You posted a photo of your dog on Facebook and all your friends liked it—building a Facebook page to promote your book to fans should be easy, right? Wrong! While your Facebook fan page may look the same and even function the same, the content and mission is completely different. You aren’t talking to your close friends and family, you are talking to over one billion potential viewers, because unlike your personal Facebook page, your fan page is public and a vehicle of your social media marketing. Here are some tips to point you in the right direction.
The Facebook Algorithm
Before talking about what you should actually post, let’s talk to the elephant in the room: will anyone even see it? Unbeknownst to a lot of people, there’s a somewhat mysterious algorithm running behind the pages of Facebook. Not understanding how it works can leave you in a place where you are essentially shouting, but no one hears you. In fact, some reports show that when you post to your Facebook Page, only 2% of your audience sees it. Yikes, right?!
How does it work? In the simplest terms, Facebook looks at all the possible things a user can see on their wall and predicts what they are most likely to engage with. Facebook owns Instagram, and the order they publish content to a user's wall is very similar.
Facebook is a free website, and yet it makes billions of dollars. How is that possible? In a word: Ads. Facebook wants you to pay to get your audience to see the words you write on your page. I’ll cover pros and cons of advertising below, but if you are leaning against not, there are definitely ways to make sure you are connecting with your audience. The best way to connect with your audience without paying is Facebook Groups, which I’ll also cover below.
What’s On Your Mind?
So now that you know a little about how Facebook works, what should you post there? Whenever you post something on your personal Facebook page, there’s a little message in the text box that says “What’s on your mind?” It’s a call to action for everyone to post whatever rambling they happen to be thinking of: politics, family, religion, hobbies—it’s all fair game. Switch to your fan page and the message is a little different; it simply says “Write something.” It’s pretty vague, but the first thing to remember is this isn’t what’s on your mind—it’s about your author brand—you the author and your books.
Who Is Your Audience?
Facebook reaches over one billion people, but that’s not your audience. You aren’t trying to capture one billion potential new readers—you aren’t even trying to get 1% of that! Think much, much smaller. Never post anything randomly. Before posting anything, ask yourself: who is my audience and does this post reach them? Your initial audience should be people who already know you, so make sure you promote your Facebook page in all of your books, emails, and websites.
Your fans don’t just want to hear from you, they want to talk to you! When they comment on a post, make sure you are commenting back. Talking to your fans will keep them engaged and coming back. When possible, don’t be generic, be personal. Show an interest in who your readers are, beyond your book promotion.
Post Often. Post Consistently.
There’s no secret formula for exactly how many times each week you should post on Facebook, but most say 5 to 10 times per week is about right. That means 1 to 2 times a day. There are several tools that will post on a schedule, so if you have a hard time remembering to post each day, then once a week write all your posts and then schedule them. You don’t even have to log on to post them! Many writers will also have themed days to help their message stay consistent. Fridays, for example, are good days to post something on the lighter side—a funny meme, perhaps. Creating a hashtag for that day (such as #fridayfunnies) helps your fans see the theme and navigate back to other posts; think of original hashtags that no one else is using.
There are plenty of free tools (such as Hootsuite) that have free plans for controlling your message; these platforms help you schedule your post across all social media, so you don’t have to login each day one by one. You can log into one social media content management system (or CMS) and control it all in one place.
Start a Discussion
As noted above, Facebook values engagement. One of the best ways to get engagement? Get your audience commenting on your post. Facebook discourages people from outright saying “leave a comment below” but that doesn’t mean you can’t spark a discussion your comment section by asking questions. Like “Who else is reading the new book in the X series?! No spoilers, but who would you like to see play each character in the film version?"
Once you start building your audience, Facebook has lots of powerful tools to help you know who they are, what they like, and if your message is effective. It's easy to use. Just go to your fan page, and click on "Insights". Immediately you'll see an overview of your page; the left menu gives you over a dozen options to see even deeper insights (such as your reach, page views, and who exactly your audience is). Don’t assume you know your audience; use this tool to make sure you know them.
Facebook Groups are an alternative way to connect with your audience. What’s the difference? Thinks of groups as a more collaborative effort. Where a Facebook Page is about you and your message, a group is a place where everyone can talk. When done right, it can be a very lively and engaged community of loyal members. It comes, however, with a few disadvantages. Notably:
- You must have a personal Facebook profile connected to it. You know, the one where you post nothing but dog memes and inspirational quotes! So if you don’t want anyone to know about it, then be careful here.
- Those Analytics and insights that a Facebook Page brings? You won’t find them here. You only get very basic analytics about your group.
Many authors are starting to move towards having both a group page and a normal page--especially as their audience grows larger.
A Digital Billboard for Your Author Brand?
Advertising used to be something you did when you had a few thousand dollars to blow; while print ads will still cost you thousands of dollars, digital ads cost only a few cents. You can set a marketing budget on Facebook for less than a cup of coffee. Because of the low cost, it’s an easy way to experiment with your message and see what works and what doesn’t. That’s not to say it should be taken lightly. Do your homework. Research how Facebook ads work. You may only be spending a few dollars, but that’s still no reason not to spend it the right way. Facebook lets you target your ads as well; this means once you know who your audience is, you can more successfully promote your book to them. You could do an ad, for example, that reaches only men between the age of 21 and 27 who like Joseph Heller's Catch-22.
Because Instagram is a part of Facebook, ads run through the same place. That will save you a lot of time when you're thinking about an ad campaign.
The Facebook Algorithm was built in away that it encourages you to pay to play—really the only way to ensure more than 2% of your audience sees your message is to buy ads. It’s easy to see it as just another place to waste time and not get anything in return. And it is...when you do it wrong. But when you spend the time to map out an actual Facebook strategy, then you will find that your book promotion goes further and your fans start becoming much more loyal—not only buying one of your books, but buying all of them—and telling all of their friends to do the same.