Monday, December 22, 2014

Facebook Etiquette for Authors

Facebook. It can be a fun social tool, an addictive time-sucker, or both. It can also be a useful part of your author platform. If you’re like me, you probably didn’t come into the world of social media knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. And I’ll bet you didn’t learn Facebook in school. (Actually, Facebook didn’t even exist when I was in school. Neither did the internet.)

A lot of social media experts recommend promoting your book on Facebook. Some give good advice on how to do this. Some give bad advice. Over the past three years, I’ve learned a few things about using Facebook as a social and promotional tool, and I’d like to share them with you:

  • DO set up a Facebook account if you haven’t already. It really is an important (and expected) part of your author platform. If you’re new to social media, it can be intimidating, but it’s worth the initial struggle.
  • DO protect your privacy by reviewing your settings. I’m friends with authors, people I grew up with, and family members. I don’t want my kids or my dad or my conservative Christian family members to see erotic book covers splashed across my timeline (#3) or a dirty joke show up on their news feed because someone decided to tag me in it (#4). I adjusted my settings so that I have to approve posts I’m tagged in before they show up on my timeline. I also adjusted my settings so no one but me can post directly to my timeline. There are other things you should review as well. Do you want your date of birth, marital status, or phone number out there for everyone to see? If so, that’s fine. But if not, you need to change your settings. (I’ll make a post later on how to do all this.)
  • DON’T post your book buying links or links to blog posts on your friends’ timelines. Some people won’t tell you it annoys them, but trust me – it does. Your Facebook timeline is a place for you to post status updates and other things you want to share with your friends. If you post book links to a friend’s timeline, all your friend’s friends will see it, and though you might see that as a huge publicity bonus for yourself, it really is a violation of your friend’s personal space.
  • DON’T post dirty jokes or political memes on a friend’s timeline. Sure, your friend might get a laugh out of that joke, but will their grandma? Or their elderly, conservative aunt? Maybe your friend is totally cool with your dirty jokes. Maybe it’s a “thing” between the two of you. If you’re in doubt, check your friend’s previous posts. Does he or she post dirty jokes or political memes on their own timeline? Are his or her political views in line with yours? When in doubt, don’t post.
  • DO create your own Facebook Page. At first, it might feel weird to have a fan page. Maybe you’ve read posts from other authors about how Facebook’s algorithms prevent most of your followers from seeing your content. It’s true that not every follower will see every post. But consider this: If a fan seeks you out on Facebook, they’ll probably be reluctant to send you a friend request. They’ll be looking for a page to like and follow. Even if they don’t see every single update in their news feed, they’ll see some. Maybe they’ll return to your page deliberately from time to time. To me, that makes having a Facebook page worth it.
  • DON’T create seventeen Facebook fan pages (one for each book and character, of course) and ask all your friends to like them. If you choose to create a new page for each book, that’s fine, but be careful not to post identical content to each page, otherwise your friends who liked all seventeen of your pages will receive seventeen identical posts. Keep content fresh.
  • DON’T use group messages to get the word out about your latest book/blog/interview. Group messages are appropriate if you need to get information out fast. A book signing is cancelled or delayed. A deadline is approaching. Group messages should be used for a limited group of people for a specific purpose. If you send a group message, please be aware that every person included in that message will receive a notification for every response. A group message can be perceived as a violation of privacy and personal space, so please be aware that some people won’t like to be included.
  • DON’T post long, angry rants. If you feel compelled to rant, don’t tag friends. Did you know that tagging someone will make your post visible to everyone on your friend’s Friend List? Depending on your friend’s privacy settings, your angry rant might show up on his or her timeline. Talk about an invasion of personal space and privacy! If you feel compelled to rant, and you can’t keep it to yourself, at least keep it on your own timeline.
  • DO be yourself. It’s okay to host discussions or to share your views. Not everyone will agree with you, but you can voice your opinion in a non-argumentative way. You don’t have to rant or hurl insults to make your opinion known.
  • DON’T send a friend request to someone you barely know and then immediately ask them to like all seventeen of your Facebook fan pages. Friend requests should come without strings attached. An immediate request to like a Facebook page or a private message asking your new friend to buy your book/vote for you in a contest/follow your blog looks a heck of a lot like spam.
  • DON’T send a private message to someone you haven’t interacted with in a year to ask them to vote for your book/short story/book cover in a competition. This looks an awful lot like spam. Feel free to contact friends and family members who have read your book. If someone gave you a rave review, chances are they’ll want to vote for you. It’s perfectly fine to post a link to the contest on your own timeline and/or on your fan page so others have a chance to vote for you if they want to.
  • DO join groups, but be prepared to interact and add value to that group. Facebook groups are an excellent way to meet new friends and to share ideas. There are groups for everything under the sun – book promotions, conversation, writing tips, review groups, books clubs, knitting, etc. Find a few you like and start making friends.
  • DON’T join too many groups. There’s no way you’ll have time to interact with all of them, and if you just drop your book link and run, chances are you’ll get kicked out.
  • DO read group rules and policies. If the rules say “No promotional posts,” they really truly don’t want you to post your book links. Some groups have a “one strike” policy and they’ll give you the boot after one violation.
  • DON’T post identical links to all your groups. If you belong to thirty groups and you post back-to-back identical content in each group, members of those groups will get multiple posts about your book on their timeline.(Smells like spam to me.) Stagger your promotional posts so that you’re not dropping the same link all at once.
  • DO share links to your Facebook profile and/or Facebook pages. You can include a link on your website, blog, Twitter, or anywhere else you have a social media presence. You’d be surprised how many people will want to follow your Facebook page or send you a friend request. You just have to let them know how to find you.
  • DO have fun. After all these “do this, don’t do that” rules, you might be considering shutting off your internet service, hurling your computer out the nearest window, and writing your masterpiece with a chisel and stone. DON’T do that! Facebook is meant to be fun. It’s meant to enhance your life – not complicate it. Ultimately, you must make your own rules. Follow your own path. And have fun!
  • For some of you, this might be pretty basic stuff based on common sense. For those who are new to social media or book promotion, I hope you’ll find this information helpful.

If you’re looking for more advice on promoting your book or author etiquette in the blogosphere, I’d like to recommend this excellent article by Susan Toy: HOW to get promotion for yourself and your book. Susan’s blog is full of helpful information and straightforward advice. If you’re not already following her blog, I highly recommend subscribing to it.

If you would like more information on Facebook basics, please leave a comment below. I’d like to make a post sometime in the near future about Facebook fundamentals such as changing your privacy settings, creating a Facebook page, etc. Please let me know what information would be helpful for you. If you don’t feel comfortable commenting below, or if you have a very specific question, please feel free to email me at: I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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