Friday, July 5, 2013

Ten Facebook Statuses to Instantly Engage Your Readers

The opposite of "Like" is now "Ignore."
by Lydia Netzer

Comments on Facebook status updates let us know that we aren't standing all alone in the middle of a party, making animated hand gestures and facial expressions into thin air. Likes reassure us that we're not sighing out half-hearted commentary into a lonely glass of wine while no one listens. As authors, these responses also let us know that we're doing social media correctly, and that we won't be fired by our publishers for being the dullest clods on the internet. They can fire you for that, you know. So how do you get readers to engage with your page? 

It's difficult to know what to say sometimes. I know this one older dude on Facebook who only posts pictures from traffic cameras and also cats. He has a bunch of friends and they're highly engaged, commenting on and Liking everything. I want to think he's unlocked some kind of magical Facebook formula where cat posts combine with traffic camera footage to create a powerful ankh that gives its wearer internet popularity. I salute that guy. But we can't all be him. A lot of people I know, especially authors, seem to worry about appearing too positive, too negative, too repetitive, too pretentious. Posting a status update can feel like tugging on someone's elbow. What if they don't turn around?

The way to get people engaged with your Facebook Page is to give them an opportunity to do something they already want to do. 

No one logs onto Facebook with a burning desire to say "Oh, hmm!" to a dry description of your writing routine. No one yearns to say "Cool fixture!" when you post a picture of your desk lamp. No one really needs to Like your link to an article you wrote about yourself. But you can get comments and Likes flowing by figuring out what people on the internet want to do, and then giving them a place to do it. 

For example, here are ten Facebook updates that will get comments, possibly even a storm of comments, for your Page, right now today: 

1. Turkey bacon: Salvation or abomination?
What do people want to do? Pick sides. 
Picking sides in a clear-cut two-side argument is the easiest thing to do in the world. And fun -- just look at sports. In fact, asking which sports team your readers are rooting for in a game would also make a good post, but really any simple choice between two opposing options will work. You'll have some friends who find extruded meat disgusting and some that feel turkey bacon has allowed them to live again. But don't make them think too much. This is supposed to be fun. 

Kids, we're having conversation starter for dinner!
2. What should I do with this chicken and rutabega?
What do people want to do? Talk about food.
If you haven't figured out that the internet is mostly about food then you haven't spent much time on Pinterest or Instagram. People love to talk about their favorite recipes and help you with your food dilemmas. Post a strange combination of ingredients and ask for ideas. For bonus points, post a strange combination of ingredients you actually have and then post a picture of the results. Or just ask, "What can I make with kale?"

3. It's time for vacation! What city should I visit next?
What do people want to do? Be experts.
Everyone is an expert on the places they've been, especially places in Europe for some reason. If you ask for a "must do" list in Barcelona, I guarantee your comments will be piling up in drifts around your page. You'll have to get rid of them with a leaf blower just to see your cover photo. 

4. Ready to change up my coffee. How do you take it? 
What do people want to do? Define a personal preference. 
Collections of these questions used to float around email lists, circulating as ice breakers or just getting-to-know-you prompts. What's your favorite crayon color? Do you drink lemonade or soda? Do you eat the broccoli stems or not? This kind of question is good because it requires a short answer, and it feels like a revelation without the discomfort of an actual revelation.

5. Anybody get any good news today?
What do people want to do? Share feelings. 
You could ask the broader question: "How are you doing?" But that's actually harder to answer and less inviting than a more specific question. Any time you can bend your post so that the on-ramp to a comment is a  yes/no answer, you're giving your readers an easier time. Anybody sick today? Anybody on the rampage today? They can always just Like... the Facebook equivalent of nodding.

6. What’s the worst thing you ever did in a minivan?
What do people want to do? Share personal anecdotes. 
Again, be specific in scope but general in appeal. Asking about the worst thing someone's done in a minivan is pretty specific. But on the other hand, everyone's been in a minivan. Everyone can answer this. Sharing personal anecdotes is fun, it's interesting to read the other comments on the post, and if you keep the question light, it's easy to give a quick comment.

7. Gosh, at what age do you think I should wean my baby?
What do people want to do? Express an opinion. 
Up to this point I've stressed that you should keep it light and easy, but I'd be remiss if I didn't note that real controversy will make your readers engage. One way to survive it with your dignity (and friend list) intact is to pose your update as a question, and then stay out of the resulting fray. Sure you can toss in some "Hmm, what about this?" comments to move the conversation along, but don't argue one side or the other. This isn't turkey bacon, and people can get pretty irate. Note: If you use the exact status update in this example, and you aren't currently nursing a baby, it might become obvious to your readers that you're just trying to stir them into a frothy passion. 

8. My kid/husband/dog just said/did a funny thing!
What do people want to do? Laugh. 
If you are lucky enough to have a child or husband or dog that provides you with Facebook fodder, don't hide this charming light under a bushel. If you find it funny, your readers will too, including me. 

I seriously don't know what kind of car this is.
9. Does anyone know what kind of car is in this picture? I'm doing research. 
What do people want to do? Help. 
Writers do research online, and one of the best places to do it is right on your Facebook Page, utilizing the knowledge base of your readers. Many times I've asked for help with word choice, facts, identifying pictures, etc. Unless you want it to sound like a game of trivia, make it a genuine question that you're actually struggling with. If you're really unsure, or the answer is ambiguous, then the comments won't dry up after someone gets the right answer, like they would in a trivia question post.

10. Guys, I've got a secret to share. 
What do people want to do? Connect. 
This isn't something you can do every day, both because it would be emotionally exhausting and because you probably don't have enough deeply personal material to keep on revealing something new day after day. Or maybe you do. (Great!) But once in a while, sharing something really personal is a powerful way for your readers and friends to connect with you. If you are in pain, or fear, or love, occasionally let people peek at that. Making yourself a little bit vulnerable makes you accessible and real to the people who genuinely want to connect.

When your Facebook Page provides opportunities for readers and friends to do things they already want to do, you're making it easy for them to interact with you. Try it! 

Lydia Netzer is the author of Shine Shine Shine, now out in paperback, which the New York Times Book Review selected as one of 100 Notable Books for 2012. It was also chosen by Amazon as one of their Editor's Picks for the Top 100 Books of 2012, by Library Journal as one of five Top Women's Fiction Titles of 2012, and by Nancy Pearl in Publisher's Weekly as one of her ten favorite books of 2012. It's a novel about robots, motherhood, space travel, true love, and the perils of fitting in. Find her on her blogFacebook, and Twitter


  1. Love it, as always! You nailed it! This is the anonymous Anne Barnhill:)

  2. Thanks so much, Lydia! Great tips!

  3. Great fun tips Lydia! This is why I love seeing what you write on facebook, and why I'm so boring! I will have to try these.

  4. Good can only post so many desk lamp pictures. :) I'm tipping this on Sverve {are you on Sverve? I'd love to endorse you for social media!}

  5. Great list of comment starters. I might not have an answer to some of those but would at least like the post.

  6. If you are lucky enough to have a child or husband or dog that provides you with Facebook fodder, don't hide this charming light under a bushel. If you find it funny, your readers will too, including me. facebook

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