Five Things Writers Need to Know About Facebook

“If you try to use Facebook for something it’s not designed to do, you’re just going to get frustrated over the lack of results.” — Tim Grahl, author of Your First 1000 Copies

Recently, I was posting my latest giveaway opportunity to a variety of promotional groups on Facebook. A fellow author and Facebook friend noticed and messaged me soon after: “You’re posting a lot on Facebook recently. How’s that working out for you?”

What he was really asking me: “How does one successfully use Facebook for author marketing?”

Tim Grahl recently addressed this question on his blog (Facebook and Author Marketing, September 17, 2016), and my own experience in growing my social media platform confirms many of the assertions that he makes in his article. To understand how to use Facebook for author marketing requires an understanding of what Facebook was designed to do.

Facebook is a Peer-to-Peer Network


Firstly, although one can use Facebook for one-to-many marketing (particularly if one is willing to pay for ads), that’s not what Facebook was designed to do. Facebook is a “peer-to-peer” network designed with exclusivity in mind, as a method for staying in touch with friends, and most of its core features are grounded in that initial design philosophy.

  • You can accept or reject friend requests.
  • You can block people you don’t want to hear from.
  • You can adjust your privacy settings to determine who sees what you post.

Almost everything about Facebook is built around the idea of excluding unwanted relationships, discussions, and attention. So much so that even among people who actually exist in your exclusive circle of friends, only about 12-16% of them ever see any one of your posts.

The Needs of the Many

Vulcans don't use FacebookWhile Vulcan logic might dictate that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one), Facebook wasn’t designed for Vulcans.

Facebook’s strength is in its ability to foster human relationships on the small-scale: one-to-one and one-to-few. Yes, I do use Facebook from time-to-time for shotgun-style scattershot marketing. Yes, I do use Facebook nearly everyday to post fresh content to my 600-some page followers.

But I primarily use Facebook to develop relationships at a micro-level:

  • I engage in group discussions by adding my two cents to posts and comments in groups to which I belong.
  • I private message with my friends.
  • I share other people’s content, and encourage them to share mine.

Why? Because scattershot marketing might boost one’s promotional efforts slightly in the short-term, but the leverage that comes from long-term relationships is the rock upon which one builds a successful author platform.

Defining Success

My understanding of how Facebook works is hard earned. Until recently, I’ve never done any marketing other than social media marketing, and my natural tendency was to adopt a one-to-many approach. It’s just a more efficient use of time, to blast a message out to various social media channels and hope for the best. That I’ve had any success at all in selling my books is almost entirely as a result of such strategies.

But it’s not the most effective use of time. As Tim points out in his article, “Every single activity that gets your non-writing time should be required to make its case for why you’re using it.” By that measure, using a shotgun blast strategy on Facebook fails the test.

Why? Because though it might provide a slight short-term bump, it doesn’t build the long-term relationships that ultimately lead to a successful book-writing/publishing career, and it takes otherwise valuable time away from writing and invests it in a marketing activity with a dubious return.

It’s a question of defining success, in the end. Do you want more friends, or better friends? Do you want anonymous readers who maybe buy one book, but never leave a review, or do you want specific readers who buy all your books and share them with their friends?

Shame and the Indie Author

naje0d0In a recent discussion of book marketing in a Facebook group that I follow, the admin felt the need to point out that the group was not intended as a dumping ground for advertising, but as a discussion group. Several others weighed in about group rules and lamented about the flagrant disregard many authors have for group rules that prohibit ads.

But one fellow argued the opposite case: “There’s no shame in this business. As long as I make sales, I don’t care if some people don’t like how I do it. Even if my ad gets deleted from the group, if one person saw it before it was deleted, then it did its job. If I post my ad to a hundred groups, and it gets deleted from a hundred groups, but at least 100 people saw it first, that’s good marketing. [emphasis mine]”

No. That’s not “good marketing.” It’s spam.

If one is intent on building a huge following on Facebook quickly, yes, it can be done this way.

If one is intent on bringing attention (even if only from 12-16% of one’s audience) to one’s work, yes, it can be done this way.

But if one is looking to build long-lasting reader relationships based on trust and respect, then frequent, scattershot, one-to-many marketing on Facebook won’t work.

Yes, you might make a few sales today. But you’ll also come to associate your brand, your book, your name, and your reputation with telemarketers who call during dinner. And the outcome will be the same: people will hang up on your message and block your phone number.

So What’s the Best Facebook Strategy?

4c9dba38a5313be9411215f0362349feA lot of people forget that social media is a tool. One doesn’t pick up a tool and then run around trying to figure out what job to use it for. One decides what job one has to do, and then selects the best tool for the job.

By design, Facebook—as a tool of social interaction—does two things well:

  • It allows you to connect with individual people directly.
  • It allows you to easily interact with small, focused groups.

So—by design—the best marketing strategy is to use Facebook to build lasting, long-term relationships with individuals and small, like-minded groups. This is called “relational marketing.” To paraphrase Tim Grahl: be relentlessly helpful, establish your subject matter expertise in the minds of your friends and assorted relations, and when the time comes, they will buy your book out of respect and organically spread the word about your offering to their friends and sundry relations.

So what can I do for you today? Like me on Facebook and let me know.











Michael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. He is currently working as an independent freelancer. He lives in the Greater New York City area.

Posted in Author Platform, The Business of Writing

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The Author
Michael Dellert is an award-winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years. He is currently working as an independent freelancer. He lives in the Greater New York City area.
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