Let’s just make it very clear from the outset that I very much welcome posts to the Inner Circle Writers’ Group, and that 90% of posts are approved as soon as I see them. The exceptionally high level of member engagement is what makes this group special amongst social media communities — members chat, celebrate, assist, converse in depth and generally have a great time participating in what is certainly one of the most popular group for writers on Facebook.
Having said that, I’m going back through over 1,000 posts which I have neglected to delete over the last couple of years and have seen some patterns which may help to clarify what should and shouldn’t get through into the main feed of the group and why. I’ll try to break these down so that you have a better understanding of what works and doesn’t work when engaging with the group.
By far the biggest category of posts which will get deleted rather than approved are ads for books or services.
I’m defining an ad as anything which sets out to sell the members of the group something. Usually, they contain a link to a book or website. There are two very good reasons why these will hardly ever be approved:
i) there is such a large volume of them that, if approved, ads would quickly swamp the group so that its feed would become one long stream of advertising, thus reducing audience engagement and activity levels
ii) they don’t work. Posting an ad into the main feed of any group, not just ICWG, hardly ever works — by which I mean it fails to grab enough attention to prompt a reader to do anything. By far the majority of ads, even the cleverer and attractive ones, lack the power to make readers click when they are placed into a main feed randomly. Why is that?
It has to do with PURPOSE.
99.9% of people browsing Facebook are not there to shop, they are there to socially engage, learn, chat, perhaps get help with something. Ads placed into a main feed have the purpose to SELL (that’s why they are ads). The two purposes slide off each other, most of the time = no sales. If you want an ad to work, it has to be placed in an environment where purposes at least partly align — i.e. the ad has to be shown to people who are in a shopping frame of mind.
The real irony here is that ICWG provides a channel for ads which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, which doesn’t need approval from an admin to be posted in and which fits the above definition: it is a thread which is only ever really browsed by people looking perhaps to buy something. It’s the Marketing Monday thread, which appears on Mondays (hence the name!). Anyone wanting to advertise a book, a special offer, services, or anything else related to writing can simply post their ad there, no questions asked.
You don’t even have to wait until it’s Monday: simply search the group for ‘Marketing Monday’ and place your ad in any of the threads which come up. You’ll be contacting a ‘hotter’ public, and you’ll be doing everyone else in the thread a favour too, as a new posting will lift the Marketing Monday thread to the top of the news feed, attracting anyone else in the mood to shop.
In fact, ICWG is a great place to shop both for sellers and buyers, as it’s fully open at all times with a stream of potential shoppers on tap. So if you have an ad for something — and many of you do — please advertise away at any time, in that thread!
2. ‘This content isn’t available right now.’
A surprising number of attempted posts show me the message above. It usually means that the post that is trying to be shared has some kind of viewing restrictions on it, or that it has been deleted. The person doing the posting might not realise that, as he or she doesn’t get the above message, and when I can I alert people to the fact that I can’t see the post — but if too many of these appear, I will not have the time to contact each poster, and will just have to delete them.
3. The post is political, religious or too graphic in terms of violence or sexuality.
Occasionally I’ll get a post which, although its primary intention is not to do any harm, I know from experience that it will trigger a negative response from other members. Thus, for example, someone might post a tweet from a certain president and want to talk about a grammar issue related to it, but I know that the thread of comments will quickly degenerate into a pointless political argument, so I won’t approve it. Similarly, an apparently innocent post about a sensitive religious topic, despite its harmless intentions, will inevitably create a backlash, so it doesn’t get through.
It’s probably obvious why the violence and sex don’t get through. Though we’re all adults in the ICWG, such topics reduce the tone of conversations and can be upsetting to some, so they don’t normally get approved either. The group is about writing and related matters - there are plenty of other places to post about these other topics.
4. The post is inane, rambling, incoherent, inappropriate or pointless.
This covers a wide range, I realise. But I get a surprising number of posts which either don’t make sense or which fail to communicate their point effectively enough. To approve these would be doing a disservice to their authors by exposing them to possible ridicule, apart from the effect they would have on the main feed overall. It is the responsibility of the person who posts material to ensure that the post is coherent and communicates effectively.
This category also includes those pointless posts which occasionally arise in other writing groups. These are along the lines of ‘I want to be a writer. Tell me an idea for a story’ or ‘What should I name my characters?’ These types of queries are best dealt with by Google or by a moment of self-reflection: people who want to be writers need to have their own ideas for stories, by definition, for example. A similar category is the bland technical question like ‘How do you use full stops?’ These are occasionally interesting or ambiguous enough to get through to members, but most can be handled better with a quick Google search or reading a style book.
Inappropriate posts include political comment, or current affairs, or even dating posts — as stated, the ICWG is about writing and related matters, not news, relationships and so on.
5. A post has just been posted by someone else.
This happens from time to time, especially when a popular meme is making the rounds on the internet: someone will post it, I’ll approve it, and then another member will try to post the same thing straight afterwards. If I delete your post, it may be because of this — and there’s no way that you would know about the earlier post, it’s easy to miss these things. So please don’t be offended. (Sometimes I allow these things through a couple of times anyway, if the meme/joke is good enough.)
Just to repeat: by far the bulk of posts get approved immediately. The above notes give you some rough guidelines as to why a particular post might not have made it.
Occasionally I’ll be asked ‘Why did you allow so-and-so’s post through, then?’ when it seems to violate one of the above. There are a couple of answers to this: one is that there are always exceptions to rules, and it may be that I judged a particular post to be of interest to the group despite it seeming to be against the maxims given above. Another is I get tired and make mistakes.
It’s worth pointing out too that I’m on UK time, which is five hours ahead of the US Eastern Seaboard. You might post something and I might not get to it for several hours due to that. I now receive dozens of posts a day, and can get backlogged quickly too. Please be patient.
Of course, you can always contact me if you have any questions about any of the above. I welcome more communication, rather than less. But following the above, more or less, over the last three years has produced one of the most positive and supportive groups for writers available anywhere.