Yet Another Facebook Story: A Mile Wide But An Inch Deep

Gregory Levey, communications professor and author of Shut Up, I’m Talking, relays the story of how the Facebook page for his book has gained almost 700,000 fans–not because his book is a best seller.
His page has numbers thanks to the popularity of the phrase “Shut up, I’m talking.”

These days, like anyone involved in almost any enterprise, authors are assured that the path to success lies online. But while a YouTube video of a man tripping over a dog and falling headfirst into a toilet can become wildly popular, carefully orchestrated and well-funded online advertising campaigns for politicians or Hollywood movies can fail outright – making it seem impossible to predict what will get traction in the wilds of cyberspace. Still, it feels like we have no choice but to soldier on, and publishers and authors continue to pin our hopes on somehow figuring out a way to properly harness the internet.
With publishing in such precarious shape right now, I suppose authors should embrace any kind of attention they can get, even if it’s completely misguided. But if my online fans can’t even grasp that the fan page they’ve joined is for a book, I’m not particularly optimistic that they’ll read the book in question – or any books at all, for that matter.

In an interview with Levey, Ad Age’s Simon Dumenco opines:

…what really strikes me about your experience is that it exposes the tenuousness of “engagement,” which media and marketing people are, of course, obsessed with. Your faux fanbase suggests that for many people, Facebook has become such a burden and a time-suck that they’re only able to devote a fraction of their shattered attention spans to it. They’re reacting to friends’ updates and clicking “like” buttons and joining fan pages like Pavlov’s dogs — it’s becoming mechanical, thoughtless. The opposite of “engaged.”

Levey says he hasn’t actively marketed to, or even communicated with, his Facebook fans. What would you do if all of a sudden thousands of people “liked” you or your company on Facebook? It freaked Levey out a bit, which is understandable.
Jokingly, Levey suggests in his Ad Age interview that Facebook could be gamed. “Someone could start a Facebook group called something like ‘Hannah Montana Rocks!,’ wait for it to grow to a million or so fans, and then just start sending out white-supremacist literature.”



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.