Why your biz or book needs a Facebook page, not a group

I don’t want to give away all my social media hints — I want people to pay me for this, remember? — but here’s a common mistake I’m seeing clients (and small businesses who should become my clients) make: creating a Facebook group or profile for a business, product or public figure when they should create a page.

Say your first book comes out, and you want to build relationships with readers. Or you’ve got an awesome freelance writing business you’re looking to promote. Or you run a travel company and want more clients. Or you’re looking to draw more customers into your coffee shop.

Lots of business owners — including writers who need to sell books or services — know they should use Facebook. It’s a good place to start building your social media relationships for lots of reasons, including 1. you might already know how to use it if you have a personal profile and 2. millions of people network there. But too many people make the mistake of creating a group or profile (that’s what you’d have for your personal account) when it would be far more beneficial to have a fan page.

Here’s why it’s better to have a fan page than a group:

  • It’s less of a commitment to become a fan of a page than to join a group. Yes, either way all your followers have to do is click a button. But this is a big difference in the minds of regular Facebookers. A group is more like an exclusive club, while anyone with minor appreciation for a certain brand might be willing to say they like it. That means followers are more likely to like a brand than join its group page.
  • Page updates appear in fans’ news feeds, while group updates do not. That means group members have to visit the group to be reminded of your services. Since you’re essentially advertising here, you want to be able to put your product in front of potential buyers without making them come to you.
  • The content on a page is expected to come from you, while the content in a group depends more on group members. Either way, you’re aiming to build a community, and interaction by followers in a group or on a page is always encouraged. But it’s easier to maintain a page’s momentum because you’re in charge. Groups can wither if there’s not enough participation.
  • Anyone can see a fan page. Groups tend to be more private; you might have to become a member to see all the content. You determine your own privacy settings, of course. But to promote your business, you want the most open option available.
  • Pages are more customizable than groups.
  • Pages allow an unlimited number of followers. Groups have a 5,000-person limit. Right now that might not seem like a big deal. But when your biz or book becomes super popular — like this author, who accidentally got 700,000 fans on his page — you’re going to want to have room for more than 5K fans.

Want more reasons? Mashable and Squidoo have posts on the differences between Facebook pages and groups.

Half of using Facebook to market your business is about not annoying your followers. Get in front of them, let them see what you offer, but don’t annoy them. The hard part about this is you have to be well-versed in the culture of Facebook to know how to avoid annoying people. And let’s face it, even some regular users annoy us. You don’t want your business to be like the friend who’s always throwing FarmVille pigs at you or has linked their Twitter account to Facebook so their updates take over your feed.

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Creating a page, not a group, is a step toward using Facebook effectively. And since it’s impossible to turn a group into a fan page, this is one thing that’s worth getting right from the beginning.

If you liked this post, you might want to read: How to use Facebook to — shhh — promote your book.

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Do Twitter & Facebook help or hinder your writing?

The Los Angeles Times book blog ran a post last week about a writer who went off Facebook and Twitter for the first three months of this year to focus on her project. Edan Lepucki blogged about the detox, concluding that she didn’t miss the sites as much as she thought she would.

Which begs the question: Do social-networking sites help or hinder writers?

I think the answer lies largely in how you use Facebook and Twitter. Sure, they can be fun. But they can also be incredibly useful. And I can’t help but think that people who only see them as a distraction aren’t using them in a useful way.

For me, Facebook is not a time suck. (If it is for you, maybe you should seriously consider a detox.) I use it to keep in touch with people, so much that the messages feature serves as a second e-mail. It helps me keep up with old colleagues and classmates, as well as new friends. And right now it’s helping me network for jobs.

Twitter is a different story. It offers so much information that I could easily spend my entire day refreshing my stream. But while it has the potential to be more distracting than Facebook, it also has the potential to be more useful. My stream serves as a sort of classroom, offering links to stories and blog posts, tutorials, you name it.

Then there are the people I’ve met: writers who’ve helped me with my manuscript, journalists who’ve been instrumental in my job search, and more. Twitter is not just about tweeting at these people online; it’s about bringing those connections off-line. (Credit Penelope Trunk for that insight.)

I could go on and on about how great Twitter can be when it’s used properly. But the truth is, sometimes Twitter is a distraction. Particularly for those of us who write at home all day. It takes a lot of self-discipline to focus on writing.

Unless, of course, you don’t have a connection. I was forced to experiment with this for five weeks this fall, when I was a resident at an artist’s colony in Georgia. My studio was not wired with Internet. It also didn’t have a television, cell phone service or even a phone we could use to call home. (There was a land-line for emergencies — and thank God for that, since I was in the middle of the woods by myself.) Every distraction I might’ve had at home was removed for me in this setting. In the evenings, the artists met for dinner in a common building that was about half a mile from my studio, and there we had access to Internet, so I could check my e-mail, Facebook page and whatever else was begging for my attention.

At the end of my time there, I was asked to fill out an evaluation form. (Hambidge got all high marks from me.) The board that oversaw the place was thinking of installing Internet in the studios. Did I think that was a good idea?

Before arriving at Hambidge, I was terrified of going without Internet and cell-phone service. So what I suggested on that evaluation form was unexpected: I wrote that they should leave the cabins without a connection. Not having those distractions created a silence, both around me and inside my head. It made room to think about things I didn’t have space for before, like, well, my manuscript. Without the Internet muddling my thoughts, my story arc became clearer. And perhaps more importantly, my life became clearer, too.

What I’m saying here is this: social networking has a place in my world. It’s not just fun; it’s essential to my growth personally and professionally. But I see the value in detoxing for a period of time, in stepping away not only from Twitter and Facebook but from other distractions in life that keep me from producing my best work.

What do you think? Would you consider a long-term social-media detox? Or a break from all Internet? Or is that online connection too vital to what you do every day?

How to use Facebook to — shhhh — promote your book

In my social circle, knowing how to use Facebook is like knowing how to read. It’s something we do every day, without thinking about it, like we were born knowing how. Of course, we know there are people in this world who don’t know how to read, but we rarely come into contact with them, so we barely believe they exist. Besides, we can’t imagine a life without reading.

I’m not saying this to brag. (And I’m not a teeny bopper; I’m 29.) I’m saying this so you understand how vital Facebook is in 2010. And so you understand why we all notice that you — yes, you who joined Facebook to promote your book — you’re doing it wrong.

I’m here to help you use it properly. And it’s totally okay that you have to learn — good for you for getting on the train. Kudos for doing what your publisher or agent or circle of writing friends told you to do. They’re right; Facebook is a great networking tool. But it works far better when you look like you know what you’re doing.

That’s why I’m offering these tips:

Pretend you didn’t join just to promote your book. Fake it. Act like you joined Facebook for fun. Sounds crazy, right? But that’s why most Facebook users are on the social networking service. For fun. And we can smell promoters a mile away.

Befriend people you know. Like, in person. Not people you follow on Twitter or people you’d like to know. Befriend people you’ve met in real life, people you worked with, went to school with, maybe someone you’ll see tomorrow. Even with more than 700 friends, I’ve met nearly all of them in the flesh. A few I’ve met only once, maybe at a party or work conference. And yes, a few I met originally on Twitter, or some other online group — but we communicated through more than tweets before we became Facebook friends. And on that note…

Don’t treat Facebook like Twitter. They’re both social-media tools, but they’re totally different beasts. Facebook is for communicating with people you already know. Twitter is for meeting people. Facebook is personal. Twitter is about networking for career purposes or other specific interests. Yes, Twitter can be personal and Facebook can be used for career networking. But if you keep that basic distinction in mind, it will prevent you from telling us TMI — Too Much (Private) Information — on Twitter and not enough on Facebook. If you’re friends with so many people on Facebook, people you don’t really know, you won’t offer personal stuff like status updates and photos that your real friends want to hear about. Stuff that makes you a good Facebook friend.

For that reason, don’t link your Twitter feed to your Facebook status. Your audiences are different, and they want to hear about different things. Cater to those audiences to build relationships.

Relationships on Facebook are reciprocal (both parties have to agree to be friends), while on Twitter they can be one-sided (I can follow you even if you don’t follow me).

Understand the difference between a profile page and a fan page. If you’re promoting your book, you’ll want both, but they’re used differently. Your profile page is where you make connections, befriend people you know in person and offer personal information about yourself — well, not too personal, but that’s another post — since only your friends read it. Your name is on your profile page.

Your fan page, however, bears the name of your product. And anyone can join that fan group, even if you’re not friends. How do you get fans? You get fans through your profile page, where, because you’re pretending you joined Facebook for fun, you’ve connected with people you know from work, school, your craft club, the PTA, whatever. Because those people are really your friends, they’ll join your fan page to support you. Then their friends will see that they joined the page, and they’ll join, too. If the domino effect works, you’ve got a solid fan page with members you know in person and members you don’t know.

Look at other fan pages to figure out what to put on yours. (Like the fan page for Julie Kraut’s YA novel, Slept Away.) Don’t post an “out of office” reply if you’re not going to be around for a while. Yes, I actually saw someone ask online whether they should do this. Facebook FAIL.

If you must, if you absolutely must, go ahead and create a fan page under your name. I really think this is only a good idea if you’re a celebrity — you’re probably not if you’re reading this post — or you have more than, say, four books to promote. Check out Jodi Picoult’s fan page. It works. But if you’re not going to be cranking out books like she does, if this is your first book, it works better to have a fan page for that book. It also looks less presumptuous. Because you’re joining Facebook for fun, not to promote a product, remember?

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Why writers should use Twitter

At a recent meeting with my critique group, I found myself explaining the merits of Twitter for writers.

This was surprising since I was dead-set against Twittering just six months ago. I didn’t want another distraction in my life, and I didn’t understand why I needed Twitter when I already used Facebook.

But Twitter is far more useful than Facebook for sucking up information and promoting myself, especially now that I’m working at home, alone. Twitter has become my virtual water cooler, helping me stay in the writing loop and find inspiration.

How have I used Twitter as a writer?

  • News & Blogs: Since I follow writers, agents and publishers, industry news shows up in my feed, as well as links to blogs on writing. It’s like getting a glimpse of other writers’ RSS feeds.
  • Inspiration: I converse with writers who are working on projects similar to mine. We tweet about challenges and share personal progress, which makes me feel less alone in this endeavor. I’ve also met at least one writer who has offered to read my manuscript when it’s complete.
  • Ideas: On Sundays from 3 – 6 p.m. EST, I usually stop by #writechat, a weekly live conversation on writing. Not only is it a great place to connect with other writers, I’ve also picked up some great ideas there, including using a dry-erase board for story planning and going to Review Fuse for feedback.
  • Events: I may have been the only aspiring author who wasn’t at BookExpo America last week (or did it just feel like that?), but I followed the publishing event through its Twitter hashtag, #BEA09. I can spout off panels from the event, happy hours, book giveaways — If I didn’t already tell you I wasn’t there, I could have tricked you into thinking otherwise.
  • Exposure: Even when I tweet about topics other than myself, my profile drives traffic to this blog and my Web site.
  • Jobs: Initially I scoffed at Twitterers who claimed they’d landed freelance jobs through the social-media network — but not anymore. I’m now one of them.

So the question is: Are authors who Twitter any fitter? I’d say so. What about you?

If you’re looking for book industry folks to follow, check out editor Jennifer Tribe‘s lists of book trade people on Twitter and authors on Twitter. They’re the best round-ups I’ve seen.

Freelance writer Maria Schneider also has a great list of Twitterers who writers should follow. And Mashable blogged recently about 100+ of the best authors on Twitter.

Who do I follow? A few of my favorites:

Writers/authors:

@GirlsSentAway (freelance writer)
@jtlongandco (author)
@susanorlean (author)
@mariaschneider (freelance writer)
@smtwngrl (freelance writer)
@thecreativepenn (author)

Literary agents:

@ElaineSpencer
@BookEndsJessica
@elanaroth
@DanielLiterary
@ColleenLindsay
@RachelleGardner

Book Bloggers:

@thebookmaven
@DevourerofBooks

@mawbooks

Please find me in the Twittersphere, too: @alexisgrant.

Now I’d like to hear from you: Writers, how do you use Twitter?

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