–Sondi Warner, Writer/Blogger for Wrought Iron Reads
You need to understand how Facebook works. I’ve seen several “self-publishing made easy” articles and books that tout this as the go-to site for free promotion. Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, you could wind up in Facebook jail, since using your personal page for commercial gain is a breach of the rules. Or, worse, you could alienate your real friends, those people who were there for you BEFORE you became a published author (and who’ll still be around long after you get over yourself.) 😉
Since the advent of the newsfeed, the social media giant has been tweaking its formula to deliver content its users prefer with the help of a “surprisingly inelegant, maddeningly mercurial, and stubbornly opaque” newsfeed algorithm, according to Will Oremus, senior technology writer at Slate.com. In his article “Who Controls Your Facebook Feed?” Oremus acknowledges engineers monitor not only user ‘likes’ and ‘shares,’ but also time spent engaging a post, as well as a plethora of other variables.
From who you know to what you search, Facebook keeps track to keep you scrolling the feeds, and—love it or hate it—whatever they’re doing is working. According to a recent Pew survey, 71% of online adults use Facebook. It should come as no surprise the company collects data and ranks content to decide what does and doesn’t pop up in your and your friends’ feeds. However, Facebook’s most reliable method of finding out what users want is simply asking them.
The consensus is in: Nobody likes spam. Not even you.
“On Facebook, the most common unacceptable behavior involves some abuse of our communication tools. This can be as innocent as annoying others with too many messages or friend requests or as serious as deliberately trying to spam others for commercial gain.”
—Explaining Facebook’s Spam Prevention Systems, by Matt Hicks
If you’re the writer sharing the same book blast across multiple groups at one time, then you’re getting attention—just not the kind you want. Last year I witnessed a number of writers in shock over restricted access to their personal pages after inundating the feeds with shares, and I began brainstorming better ways of providing information about our books to family, friends and fans without incurring the wrath of the Facebook gods. I want to share what I found AND explain why approaching the problem from that angle is still the wrong way to solve it.
Promoting on Facebook the Right Way
Family & Friends Versus Fans
The reason no one likes spam is because it is invasive, but often what separates a good sales pitch from a nuisance is whether or not its reaching its target audience. You wouldn’t advertise luxury penthouse apartments in a homeless shelter. So why would you assume friends and family hop on Facebook to read plea after plea to buy your book?
Facebook’s Rule #4 under Registration and Account Security is there because they already know what it takes a lot of us writers some time to “get,” and that is, as much as our friends and family support us as people, they’re just not interested in us as salespeople.
You may have limited marketing experience; however, I’m sure you know what a ‘target audience’ is. Just uncheck the boxes next to family and friends, and keep your personal Facebook page free of demands. You need to have a separate Author or Product page where you do business.
If you absolutely MUST tell your friends about your new book, you can use Facebook’s Life Event button and select Work & Education to post that you’ve Published a Book or Paper. This way, those closest to you can celebrate your success and choose to follow your link to purchase your book without feeling pressured.
You might also try creating posts discussing your accomplishments, interviews and projects in progress, but you should still keep such posts from becoming sales pitches on your personal page. There is a Facebook friendly way to drive interest in what you have to offer without annoying everyone within newsfeed distance.
Reaching Fans on Facebook
Facebook makes it easy to separate your personal life from your professional life by allowing you to create a page specifically for business use. To create an Author Page:
- Go to “Create a Page.”
- Select the Artist, Band or Public Figure option.
- Choose “Author” from the category box. It’s that simple.
Set-up of your new page is about like setting up a personal profile. Be mindful, however, of keeping things professional. Your Spring Break pictures that look great on your personal profile shouldn’t make it over to your Author Page unless, of course, the photos are relevant to your books. I recommend choosing a clear, attractive self-portrait as your profile picture and creating a simple, brand relevant cover photo. The rest of your Author Page photo albums are best used to promote your book.
You can use Facebook as your Author Page to join groups, connect with other authors and find readers. You can invite your friends to Like your page to increase visibility, but one invitation is enough. Don’t be disappointed if everyone you ask doesn’t immediately hit the Like button. Periodic reminders for a while (every other week) on your personal page will go a long way to getting the Likes rolling in.
Once you’re ready to use your new page, you need to create engaging content. You need to create a LOT of engaging content. When you make one post and share it to multiple groups back-to-back, for every Public group to which you share that content, your friends are seeing the same thing back-to-back. Rather than risk offending you by telling you that’s really annoying, most people choose to “Hide Post” or “Unfollow,” and Facebook’s algorithm reads whatever you shared as something people don’t want to see. In some cases, you might get reported for spamming.
This is why many indie authors have found themselves restricted from Facebook or have lost their pages altogether.
Don’t recycle posts from your Author Page by sharing them a zillion times. Go to each group individually and use something different for every post. While this may seem time-consuming, it keeps your friends from being spammed and shows potential readers there’s more than one reason to love your book. Let’s talk about how to share the news about your brilliant new book on FB the right way.
Understanding Content Creation
When it comes to promoting your book on FB, slapping a link in the status field doesn’t make the cut. Attaching cover art won’t do it, either.
Danny Wong, co-founder of Blank Label, delivered “11 Critical Content Creation Tips” via HuffingtonPost.com, an article every author turned self-promoter needs to read before making another Facebook post, Tweet or Snapchat story. The #1 tip is Be Ruthlessly Selfless.
“[Y]our readers are not always concerned about you, your business or blog. Rather, they arrived to your content assuming it would offer them something of value in exchange for their time.”
It may seem counterproductive to take yourSELF out of self-promoting until you realize—whatever you’re selling—you’re not selling YOU. Authors are selling books. Here’s what’s been shown to work.
Post Pictures. You’ve heard “Show, Don’t Tell,” and that applies to Facebook, too. Photos get more engagement than text. It’s perfectly okay to get your cover art out there. You either worked hard on it yourself or paid a nice sum for it. How about you integrate your cover art into other promotional material? For instance, pulling a quote from your book and laying it over an interesting background is a great way to showcase your writing as well as your book cover.
Post Videos. Book trailers, author interviews and/or home videos you make of yourself talking about your favorite character or why you chose your setting can be an interesting way to engage fans. Believe it or not, your readers don’t care if your hair isn’t perfect or your shirt is wrinkled. They want to get to know the real That’s why they’re following you on Facebook.
Post Questions. Making a statement doesn’t invite a response the way asking a question does. Let’s say, for example, you’re a historical romance writer and your last book was set during the Middle Ages. Instead of, “I love the Middle Ages because…,” try asking, “Why do you love the Middle Ages?” Then, you can answer your question in the comment section as part of a conversation with others who comment. Just make sure your questions invite engagement. There’s no point in asking about the weather. It’s either sun, rain or snow.
Post Excerpts. Facebook has updated its Notes, and now creating a long post is easier and much more attractive. (Try it and see for yourself!) Why not take a page from your book and allow your followers to see what you do best? Many authors choose the first chapter, but I recommend selecting a high-energy segment of your story and keeping the excerpt around 1000-1500 Words. Author Joe Bunting of TheWritePractice.com indicates blogs of this length “get fewer comments…but a lot more shares on social media.” It stands to reason the same should work for a long-form Facebook post in your Notes. 🙂
Example: (The excerpt uses poetry rather than prose.)
Post Real Life. Last, but not least, you won’t be promoting every day. You might take a hiatus from writing. You might start working on a new book. You might choose to use your Author Page for networking purposes instead. You still want to keep your Author Page relevant and active. There is no rule that says all your posts have to be about your book, anyway. Give your followers a glimpse into your life. I recommend keeping intimate details off Facebook in general, and certainly off of your author page, but graduations, vacations, friendly chats and quiet musings are all interesting things to share.
Self-promoting is tough. Doing it on Facebook is tricky. But, by following the advice above, you can transform your Facebook self-promotion experience from a tedious plea for attention from friends and family to an exciting connection with real fans. Keep your target audience in mind. Remember not to bore users with recycled, unimaginative posts. Don’t hit the Share button too many times, and you’ll be fine.
I hope this article helps you see an uptick in post engagement. Tell me about how you have or plan to implement the ideas outlined above in the comment section below.
Tweet me about the topic @WIRUniverse, #PromoDoneWrite!