4 Ways Authors Need to Prepare For and Adapt To Facebook Timeline

Fake Protest Part Deux 2011 by Sheila Dee

Fake Protest Part Deux 2011 by Sheila Dee

I’m stealing a page — literally — from Jay Baer. Luckily, he’s a friend and will probably forgive the intrusion or be flattered by the mimicry. On Sunday, he published 14 Ways Facebook Betrays Small Businesses. His post is less scathing than it sounds, but it is a warning cry. I’m taking his post as inspiration, giving you the 4 Ways Authors Need to Prepare For and Adapt To Facebook Timeline.

First of all, the info below applies to those authors who’ve opted to engage on Facebook with a Page, not a Profile. As we have discussed before, authors reluctant to join the social space of Facebook may be better off with a Page. And if you’re one of those who took my advice from months back; sorry. Your world just changed. Here’s how:

  1. Cover image
    You need one. Not just a nice profile image. But a gigantic, 850×315 pixel shot that shows you at your best as an author. What, you don’t have one of those? Well… tough. Get one. Maybe from a signing you did. Or make a collage of your book covers. Whatever it is, it needs to look great. And it needs to be 850 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall. And don’t make is salesy: Facebook has prohibited including things like your website, price-points for your books, or any sort of call-to-action. It’s intended to be an image that represents you as a brand. Leave it that way.
  2. Pin, for the win!
    The new vertical timeline flow is a little strange, and looks totally different from the “wall” you’re probably used to seeing. One of the neat things you can do with your timeline is highlight a post. It takes up twice the space of anything else posted, making a very clear landmark. Use this for the dates when your books were published, or any other major milestones in your career as an author. Pinning is something special that moves a post to the top of the page. This is only for serious stuff, and anything pinned goes back to its normal timeline position after 7 days.
  3. Be on the lookout for Direct Messages
    People (and by that I mean Profiles) can now send direct messages to brands (and by that I mean Pages). So a “fan” could send you a direct message and expect a response from you. Yikes! Couple that with the fact that Facebook’s notifications of these events to Pages currently is less-than-optimal, and it means regular policing of these messages so you don’t look like you’re ignoring your fans. I anticipate Facebook will provide a fix for this soon, so that you are notified when someone sends a DM to your Page. But for now, that doesn’t happen. Check your Page at least daily for new messages. And don’t trust Facebook’s built-in notification system. Log into Facebook. Select your page. Visit the Admin panel. And _then_ check for new messages. Don’t leave your fans hanging!
  4. Be active!
    Activity now displays for every page to anyone who happens to look. Fans can see how many of their friends like your Page, and have easy access to how often you’ve been engaging. Or not. This means you have to be posting often — daily is good — to make sure that you have solid engagement. If not, the page may look abandoned. And who wants to fan a page that isn’t interacting? Answer: few.

So take note, authors. Facebook has changed the game. They will again. And so will the other social properties in which you engage. Or should be engaging. They don’t do this to penalize you. They do it to benefit them. And as long as their users see benefits as well, they’ll continue to do so. So stop lamenting. Stop pining for stability and uniformity. Embrace change, for it is the only constant in this world.

And go get your Facebook Page set up for Timeline. You have until the end of the month. Then Facebook is gonna do it for you.


It pays for digital authors to be social

Being online and engaged in social media is more than just an activity for your spare time. Authors who build their digital following not only raise their personal visibility but create a powerful network they can use to promote their work. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and your personal blog are just a few of the tools out there that you should be considering:

Some authors are realizing that this social aspect of their work can be a powerful engine: Earlier this year, author John Green — who writes fiction for young adults — showed that it is possible to hit number one on the bestseller list with a book that hasn’t even been published yet. He was able to do this in part because he had already spent the past couple of years building up a following on Twitter (where he has over a million followers) and on YouTube, where he posts clips of himself reading from his books. The simple mention of a sequel to a book was enough to push it to the top of the bestseller list.

via Do authors have to be social? No, but it helps — Tech News and Analysis.

And this doesn’t mean you can just post junk – you have to have a plan for your social media strategy just like you have a plan for your book!

Tips for Authors starting out on Google+ & Facebook

branding iron by Martin Kelley

branding iron by Martin Kelley

If you’re an author wondering if you should join social networking sites like Google+ or Facebook, or how to engage with people once you’re there, this post is for you. If you’ve already fully embraced either (or both) platforms, then keep on keepin’ on!

Which is a better social platform for authors: Facebook or Google+?

It’s a popular question right now. Projections that Google+ will hit 400 million users by the end of 2012 (still only have the size of Facebook!) are simply adding fuel to the fire.

Unfortunately, I can’t answer which is better. Sorry. Like so many things in life, it depends. In this post, I’ll make a case for why you should approach both properties differently. To wit Authors need a Facebook Page and authors need a Google+ Profile.

On Facebook, Authors need Facebook Pages (not Facebook Profiles)

Many authors can’t find a healthy mix of personal and professional content sharing, especially with the barrage of input from existing friends, family and mindless games. These challenges and more make it difficult for reluctant authors to find a firm place to start.

When you set up a Facebook Page, many of these problems disappear. An Author Page will look and feel a lot like an author Profile, but with some key differences. Like:

  • Public only – By design, everything you post on your Page is for the masses. Know that, and you’re never in danger of over-sharing embarrassing personal stuff. That happens a lot on Profiles. Oops.
  • Your wall, your content – The wall is the lifeblood of Faceook. A big portion of users like to post things on other people’s walls. As an author, you probably don’t want this. A Facebook Page makes it very easy to prohibit anyone posting anything at all to your wall. That keeps you completely in control of the content.
  • Everything in its place –  Your bio. Awards you’ve won. Books you recommend. Yes, there’s a spot for personal interests, but nothing about your favorite band or TV show. Ah, specificity!
  • Multiple user management – You can assign someone rights to help create, manage or maintain your Page, without giving them access to your personal profile. That’s a huge win for your privacy and security.
  • Branded events – Perfect for the things you do as an author. Book signings. Release dates. Classes. Lectures. If it’s a physical event with a physical address, you can use events on your Page to invite people — and ask them to spread the word.
  • Engagement on your terms – No “instant messages” to contend with. No showing “available”. No inane requests to join the latest time-wasting craze.
  • Likes, not friends – Pages aren’t allowed to like Profiles. So there’s no feeling of guilt when you don’t follow-back a fan. With a Page, you can’t!
  • Prestige by association – Pages can like other Pages. So like your publisher (if you do), the company that does your ebook conversion, bookstores that carry your work, etc..
  • Unlimited likes – Profiles cap out at 5,000 friends. So if you get popular, you may have to go this route. Because there’s no limit to the number of people who can like your Page. Millions? Sure.

It took some time for me to warm up to the idea of authors creating their own Pages on Facebook, but now I think the idea has merit. Oh, and be advised that you can’t create a Facebook Page for yourself until you’ve made a Profile. So make one with the minimal amount of info, and then spend your time on your Facebook Page!

On Google+, Authors need Google+ Profiles (not Google+ Pages)

Google+ is an “identity service“. I didn’t call it that. Google’s Chairman, Eric Schmidt, did. Even though they’ve recently released Google+ Pages for business… those pages really aren’t designed for actual people. Where the benefits of Facebook Pages led the prior list, the reasons authors should choose Google+ Profiles over Pages are largely negative. Things like:

  • G+ Pages can’t circle Profiles – A Page can circle all the other Pages it likes, but a Page can only circle-back Profiles. It’s very difficult for content to  get shared beyond those who already have it circled. With a Profile, you can circle as many (up to 5000) Profiles and/or Pages as you like. Your action of circling probably notifies the other Profile/Page. They might circle you back.
  • G+ Pages can’t share un-circled content – If you made an outstanding post on Google+ about digital publishing, I’m physically unable to share that information on the ePublish Unum Google+ Page unless you’ve already circled us. Sharing of content is baked in nicely to Google+ and a great way to build engagement. But Pages are rather stymied from this action.
  • G+ Pages can’t make un-circled comments – Track all the hashtags you want to find great content where you’d like to engage. Your Page cannot reply unless the person who made the post has your Page it their circle. But with a Profile, you can comment on (just about) any post. A great way to show your expertise!
  • G+ Pages have Hangout limitations – Hangouts are one of the coolest features on Google+ right now, and a huge differentiator for them. But Profiles have more options than Pages on Hangouts, like sharing documents. And (as far as I understand it currently) On Air Hangouts, which combines the multi-user video chat with a YouTube-esque broadcast. Pages don’t come with those options. Score one more for a Profile.
  • G+ Pages have limited biographical data – With a G+ Page, a single “Introduction” text box exists. But a Profile gets a lot more personal. Your full CV. Where you’ve lived. Bragging rights, even! Sure, you can put most of this in the Intro section of a Page, but it feels a lot less like a person than a… business. Yes, your business is being an author. But you’re a person first. At least on Google+.

Even with all that, there are some excellent opportunities G+ Pages provide authors. Like creating Pages for your books or characters. That’s something you really can’t do on Facebook. And you probably wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) want to. More about those opportunities later.

Bottom line

I like Facebook. I like Google+. And I’d love it if every author really embraced both platforms. Maybe that will come with time, but time is something precious to most authors. I’m hopeful that these tips will steer you, the reluctant author, in the right direction when you decide to make the investment in time on one or both of these social channels. It’ll pay off. Promise.

Ready for more?

Jeff and I are proud to be presenting at the Indie Author Publishing Conference in Phoenix on February 25th. If you register now, you’ll save $15. Take a look at the planned content and see if it’s for you. If so, be sure and say hi to us when you see us, OK? And ask lots of questions. We’re here to help!