February 20th, 2015

8 Tips to Outsmart Facebook, Dorothy Parker Style

Ellen Meister

Dorothy ParkerChurlish. Mean. Difficult. Insensitive. When I first got the idea to introduce the acid-tongued Dorothy Parker to social media, I had no idea I would soon be using those adjectives to describe Facebook.

It started in early 2011. I was working on a new novel that resurrected the great 1920s literary wit as a fictional character in a contemporary setting, and I thought it might be fun to see if I could connect with a few hundred fellow fans. Four years and over 147,000 followers later, my relationship with Facebook feels less like a love story than Stockholm Syndrome. But I’ve learned to tame my captor—or at least keep it from hurting me too much—and I’d like to share that knowledge with you, dear writers.

First a little background. For the uninitiated, Dorothy Parker was a poet, theater critic, short story writer, book reviewer and essayist. Most of all, she’s known as the sharpest-tongued wit of the Algonquin Round Table, a group of writers and other Jazz Era notables who met daily for lunch throughout the 1920s.

Here are some of her famous quotes that my Facebook followers enjoy:

  • “That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say ‘No’ in any of them.”
  • After seeing a young Katharine Hepburn in a stage performance: “She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.”
  • “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.”
  • On being asked her opinion on the most beautiful words in the English language: “The ones I like are ‘cheque’ and ‘enclosed.’”
  • When challenged to use the word “horticulture” in a sentence: “You can lead a horticulture but you can’t make her think.”
  • After terminating an unwanted pregnancy: “It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard.”
  • “I hate writing, I love having written.”

In the beginning, my relationship with Facebook really was a love affair. It was the perfect place to build a following and connect with Dorothy Parker fans, and I can honestly say it was both fun and practical. In addition to enjoying the interactions, I was creating a platform for my books, Farewell, Dorothy Parker and Dorothy Parker Drank Here. These were folks who would be legitimately interested in my subject matter.

But as time went by, Facebook made it harder and harder to connect with the page’s fans. They tightened the screws on their delivery algorithm until it was nearly impossible to reach more than a tiny fraction of my own followers “organically.” In Facebook lingo, that means “free.” So even though these folks had indicated that they wanted to receive daily updates from the page, Facebook wouldn’t deliver unless I ponied up some cash. And not a token fee, mind you, but a huge pile of money. Indeed, the fees are so outrageous—so many hundreds of times over what could actually constitute a return on investment—that it’s simply impossible.

Fortunately, I’ve learned some secrets of the delivery algorithm, and they all begin and end with engagement. In other words, the more likes, shares and comments a post generates, the more Facebook delivers it. Consider the following:

Evening is best

It stands to reason that you’ll get  the most engagement if you post when the greatest number of followers are on Facebook. I’ve seen varying statistics on this, but my own experience bears out that evening is the best time to post. For my page, which has followers all over the world but a heavy concentration on the East Coast of the U.S., the sweet spot is 5 pm – 9 pm, Eastern Time.

Elicit comments

The more comments your posts get, the more Facebook will deliver them. So if you include a question or some other request, the responses will help your post get delivered. And don’t be shy about putting your own two cents in the comments. Your engagement counts, too, and followers enjoy the give-and-take.

Like your own posts

Your own likes count as engagement, so be sure to like your status right after you post it. And if you have other Facebook pages, switch to those identities to like and share your posts.

Images work better than straight text

Facebook’s algorithm is geared toward delivering images more widely than text. So either create an image that includes your message, or post an image and include your message as the description.

Post your image first, then add the description

I think it’s always a good idea to include some kind of description with your image. However,  for maximum delivery, I’ve discovered that it’s best to post the image first, and then click “edit” to add your description.

Be cautious with your call to action

I used to routinely include calls to action such as, “Like and share if you agree!” However, Facebook has been upfront about the fact that they consider this gaming the system, and they have rigged their algorithm to watch out for this language—even embedded in images—so they can quash delivery. (In other words, they want to minimize organic reach so that they can charge you their exorbitant fees.) Experiment with your language to see what works and what doesn’t.

Share your good news

Facebook’s algorithm has a soft spot for good news, so if your followers comment with words like “congratulations” and “great news,” your delivery will be greater.

Content is king

This is probably obvious, but it ‘s important to remember that the more engaging your posts are, the more likes, shares and comments you’ll receive.

One final note about building your following. It’s fine to ask your friends to like your page, but don’t consider that your end goal. You want to broaden your reach to find the kind of followers who enjoy your content. So keep it lively. Post often and vary your updates. And from time to time, point people right back to your page, so that if they’re reading the post via a share, they are encouraged to give the page a “like.” Click here to see an example of how I handle that.

I hope you found this information useful. If you have any of your own Facebook tips, feel free to share them in the comments. In the meantime, I leave you with a final Dorothy Parker quote to ponder …

If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.”

Good luck friends!

Are you a Dorothy Parker fan? What is your favorite Parker quote? What Facebook tricks have you learned? Please share in the comments! 

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About Ellen

Ellen MeisterEllen Meister is a writer, reader, teacher, mother, wife, and Dorothy Parker fan. Her six-word memoir is “Not as blond as I look.”

She is also the author of DOROTHY PARKER DRANK HERE (Putnam 2015), FAREWELL, DOROTHY PARKER (Putnam 2013), THE OTHER LIFE (Putnam 2011), THE SMART ONE (HarperCollins 2008) and SECRET CONFESSIONS OF THE APPLEWOOD PTA (HarperCollins 2006), as well as numerous essays and short stories.

Ellen teaches creative writing at Hofstra University Continuing Education, mentors emerging authors, lectures on Dorothy Parker and the Algonquin Round Table, and does public speaking about her books and other writing-related topics. Ellen is the voice of Dorothy Parker on her hugely popular Facebook page.

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