Facebook ads can be a fantastic way to drive traffic to books and increase sales, but there’s a lot that’s changing this year. Here’s a quick recap of what’s what and what authors can expect.
To start, let’s look at the context that is driving the big changes we’ll see in 2021. Facebook is under fire from all sides. They’ve become mired in politics, anti-trust lawsuits, and are embroiled in a dispute with Apple over how consumer data is used.
These three fire hoses are triggering quite a few changes. First up in 2021 is what’s called the IOS14 update, which is Facebook’s attempt to meet Apple’s new standards for consumer tracking and privacy.
So what is the impact of this IOS14 update? And what do authors need to know?
For 2021, Facebook is on a massive verification kick. They want to know who they are working with, and to do that, they want two-factor authentication on accounts. Securing your account increases their confidence in you (because it often verifies your phone number) and protects you from hackers, making this an easy win-win. Here are their instructions on how to set it up.
However, Facebook is also pushing several different levels of verification beyond two-step authentication. Authors who use Facebook’s Business Manager can expect that they will have to at least verify their domain in 2021. Odds are good that we will also have to verify our business, and there’s a smaller but still real possibility that we may need to verify our personal identity as well.
The problem with verification for authors is that we set up our LLCs or S Corporations as small presses and then publish, promote, and operate publicly as our author name, which is often not our legal name. This can create a disconnect between website, Facebook page and profile, and business documents. It’s important to get that all matching or you’ll have difficulty verifying your business.
My recommendation to authors is to start preparing for business verification. Do the leg work now to get your business documents matching and ready to go. Otherwise, if you’re flagged for verification, you may find your ads shut down or limited until it’s done. Working ahead insulates you from a lot of potential pain.
Second, if you used the pixel (a piece of tracking code advertisers use, and the main point of contention with Apple) for your Facebook marketing strategy, functionality will be reduced with the IOS14 update. Most authors do not use the pixel, but that doesn’t necessarily insulate us because all the changes are being rolled out globally and will affect everyone, with or without a pixel.
If you do rely on the pixel in your ad strategy, you’ll have to re-calibrate and adjust. Things won’t function quite like they used to. In 2021, you’ve got a new learning curve to climb. Start planning that work now.
The IOS14 update also impacts ad performance, data reporting, and the functionality of the ads interface. Authors are going to see some wild stuff! Here’s what’s what.
The big change is there can now be a three-day lag in ad results reporting. You may set up ads and see nothing happen in your interface.
Zero reach. Zero clicks. Zero spend.
The good news, it’s not a glitch and there’s probably nothing wrong with your ad. The lag is the new normal. That said, it doesn’t yet appear to have rolled out universally and I’m hopeful they’ll create a modelling method to compensate for the gap so some of you may never see it, but until then…FYI.
Another new pattern authors are seeing as IOS14 rolls out is an initial high cost per click (now called cost per result). There will be a big spike in ad costs that will make you think you should turn off your ad. Don’t. Wait and see. This typically resolves on its own.
Time is the real name of the game for Facebook ads in 2021. It takes longer to get ad data, and it can take longer for ads to find a performance groove. I am finding that ads need more than the usual five-day learning period to sort themselves out.
As always, you’ll have to test and see what’s happening for yourself as performance of Facebook ads can be highly individual, but for 2021, patience wins the day. Otherwise, you’ll be killing what look like awful ads and starting new ads over and over, which isn’t actually solving the problem.
The solution is time. Give Facebook more time.
One other possible fallout from the IOS14 update is that we may see some decrease in audience sizes. The size of the decrease is unknown right now, but it’s not expected to be massive. Apple users are only 14% of Facebook’s user base. The majority of users will still be there.
Ad costs may increase as well. We’ll have to see what happens (that pesky time thing I mentioned again), but with the pixel losing a lot of functionality, businesses that relied on it heavily may come in and bid on targets authors use. They’re trying to figure out a new business model and adjust to all these changes, too, and that could impact our costs and reach.
Facebook is taking a big hit to all their standard operating procedures right now. Expect things to be volatile and dynamic until they can re-calibrate their algorithms and mathematical modelling.
For authors who know how to run ads, continue to run ads, but be conservative, watch the ads interface carefully, and stay in the loop with what’s changing. Know what the different verification processes are and prepare to undertake them to preserve access to and optimal performance of Facebook ads.
Trust but verify is the axiom to run ads by. Seasoned Facebook advertisers are used to having good ads that can run for months with almost no maintenance, but I wouldn’t assume that will happen with the IOS14 update, particularly during this transition period. I’d be watching my ad data very carefully right now.
For authors who haven’t run a lot of ads, now’s a good time to keep writing and learning about digital marketing so you’re ready to hit the ground running once things are more stable. Whatever you do, don’t not learn about marketing just because things are changing. Knowledge is power, and it improves your bottom line.
If you think about it, every few years everything changes for indie authors. From Box Sets to BookBub’s first newsletter to Kindle Unlimited to Facebook, AMS, and BookBub ads to Nook now offering ads and the current IOS14 update. The book business landscaping is never the same for long. The key is to do your due diligence, keep your marketing skills up-do-date, and write more books. That’s the constant that will allow authors to find success, no matter how much things change.
Note: I have a free webinar on the IOS14 update that goes into more depth than this article. You can watch it here:
Michelle Fox has used marketing to procrastinate on her word count goals for the past seven years. She’s run marketing initiatives that catapulted authors into the top 100, helped authors hit bestseller lists, spearheaded a genre mash up boxed set that hit the USAT list, and crashed the Instafreebie (now Prolific Works) site with one of the first freebie cross promos. She runs the Wolf Pack reader platform, which has a similar scope and reach of the top selling authors in the PNR, UF and SFR genres, and offers low cost marketing options for authors in those genres. For LWA she teaches the Profitable Facebook Ads class. As an indie author, she’s had short stories go viral and sold hundreds of thousands of novels. A Margie Immersion grad, she lives in Ohio with her husband, a homeschooled tween, and two labs who rule the roost.
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