How Should Writers Handle Facebook Frustrations?

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Did you know that Facebook has been using a calculation called EdgeRank to determine which of our followers get to see the status updates we post?

In other words, whenever we post something on Facebook (whether on our Personal Account or our Page), not ALL of our followers get to see what we post. Our comments will only show up on a VERY small percentage of newsfeeds (determined by some algorithm through EdgeRank).

Sadly this big-brother type of control is not new with Facebook and has been ongoing for some time now.

However, what IS new is that those of us who have Pages can choose to PAY to promote our comments to MORE of our followers through a new “Paid Promotion” feature that Facebook recently unveiled.

Those writers with Pages may have noticed the link "Promote" at the bottom of each status update. The link gives you the option of paying to promote that particular comment (and from what I understand, payments are not cheap for effective promotion).

In other words, we have to PAY Facebook to get our comments to show up in the newsfeeds of those followers we’ve already worked hard to obtain and in some cases may have even used paid advertising to gain (i.e. through Facebook ads).

Not only do we have to PAY to promote our posts to our hard-earned followers, but our followers aren’t automatically getting our updates, even though they freely and willingly signed up to “like” our pages. Instead, most of our followers have to actively seek us out if they want to keep up with what we’re saying and doing. And realistically, who has the time to do that?

Supposedly, if we can get real people interacting, commenting, sharing, liking, etc. then EdgeRank will share our comments in more newsfeeds. But does this really happen?

I thought I’d share a few statistics from my Facebook Page to give you an idea of just how FEW of our fans are actually being reached through our comments under EdgeRank (even with what I’d consider good interaction).

Here’s one comment: Today I got to meet with a Japanese woman who's been learning English by reading my book, The Doctor's Lady. This comment had 73 Likes & 15 Comments and only went to 31% of my followers. 

(Sidenote: These statistics are available to Page administrators at the bottom of each post, but aren’t on Personal accounts. And only Page administrators can see them.)

Another of my most popular comments was this: I DID IT! I finished writing a book today! After spending the past four months immersed in the story . . . This comment had 177 Likes, 52 Comments, & 1 Share and still only went to 38% of my followers.

The truth is, no matter how much interaction my Facebook posts get, it’s still difficult to increase the reach. The large majority of my posts go to about 25% or less of my followers. In light of the small percentages, one has to wonder if Facebook is purposefully making EdgeRank stingy so that we need the paid promotions to reach our fans.

I’m the first to admit I’m no expert in Facebook, EdgeRank, and Paid Promotion. If you want to delve deeper into the issues and learn more, here are several posts that I found helpful:

*FB fans aren’t seeing your posts (and how to fix it) by Cinda Baxter

*For FB page admins: How to reclaim (part) of your missing audience by Cinda Baxter

*A Common Sense, Non-Reactionary Approach to EdgeRank and Facebook Business Pages by Ken Mueller

So what’s a writer to do? Should we give up on Facebook altogether?

Here’s my evolving philosophy.

1. I’m keeping both my Facebook Page and Personal Accounts because my fans can still interact with me in both places. And that’s really what matters. Maybe the news about my books, events, or blog posts won’t reach the numbers I’d ideally like them to. But I can still interact with those who DO see them as well as those who take the time to search me out.

2. For the time being, I won’t be dishing out money for the Paid Promotion aspect. I don’t think I should have to pay to reach my OWN followers with my messages.

3. Facebook may not play as large of a role in marketing and platform-building anymore. If it’s losing its effectiveness and scope for the average author, then we may need to look at how we can utilize our other social media options better (including Pinterest).

4. I'll work harder to keep the social in Social Media. EdgeRank supposedly works best when we're utilizing Facebook on a personal level and forming genuine connections with our followers (versus just spamming our books with very little interaction with our fans).

And isn't that what social media is about anyway? Socializing? Yes, it's easier to throw out posts about our books, blog tours, or giveaways. But we have to remember to do the hard work of interacting and making our posts meaningful to our followers.

What are your thoughts? What do you think of Facebook’s EdgeRank system? Would you consider using Paid Promotion? Or do you think it’s unfair of Facebook to charge people to reach more of their own fans?

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  1. This is staggering news. Not much an author can do about changing such a big organization though. All we can do is keep up with the times.

  2. Head in the sand? Kind of .. I'm not planning to pay out money... It is only one social media avenue.
    You have some great points here . Thank you

  3. So frustrating! I've noticed one well-known author in the ACFW world started a "Reader's Group" instead of a page or a personal account. When she posts on the group, I get the information straight to my email. I could turn off that setting, but I haven't because she doesn't post too often and it's all relevant information.

  4. You've summed up my feelings about it beautifully.

  5. I'm thankful that there are so many ways to get a message out these days. I think Facebook will eventually fail, or they'll improve their business model once again because they won't be able to compete by continuously trying to muscle their users into submission to their controlling methods.

    A company's business model should make a customer WANT to pay for the services they offer. Facebook customers feel lied to over and over. Customers no longer trust Facebook.

    Maybe we all need to give Google+ another look???!??!

  6. Heather, I haven't done as much with Google+ as I probably could. I'd love it if Google+ or some other site could draw non-writing readers. But I still think the majority of my readers hang out on Facebook versus any other social media, although I think Pinterest might slowly be creeping up there as a new favorite.

    Julie, I like the idea of a Readers Group on Facebook, but I'm not sure how the logistics would work-would the author need to manually add everyone? If such a group's purpose is primarily to announce book releases, etc. then it makes sense to concentrate on getting readers to sign up for an email newsletter. Thanks for the idea, though! It's something I'll be mulling over.

  7. I was just having this conversation last night with a friend. We were talking about how few people we see on our Facebook newsfeeds. I wasn't sure how they did it, so thank you for sharing about EdgeRank. And thank you for the links to the articles. It's worth pondering.

  8. Wow. This is really eye-opening. I wondered why I work so hard at putting the right content onto my page and it isn't showing that it's read by many (if at all)though my readers are still there, they're just not getting the post. Another downside to FB.

  9. Having just got started with FB page, I've decided not to put my focus there. I still do post and comment but I'm not expecting much from them. Like you, I've focused more in other areas where it's easier to connect.

    But as soon as FB got sold we should've expected it. Mark got out when the going was good.

  10. That figures and it stinks.

    That's my opinion.

  11. Great post!

    Yes, I was also wondering about the logistics of all this the other day, and whether I should post to 'friends' or 'public,' and who is actually getting my feed.

    It is not very clear is it? I'll need some time to figure it all out, as-yet.

  12. I had no idea about this! Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I don't like it. I don't like it at all. Then again, I guess Facebook is free and can do whatever it wants. (pouting)

  13. I am very frustrated with social media in general, as it relates to my blog. Hardly any of my fans on facebook see my posts. I have over 800 followers on twitter, but people just don't go to links on twitter. I am not image heavy, so pinterest seems not useful. Google+? I have no idea.

  14. Yeah, so far, I haven't been a fan of Google+, but I truly haven't given it much effort. And if we writers aren't giving it much effort, hard to believe readers would. So I definitely agree with you. My husband, who uses FB for social reasons only, says FB has jumped the shark. When I did a poll recently, my friends and followers disagreed with him. :)

    I still wonder often if Goodreads is the place to hang out with other readers. Start up discussions there. Talk about books, etc. There are definitely some risks to that, but as long as you have parameters set ahead of time...

    I don't know. I think the world of social media is constantly shifting kind of like publishing. So we just need to keep being social and visible, building relationships and writing those books.

    Facebook will either work itself out, or continue to be its own worst enemy.

    I like the discussion here today, though. Together, authors will find a way to keep reaching out - facebook or not.

  15. I recently found out about this, and it really REALLY annoyed me. I've started a FB author page, but I haven't turned it "on" just yet for public viewing. This info really makes me not want to put much effort into it. I feel like I still *HAVE* to do it, though. I've been relying on Twitter a lot more lately. I like it more.

  16. Oh, you just hit on a MAJOR pet peeve for me lately. I joined FB late because it was simply one more social network to join and the noise was getting to be a bit much. But I needed to do it, so I finally did, and now I'm questioning that decision. The bottom line here is that those who asked to see our content, simply aren't. In the end, for me, I won't be paying to promote my content, so FB is simply not going to be an important part of my platform and I'll depend more on Twitter and my own website. I'll keep my page and still continue to post content, but it absolutely won't be my go-to media. Congratulations, FB, you've made yourself obsolete!

    Sorry, getting down from my soapbox now! ;)

  17. I've known about this particular FB faux pas for quite some time, and I can say it sucks! I'm an up and coming author, so my page doesn't have that many likes yet, and now those few likes that I do have won't even get to see my comments. It's crazy. Anything for more money! I wish there were more solutions other than paying to promote or FB stalking my followers to get them to come to my page more often so they'll be able to see my updates.

  18. Great post, Jody. I appreciate the additional links as well and am sharing your post with friends.

    Silly me, here I thought I kept missing posts due to the never-ending flow of info.

    Not surprised to find this out. As R. Mac Wheeler said - no such thing as free.

  19. Interesting post, Jody. Thanks.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but as I understand it, as far as personal profile go, which posts we get to see are largely determined by who our "Close Friends" are. Editing this grouping (which FB has created) allows us to see those people that matter (and whose rate of posting we can keep up with, lol).

    However, unless other people categorise you as a "Close Friended the chances decrease that they will see your post.

    This has its strengths and weaknesses, but works to a certain extent as ar as your personal profile musings go.

    The big question is why doesn't FB do a similar thing with pages. In many cases "Liking" someone's page is just a vote of approval, support and encouragement. You don't want to see every post that goes on there.

    I think there should be a category of "Really Like" / "Stalk" / "Follow" ? :) which can be ticked so that pages the user wants to see can turn up in their notifications in a similar way to those of "Close Friends".

    To me, it's a simple change and keeps the control in the hand of the user. It's then up to the owner of that page to make it something people want to be that connected with and doesn't mean they have to consciously visit to see if there is something new there.

    Evil plan to get promotional dollars or FB not living up to its full potential?

    Incidentally, I think there is a lot to be said for Groups and even Secret Groups. But that's another matter.

    thanks again

  20. Hi Alison,

    Thanks for sharing a bit more about the Personal Account "close friend" list. I haven't taken the time to do anything with it due to the sheer volume of my followers there. I see it as replacing the function of the old lists that we use to organize our followers into. We can gain more control over whose updates WE see on our end, but will it really put our status updates into more of our followers feeds? Does it really post to the people we put in the list all the time? In that case why not add everyone? Just curious if you've done that or know of anyone who has? Is it effective?

  21. Jody, from what I can gather, your friends would have to classify you (not your author page) as a "close friend" themselves to be notified of your postings and then the way they are notified is up to the way they have set up their notifications.

    I stress, this only works with personal friends not pages.

    If you're not a "close friend", they may, by chance, notice your postings in the right hand side ticker feed or on the main feed page, but that is the only way unless they actively check your wall.

    Mind you, it was ages before I understood what that little notification globe next to the message and friend icons was.

    But this definitely doesn't work with pages.

    As far as lists go, they can be lifted up into your favorites in the left hand bar which updates when there are new ones. Which again is helpful for you, but does nothing to help your followers see you.

    The way FB has designed these lists is worth checking. For example, when I click on friends or acquaintances I don't get the option on the right hand side at the top to get or not get notifications which I do get with close friends.

    My beef is that managing lists and photos is not intuitive and half the time I forget.

    So, until they make a way for PAGES to automatically notify people, then the only way around it is to post info about your books onto your personal profile linking it to your page and encourage people who may be interested to classify you as a "Close Friend".

    Which takes away the whole purpose of having a page. You might as well make changes to your website and tweet about it.

  22. I really think you should investigate the Group setting as that can be set up to send notifications about new postings.

    The only problem with doing that is, any member of the group can post there, so that can result in members getting bombarded by new notifications everytime a member puts up a "Squee" or something.

    If you could set up a group, invite the people who "Like" you to opt in and then set it so only you can post to it, that would be the easiest and most effective alternative.

    At least members can change settings to determine what sort of notifications they get. Much like Julie said in one of the early comments.

    It depends on how interactive you want everything to be.

  23. Excellent post, Jody. I've noticed this trend in Facebook for a while and don't like it. I tried to intentionally visit the pages of my close friends (who were no longer showing up in my news feed), but it just became too time-consuming, like you said.

    In fact, a couple weeks ago, I was ready to pull the trigger and start an author page in Facebook. But these latest stories gave me pause. I may still create one once I'm published, but I'm just not sure it's worth my time right now. Interesting to hear your take on Pinterest...I still need to get on there and see what all the fuss is about. :)

  24. Jody, I've always had a love-hate relationship with social media, but with all that Facebook has been doing I've found it swinging to tolerate-strongly dislike, with strongly dislike winning.
    Wish I had an answer. Meanwhile, I'll post occasionally and hope it reaches at least a few people.

  25. Alison, Thanks for sharing more of your perspective on the Close Friend lists on our Personal Accounts. As I said it really resembles the old lists we used to make (and still can access). But it does seem like a lot of maintenance, especially if we have a large number of followers! Again, as in our Pages, the burden for keeping us in the newsfeeds falls upon our followers--by putting us in lists.

    As far as FB groups, I haven't considered it for a reader's group. But it's definitely something I'll mull over!

  26. I had no clue. It doesn't surprise me though. I'm going to just keep hanging out on both of my pages and hope for the best. :)

    Loved the post and the comments!

  27. This is beyond frustrating. I agree with you 100%-- I won't be paying, especially when I can make good use of Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media sites.

    I hope that people will refuse to pay and FB will eventually change the way it does things. I won't hold my breath.

  28. I am new to blogging, just started this January, so I appreciate any tips I can get on increasing exposure. I didn't know being more "social" in social media would increase your chances of showing up in peoples Facebook feeds. Thanks for the tip!

  29. Well, the good news is you have reassured me that I'm not crazy. My daughter and I have friends in common on FB, and she sees posts that I don't see. I was getting a complex. It makes sense that I see less because I'm no it much less.

    From a marketing makes me crazy, but also doesn't surprise me. FB is a business after all, with a goal to generate income. I hate that we get sucked in on freebies that they then want to bill us for. But no, I'm not surprised.

  30. Great post Jody! I just started exploring social networking in earnest a month ago to promote my book, and this is a wake-up call for me! I was busy trying to gain followers on my Facebook author page with no idea that I had an additional hurdle like this!

    With all the social networking sites available, I find it unlikely that people will necessarily follow my posts from one free site to the next (Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, etc.), and perhaps this makes us all just "bloggers" trying to build an audience like any other pro-blogger out there the old-fashioned way: by providing regular content that our non-writer audience WANTS to read.

    Time to dust off my SEO (Search Engine Optimization) books!

    Thank you for the information! I look forward to more great articles like this. :-)

  31. I haven't heard this before but then I've never used Facebook or Twitter (which unfortunately means I can't use Pinterest, which I am interested in). It's hard to
    keep a little privacy when you're an author. I enjoy the blog I recently started and I can't help but be impressed at your efforts to connect with your readers and potential readers.

  32. Personally, I think a message forum with a sub-board for each Christian fiction author would be the answer. I go to alot of message forums for royalty. Each royal family from different countries get their own message board. Individual authors could be responsible for their own board. You could have an online storage, photo gallery for any pictures you would like to post. It would probably cost some, but if several authors all went together (or publishing houses) they could afford it. Here's a link to a forum like I'm referring to.

  33. Thanks for this!

    It looks like I'll just have to consider my FB page a minor place in terms of actual interactions with people. There is NO way I'll be paying, since the kinds of things I write aren't the kinds of things that make tons of money. You know how they always tell children's authors to keep a day job.

    It's just disheartening when we put ourselves out there to the people who like our Page and what we write, we work so hard to be there for them, and want to see what they also post - and then we aren't actually seeing each other's posts?

    I guess Pinterest really is the next best place to be, and will be concentrating there.

  34. If it makes you feel better, Jody, I always see your updates on Facebook. I'm probably not the demographic you're trying to reach, but your words are finding me! :)

  35. Wow, I had no idea. Explains a lot though. I don't seem to see your updates on facebook, and was wondering why. Luckily I catch you on pinterest.

  36. Facebook was just timepass for me , but today i get many new information related to facebook and facebook like . This information is very useful for me and I think for everybody. Thank to get likes on facebook

  37. I was on the bus back from a writing conference. The guy next to me was telling his friend how publishers/agents will judge whether or not to take you on based on the number of FB/twitter followers you have.

    But I don't use FB. Namely cause I'm still focusing on my novel's story structure and I'm unpublished. Reading this makes me glad I haven't invested my time there yet.

  38. This post is so brilliant. I had no idea and although it isn't an issue for me personally yet, as I am still an aspiring writer, it is an issue for my organisation (day job). I've been working really hard for them on Twitter and Facebook and simply can't understand why the response has been so great on Twitter and so lousy on Facebook. What on earth to do?

  39. There is also the point that those receiving your posts can also decide they're not that interesting (I don't mean you, personally!). Next to posts that come up in the News feed is an option not to receive more from that person. I've often chosen not to hear from those who keep telling me they've just eaten a biscuit, or who post nothing but trite little homilies. I guess the trick is to keep it light, fun and amusing. I've never used the Close Friends list but I do have a list called Limited Profile whereby those who are not personally known to me (ie readers who 'collect' writers, and thank goodness for them all) don't get to see my family photos etc. Great post this, thanks for it.

  40. Yes, there are ways we can pick and choose followers WE want to see in our feeds. We can make those lists and narrow down whose updates we're getting the most. BUT as writers building FB followings, we can't control who is putting us into their "important lists" and who isn't. I'd wager most people don't really organize their followers into the lists, and are just assuming they're getting everyone's updates.

  41. I love reading your blog! You always have such great info. Thank you, Jody!

  42. There is Google +... just not as many people went there because they were so glued to Facebook and afraid of something new. But it is an alternative, along with other forums out there.
    I think it's important to keep an open mind and I agree - let's keep the social in social media.

  43. Hi Martha and Pamela! Thanks for swinging by! The landscape is always changing in social media, that's for sure. Just as we get one thing figured out, changes pop up or something new comes along. It's good for us to keep an open mind about it all, but also to deal with it wisely.

  44. Thank you for explaining the figure that was puzzling me. Why were only 30+% of my readers reading my post? Now I understand, and I'm NOT happy. Going to spend some time working through all the comments to see what others are doing - but no way am I paying. That's for sure!

    1. Hi Shirley,

      Unfortunately, I don't think many of us were too aware that Facebook was making this change--I know I wasn't aware of the limited scope until I started investigating a little more. It's too bad that Facebook is doing this. But I don't think most of our readers really know or care. And they'll continue to use Facebook, which means we as writers need to continue as well--at least I am to a degree.

  45. Hi, Jody, I'm new here. What a shame - it never ends. I just wrote about FB and how they're changing everyone's primary email to a FB one. I think FB is a bit out of control.

    1. Hi Karen,

      Yes, I saw that FB is taking over the email too. It is a shame. At times I've felt like it was an interference with my freedom of speech. But of course, they could just say that if I don't like it, I don't have to use their service! Which is true! But unfortunately since most of our readers gravitate to FB still, I don't feel that I can give it up yet!

  46. As far as paid posts are concerned, if the headline, or hook is of general interest to writers/publishers, new info/insight then it might be worthy the cash. I am of the latter 50%, I like being told of a post but in my busy day I'll only click on it if is of particular interest. Hope that helps. KEEP BLOGGING whatever you do.

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