One of the problems of being an author out of the superstar league of Neil Gaiman or JK Rowling is doing your own marketing. On one hand I don’t really mind it because in essence, I like talking to people and finding out what they’re reading these days – I just don’t like shoving my book in their face. I’d rather get to know potential readers, and then have them check out my book because they like me, or they like the free fiction I post. On the other hand, it can become a real pain due to the frequency with which the marketing goal posts are changed.
For example, we’re all told we need blogs. So we start blogging. We find it difficult to find an active readership, so we either lose interest, or we keep shouting into the ether, hoping someone will eventually listen. Then an ‘authority’ begins to say that blogs aren’t as important any more. I disagree; for an author, having a well-written blog is still the best shop window for your talents that you can possibly have.
Then we start tweeting. Traditional marketing gurus tell you to spam your feed with links to your books, and send automated DMs directing new followers to your latest title on Amazon. Potential readers switch off in droves, and it takes an awful lot of re-education to realise no, people don’t want to have sales pitches rammed in their face, they want to get to know authors as people. (If you’re an author who’s still sending auto DMs shouting “Check me out on Facebook!” or “Buy my book!” then seriously, re-evaluate your approach to life)
Google + comes along, and many of us dip a toe in the water, but without an obvious active readership, we feel lost, and while we might occasionally browse our feed for interesting content (mainly because more people use Google + to share links to useful articles than they do to post the results of online quizzes or show off photos of their pets), we don’t really engage with other users. We’re missing out on some cracking opportunities.
Oh, and Facebook. How thou art a cruel and fickle mistress. You give us free Pages, which we are led to believe will act like a static presence on Facebook, granting us access to other users who ‘opt in’ to our updates by clicking ‘Like’. We think “Excellent, we can market directly to people who ‘like’ us, and are more likely to be swayed by our new release than someone who doesn’t know us from a hole in the ground”. And then you don’t just move the goal posts, you change the sport entirely.
In a nutshell, Pages used to allow us to post updates which would then appear in the news feeds of those users who had ‘liked’ the Page. Of course, there are a lot of users on Facebook with a lot of friends, and they subscribe to a lot of Pages, so Facebook began to prioritise the content according to which Pages you interacted with the most. I can see the logic – if I don’t interact with a Page, then I’m less interested in what they post than someone whose Page I visit often. Yet according to this article by Time.com, “The typical user is inundated with 1,500 posts per day from friends and Pages, and Facebook picks 300 to present in the News Feed. Getting squeezed out are both posts from Pages and meme photos as Facebook shifts its focus to what it deems “high quality” content.” I call shenanigans – my timeline is STILL full of re-shares of whatever crap George Takei has posted, while links to content I’d like to read gets shunted to one side. But that’s not my point.
The whole reason why Facebook Pages are about to become an utter waste of time is because Facebook is now going to prioritise those posts which have been paid for. If I don’t pay for an ad, then no one will see my Page, or what I post. Even if I pay for an ad, there’s no guarantee anyone will see it, or if they do, no guarantee they’ll click on it. Thousands of small businesses who don’t have massive advertising budgets are about to be squeezed out by those who can afford to pay. You could argue that’s always been the case, but I’d argue that social media at least democratised the process, and evened the playing field for a while. If you posted useful or valuable content, you had just as good a chance at exposure to an audience than if you could afford expensive advertising space.
So is it worth having a Facebook Page at all? I just started teaching Social Media, and Facebook for Business Use is part of what I cover. I personally advocate getting active in Google + Communities (something I really need to do), trying to become an authority in your field in LinkedIn groups, or just being a cool person to interact with on Twitter, but if you’re still hell bent on using Facebook Pages, then there are a couple of things you can still try.
- Don’t simply ask people to ‘like’ you – ask them to visit your Page. They’ll only see your content if they come looking for it. So maybe post some great stuff, and then tweet about the fact that it’s there.
- Give them something to share. Word of mouth is still crucial to any marketing strategy, and if you give visitors something that they want to share, you’ll be placing your content in their news feeds – and outside of Facebook’s plan to hide posts that aren’t paid for.
- Run competitions or giveaways. Maybe ask visitors to like your page, post a comment on your page, and to share the giveaway link on their own feeds. Give them a good potential prize though.
Don’t forget that the best marketing you can possibly get is to write great books, have them professionally edited and formatted, get an eyecatching cover, and put them in front of people. A handful of 4* and 5* Amazon reviews is more likely to net you a sale than a Facebook Page any day of the week.
What do you think? Do you have a Facebook Page yourself, or are you considering ditching yours?