from? Is it an age thing?

  14. Sandra Tinlin

    Thank you Irene for commenting about Facebook. I am new to Facebook and Twitter. I ask myself the same questions, "Why am I here and WIIIFM?" My closest family and friends are always contacting me on a daily basis. Why do I need Facebook or Twitter. I am a new publisher of children books and I want to create a following for those books. Readerviews.com contains a great amount of information for publishers like me to help market books in addition to my own marketing skills. I believe Facebook is good for "only" closest family and closest friends in order to share life happenings immediately. I do not want more than 15-20 followers on Facebook. I do not have time to read and look at every post or picture. I do like Twitter to post marketing/product/event information. In all directness, Twitter is also much like Facebook. I guess it all comes down to one question WIIFM? Really nothing! I was hoping to get "free" advertising for the books I publish. I got what I paid for free…nothing! I see the value of "Paid" services. I am also old fashion when it comes to marketing. I want people to buy the books I publish so that means creative, clever and personal marketing on my part. I must also pay for what I want…great results. Facebook and Twitter do not give me what I want! Readerviews.com gives me what I want as a publisher and author!

  15. Karen Villanueva

    Yes, I was told by marketing experts how valuable FB is, but I spend all day on email and phone as it is . It’s okay for the occasional browse but I DON"T HAVE THE TIME.And Twitter-no. I have actual work to do for my clients and that’s my priority–now for my clients, it may be a great way to communicate but for me, not so!

  16. Irene,I was laughing out loud at every word you wrote! I also was informed that it was necessary for me to go out and set myself up with a ‘Facebook’ page. Well I write under my maiden name, so all my grade school buddies, junior high friends, high school friends (funny, I don’t remember having friends in high school!) have decided that we all need to reconnect! I have found absolutely NOTHING potentially valuable about being an author on Facebook. I think Facebook is just a grown up version of MySpace that has now been invaded by those who outgrew myspace.But the website that is quite valuable to All authors and I would highly recommend that you send your readers there is Gather.com. It is a social networking site made up of groups where you can share ideas and ‘posts’ – similar to blogs – and actually enter into conversations with like-minded – or not so like-minded people. But, once again…..Bravo for your article!

  17. Hi Irene!I have found Facebook to be useful in the promotion of my book. A request to become friends with someone who doesn’t have a clue as to who you are is useless, Like others, neither party wants to receive an unknown volume of postings. Instead, I search for groups within Facebook that are tailored to my book. An example. Since i played 8 years professional baseball in the Baltimore Orioles organization and wrote about this experience I looked for a fan club. There are over 90k members in this club. Rather than joining and posting an occasional mention of my book, I go to the members list and review profiles. If I see someone who appears to fit my potential buyer profile, I send he/she a message rather than asking to become friends. In the message is a brief profile on me and then the Reader View review on my book, "Beating About the Bushes". Using another baseball related fan club, I have scored an upcoming review by a columnist in a major metropolitan newspaper now that baseball season has started

  18. I agree with some of what you’ve said, Irene. I can’t stand the "Farmville" and "Mobsters" posts every 2 minutes so I went about blocking each and every app like that. It was ruining the FB experience for me.What I have found useful about FaceBook is the ability to keep in touch with people I really want to keep in touch with. My wife and I announced our wedding on FaceBook and created an "event" for our wedding and invited people that way. We did not send out "traditional" invites via snail mail. (We’re both on our 3rd and final marriage so we were done with the pomp.)We also did the same thing with our housewarming party a month ago. The turnout was better than we thought it would be, with more than half of the people who showed up having RSVP’d on FB. And probably the most useful aspect of the site is the ability to catch up with old friends and stay in touch with current ones. Last year was my 20th high school reunion and a few of us got back in touch purely because FaceBook allowed us to find each other. A few of us had a mini-reunion before the big one and the next day, I went on a first date with one of my old friends.Six months later, we got married. We’d known each other for 31 years but it was FaceBook that allowed us to "reconnect" and "relearn" about each other in a 21st century way, by browsing each other’s page to find out just how much we had in common. So this amazing woman that I’d always had a crush on throughout school, but never had the guts to ask out, is now in my life because we were able to look past the "Farmville" and shameless self-promotion rigamarole to use it how we wanted. I think there’s an old adage that goes something like, "Life is what you make of it." Well, so is FaceBook.-Ross Cavins

  19. After hearing all the fanatical hype about FaceBook and how social media was important to promoting my business, my question was, “What is FaceBook? So, I signed up. Short story, my experience has been it is a more complicated version of Twitter. I was one of those who asked you to be my “friend” because I recognized you from Readers View who did a review on my book and you graciously acknowledged that friendship. Please forgive me but I just deactivated my FaceBook account so you will no longer be my “friend” on FaceBook. However, I do enjoy receiving your Readers View newsletter.By the way, (I believe the appropriate term is BTW), I understand that FaceBook has a “business” page. As time permits, I will check this out but it is not a priority on my list of “things to do”. Personally I think a combination of a blog, newsletter and website is time consuming enough but much more productive.As far as your grandchildren, tell them to be kind and understanding of their elders who use email. After all, in the olden days they would have had to have written a letter and mailed it with a postage stamp affixed and expect an answer in a couple of weeks. And photo attachments, forget that!Yes, I know my parents use to walk five miles to school in the snow and would ask, "Computer, what’s that?"Barbara LunsfordCorpus Christi, Texas just South of Austin

  20. Hello, Irene. I am on Facebook, however, I really don’t have the time to be going back and forth and trying to see how many friends I can get. I think this Facebook is for those who love the idea of making friends on the internet, or just want to express their feelings about what they think about anything and everything. I joined it only because I was told that it is the place to be and make more contacts and promote. On the other hand, I did get a couple of friends interested in my writings. But honestly, if you’re going to promote anything, I really think you should take out an advertisement in a publication that caters to your audience, as well as having your website set up especially for that purpose. You need to sell books, not just "make friends." I can honestly say this because I come from a sales background of more than seventeen years.

  21. Renee Wiggins

    Hello IreneI agree with you about how people are using Facebook. I am led to believe, it was started for the young crowd to keep in touch with friends, family members and make new friends. However, we, including myself the over 50 crew have bombarded Facebook with the intention of making money from Facebook and other social media networks. There are no rules on what to say and how much you can say. so, it can be a brother with those persons, who like to tell you all about themselves or show pictures of their children. And because of this, I only confirm those I know or their friends. I must admit when I am other social networks and I post information nd then l post to facebook or twitter. So, if you are on my twitter page and facebook page, you may get the same information. However, I like to post a variety of messages on my social network pages without duplicating the message. I like facebook and I have sold some books on Facebook and I have been reconnected to old freinds, but we keep our messages short. Iwith Facebook and twitter, I can post information on nutrition, recipes, affirmations and other helpful information besides my clients. Therefore I am able to recruit new clients. My affirmations have rec’d complements, which led to buying my book. The social media networks, email and cell phones have connected me to people I would normally talk to once or twice a year.However, my main goal is not to let these new applications consume me, so I try to focus on those that matter to me. I have joined a prayer group on Facebook and it has been useful for me., not much chatter.Thanks for your words and ecnouragement on the proper use/language of using Facebook.Renee Wigginshttp:twitter.com/giveupthestrugg

  22. I think "Face Book" should be renamed "Time Waste."Like you, I’ve gotten hearts and whatever else these unknown people send me, but for the most part, people–excuse me, friends–use my page to promote their books or art or music or whatever. There are a number of good sites out there. I decided long ago that Face Book wasn’t one of them.

  23. omigod, Irene, I am so with every word you said. If that’s what it takes to sell books, I haven’t got it – and I don’t want it, because it is plain downright shallow!

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