Image: Matthew Loffhagen
Facebook is a godsend for authors, allowing them to engage in free promotional activity at a complexity that suits them. Whether you want to mention the odd book release or shower your fans with pictures, thoughts, videos and offers, Facebook has you covered.
While I’ve explained the 7 Simple Steps to Create a Professional Facebook Page there is one question that causes authors more Facebook stress than any other: should you use a personal profile or a page?
In order to lessen the pressure I’ve laid out the pros and cons of each and in true Standoutbooks style, there’s a definitive answer on what’s best for your promotional needs.
What’s the difference?
Facebook Profile – The personal account someone uses to manage their use of Facebook. Join Facebook for socializing and this is what you’ll be using. Other users can either ‘friend’ you, a two-way process where you’ll hear just as much from them as they do from you, or ‘subscribe’ to have your comments appear on their newsfeed.
Facebook Fan Page – An area on the site dedicated to a specific subject, such as a celebrity, show or food. People can ‘like’ a page to have its content appear on their newsfeed.
The two may sound similar and that’s because they are. The main difference is that profiles are designed to allow for many different actions and interactions whereas pages are designed for fans to follow their chosen subject.
Which should I choose?
Both profiles and pages shine in their own ways, and whether you need an adaptable tool or one that’s purpose built will be down to the result you want.
Either format will allow you to post content for your Facebook audience. While profiles have more features they’re designed to make use of everything Facebook has to offer, and pages don’t lack anything you’ll need to promote yourself on the site.
Profiles are designed for everything from playing Facebook games to private messaging. You’ll want to adjust your privacy settings so your audience sees the right content.
You’ll also have to decide whether you’re adding friends or allowing subscribers. Profiles don’t automatically allow fans to subscribe: it’s a setting you’ll have to turn on.
Profiles do allow you to maintain a single Facebook presence but whether that’s simple or not will depend on how frequently you use the site in leisure time. Those who want to use the site to converse with friends may find it more inconvenient to be splitting one profile between social and professional use.
Pages are as simple as it gets. Post some content and your fans will see it. Fan pages can be run alongside a profile, making navigating the site slightly more complicated but also allowing you to set a firm work/personal balance.
3. Attracting fans
If you decide you want to be Facebook friends with your fans then you’re likely to attract more of them. Number of friends is a minor status symbol on the site and if users can add to their own numbers by befriending you there’s an incentive to do so. This is only possible with a profile.
Having a profile and subscribers or a page and fans will likely attract the same numbers.
4. Fan expectations
Invite fans to be friends and they’ll expect you to act like one. Post content and fans will respond, some of them expecting you to join in the discussion. While the personal touch will be appreciated whatever format you choose, accepting friends with a profile page means it’s expected.
Not all users are familiar with the ‘subscribe’ function for personal accounts, and some may be irritated when you appear using a personal account but will not accept their friend requests.
Most fan pages post once every few days and while fans can interact with the content and converse on the page they won’t assume you’ll be involved in the discussion or available for personal interaction.
5. Unique Pros
There are a few sneaky tricks profiles pull off that pages can’t. Anyone sending you a friend request automatically subscribes to your profile, meaning that even if you never respond you’ll appear on their newsfeed.
Likewise anyone who you defriend stays subscribed to your profile. Facebook allows a great deal of ambiguity about friend relationships, not wanting to let slip when someone has rejected you, so it’s likely that using these tricks will win you a fair number of subscribers who never notice that their attention isn’t being reciprocated.
As tempting as this sleight of hand might seem, pages more than hold their own by allowing ‘insights’. This service provides you information about how fans are finding and using your page, allowing you to tailor your social media approach and content to your audience. This can be a hugely valuable tool when trying to determine your audience demographic. Are your readers male or female? 25-35 or 45-55? Your page insights will tell you all of this.
While both formats allow you to add linked buttons to other websites people are far more likely to click a fan page’s ‘like’ button than a profile page’s ‘subscribe’ button. Liking is simply more well-known and is more likely to be done on a whim.
Pages are also fully integrated into Facebook’s advertising setup which means you can promote your page using Facebook ads in order to gain more followers or to promote a specific post in more ways than you can when using a profile.
6. Unique Cons
Profiles have a maximum friend count of 5000. After this point you won’t be notified when someone tries to friend you and could lose followers without knowing it. Authors have had problems with this in the past: Terri Blackstock wrote a short letter to her followers explaining why she felt the need to switch from profile to page.
Profiles can be changed into pages whenever you like, converting your friends and subscribers to fans as you go. Pages cannot be converted to profiles.
Facebook uses an algorithm called Edgerank to decide where content appears on users’ newsfeeds. Edgerank organizes newsfeeds to show the most ‘important’ content by ranking based on the relationship between poster and viewer, the type of content and how long ago the content was created. While it’s a complicated process, Facebook’s Edgerank means that the percentage of your audience that sees your content could change depending on whether you post it from a profile or from a page.
Facebook claims that fan pages can trump profiles if they manage their content correctly. Content posted from a profile could be more or less visible than when posted from a fan page depending on how often you interact with your fans:
Neither is an inherently bad option but creating a page wins out due to a few factors.
Simplicity is a strong virtue for social media and pages offer fewer chances for things to go wrong. There’ll be no accidentally posting a message meant for your mum to thousands of fans and no accidentally making your new book release only visible to close friends.
The fact that pages allow for Facebook insights is also a big sell, as knowing more about how your social media audience is approaching your content is always helpful and can be combined with the same service on other sites to build a detailed picture of your readership.
In the end it comes down to the fact that Facebook pages are designed for businesses and you should be treating your author brand as a business.
Should I also create pages for my books?
Some authors worry that this will split their audience but the truth is that if enough people like your work then each book will have a fan page anyway: you might as well be the one running it.
Happily anyone adding your book to their ‘read’ list will be linked to the book’s page, and your name will appear underneath to give you an added boost.
Of course once you have your page it’s time to start making it a great one. Read our Essential Social Media Rules Every Author Needs to Know to avoid some common mistakes and get advice on content, and refer to our article on How to Get a Fantastic Author Photo to make the most of Facebook’s profile and cover pictures.