Why Facebook is Not the Great Promotional Tool It Once Was

Are you one of those authors who joined Facebook, hoping to find fame and fortune, and have only found . . . Facebook?

After my books were accepted for publication, and while I waited for them to become available, I spent a lot of time researching how to promote online. The first unanimous suggestion was to get a website, the second was to maintain a blog, and the third, of course, was to create a presence on social networking sites. I’d already done the first two, so that left the third option. How hard could networking be? Add the maximum number of friends, post status updates and blog links, create discussion groups as a way to get to know other authors. Sounded like fun.

At first, it worked the way it was supposed to — I made a lot of friends, had some great discussions, promoted my online release party via Facebook and MySpace. I even sold some books.

And then . . . nothing. Sure, I still had friends, but sales dropped off, and when my next release party came around, almost no one stopped by. (By then, MySpace was practically defunct — everyone I met on MySpace had migrated to Facebook.)

Many authors have had the same experience as I did. So what happened? Why, after all those articles about how great Facebook was for promotion, didn’t we get the results we hoped for? Because of the ever-changing face of Facebook, that’s why.

When I joined Facebook, it was at the tag end of the free-for-all, where anyone could post anything and all of your “friends” would see it. Events and requests to “like” a page weren’t hidden in your notifications as they are now, but were almost impossible to miss. You pretty much had to respond one way or another. Groups were much more effective than they are now. Group administrators could send a message to everyone in the group, and there were group discussions boards (which is what I used the group messaging for — to announce the weekly discussion).

One by one, all the functional parts of Facebook (those that worked best for promotion, that is) have disappeared, to be replaced by . . . not much of anything, actually. If you post something on your fan page, it shows up in the news feed of only a small percentage of people. They say 10%, but it’s more like 2%. My current reach — the maximum number of people per week who could have seen my posts — is 285. Considering that I post something every day, that means FB shows each post to only about 40 people a day, which is a very small fraction of my 1487 “likes.” If I want more people to see my posts, I can pay to get more views. Bizarre, isn’t it?

I don’t know the statistics for profile views since they aren’t posted on the site, but going by my own feed, not many people at all see anything — just the same few people every day. And now that anyone has the ability to shut off the posts of anyone they want, you could be seeing their posts, and they won’t see anything of yours.

Apparently, Facebook read the same books and articles we did about how to promote on the site, and they are doing everything they can to prevent our promotion efforts from being very effective. (They want to be the only ones making money.)

The first self-published millionaire who subsequently wrote the book about how to make a million via FB, cheated by maxing out multiple accounts — you can only have 5000 friends, so he had more than one account going at the same time. But that should come as no surprise now that he has been outed as having purchased scads of reviews.

So, if you are not getting the results you hoped for by promoting your books on Facebook, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not your fault at all. It’s the fault of all those who came first and scammed the system before you had a chance.

13 Responses to “Why Facebook is Not the Great Promotional Tool It Once Was”

  1. cerealauthors Says:

    Good points made here Pat! I’ve spoken not only to authors but business owners as well who say Facebook isn’t worth the investment. Just recently GM pulled millions of dollars out their Facebook campaigns because it wasn’t resulting in any real return on their investment. Now if GM, a company that has millions of dollars isn’t seeing results, what does that say to the rest of us?

    Also, another point I want to make is that internet marketers are calling social media followers/friends “soft connections” meaning, you really can’t expect much more than a like or share from Facebook. Now what does that equal in sales? 0.

  2. legionwriter Says:

    I’ve heard these complaints quite a bit from people who were used to what used to work for promoting via Facebook. Apparently, there are some folks out there who’ve managed to make the changes work to their advantage. I have a customer who owns a cleaning biz who used to do pretty well gaining customers through Facebook. After the recent changes, it’s like his business hit overdrive. He showed me his numbers yesterday, and his reach is currently over 2million. His techniques are so effective, he’s now teaching classes at a local college for what he does.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      That’s the inconsistency of Facebook — at the same time they are professing to be about individuals connecting to individuals, they are taking away the various features individuals used, making it easier for commercial enterprises to profit.

  3. Carrie Rubin Says:

    I was glad to read this article as I’m straddling the fence on whether to join Facebook or not to help promote my upcoming book. I’ve held back because I’m busy enough with my blog and Twitter, and I don’t want to take even more time away from my writing. I’ve read posts by other authors who also feel Facebook hasn’t been worthwhile. I guess I’ll wait and see how things go. Right now, I feel like my blog and some serious local marketing are the way to go.

  4. It's only P! Says:

    I am amazed by the maze that the internet has become. And then cheaters too? Yeah, I guess, it’s just like real life except it’s all spinning at a much faster frequency. I don’t see how people see the wood for the trees. It seems like a full-time devotion to sell one’s self-published book. Reading your information, I’m grateful I’ve never entertained that option. I wish you all the best.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I’m not self-published. The truth is, that nowadays, most publishers expect their authors to promote. But yes, you’re right — the internet has become an ever increasing maze.

  5. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Like I said, I have no use for Facebook. I actually wrote an article on that, and it got published. Shows how much other people might agree with me.

  6. joylene Says:

    I’d like to quit FB, I have for some time. But it helps me keep track of what my children are up to. I get firsthand pics of grandchildren too. But everything you said is right. Which actually has always puzzled me. Why are we marketing to other writers? Everybody knows writers are poor and can only afford “free” books.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Do you hang out at any other sites, or mostly stick with blogging?

      I’m playing my own FB game — I’m going through my friends, and if I’m been connected to them for more than two or three years, and they never once responded to anything I’ve done, I delete them. (Some people have mentioned that I never respond to anything they do, but most of my “friends” are people who requested the connection, so the onus is on them.)

    • shadowoperator Says:

      Maybe the “marketing to other writers” has less to do with actually selling to other writers than it does with coming into contact with others knowledgeable about writing whom you can recommend and who can recommend you. And sooner or later, I guess we all come into contact with a larger circle of people, including those who might actually buy and read some of our books. Keep the faith!

  7. lvgaudet Says:

    It does seem to be a bit of a catch-22.

    On one hand Facebook is the most used online social networking site.
    On the other hand, it has upgraded itself completely out of usefulness for it’s original purpose – to be a social networking site.

    As with any other medium for advertising, I think the trick is learning how to make it work for you. Unfortunately, just as you might have a chance of figuring that out they’re already rolling out the next change that likely makes all your efforts wasted.

    The best thing I saw was on one of the kids t.v. shows where they did a spoof on Twitter. The girl was trying so hard to sound interesting and intelligent and was getting nowhere. Turned out the trick was to post the rediculously inane. The boy posts something lame like “I’m thinking about pie” and gets 300 instant hits.

    I think it’s more true to the medium of online social networking than they may have intended.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      L.V. — you’re exactly right. As soon as I learn how to use the newest version of Facebook to my advantage (perhaps), they roll out a new newest version.

      The spoof of Twitter is not much of a spoof. That’s the sort of inane thing that catches on. The only things catchier are comedic comments. That’s what I was referring to by my ending sentences. I could learn to garner likes and such on facebook with inanities, but the inanity could draw the sort of people who wouldn’t like my books, so then where would I be? I’m thinking of going the opposite direction and posting things to appeal to the more erudite, but that’s not my audience, either.

      Sticking to socializing isn’t much good, since as you pointed out, Facebook has upgraded iself beyond usefulness as a social networking site. And it’s getting way too commercial. I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m still searching.

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