Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Facebook Author Page - Yes or No? by Alison Henderson

In my last post, I chronicled my efforts to "find my audience" on social media and ultimately concluded they were probably on Facebook, like me. I've been doing some research since then and, thanks to Leah, have connected with social media maven Chris Syme. I've watched a couple of her podcasts and subscribed to her newsletter and blog. What I've learned so far has confirmed my instincts: as romance writers, our primary social media presence should be on Facebook.

After our discussion last month, I've also dived a bit deeper into her recommendations about how to find your audience. Apparently, you can get a lot of demographic statistics from Facebook IF you have an author page. You can then take that information to data available from Pew Research and dig deeper. My problem: I don't have a Facebook author page. 

Over the six years I've been published, I've watched many friends open and later abandon their author pages due to lack of engagement. I know successful authors who don't have professional pages and simply interact with their readers on their personal pages. Obviously, they manage not to exceed FB's 5K limit on "friends". That's not a problem I'm ever likely to face.

In trying to decide whether it's worth the effort to set up an author page, I looked at the pages of a number of authors I follow. Most post daily, some multiple times a day. Some post the fun, personal sort of things I post on my own FB page. Others keep their posts strictly writing and career related. I know one author who posts only inspirational memes. Some of my friends maintain very lively, yet completely separate, personal and professional pages with no overlap. This strikes me as a huge amount of work, and I wonder how many followers one needs to make it worthwhile.

I need to be realistic about my own situation. I don't know that I have any actual fans beyond family and friends. Random readers come across my books and occasionally buy them, but would any of them "like" my author page if I had one? I don't know. I do know I need a professional page to advertise or access data, and it seems to be an important step toward growing my readership, but I feel like I'm faced with a chicken-and-egg dilemma. With few fans, who would I be trying to engage? Most of my FB friends are fellow writers, and while I know we try to like each other's pages, that isn't really the point, is it? 

Most of the time I feel I'm too small-time to bother worrying about any of this, but if I do decide to spend some money and try to expand my readership, those new readers need a place to find me. That raises the question of content for a new page. Writers are advised to be authentic and accessible to their readers, to share their true selves. I already do that on my personal page. Anyone who reads my posts knows the real me. I can't figure out a way to do that differently in two separate places. What a pickle.

I'm happy with my website and feel it looks very professional, but few readers end up there. If I want to engage with them, I need to go where they are. I'm looking for advice here. How many of you have separate author pages on Facebook? What type of content do you post there? Do you think it's worth the effort?

Alison
www.alisonhenderson.com 

P.S. - as a retreat from the mid-summer heat or an antidote to political hoopla, my short story collection Small Town Christmas Tales is on sale for $0.99 all month! 




36 comments:

Leah St. James said...

Hi, Alison! Thanks for the mention! I'm so glad you're finding Chris's lessons helpful.

I created the author page several years ago and quickly watched it flounder. I have been so frustrated with the limitations of its reach, thanks to the evils of Facebook and its algorithms. But I have come to understand that Facebook is a business, like the writer me, and it's not unreasonable to expect to pay for services a business provides -- i.e., boosting posts or running ads. I'd become so accustomed to having everything I want online for free (all the social media tools) and at the same time complaining that readers only want free books. So I took another look at the evil page, and I like some of the features.

Aside from what you mentioned, the page has cool features for businesses (like writers), like adding a tab to direct readers to your sales pages. I've decided to try to make it work for me, because it is where my readers will be.

Chris has developed a bucket system for Facebook - 80 percent social and of value to the reader, and 20 percent more promotional. (That's a very, very simplified explanation that doesn't do it justice.) And she teaches a strategy for building a content flow that seems doable to me. So far I haven't been able to fully implement her system, but I try to post something fun/engaging every day. (Try being the operative word.) A few times I've hit huge numbers (huge for me, that is), and on those days, I've actually seen a couple increases in my page likes.

I'm not at the level in my career where I'm going to start paying for ads or boosting posts, but I hope over the next several months, I can develop a content system that will be pleasing/engaging to readers. So baby steps for me, but you have to start somewhere.

As for my personal profile, I save that for personal things. I rarely post about books because my family/friends are tired of hearing about books, and they already know what I'm up to. :-) So that takes some of the pressure off.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do!

Margo Hoornstra said...

I am definitely a student here, sure not a teacher. With all the social media options available, it's easy to get lost in the shuffle. I must say I appreciate the advice, Alison and Leah, and will do my best to follow through. It does help that I have a virtual assistant who covers the technical bases for me. For now I'll muddle on.

Brenda Whiteside said...

I have both and like it this way. I have nearly 3,000 friends and over 1,600 fans. I wish now that I had opened the fan page from day one and kept my personal page for honest to goodness friends and family. But strangely, not all my friends will like my fan page. And when I say friends, I mean people I knew before Facebook. Why? Don't know. Some people won't like pages. Of the 1,600 fans, not all are friends. Some people like my fan page on their own. I try to keep my personal page, personal. But if I have a book release or some really big news, I will first post to the author page and then "share" on the personal page. Sharing gets more views for your news than two separate posts. In the beginning, I got lots of views on my author posts. But FB saw a way to make money and they now limit your exposure unless you boost. Occasionally, I get a fair amount of views without boosting...it has something to do with key words or the picture but I haven't quite nailed it down yet. I think certain words like sale or giveaway or blog cuts your visibility because they think you should pay for views on those things. I do boost. I've never paid more than $10 to boost. I usually do $5 and I set my audience for who to target. I still have a lot to learn about FB as far as using it to market. One of these days, I'll take the time.

Brenda Whiteside said...

And I do both personal and business posts on the author page. A page of just buy me! buy me! would probably turn people off. They do want to "know" the author.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

I have both pages. Every so often, I remember that I do. I post everything to my personal page, trying to keep it in thirds. A third about me personally, a third promoting other writers, and a third promoting my stuff. On my author page, when I remember I have one, I post about my books and specials. I have boosted several times, but never saw any benefit to it Every couple days, I make up tweets and facebook posts that my street team tweets and posts for me. This broadens my audience. I keep my street team small--around 130. They're a lot of help. And we have a lot of fun. They're so talented and sweet. I love them all to bits.

Jannine Gallant said...

I have both. The benefit to the author page is I can see how many people actually see my posts...and it's extremely discouraging. If I strictly post on the author page without sharing it to my personal page, I get anywhere between 7 and 15 views. Can you say pointless? If I share it to my personal page, the views jump to the 100 range. If author friends share it from either page, the numbers will jump to 200-300 views. So, without sharing, no one sees what I post on my author page. Maybe that's because I don't post on it enough. Maybe it's because I don't have any interaction there. I currently have 333 likes on my author page. About 150 of those people are friends (out of over 500 so not that many of my friends have liked my page). So obviously a few readers have liked the page at some point. Still, they never see what I post there. Sooo frustrating. I wish I knew the answer.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Confounding, isn't it. But I have to agree with Leah. We get what we pay for; if it's free, like with much of social media, we can't expect to get much payback. I probably post on my author page twice a week, but I interact on my personal page daily. I've tried to keep my personal page to people I know well, through loops or actual encounters. I don't 'sell' on that page unless I need a vote or am releasing (or sneak-peaking) something. My author page is linked to my personal one, so I don't really need to post on my personal page about my books.

All that being said, I go back to what Leah said. I think we're going to have to pay for help. Just yesterday, when I renewed my domain name for 9 more years...I got a bargain price if I paid for some help on my SEO (search engine optimization), regarding my rolynnanderson.com. I knew I wasn't getting much exposure...they're going to help me direct the bots to my website. I already was aware I didn't have much SEO exposure and had a glimmer of what I should do, so I know they weren't giving me a fake pitch. Anyway, I'll report in on what I learn in the next month about upping my SEO.

Sigh. This is a cross-country hike, not a sprint. I know, I know!

Alison Henderson said...

Leah, I think we're in about the same place career-wise. Maybe we should try taking these baby steps together. We can at least cheer each other on!

Alison Henderson said...

Margo, if you already have a virtual assistant, you're miles ahead of me tech-wise!

Alison Henderson said...

Brenda, you do such a great job with social media, I know I can learn a lot from you. It isn't easy for me because I'm such a confirmed introvert. I have fewer than 500 FB friends, most of whom are other authors who friended me. I interact regularly with a fairly small number, and I'm happy with that--kind of like my friends in real life. If I decide to try to expand my professional footprint, I hope I can call on you for advice. I do think this is a topic we should explore in depth at next year's writers' retreat.

Alison Henderson said...

Vonnie, it's interesting that you mentioned your street team, and I'm glad to hear it's working so well for you. I don't think I'm prolific enough (nor do I have enough fans) to try going that route.

Alison Henderson said...

Jannine, the access to data is one of the main appeals for me. I have no idea how to get likes for an author page, although lots of FB paid ads seem to have that as the "call to action" (don't I sound marketing savy? LOL). But your experience is about what I would anticipate, so I'm struggling to decide if it's worth it for me.

Alison Henderson said...

Rolynn, I've reached the same point. I'm getting more willing to spend a little money to see if it will make any difference. For the past 5 years since I've been published, I've pretty much avoided spending any money, because I wanted my writing to at least break even. That's kept the whole enterprise VERY small, fiscally speaking. What I'm pondering now is how much I want that to change and what I'm willing to do about it.

Liz Flaherty said...

I have both, but I don't have big numbers on either. I tend to forget about my author page (hanging head here) and I don't have a street team at all. I might be more successful if I'd learn and do more, but I'm kind of past the point of worrying overmuch about it. I'm going to write if I'm a bestselling author and I'm going to write if I'm not.

Great post, Alison, and a wonderful topic of discussion.

Alison Henderson said...

Liz, that's kind of what I expect will happen if create an author page. I have no expectation of becoming a bestselling author, and at this stage of life, I'm not too interested in knocking myself out trying. I would, however, be happy if more people read my books. It's a conundrum.

Beth Trissel said...

Yep, it's a conundrum. I have both pages. A lot of friends, plus no idea who a lot of these people are, on my personal page and 2,250 likes/fans on my author page. I do a heap more with my personal page and have to remember the other. I do boost posts sometime. I have to or FB keeps a lot of people from seeing much of anything over there.

Amanda Uhl said...

Allison this is a great post as this is a debated topic among writers. I am a new author with my first book due out this fall. I already had a well-established personal FB page under my real name and did not want to bombard my family and friends with book stuff. So I created my pen name and business Facebook page a year ago. I am up to 269 likes on my FB page...it grows slowly over time. My posts are well hit --not all but most. I'm ignorant of the algorithm FB uses, but it will alert me if a post is engaging. More often and not that happens. Any post where I provide real news-- my progress getting a book published, a query of friends on whether they like something or not, a blog posts--tend to be engaging and are shared well beyond my fan base. For instance, my most recent blog was shared with 346 people, well beyond my actual fan base. I have paid to boost blog posts but don't do that often right now since I don't have a book for purchase yet. But I will do this for important news -- cover reveal and pre-order link, for instance. I think it is well worth the expenditure to have people checking out the book. The only down size to having a business page is you can't like individual users as your business page. You can only follow other pages. Good luck with your decision but I would suggest you think big and go with the business page:)

Alison Henderson said...

That's a lot of Likes, Beth! From what everyone is saying, it does sound like boosting posts is necessary from time to time.

Alison Henderson said...

Hi, Amanda! Thanks so much for stopping by. It sounds like your author page is a resounding success, judging by the engagement and blog post shares. I'm sure you'll see major growth after your book releases. I'm not sure I could match that, but I'll never know if I don't try.

Joanne Stewart said...

Hi Alison!

Fantastic topic. I too created a page years ago (because I was told that what was you did...so I did it. lol) and I am really frustrated with it's reach. I have 2000 likes, but even when I'm authentic, I'm lucky if Facebook shows it to 50 people. Now, I've also shared some things there that, for reasons I can't figure out, got me several hundred "views." Which is the frustrating part. Facebook's constant changing of the rules.

That being said...I do tend to keep mine to mostly my author stuff. Mostly because I've noticed that those are the posts that get the most interaction (likes, etc).

I do get some likes here and there (random likes not connected to promo, I mean). Just recently Facebook has begun to tell me when someone visits my page. It's not many, mind. lol But it is some. So for me at least, I do think it's worth it. It's also worth it for me, because I noticed when I want to look up an author, I go to one of two places: their website and/or their Facebook page.

Oh, as for the time it takes...it did take time to set it up, but as a whole it's not anymore trouble or time than posts to my profile.

Joanne Stewart said...

BTW...I haven't found boosted posts to be worth it, money-wise. I've done it a couple of times, and while Facebook tells me that more people are seeing it, I never get much more interaction from it than I do regularly. Maybe I'm just doing it wrong or maybe I'm boring. Who knows. lol But for me, it wasn't worth the money.

Alison Henderson said...

Hi, Joanne! It sounds like your experience mirrors many other authors I know. I should probably create an author page for the reasons you mention, but getting them to work for us seems to be a mystery. And thanks for the input on boosted posts. That seems to be a mystery, too. LOL

Marie Tuhart said...

I have an author page, mainly because I was told to have one. It is hard to maintain two pages, but I'm finding on my author page, if I share things on a regular basis (about once a week), more people see my stuff. Plus I get weekly emails from Facebook telling me how my posts are doing. I also use my page when doing contests, like my page for an entry. It's easy enough, and while people my just like my page to get in on the contest, they probably don't unlike and who knows I might gain a reader or two.

Plus I like to be careful who I friend on my personal page, I do have family there and tend to be more careful what I post there vs. what I might post on my business page due to what I write (erotic romance.)

I've also been doing some ads through FB - I've been getting some good responses from it and I can only do that from a business page.

It is a hard decision, for a long time I ignored my business page, now I'm learning what to do and trying to get more engagement.

Judy Ann Davis said...

Great post about Facebook. It was interesting to read everyone's comments. I have a FB personal page of 365, and an author page of 1261. Last time I boosted a post for the author page about one of my books, FB broke the link--and unaware--I paid for $8.00 worth of a $10 ad for nothing.

I'm planning to cull my personal page a bit because I'm getting information from people I don't know, and who I don't think are interested in anything but getting more FB followers. Also, in my news feed I seem to be getting the same people over and over again.

I don't understand the algorithm, but I do know on both pages I'm hardly reaching anyone. I see no uptick in sales.

Alison Henderson said...

Marie, the ability to get statistics and run ads is the only reason I'm considering a business page. I'm glad to hear the ads work for you. Thanks for your input.

Alison Henderson said...

Judy, 1261 likes on your author page sounds like a lot to me. I'm surprised and more than a little discouraged to hear it isn't making more of a difference in your sales.

Kimberly Keyes Romance said...

Hi Alison!
I have an author page. I started with a new personal page with my author name and realized the page would not be a place to go, i.e., my posts would just pop up on my friends news feeds. So I went with Author page. Now my posts show up on feeds of people who've liked me,a nd my likes are growing which is a little thrill.
Besides that, I like sharing little kid bits about what's happening in my author life and a lot of times the post will be short. Maybe an announcement, maybe a share, maybe eye candy or music that inspires me, in other words, not necessarily blog-worthy, but post worthy.
I'd say go for it and post what strikes you. It'll be a lot easier to get going than you think.
Kimberly Keyes
https://facebook.com/kimberly.keyes.romance

Alison Henderson said...

Hi, Kimberly. Those are the kind of fun things I share on my personal page now. If I decide to start an author page, maybe I should split my posts between the two.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Good idea for the retreat. I would love to sit down at a computer and see what others can show me. It would be fun to have a conversation and bounce ideas off each other too. Internet visibility = sales. Yes, we write because we love it but I want others to read my books. I write to entertain people, not myself.

Alison Henderson said...

I couldn't agree more, Brenda. I love to know I've entertained someone else. (I know I can entertain myself. LOL)

Ruby Scalera said...

I absolutely agree with all those saying it's tough to do it alone. I didn't realize quite how tough in the beginning, and made what I now realize is the rookie mistake of writing under two different names. The writing is the easiest part - supporting four social media accounts per name is the straining part of it!

That being said, I have about six years of experience in social media, so I've learned a few tricks. One of them is to schedule posts as often as possible. I set aside a time once a week for scheduling (I also work with a start up company and run their social) and I make outlines of Facebook and Twitter posts. Facebook is easy to schedule on the direct site, and Twitter has many third party sites - TweetDeck is my favorite, which hook right up to your accounts for free.

My two other platforms are Pinterest and Instagram, and neither of them can be planned in advance. In the case of those accounts, I keep an album on my phone for Instagram, and upload new pictures in the morning first thing, then I go on Pinterest for a few minutes, and then I check Twitter - so as not to seem like a bot who only schedules. Given that I'm doing this for two, and in some cases, three or four, accounts, I can easily appreciate the hesitation for getting involved in social.

I'd say pace yourself, but I just got a nice little combo of mono and anxiety induced chest pains, so perhaps I should take my own advice in the week preceding RWA16. Social media is a great tool - especially for indy authors, but it's important to remember that we are supposed to be writing and that promo only comes after books are on done. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your perspective, we live in a very instant world, and if the content doesn't change regularly, I'm not coming back.

I'd love to talk social more! Always looking for tips and tricks!

Ruby

Alison Henderson said...

Ruby, you are clearly a social media queen! Thanks so much for the advice.

Christine DePetrillo said...

I have a personal and author page. What I like about the author page is I can see what kind of posts get the most reach and do more of those. I've boosted posts here and there, but don't see that being worth the money. What IS worth the money is Book Bub. It's costly, but I've made that money back and then some along with picking up more fans that have liked my author page and interact there. I also schedule posts ahead of time so they run on auto pilot and I don't have to think about posting on the author page every day. I also have a 3-person street team--I wanted to test it out and start small--and they have actually made a big difference for me as well. Just getting someone else to mention me and my work is a huge help. I just "pay" them in Amazon gift cards once a month. It's working out nicely and I'm might expand if the upward trend continues.

Great post!

Andrea Downing said...

I have both Alison, but my friends page is actually public as well--I don't put anything up there that I wouldn't want anyone to know (I think!) so it's quite a mix. My author page is mostly authory things, promotions, awards, forthcoming events and so on. I did notice when I did my 7 week road trip last summer and posted every day there that the visitors increased markedly--I should have kept that going but it is a lot of work.

Diane Burton said...

I have both. I like connecting with writer friends and (maybe) some readers on my profile page. The author page doesn't do much. I feel like I'm talking to the wall. Alison, I appreciate your sharing the info on social media. Keep it up.

J L said...

I have an author page and a personal page. As Ruby said, I schedule posts ahead of time, often items of historical interest or other tidbits I find. I try to post at least every other day on my author page.

I've been trying different paid ads at different sites throughout the year. So far I haven't seen much change in my royalties, but my author page likes on FB have soared.

I confess I'm very laid back about promo and selling, etc. I decided long ago to do whatever makes me comfortable, so I blog here and there, post on Facebook, keep my web site updated, and promo here and there as needed. I'm not too worried about my sales numbers, etc. So much of that truly is out of our hands.