3 Principles for Facebook Fan Pages

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Facebook is the No. 1 most popular website in the United States in terms of visits, which means it’s more popular than Google. According to its own stats, Facebook has 750 million users, 50% of which are active on it every day.

This alone makes Facebook an important site when it comes to author marketing and promotion. It would be a mistake to completely ignore it.

On the other hand, how does one use Facebook for meaningful marketing and promotion—especially if you’re an individual and not a brand? Here are three principles I’ve observed working for successful authors.

1. Fan pages work best when you have a content strategy.

The whole point of having a fan page is to stay in people’s line of sight—to be visible before, during, and after the launch of formal projects or books.When you post updates, it’s like waving to your fans, since your updates appear in your fans’ news feeds (unless your fans mute you!). Fan pages make it more likely fans will remember you and spread word of mouth about you and your work.

2. Fan pages work best for authors who have fans seeking them out!

Sure, you can be a complete unknown author with a fan page, but what’s the motivation for someone to like your page if they don’t know you or your work? Consider what benefit there is, and be able to tout it!

Maybe your friends and family will like your page regardless of what you post, but they’re probably already your personal friends on Facebook. Do you really need a fan page to cater to your close circles? You shouldn’t!

Fan pages make more sense when you’re an author with some name recognition, and/or when you’re getting marketing and publicity outside of Facebook, and/or scheduling live events and appearances. Even then, don’t expect tons of fans to come flocking (or to pay attention) unless you have something helpful, compelling or entertaining to share.

3. Consider using your personal page to get started.

If you’re an unknown name, consider friending your earliest fans or followers through your personal account, and create a specific “list” in Facebook that helps you manage privacy to that list. (For more instructions on this, click here.)

For authors with heavy privacy concerns, this may not be an option, but it’s the wisest option for someone who has a reputation that doesn’t yet demand “fan” page treatment—or doesn’t want the headache of managing two Facebook presences.

How do you know if your reputation deserves “fan” treatment?

  • If you have to beg people to like your page, you’re not there yet.
  • If you have multiple friend requests every single day from fans/followers, then maybe it’s time.
  • However: Some authors stick with the personal page, such as Christina Katz. Just keep in mind you’ve got a 5,000-friend cap on a personal profile.

What to avoid on Facebook

  • Avoid inviting your personal Facebook friends to like or fan your page unless you are shutting down your personal profile. Think about it: Why should your closest circle of friends receive TWO streams of information from you? You should treat your closest circle of friends different from your fans. Always customize your approach depending on your audience.
  • Do not post self-promotional messages or comments on other people’s walls. Epitome of rude.
  • Do not send private messages to your entire friends list, asking them to market and promote you—or to read your work. This type of message should be personalized and directed toward a select few people.
  • Do not send a blanket invite to events (where you invite people who couldn’t possibly be expected attend, or be interested).
  • Do not create “fake” events, like “Buy my book!” events. We see what you’re doing there, and we’re not amused!
  • Do not create Facebook groups, then add people to those groups without permission, to market and promote your work. (Or for any other reason for that matter. Get permission first or extend invitations.)

Good practices on Facebook

  • If you use your personal Facebook profile with mixed audiences, it’s smart to tag your friends to specific lists so you can adjust the visibility of your updates, or target them to the most appropriate list.
  • Don’t be quiet about having a Facebook profile or fan page. Mention it and link to it from your website, blog—anywhere you’re active online. That’s how you get fans over time.
  • Be interesting (share your unique perspectives), be helpful, be open, be charitable—unless not being charitable is your shtick.
  • Post links to new blog posts, if you’re a blogger.
  • Think carefully about having your Twitter updates automatically appear on Facebook. This can be a huge turn-off for people who aren’t Twitter users—and a turn-off even for those who are!
  • Don’t post voraciously—unless that’s going to be your shtick. You run the risk of people “muting” you.

Here are the most helpful posts I’ve read about Facebook marketing. Some of these posts are more geared for businesses/brands, but the lessons often apply for authors, too.

Broad advice

Facebook’s advice
Writer-specific advice
What has worked for you on Facebook? Or what’s the best advice you’ve received for using it effectively? Share your experiences or resources in the comments!


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Master the Principles of Social Media Without Feeling Like a Marketer

Jane's newest online course focuses on how to take a holistic and strategic approach to social media that’s based on long-term reader growth and sound principles of online marketing. You won’t find gimmicks or short-term approaches here. Rather, my philosophy is that (1) your work—your writing—is always central, and (2) you have to enjoy what you’re doing on social media for it to be sustainable and eventually become a meaningful part of your author platform.

A big challenge for authors is deciding what types of marketing will work for them strategically, and figuring out what will be effective in cutting through the noise without consuming huge amounts of time. Over the course of 12 weeks, our goal will be to answer this question for you, eliminate as much guesswork as possible, and retain your authentic voice regardless of your strategy.

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Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has more than 15 years of experience in the book and magazine publishing industry, with expertise in digital media and the future of authorship. She speaks around the world at events such as BookExpo America, Frankfurt Book Fair, and Digital Book World, and has keynoted writing conferences such as The Muse & The Marketplace. She currently teaches digital media and publishing at the University of Virginia. Find out more.
Posted in Marketing & Promotion, Social Media.


  1. Jane, thanks for including the link to my Facebook post. Other than the author’s own website, I think Facebook pages are an ideal forum for authors. Like you mentioned, not all of them choose to have fan pages and that’s OK. Too many create a FB page because they feel like they need one and not because they have a strategy and can commit to one.

  2. Hello Jane: very useful advice here – you covered a lot of ground. I could almost see each bullet as a separate executive summary with a story underneath of a situation that worked well and was creative. I was researching Facebook Pages for a client just this past week, and all I could find was the same tired lists.  Thank you for the food for thought, and for the link to the Kristof post.

  3. These are excellent tips.  I’ve seen many of these faux pas committed.  I’m sharing this on Facebook.  

  4. If there’s one thing I’m definitely trying hard not to be as an author, it’s OBNOXIOUS! This post is a wonderful assemblage of FB wisdom. My novel has it’s own FB page and oh how tempting it can be when one launches such a page to go on an immediate and obsessive “Like” hunt. Clearly, as you’ve so wisely stated here, it’s an urge that needs to be tackled to the ground if we don’t want to become “one of those people!”  Thanks, Jane. Great stuff :-) 

  5. Jane, you are amazing. It can take me all day to follow your trail…this link, that link, another link. Can’t imagine how much work you do to blaze the way for us. Thank you.

  6. I have a non-fiction book, and I created a Facebook page for it as soon as the book had a title, which was back in December or January. The book will be coming out in about six weeks, and the page already has 315 fans. But, as you said, I had a plan, and I try to think of at least one post to make every day — a link to an article or to my blog post or simply a status update. Facebook sends out an email once a week with your stats, and every week my number of fans goes up, as well as the number of interactions, which I think is more important than the number of fans, because as you said, people can mute you if they’re not interested in what you have to say. The exciting thing about this is that only about 60 of the fans are also friends. I’m not quite sure how this happened, except that I am faithful about updating it at least once a day with relevant content. I did initially get some friends to join, which started the ball rolling, but I think regular updating is what has helped me to continue to add fans that don’t know me personally. The book is called “Homegrown and Handmade,” so it is a perfectly descriptive title. I imagine a few people find it by simply searching either of those words.

    As far as updating, I am continuing to read and research in relation to the book’s topic, so I post links to articles about backyard chickens or the latest food recall or genetically modified foods in stores. My blog often includes recipes, which I also link. And when I have nothing else, I simply mention what I’m doing today that relates to the book, such as “Making chevre and mozzarella with today’s milk!” or “You know it’s summer when you’re having fresh-from-the-garden salsa every day!”

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  8. I would like to add something that I found about the “Facebook Edgerank Algorithm Explained” on YouTube by socialmediaroiapp. 

    95 % of the users read only the “Top News” feed. What is shown there depends on the Edgerank Algorithm and this is determined by the kind of interaction between fan page and fan.

    And in June Allfacebook published this awful number: Only 3 to 7.5 % of a Fan Page’s fans see your pages posts – at least the day you post it, but since the age of a post is part of the above mentioned algorithm …

    • Indeed. The statistics can be very discouraging, and demonstrates yet another reason NOT to create and maintain a fan page unless you know you’re attracting people who are sincerely interested. That’s the only thing that makes it worth the effort …

      … because pople spend a lot of time on Facebook even if it is driven by the “top news” feed. And many people fan businesses/organizations/authors because they really DO want to be updated. (E.g., this is how I personally stay updated on businesses in my neighborhood. Many others do the same with musicians/bands, artists, favorite brands, etc.)

    • Indeed. The statistics can be very discouraging, and demonstrates yet another reason NOT to create and maintain a fan page unless you know you’re attracting people who are sincerely interested. That’s the only thing that makes it worth the effort …

      … because pople spend a lot of time on Facebook even if it is driven by the “top news” feed. And many people fan businesses/organizations/authors because they really DO want to be updated. (E.g., this is how I personally stay updated on businesses in my neighborhood. Many others do the same with musicians/bands, artists, favorite brands, etc.)

  9. Some great points here — content strategy is critical.

    I’m a marketing copywriter by day, so I was lucky: I had a leg up on the marketing aspect when I started my FB author page. Based on my own experience, it IS possible to grow your fan base, even if you’re unknown: FB advertising can help. The challenge is creating a landing page on your FB page that the FB ads will point to — if you make this compelling enough, you’re likely to get new fans (and potential new readers). It’s worked for me. (And FB ads are extremely targeted and economical — you set the daily rate.)

    I’d be careful about using your personal page as your author page…that’s actually against FB’s terms (though I don’t know of any writer who has been “shut down” because of it…but why chance it?). For more reading on this issue, see the third Q&A here: http://www.facebook.com/help/?page=721. If you’re an author trying to sell books, FB could (easily) define you as a business. Plus, your personal page is limited to 5000 “friends,” and it’s a pain to separate ‘em down the line. I think it’s better to create an FB page, run some ads to build your base, engage your community, and, most of all, have fun! :)

    • Well, as a Facebook user with 3,300 friends, and as someone who knows about a dozen people who’ve maxed out at 5,000 friends, as long as you are “yourself,” there’s no need to worry about being shut down by Facebook.

      Of course, you’ll be in trouble (and not just from Facebook’s point of view) if you’re using your personal page to sell-sell-sell. It doesn’t work, and it’s obnoxious.

      • I agree 100 percent about the selling — I follow the 80/20 rule on my fan page: 80 percent engages the community, and 20 percent is promotional. I still think the 5000-person limit on personal pages could be troublesome for writers, though. :)

  10. Great post. After seeing other writers advertising their facebook fan pages, I was wondering whether I ought to have one. This confirms my feelin that I don’t really need one and that my personal page is sufficient for the moment. Thank you … am retweeting.

  11. Jane.I  am Pastor Sailesi, writing from Malawi. I want to understand your plans about this connection. I want you to help me by connecting me with mor people who can encourage me about Church projects and caring orphans projects. Here I have been looking forwad to get people to support me in these projects. Also I would like to ask you about your little offering which we expecting you to bless our ministries, especially the orphans school programmes. How is it  right now? We are expecting to hear from you. Sailesi Duncan Pastor.

  12. Hi Jane. I just saw your interview with Michael Hyatt and agree with almost everything said.

    I do happen to agree with “Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness The science, design, and engineering of contagious ideas” By Dan Zarrella where he points out there is no correlation between Facebook “friends”, “liking”, and sales for fiction writers.

    I believe in your case or Michael Hyatt’s there might be because you are marketing to authors and most of your friends are those with an interest in the industry.
    I believe Youtube and Google+ and websites that cater to a fiction author’s target markets are the way to increase their marketability and discoverability.

    • Haven’t heard of Zarrella, so will check out!

      I’m not sure that Google+ would work any better than Facebook (at least at this stage) for author marketability? Perhaps you can explain more?

      • Hi Jane,
        Thanks for taking the time to respond. Dan Zarrella is a social, search, and viral marketing scientist with a background in web development who combines his programming capabilities with a passion for social marketing to create applications like the social URL shortener Votrs.com, Link Attraction Read more at Amazon’s Dan Zarrella Page (I took the above sentence and link from his Amazon page.) He wrote a book on marketing for Facebook back in January.

        I come from a marketing background, so the science behind it is something I find interesting.

        I think as more 40-80 year old people get on Facebook (as is currently happening), it will become uncool, the way My Space did. The fact you can do multiple-person video chats, have people in a variety of circles, add people to circles, no limits, no limits on links, videos, photography, no arcaine rules about what you can use it for, the fact it is tied into the world’s largest search engine, all make it more appealing. 
        Those who are “hip” with technology are moving to it first, and the kids are sure to follow.
        It’s what happened with the migration from My Space to Facebook. It’s the next great migration.
        This is just my opinion, but I will be asking my Facebook friends to “come over” I don’t think the older generations will, but I do think the millenials and younger will. 

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  15. Hi Jane,

    To answer your comment prompt: this article! Your direct, engaging style really speaks to my demographic: the ADD-riddled writer. :). The tips in “What to Avoid on Facebook” are an invaluable resource for anyone using social media to promote their work, and as an impulse-driven writer, I especially appreciate the reminders.

    Your empathy-based marketing approach, along with the organized and intelligent nature of your writing style, made me a believer and a fan. :)

    A question: what are your suggestions for removing my undesirable social media footprints?

    I was formerly one such “voracious poster”, a time during which there was a definite disparity between my values and actions. Today, I believe, so I am, and much like a new haircut, I’d like to get rid of my scattered split ends as best I can.

    Thanks for your input!



    • Facebook does make it possible to hide pretty much any/all of your Timeline if you don’t want it available to your friends. It can be time consuming, but that’s what I recommend if you really don’t want to risk the chance someone will dig into the past posts.

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  21. “Avoid inviting your personal Facebook friends to like or fan your page unless you are shutting down your personal profile. Think about it: Why should your closest circle of friends receive TWO streams of information from you? You should treat your closest circle of friends different from your fans. Always customize your approach depending on your audience.”

    I can’t stand it when my friends post the same thing on their personal profiles and fan pages. You’re right, it makes me want to “mute” them. But as someone who has a fan page, I see how they’re tempted to do both. They want to make sure everyone sees their posts, especially since Facebook reduced the percentage of reaches to fans unless they promote their posts. :-(

    • Indeed, Facebook doesn’t always make it easy to reach your fans. I typically recommend having at least 1-2 other means of reaching out to people, to reduce reliance on FB—such as an e-mail newsletter or an account on another preferred social network (Goodreads, Pinterest, Twitter, etc).

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