Making the Most of Your Facebook Page

03/01/11 9:00 AM

This past September, I launched my author page on Facebook. I’m selling my short stories as eBooks (some of these shorts have been published by print and online journals), and I’m releasing my first novel this summer.

In my day job, I’m a marketing copywriter (or The Copy Bitch, as many like to call me). One of my regular tasks is helping clients build and maintain their Facebook pages. Facebook is a great way to market a business. It’s also a great way to market yourself as a writer. The best part? It’s free (or relatively inexpensive if you decide to advertise).

Unfortunately, not all writers have taken advantage of Facebook. And among those who do, I see many marketing mistakes. The biggest mistake is this: too many authors don’t have public pages. They use their personal Facebook pages — you know, the ones where you have to submit a friend request — as their platform. That’s a big mistake. Here’s why:

It forces your fans to take an extra step. Literally. When you land on a public page, all you have to do is click “Like” and you’re instantly added to the tribe of fans. When a writer uses a personal page, the person seeking friendship needs to click “Add as friend” and then “Send friend request.” Then the waiting begins. I recently had to go through this. An author I follow promotes his Facebook page on his website. I clicked over and saw that it was a personal page. I submitted the friend request. My friendship hasn’t been accepted yet (this was several weeks ago). Talk about feeling rejected! Am I not worthy enough to be accepted as a fan? Authors, if you’re going to promote your personal page to fans, you should be prepared to accept all requests. Now do you see why a public page is important? No? Well, this brings me to my second point.

Your fans are not your friends. They’re your fans. Yeah, your BFF is likely both friend and fan, but the fan page is the perfect place for everyone else — the rabid fans, the sketchy fans, the lurkers, serial killers, other writers, etc. The persona you have with fans will likely be different from the persona you use with the friends and family you’re connected with on your personal page. Even if your personal page is filled with people from elementary school and you haven’t seen them in 20 years, at least you knew them at one point.

Creating a Winning Facebook Presence in 2011 – 5 Easy Ways

If you’re one of those writers who has gone the route of a personal page, but you’re thinking about (finally) creating a public page (or if you’re a writer who is thinking about taking the plunge and creating a Facebook page for the first time), follow these tips on creating a winning presence in 2011. For the purpose of these suggestions, I’m going to assume you already have a basic page or that you know how to set one up. If you don’t, go here for easy instructions.

1. Pay attention to the look and feel and make sure you have the basics covered.
Customize the tabs so that they’re relevant to readers (that’s what you’re hoping your fans are going to be, right?). Some good tabs to create: Buy Now (or Shop Now). Videos (a good place for your book trailers and interviews). Subscriptions to your email newsletter and Twitter. Book signings & tour dates. Reviews. Images of cover art, your headshot, and candids from book signings and launch parties.

2. Add personality. Facebook apps are everywhere, and, no doubt, there’s bound to be one or two that really suits your personality as a writer. Add them to your page and have some fun with them. Here’s a great resource that includes 75 Facebook apps to consider (and how to use them).

3. Create a customized landing page for first-time visitors. First-time visitors to your page will land on your Wall — that’s the default. But you can control this (at least for now — the new layout for pages *might* not have this functionality, but I remain optimistic.) Your Wall probably isn’t going to be the most compelling thing to someone who isn’t a fan of your page yet. Instead, create a “welcome page” (or whatever you want to call it) and give people a reason for liking your page. And be sure to ask them what you want them to do, e.g. Click on “Like” (that’s called a call to action).

Author Jennifer Weiner’s landing page (partial screen shot below) includes an image from the cover of her most recent novel, an iPhone app, a personal note from her, a place to download the first chapter for free, and some video interviews. Now, you don’t need to have all these things on your welcome page. I use this example to show you that the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can put on this page. She also has a nice call to action under her profile image.

4. Get a vanity URL. Once you have 25 fans, you can create a vanity URL, which makes it much easier to promote. For example, Jennifer Weiner’s vanity URL is www.facebook.com/JenniferWeiner. It’s much cleaner looking than the gobbledygook URL that you’re automatically assigned when you set up your page. Here are easy instructions on how to create a vanity URL.

5. Follow the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your posts should be about things other than yourself and your books. It should be about engaging your community. Ask questions (e.g. What’s your favorite book? Team Nook, Kindle, or iPad? What’s the most surprising title in your book collection?). Conduct polls. Share interesting book trailers (not just your own). Share movie trailers that are based on books. I recently posted the trailer for Water for Elephants and asked my fans who was going to see it. This sparked some interesting comments about whether any movie existed that really did a book justice.

Of course, it is okay to talk about yourself and your books occasionally. Did you just receive a glowing review? Share it. Do you have a firm date in place for a new title? Do a status update. The key is to make sure you don’t use your Facebook page as one big pimp-a-rama.

Do you have a Facebook page that you feel proud of? I’d love to see it. Share the URL in the comments.

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Posted by Robyn | in Social Media | 11 Comments »

11 Comments on “Making the Most of Your Facebook Page”

  1. Susan W Says:

    Robyn,

    Do you have an advice on the technical aspects of creating a customized landing page?

  2. Robyn Says:

    Setting the page is easy. Go to your Wall. See where it says Status, Photo, Link, Video? Just under that and towards the right, you’ll see “Options” or “Settings.” Click. You’ll now see some options, including “Default landing tab for everyone else.” This is where you choose where first-time visitors will land.

    In terms of creating the actual customized landing page, there are a bunch of options. You can add an FBML box. This will walk you through how to do that: http://www.hyperarts.com/blog/tutorial-facebook-pages-with-static-fbml-application/

    From there, you can add images on your own and do some modified HTML for Facebook (called Facebook Markeup Language – or FBML). I’d recommend hiring a graphic designer to create a cool image (then all you have to do is upload the image to your photo album and add the img src code to the box). The call to action should be to “Like” the page (along with some info on why, the benefits, etc), and the size limitations that you need to tell designers is 519px in width.

    Restaurants, big retailers, and big brands tend to have awesome custom landing pages. Here are ones I recommend checking out for inspiration:

    http://www.facebook.com/target
    http://www.facebook.com/OliveGarden
    http://www.facebook.com/Starburst
    http://www.facebook.com/benjerry
    http://www.facebook.com/baskinrobbins
    http://www.facebook.com/thecheesecakefactory

  3. Jeff Lerman Says:

    Thanks for making me smile, Robyn! Listing ‘other writers’ after ‘lurkers’ and ‘serial killers’ was a nice touch.

    @Susan W: Facebook uses a proprietary markup language similar to HTML called FBML. If you have some experience coding in HTML, you can create a customized landing page with only a little work. Also, if you already have a website, you can utilize much of the already-written code in your FBML page. There are a lot of tutorials out there – here’s a good simple one: http://mashable.com/2010/02/22/build-facebook-landing-page/

  4. Robyn Says:

    @Susan – I’d also recommend Jeff above. He won’t toot his own horn, but I will: he’s done some great FB pages for his clients.

    @Jeff – anything to brighten your day, sir! :)

  5. Joe Says:

    For those writer’s that are less code savvy there is a free service that allows users to create really dynamic fan pages: http://www.authorpages.com

  6. Robyn Says:

    @Joe — I look forward to checking that out. Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. Friday Find for Writers: Social Media Resources | ErikaDreifus.com Says:

    [...] RobynBradley.com: “Making the Most of Your Facebook Page” [...]

  8. Erec Says:

    How do you distinguish in online search engines between your personal and author profiles? Could they both end up with the same name?

  9. Robyn Says:

    @Erec — it’s a good question. They both will come up in search (how high up will depend on things like vanity URL you choose for both and whether you use your name in the URL). My vanity URL for my author page is facebook.com/robynbradleywriter and I do use both my first and last name in my personal profile’s URL. I just did a search on “Robyn Bradley Facebook” — both profiles come up (my author profile is ahead of my personal one).

  10. Alyce Says:

    Thanks for the helpful post, Robyn. I just set up a writer page on Facebook. I was looking for some tips and came across your blog. I especially love tip #5, the 80/20 rule. I plan to put that into practice soon. Thanks again.

  11. Robyn Says:

    @Alyce — glad you found it helpful! Be sure to check out the posts from last week, one of which includes a “cheat sheet” for the new FB Timeline. :)