Facebook Advertising: Is It Worthwhile for Writers?

Cat and RavenAs you may know, the effectiveness of Facebook as a social media platform has recently changed for those of us who don’t usually pay for it but maintain a social media presence in order to publicize ourselves.

Many of Facebook’s changes affect fanpages. Think of a fanpage as a tiny website hosted by Facebook. Companies could create one in order to have a presence on Facebook, and their fans could go click “Like” on the page. You have one in the form of your author page. Here’s mine, for example.

The model for interacting with fans has been to post messages, which appear in your fans’ newsfeed. They respond by commenting and liking and hopefully by clicking on links in order to go buy your book or listen to your podcast or read the interview or blog post or whatever.

It’s hard to find a good overview of what’s happened, but it boils down to several things:

So I wanted to test out the changes for myself. Like most writers, I use social media to sell books but also to brand myself, spread news of upcoming events, etc. I also teach online classes, so I try to sell those as well. I had just announced a couple of new ones, so I figured I’d use that post for the test.

After I’d posted something, I clicked on “Promote this Post” to see what was involved, and saw it’d be $7 to promote. Wotthehell, as Mehitabel would say, and look, they even took Paypal.

One reason I’ve been a little dubious about all this is that in August I tried advertising on various social media (Facebook and Twitter) and search engines (Bing and Google) as well as on Hope Clark’s newsletter. I did see a lot more traffic on my site, but I don’t know how much of that translated into sales of books or classes. Overall, the newsletter, which was the cheapest, was also the most effective.

And, not to my surprise, here again it didn’t make much, if any difference, even though when I looked at Facebook’s results for my promoted post, I’m told, “Promoted posts stay higher in news feed to help people notice them. So far, your post has had 113.8x as many views because you promoted it.” That translated into a total of five visits clicking through the Facebook link yesterday. Five.

And that’s my point. Like most writers, my Facebook fan page just isn’t big enough for me to worry about this much. I’ll keep maintaining my Facebook presence, but I won’t spend money on advertising there but find most effective places. I’ll also make sure I don’t confine my social media activity to Facebook but use Delicious, Google+, Stumbleupon, Twitter, and Tumblr as well.

My advice for writers is not to waste money on social media advertising but to work on their blog and attracting readers through good content. If you’re interested in learning more, you might check out my Establishing an Online Presence for Writers class, which I’m offering next on November 11, 9:30 AM – 12:30 PST.

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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