Un-Friending Facebook


Using Facebook for author marketingDebate rages as to whether up-and-coming authors (yep, that’s us!) should set up Facebook pages as part of their marketing and promotion strategy.

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?


21 thoughts on “Un-Friending Facebook

  1. This is one of the few posts on this topic I’ve seen that actually acknowledges the need for FB to garner revenue. I’m not happy with how this has shaken out, and have no real love for FB, but that IS a reality. I belong to several FB groups whose members seem to think FB exists without a meant so pay its bills. Thanks for this even-handed piece.


    • Thanks for your comment Carol. It’s an emotive subject for many people and there’s a strong tendency to believe that the Internet is entirely free. I don’t think it’s FB’s smartest move, but I also believe they’ll figure out something which works better for their users – that’s their core business after all.


  2. I have had a FB “author” page for years, and it’s garnered very few “friends” in that time. My blog has been up for about 18 months, and in that time it has exceeded FB by an order of magnitude. At this point, I see Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, etc., as portals. I pump my blog posts out to those various portals, providing people (and hopefully readers) access to my wise-pearls via the venue they like best. Each portal has it’s own demographic–Reddit and Twitter are much younger than LinkedIn and Facebook–so some will be more successful than others, depending on your audience. However, while I wholeheartedly agree with the advice to NOT pay for ads on FB, I would say that abandoning FB altogether is a face-spiting-nose-cut move. I still have people who “find” me there. We few, we happy few.


    • Totally agree Kurt. I’m not proposing that anyone should abandon FB altogether, more that the major effort may be better focused elsewhere for now. Exactly as you’ve found with G+, Twitter etc. And if folks have the time to create good content for FB, then why not? Always be where your audience wants to find you, is my mantra.


  3. Reblogged this on Kurt R.A. Giambastiani and commented:
    While I still maintain a presence on Facebook and find it useful as a portal (similar to Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn and such), there is some good advice for the small-time author in this post from Jon over at Jumping From Cliffs. Be realistic about what each venue can provide, and don’t waste money on ads.


  4. Great article Jon! I’ve invested a great deal of time and energy on both my FB author and book pages. So for now I’m not going to give up on it. I will however, lay low for a little while and see what happens. 😉 Thank you!


  5. Like many, I have an ongoing struggle with FB and have ended my relationship with it more than once. I did create a page as an author, however, because I like having many irons in the virtual fire for promotional purposes.

    I’m not going to let it run my life, though. I’m not. Really. I mean, I’m almost sure I won’t.


    • Hehehe 😀 It’s so hard to step away from anything that might get us more exposure isn’t it? But yep, it’s a love-hate thing mostly. I’m not advocating FB desertion – if it works for you, stick with it I say. Personally, I’m genuinely very fond of FB indeed.


  6. Facebook is always tweaking things, aren’t they? They bother me, because they don’t tell you what they’re doing. So, thanks for the update, Jon. I don’t have a “Fan” page. I guess I’ll just hold off!


    • They’re sneaky little weasels that lot! If you haven’t hopped on the FB bandwagon yet, it might be best to hold off and see what comes along next. I’m sure a happy balance will be reached. Have a great Saturday.


  7. Good article! Here’s something you might consider: Facebook requires anyone selling anything (a product or service) to have a page. Ergo, in theory, your personal ‘friends’ account can be compromised by ‘selling’ and suspended or closed (not that I’ve seen it happen, but there it is).

    These are Facebook ‘rules,’ not that anyone really follows them. I do find the page tabs feature helpful, to provide a way for people to access other portals (Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Amazon, website), etc.

    I’m a much bigger fan of Twitter, but have found a loyal fan base on Facebook (primarily on my personal ‘friends’ account). My street team and betareaders all primarily come from there.

    As for paying for ads, I ran one recently to boost a Huffington Post Books article I wrote. I got 17K in reach, primarily from Bangladesh (even though I targeted US only). Click farms are what FB is providing — monetizing in a way that doesn’t increase my sales one whit, yet increases their stock value.

    So, now what? I think we need both a personal account (friends) and a page (likes), as well as being present on other sites to appeal to various demographics. It’s all part of our platform.


    • Thanks for the comment Rachel. I totally agree with you on your final point – a personal page and a ‘brand’ page on FB to fill in the spaces in an all-round presence.

      And that’s a very interesting observation on the paid ad you ran. I’ve heard much the same from others as well – good reach but compromised by the lack of relevance in the audience. I have also heard success stories, although they tend to be far more on the pro side. For a big-name brand wanting to showcase their presence on FB and attract more likes/fans/shares, it can work very well. But as part of a strategy to ‘make one’s name’ it’s pretty much a non-starter.

      On a personal note, I’m finding the ‘communities’ element of G+ excellent for outreach and brand-building at the moment. Now, I wonder if there’ll be a blog post on that soon…?? 😀


  8. Oh yes, again, fabulous post! I too have been extremely unhappy with that FB move, but not even from a marketing standpoint … just from someone who is tired of seeing only the same five people ever pop up in my Newsfeed! I’m on FB to stay connected to people I never see, after all, and those people tend not to post all the damn time, but when they do post, I still want to see what they are up to! With the new FB algorithms, these people get lost and I have to hunt them down specifically and it severely worsens my FB experience. Grrrr. I maintain my author FB pages, though loosely and not militantly, for the reasons you mentioned here. I do have a lot of family following them though, lol, so I guess I can keep my family up to speed at least! Haha.


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