Given that my day job is head of content for Social Media Today, meaning that I essentially get paid to analyze and write about social media and digital marketing trends, I often get asked by fellow authors about the best ways to use social media for promotion.
And the answer is that it’s not easy – social media is not a quick-fix that will suddenly get you millions of fans overnight. But it can be hugely valuable, and increasingly so, given the rising use of social platforms, particularly in terms of product recommendations and discovery.
No matter how you look at it, you kind of have to do it, at least in some form. Realistically, most of us are still working to establish a fan base, and we need all the help we can get – and social media can definitely be a help in this respect.
So, in a previous post, I went over how authors can utilise Twitter for book promotion – and that seems like a lot of work, right?
But you don’t need to bother with Twitter, it’s only got a fraction of the users that Facebook has – everyone and their dog (literally in some cases) has a Facebook profile.
Facebook is where it’s at, where authors should really focus their promotional efforts. Right?
Well, kind of, depending on how you look at it – and really, what works best for your audience.
And that’s an important distinction – it doesn’t matter which platforms you might like more or less, it’s where your audience is at that you need to be.
So how can authors make best use of Facebook? Here are some pointers.
1. Create a Facebook business profile
First off, you can’t be using your personal profile for book promo.
Your personal profile is where you share updates with your family and friends, where your personal connections can link up with you. You don’t want to mix up your book fans and personal connections.
You also need a business profile to run Facebook ads, which, as we’ll cover, you’ll probably want to do at some stage.
Facebook business profiles are where you can showcase yourself as a writer, and if you’re seriously looking to promote your work on the platform, you need one, bottom line.
Select ‘Community or Public Figure’, then enter your name and your category (‘Author’) and you’ll be on your way.
Note: You’ll also need to set a Facebook Page URL name at some stage (i.e. https://www.facebook.com/andrewhutchinsonauthor/), or Facebook will just give you a generic one. This is not a huge deal, but it can make your Page easier to find – and it looks better.
You can edit your Page name in the ‘About’ section at the left of your Page screen.
2. Share updates that relate to your writing life
What I mean by this is, don’t share the same updates on your business page as you would on your personal profile.
Your readers, and target readers, don’t care about your cute cat or your holiday snaps – unless, of course, they directly relate to your work. Keep it confined to your book-related news, and create specific posts for your Facebook Page. Don’t cross-post. Each platform is very different. Create unique updates, related to writing, for your Facebook Page.
Tim Winton is a good example of this.
Tim shares content related to his work, articles he’s written, publishing news – basically, nothing’s off-topic, and that’s important, because it will ensure that those who do follow your writing page get updates about your writing, which is what they’re following you for.
3. Don’t overpost
One of the key rules to stick to on Facebook is ‘don’t overpost’.
Your fans are following your Page to keep in touch with your latest news, but they don’t need ten updates a day cluttering their feeds.
As noted earlier, people generally use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family – along with some brands and celebrities in between. Go overboard, and you’ll run the risk of them unfollowing – and what’s more, you really don’t need to post too much.
Sure, you want to maintain activity, and ensure that you stay front of mind with potential readers. But you’re not releasing a new book every day, there’s no urgent need to keep them informed of every single thing in order to guide them towards the local book store.
For most authors, Facebook is about maintaining connection with your readers, as opposed to hard selling. Keep them updated with a consistent stream of news, but don’t overdo it.
Matthew Reilly is a good example of this.
Reilly has over 61k Facebook followers, and he regularly sees high engagement on his posts. Of course, Matt benefits from his established fan base, which you likely don’t have, but his approach to Facebook is consistent, measured and about right for maintaining connection with his fans (note too that he also recently launched a new YouTube channel, showing that even the big players need to maintain activity, and move with the times. If you are going to record video content, however, it’s better to upload it to each platform direct for optimal performance, as opposed to linking off to another platform, as Matt has done here).
Matt posts to his Facebook Page once per week, in general, ramping that up around book launch dates/events. That’s a pretty solid guideline to follow – and that’ll still give you plenty of time to, you know, write stuff, as opposed to spending your days maintaining your social streams.
Also, a few notes here on Facebook’s mysterious algorithm.
Whenever you’re talking about Facebook posting practices, someone always arcs up with their sudden advanced PhD in machine learning, and starts talking about how Facebook’s algorithm works and defines reach.
There are a lot of misconceptions here, but the key pointers you probably need are:
- While you shouldn’t overpost, every one of your followers won’t see every one of your posts anyway. Facebook’s algorithm will show your posts to a selection of people who follow your Page, and then, if they engage with it, it’ll show more. The system is built to maximize engagement, so if your posts are generating likes and comments, more people will see them. This means that sparking engagement with your updates is important, but not more important than maintaining connection to your author brand (i.e. posting relevant stuff).
- This also means that, theoretically, you can post more often, as it’s not like you’re going to flood your audience anyway. I would advise against this, but you could post several times a day and it wouldn’t necessarily be a major problem – though it probably won’t help much either.
- The performance of your past posts does relate to your future updates – so if you have a post that goes viral, your next post after that will subsequently also see a reach boost. Some try to utilise this by posting trending memes and inspirational quotes that will generate likes, even if they aren’t related to their broader branding goals. Facebook knows that people do this, and its system will correct for it if detected. It also clutters up your Page, turns off real fans, and even if it does expand your reach, it likely won’t help you connect with people who will actually purchase your books. So, you can try this, but a longer-term, consistent approach will, eventually, lead to better results.
- There’s a rumour that Facebook’s algorithm gives a reach boost to posts which include words like ‘engagement’, ‘married’, ‘new job’, ‘big news’, ‘baby’ and various others. This is – or at least was – true, but it’s also not likely to be a major help (Facebook reportedly implemented this after CEO Mark Zuckerberg complained that he missed a post from a friend who’d had a baby).
- Hashtags don’t really work on Facebook, which is another reason why you shouldn’t cross-post from other platforms.
- Recency is an algorithm consideration, so it’s worth keeping an eye on your analytics and checking when your audience is active. Post when more people are online, and theoretically, more of them will see it – but it is also worth noting that many brands have also seen good results when they post in quieter times, as there are fewer updates in the stream vying for attention
Basically, Facebook wants to keep people on-site as long as possible, and it does so by showing people more of the content that they’re interested in. Post what people want to see and you’ll be on the right track – but even more than that, post what people who buy your books want to see and you’ll work towards establishing a stronger platform for promotion.
4. Use Audience Insights
Not everyone knows about Facebook’s Audience Insights, which is terrible because Facebook can connect you with so much helpful info, if you know where to look.
If you have a Facebook Page, and you go to this link, you’ll be able to access Audience Insights, which will show you who the fans of your Page are – where they live, how old they are, and other demographic insights.
That’s helpful, but if you’re just starting out, you’re likely looking at an audience of your friends and family, not necessarily your target, book-buying audience.
But here’s where it gets interesting – along with your own page, you can also look up other interests on Facebook, including other authors. And along with demographic insights, it’ll also show you what other things their fans are interested in.
So if I look up an author who I like, whose readers I think might also like my stuff, I can check out what interests them, giving me a better profile of my target book market.
As you can see here, I’ve created a new audience of fans of American author Chuck Palahniuk, limited to those within Australia. Now I can see what other Pages Palahniuk fans like, and based on this, I could post more content that ties into these interest areas in order to boost my potential appeal, or I could use them in my ad targeting, which, given Facebook’s advanced targeting options, I’m probably going to use around launch time.
Which is the next point:
5. Use Facebook ads
I know. I know you don’t want to spend a heap.
I get it – we’re authors, and the majority of us are not raking in the cash from out fat royalty checks and movie deals.
I know you don’t have a heap to spend on promo, but given the advanced audience targeting options available, and unmatched potential reach, Facebook ads can be a great option.
As noted in the previous point, you can target your ads to fans of authors whose work is similar to yours, or around common interests that you find among their fans.
As you can see here, for this (mock) campaign, I’m targeting an audience of people who are interested in movies and TV shows which I think are kind of similar to the themes of my novel ONE. You’ll also note that I’ve also excluded people who are interested in book genres that are not related to what I write.
You should opt for in-feed ads – no one checks those right-rail updates – and if you have a visual ad, you can also include Instagram Stories placement (though I would advise that you create specific campaigns for each platform).
It’s not an exact science, and you should probably run a couple of ad variations to see what works best. You can then stop the ones that don’t produce (after, say, a week) and re-allocate your budget to those that are gaining traction.
You should also optimize for awareness where possible, as you want to make as many people as possible aware of your book, as opposed to driving viewers back to a landing page, as such.
Use a page on your website, or your publishers’, and see what results you get. It may be hard to accurately measure, as you won’t know whether seeing your ad results in a subsequent book store visit. But with fewer bookshops, and fewer festivals and media opportunities, awareness is key.
Facebook ads can be great for this.
6. Get More Page Fans
But hang on, I hear you say, all of these tips relate to functionally operating a Facebook Page, but if you don’t have any followers, you’re talking to no one.
So how do you build your audience in order to maximize engagement?
Getting more people to Like your Page takes work, but here are a couple of options you could consider, depending on how hard you want to push your promotions.
- First, you’re going to get your family and friends to Like your Page, which will give you a starting point. This is not always ideal, because your family and friends are likely not your ideal target, book-buying audience (which can skew your Page data), but you can prompt them to share with friends, which will give you a base to work from. And either way, they’re going to Like your Page anyway. Best to try and use it to advantage
- If you have an email list, send out a link to your Facebook Page, or if you’re in any writers’ groups, clubs, organizations and they have an email newsletter, maybe query them to see if they might be able to include a link
- Share the link to your Facebook Page on your other social media profiles if you have them
- Make a list of Facebook book groups that might be interested in your book, then contact the admins offering to do a Q and A or similar event. You won’t hear back from all of them, but it may be another avenue to boost promotion, particularly around launch date (note that around half of all Facebook users are active in at least one Facebook group)
- You could consider running a giveaway to help promote your book. There are specific rules around Facebook giveaways, but you are allowed to ask people to Like your Page to enter a competition, which could be another way to boost your following.
- Blogging and guest-blogging are additional ways in which you can help get the word out, and make more people aware of your broader online presence.
- It’s worth leaning on writer friends to ask them to Like or share your Facebook Page, particularly if they’re established, as that will help get your name in front of more readers.
- Add social media buttons to your website, so people can easily find your related profiles.
- If you post a picture from an event, make sure you tag the host and any other authors in the image, which can lead to re-shares and more exposure.
- Visuals are important. Still image posts perform better than basic text updates on Facebook, while videos can generate a heap of engagement. As such, a video preview of some kind could be worth the investment, while Facebook Live Q and A sessions are another thing to consider
- Quizzes and polls also generate engagement and can be tied into the key themes of your book
- Tara Moss shares some great visual posts, if you were looking for examples, while she also uses the slideshow option for her Facebook Page background image, enabling her to showcase more of her work. This is a good option – but if/when you do update your profile images, keep your phone handy so you can ensure that it looks good on mobile and desktop devices
- Also, ensure all your profile details are filled out, and that you have the ‘Author’ Page category selected (this will help interested people find your Page)
That’s the basics of an effective author presence on Facebook. There are, of course, other elements you could consider – like Facebook Stories – but as a jumping-off point, this outline should position you to help build an engaging, effective presence to help you maintain connection with more readers.