Until very recently, I would have said yes, they definitely should; spread oneself as widely as possible in order to reach the largest and most diverse audience possible. Then Facebook went and changed their algorithms and I changed my mind.
Tut-tut Facebook, go to your room immediately!
The Author As A Brand (Oh Yes You Are…)
It’s now vastly more difficult for small brands – and yes, you ARE a brand – to gain visibility and thereby increase the number of their fans. This is because Facebook now prioritises content posted by the people who users interact and engage with the most.
OK, even I had to read that 3 times before I got it, and I wrote it. So let’s have a look at what this means, with the help of a very pertinent example.
Miss Arabella’s Owl Emporium catered for a gentleman’s every owl-related need (stop sniggering in the back!) Owl-grooming kits, owl-stretchers and owl headgear could all be procured from this august establishment. To cater to the younger audience, the redoubtable Miss Arabella launched herself upon Facebook. I devoured the updates on the latest in the owling world with each and every fresh piece of news. However – I only ever clicked a link if I were in the market for a new owl-stretching kit or some winter headgear for my feathered friend. Not a terribly frequent occurrence, I’ll admit.
Similarly, I very rarely (if ever) shared any of these posts. My Facebook community comprises mostly friends and family. They care about the news of Great-Uncle Stanley arriving unscathed at the source of the Zambezi. They care about the photo of Cousin Emily’s daring new frock which ends almost indecently short of the ankle.
The do not, sadly, care a great deal about owls.
This proved to be a death-knell for Miss Arabella’s Owl Emporium in exactly the same way as it is killing off the traffic to many author pages. Unless your audience actively likes, shares and comments on a frequent basis your updates will swiftly stop appearing in their news feeds. And if they can’t see you, they can’t share you around.
How Can You Do This To Us?!
This is entirely intentional on Facebook’s part. After all, brands do still have a means of reaching a much wider audience, by paying for ads. Now, before you decry the callous commercialism of this move, pause for thought. It’s one of the largest and most popular web properties in the history of the internet. And it’s free. All of it, always, for all of us. Maintaining a presence of this magnitude is no cheap endeavour – Facebook needs to raise funds from somewhere and brands are a prime source of income. We writers, and other small independent creative enterprises, simply get caught in the fall-out of a justifiable commercial decision.
The silver lining to this particular cloud is that, if you’ve watched the reach and apparent popularity of your Facebook posts plummet as swiftly as a plucked owl, it’s almost certainly not your fault.
What, then, can you do to revive your Facebook fortunes? And, indeed, should you bother?
- One: you could pay to buy some ads. Here’s a tip: DON’T DO THIS! Seriously. Unless you’re already well known, you’ll be paying to advertise to a motley bunch of Facebook users who neither know nor care who you are or what you have to say. I know it’s harsh, but it’s true. Here, take a tissue, let’s all have a little weep together, then we’ll move on. Feeling tickety-boo again? Jolly good.
- Two: you could give up on Facebook altogether and focus your efforts elsewhere. My own author page has languished for some time now, becalmed upon a sea of indifference. Other marketing channels are growing my audience far more effectively for the same amount of effort. This doesn’t mean I’m not planning to rejuvenate the page at some point, but I currently have other fish to fry. Those crafty elves at Facebook are constantly tweaking and hammering and twiddling behind the scenes, so lay low and watch what happens. I would wager the situation will improve in due course; particularly as FB find other sources of income…
- Three: if you have a substantial number of fans already, you may decide that your best strategy is to find a way of working the algorithms in your favour. In which case, more power to your elbow and let the winds take you where they may! If you do decide to press on, the key to keeping your updates front and centre in people’s newsfeeds is to create compelling content which is too good to ignore. Facebook isn’t trying to punish us, after all, it simply seeks to reward creativity and innovation. And we’re writers aren’t we? Surely creativity, compelling content and audience engagement are what we do? You bloomin’ bet they are!
In a nutshell, if you’re in the early-mid stages of building your author platform and growing an audience, Facebook probably isn’t going to do you terribly much good right at the moment. Unless you’re friends with JK Rowling, in which case, please do say hello from me (she can find me @jfcliffs on Twitter, thanks).
If, on the other hand, you already have a cornucopia of doting fans, ensure you have a robust and engaging content strategy to guard against follower attrition.
Now, blogging best practice states that one should always finish with a question, to promote discussion. So, let’s finish with a question shall we?