Monday, August 18, 2014

Facebook for Authors: Page or Profile?

by +J. Lea Lopez

Let's talk about using Facebook as an author. I've gotten a lot of questions from fellow writers who aren't sure how to use Facebook as a tool, what they're supposed to do with it, how exactly they're supposed to do it, and so on. Eventually I plan to do a few posts on some specific how-tos, but in this post I'm going to talk about the differences between interacting with fans/readers through a page versus a profile.

I prefer to use a page, while others prefer to use a profile, and I'm not going to argue which is better or right, because I don't think there's a definitive answer. For a quick look at the differences, you can scroll down for a handy infographic that you're encouraged to share. Keep reading for some more detail and explanation.

Author Profile

If you have a personal profile on Facebook for keeping in touch with friends and family already, then you know how all of that works. Many authors will create additional profiles for their pen names, or even if they don't use a pen name, they'll create a profile for "Author J. Lea López" for the purposes of connecting with fans and having an online presence as their writing selves. It's easy, there's no learning curve because they already know how to use FB in this manner, and they can keep personal details out of their professional timeline and vice versa.

Attending FB events like launch parties and cover reveals and giveaways is easy to do. For event attendees, they get notifications whenever other attendees (who have RSVP'd) post in the event. This is great if you have some people who are waiting for Author You to show up and play games or run a giveaway. They don't have to babysit the event page and keep hitting refresh. Attendees do NOT get a notification when someone posts in the event using their page persona. It might seem like a small detail, but it can be important. Speaking as an attendee at one event, I was confused when I stopped getting notifications for a solid chunk of time, only to realize that the scheduled author was indeed posting in the event, but was doing so as her page persona. I was annoyed I'd missed out on some things.

A profile is a great option if you want to run a street team or a reader's group where you give away ARCs or a secret group to share sexy pictures of cowboys poll readers about what to name your heroine. ;-)

For me, the downsides of using a profile are many. As a reader, I don't personally want to send friend requests to all of the authors whose pages I would like in a heartbeat. There's a certain amount of distance with a page that I'm happy with maintaining. I don't want to share my life with them; I just want to see the fun things they share and learn more about their writing. As an author, I also don't want to share all of my life with my readers. And if you know me, you know I share quite a bit on social media. But I don't want to share everything, and the thought of creating a separate profile to share little more than I'm already doing on my page seems like too much work.

Author Page

When you create a page, you (personal profile you) are the admin for that page and you'll log in to FB with your regular profile when you want to share things from your page. There can be a learning curve and some confusion about how to share what where so it shows up correctly to your fans on your page instead of scaring your dear Aunt Ida with those sexy cowboy photos when you accidentally share them to your family and friends instead of your page. Getting the posting just right can be tricky at first, but at least you don't have to log in and out of different accounts or keep two separate Internet browsers dedicated to two (or more) separate profiles. If you have multiple pen names, you can have multiple pages all accessible from your regular FB profile. And as someone who does a huge amount of social media sharing via mobile devices, it's much easier to manage multiple pages in a single app than it is to manage multiple profiles.

You can send and receive messages from readers with a page the same as you would with a profile, and people can also post to your page publicly. There's still plenty of room for two-way communication with a page. There's no reader apprehension about "Does this author really want me to friend them? Is that too intrusive? Will they accept my request?" and no author apprehension about "What kind of person is this that I'm friending? Are they going to post things I hate? Will I have to hide them from my feed or unfriend them at some point?" Plus it's just super easy to click the Like button.

It's no secret that FB has narrowed the organic reach of pages, which is partially why I suspect a lot of people are using profiles instead, but there are some techniques you can use to broaden your reach whenever you post from your page. Hashtags, time of day, types of post, etc can help ensure that more of the people who've liked your page actually see the content. It's yet another learning curve. However, you do get some analytics with a FB page that you don't get with a profile that can help you target your audience better. The stats aren't perfect, but you'll get information about the overall reach and engagement of each of your posts, and you can look at that data in historic graphs to help you understand which of your posts perform better. You don't get any of that with a profile.

Of course, there's also the old-fashioned way of reaching more people: paying for it. You can pay to promote a public post on a profile, but that $6.99 goes toward pushing that post to the top of your friends' newsfeeds. It will ensure more of the people you're already friends with have seen the post, but that doesn't mean anyone else will. As a page, you can pay to boost a post with a budget as small as $5, and you can target by age, location, gender, and interests, meaning you have a better chance of making new connections and getting new fans.

A public profile is great for extensive networking, maintaining groups, planning and attending events, and connecting with readers in a format you're likely already familiar with. A page is great for sharing things with readers while maintaining some distance, analyzing the effectiveness of your posts, targeting paid FB promotion, and having access to all of your personas in one place. It's up to you to decide which you think is the best fit for you.

Here's that infographic I promised, which I made (for free!) using Piktochart. Feel free to share it around! (click to enlarge)

If you have one, do you prefer using a public Facebook profile or a page to connect with readers? If you don't, which do you think would work best for you?

J. Lea López is an author who strives to make you laugh at, fall in love with, cry over, and lust after the characters she writes. She welcomes online stalkers as long as they're witty and/or adulatory. Kidding. Maybe. Check for yourself: Twitter, Facebook, Blog.


JeffO said...

I'll be honest, Facebooking at all leaves me cold, and doing so as an author even more so. I think the page appeals to me more than the profile. Thanks for the comparison.

Sugarbeat said...

Two things to keep in mind about the profile vs page question - it is against the FB Terms of Service to promote your book on your profile. How often they police this I don't know, but chances are you will only get busted after you spend a lot of time building up a presence :) Secondly, you are limited to 5000 friends on your personal profile but unlimited on likes for your page.

My 2 cents

J. Lea Lopez said...

You're welcome, Jeff!

Thanks for reading, Sugarbeat. I'm curious what you mean about promoting your book on your profile being against the FB terms. Which part of the terms, and what exactly do you mean by promoting in this sense? A lot of people will mention their jobs on their FB profiles ("Hey, this store where I work is having a sale!" "I'm putting in a Mary Kay order, so let me know if you want anything!" etc.), so I'm not sure how it would violate terms of service to be an author talking about your book. Of course spamming people I can understand.