Using Facebook, non-obnoxiously, to promote your work
April 23, 2014 3:28 PM   Subscribe

Are you an author, musician, artist, or other creative-ish person who's found successful (and polite) ways to use Facebook to connect with people interested in your work? I'd love to know your secrets.

I'm a journalist and author, and like mathowie, I love Twitter and barely tolerate Facebook. As well a being fun and a source of ideas, Twitter's a useful way to spread the word about my articles, books and events. It feels easy to get the balance right between self-promotional stuff and other things – and anyway, anyone who thinks I'm getting it wrong can easily unfollow me.

In contrast, Facebook's a baffling mess. I have a Page, and some subscribers to my Profile; as well as regular Facebook friends (currently limited to people I know offline). I'm constantly confused about personal/professional boundaries – about what to post, how much, and when; how to keep subscribers up to date without irritating friends; and whether subscribers/page-likers are even seeing my stuff anyway. I'm constantly stumped by questions like: should I be focusing exclusively on the Page or on Profile subscribers? I get lots of friend requests from strangers – should I be accepting them? (I currently don't.) Can I somehow display a message asking those people to subscribe instead of sending requests, so it doesn't just seem like I'm ignoring them? (I used to do this, but a Facebook redesign eliminated the message.) I could go on for much longer, but you get the idea.

To be honest, if I had no professional motivations, I'd probably close my Facebook account, whereas I'd definitely keep using Twitter. But given its reach, ignoring Facebook doesn't really feel like an acceptable course of action for a journalist or book writer in 2014. If you've had more success than me at using Facebook to communicate with people interested in your work, what's your approach? I'd love some basic rules of thumb. I'd also welcome any further reading/resources, or examples of people who are doing it right. Thank you!
posted by oliverburkeman to Work & Money (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I'm coming at this from the 'consumer'/friend side, but my two cents:

Use your professional "Page" to post the vast majority of your self-promotional items, but try to have a mix. Like, some of it being blatantly self-promotional, but other posts being things like "Hey, a cool article on X blog about a topic my subscribers might be interested in" or "Here's an event you might be interested in going to."

Try to keep your personal Facebook profile to real life friends (as it sounds like you have been doing), and try to maintain that as a personal page. So, this is where you would put things like photos from your recent vacation, if you are so inclined. You can also ignore this page and not post anything there...people will not really care, the idea is that friends could message you or whatnot as an easy way to get in touch. Basically, this is about personal connections with actual people you know, so try to refrain from excessive business-style self promotion. But do feel free to post friendly updates about stuff going on with your life that you genuinely think your friends would care about. Like, I would be annoyed if a friend posted a link to every single press release that referred to them or something. But I would find it interesting/cool if they occasionally posted things like: "My new book just came out! So excited!"

You can put a message in the "About Me" box to the effect of: I use this profile only to stay in touch with real life friends. If you're interested in following my professional work, here is a link to my page.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:37 PM on April 23, 2014

I came here to say pretty much what rainbowbrite said. I own a small specialty retail store that I promote (gently) on Facebook. I also keep a personal page to stay in touch with friends and family. I don't cross-post between them.

I tend to limit the posts on my shop's facebook page to directly-relevant information (upcoming events, new products, etc.) and once in a while I post an "isn't this cool" thing. In other words, I try to keep the signal-to-noise ratio high.
posted by workerant at 4:33 PM on April 23, 2014

As a consumer I've been impressed with the way Baking Steel promotes their product on Facebook. They invite customers to post pictures of the pizza/bread/etc they made on their Baking Steel, and there's a weekly giveaway of actually useful items, where they randomly select a respondent to the weekly question (eg. Your favourite dough recipe, etc).
posted by Dragonness at 5:05 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have used fb for online promotions for small businesses for years now. The way to make it successful is to keep your private separate from your page. Your page is for anyone and everyone. Post funny bits at least once a week, nothing that will offend, and promote yourself sparingly. People follow pages because they want to be a part of the person or business' life. Make your page welcoming and personable, without getting too personal. Make certain to post something at least weekly and keep up with it. Idle pages collect spammers and then lose followers.
posted by myselfasme at 5:43 PM on April 23, 2014

Also a consumer, and friend of a few medium-profile creative types. Two have negotiated this issue by having two separate profiles (vs. pages), which I'm fairly sure is against Facebook's ToC, but saves them worry over Facebook's ever-changing privacy policies, group management issues, etc. I'd met one with this division already established; the other did some kind of switch after we'd become FB friends. Not sure what he did, technically - I remember that at some point he'd slightly changed his name, and posted about it. I believe both feed their Twitter posts through their public profiles; not sure what else happens there. They do occasionally post work-related updates to their actual friend lists.

Another friend has a single profile and befriends anyone who asks, but is careful about what he puts out. Some of it's of a personal nature, but for the most part, he shares images and links of interest (including direct links to his own online work). Maybe every three or so months, he'll mention a high-profile event or publication. Not on Twitter.

The last person I'm thinking of also has just one profile, and has several thousand friends, with whom he shares every thought and scrap. He's integrated Twitter into the account, along with every other imaginable platform. I've unsubscribed from his feed.
posted by cotton dress sock at 5:45 PM on April 23, 2014

Best answer: You need a facebook page for people who only do facebook, and there are a lot of them. I hate twitter personally, and prefer facebook for social media because I have to use it for work anyway. I have a personal page I would happily close tomorrow but need to keep up because I get work requests there.

Be aware that a page with infrequent updates will get very little attention in Facebook's algorithm so there's a good chance they won't see the updates even if they liked the page. You can take two routes: remind people who subscribe to add you to their interest list and when you update, interact with people a lot. Or pony up for a $5 boost everytime you post so it definitely goes to the people who liked your page.

We keep our facebook page up through Buffer so it's a once a week to organise posts and set them to go up daily. We are experimenting with a mix of thoughtful links to stories relevant to people who support us and updates about our work. It's not too bad right now.

Even if you don't bother with frequent updates, do keep your page up. Maybe add a prominent link at the top (you can pin a post to the top with Highlight) to a mailing list sign-up for new work/events.
posted by viggorlijah at 6:06 PM on April 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like facebook (so sue me) and posting pictures of your work, comments on your work, and maybe pictures of other work you like, both visual art, music, poetry, whatever, would be great. I use facebook as a magazine, subscribing to news and to artists pages, as well as friending actual friends and family. I like it when I find new art and ideas based on someone's posts.
posted by theora55 at 10:05 AM on April 24, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks very much indeed for all these answers – very useful and they do all seem to converge on one general approach. (Further ones will certainly be appreciated though!)

In case anyone sees this and knows the answer: can I post things to my profile (not page) that subscribers will see, but friends won't? I know I can do the opposite – post things for friends only.
posted by oliverburkeman at 12:39 PM on April 24, 2014

Pages are public so a friend who has liked your Page will see everything there. It shouldn't show up in their feed otherwise, although with facebook's weird algorithm, if you personally liked or interacted with your post on your Page (when you manage a Page, you are asked if you are commenting etc as the Page or your individual facebook account when you interact with that Page's elements), then your activity might cause that post to float up in your friends' feeds the way you commenting on your cousin's wedding post could.

If you definitely want to block your friends from your Page, you'd have to dig into facebook's help for that - there is a way to block specific people from posting content to your Page (for trolls), but I don't know for just liking/following the page.

We have a facebook closed group for our volunteers that allows for more open posting because only people who are approved into the group can see the posts, and they can't be shared outside of members. That might be the solution if you want more separation. You can put a certain amount of public information on a closed group page for non-members to see first.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:36 PM on April 24, 2014

Best answer: I think the question is what do you need your social media presence to do for you? Because if you want to reach new readers then Facebook is a waste of time. I work for a digital ad agency and I can tell you that, where once my clients were forever asking for Facebook ideas, now they're leaving Facebook in droves because of the opacity and complexity of Facebook's reach.

So what's the solution? I'd say you could even skip the Facebook page. Professionally, I don't think it'll do you much good. Instead, focus on platforms where you'll be able to actually reach new readers, like Twitter (where it sounds like you're already having conversations with people) and Goodreads. It might help to investigate publishing the odd piece on LinkedIn or Medium if you haven't already - while LinkedIn makes me cringe, it can certainly help you reach new readers.

So the TL;DR is that loads of big-guns brands and marketers are fleeing Facebook because it's next to impossible to reach the kind of audience you want to reach, so you should, too, and focus your efforts on platforms where you'll actually speak to readers.

Social media marketing really isn't that complicated. You just need to find the right people in the right place and talk to them as though they'r ehuman beings.
posted by nerdfish at 11:28 PM on April 24, 2014

Response by poster: Pages are public so a friend who has liked your Page will see everything there.

Thank you… to clarify, my follow-up question was intended to be about people who have chosen to "Subscribe" to my actual Facebook profile, which my Friends also see, not the people who have clicked "Like" on my Facebook Page. Of course, even typing out that last sentence just underlines how absurd Facebook has made this whole business, and lends weight to nerdfish's argument. Thanks all!
posted by oliverburkeman at 1:24 PM on April 25, 2014

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