I’d like to welcome not only a fellow writer, but also a college classmate of mine! We reconnected via social media several years ago to share our ups and downs, tips, and other facets of being a writer in today’s world. His debut novel, Henry Franks, debuted in 2012 and was hailed as “the thinking teen’s horror choice of the year!” He has a new release, All Those Broken Angels, due out this fall. As a debut author in this new social media age, he’s been experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. One of these experiments was with Facebook Ads, and he was gracious enough to write up his findings for all of us. It includes some real-time notes he made while the ad was running, so you can see the engagement and costs. So without further ado, Welcome, Peter!
One of the first things I did after officially becoming a published author is to create a Facebook fan page. Well, it was maybe top twenty things. At first it was only friends and family Liking the page, after all I was a debut novelist and not exactly well known. I still remember how thrilled I was when the first actual stranger clicked Like. A Fan!! Oh, wow, I have a fan!
So, as the book came out and the Likes started growing, it never did get old when someone clicked Like on the fan page. Even now, with my second book coming out shortly, I still feel that thrill when a new person clicks Like.
But things have changed in the land of Facebook. And not for the better from the perspective of an author with a Facebook fan page.
How I Got Started With Facebook Ads
When I hit 200 likes on my Facebook fan page I received an email from Facebook Ads offering me a $50 credit for a Facebook Ad. Since I was able to set it up to max out at $50 it wasn’t going to cost me anything to experiment so I figured it was worth seeing what would happen with a Facebook ad.
At this point in the experiment I started keeping track of what was going on (the following text is from my contemporaneous notes while the ad was live):
Contemporaneous Notes & Questions
So far I’ve been ‘charged’ $5 of the $50 and 23 strangers have ‘liked’ my fan page in the 4 days that the ad has been active. If that rate continues I’ll have added 100+ ‘likes’ in a month…which is a lot of new eyeballs viewing my page and my posts and, potentially, buying my books. Of course, that’s a mighty BIG ‘if’ there but so far it’s been fairly positive. I’ve been able to sort of extrapolate to see what those 23 people liking the page have meant by looking at my blog stats on those posts which I linked to from my Facebook page and it does look as though some of those people did click through (of course, there’s not really a great way to verify that but I’m making the assumption here…) and the views of my trailer for the next book on YouTube has been watched a number of times this week so maybe that’s from some of the people clicking the Facebook ad getting to my Facebook page and clicking through to YouTube since that’s the first post on my page. Again, a sizable assumption… The one thing I do know is the 23 new ‘likes.’ Is that worth $5? It’s DEFINITELY worth ‘free’, which is what I’m currently paying.
This is the data from each of the 3 receipts I’ve received so far:
- Likes – Ad 1,050 impressions (2 clicks) $1.59
- Likes – Sponsored Stories 7 impressions (0 clicks) $0.06
- Likes – Ad 1,026 impressions (4 clicks) $0.85
- Likes – Sponsored Stories 14 impressions (0 clicks) $0.08
- Likes – Ad 6.606 impressions (6 clicks) $1.76
- Likes – Sponsored Stories 10 impressions (0 clicks) $0.04
Under ‘targeting’ I chose the following:
This ad targets 12,000,000 people:
- who live in the United States, who like #Psychological thriller, #Mystery fiction, #Supernatural fiction, #Horror fiction, #Ghost story, #Science fiction or #Thriller (genre)
- who are not already connected to Peter Adam Salomon.
After doing some more research I was able to create a new ‘buy’ ad with a link to Amazon, also being paid for from the original credit. After 6 days with the new ad, I ended up deleting it. Why? Because, for the 6 days it ended up costing over $12 (so probably $13 or so a week). What did I get for that $12? Well, pretty much nothing. 18 strangers clicked on the ad to ‘Like’ the ad. Yes, they didn’t click through to like my page, they merely liked the ad. Which is useless. Only 2 strangers saw the ad and then searched to Like my page. No one clicked through to Amazon. Yes, no one.
I’m up to 32 new likes on my page, so only about 1-2 a day since I started the new ad. Oddly enough, it appears that the more expensive ad (that linked to Amazon) was the main ad that was popping up since the other ad didn’t get much exposure at all. I’ve killed the pricey one and we’ll see what happens now. I also changed the text on the ad to “The thinking teen’s horror choice of the year” (from the Booklist Starred review) so we’ll see if that changes things at all.
2 weeks, $25 spent ($12 of it pretty much wasted on that ad that had people liking the ad), close to 50 new ‘likes’ on my page. If we ignore that $12, it’s pretty much right around $25 a month for (estimating here) 100 Likes. That’s well worth it if I keep that rate for the next 12 months until release of ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS (being over 1000 ‘fans’ would be a great thing for marketing then, no?). Might be worth continuing even after the credit runs dry. Who’d have thunk it?
With 8 days left in ad campaign there was $8 left of the credit (still a little ticked off at the wasted $12 but oh well). 20 more new ‘Likes’ and I’ll be at 100 for the length of the campaign. So it’s going to translate to something close to $0.50 per ‘Like’ (massively estimating here and ignoring the wasted $12). If I keep the campaign going (having to spend my own money for the next 12 months, which would be somewhere in the $500 range, give or take) at that rate I’d be closing in on 2000 Likes by the time ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS comes out.
So, the $64,000.00 question (or, in this case, $500 question) is: Does having ‘Likes’ on a fan page on Facebook lead directly, or indirectly, to actual book sales upon release of a book? Other than paying the money and waiting until Fall 2014 for release of ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS I don’t really see any way to actually answer that question (and even after release there’ll be no real way to tell other than to maybe ask those who have ‘Liked’ the page if they bought the book. I can’t see where it can possibly hurt to have more access and more eyeballs seeing posts about the book, no? And, in the grand scheme of things, $500 isn’t a TON of money (though it is a bunch…).
At the end of the ad campaign I was at 298 Likes on my page. I began at 202. ‘Spent’ $50 of fake Facebook credit money and ended up with close to 100 new Likes from complete strangers. I’d have easily hit 100 if I hadn’t wasted the $12 on that secondary ad which only collected its own Likes for no reason whatsoever. I’m not 100% sure that 100 new Likes on my fan page will translate to any additional sales.
What does this mean? And the new role of facebook’s algorithm
For the amazing update to all of this: In December 2013, Facebook once again offered me a $50 credit (usable for one month only this time, this is important as I don’t recall their being a time limitation on the first credit). Well, I jumped at the chance. Results? Once again 100 new Likes in less than a month, so I am now over 400 Likes. Unfortunately, the ad credit ran dry before I had spent all $50. I actually ended up only spending about half of that credit. So, $50 would have ended up buying closer to 200 Likes. Which tracks pretty well, all things considered, with the original buy (if you include the wasted money on the first credit).
But, here’s the final kicker:
Now, with the new algorithms that Facebook is using that takes eyeballs away from ‘Fan Pages’ I’m no longer sure how many views each of my posts are getting. I do know that even with more ‘Fans’ I’m getting fewer views due solely to Facebook’s new and improved ‘algorithms.’
To compare, I’m NOT going to spotlight ‘big’ posts (such as announcements or cover reveals, which get more views due to shares, etc), instead, I’m just going to choose a random post: Specifically May 6, 2013. This post was PRIOR to the first credit, so at the time I had somewhere in the range of 200 Likes. The post, linking to a poetry post on my blog has the following text beneath it (added by Facebook): ’68 people saw this post’
For the sake of comparison, here is a poetry post from Jan. 22, 2014, when I was over 400 Likes. Again, the post simply links to a poetry post on my blog: ’22 people saw this post’
In other words, while my Likes DOUBLED, the actual eyeballs seeing my posts was cut down to less than one third.
That is due solely to Facebook’s new algorithms (there are countless articles and posts about that, simply Google it. The easiest way to explain it is that Facebook wants ‘businesses’ which they lump people like me into since I have a fan page, to PAY to boost posts).
Prior to those new rules I was definitely leaning toward buying the Facebook ad with the intention to push the Likes on my fan page over one thousand. Do the math: old rules, 200 Likes, 68 views. 2000 Likes would have been close to 700 views, close enough to 50% to make it worthwhile to have that many Likes.
New rules: 400 Likes, 22 views. 2000 Likes, 100 views? Somewhere in the neighborhood of FIVE PERCENT? And how many of those 5% are ‘friends’ who have liked my page? With the Likes via the Facebook ad, those are strangers. You know, actual fans! People I’d love to be able to communicate with, to connect with.
So, yes, Facebook ads are worth the money if your sole interest is in increasing the number of people Liking your page. However, due to the new algorithms, no matter how many Likes you have, fewer people are actually seeing your posts.
How to correct this? PAY to boost the posts, in addition to paying for the Facebook ad? I think the credits from Facebook are applicable to the ‘Boost Post’ function. If so, and if Facebook gives me another credit, perhaps I’ll test that and update this essay. Until then, however, I’m hesitant to spend money on Facebook ads without knowing if the ‘Boost Post’ function will have a lasting impact (in other words: does boosting one post, or even a couple, increase views going forward or only for those specific posts). I’d be far more likely to spend the money if the effect had staying power.
In my opinion, Facebook has done a great disservice to small businesses and the self-employed by these new algorithms. Worst of all, though, they’ve done themselves a disservice. I was all set to not only buy a Facebook ad to run for the next year but to recommend to other novelists that they do the same. After all, I pretty conclusively proved that their ads do produce Likes.
Instead, I’m left recommending people NOT give Facebook money for their ads solely due to Facebook’s own rules. That’s a poor business model, no?
And then there’s this, which sheds more light on the interplay of Likes and Engagements. Just who is liking your page?
Please let me know if you have any comments or suggestions or questions on this topic as I find it fascinating and am always looking for new ways to connect with my readers and to meet new readers!
About Peter Adam Salomon
Peter Adam Salomon graduated Emory University in Atlanta, GA with a BA in Theater and Film Studies in 1989. He is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the Horror Writers Association, the International Thriller Writers, and The Authors Guild and is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. His debut novel, HENRY FRANKS, was published by Flux in September 2012. His next novel, ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS, a ghost story set in Savannah, GA, is scheduled for publication in Fall 2014 by Flux.
His short fiction has appeared in Demonic Visions I and II and he was the featured author for Gothic Blue Book III: The Graveyard Edition. His poem ‘Electricity and Language and Me’ appeared on BBC Radio 6 performed by The Radiophonic Workshop in December 2013.
He was also a Judge for the 2006 Savannah Children’s Book Festival Young Writer’s Contest and served on the Jury for the Poetry Category of the 2013 Bram Stoker Awards.
Peter Adam Salomon lives in St. Petersburg, FL with his wife Anna and their three sons: André Logan, Joshua Kyle and Adin Jeremy.
Upcoming Release ALL THOSE BROKEN ANGELS
Comforted by a shadow. Haunted by the truth. Richard Anderson was the last person to see his friend Melanie alive. She vanished when they were six and while the police never found Melanie, a part of her remained—a living shadow that is now Richard’s closest friend.
For ten years, Richard has never questioned the shadow that keeps him company . . . until a new girl moves to town, claiming to be Melanie. Desperate to prove the girl is a fake, the shadow leads Richard to the place where her killer buried her bones. But Richard finds skeletons from several different children . . . and evidence suggesting that perhaps the shadow isn’t who she says she is.