Facebook ‘scandal’ raises another issue about personal responsibility

Is this latest news about a private company using data gleaned from Facebook to influence voters really much of a surprise?

Apologies for this post but I want to get my thoughts on this down. It’s always been pretty obvious that all those third-party apps that seek access to your profiles newsfeeds and friend’s lists were doing it for the purposes of data harvesting. Most claim they need the data to help ‘improve’ your user experience, but c’mon in this day and age are we still really that gullible?

Sure, the data used probably helped Trump get elected to the Whitehouse and probably played its part in the Leave victory during the Brexit referendum. But then we have to ask ourselves ‘what does this say about people?’ It basically shows that if people are so easily manipulated by what they see on social media, they are mindless sheep, but then again, we could easily say exactly the same thing about the media in general. Every piece of news, political debate and discourse is tailored towards a target audience or created in order to generate debate. Scare tactics and propaganda are nothing new.

You can look back through history to show that many (if not all) political leaders have used propaganda and rhetoric to stir up support. Julius Caesar, for example, was a master at manipulating the masses into believing that he was their saviour and the right man to save the Republic. So, why are people expecting anything different in this modern age where social media practically begs organisations and politicians to take advantage of it?

Hypocrisy?

We can hardly blame Facebook for the poor performance of Hilary Clinton or for the blatant scare tactics used by the Remain campaign’s Project Fear. Poor messaging lost those respective votes not social media.

If we take anything from this story, it is the hypocrisy of those demanding satisfaction. You can guarantee that this wouldn’t have even made the headlines if Hilary was now President and the UK had voted to stay in the EU. Voters went against what was expected of them and this has undoubtedly spooked many in the establishment.

When I say, people need to take personal responsibility I mean it. If people believe everything they read without question, then it’s inevitable that they will be manipulated. If anything, social media has highlighted a troubling fact. People allow themselves to be manipulated and believe hook line and sinker the things they are being told. The mainstream media are just as likely to lie to you as an alternative news site, and it seems as though journalists nowadays seem more inclined to create stories from Twitter posts than actually get off their asses and do some actual investigative reporting.

Do some research before clicking that like button and stop locking yourselves inside echo chambers where you only hear the points of view that you think are right (we’re all guilty of this). It’s for this reason that in recent years it feels like the world has gone slightly barmy. On one side you have the far-left droning on about SJW and PC nonsense, and on the other, you have the far-right that have risen as a direct response spouting their horrid viewpoints.

With Facebook, it’s clear to see when the rot set in. As a user when it was first launched in the UK I’ve experienced all of its changes so far. At first, it was genuinely useful for staying in contact with friends and family. You didn’t have to pay for posts to reach a wide audience, and the timeline only showed you what your contacts were up to. Then they introduced paid ads, newsfeeds etc. After those were introduced organic reach plummeted, the only way people could get people to see their posts was by paying for it via Facebook ads. Then the timeline became filled with news and political posts, and those made by friends and families rarely appeared at all. Is it any wonder that unscrupulous organisations would take advantage of the platform?

Personally, I think the days of social media as we know it are hopefully coming to an end. Everyone is talking but nobody is listening, and that needs to stop. What’s happened to respectful debate? Now we see people with opposing hurling abuse rather than actually listening to the other side, and this is making us a more divisive and angrier society than ever before.

Ironically its ‘social’ media that is being blamed for the downward spiral our societies are heading for. Unless things change and soon, the days of the likes of Facebook, Twitter etc. are doomed.

*Again, sorry for the political post. I promise there’ll be a writing-related one very soon.*

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What I’ve learnt about self-publishing – Making friends and joining communities

In this series of blog posts, I’m going to tell you about what I’ve experienced and learnt about the self-publishing world. Staying motivated about a work in progress can be tough especially as writing books can take months and years at a time. Encouragement from readers and other writers is vital to keep you going.

Make Contacts and join communities

I started on this self-publishing journey back in 2010 when I started writing what would become Terran Defenders: Genesis.

I’d graduated from university in 2008 with a degree in journalism but thanks to the Great Recession decimating much of the newspaper industry and with the rise of online publications that profession was nigh impossible to break into.

I worked shitty job after shitty job just, so I could afford the rent and put food on the table, and I soon realised that if I didn’t keep writing, I’d lose that thing that all writers have. A need to write. So, in my spare time, I got to work on writing a daft science fiction book that in a lot of ways saved me from losing the plot and giving up on my search to break into the cutthroat world of a paid writing job.

Terran Defenders: Genesis took a year to write, and at the end of it I wondered what to do next. That’s when I discovered the world of Webook (a website that was the precursor for sites like Wattpad). Back in the day, Webook was a fantastic community of writers and readers. I met many interesting people and even made some friends (Aaron from the US I’m looking at you, buddy). I received a great response to the book on there, and it was there that indy publishing was brought to my attention. The Amazon Kindle was still relatively new to the market, and those early pioneering writers were having some great successes.

The Webook community helped me to find confidence in my ability as a writer. I was still learning much of the tricks of the trade at that point, and the advice and guidance of some of the older folks were invaluable.

Sadly, as with everything in life, good things always come to an end, and Webook was no exception. The site was sold, and soon the community began to drift apart and find new avenues for their work such as Wattpad (more on that in a minute). If you venture onto Webook, nowadays the place is a ghost of its former self. The user interface remains the same it was back in 2010 and looks ancient compared to modern sites which is a crying shame. I found that place far more engaging and useful than I ever did Wattpad.

By joining communities, you can test the waters with a work in progress. Readers always spot things that the author does not, and if a plot point doesn’t make sense, then they will most certainly point that out. Use them as critics and proofreaders, (one thing I’ve learnt is that there is always some smartass who just loves playing the role of a grammar nazi. They may come across as patronising or aggressive but look through that at the points they’re trying to make and fix accordingly if they have a point.)

Wattpad

One of the main writing communities these days is Wattpad. I fully embraced this site for a while as like Webook there was a solid community of writers and readers, however, as time went on I discovered that there are issues with plagiarism, not to mention that many of the site’s users seemed to favour genres that I don’t write in. (Teenagers really like cheesy romances for some reason). The forums were great for sharing tips and tricks of the trade, and it was via Wattpad that Heir to the Sundered Crown won the 2014 Write Awards. A competition where Wattpad users voted on their favourite entries. Winning this gave me a big confidence boost, and shortly afterwards I published the book via Amazon where it performed very strongly (and is still my best seller).

Facebook

Social media channels have hundreds, if not thousands of groups just for writers. I’ve met some great authors, and it was via one of these that I was made aware of the now annual SPFBO competition hosted by Mark Lawrence (author of Red Sister, Prince of Thorns etc..). I entered Heir into this year’s contest, but alas it never made it past the first round. I wasn’t too down about that however as simply having the experience, and a chance to meet and communicate with other Indy fantasy authors was invaluable.

Be aware that Facebook is also filled with trolls and asshats too. For every conversation about real writing issues, there’s one where a person is either insulting someone else or just posting inane nonsense. Trolls are just a part of life, and as an author, you’d best be prepared to be on the receiving end of them.

Here are some Facebook groups I’ve found most useful –

https://www.facebook.com/groups/FantasyFaction/

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1800355053523765/

In my next blog, I’ll cover how to get those words down onto the page, something that many wannabe writers struggle with.

Are there any writing communities that you’re a part of? Let me know in the comments!

 

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The Importance of social media to Indy Authors : Facebook

There are countless guides on the internet about how Indy authors should use social media if they want to raise awareness of their books. In this series of posts, I am going to tell you why, for once, you can believe what you read online.

Facebook Pages

Let’s start with the world’s biggest social network; Facebook. With over a billion daily users you cannot ignore this network’s potential to help raise awareness of your work. The first step for any author is to create an author page. (Click here for a simple guide on how to do it. I’ll be going into more detail in another post soon so keep checking the site.)

You can find mine here

As you can see from the image above, Facebook gives you several options such as creating offers and getting sign ups. These tools are very useful when promoting book promotions and trying to grow your mailing list. You also get a choice of options for the layout of your page so you can set it up like an online store.

Grow Your Followers

An author page is a great place to get fans and followers. Invite all of your friends and family, make them aware of what you’re doing. You will find that some friends and family members are very supportive and will share and like your posts, others, unfortunately, will either like the page and do nothing further or simply ignore your request. If that happens… well, at least you know who your supporters are.

If you want to increase your likes and followers to people other than those you know you will need to become savvy at social media marketing. Have links to your Facebook page in your Ebooks (either at the very front or at the back it’s up to you).  Put links into your newsletters, blog posts, on your website and on any other social media that you’re using.

Sadly getting likes and clicks organically is now a lot harder after Facebook changed the way it does things. As with any business, it wants to make money and what better way to do that than to charge businesses and individuals to get their content seen. If you have a post that you feel is important then using the boost post option may be the best way to get it seen.

Facebook Groups a useful advertising tool

Having a Facebook page is great and everything but how do you use it to promote your books? You could post links to them on your Facebook page and leave it at that. However, there are some other methods to spreading the word about your books. Facebook Groups are an excellent place for you to advertise. Simply search for book groups and you will find hundreds, if not thousands.

In the build up to any of my book launches I post daily in every single one that I am a member of to try and generate awareness. The effectiveness of this method however is very hit and miss. To get the best results you need to post at the best times of day. In my experience posting at the times when the USA wakes up and in the evenings are the best times that generate reactions.

I have sold many books using this method. Persistence is key when using this very time intensive strategy. The best thing about posting in Facebook groups is that it’s free advertising (albeit very hit and miss).

Facebook Ads

I’ve covered this in a previous blog post (click here to read it) and their effectiveness depends greatly on how much money you are willing to put behind them. Some authors swear by them but in my experience they’ve been disappointing every time. Trying to generate likes and clicks for example often results in profiles from random countries like Pakistan or parts of Africa spamming the likes and clicks. In my experience the ads very rarely reach the people you want it to despite setting them up to target specific audiences and nations.

Do you have any other tips for getting the most out of your Facebook author page? Let me know in the comments or message me on social media.

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Facebook Advertising – A useful Tool for book promotion or utterly useless?

Something a bit different for this week’s blog post. This time I am going to tell you about my experiences with Facebook advertising and why I will not give Facebook another penny.

I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories online that self-published authors have seen huge success promoting their books via Facebook advertising but from my own personal experiences with it, I have to call ‘BS’.

Sure you could spend thousands of pounds (seems that’s the only way to even reach a large enough audience to make it worthwhile these days) promoting your books, blogs etc but are they worth it?

Let’s go back a few years before Facebook introduced its ads. It was a great time for advertisers and marketers as your posts were pretty much guaranteed to be seen by a large amount of organic traffic and all for absolutely nothing.

Then Facebook decided to take advantage of its huge user base and smartly decided to charge companies and the like to promote their content and ads. All well and good you might think, they’re making cash that’s the whole point of business but then they changed things up.

At the start you could pay a tenner and your ad would have been seen by thousands of relevant people from the audience you chose in the options.  Today this is not the case. Even after you painstakingly tailor your target audience for your ad, you’re lucky if more than a 1,000 people see it at all let alone your target audience.

I recently ran an ad campaign targeting people in the USA and UK in the age group of 18- 50 and tailored their interests to relevant book genres and famous books. I thought that it was a solid audience to aim at. I submitted the ad and left it to run its course (this was with a £30 budget).

Sure enough, over the following days, the ad seemed to be getting some interest. A dozen or so people had liked the ad and the stats even said that it had generated a few clicks. Great, I thought, this should convert into book sales or Kindle Unlimited reads. No. No, it did not. Comparing the Amazon stats with the amount of clicks and likes the Facebook ad generated there was a huge discrepancy.

Ads Don’t Even Reach Your Intended Target!

I took a closer look at the Facebook ad stats and what I found both surprised and angered me. Of all the likes on the ad only one was by someone actually from the UK and USA. I clicked on each of the names that had clicked the ad and discovered that 99% of them were from countries like Indonesia, Iran, Nigeria and judging by their profiles they were either fake accounts or people with no connection to the US or UK at all!

More than a little peeved I did some research online and found numerous articles on the subject written by people who have all experienced similar discrepancies.

Here’s just a few –

http://radar.techcabal.com/t/is-facebook-advertising-the-biggest-scam-ever/4328

http://www.businessinsider.com/mans-600000-facebook-ad-disaster-2014-2?IR=T

http://digitalsynopsis.com/buzz/facebook-fake-likes-fraud/

With such hit and miss (mostly miss) results, it makes it extra annoying that Facebook now demands more money to reach such a small number of people. If you want to reach many thousands then you have to be willing pay out a LOT of money. With the ads not even being shown to your target audience, the whole thing just feels like a right scam.

I for one will not be wasting my cash on Facebook ads again.

What’s been your experience of using Facebook Advertising? Let me know in the comments or on social media.

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Terran Defenders Series

If you’ve been following me on Wattpad or via Facebook then you will know that I also write science fiction stories.

Today, I am pleased to announce that my Terran Defenders Series will see its first self-published release some this year!. The first book that will be released will be Terran Defenders: Genesis and I have another two books in the works (the waiting time between novels will hopefully be shorter).

The first draft of the other books in the series are coming along nicely and I hope to finish them both by the end of this year. As for the second book in the Sundered Crown Saga, work on that is coming along slowly but steadily. I’m still aiming for a late summer release but that will depend on the editing process (never fear I have learnt my lessons from HTTSC!)

You can check out my works in progress on Wattpad  here.

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