The Good and Bad of Author Facebook Groups

Authors have grown frustrated with the changing nature of Facebook Pages, mostly driven by changes in the algorithm and are looking for a better option for engaging their readers. Enter: the Facebook Group—a platform that seemingly side-steps the Facebook Page’s downfalls. It’s true: some authors have massive success creating reader groups that engage their readers in conversations. But is the Facebook Group the messiah in a time of social media book marketing strife? Should all authors abandon their Facebook Pages and join the mass exodus to Groups? Don’t jump ship so fast; I’ll be reviewing both the good and the bad of Facebook Groups in terms of book marketing.

The Good

Automatic Notifications

The number one gripe with Facebook Pages is that only a small percentage of people who “like” the page end up seeing the posts. Though it is an option to turn on notifications for a Page (and I highly suggest you encourage your followers to do so) it is not the default. Facebook Group’s default is that if you join a Group that you’re notified every time a post is made. This immediately gets more eyes on your content and ensures that the people who have chosen to follow you are actually seeing your posts.

Inter-Member Communication

A stark difference I see on your average author Facebook Page vs your average author reader Group—and I look at these all day long— is that with an author Facebook Page there tends to be mainly one-way communication from the author to the reader. The best Pages create a conversation between the reader and the author, but they almost never foster reader-to-reader communication. In a Facebook Group, any member can post on the page, and anybody can respond to this post. Groups can serve as a platform for readers to forge bonds with each other, growing community engagement and providing the backbone for many authors’ book sales.

The Bad

No Ads or Promoted Posts

The biggest downfall of Facebook Groups is they are not optimized for marketing or sales. Facebook Pages give you the ability to promote your posts and run Facebook Ads, but Facebook Groups were not created as a tool for business. To quote Facebook itself “While Pages were designed to be the official profiles for entities, such as celebrities, brands or businesses, Facebook Groups are the place for small group communication and for people to share their common interests and express their opinion.” Authors are in a unique position because they are selling a product that also serves as a common interest, which is why they can find success in both platforms. But by itself, the Facebook Group is weak as a business platform.

No Analytics Information

As a social media strategist, this is my biggest issue with Facebook Groups. Facebook Pages offer a host of information on how you’re posts are performing, your page growth, your audience’s demographics, basically anything an analyst needs to know. Facebook Groups provide none of that. When I go through and analyze a Facebook Group, I have to do so manually and even then I get a fraction of the information that I would if I was analyzing a page. This makes it harder to determine what posts are performing best so it is more difficult to form a fully informed social marketing strategy.

Too Much Posting Freedom

The downfall of members being able to make their own posts in the group is it in part leaves your brand in the hands of your readers. People posting in a reader group have their own motives for posting, outside of promoting your books. This means that you have to be very intentional about fostering the type of productive community that you want when making a reader group. I suggest you post often yourself to set the tone of the types of posts in the Group. Another thing I’ve seen is authors that create different reader groups for different purposes. For example, one author that I know has both a “reader group” and a “book discussion group”. The reader group is a place for readers to talk to each other about the daily happenings of their life, mainly non-book related, while the book discussion group is only for discussing the author’s books. When creating your groups, be clear about what the group is for in the description so your readers know the norms of the group.

Conclusion

Recognizing the strengths and weaknesses of both the Facebook Group and the Facebook Page is the first step in creating a strategy that uses both to grow your online reader community. In most ways, their strengths complement each other, so if an author can find a place for both platforms in their social media strategy, they are able to harness the strengths of each.

 

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What Authors Should Consider Before Running a Facebook Ad

There’s a great debate in book marketing on something you wouldn’t think would be so controversial: Facebook ads. I’ve come across several articles outlining how to best implement them, but I wanted to take a step back and evaluate the first question an author should be asking: “Does running a Facebook ad to sell my books make sense for me?”. And once they answer that question, how can they approach running their ad campaign in a strategic way while taking on as little financial risk possible?

Facebook Ads: Who are They Good For?

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to be focusing on ads in terms of a personal investment made by an author, not their publisher. Just as a publisher would, an author needs to determine if Facebook ads a good investment for them, and how much of an investment should be made. This question needs to be answered on an individual basis as it depends on several things, a biggie being how they are published.

This affects an author’s interaction with ads in one major way: return on investment (ROI). Who are Facebook ads good for? Simple! It’s the authors that will sell more books, and make more money off these said books than it costs to run the ad.

Authors that have the ability to see how many people buy their books as a result of their ad and how much of a profit they are directly receiving from these books will have the easiest time calculating this ROI. It gets hazier when you don’t know how many people are buying your book, especially if you can’t calculate exactly how much in royalties you’ll be receiving in turn.

Start off Small

So if you were not scared off by the previous section and have decided to give Facebook ads a shot, yay! But please, I am begging you, don’t sink hundreds of dollars into your first ad campaign. The beauty of social media marketing is that you can start off as small as you like. This means that you can test for yourself how effective Facebook ads will be for you and if you’re getting a good ROI. Don’t throw all your eggs, er, money in one basket when it comes to your strategy for your ad campaign.

Another tip for finessing your strategy is to do what we call in the biz A/B testing. This means you can try two identical runs, but change one thing to see which one performs better. Facebook even has an A/B testing capability built in! Neat, huh?

Target your Target Audience

To me, the most important part of running a successful ad campaign is nailing your target audience. If I were to ask you, “what is your target audience?” You probably would not respond to me “everyone” because my 12-year-old cousin and 88-year-old grandpa probably wouldn’t be interested in reading the same book (unless you happen to be J.K. Rowling).

So why are you targeting everyone with your Facebook ad? The key to having the most effective, and therefore least expensive ad, is identifying your target audience correctly. Keep in mind this should be not too broad and not too narrow, and Facebook even has handy guidelines to help you determine this. If you need assistance finding your audience, I would highly suggest employing the help of a social media strategist like *cough* me *cough* to do so.

Conclusion

If you’re an author, what’s your experience been with Facebook ads? Do you have any other tips, tricks, or things authors should consider before taking the plunge? Make sure to leave a comment and let me know.

Mind the Gap: Supporting Authors in Marketing Their Books

No readership is identical. There are so many diverse book communities, and there is no one size fits all approach when it comes to book marketing. That’s in part what can make it intimidating, as so much individual attention needs to be paid to fostering these online communities. This is what creates what I perceive as the gap in book marketing, where many authors are left to be the main marketers of their books. I founded Bookish Media Strategy after a string of events that opened my eyes to this need for increased author support in promoting their books online. Bookish’s mission is to help authors grow their social media presences through the power of strategic marketing and to take a highly individualized approach while doing so.

Now I mean this as no shade towards the publishing industry at all, as it is simply impossible given the ratio of book marketers to books published for each book to be given the level of attention it needs to have the most success possible. This is especially true for indie and self-published authors, who often have less professional marketers at their disposal.

But here lies the problem: the vast majority of authors do not have the tools or background in marketing, especially in analysis and strategy, to confidently market their books. This is not to say that many don’t do a great job: they do. This is to say that the process of marketing your own books can be stressful, and many authors feel left in the dark on how to effectively do so. In an ideal world, the biggest chunk of an author’s time would be spent writing. In a realistic world, it is spent promoting their books. What their time should not be spent on is stressing about how to promote their books.

This is where Bookish comes in. To clarify, I by no means wish to personally market as many books as possible to alleviate the burden from authors, as I, alas, am only one person. Rather I wish to provide the insight and tools for authors to be their biggest promoters, all in a sustainable fashion. Through analysis, I’ve looked at what’s working, who the author’s audience is, and what other authors in their market are having success with. My approach to marketing and strategy follows the core values of appreciative inquiry, which means finding what’s working and expanding on that, rather than focusing on the negative.

I hope for Bookish to eventually start a community of its own, where authors can share with others their own tips and questions regarding book marketing. So many authors are having increasing success in the online space, and at the heart of this is avid and strategic self-promotion. By demystifying what it means to strategically market books through online community building, I hope for Bookish Media Strategy to start a conversation on how the avenues in which authors are supported in growing their readership.
If you’re interested in Bookish Media Strategy’s services, be it social media analysis, strategy, or management, email Maggie at bookishmediastrategy@gmail.com.