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Facebook is Adding Buy Buttons to Ads – Do You Think They Could be Used to Buy/Sell eBooks?

facebook buy buttonOnly a couple days after BitTorrent announced that they would be adding a payment option to BitTorrent Bundles, Facebook started letting a handful of advertisers add buy buttons to their ads.

This crossed my desk yesterday:

Facebook is trying out letting you pay for ecommerce purchases from other businesses without leaving its site or app. For now it won’t be charging the few small and medium-sized businesses in the US to test this new Buy button on their News Feed Pages posts and ads. When I asked if Facebook would be charging businesses for the feature eventually, it said “it was not disqualifying that option” in the future.

Facebook is getting ready to take a cut of the retail sales made on their site, something I thought they would have done years ago.

In spite of the way some of the reports on this story have been saying, it’s long been possible to set up a retail store on Facebook (here’s one example). There are any number of companies that support this service, and some even boast hundreds of thousands of customers.

The funny thing is, until I started researching this story I had never heard of anyone doing so, and it in fact has never even been mentioned to me as an option for direct sales. But the NY Times implies that the option has been around since at least 2009.

Got What It Cakes is part of a new wave of online commerce: F-commerce. Social media specialists say the term was coined in 2009 to describe the growing number of businesses that sell through a Facebook page. Payvment, a start-up that provides support for Facebook shopping transactions, says it has 170,000 clients and is signing on about 1,500 stores a week, most with fewer than five employees.

The rise of F-commerce has been largely haphazard, something Facebook did not instigate or promote. A spokesman declined to discuss the phenomenon, except to acknowledge, “Retailers are experimenting in a number of ways.”

So do you think the new ads could prove useful for buying or selling ebooks?

Having never bought anything on Facebook, I couldn’t say. In fact, I have so little data that I can’t even guess whether Facebook’s buy button idea is viable or not, so I’m throwing the question open to the floor.

Have you bought or sold something on Facebook? How well did that work?

Thanks, Moriah!

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William D. O’Neil July 18, 2014 um 11:17 pm

I get good results from advertising on Facebook, but am skeptical about selling books directly from Facebook ads. They 're quite restricted in size and I don’t really think they can serve as much more than teasers. Of course I’m selling serious non-fiction rather than the genre fiction that dominates independent writing, but I don’t see it as being all that different from a marketing standpoint. Even after someone elects to click through on the ad to the Amazon site, which provides a lot of information on the book, his probability of buying is only about 0.2. If I were to put buy buttons on them, I doubt very seriously that I’d get buy rates even as high as 0.001 per ad presentation.

Peter Turner July 19, 2014 um 2:23 pm

Interesting insight, William. Thank you. Another way of stating your point, if I understand you correctly, is that the likelihood of anyone clicking on a buy button for a book based solely the smalle amount of product info allowed approaches zero. That could be said of Amazon itself, which largely serves a fulfillment vehicle for books first discovered elsewhere.

William D. O’Neil July 19, 2014 um 5:46 pm

Peter Turner wrote:
"if I understand you correctly, is that the likelihood of anyone clicking on a buy button for a book based solely the smalle amount of product info allowed approaches zero. That could be said of Amazon itself, which largely serves a fulfillment vehicle for books first discovered elsewhere."

As someone who sells books via Amazon I’ve made a close study of how bookselling operates on the site, including quizzing scores of people about their experience. Based on this I can agree that many buyers do go to the site in search of a specific title they have learned of by other means, including the word-of-mouth that is so critical to most independent author/publishers. Quite a significant minority go looking for a book in a specific category (e.g., gardening or the American Civil War), by a specific author, or similar in theme or other respect to a book already read. Amazon does a lot to facilitate this, but it’s up to the author to position his or her work to take advantage of what Amazon provides.

My Facebook ad goes only to those whom Facebook identifies as having a general interest in a category my book, The Plan That Broke the World, falls under, such as World War I, or military history. It tells them that it concerns the Schlieffen Plan and provides a brief tag line: "A plan for sure victory—that led to defeat. What were they thinking?" On the basis of this very meager information, people elect to click through to my book’s listing on the Amazon Web site, or not. Thus those who click through have very little information about the book when they do so; they may not even recognize that they are going to a buy site. They almost surely were not on Facebook looking for a book to buy. Nevertheless, about 5% of them elect to buy the book (at prices ranging from $6.99 for the Kindle to about $8.50 for the paperback). To me this indicates that the Amazon buying page and what is said on it makes a lot of difference.

Peter Turner July 19, 2014 um 6:04 pm

Right, but by way of contrast, you don’t expect that selling direct via FB buy buttons would not be effective.

William D. O’Neil July 19, 2014 um 7:07 pm

I see the FB ad as essentially just a teaser. It’s enough to get people to click in order to find out more, but it’s hard for me to imagine very many people to buy just on the strength of the ad.

Because the FB format allows so little text, just adding price information would make it necessary to leave out most of what meager information it provides.

In fact, unless FB radically changes their ad approach, it’s hard for me to imagine much value from a buy button option for any product or service.

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