Month after month, Facebook and Twitter are the top sources of traffic for my site (after the Big G and its search engine, of course). If we consider that I spend much less time on Facebook than Twitter (I usually post to my FB author page 3 or 4 times a week, versus using Twitter incessantly throughout the day, because I’m become a tweet-happy addict), then Facebook is the clear winner when it comes to time spent versus results delivered. I should also point out that I don’t post links to my site on Facebook very often, so all of this traffic (1,000+ visitors in January out of about 23,000 total) comes via two or three updates a month.
And is getting traffic to my site a win insofar as book sales goes? It’s hard to say if the folks who come in via social media outlets are buyers (I suspect many have already bought), but it’s a rare day that I don’t have at least a couple of sales at Amazon (monitored via the affiliate links I provide to my own books) that originate on my blog. Sales aside, I believe that having an oft-visited Facebook page gives you a lot of brand-building benefits that aren’t easily quantifiable.
So, what’s the trick to doing well with Facebook as an author?
I’m not a guru (though am I dorky enough to listen to social media marketing podcasts), but here are a few things that work for me:
- Create a Facebook “Page“ — This is different from your personal FB account, which requires you “friending” people (and perhaps revealing more of your life than you’d wish to relative strangers) so that they can follow you fully. Pages are specifically for businesses, organizations, artists, bands, authors, etc. and can be followed simply by giving a thumb’s up. Once someone “likes” your page, you can keep in touch with them, letting them know about new releases, updates to stories, character interviews or other extras you’ve posted on your blog, etc. (Note: because of something called EdgeRank — see the infographic below — less than 20% of the people who like your page will see all of your updates, but you can pay a few dollars to “promote a post” that you want everyone to see, such as the announcement of a book release. There are also things you can do — keep reading! — to increase the number of people who naturally see your updates.)
- Include the link to your page in the backs of your books (especially useful for ebooks, where people can click directly from their e-readers) and ask readers to click like — As an author, this is really the only place you should be asking for likes. These are the people who have already enjoyed your stories, so these are the ones you want following you, thus allowing them to easily learn when you have more books out for them to grab. Many authors get this backward, believing that lots of Facebook likes will translate into lots of new people buying their books. I get lobbied for likes often from authors I’ve never heard of — a like from me would be meaningless because I have no relationship with you or your work. In short, you don’t want likes from people who never plan to visit your page again — due to the way Facebook’s algorithms judge share-worthy updates, this could even negatively affect your promotion efforts. (For those who are trying to figure out how to get more people to buy their books to start with, I’ve done lots of other posts on that topic; try 7 Reasons You’re You’re Not Selling Many Books for starters)
- Update regularly — This one’s fairly obvious. If you abandon your Page for months and only start making posts again two weeks before a book release, it’ll be as if you’re starting over from scratch. Because people haven’t interacted with your page in ages, they’ll no longer be seeing your updates. You don’t have to post a lot, but shoot for a couple of entries a week. If you’re already blogging about things that are of interest to your readers, some of your Facebook updates can simply be links to your blog. Here’s my author page if you want to take a look at how I roll.
- Make sure some of your updates encourage interaction — More people will see your updates in the future if you get more likes and (especially) comments on your existing updates. You can encourage interaction by ending your post with a question. For example, I got 78 comments last month on a quick question asking people what they were reading. (I got some ideas for new books to check out too!) I won’t do a question every time, as I figure it’s good to mix things up, but this is a great way to get comments, encourage conversations, and start to build a community (sometimes your visitors will start interacting with each other). All of these things make people more likely to visit again.
- Keep things interesting for people who have already read your book(s) — Because so many authors are trying to use Facebook as a place to sell their books to new people (I’ve already discussed why I don’t think this is that practical), they often post reviews or sales-pitchy tidbits from their existing book(s). Hey, there’s nothing wrong with throwing a character quotation or something in once in a while, but you should assume that the people who are most likely to follow you on Facebook are already familiar with your work. Think about the types of cool things you can post for fans who’ve already read everything that you have out. They may be hoping for teasers from the next book, links to author/character interviews, updates on how the next book is coming along, etc.
At the end of the day, you want to make your Facebook page a cool destination for existing fans, not a marketplace stall where all you’re trying to do is sell the books you have out. (Don’t worry, if you make your page a fun destination with an active community, the word will spread — i.e. people will share your updates — and new folks will be exposed to your online presence in a way that makes them want to check out your books.)
Bonus material for marketing geeks who really want to get Facebook: