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f you’re on Facebook, you know it’s hard to keep up with the rules for profiles, pages, groups, events, contests, and advertising. Not to mention, there’s the relatively new timeline format that everyone must get used to now. Here are some tips from authors who are in the thick of things and using Facebook to find and interact with readers.

But first, a quick reminder of the different features of Facebook. Most people just log in with their profile, a personal timeline about them. In addition, you can create as many pages for your book’s fans, author brand, or freelance business as you’d like to take care of. Facebook groups function as a private meeting room for friends who gather for a purpose or for people interested in the same subject. Anyone can create an event, which is tied to a specific date.

Personal Profiles

Susanna Reich, author of Minette's Feast: The Delicious Story of Julia Child and Her Cat, used only her Facebook profile to promote this picture book. Starting a few months before the publication, she posted news, reviews, interviews, event announcements, event photos, and Julia Child quotes. She cautions, “I’ve found that over time I’m getting fewer ‘Likes’ and comments. I suspect that a constant diet of Julia Child can become boring, and I’d have more success if I mixed in posts on other topics.”

“I suspect that a constant diet of Julia Child can become boring.”

(Photo of Susanna Reich by Laurel Golio)

Profiles Best Practices

To make the most out of your profile, here are some tips you can use to help. For further information on each feature, follow up with the corresponding Facebook Help section.

  1. The “About” section of your profile is crucial because any links here are clickable. Use this opportunity to let your friends know that you are a writer and link to what you write. Make sure to keep these links and information current because it is one of the first things visitors see on your profile.

    Facebook Official Help Page: http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=276177272409629

  2. Your cover photo for your profile should be unique and show the world something about you. It should be 851 pixels wide x 315 pixels tall and less than 100 kilobytes. Specific call to actions are forbidden: no “click here,” no price or purchase info, no contact info (such as web addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses), or no pleas to please like this page. If you don’t have a photo editing tool like Photoshop to perfectly size your cover photo, try the Timeline Slicer App: http://timelineslicer.com/.

    Facebook Official Help Page: http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=220070894714080

  3. The profile image is smaller than your cover photo, 180 x 180 pixels, and can be anything from a book cover to your latest author photo. For directions on uploading a profile photo, please see the link.

    What’s the difference in a cover photo and profile photo? http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=169743063106603

    Upload a Profile photo: http://www.facebook.com/help/163248423739693

  4. App Thumbnails: Shown under the large cover photo on your personal profile are the thumbnails of any apps you use. Some of these are the same for any user: photos, events, and friends. Others are specific to each profile and can include apps, like Pinterest, Goodreads, and Groupon. The friends app is always first and shows how many mutual friends you share with someone else. Next comes the photo app with the latest image you have uploaded. To the far right, there’s a triangle to click on and reveal all your apps, and you can rearrange some of the boxes as you like by clicking in the upper right-hand corner of each box. You can also edit settings for any app by going to the apps section in your account settings.

    Facebook Official Help Page: http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=173376349438782

  5. For any post you put on your profile, you now have the choice of “Status, Photo, Place, or Life Event,” which you will find listed above the box on your profile that says, “What’s on your mind?” Then as you are typing in your message or adding your photo, you can tag friends, choose a location, and add a date by clicking on the symbols below the box where you are typing. If the post is intended to be a Life Event (see below), such as signing with an agent or selling the first thousand copies of your book, you must include a date. You can also specify who will see your post underneath the status box and choose from public, friends, friends except acquaintances, only me, or customize it to how you want it. You have a lot of options and control over your settings. Be sure you understand these options, so you can control your communications and privacy if needed.

    Facebook Official Help Page: http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=170116376402147

  6. Life Events: A final option is to use the “Life Events” feature to really create a timeline of your life by adding dated posts of events. The publication of a new book is a perfect time to create a Life Event. These are prominent full-width posts, and you can go back and create any you wish, even if the date has passed.

    What is a life event? http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=137829936332495 - What-is-a-life-event

Fan Pages

Popular women’s fiction author Claire Cook uses a Facebook page to connect with over seventeen thousand readers.


Cook says, “I see Facebook as one more way to connect with my readers. I wouldn’t have a career without their support, so I try to do things that are fun and will encourage them to spread the word about my books.”

As you can see in the screen shot of Cook’s fan page, it is also organized with the timeline features. Many of the features are the same for both the profile and the fan page since both use the timeline feature.

Fan Page Best Practices

  1. Customize the name: Facebook pages always have the URL http://facebook.com/PageName. You want that “PageName” to be your name or something related to your book or business. As long as you have under two hundred fans, you can customize the name to anything, as long as it isn’t already taken. One problem is that you can’t use the same name as your personal profile. That meant I had to name my own fan page this way: http://facebook.com/DarcyPattisonAuthor. Claire Cook’s page name is “ClaireCookauthorpage.”

    Facebook Official Help Page
    http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=200712339971750

  2. Customize the About box: This is similar to the “About” section on your personal profile, but you have the ability to add different types of information, depending on your Page’s category. For example, if you own a local freelance writing business, you can add your address, phone number and more info about your business.

    Facebook Official Help Page
    http://www.facebook.com/help/160672070698623

  3. No landing pages: Before 2012, businesses were allowed to use landing pages to create special incentives for people to “Like” their page. With the timeline feature, this is no longer allowed, making the cover photo and your page’s profile picture even more important. Cook solved this by creating a cover photo that includes all her books and a headshot for her page’s profile picture.

  4. Integrate all other social media into your page: Pat Flynn, of SmartPassiveIncome.com, has a great video on how to install an app that allows you to link up your fan page with YouTube and Twitter. 
  5. Ask people to “Like” your page: Of course you want to rack up seventeen thousand-plus fans just like Claire Cook. How do you do that? First, you post the URL everywhere, then talk it up, add interesting content that can be passed around (more on content in a minute), and finally ask for fans.

    Here’s one simple way to do this. In a typical week, I might get a dozen requests to add someone as a friend to my personal profile. When I do add them, I immediately send a simple message that says, “Thanks for friending. You may also be interested in liking my page at http://www.facebook.com/DarcyPattisonAuthor.” That simple request usually gets a “Like” and a new fan.

  6. Use the Insight statistics: Facebook keeps statistics on who visits your page, how many of your posts are shared, and more. When you log on to your fan page, you’ll see something that no one else sees—your administrator’s panel. It gives you notifications (who “Liked” or shared something), messages, new Likes, Insights, and tips. Clicking on the Insights link gives you access to the full statistics panel. This helps you by analyzing what sorts of posts do best. Spend time getting to know your statistics and how it can help you earn even more friends.

    Facebook Official Help Page: http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=168695703191089

  7. Respond to fans and let them message you: One of the privacy controls on a fan page is whether or not fans can message you. Facebook is about interaction and building community. Be sure to interact.

  8. Pinning. If you want to emphasize a post, you can “pin it” to the top of your page, which means it will always display at the top. This static post will stay in that prominent position for seven days. You can identify a pinned post by the orange flag on the top right of the box. While you can only pin one post at a time, you can go backwards and pin any post that you’ve posted previously.

    Facebook Official Help Page: http://www.facebook.com/help/search/?q=pin+post

Facebook Groups

The Groups feature is a different way to interact with people on Facebook. It allows you to gather a community around a topic, interest, or ongoing event. Groups, unlike fan pages, are tied to your personal profile. The advantage of Groups is that when you or any other member of a group posts, everyone is notified. When you log on to Facebook, you’ll see your groups listed on the left-hand side and a number beside it, indicating how many posts were added since your last login. By default, group members are e-mailed when posts are added. They can change the notifications in their Groups settings, but they will still see the number of posts in the menu.

This notification issue is crucial when you decide whether to use a group or fan page or both. Facebook reports that only about 16 percent of fans will see a post on a fan page. Facebook users typically have many friends; and if each friend posts daily, the number of messages you could potentially see becomes huge. Add to that posts from pages you have “Liked.” What messages should Facebook show you first?

Facebook uses a mathematical algorithm called EdgeRank to decide this, based on your interactions with other individuals or pages. Each time you comment, like, or share, the algorithm says, “Oh, you like this person/page a lot, I’ll show you news from it again.”

In other words, when you constantly comment on your daughter’s news, you’ll see her posts at the top of your news feed. Other friends’ posts can drop off the bottom of your home page. You can find them by going to a specific person’s profile or by changing your notifications.

Facebook Official Help Page:
http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=166738576721085

With only 16 percent of fans reading your posts, it sometimes makes sense to create a group instead.

Tara Lazar hadn’t thought about a Facebook group, until someone else suggested it. Each year in November, while the novelists are doing National Novel Writing Month, the picture book folks are doing the Picture Book Idea Month or PiBoIdMo. Lazar says, “In 2011, I created a Facebook group for PiBoIdMo. It seemed to be a good way to have PiBoIdMo’ers interact with each other, discuss the daily posts, and otherwise share information about picture books.” This public group has 337 members and the community that has sprung up around the group has continued to thrive.

Lazar says, “The group page allows any member to post, while a fan page is really more geared toward having one person—I guess that would be me, as the PiBoIdMo ‘CEO’—post information.”

“The group page allows any member to post.”

(Photo: Tara Lazar, left; Doodle, mascot of PiBoIdMo ‘12, right, by Peter Harren and Kayla Skogh)

Facebook Groups Best Practices

  1. Add the right people from your friends list to join your group. When you create a group, you can directly add people from your friends to the group. Then they can opt out if they wish. You can also set the group’s settings to allow people outside your friends’ list to ask to join, if you would like to gain more members.

  2. Think community. The best Facebook groups are created around topics with passionate advocates, who will sustain the group with little work from you as the administrator.

    Facebook Official Help Page for Groups: http://www.facebook.com/help/162866443847527

What Should You Post? Content is Still King

Just like on your website or blog, content is king. To use Facebook effectively, you need to be posting the right content—something that will catch interest, entertain, or inform.

Text: You might think that your status update is the most important content. Sure, you can do a text status update, and you’re likely to get lots of “Likes, comments, and shares.” Keep those updates short, and you’ll do even better.

When you do post text, Brian Carter, author of The Like Economy: How Businesses Make Money with Facebook, says these three formulas will work best for your status updates:

  1. Click Like if ______
    Click Like if you love/think/believe/want ______. Make sure the item is of interest to your audience.

  2. Ask a question or state something like, “Tell me in a comment below  ______”
    How do you feel about  ______?
    What happens when you ______?
    What’s your favorite thing about  ______?
    Why do you   ______?
    What’s your favorite way to  ______?

  3. Click this link if______ (Give them a reason to click).
    Check out this blog post because ______
    Click here to get this discount before it goes away.
    Check out the latest review of my new book.

Cook says, “I like to ask my readers to post details to help me with novels I am writing; ‘What’s in your junk drawer?’ is the one that pops into my mind first.”

Photos: However, especially since the change to timeline this year, Facebook is giving preference to photos and videos. Good photos rule.

“The most popular posts about Minette were photos of food,” Reich says. “Like the time I made Julia Child’s recipe for Raspberry Chantilly.”

“I also post photos when I’m on book tour,” Cook says. “And book clubs post photos, and my readers even take beachy books on vacation with them and post photos of that, too.”

Promotions: Cook and her publisher, Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, partnered with Lake Austin Spa Resort to give one of her readers and a friend a spa vacation to attend the book launch party of her novel, Wallflower in Bloom.

Contests, promotions, and giveaways are all good strategies for gaining Facebook fans. Because Facebook requires all contests to be run by a third-party app, you must look outside Facebook and try several apps to find one you like. For example, ShortStack provides a variety of features free for fan pages with fewer than two thousand fans (http://www.shortstack.com/facebook-app-features/).

For Minette’s Feast, Reich did a giveaway during the publication month. “The giveaway ran for a whole month,” she says. “So there was time for word to spread. After the giveaway, I posted fun photos.”


Facebook is a bewildering maze for the untutored (but consider yourself tutored now!). Still, the questions remain. Should you do a fan page or a group and run promotions?

For Reich, the question came down to time. “I considered a Fan Page separate from my individual profile, but decided against it because I didn’t want to maintain two pages.”

Cook suggests a more authentic approach to all things relating to Facebook, social media and book marketing. “I stay away from, ‘Don’t do this, and always do this, and never do that.’ I don’t think one size fits all. Be who you are and do what feels genuine. If you don’t like Facebook, or interacting with your readers, it will show. So, put your time into something else that works for you.”

***

Darcy Pattison (www.darcypattison.com) is published in eight languages. Recent titles include three nature picture books: Prairie Storms, Desert Baths, and Wisdom, The Midway Albatross: Surviving the Japanese Tsunami and Other Disasters for Over 60 Years.

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