Facebook changes that will impact authors and content publishers in 2019 and beyond

For several years now, authors and publishers have been negatively impacted by changes that Facebook has made to their algorithms. These changes reduce organic reach.

Organic reach means that potential readers can find third-party content through ordinary searches. For example, you execute a search for “cocker spaniels”, and you find the website of a breeder of cocker spaniels. Or maybe (more to the point here) an article or a book about cocker spaniels.   

Organic reach exists on Google, Pinterest, YouTube, and even Twitter.

But not on Facebook anymore.

Why did Facebook do this? 

Facebook partly attributes the changes to the “fake news” controversies of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. They don’t want you to be misled by Russian spambots, in other words. 

But there’s another reason, too.

Facebook wants you to buy more ads.

Only one way for Facebook to make money

Think about it: Facebook has the largest social media platform in the world. But Facebook doesn’t manufacture devices, like Apple does. They aren’t a retail operation, like Amazon is. 

Facebook’s only real source of revenue is: ad spending. There are thousands of corporate brands, small businesses, and solo entrepreneurs (including authors) who are on the platform to get attention.

And when those entities spend money on Facebook ads, Mark Zuckerberg makes money. Facebook’s ad revenue hit the $55 billion mark in 2018.

Facebook’s new focus: groups

According to a report from Sassysuite, Facebook will soon change its algorithms yet again, to further diminish publisher content in individual newsfeeds. (This is a continuation of what Facebook has been doing for several years now.)

But here’s another twist: The next round of changes to the Facebook algorithms will redirect a large portion of the site’s focus to groups. 

So, according to recent post on Sassysuite, if you want to engage with an audience on Facebook, then you should build a group on Facebook, and engage inside the group.

Groups are problematic for fiction authors seeking to connect with new readers.

That might work for certain kinds of authors and publishers. Anyone who writes and publishes about a particular hobby (coin collecting, fishing) should do well with a group.

But most people who buy books don’t necessarily want to join an author’s group. 

For example, last month I read a great novel by Lisa Scottoline, After Anna. I enjoyed After Anna, and I would be open to buying future books by Scottoline. 

But do I want to join a Lisa Scottoline group? Probably not…Let’s be honest. And if that’s the only way Lisa Scottoline can practically reach me (without a huge ad spend), is Facebook still a good way for Scottoline and other authors to connect with readers?

Most readers don’t read only one author. So is every author supposed to have her own group now? And will authors need to convince readers to join their groups, versus just getting them to read a post? (Like Facebook used to be, in other words.)

Digital sharecropping

Then there’s another issue. I’ve written before about the dangers of digital sharecropping. If you build a group on Facebook’s real estate, Facebook owns that group at the end of the day; you don’t.

And Facebook can take it away from you, anytime. Or (more likely) Facebook can charge you money for every engagement there.

Should authors unfriend Facebook?

Call me cynical, but Facebook is on the verge of becoming more trouble than it’s worth. I still like the platform for keeping in touch with my high school friends, and looking at relatives’ vacation photos. 

As an author and blogger, though…not so much. I’m devoting only a small amount of time to Facebook nowadays. And with skyrocketing ad costs on the platform, I’m in no hurry to give Mark Zuckerberg more of my money. 

He already has a net worth of $72 billion, after all.

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