The Facebook Dilemma

Social media has been a revolutionary tool. It's a great way to connect with people around the globe. But it's also become a problem in some ways, and when it comes to reaching an audience with a website like this one it can be a real double-edged sword.

Nearly all of the traffic that comes to gets here via links on Facebook. Visitors that come from such links tend to visit the specific page they linked to and then go back to Facebook. If there are more links to this site in their Facebook feed, then odds are good those visitors will click those and come back, but very few navigate to various pages here on the site just by its interior links. It's as if it's only of interest if it's in their Facebook feed.

That's a problem. Facebook continually tweaks its algorithms, so there's no way to know who sees links that get posted to Facebook without paying for targeted advertising. Other, more reliable tools like RSS readers are ignored; people are used to Facebook. That's where they get their stuff.

When readers comment on a post, occasionally they do it here, which is great. Much more often, they do it on Facebook. Which is not at all great. It's good to have the feedback, that's not the issue; the issue is that comments here onsite can be seen by everyone and perhaps even replied to or furthered into a thread. Comments on Facebook are seen by, well, whoever belongs to the group that the link was initially clicked from, or the friend group permitted to see things that are shared by a particular user, or followers of a Facebook page that had the link—but only if the algorithm puts it high enough in someone's feed to be noticed.

The onsite commenting is designed to be open; it doesn't require a member registration or unwieldy login or security steps, just entering a name and email address and a comment. Apparently that's too much trouble, so I'm looking into alternative commenting infrastructure that somehow takes less work. (For the visitor, I mean; for me it's a lot or work.)

I would prefer to move as much away from Facebook as possible, but the site is utterly dependent on it for 95+% of visitors. Twitter gets a few, but it's rare—the site doesn't have the same reach via Twitter at this point. RSS readers? It's not zero, but it may as well be. Just a bookmark check-in with no link prompt? Once in a while.

Erinome RSS reader as a browser plugin

I'd like to encourage everyone out there to use RSS feeds to cultivate their own sort of "personal feed" from sites they like to frequent. You're guaranteed not to have anything skipped over because of algorithmic quirks or manipulation by social media saboteurs or anything other than your own choices. I use a browser plugin called Erinome RSS, but there are lots of alternatives in browser add-on libraries. I have half a dozen or so RSS feeds from sites I like to keep up on included and I get regular notifications when something new is posted. Outlook and other email clients can fetch RSS feeds too. It's not social media, you don't trade greetings with your siblings with it, but for news and blogs and such they can't be beat.

Anyway, there's likely nothing I can do to change the behavior of folks that live and die by Facebook, but like Sisyphus and the boulder, I will keep trying.


  • Posted by NickBob on April 23, 2021 (13 days ago)

    95%? Damn. That's unhealthy. What Google did to RSS was murder, or perhaps webslaughter. I took up Twitter as a substitute, in the meantime a lot of content has shifted there from the blogosphere. Will never sign up with FB. Good luck. We're all in this together.

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