Facebook, Content Marketing, and Selling Courses: Do you really need them?

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Social Media Just for WritersThe other day I was feeling overwhelmed by email. You know how that feels, right?

You look at your inbox, and there are all these catchy email headlines tempting you to open them, take yet another course, buy yet another product.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t begrudge successful author entrepreneurs or social media experts with enticing offers. I also use email marketing and hawk my books and services from time to time too.

But last week it just seemed like too much. Let me give you some examples of the headlines in my inbox:

  • 50 Ways to Get More Facebook Fans
  • 5 Things You Should Be Doing with Your Content But Aren’t
  • Why You Need to Sell Courses Starting Now!

This is my response to those headlines.

50 Ways to Get More Facebook Fans

FacebookWith Facebook’s new algorithm tweaks, which will make it impossible for a typical indie author to have a successful Facebook page, I doubt that there are any ways to get more fans aside from paying beaucoup money for advertising.

Facebook’s reason for tinkering with the algorithm wasn’t nefarious. They surveyed hundreds of thousands of people who said they want to see more content from friends and “Pages they care about and less promotional content.” Facebook went on to say:

We dug further into the data to better understand this feedback. What we discovered is that a lot of the content people see as too promotional is posts from Pages they like, rather than ads. This may seem counterintuitive, but it actually makes sense: News Feed has controls for the number of ads a person sees and for the quality of those ads (based on engagement, hiding ads, etc.), but those same controls haven’t been as closely monitored for promotional Page posts. Now we’re bringing new volume and content controls for promotional posts, so people see more of what they want from Pages.

What does all this mean for you? Well, you can encourage people to like your page by including reminders in your newsletter, at the bottom of your blog posts, and in your email signature, but from years of doing this I’ve got to tell you that the number of people who take the extra step is few.

I have a Facebook Page, and I’m keeping it, but I no longer recommend that indie authors try to start or maintain a Facebook page. This is a radical turnabout for me. (I’ll discuss an alternative for you in an upcoming post.)

[clickToTweet tweet=”My advice: Don’t start an author Facebook page @CaballoFrances” quote=”My advice: Don’t start an author Facebook page “]

The bottom line is that if you want a Facebook page (not a profile where you have friends, not fans), buy lots of advertising. That is your true alternative to doing well with your Facebook author page.

5 Things You Should Be Doing with Your Content But Aren’t

home-office 2This seemingly is a great headline for a blog post. But remember, I was in one of those moods last week. I didn’t want to read that I’m doing something wrong with my content, which, by the way, I work hard on.

I probably would have read a post with this headline: 5 Things You Absolutely Must Do with Your Content. That’s a headline that I would tap to learn more.

The lesson here is to keep your blog post headlines positive and provide the content that your readers crave. You’ll get more readers, like me.

I want to make another point. Content marketing works. We only need to look at successful authors and publishing experts to verify this fact: Joel Friedlander, Joanna Penn, and Jane Friedman, to name just a few.

Content marketing has been the basis of my business. I’ve never purchased a Google Ad and I’ve only bought a small handful of  Facebook ads. All of the relationships that I’ve developed online (Jane Friedman, Joanna Penn, Anne R. Allen, and Paula Krapf just to  name a few) are a result of content marketing. So don’t ignore this powerful strategy.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Provide the content that your readers crave via @CaballoFrances” quote=”Provide the content that your readers crave”]

Why You Need to Sell Courses Starting Now! 

Confession time: I’m working on a course. Well, I offer a free, email-based course, and I’m slowly working on a course authors like you can purchase.

And I’m slowly making my way into video, too, although none are for public consumption at this time.

What I object to, I guess, is the demand that everyone needs to create and sell courses. Do fiction authors need to sell courses? No. (Caveat: Unless you’re like Joanna Penn or Mark Dawson.) Do nonfiction authors need to sell courses? Some of them probably should but not all of them.

The idea that you need to create and sell your course now and not get left behind is a call to action that is tiring. Don’t you agree? It feeds into the FOMO syndrome (Fear of Missing Out).

Experts use the same reasoning for podcasting, and I mistakenly fell for it. So the lesson here is: Don’t worry about selling courses. If it makes sense for your business, do it. Otherwise, delete the email and move on.

9 Lessons for Moving Forward

Social Media Just for Writers by Frances Caballo

So what can you learn from my inbox last week?

  1. Make your blog post headlines encouraging and enticing.
  2. Carefully craft your email headlines.
  3. I know that urgency sells, but sometimes it can be tiring. Use this motivational style sparingly. (I can sense marketers groaning at me.)
  4. Be authentic.
  5. Be respectful of your readers.
  6. Don’t send too many emails.
  7. Make sure your emails contain the content that your readers need and enjoy.
  8. Don’t make your email headlines sound as though the end of the world is near.
  9. When you’re overwhelmed by email, tap the delete icon mercilessly, take a deep breath, and know that tomorrow your inbox will be tamer.

Authors: Not Sure What to Tweet? Try These 44 Tweets Today by Frances Caballo, AuthorAbout the AuthorFrances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and a contributing writer at TheBookDesigner.com and blogger and Social Media Expert for BookWorks. She’s written several books including The Author’s Guide to Goodreads, and Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Ask Frances to prepare a social media audit for you.


Practical Tips for Marketing Your Books on the Social Web


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  1. Yes to all of these! I have bought precisely two courses. Two. Paid for. And entered into the beta for another by one of the instructors because she gives good advice and has an active COMMUNITY built up on her site. (She also puts a warning in her course offers: You’re hearing about it now, you’ll hear about it the day before it goes live, and you’ll hear about it 24hrs before I turn off the store. That’s it. And she sticks to it. No email blasting spam in my inbox every day. It’s why I keep my ears open for what she’s teaching). But I get so sick of emails that hit my inbox saying, in a nutshell, that if I don’t have something sell to others, if I can’t scrape up some sort of advice that I can talk people into paying for; then I’m behind the times and going FAIL. So tired of it. I’ve gotten so I just run through and delete everything that looks vaguely markety, even when I know the person offering it has good stuff (in general).
    I’m a fiction author. Just starting out. The only wisdom I can offer people is to suggest they choose a got spot to sit and don’t get RSI 😉

  2. Oooo. I love this blog. I agree with it. I despise the hoopla surrounding Facebook ads. Some guy saying “I makes $5000 a week selling my books via Facebook. You can too. Take my course: Only $299.” If anybody is earning $5000 a week doing anything~why do they need MY money. How come they ain’t living in a villa in the south of France? Pfft. If there is any single thing I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been an indie author it is: Think for Myself. I have colleagues who have paid for virtual ehow courses as the Road to Glory. So far not a single one of ’em out sells my books. Happy for them if they do, because I don’t sell in the thousands. But they would sell books if they used the funds to promote a book. I very often sweep every email into file: Read later. I never have. I don’t think I’ve missed anything. Great post. Take care.

    • Jackie: Thank you for your comment. I understand how you feel because that’s how I felt the day I wrote the post. You’re right; we need to be discerning about where we spend our money and which courses are really going to advance our careers as writers and which ones make unrealistic promises and only benefit the instructor. I attended a webinar in which the person leading the free webinar noted that “some” past students of his course were now making five and six figures teaching courses. Yes, some people can but most of us can’t. So we need to be discerning in how we spend our money and time.

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