How to Best Use Facebook as an Author

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Whether indie or traditionally published, most authors today can agree on one thing: social media has helped redefine the way books are promoted and discovered. And perhaps just as important, it has allowed authors to further create and strengthen ties with their audience.

But what’s the best way to get started with social media? The multitude of available platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn and others, can make it difficult to figure out which to make your base. In my experience, though, Facebook is not only the most obvious place to start, but also the best, as it lets you find and expand your audience, while allowing your readers to discover the complete person behind your published words.

So how do you best use Facebook as an author? Below are five recommendations to help any writer make the most of the social network:

1. Use your personal account. First things first: should you create a dedicated author page on Facebook, separate from your personal page? Common wisdom says you should. But common wisdom (and your gut) could be wrong here. Your first supporters on Facebook (and, most likely, offline) will be your existing connections (over 300 on average for an adult user): the friends, relatives, colleagues and acquaintances who make up your social network. By attempting to build a new base on a separate account, you’re automatically adding an unnecessary layer of effort between your first 300 supporters and your writing-related content.

If you use your personal account, you can seed your writing community with the people who know you, trust you and care about you already—the community you’ve developed without trying over a lifetime. In addition, by interweaving updates on your career with other aspects of your life, a personal account can resonate much more deeply with potential readers than an author page can.

2. Optimize your privacy settings. Using Facebook as an author doesn’t have to mean losing another shred of your online privacy. If you’re one of the hundreds of millions who never bother to adjust their privacy settings on the platform, now is the time to take action. By switching the default setting for a post to “Public,” you’re making every update visible to anyone who can find the link, but you can still limit individual posts to friends as you publish them. This allows you to keep personal items private, while spreading writing-related content across the web.

But who beyond your friends will see your posts in the first place? Here is where the woefully underused “Follow” feature comes in. As on Twitter, where anyone can follow anyone else’s posts without a two-way relationship, Facebook allows you to be followed by anyone on the platform, such that your public posts will appear in your followers’ feeds. All you need to do is change the “Follow” audience to “Everyone” in your settings, and you can build a Twitter-like broadcasting platform on top of your personal Facebook profile without compromising your privacy.

3. Use every medium available. You’re now ready to use Facebook as an author, but what should you post? Most people are familiar with the use of Facebook as a place to share pictures, statuses and links. But did you know that, as of August 2014, Facebook has been delivering more video views than YouTube—by about one billion views?

What’s more, Facebook videos have a deeper reach than do status updates, links and pictures. This means that a video posted on Facebook is far likelier to be seen than is any other type of post. In short, you should leverage every medium available on Facebook. Link to reviews, upload cover images and share footage of your writing life. If you can upload it, you can share it.

4. Don’t just produce; consume. Every author should read as well as write, and the same rule applies on Facebook. Even if you produce the web’s most compelling content on your page, you’re only using half the tools at your disposal if you don’t consume as well. You probably already know that there are well over a billion active Facebook users in the world, but did you know that, as a user, you’re also allowed to join up to 6,000 Facebook groups? Many groups allow all users to join, and others will quickly accept you if you ask.

Moreover, many Facebook users allow you to follow them without being their friend (using the feature described above). Search for authors whose writing is similar to yours, or groups that specialize in your interests. Engage by liking, replying, commenting and sharing. Your goal is not only to recruit readers; by joining online discussions where like-minded people gather, you will share, interact and connect. In other words, you will build a platform.

5. Turn Facebook into your social hub. One of the biggest challenges of social media is the fragmentation among platforms. You might use YouTube for videos, Instagram for pictures, Facebook for social sharing, and Twitter for information. Going back to basics, you may also have a website. So how do you keep track of all your social media activities? Instead of multiplying your efforts, simply focus them on Facebook.

Link your other accounts to post directly to Facebook, and link from Facebook to your blog and other online outlets. While other platforms continue to proliferate, Facebook remains the primary driver of social sharing, even for writers. For instance, the crowdsourced publishing startup Inkshares recently revealed that Facebook is by far the greatest channel for sourcing readers, ahead of even email, and with Twitter far behind. You don’t need to do everything, and you don’t need to be everywhere. Just do as much as you can, and put it all on Facebook.

Facebook can deliver tremendous benefits for anyone trying to build an audience. And advertising tools can yield powerful returns for any writer willing to invest. But even without paying a cent, and even without starting a new profile, every author can turn to Facebook as the first step in developing a readership. Try these five tips to see what the platform can do for you. Your friends (and followers) are all waiting.


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28 thoughts on “How to Best Use Facebook as an Author

  1. Nitpicker

    Mileage varies. I’m working on a major nonfiction history book and I dread Facebook. When my book comes out the major hub for my book will be a website I’ve created especially for it. I’ll be on Twitter, and stick around on FB, even create a “page” on FB, but the updates, news, extras, photos, etc will be on my site. I cannot stand Facebook and I don’t care if they claim a billion people use it.

    Almost nobody reads in the United States. A bestseller these days qualifies as what, 30,000 copies sold? Do you know what percentage of the population that is?

    So I’m not sure what hanging a shingle out on Facebook is going to do. Especially if the majority of the people on Facebook don’t typically read books in English.

    Reply
    1. Kilburn Hall

      You need 20,000 likes to even make a ripple on Facebook. Even best-selling authors like SKdon;t generate this kind of traffic.The best way to sell your book is word-of-mouth NOT Facebook which should be one of many websites an author needs to use to market books.

      Reply
  2. Jennifer Jensen

    I clicked into this article hoping for solid tips, but it read like an advertorial. Yes, Facebook is a large part of connecting with potential readers, but there is no way I want all my eggs in one basket, especially when Facebook owns all of the content I post there! (And seems to be constantly changing the rules.) And no, paid ads on Facebook don’t necessarily “yield powerful returns for any writer willing to invest.”

    I would love to see an article that discusses how best to use Facebook ads, how to design them, target them, etc. I’d like to know tips for designing a graphic that Facebook feels fits into its 80/20 rule. I’d love to have advice on choosing which of those 6000 writing groups would be best for me according to genre and personality. I’d like comments about how to post from other apps to Facebook and have FB pull in the right information (I’ve had problems posting from Hootsuite, so I have to do it manually).

    See what I mean? Please, DBW, run something other than a puff piece on how great Facebook is!

    Reply
    1. Leslie

      I’m a digital marketer, and I would disagree with you. My experience working for large brands shows me that, if you really target FB ads, you will see a return. Of course, most of us don’t have money for a big spend, but it would probably be a more cumulative process for someone with a small spend. You do have to remember that clickthrough rate on any ad is tiny, and users have to be exposed to an ad a number of times before clicking, so the return is not going to be huge. However, goals vary–it could be raising awareness, a purchase (which is not that likely), or getting the user to follow you on social media or sign up for email.

      Reply
  3. Rachel Thompson

    Hi Teymour, and thanks for sharing your insights. As an author and marketer, I share your interest in Facebook, yet here is my main concern: Facebook status updates and interactions are not indexed by Google, so from an SEO perspective, what is the benefit?

    I do personally find enormous benefit in building relationships, establishing connections and building my network on my personal account, as well as building my author page and business page. However, Twitter and Google+ carry more weight with regard to SEO.

    How do you justify spending so much time on Facebook with balancing and growing visibility on Google? Thanks, Rachel

    Reply
  4. Teymour Shahabi

    Thanks for your comments. It’s true that mileage varies by genre. Would you agree that social networking might be more helpful for fiction than for nonfiction? In nonfiction, key drivers of demand (and discovery) might be the content itself, i.e., communities (academic or otherwise) of people interested in the subject. For fiction, however, where it’s harder to justify your offering ahead of all other possible demands on a person’s time (including TV, video games, etc.), social media could give you a bit more of an edge. This said, you’re absolutely right about the need for a centralized website, and I’d be eager to see what yours includes.

    More generally, what’s your book about? (Big fan of historical nonfiction here.)

    Reply
  5. Chris Syme

    Thanks for the info on Facebook, Teymour. I agree with you that authors that want to use social media should definitely start with Facebook. I have a couple thoughts.

    \Link your other accounts to post directly to Facebook, and link from Facebook to your blog and other online outlets\. In marketing today, linking accounts together for duplicating posts is considered a lazy practice. It was okay a few years ago but social media has matured to the place where channel audiences are proprietary and they see duplicated (verbatim) posts as ignorance. I agree with you that cross promoting is a huge opportunity, but craft individual posts for each audience through a dashboard tool or directly if you like.

    \But even without paying a cent, and even without starting a new profile, every author can turn to Facebook as the first step in developing a readership.\ I’m not sure what you mean here–I probably misunderstood what you were saying. I don’t think it’s a good idea for authors to use personal \friend\ pages for Facebook platforms. They need to start a new business page or they will not be able to boost individual posts–one of the best forms of Facebook ads. It’s true you can run a regular ad without a business page, but you cannot boost a personal post anymore. You are also missing out on valuable audience data without Facebook Insights–only available from business pages.

    Also, I agree with Rachel. Even though Facebook pages are indexed on search engines, their SEO potential is nothing compared to a good website. I believe authors need websites first, social media second. But I do believe in the power of both.

    Reply
  6. Teymour Shahabi

    A few more thoughts… Rachel, thanks for your insights: you’re absolutely right about SEO, but one big question is whether discoverability (again, for fiction in particular) is driven by search. In other words, do readers discover new books by searching for keywords? These two links both support the same conclusion: recommendations (or word of mouth) are the single biggest driver:

    http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2012/book-discovery-landscape-becomes-more-complicated-as-reader-behavior-fractures/

    https://www.goodreads.com/poll/show/60770

    Therefore, I would argue that allowing people to share and discover your writing socially is even more critical than making yourself visible on Google search results — and regardless of one’s own usage, the objective truth remains that Facebook is the biggest online platform for social connections today. This said, an author should absolutely do both: an SEO-enabled website should be a priority.

    Jennifer, thanks for your comments as well. Many of your questions (about using Facebook graphics, posting from other accounts, joining groups) are relevant beyond the fields of writing and publishing, but here are a few links specifically about using Facebook ads as an author:

    http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/authors/pw-select/article/65838-facebook-ads-a-guide-for-indie-authors.html
    http://blog.reedsy.com/facebook-ads-for-authors-mark-dawson-interview
    http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/05/facebook-ads-should-indie-authors-buy-them/

    And I agree with you entirely about not putting all your eggs in the Facebook basket: don’t make the platform the sole repository of your online content — make sure you own it and have access to it regardless of what Facebook does!

    Thanks for reading,

    T

    Reply
  7. Raphael Akhavan

    Hey Teymour! Thanks for this great article! I think these are all very insightful and, more importantly perhaps, very practical advice on how to use one of the most powerful communication tools of our era as an author. A lot of articles these days focus on rather intangible and rhetorical advice such as “stay close to your audience”, which are concepts I find difficult to grasp or apply. I really appreciate how digestible all the points you make are and thank you for sharing!

    Regarding the comments about facebook advertisements, I think that it’s important to separate the two topics at hand. While advertisements are an important aspect of facebook and a key promotional tool for any type of business, I think this piece is more about being close to your audience and building a community, rather than using Facebook as merely a marketing tool.

    Reply
  8. Knowthyreader

    I feel that you need to spend some time seeing if your target audience is active on Facebook, and how they behave there, before setting anything up, then look at how you can match the way you spend your time on the site with how the target audience spends their time on the site, if they’re there.

    Reply
  9. Christopher F. Dalton

    Great advice. I am finding that Facebook is the best platform to start from and the best to operate from as well. I really appreciate your tips. I especially the consume don’t just produce tip a good one. I forget sometimes, in my effort to advertise my work, to read and comment on the things others are producing. Thank you.

    Reply
  10. Troy Johnson

    #2 is misleading. Anything you put on Facebook is available to Facebook to to use and sell to marketers–regardless of privacy settings. Of course fends and family are free to share anything you post as well. Never put anything on Facebook (or the Internet) you would not want to read on the cover of the NY Times.

    I have to say this articles reads like a Facebook advertisement. I don’t say that lightly; but given the over the top endorsement and not mentioning any of the well known, challenges the platform poses for marketers; this is a fair assumption.

    Promoting books on the web is more challenging in 2015 than anytime before, doubling down on Facebook would actually make the problem worse…

    Reply
    1. Teymour Shahabi

      Hi Troy,

      #2 makes the point that a writer can share public posts on Facebook without making his or her entire profile public: it’s about public posts, not private ones. The private components of a personal profile are, of course, owned by Facebook, and the NY Times book cover rule is absolutely the best policy for anything shared online, public or private. But this article is about posting publicly: private posts (and their risks) are an entirely different matter that is not tied to using Facebook as a writer.

      Facebook does pose a number of challenge for marketers: the point here is that it’s a great way to connect, if not market. It can be the best way, for example, to start making your friends and real-life acquaintances aware of your writing when you begin your career, and to enable them to share your updates throughout their social networks. I agree with you entirely about the risks and limitations… And the difficulty of promoting books on the web in 2015! (Here’s a great article on this point: http://blog.smashwords.com/2014/11/ebook-publishing-gets-more-difficult.html)

      Reply
  11. Lisa Grace

    Thanks for the information. Interacting is key and I had no idea you could join up to six thousand groups.
    I currently have several novels out, and have found right side ads to be a complete waste of money. Also, be aware that once Facebook has your money they will not communicate with you, or refund your funds when asked.

    Author Mark Dawson offers a tutorial on using Facebook advertising for authors effectively.

    Teymour, when you do put your book up for sale, maybe you will share how effective you believe your Facebook strategy worked?

    Some of my books have reached the top ten for sales in the Kindle store when priced right and run with an ENT or Bookbub ad.

    Reply
  12. lakshmi Narayan

    10 Tips On How To Best Use Facebook Author Tags
    1. They’re easy to set up on your website.
    2. They also have a quick setup on WordPress.
    3. They’re simple to enable.
    4. They’re easy to spot.
    5. They don’t show up right away.
    6. They help you get new readers.
    7. They give readers a quick way to follow you.
    8. They’re meant for journalists and authors, rather than brands.
    9. They can help you gain exposure to potential clients.
    10. Readers will stay up-to-date on your content.

    Reply
  13. Minsu Kang

    How about sharing links into your book instead of all the same amazon page? The digital book is not digital without hyperlink support, I believe. Try to click the link to see what I mean. Have a good day.

    Reply
  14. Amedu Godlives

    Waoo! I love this lecture. Thanks to you Teymour Shahabi
    How do you balance selling on Facebook with other social media? I do not have a website and am a new Author. Here is the link to my books
    http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01ET93RPW, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EG63RBW, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01EG4SN7M. Promoting these books on the web is so challenging. But I need to start with your Facebook idea. It would actually make a big difference. What do you sugggest?

    Reply
    1. Teymour ShahabiTeymour Shahabi Post author

      Thanks so much Amedu! I’m glad you enjoyed this post and I wish you every continued success in helping people find love! I would suggest using Facebook as part of a broader social presence that also includes a personal website. You should also make sure your various pages link back to one another — and to your Amazon book pages. Your goal should be to make it as easy as possible for current and future readers to find you! Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any specific questions. Wishing you all the best, Teymour

      Reply
    1. Teymour Shahabi

      Thanks Debra! Most of the trends described in 2015 have only intensified — Facebook videos are an obvious example. However, I would add that it could also be helpful to use different platforms (beyond Facebook) for the specific advantages they offer. For example, I’ve tried to share content on Instagram and Twitter that would lend itself most to those forms of communication — while working on my personal website to share contact information and host a newsletter. Every social medium has its own strengths and benefits… But Facebook remains the king of them all at this point.

      One question I hope to address soon in my own work (following in the footsteps of many other authors and bloggers) is: how should authors use Facebook Ads? Would love to hear any thoughts!

      Reply
  15. margarita elena rogers

    What are some good wordpress website themes for a writer? Is using a free site ok or should it be premium? I had a website but got so busy with my teaching job that it elapsed and disappeared.. so starting again!

    Reply

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