Facebook Is Holding Your Readers Hostage But You Don’t Have to Pay the Ransom
Many publishers believe that building a Facebook audience is a wise way to market books. Let’s run with that assumption for a minute. What if you succeeded in attracting a lot of Facebook fans? I mean really succeed, such amassing over 1,000,000 likes to your Facebook page.
You’d probably feel happy about your social media efforts. Plus, you’d probably expect to sell a lot of books to your Facebook audience, right? You could simply post information about your front list releases, back list titles, upcoming author events, special deals, etc. Then, sit back and watch as thousands of people respond. If only this theory worked in reality.
Instead, what if you were penalized for succeeding on social media? What if Facebook limited most of your own fans from seeing your posts? What if you tried to promote a new book, but only a tiny group received the news? What if you even offered something for free, but less than 10% of your fans got the chance to respond? How would you feel if your Facebook efforts began to backfire?
One of my consulting clients recently faced this dilemma. They are one of the most successful publishing houses on Facebook with over 1,000,000 likes. Their marketing staff worked hard for several years to attract such a large online audience. Everyone should be happy, and they should be selling lots of books to their Facebook fans. Yet, the more the publisher grows their Facebook audience, the more their situation worsens.
Holding Readers Hostage & Demanding a Ransom
When people choose to “like” your Facebook page, they’re asking to receive updates from your organization. In addition, if those people willingly chose to “like” your page, you’d think Facebook would allow you to connect with those people. Seems like common sense. But, common sense can be uncommon when social media is involved.
Facebook is in business to make money, rather than help promote books to readers. That’s a sensible expectation. Facebook should be encouraged to make a profit and thrive -- just like any other company. But, have they gone too far?
If you want to reach your own Facebook audience, it’s going to cost you. The bigger your fan base, the more money you must pay. That’s right, the audience that you took the time, resources, and effort to attract is held captive until you pay up. Facebook holds readers hostage and demands a ransom. If you want to reach your fans, you must pay to reach them, which otherwise known as “promote” your post or buy a Facebook ad.
On the surface, there’s nothing wrong with Facebook hindering your ability to reach your own fans. Mark Zuckerberg built the platform, turned it into a worldwide empire, and can make his own rules. But, the situation is starting to get ridiculous.
Upon examination of data from my publishing clients, we found that Facebook typically limits the exposure of posts to only 5-10% of the total audience. In other words, 90 – 95% of fans never see the posts and updates they requested to receive. That seems pretty lop-sided. Yet, that’s not the worst part.
When my clients create a post to openly market a new book, or even give away a free resource, Facebook limits the exposure even more. Only 2-5% of fans see the posts! That’s right, 95-98% of fans never see the information. Again, these are people who chose to “like” a publisher’s page and willingly agreed to receive new posts.
Pay to Play
If you want to reach the majority of fans on your Facebook page, you’re left with only one option -- pay money. Sure, Facebook will tell you that they let posts reach a larger audience if it gets high engagement, such as a lot of comments and shares. But, let’s be real, when you’re attempting to market a book, you’re not going to get a lot of comments and shares.
You’ve got to pay Facebook to reach the audience that you amassed. How much are we talking? I could not find definitive answers to this question. But, numbers mentioned by my clients hovered around $100 to reach 20,000 fans. That’s $100 per each individual post you want to promote, which is a lot of money when applied to a large following:
20,000 fans = $100
100,000 fans = $500
500,000 fans = $2,500
1,000,000 fans = $5,000
Most publishers don’t have the marketing budgets to spend $500 - $5,000 for a single Facebook post. Multiply that cost over a typical catalog and it adds up quick. Also, keep in mind that a post is only seen by fans if they are logged-in to Facebook that day. If they aren’t logged-in, they won’t see the promotion, no matter how much money you spend.
This problem begs the question, “Can publishers afford to build a large audience on Facebook?” The more fans you attract, the more you have to pay. Draw 1,000,000 fans and you’ve got to spend $5,000 every time you want to reach them. The law of diminishing returns comes into play.
Email to the Rescue
Is there a better option than paying money to Facebook just to reach your own fans? Yes, consider the advantages of email:
- Audience Exposure Rate: Typical email open rates are around 13-25%. That’s much higher than Facebook’s exposure rate of 2-10% for free posts.
- Monthly Pricing: Assuming you have 1,000,000 fans, you’d have to pay Facebook around $5,000 per week or $20,000 per month to reach all of them with a weekly promotion. What if you had 1,000,000 email subscribers? According to MailChimp, a popular email service, you’d only have to pay $4,200 per month, which is 75% less. Plus, you get to send out up to 3 emails per week. Email offers less cost and more frequent contact with consumers.
- Additional Marketing Information: Facebook ads and promoted posts tend to constrict the amount of marketing information that publishers can display about products. Advertisers are usually limited to displaying one image, a video, and a small amount of text. In contrast, email allows marketers to include a lot more content, such as additional images, video links, descriptive text, and related products. Email offers more versatility than a Facebook post.
- Detailed Campaign Reporting: Email offers specific reporting features that allow marketers to track consumer activity, including who opens an email, which hyperlinks get the most attention, who clicks on a specific link, etc. Facebook doesn’t share this level of detailed reporting.
Facebook has built the largest online community in the world. Their platform has helped publishers build large online communities of their own. But, Facebook’s system of forcing publishers to pay significant money just to reach all of their own audience is unreasonable. Mark Zuckerberg could easily change his platform to more of a win-win dynamic for everyone involved. Yet, he’s got to keep his stock price high and please investors -- all at the expense of book publishers paying a ransom to reach their own readers.