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.