Most writers seeking to get published for the first time have to think about the challenge of developing platform. “Platform” is a big thing for publishers, particularly for non-fiction projects. Before you start having fantasies of speeches by Mussolini, I should point out that we are talking about the kind of platform that gives you credibility or access to national media. I have said before that platform is either an endowed chair at Harvard or you’re sleeping with Oprah’s hairdresser.
There are a lot of people out there who will charge money to tell you that you need to blog, twitter, and have a Facebook presence in order to develop your platform. I do hereby tell you the same thing for free. But realistically, these tools are not going to help you sell thousands of books unless you have many thousands of Facebook friends and followers of your blog. And even then, those people have to care about YOU, not just whatever it is you are hawking.
You have to be careful about how you use Facebook to promote yourself. I spend a fair amount of time on Facebook. It’s a great way to waste hours by engaging in errant political bickering, spreading celebrity tittle-tattle, or viewing cute pictures of kittens. Most of my 900+ friends on Facebook are associated with writing and book publishing. I enjoy communicating with them and seeing what they are thinking about. I like to rant about Amazon.com. Sometimes I try to be funny or gently snarky. I try to be respectful, even when I am utterly contemptuous of an idiotic political position someone is espousing. And sometimes I take the opportunity to promote my business or the books of the authors I represent. My Facebook friends tend to root for me when I do.
And then there are people who just want to flog their product. They don’t seem to have much of an interest in me other than as a potential customer. And they assume that I don’t have much of an interest in them except to buy their… whatever. Some of them won’t even post pictures of their kittens, for crying out loud! When I see this, when I get dozens of posts each day on my Facebook feed that just promote a person’s stuff, I kind of feel manipulated. I kind of don’t want to buy what they are selling. I kind of react to it like I do to telemarketers.[“Please, take me off your call list!”]
I guess what I want to tell you is that people spend time on Facebook because they like to talk to other people, to share ideas, to express their feelings, to be connected. It’s a personal thing. And when people engage with you on that level, they will be interested in your work and might even be motivated to buy your book or watch your movie. But they don’t like being used. And they probably won’t want to support you if they feel like that’s all you are doing.
In other words, if you want to make Facebook part of your platform, then remember the platform is YOU, not your product. And when your friends really care about you, well, they might even buy your stuff.