If your name is JK Rowling, please ignore this post.
Facebook Page: formerly called a fan page, it's for businesses, brands, products, public figures. MoreSo you're an author or about to become one, your publisher or maybe your agent thinks you ought to create a Facebook Page, so that you can start the social media ball rolling. Should you?
Facebook Profile: for individuals. More
What do you want from your Facebook Page?
1. Do you want to win new readers?
Facebook Pages serve existing fans. Readers will like your Facebook Page because they have already discovered your books. So if you have written a bestseller, you can be guaranteed there will be many Facebookers eager to connect. If so, go ahead, create that FB page.
But what if you're just starting out? What if your book is not a bestseller? What if it's just moderately successful? What if you have yet to be discovered? Why will a reader who hasn't read your book like your page? You will find yourself begging friends and family to like your page to avoid the embarrassment of non-existent fans.
2. Do you want to sell your book?
As in, to tell your fans: 'BUY MY BOOK'?
Put yourself in the shoes of a reader who has clicked on your like button. Why did she do that? Because she liked your book. She did not click on it because she wanted to be sold something. Do YOU like Facebook Pages because you enjoy being told to buy stuff?
She clicked the like button because she wanted to get close to you, she wanted glimpses of your life, she wanted behind the scenes stuff.
Which is all available on your Facebook Profile -- and you don't have to friend everybody, just enable the 'Follow' button so that fans can subscribe to your public posts.
Note 1: if you do this, you will need to be hyper aware about setting who you share your posts with.
Note 2: when people try to add you, they will automatically be subscribed to your feed. So you don't have to add them if you don't want to. If you do add strangers, you don't have to see them in your feed. You have the option to unfollow them. Don't worry, Facebook won't tell them you're not following them. Everyone has a right to sharpen up their FB feed.
3. Do you want to communicate and engage with your readers?
Fan pages used to be fantastic at this very thing. You could have daily conversations with your fans, meaningful exchanges, actually build relationships.
But then Facebook changed. It went public, and Page owners began to see a new feature that informed them how many people their posts were reaching (not very many) ... and another feature that made it possible for them to pay to increase the reach of their posts.
Facebook is filtering the information people receive from Facebook Pages. Even though liking a page means you've opted in, that you want to see all its posts, you probably won't.
Read Facebook is Hiding Posts From You written by a small business owner - "Without paying Facebook’s advertising fees, anything we now post is seen by roughly 5% or less of the people who have requested to see our content ...Facebook’s community bait and switch is forcing small businesses, artists and more to pay exorbitant amounts of money just to share news with you that you’ve already asked to receive."
A growing number of authors -- including yours truly -- have opted to use their personal Facebook Profiles to engage with the public.
This was because, having expended quite a lot of energy trying to build engagement on my Tall Story Facebook Page -- which was very successful to start with -- I was baffled and exasperated to find that the number of people seeing my work was dwindling to tiny numbers. I had more than 1,000 fans and yet Facebook was hiding my content from them. Messages began to pop up: 'Want more visits to your website?' 'Promote Page!' which led to invitations to pay for ads.
Journalist Lisa Hall Wilson writes: "Some authors find that content posted on a Profile gets seen by more people than a Page, especially a Page with a low fan count or Edge Rank. There are more than 50 million Pages on Facebook, and competition in the News Feed is staggering."
Read Five Reasons to Use a Facebook Profile (Not a Page) to Build a Platform
SO WHAT IS AN AUTHOR TO DO?
1. Build a good website
I know, it's boring and to some, it might even seem old fashioned. But a website is a solid foundation for building an online platform. It is not ephemeral - unlike tweets and Facebook posts, it will not be quickly superceded by new material. Your fans will expect you to have a website. It will give you a base from which to share your own content. It will be searchable for some time to come.
Websites are a whole other long blog post, but I'm happy to give you two bits of good advice:
- Develop your website's unique voice and personality. You are a writer - tell stories. This is what your reader is hungry for.
- Build a website you can update yourself.
2. In developing your social media strategy, go where your fans are
Before Facebook turned up I was an eager member of a social network called Multiply. I loved it. My small circle of friends and family shared photos and videos and chatted everyday in real time. When Facebook emerged, I resisted joining because I was so content. But slowly my friends drifted to Facebook, following their other friends. I had to make the decision to move my engagement to Multiply. There's no point being on a social network if your friends are not there. Poor Multiply eventually closed shop.
Being found means being present where your audience us. Being a photography buff, I am a keen Instagrammer. On Instagram, I am not promoting myself, I am just sharing and looking at photographs. But recently I noticed that my followers on Instagram increase every time I returned from a school visit . I realised that a lot of my young readers are on Instagram. I keep that in mind now, making sure my Instagram posts have value to young readers by telling stories and not just captioning my pics with geeky f stops and shutter speeds. I've also discovered that my Filipino fans enjoy my travel pics. For them, it's a window to the world.
Of course going where your audience hangs out requires you to do some work. You will need to find out what differentiates the various social platforms and who are using them. You will ned to fit in, learn what your audience wants/gets from the platform, forge your identity. You will need to learn how to create content that will engage and build an audience. You will need to understand how the algorithms that rank and filter information in each platform works. Here for example is a piece on Facebook's constantly changing algorithms
3. Be found
Yes, set up profiles on Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Instagram etc. Be found wherever there is social media. But do not feel compelled to service these profiles. Try them out to discover what you enjoy. And having chosen, make sure you do it well.
Use your profiles to point readers towards your one true presence, be it your website, Twitter or your Facebook profile. Be clear about where your reader can truly engage with you.
4. Protect yourself from yourself. Remember that social media is not what you do. You write books
You only have to go on Twitter to realise that we authors are suckers for wall to wall procrastination -- we now have a name for it: self-promotion.
How many chapters can we write in the time it takes to retweet ten tweets? At least when we used to procrastinate by doing the ironing, the ironing got done.
Having a plan means building boundaries - protect your writing time from the overwhelming sucking power of social media. Read If everyone's now got a platform how are you going to stand out?
5. Be human
Ages ago, in pre-social media days, I gave a talk on the internet in which I advised authors to look at themselves as brands. The concept worked until the social media scene exploded and the whole world began to act like brands. At the last talk I gave with my internet know-it-all hat on, I said the opposite. No, don't be a brand. Being human is the best kind of marketing.
And finally, here's a helpful Getting Started Guide -- Facebook for Authors
A Note to Slushpile Readers: Surprised to see somebody blogging on the Slushpile after months of inaction? I'm pleased to say we've been mostly head down, writing, setting a good example for all you procrastinators out there. In fact I'm here because on Monday I handed in a draft of my next novel. I'll be going back into the writing cave at some point, but not just yet ...
Candy Gourlay's new book Shine was nominated for the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize. Visit her author blog My Happy World Book Day In Which Tall Story Got it's Own Book Bench