Facebook Promotional Ban Spells Trouble for Authors-2015

December 18, 2014
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Come January 15, 2015 it will be harder for independent authors to let people know when and where to buy their books via posts in their Facebook news feeds. That’s the date on which the social media giant plans to ban “overly promotional” posts—unless you pay hard cash.

It seems Facebook did a survey of users who said they didn’t like promotional messages in their posts, though they were either indifferent or didn’t balk at paid ads on a Page.

Would anyone actually admit they love advertising–in any form? Forty percent or more of those against the offending posts actually “liked” those same Pages. If users “liked” the Pages where authors and others were hawking their wares, how offended could those users possibly be? Did Facebook’s marketing team simply misread the results, ask the wrong questions, or perhaps bend the outcome to suit their own need for more revenue?  

WHO DECIDES WHAT’S TOO PROMOTIONAL?

We understand that some blatant advertising should be curbed from free posts, but when one looks at the example Facebook gives as a promotional” ad (see below), one wonders how an author is supposed to alert people to when and where to buy a new book; how will organizations alert writers to enter their writing competitions or encourage them to buy a seat at a writers conference?  And who decides that a post is “overly promotional?” 

RULES ARE STILL VAGUE

When we searched the net, we could not find a clear definition of exactly how the new ban will work–for or against authors. Who’s affected and who’s not? How “overly promotional” is “overly promotional?

One thing is fairly certain: if you want to send your friends or fans from Facebook to a retail site to purchase your new book, you will probably have to pay for an ad.

LOSS OF AUDIENCE IS CERTAIN—UNLESS YOU PAY

Last year, Facebook drastically reduced to about 6-8% the number of posts delivered to Friends actually watching a particular FB account, based on certain algorithms. Now—unless you boost a post by paying—only about 2-3% of one’s subscribers will receive those messages. Rules that were already bad for authors will only get worse in January as the new restrictions kick in. Ninety-eight percent of Friends (and their friends) will be blocked from receiving the message—unless you pay. Even worse, if FB decides your post is “overly promotional” nobody will see it—zero-zip.

At a minimum $5 per day to “boost” a single post, the author could spend close to $2,000 a year for exposure they have been getting for free.  Higher audience-reach and display ads will cost much more. If you want to boost several posts year-round, dig a lot deeper into your pockets.

There will be only three ways to insure your message gets out under the new rules: 1.Don’t pay to “boost” the post, don’t overtly promote anything, and you won’t have to pay, and you’ll reach only those Friends who are watching you; 2. Pay a fee to boost a single post and have your subscribers plus a certainly number of their friends who fit a specific FB profile will see your message; 3. pay a much bigger fee and create a targeted campaign.

Big corporations won’t suffer much, because they’ll simply shell out for boosted posts and display ads.

As we see it, this move can only punish indie authors and small businesses that lack big bucks to buy paid ads. Sock it to the little guys. 

We understand that Facebook wants to make more money. Don’t we all. But a ban on promotional posts is like snatching a candy bar back from a starving artist. Surely the brains at the top of this multi-billion-dollar organization can figure out some other creative way to make a dollar and satisfy stockholders. 

WHAT MAKES A POST TOO PROMOTIONAL?

According to Facebook and survey responders, consistent characteristics that make organic posts feel too promotional include:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a book or product or install an app
    2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context. Who knows how “real context” will be defined and the rule applied?
    3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads 

Doesn’t this apply to just about everybody who posts on Facebook, except those who want you to know what they ate for breakfast?

Posts that are overly promotional tend to look like:

HOW DO THE NEW RULES IMPACT AUDIENCE REACH?

If your Page doesn’t post much promotional content—as Facebook defines above—then your reach “may” not be affected. At least that’s the theory. However, the true impact of these changes on audience reach is unclear. As best we can tell, promotional messages will get through to only about 2-to 3% of one’s audience.

WHAT CAN AUTHORS DO TO LESSEN THE IMPACT?    

To protect their audience reach, authors need to immediately begin posting meaningful and engaging content for their friends and fans. Think storytelling.

Also consider relying more heavily on your blog and web site, or on other social sites such as Google Plus, Twitter and Reddit, where the rules aren’t quite as restrictive (at least, yet). A word of caution. Never put all your books in one basket. The more places you post the less vulnerable you are to the drastic whims of big players like Facebook.

Let us know what you think of the Facebook changes. Post your comments on our Facebook page, or e-mail me direct at dbooth@authorlink.com.  

(Editor’s Note: Benjamin Latham, Authorlink webmaster, contributed to this article)

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