Feeding the Facebook Beast

Yesterday, I talked about how Facebook is not the great promotional tool we authors had been led to believe, and yet some people do exceedingly well on the site. The truth is, Facebook is a beast that feeds on content. It needs a never-ending source of funny, inspiring, informative, controversial, topical, and brief posts that engage users and keeps them liking, sharing, and commenting. The more a post is shared, liked, and commented on, the more visible the post becomes. (Facebook uses something called EdgeRank to keep track of all this, which seems similar to Amazon’s algorithms. Amazon, like Facebook, rewards those who are doing well with additional visibility. In the same way, rich celebrities who already have everything they need, get free perks just because they are rich celebrities.)

When someone interacts in any way with a post on a fan page, for example, it shows up the feed of their friends, but the originator of the content gets the credit. And so the content provider gets more reach, and because they get more reach, Facebook will ensure that this continues by letting more and more fans see the posts, which increases the page reach of the content provider. Because, of course, without content, FB will starve since its users will go where they can find funny inspiring, informative, controversial, topical, and brief posts — places such as Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, or whatever the next big thing will be.

If you don’t have such engaging posts, then even if you have 1500 fans, only about 1% will ever see what you post. If you want to know what attracts attention, look no further than your own feed. What do you see that has been shared a hundred times, a thousand times? What have you laughed at, commented on, shared? Photos with funny, inspiring, informative, controversial, topical, and brief commentary, that’s what. (Well, you do unless you’re a curmudgeon like me, and then such content simply annoys you. If I see one more animal with baby-talk captions, acting like a human, I will probably scream so loud, it will reverberate through the center of the earth and cause earthquakes on the other side of the world.)

All this research the past couple of days into the workings of Facebook has given me a few ideas of what to do with my fan page — contests, questions, quotes from my books, even . .  gasp . . . photos with captions.

Have You Ever Wondered How Amazon’s Algorithms Work?

Amazon has always mystified me, not just how they rank books but how some people who seldom promote manage to sell thousands of copies of their books, and others who seem to promote just as much languish at the bottom of the sales ranks. Today I learned two things.

1) Studies have shown that the number of reviews a book has on Amazon makes a difference, but their worth is still debatable, especially since so many people have found a way around Amazon’s rules. Not only are reviews for sale, but a single Amazon reviewer posted over 23,000 reviews in a single year.  It’s taken me a lifetime to read almost that many books!!

A fellow author sent me the link to a new Harvard Study with a note that the study shows customer reviews have just as much weight as professional reviews, but the study does not say that. According to an article at The Big River Review, “Though reporting in newspapers and blogs seems to present the work as a vindication of the current Amazon review environment, the study is not about, nor does it present itself as being about, the relative veracity or reliability of the two forms of reviews in the present day. It is about editorial favoritism related to the top 100 books from 2004-2007.” If you are interested in learning more about the dangers of Amazon’s review policy, please check out this website. Very interesting! http://www.thebigriverreview.com/

2) Amazon has two lists, a bestsellers list and a popularity list. The bestseller list reflects the number of sales in the past 24 hours, while the popularity list reflects the number of sales plus the price of the book for the past 30 days. Which is why giving away books might put you high on the bestseller lists but keep you off the popularity lists. Being high on the popularity lists can account for thirty to forty book sales a day. (You can find the entire article here: Updates to Amazon’s Book Ranking Algorithms: The Death of 99-Cent Ebooks? An End to KDP Select Perks?)

I still haven’t learned how to get on the lists, though. Obviously, selling a ton books helps, but that skill eludes me.

On the chance that reviews will help, I will be glad to send a coupon for a free ebook to anyone willing to review one of my books. Just let me know which one you would like.