Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Facebook has become an integral part of book promotion. But...

Facebook, specifically, and social networking, in general, have become integral components of book promotion campaigns. Publishers tell all their authors to build up their base of friends, fans, and followers, and to regularly provide content to them via a variety of social networking venues. Authors, instinctively, know that it's a good idea to set up (or build up) their social networking presence when it's time to start a new book promotion campaign. Sure, it's great to get mainstream media interviews and other traditional book publicity opportunities. But how cool is it to have your old grade school companions buzzing about your new book? You just can't beat it.

It seemed as if social networking sites were doing everything right. Sometimes, their popularity was a bit troubling to the beyond-college-age crowd, but we still respected the staying power and evident influence that these social networking sites wielded.

And now this.

Facebook has been sharing users' private information with so much of the online universe that even serious Facebook enthusiasts have become alarmed. In fact, there's evidence that organized groups of Facebook users plan to close their accounts. Other disgruntled users may do the same once they realize how tough it is to truly opt out of all the automated Facebook sharing.

If Facebook loses significant numbers of users -- and if those who remain limit their communications to their "friends" -- then, of course, authors might find themselves spending less time promoting books via Facebook. They might take their book promotion energies elsewhere...say, to radio networks and newspapers...where the book publicity trail has long been blazed, and there's no danger of wasting energy on an audience that's tuning out on principle.

As a book publicist who appreciates having as many book publicity avenues as possible at my disposal, I hope Facebook finds a way to resolve the concerns its users have about privacy. Social networking can be time-consuming, but the payoff can be bliss -- if the user base grows. At this point, the jury is out on the future of social networking for book promotion and beyond.

For the record, I'm holding onto my Facebook account , but I'm only posting things about myself that I'd be pleased to have appear on the front page of the New York Times. That might be a good short-term solution for all of us.