What do Facebook’s new rules mean for authors?

Group of friends using smartphones in the campus

On November 14, 2014, Facebook announced new rules for posts from Facebook Pages that mean you’ll be seeing fewer posts from Pages in your news feed starting in January 2015.

Facebook is making the change because its research shows that’s what users want. Facebook said:

“People told us they wanted to see more stories from friends and Pages they care about, and less promotional content.”

According to people surveyed, there are some consistent traits that make organic posts feel too promotional:

  1. Posts that solely push people to buy a product or install an app
  2. Posts that push people to enter promotions and sweepstakes with no real context
  3. Posts that reuse the exact same content from ads

Here’s one example Facebook sited as the type of organic (meaning, not promoted) post that people don’t want to see, even from Pages they have liked. As you can see, it’s overtly promotional and reads like an advertisement.

tiger therapy

Impact on authors

What does this mean for authors with either author or book Pages? Will it make this marketing tool even less useful for your book business?

Not necessarily.

Your goal with your Page content is to do what you should have been doing along:

  • Sharing information that is helpful and not overtly promotional — as in “Buy my book!”
  • Always providing context for whatever you’re posting — if it’s a Rafflecopter contest, add descriptive text rather than just saying “Enter this contest!” with a link.
  • Never posting content that you’ve pulled from your Facebook ads.

Read and follow Facebook’s “Page posting tips and best practices.” It has lots of helpful information and advice that will make your Page work harder for you.

Remember: People are on Facebook to learn more about what’s happening in their friends’ lives, not be bombarded with content that looks to them like ads. Give them more of what they want and they’ll see, and engage with, more of your Facebook Page content.

What do you think of the new plan? What are you going to do differently with your Facebook page now?

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Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her BuildBookBuzz.com site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

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14 Responses to What do Facebook’s new rules mean for authors?
  1. Carrie
    November 26, 2014 | 2:26 pm

    FB should have been curtailing spamming ads a long time ago. My aim is to catch my fans attention with something interesting, whether that be a relatable cartoon, a nod to Fridays (#TGIF!) or an author video. As long as what I’m posting is interesting, they will click through to learn about my book and website on their own.
    “Yell and Tell” campaigns that are in the buyer’s face never worked for me – and I find it annoying when others do it, so I try not to do it!

    • Sandra Beckwith
      November 26, 2014 | 2:45 pm

      Carrie, “yell and tell” is the perfect way to describe the wrong way to do it.

      The new rules aren’t for advertising, they’re for Page posts. Specifically, the more your post looks like an ad, the fewer people will see it.

      I’m glad to know you’re doing it right!


  2. Elizabeth Kricfalusi
    November 26, 2014 | 3:39 pm

    Well, I have almost 1,000 fans on my Page and when I post something now but don’t pay to boost it, it gets shown to about 10-20 people. There’s not much farther to go down from there…

    And I’m talking about posts for tutorials I’ve written — the exact kind of thing my fans want to see. And even when I try to pay to boost them, they often get rejected because they have “more than 20% text on them,” a completely arbitrary rule that makes no sense. A lot of my post images are screenshots that do have words on them, but they’re not ad-like whatsoever.

    I’m *this close to closing down my FB page.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      November 26, 2014 | 4:40 pm

      Hi Elizabeth,

      The content on your website is really helpful to your audience, so it’s disappointing that a Facebook Page isn’t a better marketing tool for you. I made a conscious decision not to create a Page for my business for a number of reasons and you’ve reinforced that decision. In general, I think Pages are better suited to retail, rather than service, pages. For example, I’ll check the FB Page for my favorite cupcakery on a Sat. to see what gluten-free flavors they’re making that day and decide if I want to swing by for a treat, but I have no reason to go to my accountant’s Page.

      As for your promoted posts, I’d recommend creating more posts that fit the promoted post guidelines, then promote those that have generated a positive organic response already. First, the best posts to promote are those that are already popular. Second, you want to just give FB what it wants because FB makes the FB rules. (It’s like relationship problems: You can’t change him, you can only change how you react to him, right?)

      Finally, I doubt that the 20% rule is arbitrary. FB is always testing, testing, testing. The company knows what people respond to and to keep people on the site so it can draw more advertisers, it’s going to give users more of what they want.

      You might want to experiment a little more following the advice in the best practices link above before shutting it down but honestly, I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

      Thanks for the feedback — it was helpful and interesting!


  3. Raven Dane
    November 26, 2014 | 4:56 pm

    I cringe when writers talk of their ‘fans’…authors have readers….pop and film stars have fans…
    Some of the worse offenders re promoting books are newbie self published writers who are probably following some marketing device written by someone who has never had a book published..They can be so in your face , demanding I ‘like’ their page seconds after I accept their friend request. That incurs an instant delete from me. Get to know me, know my work and I will get to know you…and only then if your book deserves it, will I ‘like’ your page.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      November 26, 2014 | 5:18 pm

      Raven, you sound like me! I agree. I immediately unfriend anyone who writes a promotional post on my wall as soon as I accept a friend request.

      I think some of the newbie self-published folks are following the examples of their peers who have had no advice, so they’re doing it all wrong. People say to them, “Oh, you should be on Facebook!” or “You should be on Twitter!” Rather than take the time to learn how to use social networks appropriately, they just jump on and post links to book sales pages on Amazon.


      • Melissa J Rutter
        November 27, 2014 | 9:53 am

        I do not agree totally on this. I am both traditionally published and self-published. Facebook have been restricting our feed for the last year. I have almost 700 likes on my author page and I reach 20 at the most. Newbie authors need nurturing, I agree but they are not all self published. Publishing houses basically leave you out there on your own, you still have to pay for marketing and an FB page helps to spread the word. I’ll give you a self published author who hit the New York Times list twice this year, she is an international best seller, Melissa Foster. She relies heavily on her FB page as many of us do. I am in an author forum group and we already have a Google+ page set up because of this, I will shut my page down and never use FB ever again if this persists. I thought we lived in a world of free speech, its okay to post ads relating to products on your side bar, FB are fine with that because you pay to do so. This is nothing to do with making your feed better, or more friendly, its about forcing authors to pay to post, eventually we will have no choice. Incidentally, I NEVER send a ‘like my page’ to new friends, if they want to then fine. I never bribe anyone into liking my page and I certainly do not post links to my books unless asked. The only thing I share are my reviews, because I am proud of my work and love hearing that a reader enjoys it. My advice to new authors, join a forum group, get as much support as possible, because once you are out there, its nothing short of a vicious, dog-eat-dog catfight.

        • Sandra Beckwith
          November 27, 2014 | 3:04 pm

          Thanks, Melissa. Whether you’re traditionally or self-published, you’re responsible for promoting your book. Sometimes that involves experimenting to see what does and doesn’t work, or changing how you execute a tactic to use it more effectively.


  4. Clint
    November 26, 2014 | 5:46 pm

    Thanks for the post. I had not seen those guidelines before. I appreciate the heads up.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      November 26, 2014 | 5:59 pm

      I’m glad it was helpful, Clint.


  5. Mili
    December 1, 2014 | 1:03 am

    Thank you, Sandra.

    I am a bit confused. When I have an event, I let everyone know about it on Pages. If I have a new product coming out, I let everyone know. I’m excited, so I think people who like my page and my work would be excited, too. At this moment I’m having a countdown to my first online Book Launch Party and I’m letting people know. Every day I post a different picture with the Launch Page’s link–is this advertising?

    Pages are for businesses, therefor if I like a page and they have a new video or something coming out, I would be interested to know about it. Honestly, what Facebook is doing makes no sense.

    How is Number 5. in “Best Practice” list any different from the tiger post?

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 1, 2014 | 1:24 am

      Mili, essentially, you can put anything you want on your Page, but if it looks like you’re trying to sell something, Facebook wants you to pay for an advertisement to get that message out, instead. That means that if your Post today says, “My book is on sale on Amazon today for $.99! Here’s the link!” fewer people are going to see that post than they would if today’s post was, “Wow! My book is at #10 in its category on Amazon today! I’m so excited!” — and that’s posted with a link to your Amazon page so everyone can see your rank (and perhaps buy the book while they’re there). AND, even more will see it if you put “My book is on sale on Amazon today for $.99! Here’s the link!” in an ad that you buy.

      #5 in the best practices is about advertising. The tiger post wasn’t an ad — it was a post. In #5, Facebook is saying, “Buy ads when you’re running a sale,” not “write a post about your sale when you’re running a sale.” A post is free; an ad costs you $$. Facebook is trying to force you to buy an ad when you’re selling something.

      I hope that helps!


  6. Marijke
    December 30, 2014 | 9:09 pm

    hi Sandra – just wanted to point out a small typo (hope you don’t mind!). It says hear the top “On November 14, 2015….”

    Unless I blinked a bit too long, the year is wrong. 🙂

    • Sandra Beckwith
      December 30, 2014 | 9:30 pm

      THANK YOU! Fixed!


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