Debut Author Lesson: On Facebook

This entry is part 10 of 19 in the series Debut Author Lessons

Like many authors, I use a lot of different social media sites to make it as easy as possible for folks to keep up with me. Some of them make it easy for me to stay in touch with others, some seem to just frustrate me. What I want to do today is talk about how I would have used Facebook, if I were signing up for it today.

And I do need to stress today because Facebook changes their policies and what is available so quickly that this will become outdated.

When I originally signed up for it, the only way for fans to see what I was posting was if I friended them back. This meant I had 3000+ friends, which, you know, isn’t entirely realistic. I was getting lots of event invitations from people I didn’t know, and endless requests to play games. So, I changed to an author page, because from the information Facebook provided, this seemed to provide the ability to connect with fans without having the confusing “friend” relationship with people I didn’t actually know.

I did so thinking that I’d be able to engage with fans as readily as I could with my personal profile.

This is not the case.

  • When you tag me, I can’t respond.
  • My posts don’t appear in the feeds of some people unless I pay Facebook to put them there.
  • I can’t tag people when I want to direct attention to them, like with the My Featured Bit posts.

Further, the FAQ on the transfer says that my username would transfer to the new page. It did not, so for a lot of people it looks like I just deleted my page. Meanwhile, it has the unwieldy url http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mary-Robinette-Kowal/103317289808537?ref=hl. I’ve tried picking a new one, but the variations of my name are already taken– by me. But I can’t transfer them.  I tried to contact Facebook for help three times and finally gave up.

I now have to maintain two pages. The author page and my personal profile. It’s a hassle with no perceptible benefit.

So if I were a new author starting today, I would create a series of lists for my Facebook profile rather than creating a separate author page. Lists allow you to decide who gets to see content when you post it. If I want to post a rant only for my friends — by which I mean people I actually know — I can designate a subset of my overall Friends list and limit that post to be seen only by them.

For the rest of my posts, I set them to public and have my privacy settings to allow anyone to see the public posts, even if they are not logged into Facebook. It creates a useful divide for the private things, without requiring me to post the same public content on both my personal profile and my Author page. It also means that I don’t have to friend everyone back in order to allow them to see what I’m posting.

More importantly, for me, it allows me to engage with my fans more thoroughly than my Author page does. It is very frustrating to see a fan link to my Author page with a nice review and be unable to reply to them. I can only reply to people who post directly on the page.

So, to review, if I were a new author today I would:

  1. Not create an author page
  2. Create lists to give me flexibility about who I share content with
  3. Not friend people I don’t know but allow them to subscribe
  4. Set my default post to “public” so that subscribers can see it.

I expect this will change. Again.

Here’s the part that won’t change.

  1. Your goal with social media is to allow you to connect with your readers and allows them to engage with you.
  2. You need to do this in a way that allows you to be genuine and retain the amount of privacy that you need to be comfortable.
  3. It should not take up the time when you should be writing.
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  1. Great advice – for everyone, not just authors or others wishing to promote their art.  Those are my default FB settings, as well, and would be even if I wasn’t a writer.

  2. These are good points. I find Facebook  frustrating. I started with a personal page, which I use for everything. I keep thinking about starting an author page but I can’t figure out if that would be helpful or not. And I have many questions about it that I can’t find answers for. So I just leave it alone and it seems to be working okay. I do have lists, and I like your idea of having a “Fan” list. I should work on that. But with Facebook’s latest trick of making you pay for your posts to show up in your friends’ newsfeeds… the whole thing is nearly becoming pointless, to my thinking.

  3. Thanks for the tip.  I have my book page “A Song of Africa” on Facebook. As of now it suits me well.  I am closing in on 900 k plus fans or friends with about 1200 plus likes.  I wish I had that many sales.  But I have found Facebook to be an effective part of an overall marketing plan/campaign.

  4. Great article, Mary! I admit that I struggle to know what to do with Facebook – the constant changes to features and “privacy” are hard to keep up with! I put as little private information into my profile as possible, but it still feels intrusive with all this photo-tagging and app access to my data.

    One major reason I was convinced that an author page was a good idea was that about a year or so ago Facebook started creating “community pages” automatically by sucking in Wikipedia entries. This happened to my project at work, so we promptly created our own Page to provide changing content (initially just an RSS feed) rather than a static Wikipedia entry. The community page has now mysteriously vanished, to be replaced by links to our website and Wikipedia entry – methinks this whole operation was a ruse to get people to create pages and then try to get them to pay to actually reach their fans.

    On the plus side, if you search Facebook for my name, my Page comes up top of the list. So maybe I just need to work out how to use the two accounts in complementary ways…

  5. Mary,
     
    For my Author Page I created an interest list but cannot see it or do anything with it. Are you sure Interest List is possible? If so, none of the FB help pages give instructions for Pages (its all about adding Friends to Interest List, etc. As we know Pages do not have Friends, etc.).

    Thanks,
    Laurence

  6. Hi Mary,

    If sufficient authors submit FB requests, FB is more likely to change it restrictive Author Page policies.

    Facebook considers authors as not people which
    is bizarre.

    Obviously Authors are people.

    Facebook’s Author Page policy results in Authors unable
    to Like other pages and unable to Post on other pages to express their thoughts
    (which is what Authors do!). 

    Hopefuly authors will ask FB to please allow Author Pages to Post on other Facebook
    pages.

    Authors are people … (not abstract entities such as companies, etc.).

    Thanks,
    Laurence