Letters From the Labyrinth and the Changing Face of Social Media

Letters From the Labyrinth is my weekly email newsletter. You can subscribe to it here.

Email newsletters are hot again. Seems like every writer, actor, musician, and stand-up comic I know has started an email newsletter over the past year, or is planning on it. The reasons are simple. Blogging is dead. Readers don’t automatically go to a Blog each day, because instead, they spend their time on Facebook. It is very hard for anyone in the entertainment industry to convince people to click beyond Facebook, let alone get them to invest time in reading a Blog.

The problem for entertainers is that Facebook no longer works unless you spend money. For each thing I post there, approximately 1,000 of my 11,000 followers see it — unless I spend money to boost the post into their feeds. Yes, spending money on advertising is a necessary evil, but the way Facebook’s algorithm works, if you have more than 10,000 followers, you basically have to spend money on each and every post. Which means you eventually end up spending more than you are making.

The other problem is the changing tone of social media. It’s one thing to interact with people and answer questions and have some fun. It’s another to have people shout abuse at you or to deal with that one entitled person who monopolizes all of your online time each and every day just because they follow you on the social media platform of their choice. Writers would get a lot more written if they didn’t have to Google things for people who apparently don’t know about Google, and most of us are really not interested in your thoughts on how your pet hamster, Freddy, has proof that vaccines are a conspiracy concocted by both Trump and Clinton.

As always, most of my peers aren’t talking publicly about the changing face of social media, but it’s ALL they’re talking about in private.

I’ve spent most of my 20+ year career Blogging, but you’ll notice that I don’t do much of it here, anymore. Instead, I have a podcast called THE HORROR SHOW WITH BRIAN KEENE. That’s by design. I reach more people through that podcast than I do here, mostly because while people might not click away from Facebook to read something, they will listen to a podcast while camping on Facebook. I said last year that this website would eventually be used for nothing more than news and announcements, and we’ve pretty much reached that point. I’ve also been warning you for the last year that I anticipate pulling back from social media in the future. This Farewell Tour is leading to that, and again, it’s by design. Knowing that I will eventually be less available, I thought I should visit as many of you as I can.

An email newsletter solves many of these problems. It can get news and announcements out to people who want to see them, without having to rely on Facebook or Twitter to do it (because as we have established, those methods are becoming less and less effective as tools for that). And it allows me a place to Blog every week, and to talk about writing-specific things and personal things I might not have gotten to on the podcast.

I can promise you it will be entertaining. Long before THE RISING or any of my other successes, I won a Bram Stoker Award for my first email newsletter, an archaic Web 1.0 thing called JOBS IN HELL. Most of you are either too young to remember that, or came along after, but those who do remember it will tell you they were always entertained. And so shall you be again.

This announcement turned into a mini-Blog on it’s own, but that’s mostly because I wanted to answer Ron Davis, the young man who runs the Unofficial Brian Keene Fan Page over on Facebook, who asked, “This seems like a strange and surprising turn of events to me. Newsletters are kind of retro. He’s always been very active in social media, now he’s putting it down?”

No, I’m not putting social media down. Just speaking openly about the challenges and thoughts many of us entertainers are discussing behind the scenes, and continuing to try to find some balance in my own life, out here at the end of the road.

LETTERS FROM THE LABYRINTH. Click here and I will stroll into your inbox and talk to you once a week.

9 thoughts on “Letters From the Labyrinth and the Changing Face of Social Media

  1. Interesting feedback. I’m wondering–if people can subscribe to blogs via email–wouldn’t that be almost identical to an email newsletter? Just subscribe to a blog by email and wala–the subscriber receives notification of the blog-entry in their email inbox. If you have any info as to why this might be detrimental during today’s online climate you’ve mentioned, please fill us in.

    1. They can, but:

      1. Fewer and fewer people are straying away from Facebook to visit the Blogs in question
      2. The newsletter (at least mine) is gonna be tailored in a way that a Blog just can’t capture or replicate.

  2. Brian, I have used the Facebook promotion thingy and yes it is expensive, and I totally get why you do not want to have long-winded conversations with people you do not know πŸ™‚

    I feel the same, although I will have a rare moment of chattiness which can inconceivably last for months.

    Anyhow, I added my edu email address, and now instead of the President of UNM’s monthly newsletter, I will read yours, just don’t make it too funny, I read these in the bathroom stalls of UNM πŸ˜‰ I also play Pokemon go, there and only there.I digress, I look forward to some good material from you that will entertain me and hopefully doesn’t cause to many people to look at me strangely :).

    As always, love your books, and your unique sense of humor πŸ™‚

  3. I’ve been doing a weekly newsletter for a little over two years and all you described in this blog post is true. Everything is changing and a newsletter is a chance to reach people very directly who are interested in what you have to say on whatever subject. By its opt-in nature, you know that most of the newsletter readers will indeed tune in every week for articles and essays and rants, etc. It’s focused marketing at its finest, but it’s also much more than that: it’s a conversation that is much more personal than shouting into the storm of social media or hoping for hits on a blog.

    I do missing blogging, though. Used to do it five days a week, but social media pretty much drowned it out.

    Now social media is very quickly fading as a practical way to reach people.

    Seems things kind of go full circle on the web. The old Internet was basically some websites and email.

    And now we’re back to email with the newsletter thing.

    Maybe things will circle back to blogs eventually, too.

  4. Email marketing does beat social media but it isn’t one or the other, IMO. I just saw this data piece this morning from Neil Patel: you are 6 times more likely to get a click-through from an email than from a tweet. Email is definitely a better marketing tool. However, I still believe that Facebook is a necessary evil. The problem is not the algorithm as much as it is that we have not evolved with it. Gone are the days when we can slap up whatever we want and people will like it in droves. I’d still rather have 1000 engaged followers on Facebook than not be there. Organic engagement is not dead. I know authors that have engagement rates as high as 25%. That’s almost up to the normal email open rates. I think authors need both but you’re also going to have to work at both to be successful.

  5. Hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned. I grew up writing letters. Emails were scary enough in the early days with all that spam and forwards showing even the morning-breed of users were just robots. (Anyone remember that “over-priced cookie recipe” that went around all of the time?) Some email is downright cozy now.

    I’ve told my listeners (IF they listen, anyone’s guess…) that if most people don’t even have computers or something with a solid Qwerty keyboard we might as well go back to writing letters. It’s calming and therapeutic and it goes at a more human pace.

    Either way I sure have been more harassed over the entertainment work I’ve done than have it lovingly discussed in the fun details I was anticipating. Because social media is addictive I learned to use it sparingly. (Once every two weeks.) If people are hooked to it and stuck? I have to heave-ho and hope they find a way out someday. (Frankly I prefer forums and miss having more of them to rely on. No one is able to apathetically like-click, as if they are a robot, on forums. ^_^)

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