Friday, September 02, 2016

,

A Taiwan centric Facebook page dilemma

9/02/2016 Taiwan Explorer
Today I want to write about something that’s been bothering me for some time now. I have a Facebook page as a companion to my blog since early 2013. It's been a slow start, but in the past two years my subscribers went up, I have nearly 6000 fans right now. That’s a small number compared to today’s standards, but the people who follow me are very engaged, and my shares, comments and likes can easily compare with Taiwan centric pages that have 5 or more times more followers. That's because I always try to make it interesting for people to engage or react in some way, and one key difference between my page and other Taiwan pages is that I'm not afraid to speak my mind directly, which is of course one of the benefits of being anonymous (it's a choice I have made exactly for that purpose). Managing social media in such way that you aim to grow your community taught me to get a sense for what content might be popular, unpopular, controversial and so on. While my aim is not to be controversial, I do sometimes happen to stir a minor controversy. It's a natural by-product of speaking one's mind, and also because I make mistakes, and sometimes say stupid things (yep, I'm not perfect). But recently I've realized that I've become more and more careful how I phrase things related to certain delicate issues, or how I criticize people. As my numbers grow, so does my reach, and the responsibility to put more forethought into my posts.

A few days ago I have shared a blog post that has listed some popular dishes found in Taipei and claimed that "Taipei was the secret foodie capital of the world". On the left side you can see what was my initial thought after reading that article (on the right side is what I actually posted):


I had the following dilemma after drafting my initial thought: "I feel I'm too negative. I will get attacked again by critics who will call me a bully. The blog author will unfollow me..." So I decided to be positive, despite going against my opinion, and I knew exactly that this post will get lots of likes, reshares and new followers. I know what works from past experience. So I said "eff it, let me prove it, and turn it into a blog post."

I was 100% right: The short positive reaction brought me 40 shares, 146 likes and reached over 9000 people - that is much more than my average. If I posted my initial thought, I am very sure the likes would be less, shares a few, and reach 5 times smaller. The problem with Facebook today is that what used to be something like a personal journal that is open to a small circle of friends, is now a huge open space where impersonal and trivial stuff completely took over the platform. People are less and less willing to go deeper into an issue, articles are often not read, but people still feel like liking, commenting and sharing. I'm guilty of that sometimes, too, and I know the same is true for you.

I do want my page to grow and get more people to follow me, I think every Facebook page admin is happy to see an influx of new people, because it makes them feel validated, and it keeps them going. At the same time I don't want to become one of those pages without a soul, that only shares things that are going to be popular (stuff of this sort: "Taiwan is ranked best in the world on XXX random BS no name site"). I think this recent post struck a good balance, and it triggered a lot of reactions in the Taiwan online community. Being subtle is going to be my new way forward. But from time to time I won't hesitate to be blunt again.