Navigating Facebook’s Changes
There’s been quite a bit of talk surrounding Facebook’s new algorithm changes as the social media giant seeks to address criticism of its platform, most notably during the 2016 Presidential US campaign. As Facebook attempts to return to its original model—that of connecting with friends and family—advertisers have been left scratching their heads at declined advertisements and lowered exposure.
So what does this mean for the author seeking to grow an audience and increase their sales?
- Organic reach has plummeted. The term organic refers to those that are currently following or have liked your author page. If you are posting to your author page without boosting, your post once reached those that followed/liked you at an average rate of 10%–meaning for every 100 followers you have, roughly 10 would see your post. Now that number has plummeted to nearly zero as Facebook’s algorithm places friends and families in the user’s newsfeed. To increase your organic reach:
- Interact with Followers. The more you personally interact with followers, the more they will interact with you. Additionally, if someone Likes, Comments or Shares your post, your future posts will continue to display in their newsfeeds—as long as they continue to interact. When they fail to respond, your posts are likely to disappear from their newsfeed.
- Post More Often. It’s been reported that some major brands post as many as 1,000 times a day. While that is way out of line with authors, if you post infrequently, they are less likely to be part of anyone’s newsfeed, as Facebook’s algorithm is based partly on the amount of time you spend on their platform, how many posts you make and how much you interact with others.
- Create Engaging Posts. The more thought-provoking your post is, the better the chances of others interacting with it. Include live video or recorded video and photographs for more interaction.
- Do NOT Include Engagement Bait. Asking viewers to Like, Comment or Share your post is considered Engagement Bait, and it can drop you from feeds entirely. This also includes asking viewers to vote or weigh in on a particular book cover design you or your publisher is considering.
- Advertising will get you into the newsfeed. You can advertise by boosting a post or through a regular ad. Keep in mind that Facebook’s revenue comes through advertising, and they will lose advertisers and revenue if your paid ads are not displaying to your targeted audience. With this in mind, however, Facebook is facing some major hurdles. In the past, advertising was self-service; an author could create an ad or boost a post and it would begin displaying within the hour. Because of the criticism Facebook has received, they have hired a staff whose jobs entail approving or disapproving ads. At the moment, their staff is completely overwhelmed and if your ad is rejected, it can take days for an appeal to be reviewed. In some instances, the appeal is ignored altogether. Here are some tips to ensure your ads are approved:
- Make your audience feel good. Because Facebook has received a great deal of negative publicity lately, users are beginning to grumble that they simply don’t feel good using it, especially those that spend more than a few minutes a day on social media. One of Facebook’s responses to this is to show only ads that make their audience feel positive. This is a challenge for self-help books, political or military books, or books that cover negative events such as genocide or abuse. You’ll need to reword your ad copy so it focuses on the positive.
- Don’t make it about your audience. This is actually the opposite of what every marketer has been trained to do. Whether you’re selling soft drinks, clothing, vehicles or books, professional marketers always turn the tables so the audience is their focus. Facebook will reject these ads now, and insist that you make it all about your service or product. So if you are advertising a book on traveling on a budget, you can no longer say, “Want to travel but don’t have a ton of money? Learn how to travel the world on pennies!” Instead, the ad must say something such as, “XYZ shows how to travel the world on pennies.” It’s harder for the reader to picture themselves in the ad.
- Don’t target specific groups in your verbiage. If your target market consists of gays or lesbians, women or men, the lonely, the romantic, the elderly—or any other group—you can’t mention them in your ad. You cannot use the words “you”, “your”, “like”, “others” or “another” without triggering red flags. For example, “Are you a romantic?” or “Do you love adventure?” will be flagged by the computer. Once it’s flagged, it’s automatically rejected. Though you can appeal it, which triggers a real person to personally review it, as mentioned above some appeals are going completely unanswered.
- Learn what Facebook will not promote. If your book is about tobacco, drugs, weapons, unsafe products or if it is for an adult audience (sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.), your best bet is to focus on something else in the book; otherwise, it could be flagged or rejected. A full list of Facebook’s guidelines is found at https://www.facebook.com/policies/ads/prohibited_content/
- Get in the News. Facebook has launched a Journalism Project which is dedicated to weeding out fake news while providing local, community news that users can interact with more readily. If you have received television, newspaper, magazine or radio coverage, you’re more likely to be included in newsfeeds for that local audience. It is currently available only in some cities but with plans to expand if feedback is positive.
- Create a Group. In addition to your Author Page, consider creating a book club to discuss aspects of your books. If your writing is in the genre of self-help, this can consist of a community of supportive people facing similar challenges—such as dealing with addiction, caregiving, weight loss or self-improvement. Consider ways in which others might wish to weigh in on aspects of your writing, such as historical backdrops, places of interest, cultural issues, travel or challenges your characters face. For now, groups are displaying in newsfeeds; however, stay away from current news and politics as these areas are receiving the most attention from computerized filters. Never add people to your group without first asking their permission.
- Never put all your eggs in one basket. Create other avenues for reaching your target market: Google AdWords, YouTube videos, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, GoodReads and other social networking sites. Write articles for a variety of blogs. Develop an email list and mailing list. Facebook should be only one of the items in your advertising arsenal.