Saturday, July 19, 2014

How Good a Promotional Tool is Facebook?

Social media is all the rage today. It seems everyone—or almost everyone—is on Facebook, the leading social media platform. There’s a lot of buzz about how social media, especially Facebook, is a prime promotional medium for small businesses. But as a writer, is Facebook for you? And if so, how?

First, it may be good to begin by dividing writers into two groups—those who write books, either fiction or non-fiction, and those who write shorter pieces like short stories and articles. You may ask what’s the difference. There definitely is one.

If you’re a book writer, commonly referred to as an author although a writer nonetheless, you produce a product that you can sell directly to readers. With the ever-increasing proliferation of ebooks available from such online distributors as Amazon and Barnes and Noble, among others, you can write, publish, and sell your books directly. But that also means you have to do your own promotion. And that’s where social media networks like Facebook come in.

Create an Author Page
By creating a Facebook author page, you can promote your books and stay in touch with your growing list of reader fans. Through your author page, you can alert fans to book signings, new or upcoming books, reprints of older editions, updates of non-fiction books, and special book sales. Author pages also allow you to offer teasers for upcoming books in order to build reader anticipation.

Unfortunately, the range of options isn’t as great on Facebook if you write short stories or articles. This is mainly because you normally don’t sell directly to readers but instead sell your work to magazine editors. Editors are busy people and don’t have time to actively seek out writers on Facebook, so unless you know an editor personally, chances are they won’t be following you on Facebook. Of course, you could sell your short stories and articles either individually or in collections as ebooks for Kindle or Nook. This is especially good for pieces that are too long for magazines.

In the above case, a Facebook author page probably isn’t the best option. Instead, consider setting up a business or professional page on Facebook. It works much the same way as an author page but allows you to also promote other writing projects, courses, and other communication services. For this you might want to create an umbrella title, such as “Your Name Communications,” substituting your name in the title. That’s broad enough to encompass a variety of projects and services. Check out my page for Bob Brooke Communications.

Remember, both author pages and professional pages have “likes” not “friends.” The people who follow them are essentially fans of your work and want to know more about you and what you write about.

Facebook’s Downside
Unfortunately, there’s a downside to Facebook. Many users, perhaps yourself included, have become frustrated that no one “likes” or comments or shares their posts. With the shear volume of messages on Facebook each day, that’s only natural. At best, it’s an indirect communication medium. Most of the time only those Facebook users who are actual real-life family members, friends, and acquaintances take the time to “like” or comment on a post. So you can see that could seriously interfere with promoting yourself as a writer or promoting your writing products.

However, if you have either an author or professional page, you have control of the content you post there. You decide just what you want your fans to know. And because they like you as a writer, they’ll interact to what you tell them. And it’s only on author or professional pages that you can see how many people have seen your posts. Personal Facebook pages don’t offer that. In this way, you can see which posts receive more attention and can then post accordingly. Think of your author or professional page as being the online headquarters of your fan club.

Getting the Most Out of Facebook
So how can you get the most promotional mileage out of Facebook? First, Facebook isn’t the place to post your writing for feedback or criticism. Facebook users generally don’t read more than they have to. Everyone is too busy to linger over long messages. If you want your fans to read your work, create a Web site or post to someone else’s site and then post a link on Facebook back to either.

Another way to get people on Facebook to read and share what you have to say is to write a blog, then link your blog to your Facebook page, either directly or through Networked Blogs. While you may not notice too many Facebook users accessing your blog on Facebook, itself, they may do so through any number of other outlets through Networked Blogs. You can even set up a special Blog App tab on your Facebook Page that enables fans to go directly to all your past blog posts right on your Facebook page.

Remember, the main purpose of your Facebook page is to keep your fans in the loop. Keep them informed as to what’s going on in your professional life. Don’t just hawk your books or other writing. They’re bombarded with sales pitches all day long on the Internet. Try to be a bit more subtle. Take them behind the scenes when creating a book or perhaps give them actual information on where your books are set. Offer contests, trivia about your book’s subjects, reviews, writing tips, whatever. Facebook users love to look at photos, cartoons, and infographics (photos with text overlay). Post these regularly on your favorite subjects on your Facebook page and you’ll definitely see results.

For some good examples, check out the author page for mystery writer Elena Santangelo. And the professional page for Bowers Watch and Clock Repair, even though this isn’t a writing page. Both have been extremely successful in their Facebook efforts. 

And one more thing: You need to have patience, lots of it. A successful Facebook Page doesn’t happen overnight. It requires a lot of effort and a bit of time to maintain it. If you don’t have enough of either of those, don’t bother.