As one of the older students in my MFA program at twenty-seven, I was forced to join Facebook. Without it, I would have missed out on important communications with my fresh-out-of-college classmates. (Like what time to meet at the bar after workshop.) By the time I started utilizing Facebook as a platform-building tool, it was in the post-apocalyptic landscape after the algorithm change.
If you don’t know about this shift, Facebook stopped showing page updates in the newsfeed of those who Liked the page. Instead, Facebook created an algorithm that neutered organic page reach, supposedly to increase user experience. (Which not-so-coincidentally increased the use of paid ads and boosted posts.)
To get a real sense of the impact of the algorithm, here is a quick example:
I have about 2,600 Likes on my page, but the last link to my blog showed up in only thirty-one user’s feeds. This means about 1.5 percent of my audience saw my post.
With this kind of algorithm, is it worth your time to utilize Facebook for your platform?
As of 2015, Facebook has 1.55 billion active users per month. You can still find and connect with an audience on Facebook, but you may consider using a Facebook group instead of—or in conjunction with—a Facebook page.
Because I think we are all exhausted trying to keep up with all the social media platforms out there, I will highlight the functions of pages and groups so you can see what might work best for your goals. Creating a streamlined time management breakdown is not as simple as it is on Twitter, but I will also suggest a workflow to help you manage both groups and pages. Even if you choose to do both, you can still effectively manage your time.
Facebook Pages vs. Facebook Groups
Many people expect authors, bloggers, or public figures to have a page. A page functions with the creator at the center. Interactions come from and return to her like spokes of a wheel. The currency of a page is the number of Likes, but that number isn’t necessarily a good metric of engagement or success.
To see growth and engagement, pages need consistent and frequent posts. That means pages are a lot of work with no guarantee that people will see it to appreciate it. Some people choose not to use pages for this reason, or they simply set up a Facebook page like a landing page with basic information, and send visitors to an email list, blog, or Facebook group instead.
A Facebook group functions more like a web, where connections don’t have to move in a linear way from the creator at the center. The moderator often initiates conversations, but members interact more with one another and can also be active contributors. Groups form around a topic, blog, book, area of interest, or even simply around a person. Groups are not (yet) affected by an algorithm shift, which means that your members will see more of your posts than people who Like your page.
Groups can be very effective even if they are small. My podcast’s Create If Writing group has under 150 members, but is far more active than my page. The last link to my content was seen by thirty-two people (about 20 percent of the group) and had several Likes and comments.
Rather than simple numbers, interaction and the sense of community is the metric for successful groups. Some writers utilize Facebook groups for book-launch teams, beta readers, or thirty-day challenges, and some use them as a private group exclusively for email subscribers.
Facebook Pages: Best Practices
To get the most out of your page, use the same profile photo you use on all social media and create a great cover image. If you aren’t a whiz with Photoshop, use free tools like Canva, which has a template size specifically for Facebook covers. Remember to look at Facebook first to see where the wording falls before you create the image. See how my site name gets hidden below by the buttons?
Tip: This post from Buffer has all the current social media sizes! But keep checking back, as they sometimes change.
Make sure you have a call-to-action button. (Mine is the “Sign Up” button above.) Facebook will prompt you as you set it up. A sign-up for your email list is a great option to connect in a more lasting way with fans.
Use keywords in your description and your bio so that your page will show up in search. You can also pin a message to the top by holding your mouse over the triangle at the top right corner of your post and selecting “pin post.” Create a post with a welcome and eye-catching image, or change it out as you have promotions.
Pages work best with lots of activity. Holly Homer from Kids Activities Blog found unprecedented success by posting upwards of twenty times a day. That’s unrealistic for most people (unless you have a virtual assistant or a clone), but the point is this: quality activity breeds interaction. Holly grew the QuirkyMomma page from a few hundred thousand Likes to over a million in a year without using ads.
Tip: A good start for a page would be to schedule six to eight posts per day if you want to grow your reach. An effective breakdown might be two links to your content, three or four to other people’s content, and one or two posts asking a question that sparks discussion. Try a mix of images, text, links, and video uploaded straight to Facebook.
Pages allow you to schedule posts, which makes frequent posting much more manageable. Many social media tools do this for you, but Facebook responds better to native shares from within Facebook itself. (And if you want to have better reach, do what Facebook likes!) Just click the little arrow on the Publish button and you’ll see this option.
Pages provide fantastic free analytics that can help you discover what works best for your audience. In the top navigation bar of your page you can view Insights or Publishing Tools to see how your posts have performed.
Another helpful tool is Pages to Watch, found near the bottom on the Insights page. You can choose other, similar pages and gauge how you are doing in comparison. Seeing how similar pages find success can give you ideas of what might work for your audience. In the screenshot below, notice how engagement correlates to the number of posts per week!
Facebook Group: Best Practices
As with your Facebook page, have a cover image that is easily recognizable in relation to you, your blog, or your books. The sizing is generally similar to that of Pages, but the words appear in a different place, and there is no profile photo.
One of the most important parts of setting up a group is choosing the right settings. You can choose to have the group open, closed, or secret.
- Open means anyone who finds the group can see every post and member.
- Secret means no one can even see that the group exists.
- Closed means the group will show up in search and members are visible, but no one can see posts without joining.
Closed is a great option to allow for growth while also providing a safer space for people to talk. Here is a glance at my settings:
Note: The default setting allows any member to add or approve members, so switch this off. Otherwise anytime anyone wants to join, every member gets a notification, which you don’t want.
Group moderators set the culture and tone for the group, so be intentional. Pin a post to the top that talks about group expectations and guidelines. Sometimes groups can get spammy with members going overboard with self-promotion. One solution is to have share threads one day a week. I have seen other group moderators allow members to share links to their content, but only if it is specifically relevant to the group.
Be clear about the expectations. Don’t be afraid to delete comments or posts that don’t jive with the culture you want to create in the group. Remove users who don’t abide by your guidelines. You want to have a community where people talk to each other, but you also get to decide what should be included. The more intentional you are in communicating this, the better group culture you will create.
Suggested Workflow for Facebook Groups and Pages
The main bulk of time on your page will be scheduling shares. The main bulk of your time in your group will be interacting with people. Currently I probably spend 90 percent of time on my group and 10 percent on my page. Think about your goals, set a system in place, and stick to it. Here are my systems that work for my current Facebook strategy.
Facebook Group Workflow
Budget about twenty minutes a day over three or four separate time slots. Do all five steps each time.
- Post a link, question, or image.
- Respond to any interactions on older posts.
- Approve any new members.
- Check wall for member posts.
- Respond to any comments on the link you posted in step 1.
I start every morning with a post in my group to promote discussion. I’ll sometimes ask for goals, what people are working on, what they think about a particular article, or something that gets people talking. I do this first, so while I do other group maintenance, comments come in and I can respond in that same time block. Images like the one below can be particularly effective at promoting discussion.
I post links to my own content usually once a day and sometimes will drop a quick link in to something I’m reading without taking the full steps above. At night I check back to see anything I’ve missed over the day. If I have any bonus time to spend lost in social media, chances are I spend it in my group, not on my page.
Facebook Page Workflow
Budget about five minutes a day, plus one twenty-minute slot once a week.
I typically schedule the bulk of my weekly posts in one sitting. Working in batches saves me time and ensures that I will have posts going up on my page. Each day I check notifications for the group and respond when I have interactions. Sometimes I will post additional content as I run across relevant links.
Tip: Use the Facebook app on your phone for pages so that you only see notifications for your page and aren’t tempted to respond to any personal interaction with your profile.
Because your fans will not see all your posts, you will likely have less interaction here than in a group. This makes it all the more important to interact when you do have comments to keep the momentum. Even a few likes and comments can organically boost a post’s visibility.
I look at my analytics before scheduling out my weekly shares. Generally speaking, posts that already have great reach (think Buzzfeed videos or popular news stories) will have good reach. It’s a best practice to share a link from that site, not just share the post someone else has shared on Facebook.
Because finding great content can also be time consuming, create a system for collecting links and content to share. Create a document in Evernote to drop links for later. Make a list of the top ten sites with quality relevant content. You can also use the Pages to Watch feature in your Insights to see what is working for those similar pages and share that content.
Another easy way to collect content for easy sharing is to create an interest group in Facebook. The far left column on your home screen has Interests near the bottom. You can follow someone else’s list or create your own with pages or blogs that post relevant content. Anytime you are looking for something to share with your group or on your page, you can scroll through to look for links.
To Facebook or Not to Facebook
Should you use Facebook? Yes.
Should you use a page, a group, or both? That depends on your goals.
It is not a bad idea to have both a page and a group, but I feel strongly that the platform-building aspects of social media should not replace our writing time. They can be an easy distraction when their function is to support our writing. Set your own system in place for how you will get the most out of your page and/or group without falling into the Facebook abyss.
Have you used both Facebook groups and pages? If so, which have been more effective for you?
Kirsten Oliphant has an MFA in fiction from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is the creator of the Free Email Course to help de-mystify email lists for bloggers & writers. She writes about authentic platform building at Create If Writing and interviews writers, bloggers, and other creatives on the Create If Writing Podcast. You can find her tweeting as @kikimojo or sign up for free monthly workshops on list-building, image creation, or other helpful training.