Can you sell books on Facebook?

Marketing On FacebookPretty much everyone is on Facebook these days. And like many authors, I have no offline social life, which means I have a fairly prominent Facebook presence. I’ve had a fair amount of success in getting the word out about my books on Facebook, but I suspect I could do a lot more.

With that in mind, I attended Cindy Ratzlaff’s (it sounds like “rat’s laugh” when you say it out loud, but I swear that’s really her name) seminar on “Advanced Facebook Marketing” at BEA 2014 last week. Honestly, I was skeptical at first; the problem with doing a seminar on Facebook / Twitter / whatever marketing is that by the time you finish the Powerpoint presentation, the information on the first slide is out-dated. But I had some time to kill at BEA, so I figured I might as well check it out.

I was immediately impressed when the first slide on Ratzlaff (again, really her name)’s presentation detailed a change that Facebook had made that morning. (See, I wasn’t joking about the Powerpoint thing. This stuff really moves that fast.) Ratzlaff… OK, I’m sorry, I’m calling her Cindy from now on. Cindy then launched into a detailed presentation on how to effectively use author fan pages.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably an author or aspiring author, and you’re probably thinking to yourself “Wha…?” This is because Facebook has recently made changes to fan pages that cause your posts to be displayed to some tiny fraction of your actual fan base–presumably with the intent of making you pay for ads to reach more people. Several authors I know have actually shut down their author pages and use their personal account as their author page. Personally, I still have a separate author page, but I rarely post to it, except when I have a book coming out or some kind of special promotion going on.

To a large extent, though, this lack of engagement is self-reinforcing: I don’t expend effort on my author page because it doesn’t generate results, and it doesn’t generate results because I don’t expend effort on it. The key, according to Cindy, is regularly post engaging content that prompt the people you do reach to like/share/comment. If you can get a person to engage with a post in

Cindy Ratzlaff
Cindy Ratzlaff

some way, that tells Facebook that your content is interesting to that person, and it will display your content organically to that person for the next seven days. For those who don’t speak marketing-ese, that means that for seven glorious days, you don’t have to pay to reach that person. Keep posting engaging content, and you’ll gradually reach more and more of your fans. Couple that with exposure through shares, and you can greatly extend your page’s reach.

So how do you post “engaging content”? The trick, Cindy says, is to post content that causes people to think “That’s so me!” If viewers see themselves in a post, they feel compelled to like it. The type of content that’s going to evoke that response is going to vary a lot depending on your audience, but Cindy suggests the following guidelines:

  • Post images rather than text updates.
  • Post contests and giveaways. Cindy suggests using Woobox to manage these.
  • Post original content. It’s OK to use a stock image you found online, but modify it in some way to make it feel original. Some tools Cindy recommends for image posting are Picmonkey and Canva.
  • Don’t over-post. Cindy suggests posting once per day, at 6am Eastern time (assuming your audience is primarily in North America). This will give your post the maximum possible exposure.
  • Continue to engage your audience after posting. If someone comments on the post, thank them, and use their first name in your response.

There was a lot more to Cindy’s presentation that this, and I hope to do a few more posts on this subject over the next week or so. In the meantime, you can check out the slides for her presentation here. You can follow Cindy at @brandyou.

2 Comments on Can you sell books on Facebook?

  1. Imagine what it’s like to go through life telling people “Rat’s laugh, like Mice chuckle but Rat’s laugh.” Anyway, thank you so much for sharing some of the details of my BEA talk on Facebook for authors. Just a couple of quick clarifications. When we get people to engage with our posts with a like, share or comment, they are “more likely” but not guaranteed to see our posts for the next 7 days. So it’s still our goal and the increased visibility is worthwhile but it’s not 100%. That is why dedicating a modest advertising budget ($10 a day) budget, during the marketing push for a new book, is so crucial. Anyway, great blog and thank you so much.

    • Thanks for stopping by (and taking my joking about your name in good humor. At least people can pronounce your name.), Cindy. I’ll update the post with the correction. Thanks again!

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