Is it a waste of your time trying to cultivate a following for your books via Facebook? In a recent article at digitalbookworld.com, Michael Alvear makes a good case for the answer being yes.
I don't like blog posts that hype "surprising" or "shocking" information that turns out to be neither, but this article revealed something that did surprise me. Maybe you already knew this, but when you add a post on Facebook, only about 16% of your friends or fans see them. I don't mean that they appear on the Facebook pages of all your friends and fans, but 84% don't notice them. I mean that they pop up on only 16% of your follower's pages in the first place.
I have 469 friends on Facebook. That means any individual post reaches only 75 people. Admittedly, I am not very active on Facebook (other than having my blog posts sent to my page automatically), but let's look at the numbers to see how many I'd need for Facebook to be a significant selling tool.
Alvear estimates that it takes 20,000 people seeing your posts about your book in order to create a worthwhile number of sales. That means in reality you need more than 100,000. Unless you're in the public eye, it's very difficult to get to that number.
Want your post to be sent to 100% of your friends or followers? Pay up.
How cost-effective is it to pay to have all your fans, and others interested in your topic, see your post? On his first try, Alvear paid to reach all of his 5000 Facebook fans and another 8000 people interested in the subject of his book. It cost him $60. He sold..3 books.
For another book with a broader appeal, he paid $344 to reach almost 13,000 people who expressed interest in his topic. He sold...0 books.
In the article, he identifies some of the reasons why Facebook doesn't work very well for authors. For one thing, the click-through rate (that is, the percentage of people who actually click on your post to get to an order page or to one that has more information) is less than .02% (two-tenths of one percent)! On his second try, he had a click-through rate of 3% and still sold no books. The average conversion rate (that is, people who actually buy after clicking on the post in order to find out more) is only 13%.
It makes sense. How many of your actual (as opposed to online-only) friends buy your book? I've talked to several authors who asked their friends to buy and review their books on Amazon. Most said they were lucky if they got half a dozen to follow through. People are busy, they may like you but not be interested in your topic or your genre of fiction, or they may just not want to spend the money. I'm sure some of them mean to get around to it but forget. If we keep sending out messages to remind them, it feels like we're begging our abusing the friendship.
Alvear's figures, as well as the personal experience of a few of my acquaintances, suggest that authors should put their attention on other ways of building an author platform. In future posts I'll look at some of the other options.