Readers Who “Like” You, or Readers Who “Friend” You — Which Is Better?

Guest Expert: Laurel Marshfield

This year, Facebook topped 550 million members. If it were a country, Facebook would be the third largest in the world (ahead of the United States, in fourth place with a mere 309 million).

Impressive numbers, but why should that interest authors – interest you as an author? Here’s why.

If only a tenth of a relatively small percentage of all “Facebookians” became your loyal readers, you could easily attain the Ultimate Author Dream: Writing the books you most want to, while netting the royalties associated with authors who are mega famous.

Maybe you’d like to know, right about now, what the basic guidelines for attracting readers on the biggest social networking site in the world are?

You Have to Play to Play

If you don’t already have one, set up a “profile page” – a basic Facebook account. Simply go to www.facebook.com and fill in the requested information (realize that you must christen your profile page with your real name – a Facebook rule; if you need to differentiate your page from all the other Jane or John Smiths on the site, use a middle name or middle initial).

Once you have a profile account, you’ve earned the right to create a “fan page.” That’s where you’ll stage the serious book promotion designed to attract your new readers. (Quick aside: you can create as many fan pages as you want, but you only get one profile page — in the same way that you only get one name.) Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php to set up your fan page, or pages.

Profile Page, Fan Page, What’s the Difference?

Your profile page is for friends — for fun. But only 5,000 people can “Friend” you, or join your page and get your status updates in their Facebook feed. Your fan page is for fans, readers, clients — for business. An unlimited number of people can “Like” you, with the same result as above. There are, however, some areas of overlap, and your profile page can and will draw potential readers, too.

To see how the differences play out, let’s explore the Facebook world of author and attraction coach, Eva Gregory. Esteemed in her field, she’s written two books, one of them with Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame. (Another quick aside: the Facebook pages of famous authors aren’t particularly helpful, as they’re either maintained by their publishers – see Dan Brown, or they only contain a Wikipedia profile – see Jodi Picoult. But Gregory’s pages are instructive.) Here’s her profile page: http://www.facebook.com/evagregory ; and here’s her fan page: http://www.facebook.com/evagregoryfan (notice how she finds a way to use her name for both pages while making the difference clear; yet she’s still playing by Facebook’s rules).

If you go to the Info tab on Gregory’s Profile page, you’ll see a multi-paragraph description of her background, her service offerings, her books and programs, and her several businesses. You would not be amiss to wonder what all that has to do with “fun” and “friends.” But this is where that aforementioned overlap between the two pages resides. (Also note that, like everyone else with a Facebook profile page, Gregory’s nearly 5,000 “Friends” are most likely not friends in the usual sense, but in the social networking sense.)

Now, if you click over to Gregory’s fan page, you’ll see an immediate difference in both design and approach. A first-time visitor will enter through a Welcome page, and will be greeted with a pitch video, an ezine signup form, and a big, bold logo. You know right away that this page is about business – a friendly sort of business – but still, those profile page lists of interests and favorite movies are gone. In their place, you get a guided tour of Gregory’s many, many offerings.

Why Bother with Facebook When You’ve Got a Site?

It may seem odd that Gregory has established her presence so solidly on Facebook when — as you may remember from the Info tab of her profile page — she has three websites. Well, here’s why it’s not redundant, why it’s actually new territory. Facebook is where the people are. More people, in fact, than the entire population of the United States. Optimistically speaking, up to half of them could be readers. Being able to access that many potential book buyers in one place offers a huge advantage to any author — one that has never been available before. How can you make the most of it?

Finding Readers on Facebook

Scroll up to the top of any Facebook screen and you’ll see a Search box. To find potential readers, type in keywords like “Self-Help Author,” “Mystery Author,” and “YA Author” — based on your book genre or niche. Then try the plural and singular variations of other author- and book-related words. The results may appear erratic, at first, following as they do some arcane algorithm beyond the interest level of most bookish types. But you’ll eventually find authors who interest you. When you do, “Like” their fan pages and send them a friendly message about anything you may have in common. They may or may not “Like” you back, but keep at it.

Next, search for like-minded groups on Facebook — using such keywords as “Author Groups,” “Mystery Book Groups,” “Children’s Book Groups,” and a nearly infinite number of others. Join the conversation in the groups that attract you, make some connections, and you’ll begin building your potential-reader base. True, it won’t happen overnight, unless you’re already well-known. But, gradually, you’ll accumulate a following on Facebook – especially if you add new, interesting content to your fan page each week, while participating in the groups you’ve joined.

So, we’re back to our original question. Is it better to have readers who “Like” you, or readers who “Friend” you?

Readers may be readers, but it’s still better to encourage those for whom you are primarily an author to join your fan page. You can have an unlimited number of fans there, and you can promote your work in a way that’s not at all “indirect.”

Before you do, though, study the fan pages of other authors, and Google on “Facebook promotions” to be sure you violate none of the site’s ever-changing guidelines and terms of use. Once a page has been banned, for whatever reason, it’s impossible to get it restored (everything is automated; there are no customer service people to intervene). And that would be a shame, since – despite its many flaws – Facebook is the biggest social networking site on the planet. So it’s an ideal place to meet people who could become your loyal readers, and enable you to live the Ultimate Author Dream.


Laurel Marshfield is a professional writer, developmental editor, and ghostwriter who helps authors shape, develop, and refine their book manuscripts for publication. She offers manuscript evaluation, developmental editing, co-writing, collaboration, ghostwriting, book coaching, and consultation for authors.
Her blogsite publishes inspiration and advice for the author’s journey: Blue Horizon Communications And her free eBook, available for newsletter signup (see the upper right-hand corner of her homepage) is titled: I Need to Be a Bestselling Author – Is That True?: The Five-Destination Roadmap to Authorship.
On Twitter, you can find her at: @BookEditorLM

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  1. saramcgoodwin@gmail.com'Romance Goddess

    I enjoyed your article summing up what I have begun to conclude with my FaceBook and other social media adventures.

    IT’S WORTH IT!!

    Yes indeedy, in a numbers game, which promoting or selling anything most certainly is, we might as well go where the people are!

  2. BlueHorizonComm@Verizon.net'Laurel Marshfield

    Hi, Sara — Thanks so much for letting me know you enjoyed the Facebook post.

    Much as numbers aren’t the ONLY thing to aim for in promoting books since, as I believe Seth Godin says, you only need 1,000 really loyal fans to sustain a business (of course, he’s not referring to authors, per se), they are certainly a very important element. And social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter do lend themselves to attracting big numbers of potential readers.

    Thanks again for commenting.

  3. pgamse@websitesthatwin.com'Philippa Gamse

    Laurel – great article. One thing to add – you can also be banned from Facebook for reasons totally beyond your control. Someone I interviewed for my forthcoming book has been banned due to competitors filing abuse complaints about him. He believes it’s competitors, I don’t know for sure, but as you say, there’s no one there you can actually talk to, so whatever the rights and wrongs, he’s gone from Facebook – not good. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!

  4. BlueHorizonComm@Verizon.net'Laurel Marshfield

    Thanks so much, Philippa, and thanks for your comment. I quite agree about diversifying your online “real estate,” especially as FB is notoriously fickle and often absolutely incomprehensible (at least from the outside). For authors and for businesses, it can be devastating to lose your FB account, if you’ve invested heavily in creating and maintaining it.

    One thing I might mention, though, is that Joan Stewart, the PR person (http://www.PublicityHound.com) wrote an article in a recent newsletter of hers about regaining her FB page, after being banned for some arcane reason. She basically knew someone who knew someone at FB, and that did it. You might try contacting her through Twitter, if you’re interested. @PublicityHound If you learn something, let us all know! :O)

  5. frogfur1@bellsouth.net'Duke Davis

    Laurel, I really have to say you have come up with a great insightful article. Lots of good lore in there for marketing and a great explanation of something I knew little about. Sure, I have a Facebook page but had no idea what to do with it other than my name and my current releases list. Maybe now I can get it fired up a little.

    Thanks for the article!

    Duke Davis

  6. cnjoku@yahoo.com'Chima Njoku-Latty

    Brilliant article, Laurel. Thanks for the great tips. Will get motoring now on my facebook fan page. YAY.
    Take care and GOD BLESS,
    Chima

  7. BlueHorizonComm@Verizon.net'Laurel Marshfield

    Hi to both Duke and Chima — Thanks so much for your enthusiastic comments. It’s very gratifying that you found this post helpful and “actionable,” as it were. Good luck to you both on Facebook! Laurel