I've been trying to decide whether to set up a Facebook Author page for my writing. I have a website, a personal Facebook account, a LinkedIn account and a Twitter account. I also dabble in Google+, but I really haven’t figured out how to use it yet so my apologies if I have inadvertently not added you to my circles yet (or done anything else that is egregiously against Google+ etiquette).
To date, I have kept most of my writing information and updates confined to my website and Twitter account with some erratic and unskilled use of Google+ on the side. I have kept my Facebook account mostly for personal use, although I follow a lot of writing organizations and am friends with quite a few writers. I use LinkedIn for my consulting work only.
This divided approach has worked for a while and has allowed me to avoid pestering my friends and family with information about my writing efforts – because really, do they want to know? And it has prevented some of my Facebook friends (ex-boyfriends, certain family members, friends who might laugh at me) from knowing too much about how seriously I take my writing “hobby”.
The Power of Facebook
However there are times when I think it would be valuable to use Facebook to talk about my writing and promote my books a little bit. Facebook is a platform that offers significant reach and has significant SEO (Google yourself and you will find that your Facebook account is probably in the top results). It also allows for longer updates than Twitter, but more informal ones than my website – to talk about my writing (and more importantly, unlike Google+, I get how it works). In addition, although Jane Friedman correctly argues that a Facebook author presence does not replace your personal author website, there are some things that you can do on Facebook – such as give aways or other contests, through things such as Fan Appz and RSS Graffiti that you often cannot do on your personal website (see the article by Emlyn Chand on how to do this). This functionality might be useful. At this point in time, my website won’t even let me have more than three font sizes on a page. I could also add a “like me” button to the sidebar of my website giving people an opportunity to stay connected.
Which Facebook Approach is Best?
As a result, I have debated setting up a Facebook Author page that people can “like” that will allow me to post more about my writing and continue to avoid bugging my friends. Some of my writer friends have done this, while others use their personal Facebook account to talk about their writing. I decided to look into the pros and cons of each approach.
Using Your Personal Facebook Account
Jane Friedman at Writer Unboxed recommends using your personal Facebook account to connect with potential readers and talk about your writing. Nathan Bransford and Ann Hill agree. Friedman suggests using Facebook lists to group your friends and manage who sees what. Bransford and Hill note that you can turn on subscriptions on your personal Facebook page, thereby allowing people to follow your public posts, without you having to accept friend requests from people you do not know. You can set each post to either be public, which means it will go to everyone, or to just go to your friends. This is an option that I was not aware of. Not that there is a line up of people I don’t know waiting to friend me (yet). Hugh Howey uses this approach, as does Bransford himself.
So what are the pros and cons of using a personal Facebook account for writerly communication?
- Your personal Facebook account is probably already set up, and you already have friends on it – you won’t have to suffer the ignominy of having only two likes on your “fan” page, and having to beg for more, or invite your existing friends to “like” you. (As one writer noted, asking people to “like” your page isn’t his idea of an enjoyable way to relate to others… of course I spend so much time alone with my cat I am not sure if I am totally up on enjoyable ways to relate to others).
- As Bransford observes, you only have to maintain one profile, which for me, given my more sporadic posting record, might be the best approach. (After all they say to only post interesting things, and I’m afraid it takes me a while to think of interesting things).
- As Friedman observes, not using your personal Facebook page is essentially ignoring your first potential circle of fans – friends, family, colleagues, and others who probably (hopefully) want you succeed and support your work.
- I can potentially connect more with other writers with whom I am friends on Facebook. I enjoy reading their posts and shares on writing, so why wouldn’t they enjoy mine? (But I’m Twitter friends with most of these writers anyway so we already connect with regard to writing on Twitter – is there a value-add associated with Facebook? Most of my writer friends do both, so I conclude there must be some value-add.)
- My Facebook friends may not be interested in writing at all – or if they are, may not be interested in me as a writer.
- Many of my Facebook friends might think it is strange if I post about writing.
- If I use the subscription approach suggested by Bransford, then I will have a big Follow button on my personal page, which might look a bit obnoxious to my friends.
- I may have to become more interesting, which for me appears to be a lifelong endeavor. This means I may have to stop posting so many photos of my cat.
- Apparently - and this is a biggie - using Facebook to promote or "sell" your books is against the Facebook Terms of Service. I'm not sure where the line between legitimately "talking" about your writing and books with Facebook friends and "selling" your writing and books is. A lot of writers do use their personal Facebook pages for their writing, but beware of tripping over the line into selling.
Creating a Facebook Author Page
Hill argues that a Facebook Author page is the best approach for veteran writers with multitudes of fans and many books, who want to keep their personal life and writing life completely separate. That doesn’t exactly apply to me, but there are still some pros associated with a Facebook Author page that should be considered.
- I don’t have to worry about pissing off/boring my friends (any more than I already may do in person) by spamming them about my books and/or writing.
- I could set my cover photo to include my book covers or some personal branding splash and update my personal information to reflect my writing information.
- I would have access to analytics with an Author page that I would not with my personal profile.
- A Like button seems a bit more benign than a Follow button.
- People who want to check out your Facebook Author page do not have to be Facebook users to do so, and there is not the commitment of following.
- You can have more than 5,000 fans, whereas on your personal account you can only have 5,000 friends. However the subscriptions approach on your personal account gets around this as you can have unlimited followers.
- Although I am trying to be more consistent with my blog posts, I don’t have a clear schedule for using Twitter and I am not a big poster on my personal Facebook account. So if I did not update my Facebook Author page regularly, that may reflect badly on me. This is a con for both approaches though. See number four above.
- The dreaded lack of likes. Melissa Foster has 12,659. Many of my writer friends have a respectable over 100 likes. What if I only end up with four?
- Hill observes that Facebook has changed its algorithms such that Author Pages, or Fan Pages more generally are showing up in the news feeds of only a small fraction of the people who "Liked" their page, unless they pay to "Promote" their posts to ensure that they showed up in more followers' news feeds.
Once you have made a decision which way to go, there are many posts with regard to how to set up a Facebook Author page, or manage subscriptions and lists on your personal Facebook account. There are also many posts with tips on how to use your Facebook account or page for your writing information. Friedman of course reminds us not to misuse it as a marketing bullhorn. Probably good advice. Bransford also notes that you can set up a Facebook page for your book, so that when and if people search out the title they can easily find it. Then you have to maintain two, and perhaps three, Facebook pages though and that seems (for me anyway) onerous.
That is all I could find on the pros and cons of a personal Facebook account versus a Facebook Author page. I would love to hear any additional thoughts. I am still undecided, although now I’m leaning towards using my personal Facebook account, or nothing at all (I’m still working on becoming more of an extravert, and besides I’m sure my cat understands me).
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