Once the changes to the Open Graph (aka the applications) roll out, Facebook offers even more advantages to the established writer. While I didn’t see Amazon, B&N, or Goodreads on Facebook’s truncated graphic of partners, that graphic by no means represents their complete list of media partners. Rest assured that one way or another, you’ll be able to share the books you’re reading through this system sometime in the not-so-distant future. Factor in the burgeoning e-book market, and it doesn’t take a social media expert to figure out that Facebook will play an even larger role in book marketing. The ticker feed, through which uses will share without even having to remember to do so beyond granting the initial permissions, has huge potential for increasing word-of-mouth on books people are reading, and word-of-mouth is among the very best of marketing that a book or business can receive. This is a big deal, dear writers, not just for the music and newspaper industries but also for the publishing industry. And hopefully you are beginning to see why I think refusing to be on Facebook as a writer carries a hefty cost. Granted, you’ll receive the ticker word-of-mouth regardless of whether you have an account, but how much better if a user finds you via Facebook and is then able to Like your page?
However, I do have serious concerns about the privacy implications of these new features, which seem to me to be ultimately much more about what’s good for Facebook and advertisers than what’s good for the users. Of course, this is all very new and not even rolled out for most users, but I’ve already had a friend who accidentally shared that he had read an article on a controversial subject. Not a great sign, and obviously Facebook users will have to stay really on top of their sharing. Plus there have recently been allegations that Facebook monitors everywhere you visit through your browser, even if you are logged out (through cookies, for those of you technically cognizant people), which means you could be sharing an awful lot of information with them (often without even realizing it). If this is true (it is certainly technically possible), there are measures that can be taken to minimize this while still using Facebook, like denying all apps access to your account, using an incognito window of the Chrome browser for Facebook and not opening any other tabs in that window, or using a dedicated browser for just Facebook (ex. if you use Firefox for your normal internet usage, you can download Chrome and use it for only Facebook). But I worry that these potential security problems and accompanying measures might be too confusing for many writers to understand and implement.
My other concern has to do with noise. If everyone on Facebook is sharing all their daily activities with everyone else, literally every movie, song, TV show, hike, meal, book, article, run, sleep cycle, etc., how effective will this be as a marketing strategy? Will significant numbers of people actually discover new authors and books through their tickers, or will any such discovery be drowned out by the sheer overwhelming volume of information? We will have to wait and see how sophisticated Facebook’s ranking abilities are–will they be able to skillfully filter and show users information that is actually of interest? Will they be able to choose your friends who have a similar taste in books to you? Possibly, but right now it’s anybody’s guess.
At the present moment, Facebook is a powerful tool enabling writers to reach their readers. I plan to continue to use it, while staying very aware of what’s going on with my privacy and taking measures to alleviate Facebook’s intrusion into my life. As skeptical as I am that I will find enjoyment hearing every detail about what my many Facebook friends are liking/reading/watching/eating/listening to, I am sure I can survive at least five to ten minutes per week to keep up a minimal presence on the site. However, I can’t find fault with those writers who are concerned enough about their privacy to opt out of using Facebook.
So where does that leave Google+? Tune in on Thursday and I’ll tell you what I’m thinking.