Using Social Media for Business (aka The Joy and Pain of Using Facebook to Promote a Book)

Social media can be both a good friend and a fair-weather friend who drives you crazy. What makes me say that, you ask? Because I’m living through this experience as we speak.

A few months ago, I took on the task of creating and managing the promotion and engagement strategy for a book that was co-written by two local authors. The book, entitled Myths & Monsters of Reston, Virginia, is a family friendly historical adventure that encourages readers of all ages to get outside, explore nature, and enjoy the stories of mythical creatures that may live in anyone’s hometown.

While I’ve been using various tools to promote the book, including earned media (pitching to media/press), getting the authors to do book signings and live events, and finding creative ways to get exposure for the authors like leveraging teachers to review the book, the social media tool we’re leveraging is Facebook. Using Facebook as a starting point for a short-staffed marketing team of one, I’ll soon be adding Instagram into the mix, as it’s become a burgeoning tool considered effective for brands to start using for business.

Learning about the best practices and most effective ways to use Facebook for a product has been a learning experience. Facebook is best for building and nurturing a community, rather than using it as a selling platform. While I knew that going into the experience, and thought I had a good understanding of the type of content that performs best on the channel, Facebook continues to be a challenge with its ups, downs, excitement, and disappointments. In this blog, I’d like to share my recommendations (and musings) on what works well for using Facebook as a channel for generating buzz about a new, small press book.

Top 5 List of What Works Well for Facebook Marketing—

1-FB is only one channel to use within a larger set of marketing channels. Use FB as part of the full marketing mix, and don’t expect it to be the only channel to create buzz, generate word of mouth, or specifically sell books. To get attention for a small press book that doesn’t have an agent, publicist, or publishing house behind it, FB can be a powerful tool.

2-Use FB to engage and invite followers and fans, and cultivate a community of brand champions. FB is a two-way platform that is a powerful means to reach potential buyers and fans around the world in a way not otherwise possible without more resources being used. In growing and expanding an audience for a small press book, using Facebook’s paid advertising options such as Boost and Promote allow for broad and narrow audience segmentation, and demographic and behavioral targeting (such as selecting tags that describe book fans and storytelling fans). Also showcase your core asset beyond the book itself, such as the authors, who represent the brand as much as book itself, if not more.

3-Invite friends and associates to like your FB page but use paid advertising to get your content viewed and shared widely. Over the last year or two, Facebook has changed its algorithms so that business (brand) pages don’t get displayed in your FB page’s “friends” feed unless you pay to advertise. I conjecture it’s Facebook’s strategy to generate more revenue from businesses. Using my friends to test out this issue of not seeing Myths & Monsters book posts, I found consistently that unless I pay-to-play (advertise) they don’t see the posts in their FB feed, even though they’re technically “friends” of the Myths & Monsters FB page.

4-Use fun, entertaining, and intriguing content. Don’t directly sell, promote, lecture, or try to convince on FB. This approach quickly disengages FB users, including FB page followers. For small press, and the Myths & Monsters book in particular, high performing content includes silly or fun memes that celebrate a holiday while tying in some aspect of the book’s content; using photos or video and not just text/copy; and thanking attendees for coming to an event you hosted (like an author book signing). (See example of the Cicada Lady post, which is a creature “sighting” shared with FB fans).

5-Experiment, test-test-test, and realize social marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Having a social media strategy, even if it’s just for one channel such as Facebook, is key—but the strategy shouldn’t be set in stone. Adjusting along the way, from creating (then modifying) a social media editorial calendar in the content you post and the cadence for posting it should be expected. The beauty and challenge of social media is its dynamic quality. Content can be posted quickly but the nature of what should be posted will change depending on what else is happening in the social universe, the 24-news cycle and current events; and unexpected brand challenges such as dealing with a communication crisis in FB’s public forum. While managing the Myths & Monsters FB page, I’ve made adjustments to the editorial calendar many times, such as when finding out that there are many “national holidays” that I want to create social content to, because they align to the Myths & Monsters brand. For example, Earth Day 2017 (and its hashtag) made for a great hook to celebrate the haunted forests that Myths & Monsters takes place in.

If others reading this post have experiences to share about using Facebook for marketing a niche product that doesn’t have an established brand presence (books in particular), I’d be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject. Maybe we can learn from each other, and grow my Top 5 list to a bigger number!

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