I’m noticing a tiny bit of a trend on Facebook. Some people are starting to use it as a blogging platform. Meaning that they’re consistently publishing their writing, often long form (particularly in the context of Facebook), on Facebook and doing it in a consistent and persistent way.
It makes sense.
Writers primary objective is to be heard and influence as many people as possible. The question is how can you do that most effectively?
You could write a book, but with the death of the traditional publishing apparatus you need to have an audience to get an audience.
You could start a blog to gain an audience, but that can be a slow, expensive, and frustrating slog requiring a knowledge of WordPress, SEO, and maybe some AdWords to scale your reach.
You could become a Twitter wizard fluttering around engaging influential people and hoping anyone is paying attention in the Twitterverse and would note your pointer to your writing.
Considering the options, this makes Facebook a compelling consideration.
Facebook is unquestionably a sensation when it comes to the audience. It consumes the attention of users at nearly the level of the Internet in general.
The closest analogy I can recall is AOL. In case you are too young to remember, in the early days of the Internet is was a high technical environment, making it confusing and somewhat boring for the average user. AOL made it simpler to “get on” the Internet and then created an experience for the average user that was far more interesting than the Internet. As a result, everyone got on AOL to get to the Internet but never left the AOL environment.
Flash forward to Facebook. The Internet has become far easier to access, in fact it is ubiquitous, but again it has again become overwhelming to the user. Search, the default method of navigation, is being overwhelmed with too much content and the vast majority is poor, even spammy, quality. As a result, people are getting on the Internet and heading straight to Facebook.
I insert this little analogy because it’s a critical backdrop to a writer’s audience problem.
In considering your writing platform, an audience is often the last consideration. It shouldn’t be. Facebook makes audience development easy.
First and foremost, you’re surrounded by your friends and family–traditionally a writer’s foundational readership.
Second, Facebook has a built in distribution and syndication system–Liking and Sharing can quickly distribute your content around the Web (Facebook) with powerful natural advocacy.
Finally, if you’re willing to invest even the smallest amount you can pay to “Sponsor” your post you can inject it in front of your ideal audience. How cool would it be to offer your writing to precisely the kind of people that you think will enjoy it the most (or perhaps more strategically, the people that you want to influence the most).
Everything seems ideal. Ready to get started?
Before you get too gung-ho, there are a few downsides. Beyond the obvious concerns over being at the mercy of Facebook’s ever-changing policies, terms of service, and simple ownership of your account; Facebook is not built with any real consideration of long-form content.
Here are just a few limitations that I think Facebook will eventually have to consider in the future if people continue to use it as their primary blogging platform:
The Status Update and the Newsfeed aren’t designed for long-form content. Therefore, it is a bit limited and unexpected when most folks are looking through their Facebook Newsfeed.
If you want to grow your readership, you will need to leave your personal account and create a Facebook Page, which allows for unlimited followers and can be used with Facebook Ads.
Facebook Pages don’t explicitly attribute authorship, support multiple authors or aggregate authors complete works.
There are probably several others since Facebook was not created to consider this kind of content and publishing behavior, but I’m confident that Facebook is considering all of these minor shortcomings.
On a side note, as Facebook is making a play to host news content, I’m certain of it.
So what do you think? Will you start blogging on Facebook?
Follow up note: Although I think my logic is sound and the evolution of Facebook will reward blogging/long-form content on their platform, my first test was weak at best.
Here are a few observations from my test:
- Facebook users are currently not conditioned to pause and read extended text. I think this will change as Facebook courts and injects news into the users Newsfeeds. Therefore, making the post type more prevalent. I also think that people will become more responsive to the idea as they get more and more intolerant of the friction (slow websites and inconsistent user experience) of external content.
- I used Facebook Ads with a custom audience I created to target those folks I thought would be most interested in my post. It generated a handful of Likes, but no comments and only a couple of shares. On review of the “Likes,” it was obvious, from a review of their profiles, that most, if not all, of the traffic, was: 1.) not the audience I selected, and 2.) most probably fake accounts. Disappointing. I think Facebook needs to do a Twitter-style purge of fake profiles to improve the effectiveness of their ad platform.
- Facebook still seems to suffer from conditioning their users, or probably more accurately the users chose to condition the platform, to serve less consequential content. Therefore, Buzzfeed style is currently going to beat New York Times style content all day. Will this change?
(You can see by reading their Facebook posts that my theory gains increased viability in the context of individuals with a very large audiences and followings. The question is will Facebook, as a platform, allow you to build that audience or do you have to bring it with you as Scoble and Winer did?)