I’ve been asked a lot lately by other writes, to LIKE their Facebook page. Then I tell them that I’m no longer on Facebook, really. Then I get asked, “Why I abandoned Facebook as an author.”
Like a lot of people, I’ve been on Facebook for several years. The height of my use was probably two years ago. I still have a personal account that is inching towards being deleted as I rarely go there, favoring Twitter much more.
When I thought I was almost ready to release my (yet unpublished) memoir (mentioned in previous posts), I created an author page. I had a number of friends LIKE it. I posted about what I was doing, where I was writing, the parts I was struggling with, a couple of photos, and things were good. I’d get a fair amount of likes, and occasionally I’d get some shares, unless I asked for it explicitly.
Usually my reach was around 80% of the Like population, but sometimes it was a lot smaller, and that confused me for a while. Then I started to learn some of the rules, and that Facebook was regularly changing the rules. I learned that when a post had a picture, that became more visible to others. When it had a link? Less visible, a lot less. Facebook doesn’t want you leaving the Realm of Facebook.
The growth became stagnant, and I decided to run some experiments in the hopes of finding my ‘social media self’ and how to engage people.
Enter the infamous Facebook Ads. If you listen to the marketing books, like I have over the past 12 months, they tell you about how amazing Facebook Ads are, especially the targeting. There’s even one author who talks about sending Facebook ads to his wife, that’s how precise he can make it. That part freaked me out a bit.
I setup a couple of ads, limited the amount of time and budget, and ended up with LIKES averaging $1.50 each and about 0.5% click-throughs. Maybe I had a bad ad? Maybe, but were the people REALLY seeing my ad, or was it being loaded at the bottom of the page and if the user didn’t scroll they wouldn’t see it? As I chewed-on this for a while, and wondered whether the whole thing was a big scam, I noticed something. All of a sudden, my reach for my posts plunged down to 8-12%.
The best I was able to achieve over the next two months was about 30%, ONCE, and that’s when I got a relative monster number of Likes. Most days I was at 6-10%.
It was like a drug. I got a “high” amount of exposure and reach for a short period while I was paying for it, and then I dropped so low that it created a sense of emotional loss. I wanted that high again, I wanted to know that 32,000 people had seen my advertised post, right? I wanted to be liked, right?? I was willing to PAY to be liked, right? No. Being a geek from birth, I’m used to people not liking me, so I decided that I was done with this, and stopped feeding the demon. I let this author page dwindle, and eventually deleted it.
I figured maybe the problem was me, maybe I just didn’t understand how to use social media, Facebook in particular. I’d do some reading, learn what I could, and maybe try again in the future. Then one day, Along Came a Wolf.
Then Book 1 of The Yellow Hoods launched!
When April 2014 was coming around, and I was gearing up for the launch of my First Ever Book, I decided that I should listen to the marketing books I’d been getting off of Audible.com, and put up a Fan page.
This time though, I was better informed. I could see where my previous attempts had failed, I probably hadn’t thought enough about the viewer/reader when I posted, maybe it had been too much about me. I had probably not asked questions to draw them in, and instead just been ‘marketing at them’ whether I recognized it or not. I didn’t really believe this, but I figured it was possible and I’m always willing to learn.
Also, I was going to be careful with the number of posts that had links outside of FB, and not post two in a row so that the FB algorithm didn’t start to hate me (I’m a technologist, and yes, algorithms can hate you 😉 ). Another thing I’d learned about was FB Apps, which I’d incorporate for my newsletter sign up and online store. The professed wisdom is that provide everything right there on your Fan Page, one stop shopping and engagement. For the record, no one has EVER used that newsletter or shopping cart. Why? Doesn’t show on mobile, and is hard enough to find when you’re looking at the page and hunting for it.
I created the page, gathered the initial Likes from friends and family to where interested in my first fiction book, and I started posting. I was regularly getting about 80% reach, and every now and then I’d have a posting that multiple people would share. I even had a couple get as high as about 800 people, which I took as being awesome and a much better start to things.
Then the book was available on Amazon and I wanted to do a push before the official launch at CalgaryExpo (our huge fan expo event, had over 95k people), so I used all the knowledge I had acquired and ventured back into the dark dungeon of Facebook ads.
I setup my ads, I tweaked their pitches, I watched over a couple of days and you know what the end result was? I think 1 like and, more importantly, a new average reach for my posts of 6%. Let me put that in perspective, because I had about 100 Likes. That mean 6 people, out of 100, were seeing my post. How likely do you think those people were to even notice the post if they’re skimming through their stream? I couldn’t even tell if it was the same 6 people all the time or not, because if it was, at least there was a chance someone would be able to click Like and then trigger someone else potentially seeing it.
I did a Google Ad and a Twitter Ad, which I found both to be expensive and of no value. I did learn from Johnny B. Truant’s book Write, Publish, Repeat after I went through this, that you really shouldn’t use ads until you have multiple products (books) because at least then IF they work for you, you pull someone in for one, and potentially they buy multiple. For me, I’ve learned that Twitter direct-engagement is the best marketing of all, but that’s a different post to come.
I can see you, but you can’t see me
When the book launched, I also started “playing around” on Twitter. It took me until June to find my voice, and since then I’ve built relationships with some of the most amazing people, and I take my responsibility for engaging those who grace me with their follow seriously. I have engaged and mentored some, I have been a shoulder for others. It’s a really interesting world.
On Facebook, it was frustrating to know that there were people who were interested in what I had to say, but Facebook was the blocking us from getting together unless the Liker could figure out how to explicitly subscribe to my FB page AND I HAD NO WAY TO TELL THEM THAT. I wasn’t sure how, or if, I could crack this problem. Then something else dawned on me.
Being a pattern-minded guy, I started watching my Facebook stream and my Twitter stream, and comparing them. I found people on Twitter to be a lot less focused on themselves versus Facebookers. There were some people on FB who really engaged with each other, but compared to a couple of years ago, I was finding people just broadcasting what they were up to, and at most, MAYBE clicking a like. This wasn’t just on my personal or fan page stuff, this was everything. Unless it was “hate them” or “love them” type simplistic stuff, you couldn’t get more than a like for “Saved a kid from falling off a building,” okay maybe there’d be two or three “good job, Jane.”
In looking around I did find people with successful pages, but they were less and less. The more people I talked to, the more people were having some version of the experience I’d had. It’s like Facebook was a giant scam that slowly everyone was figuring out.
I dug around and pretty quickly discovered that 2014 was to be a banner year, and that all of this was very much on purpose.
2014 – The Year of Pay to Play
It wasn’t an accident that on a regular basis all of our reach was dropping, and that those that were being successful on FB had deep pockets, it was by design (according to the media, I don’t have a quote from FB to state this definitively). The days of the “free ride” were over, declared the media.
Facebook was continuing to tune their algorithms to decide on your behalf who you should and shouldn’t see, and deciding who should and shouldn’t see non-personal pages (i.e. fan, business, etc.). Never mind all the data mining that they do, they also wanted you to pay for the privilege of letting them collect data about you (or so it seemed to me), which is pretty twisted.
I want to have a relationship online with those that are interested in what I have to say, and whom I am interested in hearing from. I don’t need the relationships to be symmetrical. Therefore, Twitter has worked out, as is my newsletter. I decided that the direction of FB was very much against my interest, and so in my new book and all of our marketing material, we make no mention of FB. We still have a The Yellow Hoods fan page (notice I didn’t make that a link), and if ever things become really active there, I’ll figure out why, eat my words, and write another post about How Amazing Facebook has become (though be careful for pigs that may crash into your 2nd story windows that day).
The Power of Personal Networks
As an author, particularly one with a full time job, I have to be ruthless with where I spend my time. If something is not working for me, even if those around me seem to be doing well, I’ve got to think for myself and ask why isn’t it working, and should I do something else?
If you think you’re going to write a book, push publish on Amazon or Kobo, and TADA! The world will know you are awesome, you are the prey that the ever growing “Making money from people who want to be an author” industry is feeding on (I’m looking at you, iUniverse).
Personal networks are just that, personal. They require effort, they require getting out of your comfort zone, they require you finding a way to communicate your value. That value may have very little to do with your book, but people will buy the book because of the value you bring to them. How to define your value, how to communicate that value, that’s a separate post. Want to see it? Let me know by commenting or tell me on Twitter.
Last Word – The Newsletter
If you’ve listened to any social media gurus worth their salt, they will tell you that you should not be dependent on social media networks that you don’t own. Why? Because Facebook or Twitter or anyone else can cut you off from them in the blink of an eye. The only social media network that most of us can own (billionaires are clearly excluded) is an email newsletter. This is also why, if you really like an author, you should sign up for their newsletter. My biggest issue is how many people treat this as an opportunity to market AT you (not even TO you).
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Facebook is awesome and it’s me that doesn’t get it, and that’s fine. I don’t mind be different than other people. But my sense is that, particularly as an author-preneur, you’ve got to look at what’s going on, pivot, experiment and get things working. If things seem to stop working or gradually seem to be heading in the wrong direction, it’s time to re-evaluate, pivot, experiment and once again, find what works. And if you can’t figure it, well, that’s where you need to reach out to our network and ask, ask, ask.