By Iola Goulton
What do people use Facebook for?
Yesterday I looked at the three types of Facebook pages: Profiles, Pages, and Groups, and the three types of Groups: Public, Closed, and Secret. I also gave some examples of each. Today I’m going to look at how you should—and shouldn’t—use Facebook for self-promotion. First, let’s look at what users want from Facebook.
What do people like on Facebook?
The American Christian Fiction Writers Facebook course I’m currently taking assigned us a task: to survey our target readers and ask them five questions:
1. How often do you check your Facebook newsfeed?
2. What do you most like to see in your newsfeed?
3. What do you least like to see in your newsfeed?
4. Why do you "like" a page?
5. What is your favorite "fan" page? Why is that?
I have two groups of target readers, one for my fiction and one for my non-fiction. I posted these five questions on my personal author page and in the Australasian Christian Writers group, and got sixteen responses. I know these aren’t statistically valid samples: the respondents are biased towards people who use Facebook a lot, and there is self-selection bias as well.
But my results are consistent both with what I would have expected, and with the results my ACFW classmates posted (what I found unexpected was how many of my classmates were surprised by the results. This could explain the content of some of their Facebook feeds …).
How often do you check your Facebook newsfeed?Responses ranged from “daily” to “several times an hour” (to the person who blushed at admitting to ten times a day: you have nothing to be embarrassed about). This sample is probably biased in that people who aren’t on Facebook at least daily probably wouldn’t have seen the post.
What do you most like to see in your newsfeed?There were a lot of similarities in the answers to this question:
- News from family and friends
- Inspirational posts (e.g. memes and videos)
- Book or reading jokes (I also like grammar jokes)
- Prayer requests (well, I did ask Christians)
- Updates from favourite pages
- Information and articles about writing and publishing (from the writers)
- Information about personal interests (which vary by individual but include jewelry making, TV shows, science, craft ideas, and recipes).
Oddly enough, no one said “advertisements for books”, although people did mention links to free books or links to great books they could share.
What do you least like to see in your newsfeed?There were also a lot of similarities in the answers to this question:
- Political posts and rants
- Advertisements and excessive self-promotion (although a post or two to announce a new book appears to be fine)
- Selfies, especially duck-face selfies (I do like classy selfies. But I agree about duck-face selfies)
- Disrespectful posts or vitriol or posts that attack individuals (which is different from respectful disagreement over real issues)
- Disturbing pictures (e.g. smut, cruelty to animals)
- Scam posts (click this to win or share this if you want a blessing or repost this to show you care)
Why do you "like" a page?Most people like pages either because they’re interested in the product or service or information provided, or because they want to support the page owner. This is good to know: your friends and fans want to support you.
What is your favorite "fan" page? Why is that?One person asked “what is a fan page?”. I hope I answered that yesterday! The most common response was that they don’t have a favourite page.
Many writers said they like to visit writing groups (such as ACW). Others named specific pages, either author pages or the pages of other relevant communities. One person commented that they like the pages where the author interacts with fans and shows something of their personality, but don’t like the pages which are “into shameless self-promotion”.
Overall . . .The results were consistent between the ACW members, and the people who answered via my personal page, suggesting that writers aren’t too different from non-writers in the way they use Facebook as individuals . . . which raises questions about the writer I mentioned yesterday, who posts to 100 groups each day.
How not to self-promoteAs an aside, while I was procrastinating over writing this blog post, I checked out the 100+ groups this author is a member of (thanks to the fact the author doesn’t seem to avail herself of Facebook’s privacy settings). I’m a member of a few of the same groups, which are all promo-free or restrict self-promotion to once a week. One group had only two likes—one from the author herself, and another from her author page.
1. Focus on EngagementMost of the groups were nothing but self-promo and the posts had little or no engagement, suggesting all the posters follow the same spam-and-run model of self-promotion, and no one is looking for books to buy (which reflects the results of my highly unscientific survey).
Facebook rewards people who post engaging content (i.e. content which people react to, comment on, or share). By continually posting content which gets no engagement, this author might unintentionally be pushing herself further down the Facebook algorithm to the point where Facebook doesn’t show her posts to anyone. Instead, she should:
2. Focus on Original ContentIt was also evident that she—and others—are posting the same content over and over, something Facebook doesn’t like. Better to post less often, but to focus on posting original content her audience will engage with.
3. Target the Right UsersMost of the groups she posts in aren’t genre-specific groups: the author writes contemporary Christian women’s fiction, but her promotional posts were sandwiched between book covers featuring half-naked men and topless women, all in those shades of black and white so beloved of erotica authors. If this is the demographic these groups target, I’m not surprised members aren’t interested in down-home Christian women’s fiction.
If anyone would like a list of almost 100 groups that allow endless self-promotion and show little reader engagement, leave a comment! (Almost 100, because I’ve taken out the groups that don’t permit self-promotion, and the group she’s the only member of.)
There are ways of effectively self-promoting on Facebook. This is not one of them.
So how should we promote on Facebook?
Remember, it’s a social network. Be social:
- Have a personal profile and an author page, and don’t post the same content on both.
- Focus on engagement with posts over quantity of posts. Look for ways to connect with your target reader.
- Focus your content on your followers want: inspirational quotes, book sales and recommendations (not just your own books), personal news, and articles on relevant topics. You can use your Page Insights tool to see what specific posts get the most engagement.
- Self-promote only when you have something new to say: a new cover reveal, a new book available on pre-order, a new release, an older book on sale for a limited time.
- If you choose to pay for advertising, make sure you do it properly: aim for email list signups or book sales not page Likes, do some training first, learn how to target your ads, use targeting pixels, and calculate ROI on each campaign (if you don’t know what pixels are or why they are important . . . well, that’s why you need to get some training first).
(If you want information on Facebook advertising, check out this brilliant blog post—well, essay—from author Jeff Posey: Facebook Advertisements)
Overall, remember that spam is in the eye of the beholder (you might think you’re not spamming, but it’s not your view that counts. It’s the view of your current and potential readers). Focus on connecting with readers, ensure every post is something they will want to Like, Comment on, or Share.
Are you a Facebook fan? If not, which social network do you prefer, and why?