I can’t help but chime in on the latest post by Facebook regarding changing the algorithm as to what is going to be made more difficult to see. Just to make sure we are all starting from the same facts, let’s look at the actual post, here: https://www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104413015393571 .
The minute it was announced it seems every author group had many members doing the chicken-little-sky-is-falling dance and claiming they were leaving Facebook for good, that Zuckerberg is a greedy so and so, and they just want everyone to pay for their fans to see anything.
I don’t know Mark Zuckerberg personally. So I can’t speak to if he is a mean boogey man who acts like the Grinch or not. However, I don’t think this is a huge change. Facebook exposure has been getting less and less anyway as the platform has taken on millions more people. With over a billion people on the platform, I can see why it’s soooo important not to show everyone ever post someone else thinks they should see. Do I think it’s all about ad money? Actually, no. I think it REALLY is about providing real connection for people. I know I ignore 70% of what’s in my feed because it isn’t meaningful to me. If the algorithm helps me to see more of what I want and less of what I don’t, I think that’s a great success.
I see this change as a huge opportunity for authors who have been spending time building their reader base and providing content their readers actually want. It’s not so good for authors who spend most of their time writing one variation or another of “Buy my book” all the time or “Look at me!” all the time.
The days of fly-by posting are long gone–assuming they ever were available to us. As always, IF you create content that people will want to share, then you might end up having even more exposure than before. But that means you also need to really care about your readers. You need to have a good idea who they are and what they want AND take time to interact with them. In the end, if you do care and connect, it will lead to more loyalty and sales, and likely a few new real friends too.
A number of authors have been suggesting asking your followers to join a closed group you run for your readers. I think this is a good idea. I already have a special group of superfans who just love supporting me, but I am implementing another group as a place for any reader who likes me to participate but without the expectations of consistent support that my superfan group does. In fact, I’m implementing that right now. It has a really catchy name. Maggie’s Readers. 🙂 I’ll be sending an email to all my readers explaining what I’m doing and why and asking them to join me there.
Of course, if you DO create a reader group in Facebook, it WILL require even more time and connection for you. When someone joins a group they have an even higher expectation of value than they do just hanging out on your page. Also, just because they are in a group doesn’t automatically guarantee they will see and respond to every post you make. Not that Zuckerberg is blocking them, but again your posts need to draw them in.
I know I belong to about 20 groups on Facebook. Some of them are family groups, while others are writer groups or writer business groups. Of all those groups only five to seven of them actually have me checking in every day. That’s because they always have something interesting to offer. The rest, I might check in once a month or so. Those groups just don’t have much going on or what they have going on is a repeat of what’s been going on for months. I don’t drop them only because every once in a while (a couple of times per year) something interesting does happen and I don’t want to miss it. But for the most part I’m checked out.
I suspect that is the same for our readers. Everyone has busy lives and only so much bandwidth for interaction. As authors, our calling is to be like those five to seven groups and not like all the others. Our readers deserve to have us at our bests. They do want to interact and connect, but we have to provide the right opportunities.
Remember: People tend to engage with a brand either to solve a problem or because it makes them feel good. Ask yourself, is your book solving a problem or making the reader feel good? The answer to that will tell you what kind of content you need to be posting.
For me, my books solve problems for my characters. I suspect that some of my readers do identify with my characters problems and reading how the characters overcome challenges in their lives helps them to reframe their own challenges or at least not to feel alone with it. I do occasionally get an email from a fan who says that reading my book made a difference in her life in some way. However, the vast majority of my readers connect with me because I make them feel good. They feel good about a story hat is resolved and the characters have a positive trajectory. They feel good because I take time to post images and memes with positive thoughts and affirmations. They feel good because I take time to actually read what they post too and comment on things that interest me too. It’s a two way street. We both have to pay attention and we both need to reach out to the other. My job is to give my readers a good reason to want to reach out to me. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it.