5 Facebook Tips for Authors (and others)

Notebooks

Recently, we brushed up on blogging by reading The Golden Rules of Blogging and, as a result, cleaned up this blog’s look. You may have also noticed that we’ve been playing around on social media lately. We’ve both been on Facebook a long time, and we added a page there for Generation Space. We’ll continue to share on our personal pages, of course. And followers there can see “public” posts (whereas some posts are just for “friends”).

But we wanted a separate, shared space for the book, and we’re now trying to figure out how to use that Page. Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, a book by Gary Vaynerchuk, caught our eye at Barnes & Noble recently. While it’s designed for small businesses, it helped us think about who we are in our posts and what that does or does not have to do with the books we write.

Here are 5 things we learned about Facebook:

Content is king, but context is God. You can put out good content, but if it ignores the context of the platform on which it appears, it can still fall flat.

All of us on Facebook have probably seen what are really tweets there. Vaynerchuk’s underlying principle is that all social media content should be native. Even if your tweet and Facebook post convey the same information, they should each fit the format, style, and language of the specific platform. So, though Facebook now wants to incorporate hashtags, posts full of hashtags and lacking in punctuation still look out of place there.

Seeing how content fits the platform may be the best reason to have a Page in addition to a Profile (personal page). The analytics–or Insights–that Facebook provides for a Page can help you see which types of posts reach and engage more people. That’s a big difference than a Profile, where you can see the likes, shares, and comments, but you don’t get the overview with graphs and charts that tell you when you’re best matching content with context.

Of course, though a big part of any widely liked and shared post is content, the rest is mysterious, shifting algorithms no one can game over time. Is posting at 10 a.m. better than 2 p.m.? Are photo posts more popular than video posts? Is the occasional off-the-usual-topic post a strange hit? With a Page, you can start to figure that out, at least for a while, if you have the time.

For Facebook’s explanation of the difference between Profile and Page, go HERE.

Facebook ads in their current [2013] version are going the way of the dinosaur.

Who cares? We weren’t going to buy ads. But wait–

On our laptops, users still see ads in the right sidebar, but we also see game scores, trending news stories, and suggested friends or groups. On our phones, there’s no room for that right sidebar, and pop-up ads are irritating to click through. So anyone trying to promote something on Facebook needs to think about how to land in people’s news feeds.

In other words, it’s all about regular old posts, even when you have something to promote, like a book or an editing service. And we’ve been writing regular old posts for years.

So did we go wrong in creating a book Page? We don’t think so. For authors, it can be tough to negotiate the difference between friendliness and self-promotion, especially if you are using your Profile rather than a Page, either one for you as an author or one for a particular book (as we’re doing). Besides, we’re co-authors, so we wanted a presence together. In addition, there’s a lot of control over a Page, including the ability to queue up posts ahead of time, which was great for us going into a writing residency.

For Jane Friedman’s explanation of why to use a Profile (with the “follower” option) for author promotion instead of using a Page, go HERE.

Sponsored stories is a superior ad platform because it rewards nimbleness and quick reaction. When it shows that a piece of content is resonating, we know to spend money on it. 

Okay, it’s not only about regular old posts when it comes to a Page.

Facebook changes its algorithms regularly, but it’s clear that Page posts don’t get into our news feeds like Profile posts do. We’ve liked a lot of Author Pages, but we don’t see their posts very often. Facebook is (or appears to be) about Friends. So again, did we go wrong in creating a book Page?

Maybe. And that’s why we’re considering the occasional “boost” for given posts. Such a “sponsored story” gets the post in front of more people, including those who follow that Page but still wouldn’t see the post in their feeds. But a boost costs some money. Not a huge amount, but we see how it could add up if it’s a regular thing. Having a Page and never boosting a post, though, sounds like a waste of the initial effort. That makes sense if you think about a Page as a promotion tool (and, of course, Facebook wants to charge for that) and not merely as an extension of your personal Profile.

What Vaynerchuk thinks is great about this sponsored story option is that a person can see, via the Page Insights (real-time marketing data, as they say), when one post is performing a bit better than others and can then spend some money to boost that already well-performing post. On top of that, if a post is getting better “engagement” (likes, shares, comments) than other content vying for news feeds, Facebook will show it to more people without charging more because it’s proven itself as entertaining.

In other words, Facebook likes momentum. We’re rewarded when one of our posts creates interaction because Facebook likes to ride trends. (We’re also punished when our post falls short of the bar set by recent activity.) And, in the midst of this, all of us with Pages are left negotiating between how to be personable and how to be promotional.

Put your logo on your photo.

Very rarely do photos on Facebook contain a logo, a name, or a book title within the frame, and we’d certainly never thought to do this before. We’ve even let other people and organizations use our photos, with attribution but without considering where and how that photo will appear there or get shared later out of context. Vaynerchuk reiterates this advice–put your logo on your photo–over and over as he critiques a set of Facebook posts. It’s difficult not to start seeing the benefits of this IDing of one’s visual content.

Sure, a big logo would look cheesy and come across as a hard sell. But we’re considering adding the book title (or Twitter handle in the book title font) to our most treasured photos of following the end of Shuttle. That might work like an artist’s signature on a painting or as a signal that, when you look at one of our photos, you’re looking through our eyes at what we saw.

The point is to give and give and give, for no other reason than to entertain your customers and make them feel like you get them. And the more you give, the more you really will get them.

There are several ways to interpret this approach to marketing. For one, it encourages free content–give, give, give. Free content is great for readers, but it’s not great for writers who want to be paid for their hard work (even if that work is rewarding, as it often is for those of us who write). But that’s the cynical view, we’re talking about Facebook posts not books, and we’ve already given away tens of thousands of words on this blog for free.

Also underlying this approach is that marketing should not appear or feel any different to the customer than any other type of interaction. Successful corporate marketing on Facebook is about getting people to interact with the corporation as if it’s a person. But that’s the cynical view, too, and we’re individual authors not corporations.

As authors, the two of us really do want to share information and tidbits about the history and future of space exploration, right along with celebrating the book’s publication on the Page. So the real point is that authors should engage in Facebook for the sake of connecting with others on Facebook and not worry about book sales. That’s a lot like our approach to writing, in fact–the joy can’t lie only in some uncertain, distant payoff. If the joy isn’t in the doing, why would a person bother with Facebook or with writing?

All of this new advice echoes some of what we gleaned from a Writer’s Digest conference several years ago. Chuck Wendig, in fact, warned authors not to spend time on tasks they didn’t enjoy and that don’t pay off. Read more of that HERE.

There’s more to Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook than Facebook, so, if you’re on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, or other emerging networks, check it out for yourself.

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