Facebook is the No. 1 most popular website in the United States in terms of visits, which means it’s more popular than Google. According to its own stats, Facebook has 750 million users, 50% of which are active on it every day.
This alone makes Facebook an important site when it comes to author marketing and promotion. It would be a mistake to completely ignore it.
On the other hand, how does one use Facebook for meaningful marketing and promotion—especially if you’re an individual and not a brand? Here are three principles I’ve observed working for successful authors.
1. Fan pages work best when you have a content strategy.
The whole point of having a fan page is to stay in people’s line of sight—to be visible before, during, and after the launch of formal projects or books.When you post updates, it’s like waving to your fans, since your updates appear in your fans’ news feeds (unless your fans mute you!). Fan pages make it more likely fans will remember you and spread word of mouth about you and your work.
2. Fan pages work best for authors who have fans seeking them out!
Sure, you can be a complete unknown author with a fan page, but what’s the motivation for someone to like your page if they don’t know you or your work? Consider what benefit there is, and be able to tout it!
Maybe your friends and family will like your page regardless of what you post, but they’re probably already your personal friends on Facebook. Do you really need a fan page to cater to your close circles? You shouldn’t!
Fan pages make more sense when you’re an author with some name recognition, and/or when you’re getting marketing and publicity outside of Facebook, and/or scheduling live events and appearances. Even then, don’t expect tons of fans to come flocking (or to pay attention) unless you have something helpful, compelling or entertaining to share.
3. Consider using your personal page to get started.
If you’re an unknown name, consider friending your earliest fans or followers through your personal account, and create a specific “list” in Facebook that helps you manage privacy to that list. (For more instructions on this, click here.)
For authors with heavy privacy concerns, this may not be an option, but it’s the wisest option for someone who has a reputation that doesn’t yet demand “fan” page treatment—or doesn’t want the headache of managing two Facebook presences.
How do you know if your reputation deserves “fan” treatment?
- If you have to beg people to like your page, you’re not there yet.
- If you have multiple friend requests every single day from fans/followers, then maybe it’s time.
- However: Some authors stick with the personal page, such as Christina Katz. Just keep in mind you’ve got a 5,000-friend cap on a personal profile.
What to avoid on Facebook
- Avoid inviting your personal Facebook friends to like or fan your page unless you are shutting down your personal profile. Think about it: Why should your closest circle of friends receive TWO streams of information from you? You should treat your closest circle of friends different from your fans. Always customize your approach depending on your audience.
- Do not post self-promotional messages or comments on other people’s walls. Epitome of rude.
- Do not send private messages to your entire friends list, asking them to market and promote you—or to read your work. This type of message should be personalized and directed toward a select few people.
- Do not send a blanket invite to events (where you invite people who couldn’t possibly be expected attend, or be interested).
- Do not create “fake” events, like “Buy my book!” events. We see what you’re doing there, and we’re not amused!
- Do not create Facebook groups, then add people to those groups without permission, to market and promote your work. (Or for any other reason for that matter. Get permission first or extend invitations.)
Good practices on Facebook
- If you use your personal Facebook profile with mixed audiences, it’s smart to tag your friends to specific lists so you can adjust the visibility of your updates, or target them to the most appropriate list.
- Don’t be quiet about having a Facebook profile or fan page. Mention it and link to it from your website, blog—anywhere you’re active online. That’s how you get fans over time.
- Be interesting (share your unique perspectives), be helpful, be open, be charitable—unless not being charitable is your shtick.
- Post links to new blog posts, if you’re a blogger.
- Think carefully about having your Twitter updates automatically appear on Facebook. This can be a huge turn-off for people who aren’t Twitter users—and a turn-off even for those who are!
- Don’t post voraciously—unless that’s going to be your shtick. You run the risk of people “muting” you.
Here are the most helpful posts I’ve read about Facebook marketing. Some of these posts are more geared for businesses/brands, but the lessons often apply for authors, too.
- Create a Writer’s Profile in Facebook
- How a Journalist Engages Fans
Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the publisher of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors, and was named Publishing Commentator of the Year by Digital Book World in 2019.
In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. Her book for creative writers, The Business of Being a Writer (University of Chicago Press), received a starred review from Library Journal.
Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.