Tag Archives: Facebook Advertising

Facebook Advertising Sucks: Feeling Like a Sellout

I feel dirty. I feel manipulative. I feel like I’m part of the problem. I feel like I am capitalism incarnate. I feel like a sell-out.

But not really when I actually force myself to think about it.

I wrote a post last year about how Facebook advertising sucks. My main issue with it was that based on your metrics, you find yourself targeting people that are your core audience. To use a political example: if you write some liberalesque blog posts and set up ads targeted towards conservatives (in an attempt to not be biased and to get people to see another opinion outside of their comfort zones) you’ll either be ignored or totally shit upon. Since money is at stake with advertisements, the natural tendency for yourself is to market only to like-minded people so you’ll minimize your cost per reach metric. It makes sense and this is how capitalism works. No one spends money on shit that is pointless. You find yourself narrowing in on the demographic that already agrees/cares about what you’re writing and contributes to echo-chambers online.

(Big Note About Facebook and Self-Promotion: I took all my rambly Facebook-inspired posts and glued them together into an ebook. If you want to read it here’s the link.)

This post, while sort of similar, is complaining about a different aspect of advertising. I want to write about how advertising makes me feel morally corrupt for some reason even though I know it’s perfectly justifiable. It’s one of those deep-seated personality traits I have that I can’t seem to shake. If I advertise or try to sell anything — even if what I’m advertising is totally legit and real — I feel awful about it.

I’ve been dabbling in Facebook advertising for a few years now, but have never seriously been involved with it. I’d “boost a post” here and there, and back when my sister and I were trying to sell shirts I’d toss some money towards ads. It was never that much, perhaps $25 or $50 here or there, and we never found much success with doing so. I advertised my two ebooks on Facebook and Reddit and once again didn’t find much success with it. Yesterday I decided to give it another shot. I started another ad for my personal authors page on Facebook (gimme a ‘like’ if you’re feeling like it) yesterday and have been suffering all over again with it. The moral dilemma that always comes up. Is this really the way to success? Paying Facebook money to market my page?

It works though. Back in October I advertised for the page and actually hit some success with it. In a week my page’s ‘likes’ went from about 20 or so (all close friends and supporters) to over 100: people actually liked my page after seeing it forced upon them. I’m always curious about who actually likes advertised pages because they stick out like a sore thumb to me. But I’m glad some people don’t notice, don’t care, or are actually impressed by what they see. I think this cost me $50 or so. Then peak season began at work and I didn’t worry about marketing myself. I’d worry about it later, like maybe around January 10th.

We live in strange times. The internet has changed what is possible in the past few decades. It’s strange to think back to times before the internet existed. I think of how “easy” it is to do your own think with the internet; anyone can set up an Etsy shop, self-publish on Amazon, have a blog, sell artwork, make fanfiction stories…anything. Your talents can now be visible to the entire world. Wow. I think we’re literally in a golden age of creativity thanks to the internet. I think of what people did to be authors or writers before 2000. Think of physically printing and sending manuscripts to publishers week after week in an attempt to actually make a name for yourself. We don’t need to worry about that. Anyone can make an account somewhere and start writing, painting, etc. Anyone can be creative and get themselves out into the world, and isn’t that what we all want to do? Express our souls and have people notice what we’re saying?

The problem with the openness of the internet is that everyone else is also trying to do their own things. You get lost in the fray of the millions of people trying to make content. Us WordPress bloggers know what the fight means; out of millions of blogs how do you make your site something unique and worth reading? Let alone the question of monetizing and making a job out of it. We’re all tiny bits in some massive machine and how do you get anyone to notice you? You usually don’t. That’s what the struggle is. It isn’t creating or being consistent, it’s being noticed. You could have the best blog/story/music/paintings/poem in the world, but if no one knows about it, who cares?

Sure there is “organic growth” but that is tedious as fuck. As someone who feels like their life is on a timer tickinging down until you either burn out or die, waiting on “organic growth” feels terrible. What if I write some masterpiece when I’m 60 and about to die and no one even hears about it? What if I’m lost in the crowd, out-viewed by people slightly more talented or better at marketing themselves than I am? It’s a scary thought. Being a successful creative person seems to entail being able to market yourself successfully. Hell, even untalented people can market themselves and sell stuff. Think of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck. Think of Rich Dad, Poor Dad.

This is why I decided to toss some money into Facebook advertising again. I feel like I’m hitting my stride, actually making some small but consistent progress towards my goals, and who is there to take notice? Just a few hundred subscribers and people close friends who ‘like’ my Facebook page. It’s a strange place for me to be in. I’ve struggled with self-esteem recently and still do, but I feel like I’m past it in a way. I don’t feel like the main challenge is being good anymore — this is just hard work, consistency, and stubbornness; a blind eye towards failure — I feel like my main challenge is being noticed. This is the main struggle for us creative types in 2020. It doesn’t seem so much as being good but being noticed in the crowd of millions of people trying to do their own thing.

I feel terrible for advertising though. Once again, logically, I know it doesn’t make sense. I wrote this whole post complaining about “people finding you” and how else do people “find you” besides paying money to make yourself appear on their Facebook feeds? I think of the horror stories on Twitter where people simply buy followers and at least I’m not doing that, right? The people that see my shitty and contrived ads don’t have to ‘like’ or ‘follow’, but some of them do. Am I selling out to capitalism and the tempation of being famous or am I just wanting people to find something that they might enjoy to read? I really think it’s the latter, but my gut still tells me I’m a sellout. I think I naturally want to slave away in total obscurity and never do anything notable and it seems like a conscious effort to sabotage myself in that way. Yes, I feel bad for advertising, but I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I’m not gaming the system. I’m not “cheating.” I’m not cooking books or making shady contracts. I’m just trying to get people to notice the stuff I’m creating which I’m actually proud of even if I don’t like to admit it. And in the writing/blogging/self-publishing market, isn’t this what the big challenge actually is?

Even after writing this I still don’t feel good about it.

Writing Kinda Sucks

“…I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work.”

Hunter S. Thompson

I think when we pick up any new hobby or interest we only see the positives. We see the glory of it — the big picture of it all. As a painter you imagine relaxing at home and just creating beautiful artwork. Or the pianist sitting at their instrument creating interesting and wonderful music. Or the author, bringing magical worlds to life that only exist on paper and in the imagination of your readers. You dream of actually making it by publishing your books, selling your artwork, or ending up in a successful band, etc. When we undertake a new goal or hobby we rightfully only see the good because it’s where we want to be in our lives. But to get to the good you have to toil away with the total bullshit that no one talks about.

Prospective writers and authors also have their own fantasy: sitting at a desk with a cup of coffee and a dog in the corner/cat in your lap while you let your imagination run wild with ideas that you effortlessly slap down on paper/PC/typewriter/whatever the fuck you’re using. Anyone who has even attempted writing will instantly know this is bullshit. No one idolizes the times where you’re staring at your computer at 11 p.m. and while wanting to write something realizing that you have no idea for what to actually write. Or maybe you have an idea but it doesn’t come out right and you can’t get into a flow. There’s also the opposite problem like with me right now: awake at 2 a.m. suddenly finding yourself inspired to write a blog post about writing. The idea just appears out of the ether and you gotta grab the inspiration before it disappears.

I always thought writing was easy. It’s not that it’s hard like math is hard; it’s a different sort of difficult. I was always the type of person to procrastinate school papers until the night before they were due and knocked them out in a few hours of furious typing; I’d always get good grades by doing this too. Maybe this is where I got the “writing is easy” idea from, and I know for a fact it’s where I got my dreadful procrastination from. (Why plan anything out when you can knock it out in a few frightful hours?!) But writing isn’t easy. Let me walk you through a typical writing process for me. I’m assuming everyone else has similar issues and the more we write the more we learn to manage and minimize these pain-in-the-ass traits that writing entails.

Inspiration

This sounds stupid, but you need to have something to write about before you write. You need a story idea or a blog post idea or something. Once again this was never a problem in high school or college when people told you what to write. Now that you’re doing this on your own you need to figure out your own ideas. These ideas almost have to accidentally come to you and this is frustrating, especially in regards to blogging. We all know that frequently posting is a good idea, but you also need ideas for your posts. You end up torn between spam-posting low quality stuff day-after-day or postponing things for so long that you appear to be unreliable. It’s a pain in the ass.

It’s even worse for fiction writing as you need to conjure up characters, a plot, themes, and whatever else, and as I mentioned earlier you can’t seem to force this part. You can’t sit down and force yourself to write a good story with no plot in mind. You have to sit around and brainstorm and hope something good comes along. Even so, this isn’t an invitation to procrastinate in terms of perfection: you still need to get off your ass and write! It sounds contradictory huh?

The Writing

After you have an idea you can get to work on it. This is the actual fun part of writing where you can let your ideas run wild. Writing is the transformation of ideas into concrete words and sentences that other people can enjoy. It’s timeless and romantic and amazing to do when you get in the zone. You’re literally creating new worlds that have never been created! Bringing into existence people, creatures, and things that have never existed outside of your mind! It’s amazing! Sometimes you start typing and are surprised with what you’ve written, as if the ideas materialized out of thin air. What you write might be fantastically good, or shine light on some subconscious workings of your mind that you’re not even aware of. It’s this part of writing that is the most addictive. This is what I love about writing.

The Editing

For fucks sake this part is awful. I worked for hours day-after-day to finally edit my two ebooks and it wasn’t enjoyable at all. This is the part of the writing process where you take your random, rough, and rambling writings and clean the things up. You’re hunting around for grammatical errors, factual errors, spelling errors, and any other errors imaginable. For fictional stories you’re also making sure the characters’ names and jobs are consistent and that everything makes sense. I realized in one one of my stories that a character was terribly inconsistent in two of the chapters he’s in and it’s something that needs to be fixed. Sometimes you need to move paragraphs and chapters around or even delete the damn things. Sometimes you find irrelevant trash that you have no idea how it ended up in the work in the first place. Chapters about nothing in particular. This step is tedious, boring, time consuming and all around awful.

The End

Somehow if you pull all of this shit together you will have a finished product, be it a story, a novel, a blog post, or even a fancy self-help instructional guide. Whatever. And this is what makes it all worth it I suppose. When you can feel good for sitting through some not-very-fun bullshit to actually create something. When you’ve suffered through all of the difficult and tedious shit long enough to have something to show to others and something that you can be proud of. It doesn’t even matter if what you’ve created is trash because at least you’ve created something. How many countless others have wanted to create something but never got around to doing so? How many people fail before they even start?

But Not the End

Oh yeah, even once you have a finished product on your hands you’re still not finished with the process yet. The more I’ve been writing the more I’ve realized about the other shitty demon involved with trying to be an author: self-promotion. I’m also terrible at it. The fact is even if you wrote a masterpiece no one will buy it or even know about it if you don’t promote yourself. This involves goofy terms like “networking” and “advertising” and “getting yourself out there” and a few other nebulous terms that I despise while not being able to think of them right this moment. Let’s not forget the bloggers’ “SEO” stuff too!

As a side rant I’ve seen this problem mostly with MLM-Facebookers trying to pedal their wraps, diet pills, CBD oils, etc. These people try to sell products to their friends and family first without realizing that they can’t limp by selling products only to them. It’s the same with being an author: even if you have five or ten friends/family that love your writings they cannot support you completely. You can’t be a successful artist if only those people are purchasing your products. You need to branch out and find other customers!

I also think this is antithetical the the stereotypical writer as well, at least for me it is: I’m a person that likes to stay inside my head and someone who has confidence issues. A classic introvert I am. I really do think my writing isn’t good enough for people to actually want to read and am constantly surprised when I hear positive feedback on it. Obviously I’m terrible at self-promotion. It always comes across as begging or cringy when I try to get new people to read my writings. It’s hard to do. I wish I could ignore the self-promotion aspect of writing but it seems to go hand in hand with it. You simply can’t git gud at writing where everyone magically loves you. You need to put yourself out there for people to find you in the first place.

As a general closing note here: writing generally takes a long time! It takes much longer than you’d expect it to take. Consider this blog post: it’s only about twelve paragraphs long so take a guess how long I worked on it? I wrote it in 20 or 30 minutes, and have been editing/proofreading it for about an hour and a half (!!!). I also need to add tags to it, make a banner for it, proofread it again and then post it. In total I’d say this post — which is a total low-effort “quick” post — took a total of two to three hours from start to finish. Writing kinda sucks.

Facebook Advertising Sucks: Avoiding the Echo Chambers

I’ve recently been experimenting with Facebook advertising and this blog. I’ve known consciously for a long time that any endeavour is successful in a large part by how you sell yourself: you can’t just have a really good blog or business or whatever and expect that word of mouth can carry you to success. You could have the best damn widget ever and no one will ever buy it if they don’t know about it. There is a lot of hard work and shamelessly selling yourself on the road to success.  I say I’ve known this consciously because while I’ve known it, I didn’t really believe it at a really deep level. Anyways, while I want this blog to be successful, I don’t really intend for it to be an actual business. I figure if I get a bunch of readers I could sell T-shirts or something, mostly so people can rock my sister’s logo design, but it isn’t a get-rich-quick sort of scheme. It would be cool to get more readers, and see if that whole “selling yourself” idea works, and it would be an interesting experiment if I ever did try to start a business. So that was my motivation behind advertising, to see how effective it really is and to learn from it.

So I advertised (“boosted” in Facebook parlance) a few of my posts. The first one I advertised was the post about writing and typing; it was a fairly tame post that I figured people might find enjoyable. If you clicked the link you can see that it did get quite a bit of shares, more so than most other posts (33! Shit! I didn’t know it did that good!).  Anyways, advertising on Facebook is cheap, easy, and does seem to get your message out to people. It also allows you to pick your audience by selecting interests that you want to target for your audience. Obviously for that post I selected people who liked reading, writing, and blogging. You want to advertise to people who the message will resonate with, obviously. More on that shortly…

For advertising my second post I wanted to go right for that juicy market that is Donald Trump hatred, and selected my scathing but fun post on covfefe. (And got 55 Facebook shares?!) It wasn’t so much trying to get those sort of readers, just that my first advertised post was fairly tame, and I wanted to get in on the mess of politics. When it came time to pick my audience it was obvious to select those who identify as liberal and who possibly lean towards liberal views. Duh. Like I said before, you want to target people who your message will resonate with. But this seems really cheap and easy, so I also targeted those who were very conservative and who leaned conservative. In a recent post about Echo Chambers (which I learned from advertising the covfefe post), I railed against people reading shit that agrees with their views. To me, what’s the point of advertising an obviously liberal point of view to people who lean liberal? I’d just be contributing to the “echo chamber” problem so why not advertise to the conservatives? So that’s what I did…

And it was kind of a mess.

First off, it finally clicked in my head that I had just spent $25 to target conservatives with a very anti-Trump post, and if you care to check this blog’s Facebook page, some people weren’t happy at all about it. Curiously, a bunch of liberals “liked” the post, but few conservatives shit on it, so I’m assuming many of the people angered by it just ignored it. Still, that isn’t as bad as shitting all over the page like some people did and could’ve, but it’s still wasted money by going absolutely nowhere. Advertising on Facebook Sucks because you pay to target an audience, so you’d naturally pick those who agree with you. No one in their right mind would pay to target those who hate their ideas and views. Imagine if Shell or Mobil gas tried to target electric car owners? Or if Tyson Foods advertised towards vegans and vegetarians:iIt’d be a waste of money.

Secondly, I don’t think this would get any sort of conversation going at all. Not a single conservative voter will read my blog posts and go “Hmm. He has a point. Trump is bad, what was I thinking?” The political posts I write are some vulgar, simple, and easy hit pieces on Trump and the Right, mostly because they make such obvious and easy targets on a page called Everything Sucks. While I don’t want my blog to only appeal and to target liberal-minded voters, trying to actually get a conversation going (while simultaneously shitting on Trump) on Facebook seems pretty stupid and futile. I mean if a newspaper as prestigious as the New York Times (“the failing @NYTimes”) can be labeled “Fake News” and shit on by Trump supporters, why would Everything Sucks and Facebook Advertising change anyone’s mind? It won’t…and I’d be dumb as hell to think it would.

So, in short, Facebook advertising is pretty cool if you just want to shamelessly support a page, company, blog, or whatever. It does work and is fantastic at getting your product (or whatever) out in the world for people to notice and perhaps utilize. This puts the success of your whatever on it’s quality and not if people have heard about it or not. My two blog posts got tons of views and shares after I advertised them, but in terms of trying to advertise to those who disagree? Hell no, because no one wants to spend money to reach people who will hate their message. Even if I’m trying to be inclusive and not contribute to creating my very own echo chamber, Facebook advertising sort of encourages advertising to people who will be supportive of your message. Facebook makes it so you can target an audience who will like your message, but this ease in getting positive feedback discourages any willful targeting of a dissenting audience, further contributing to people hearing what they want to hear. Facebook Advertising Sucks in getting a conversation going and further contributes to the problem of people having Echo Chambers where they can hear facts and opinions that already support their own opinions.