In my social circle, knowing how to use Facebook is like knowing how to read. It’s something we do every day, without thinking about it, like we were born knowing how. Of course, we know there are people in this world who don’t know how to read, but we rarely come into contact with them, so we barely believe they exist. Besides, we can’t imagine a life without reading.
I’m not saying this to brag. (And I’m not a teeny bopper; I’m 29.) I’m saying this so you understand how vital Facebook is in 2010. And so you understand why we all notice that you — yes, you who joined Facebook to promote your book — you’re doing it wrong.
I’m here to help you use it properly. And it’s totally okay that you have to learn — good for you for getting on the train. Kudos for doing what your publisher or agent or circle of writing friends told you to do. They’re right; Facebook is a great networking tool. But it works far better when you look like you know what you’re doing.
That’s why I’m offering these tips:
Pretend you didn’t join just to promote your book. Fake it. Act like you joined Facebook for fun. Sounds crazy, right? But that’s why most Facebook users are on the social networking service. For fun. And we can smell promoters a mile away.
Befriend people you know. Like, in person. Not people you follow on Twitter or people you’d like to know. Befriend people you’ve met in real life, people you worked with, went to school with, maybe someone you’ll see tomorrow. Even with more than 700 friends, I’ve met nearly all of them in the flesh. A few I’ve met only once, maybe at a party or work conference. And yes, a few I met originally on Twitter, or some other online group — but we communicated through more than tweets before we became Facebook friends. And on that note…
Don’t treat Facebook like Twitter. They’re both social-media tools, but they’re totally different beasts. Facebook is for communicating with people you already know. Twitter is for meeting people. Facebook is personal. Twitter is about networking for career purposes or other specific interests. Yes, Twitter can be personal and Facebook can be used for career networking. But if you keep that basic distinction in mind, it will prevent you from telling us TMI — Too Much (Private) Information — on Twitter and not enough on Facebook. If you’re friends with so many people on Facebook, people you don’t really know, you won’t offer personal stuff like status updates and photos that your real friends want to hear about. Stuff that makes you a good Facebook friend.
For that reason, don’t link your Twitter feed to your Facebook status. Your audiences are different, and they want to hear about different things. Cater to those audiences to build relationships.
Relationships on Facebook are reciprocal (both parties have to agree to be friends), while on Twitter they can be one-sided (I can follow you even if you don’t follow me).
Understand the difference between a profile page and a fan page. If you’re promoting your book, you’ll want both, but they’re used differently. Your profile page is where you make connections, befriend people you know in person and offer personal information about yourself — well, not too personal, but that’s another post — since only your friends read it. Your name is on your profile page.
Your fan page, however, bears the name of your product. And anyone can join that fan group, even if you’re not friends. How do you get fans? You get fans through your profile page, where, because you’re pretending you joined Facebook for fun, you’ve connected with people you know from work, school, your craft club, the PTA, whatever. Because those people are really your friends, they’ll join your fan page to support you. Then their friends will see that they joined the page, and they’ll join, too. If the domino effect works, you’ve got a solid fan page with members you know in person and members you don’t know.
Look at other fan pages to figure out what to put on yours. (Like the fan page for Julie Kraut’s YA novel, Slept Away.) Don’t post an “out of office” reply if you’re not going to be around for a while. Yes, I actually saw someone ask online whether they should do this. Facebook FAIL.
If you must, if you absolutely must, go ahead and create a fan page under your name. I really think this is only a good idea if you’re a celebrity — you’re probably not if you’re reading this post — or you have more than, say, four books to promote. Check out Jodi Picoult’s fan page. It works. But if you’re not going to be cranking out books like she does, if this is your first book, it works better to have a fan page for that book. It also looks less presumptuous. Because you’re joining Facebook for fun, not to promote a product, remember?
Set your privacy settings. The New York Times had a great story recently about how to do this. If you do nothing, the whole world can probably see your profile page, which partly defeats the purpose of having friends.
Ask someone who uses Facebook for fun to help you. Don’t ask someone who also joined to “build their platform.” They’re probably doing it wrong, too. This means you’re likely going to have to approach someone who’s younger than you. Sit down with them and have them go through Facebook and explain what’s cool and what’s not. Like I said, to them it’s like knowing how to read.
So. If I know you only through this blog or Twitter, feel free to contact me in the comments below, through my Twitter feed, via e-mail at alexiskgrant_AT_yahoo.com (I always write back), maybe in our Ning group if you’re a travel writer — I’d love to connect in all of those places! But puh-lease, until we’ve established some sort of relationship, think twice before finding me on Facebook.
Anybody got good Facebook tips to add?
UPDATE: Check out this post about why authors should create a page for their name/book, not a group.