Facebook Changes: Is it Even Worth it Anymore?

Facebook is changing againAt some point, we’ll probably give up on this stuff, but until then, here are the latest changes with Facebook that you might want to know about.

For an author, Facebook is about building relationships and visibility. Facebook groups are great for that, but many times, we want to reach out beyond a closed group. That’s where it gets tough.

Back in December, Facebook made some changes in their algorithm and stuck it to the brand pages. Unless you directly visit a page, it’s unlikely you’ll find content through the News Feed. It’s estimated that only 2.5% of your fans will see your post organically. Yep, out of 100 fans, two or three might see your post.

Now they’ve gone and changed it again! With this change, it will be even harder for “fans” to see what you’re sharing. Recently, Facebook altered its algorithm to punish brand pages even more. Facebook’s spin is that people generally don’t like to interact with statuses from brands as much as from friends. Sounds reasonable, right? We’ll get back to that question in a moment.

The mechanics behind the change, as always, is a big “Facebook” secret. However, they did share one aspect of the change that is easy to see and you can make sure you are getting it right. When sharing a link on Facebook, you can do it two different ways.

One way is typing in a link directly into your post like this:The wrong way to post a link on Facebook

The other method is using the share buttons on the source of the link or typing a link that contains metadata and it comes out like this:right linkThis second method is the way Facebook wants you to share information. They will be promoting links with good metadata in the News Feed allowing you greater visibility. How do you know if you are doing it right? When you put the link in the status update, you’ll see if it populates all that extra junk. If it stays as a link, without a picture and the other text, then you should go back and share from the source.

Now, back to the question asked earlier. You see, this might make perfect sense to you on the surface. However, what it really does is punish Facebook “Pages.” Make no mistake about it, Facebook is a huge, profit-hungry business. They don’t make any changes without considering how it will generate more revenue. These changes continue force our author pages into obscurity.

Why? To get you to pay for what we used to get free. Facebook wants you to “Boost Post” or “Sponsor Story” or generally buy an advertisement. Hey, “It only costs $5.00 to get started” (straight from Facebook s Boost Post set up box.)

As a revenue-generating machine, these changes may make sense. For authors and indie publishers it sends us further out of the picture. I keep saying that Facebook is becoming the “Yellow Pages” of this century. Before long, if you don’t pay, you won’t be included.

Personally, I don’t do much with my page anymore. Sure, I share things to it all the time because it’s easy, but I don’t count on it much in the big picture. Typically, I have about a 5% visibility rate for my posts, so I’m a little ahead of the curve, but I’m not going reach a whole lot of people that way.

I’m not saying it’s hopeless. There are some Facebook Pages that do quite well. In fact, I use Facebook Pages with many of my clients and still get decent and growing visibility. However, I’m seeing that it is tougher and tougher to maintain the same exposure without venturing into the paid route. For many authors, the ROI is just not worth it.

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

60 thoughts on “Facebook Changes: Is it Even Worth it Anymore?”

  1. Excellent post, Jim, thanks. I think you’ve spelled out what many of us have been suspecting. The thing I don’t get is just how stupid FB can be about these changes. For example, a year ago, when I posted a link on my author page, it would say “95 people saw this post”; now I’m lucky if a post’s views get into double figures.
    Just yesterday, FB said something I posted “was proving 95% more popular than other posts on your page”, and when I looked, that post had been seen by just FIVE people – FB then offered to get it out to “1.5k to 2k people” if I handed over $20.
    Seriously, why on earth do FB tell you how many people have seen your posts on your author page? It’s highly insulting to show me, over a year or so, how FB is freezing my posts out, then try to encourage me to pay to have more people see them.
    I totally get that it’s a vicious corporate parasite now – nothing unexpected there – but that is such a dumb way to go about it. Seriously, the people who run it must be out of their heads. Everyone knows FB is losing users all the time, and I think they’re just going to encourage people to leave. Idiots.

    1. I agree, Chris, it’s a stupid way to go but I suspect FB now sees itself as ‘indispensable’, hence the heavy handed carrot-and-stick approach.

      Unfortunately, FB will find that it’s no different to My Space. Anyone remember My Space anymore?

    2. Thanks, Chris. You are right and you’ve witnessed it first hand. In reality, if they can get just 2% of the 50 million plus pages to plunk down the $20, that would be 20 million in revenue.

      I believe that some of the reason that these changes are occurring are due to it going public and the pressures to “hit” certain numbers. It’s a shame. I hearing of more and more people leaving FB.

  2. VERY cool post. I’ve been scratching my head about this stuff.
    A couple of questions popped into my mind. This seems to be all about pages. What if you use your main ID/timeline instead of pages?

    And… how to you “type in meta-data” to posts. I’ve been wondering why I sometimes get pictures and sometimes just get bare links.

    One answer that popped into my head is a question, too, I guess: if you’re not using FaceBook, what would you use? That seems to me like not using the phone book or something.

    1. Thanks Lin. Many people are transitioning to using just their main page. Meta data is one of those illusive things. FB handles things differently and not consistently. The best thing to do is if you type in a URL and it doesn’t populate the box, go to the source url and share from there.

      As far as options, there are many. Google+ is catching up fast and many of the people participating are very serious about Google+. At this point, I wouldn’t suggest dumping FB, but certainly start experimenting with Google+ if you haven’t already.

      1. Jim, do you know of any benefits to using a “page” vs. just a regular account? I never set up an author page, but I do have a professional account (a personal one, too, where I brag about my kids). I’ve never really understood the benefit to a page vs. a regular account,which is why I’ve never switched. A page, to me, seems more impersonal, less interactive, and less friendly, but am I missing something?

        1. Great question, Melinda. You’re not missing anything. Many people don’t want to mix their personal life with their book selling life.

          We’ve all learned that getting personal is what builds a fan base. More and more people are shifting to their personal account.

          I work with clients outside the writing world, so with those clients, I can’t really operate through their personal accounts. Corporations are tough to run through that kind of account. As authors, we are the corporation so it makes perfect sense to use the personal site.

          The real downfall is statistics. If you want to track and try different things, you can’t get the data analysis through the personal page the same way you can through the “pages”. So, you really never know what works and what doesn’t if you are trying different techniques.

          In the end, I would say you are not missing anything. Facebook isn’t the end all, but one piece to a multifaceted system.

  3. Thank you for the detailed explanation—the decreasing visibility of these Facebook pages has been a big point of frustration for not only other authors I know, but small nonprofits as well. For me personally, I’ve never had a lot of traffic via my FB author page, and worry about it less and less. Google+, Twitter, and other channels like Goodreads have proven to be far more effective (albeit with a carefully thought-out, non-spammy plan to raise awareness about my books!). I understand where Facebook is coming from—they have to monetize—but it also goes to show how agile you have to be as a marketer—things change all the time, and what worked last year may be completely ineffective this year. It wasn’t that long ago FB made changes that forced a lot of groups into extinction, and I know a lot of people who spent considerable time rebuilding them again from scratch. When I think about new books or new favorite authors I’ve been introduced to online, FB is at the bottom of the list in terms of discoverability in general. And that wasn’t always the case. So for me personally, I don’t see myself investing too much in their new plan—at least for now. It is interesting to watch how all this evolves, though!

    1. Thanks for the great comment, Christine. I think many of us share your frustration. And yes, we need to be agile marketers, but more importantly, we need to be agile marketers with a plan!

  4. Thanks for the update, Jim. I share in the general frustration. Facebook used to be a place where you could get word out to your fans about your upcoming releases and events, and be reasonably certain people would see it. Now? Pfft.

    The big question is, what’s the alternative? Goodreads has the reputation of being a snakepit. Writers seem to be using Google+ to talk to other writers (of course, that happens on FB, too…). And I’m just not convinced Twitter is a useful sales platform. Newsletters seem to be the best alternative for alerting current fans — but how do you use them to grow your audience?

    1. I agree, Lynne, and a great point, Newsletters are probably the best alternative. The challenge as you say, how do you grow your audience. You definitely need to capture emails at every turn, from a sign up sheet at your book events to a landing page on your website. Offer up a free short story with an email registration or something like that.

      1. A free short story is a great idea. If I may add, a lot of indie writerd work in series, so if they were to write a story introducing their main characters, with a plot that relates to the main theme of their books, it could be a good way of hooking readers into the other books.

  5. Thanks for explaining about the sharing, as I was just dropping in the links, not sharing from the page.

    I agree with wondering how useful facebook is. It’s tiresome to see your posts reach so few people, especially if you include a link. Hopefully it will backfire on them, and actually get businesses to drive users away from Facebook. Certainly, I can see a business tired of this drama offering it’s subscribers Google+ only deals, to get their users off Facebook and onto a medium they can use without having to pay more.

    1. Thanks RJ,You have some good ideas about using FB to get them to other destinations. With my clients, that is the primary purpose of FB pages, to get the potential customers to the actual websites.

  6. Facebook can still play a part. It recently helped me generate thousands of new readers. Here’s how it happened:
    As you know, I write dolphin stories. They have an underlying premise of helping dolphins by improving human understanding of them. Recently a baby albino dolphin was kidnapped in the regular bloodbaths of Taiji Japan. It made headlines around the world. It also moved me to fictionalise the story and re-write it from the POV of trhe mother of the baby dolphin. I published it on Readwave (which IU had informed me of.) The story was then circulated by hundreds of facebook followers of the massively popular Taiji Dolphin Action Group facebook page. The story has been translated into Hebrew and is about to be translated into German. It was used in a huge protest in Tel Aviv and soon to be used likewise at a protest in Berlin. There was less than a fortnight between the story first forming in my brain, to reaching 2½ thousand readers and being presented to Japanese ambassadors in foreign countries. It’s stats are still climbing but slower now. The combined power of Readwave, FB and the internet fuelled the spread of the story. It helped the sales of my novel Ripple also.
    The story is here:

        1. Thanks for posting this, Tui. I’d heard some of this, but not all of it. Now off to read the article you linked. 🙂

    1. Tui, thanks for the comment and congratulations on the success of your story. I’m not trying to say that FB is obsolete and has no place, it is just making it harder to get visibility. As with other social media platforms, pop culture, news and timely events are what drives visibility.

      You have demonstrated the most basic of principles when dealing with FB or any other marketing platform. That is, don’t try to be everything to everybody. A smaller niche can pay off in huge dividends when leveraged correctly. Great job!

  7. Great post and not surprising. FB has become less a social site than an advertising vehicle. Like the other comments above, I understand it from a business perspective, but as an author I need to look for alternatives.

    I’m active on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+. Of the three, my preference to possibly replace FB at some point is G+. There are lots of authors now moving to it as well as more readers. I created a Circle just to house those who call themselves Avid Readers. And, let us not forget that authors are readers. How many of us have bought at least one book in the last few weeks? I’ve found there are some excellent communities for indies and readers on G+.

    Any other input on possible FB replacements is welcome.

    1. Thanks! I agree, Google+ is fast becoming a real competitor for face time against FB. I do much more on Google+ than I used to do, and do much less on FB. I’m not sure if we can come up with a FB replacement, as it still plays a role.

      I wrote a post about Empire Avenue a while back here on IU … https://indiesunlimited.com/2013/11/11/empire-avenue-a-different-type-of-social-networking/ and it seems to be a place to shake some leaves. I’ve been able to drive eyeballs to my places through that site, but, like anything else, it takes time.

  8. Good article, Jim. FWIW, I just did a quick scan of the numbers on my two pages. I’m reaching between 1% on the low end and 3% on the high end for posts that are at least 3 or 4 days old. (It appears it takes that long before the numbers are all in.) One with one page doing better than the other on average and (no surprise) that page generally has more likes and shares.

    If nothing else this goes to show that focusing your web presence toward whatever way you can to something you control (your website, newsletter list, etc) is the best way to keep access to people who have shown interest because any social media site can change the rules or fall in or out of favor.

    1. Great point Al, no one can take your blog or website away from you, and if you link Twitter or FB or whatever to your blog, each new article is automatically displayed on those sites anyway.

        1. Given how successful Konrath has been, I think it’s really good advice. I don’t visit his blog every day, but I do pop in from time to time and always find it interesting. Even led me to buy one of his books!

          1. Same here, was kinda (pleasantly) amazed how good his thrillers are (Shot of Tequila) 😉

            Re FB, I let my business pg go, only use the personal pg now – grandkids & kids 😉

          2. The only one of Konrath’s books I’ve read is, I think, Flee. I enjoyed it, but admit I expected something more. Might give Shot of Tequila a try.

          3. AC, I agree, Konrath has great info, in my early days of indies publishing, he helped me tremendously.

            Having said that, I think the opinion of one individual can be dangerous if you don’t analyze your personal situation and recognize the differences about what is being presented.

            That’s why I love what we are doing here on IU, you get many different opinions from several different authors who have experienced a multitude of results from similar experiences. Thanks AC for joining the conversation.

          4. That’s a very telling point, Jim. I started on LinkedIn, but it wasn’t until I found IU that I truly started to understand Indie publishing from all angles. Still have a lot to learn, but I can’t think of a better place in which to do it. 🙂

    2. Al, you hit the nail on the head, it’s about getting people to places that you control and that you can converse on your terms. Thanks for sharing your numbers.

    1. Thanks AC, I replied to one of your comments above, I didn’t see this down here until later!

  9. It should also be noted that I’ve found links on my personal page are seen by less of my friends too. I’m friends with a lot of my readers so use my personal page equally for marketing and socialising. If I put up a plain status I get more interaction than if I put up a link. Someone suggested it’s because they don’t want you leaving Facebook.

    With regards to my author page–I’ve found offering an incentive a cheaper way of ‘boosting’ a post. E.g. Win an ebook etc. And at least Facebook aren’t getting my money. I find it absurd that you can still pay Facebook to recruit likes when the majority of those likes you’ll gain won’t ever see your content.

    I will continue to use my page until visibility drops to zero or Facebook shuts up shop. Current estimates are 2017. I suspect sooner. In the meantime, I’m growing my newsletter subscribers and encouraging people to subscribe to my blog as well as trying to learn to use G+. To be wholly dependent on Facebook for marketing would be very foolish.

    1. Those are great ideas, Samantha. Growing your newsletter is definitely the way to go. And, you’re right about the “likes”, the more likes you get the more watered down the “fan” base is.

      You are better off with a low number of fans that you actually interact with than grow likes to a group of unknowns.

  10. I developed a page for the Mountainstroh blog, and I play with it occaisionally, but haven’t invested a lot of time or effort to it.

    Now I see it might not be worth the effort. BUT the blog is a hobby in general, so who knows. Great info Jimmie!

  11. Great article Jim. As far as I’m concerned FB has become a paid service and they just give us a free sample of what they have to offer. I wish I could say I’ve had success with their promoted posts but I haven’t. It’s been a few months since I ran my last one so perhaps that’s changed.
    I’d be interested in your thoughts on Melinda’s question above (you may have answered it and I missed it). Do you feel there is an advantage to a designated author’s page over a personal page? I have both but I’m in the process of migrating my readers over to my personal page. I wonder if the visibility rate is higher on your personal page than 2.5%.
    Great article and very interesting discussion, keep up the good work Jim!

    1. Thanks, Martin, you can see my answer to Melinda above. The big difference is data.

      If you treat your publishing business as a business, you might want some of that info, from demographics to other key performance indicators. However, if your ability to be seen is diminishing, it doesn’t matter how much data FB provides.

  12. Thanks for this post, Jim. I’m a Twitter girl myself. Much more interaction, much more sharing, far greater reach. I don’t pay much attention to my FB fan page either. Sometimes more than a month goes by and I don’t visit it. Why bother? Waste of time.

    1. I’m with you on that, JP. Thanks for bringing that up. I use Twitter far more than FB, and I agree, it has a much bigger reach.

      Twitter remains the #1 referrer into my blog after two years of blogging.

      Again, its tough to just give up on FB, I haven’t quite done that yet.

      Thanks for your insight.

  13. Great post and I’ve read all comments. G+ confuses me but I should look into it more. I need to see if IU has any tutorials that can help me. I use twitter more too now.

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