Authors and Social Networking: Part 3 (Facebook Groups)
In Part 1 of this blog series, I described how I learned about using Twitter - my first 'social networking' experience. In Part 2, I discussed Facebook - and especially the issue of using a pen name, which is not allowed according to Facebook rules ... although commonly done by a large number of authors, as well as thousands (millions?) of other Facebook users.
I listed several reasons why an author might feel compelled to use a pen name. While some can be satisfied within the Facebook rules - by showing your real name alongside the pen name, the issue of protecting privacy (especially for authors of erotica and erotic romances) is only legally resolvable by using a Facebook "Page", rather than a personal profile.
Facebook "Pages" have some advantages, and some disadvantages, for authors wanting to promote their books. Pages offer "Insights" - similar to Google Analytics - that provides statistical tracking of your Page, and how often readers clicked on the various links, etc. Pages can also obtain "Likes" (the equivalent of "Friends" for a personal profile) by utilizing Facebook's advertising, although it seems quite expensive, and probably unnecessary.
If you want a personal URL (where people can go to "facebook.com/NameOfAuthor"), your Page will need to have at least 25 Likes. In this case, it might be worthwhile to 'buy' likes using Facebook advertising, so that you get sufficient Likes to lock-in the personal URL.
One of the biggest disadvantages of Pages (as I currently understand the situation ... which is evolving) is that Pages cannot join Groups. I'm also trying to confirm whether Pages can post to Groups ... but I don't think so (you must join a group to post to it), although I have found websites and YouTube videos that purport to show how to post from a Page to a Group.
A "Group" provides a space (on Facebook) for a group of people to share a common interest. They can be on almost any subject, broad or specific. Groups can be created by anyone. The person creating the group becomes the Administrator (although that function can be delegated to other group members), and can set rules for that Group. Groups can be "Public", where anyone can join them, or "Closed" where you must obtain approval from the group Admin, or from another group member. Both of these types of groups can be found by searching for them in the Facebook search bar.
There are even "Secret" groups on Facebook. These groups do not show up in a search. In order to become a member, you must be invited by another member of the group. Only members of a secret group can see its description, know who its members are, read its posts, and ask questions of the group.
Some groups are very small (just a few members), and others are quite large (10,000-20,000 members). When a group member posts to the group, all the other members of that group see the post, and may be notified, if their settings allow it. This is the power of groups: An announcement via a single post on a large group may be read by ten thousand or more people. It is an incredible way to reach a large number of people who have a specific interest.
It is very important to respect the rules of each group, which are usually in a 'pinned' post at the top of the group posts (or via a link from there). Some groups are only for discussions between members, while others are specifically formed to promote their members' products - such as books.
In my searches of groups related to erotica or erotic romance novels, I have found at least 75 of several types. Some groups are for promotions, others are for connecting authors and readers, or authors and reviewers, or authors and literary agents. Others are targeted to specific book formats, such as Kindle. Quite a few groups connect bloggers to authors and their readers.
I may provide a list of these groups via a link in a future post (or if you e-mail me via this website). More than 50 of the 75 groups have at least 1,000 members, and nearly 20 of these groups have in excess of 10,000 members.
Once you are a member of a group - for example, one that allows promotions - you may post to that group daily, or even more often, reaching thousands of people. Whether this results in further engagement (e.g., sales) depends on how relevant that group is to your book, and how well you communicate something that is interesting to them.
I am in the early stage of learning about social networking, but Twitter and Facebook potentially provide an incredible resource. Being able to make an announcement (new book, lowered price, special promotion, etc.) to thousands - or tens of thousands - of potential readers with just a few posts can be very powerful.
However, my perhaps over-zealous approach (doing as I learn), may have gotten me into trouble. Posting to groups totalling some 400,000 members, even while tailoring my posts to the specific interests of the group, may have brought me to the attention of Facebook. That is when they required that I "confirm" my account. They want accounts representing 'real' people, not businesses, or 'bots' that just post advertisements.
Well, I AM a real person! Everything is real about me ... except my pen name. However, as you will see in Part 4 o this blog series, it is very difficult to confirm an account with a pen name and, if you can't do it, you're locked out of your account. Suddenly, my promotions (at least on Facebook) went to zero! It took more than two weeks to resolve this, NO THANKS to the nonexistent help of Facebook.
Some of you undoubtedly know all about these things, and are experts in social networking. Others of you may use professional social networking and marketing resources. But a few of you - especially those of you using a pen name - may be at risk of losing your Facebook presence. In Part 4 of this blog series, I describe my recent fiasco with Facebook. Perhaps it will be a cautionary tale, and save some of you grief.