Don’t Blame the Algorithm

I attended a conference this summer where I overheard a man explaining that he started every Facebook post with the words "drunk pregnant baby kittens." His theory was that the Facebook algorithm looks specifically for these words and that posts containing them are rewarded with greater audience reach. The subjects of his posts had nothing to do with anything drunk, pregnant, babies or kittens, but he claimed his audience understood why he included the words and they loved it. Unless you have a legitimate opportunity to use these trigger words in a post, I do not recommend the practice. Because here's the thing: The Facebook algorithm is not the reason your content is not being seen. Your content is the reason your content is not being seen. Harsh? Yes. But true. likesharecomment_720Unless you're creating content that elicits likes and shares, Facebook is not going to push your posts to many of your follower's newsfeeds. What type of content encourages engagement? For a bookstore, I believe that it's content featuring you. Look at your analytics. I'll bet that posts featuring images of your staff have garnered more likes than posts with just images of book covers. This is because posts showcasing booksellers allow their personalities to shine. And most customers want a peek behind the bookstore curtain. Your staff is most likely the main reason customers shop with you, because your level of expertise and knowledge is not available wherever books are sold. And do you know what? Videos are even better. Benjamin Rybeck, marketing manager at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, TX, has peppered the store's Facebook timeline with several videos lately. "We're trying to find ways to put our booksellers front and center in the marketing of our holiday gift list, not just posting images of books and new releases but also including video recommendations geared toward what the staff members are giving to people this season," he says. This video at the top of this post features Brazos buyer Keaton sharing some of the gifts he's excited about giving, but other videos on the timeline embrace silly things, like booksellers dancing to music from The Nutcracker. And that's okay. In addition to books, you're selling personality. You can also use Facebook live to talk about your favorite holiday books, like Book Soup did yesterday afternoon. The video features 7 or 8 booksellers 'handselling' their favorite books, allowing customers to learn more the booksellers by hearing their voices, learning their reading sensibilities, and seeing their faces. (Except for Ben 1 in the paper bag.) One thing about being live is that you sometimes can't control your surroundings (and as you can see around the 8:20 point, being live should not be what separates customer from book). But a benefit of being live is that you don't have to worry about production, post-production edits, b-roll, music... you just whip out your smart phone, do it, and it's done. The video is saved and posted automatically. Remember to promote ahead of time the fact that you'll be live at a specific time, like Book Soup did a couple of hours in advance. And remember to include a share request in both the announcement and the live video. Just a simple "share with your favorite book gifter!" will do. Likes are important. Comments are good. Shares are better. And they all add up to Facebook allowing your content to appear to more followers. Oh. And I feel like I should confess something. I actually had a legitimate opportunity to test the 'drunk pregnant baby kitten' theory with this post for my public radio station. With a little bit of effort, I was able to write a post using all four trigger words in a non-offensive way. It actually performed pretty well, reaching about 10x more users than a typical post. And I'll never be able to do it again.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay