The Pros and Cons of Using a Facebook Profile But Not an Official Page

Facebook page

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One of the first marketing tasks given to authors by agents, publishers, and publicists is: Start an official Facebook page.

So far, I have not done this for myself. Instead, I use my Facebook profile with the “following” function turned on. That means I have private friends, but also public followers.

I want to discuss the pros and cons of this choice, but first I’ll describe the history of my experience and how I ended up in this situation to begin with. (Scroll down to the pros and cons if you’re impatient.)

2006–2009: “Real” Friends Only

I joined Facebook in 2006. At first, I only friended people I knew well and had met in person—and I rarely received requests from strangers. These were the days (hard to imagine now) when few people used the site.

As I started speaking and meeting writers at conferences, and especially once I started blogging, I tentatively started friending people I had virtual relationships with, but had not met. It felt a little dirty, because at that time, Facebook used to ask for confirmation on how you knew someone, and if you couldn’t verify it, you received an informal reprimand.

Then I noticed that some of my colleagues with even more liberal friend policies had engaged communities of people around them, and valuable discussions were happening in the comments. So I decided to open the door to anyone who asked. (At this point in the game, Facebook didn’t offer a way for people to “follow” you.)

2009-2011: Everyone’s a Friend!

My Facebook use has been fairly conservative when it comes to the private details of my life. Probably the most personal things I share are travel photos and cat pics.

Zelda sleeping on treadmill

So it wasn’t a big deal to me to open things up to anyone who wanted to be my friend, and I felt safe doing so, as I had no other privacy concerns or considerations. (This is important to note, because, well, some people do!)

Every time I accepted a friend request, I tagged that person as part of a particular list or group. I had one group that was basically for people I didn’t know, but I assumed knew me from Writer’s Digest.

I started posting about content at my blog, and answering people’s questions about writing and publishing. My use was so consistently related to my work that a friend remarked I was the only person he knew whose Facebook profile was used for professional purposes, and that the last time he checked my profile, a window popped up to accept his credit card. (Ouch.)

Back then, as today, personal profiles max out at 5,000 friends. My reasoning was that I was nowhere near the limit, and until I had a book or a product, it really didn’t make sense for me to manage two distinct presences on Facebook if they would be posting essentially the same thing.

2012: The Great Unfriending

After two years, I was approaching 4,000 friends, and I began reflecting on my growing discomfort with that number, and my lack of control. I was receiving way too many requests (games, messages, events), and I had to mute most of my new friends because I wasn’t seeing anything from my actual friends.

Then, Facebook debuted a new feature called “Subscribe,” which allowed people to follow your public posts. (This is now the “Follow” function.) I was elated.

But I had a difficult decision to make. To unfriend people was going to create ill will—but would it be a more honest reflection of the actual relationship? I also believed a friends number in the hundreds would strongly suggest that people should subscribe, not friend, unless they knew me.

I’m still not confident it was the right solution, but I unfriended more than 3,000 people over two days; those people were automatically turned into subscribers by Facebook (although not counted officially in my public Subscriber number).

2012–present: Friends + Followers

I’ve stuck with a conservative friending policy, although the large majority of my Facebook posts are public and related to the writing and publishing community. My following is now 6,500+.

Friedman profile on Facebook

The Pros of Using a Facebook Profile Professionally

  • The biggest advantage, by far, is that you only manage one Facebook account, which saves you time and energy. (Also, I really like having focused attention in one place.)
  • Some believe that personal profiles get better visibility in Facebook newsfeeds. It feels like that could be true, but who really knows? Ultimately, I’m not sure it makes a huge difference, because if you post content that people don’t engage with, they will see fewer of your posts over time. That’s just how the Facebook algorithms work.
  • By using a personal profile, you can engage with individuals and comment on their posts, and also tag individuals in posts, which isn’t possible with an official page.
  • I was able to register with Facebook as a public figure and receive the verified blue checkmark next to my name. This allows me access to Facebook Mentions—and is how I can produce Facebook Live Video—just the same as a business page.
  • Frankly, I like mixing the personal and professional. I’m a multi-faceted person, and while the face I present is undoubtedly crafted in some way, everything we do is crafted to tell a story about ourselves. It doesn’t bother me.

The Cons of Using a Facebook Profile Professionally

  • The biggest disadvantage: You’ll miss out on the functionality offered by official business pages. You won’t get any demographics or insight into the people who follow you, no information about how many people your posts reach, no access to the advertising tools (although it’s easy enough to work around this last issue). You also can’t add new tabs to the page, and you can’t add a fancy call-to-action button (Buy Now, Sign Up, Subscribe, etc). You’re stuck with whatever Facebook makes available to personal profiles. So there are real limitations if you want to do some hard selling, conduct contests or giveaways, or otherwise be very strategic about making Facebook pay.
  • While no one has ever told me this, I must assume that I’ve alienated some percentage of my real friends who have zero interest in posts about writing and publishing. Fortunately, a lot of the people I consider friends also work in the industry, but still: I imagine my public posts can be a mix of dull or irrelevant, which means I risk being muted indefinitely by a fair number of friends. I also typically restrict myself to one post per day to reduce the noise for others, but if I had a business page, I believe I’d be posting several times a day.
  • Conversely, if I make a public post that isn’t about writing and publishing, it’s a quick way to get followers to leave. Sometimes when I post off-topic, especially on any issue that might have political tension associated with it, there’s usually at least one person who comments that I should stick to posts about writing and publishing.

A word about the risks of using a personal profile professionally

You’ll find all kinds of warnings about using a personal profile for anything remotely related to business—some say it will get you kicked off Facebook. So I expect the comments of this post to include at least one warning or two from someone who had their personal profile shut down because they ran afoul of Facebook’s Terms of Service.

If you actually read my long history of using Facebook, then you can see it’s obvious I use Facebook for soft forms of marketing without getting kicked off. Even Mark Zuckerberg himself doesn’t have a fan page; he has a public profile with the following turned on, like I do. This use isn’t uncommon among public figures.

Still, though, there might be a risk if the following describes you:

  • You aren’t using your real name, or you’re representing yourself inaccurately.
  • Your friends or followers consistently complain about your activity or report your posts as spam.
  • You try to conduct contests, giveaways, or business activity on your profile.
  • You use your profile as a sales and advertising bullhorn. I call this the “hard sell.”

Making the Right Decision for You

So, how do you decide what to do? Here are the 5 biggest considerations.

  • If you have privacy concerns, then the answer is easy: Start an official business page.
  • If your audiences don’t mix, start an official business page. For example, many teachers and therapists would not be comfortable with their audiences mixing on their Facebook profile. Or romance or erotica authors probably don’t want discussions of their work on a personal profile where grandma might hang out.
  • If you have a pen name, start an official business page.
  • For unpublished or new authors who want to simplify or streamline their online presence and don’t see the need for the additional functionality of a business page, start with a profile with followers.
  • For new authors who have a strong personal Facebook presence, and feel comfortable mixing the personal and professional, start with a profile with followers.

If you succeed at getting friends and followers on your profile, but later decide you need the functionality of a business page, Facebook allows you to convert your profile to an official page. I may do this myself in the future. (However, as Chris Syme points out in the comments of this post, it will involve some level of sacrifice—for starters, you lose all your past posts.)

A final note: It can be very difficult to get likes for an official Facebook page if you’re not already active online. You must promote your Facebook activity on your website, email newsletter, other social media networks, at events, and anywhere else you can think of. You may even end up buying Facebook ads to get the ball rolling. If that sounds daunting, then you might not be ready for an official page quite yet.

I’d love to hear about your Facebook experiences in the comments, especially if you use a personal profile with the following turned on. How’s it going?


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Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman (@JaneFriedman) has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She is the co-founder and editor of The Hot Sheet, the essential newsletter on the publishing industry for authors.

In addition to being a columnist for Publishers Weekly, Jane is a professor with The Great Courses, which released her 24-lecture series, How to Publish Your Book. She also has a book forthcoming from the University of Chicago Press, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Jane speaks regularly at conferences and industry events such as BookExpo America, Digital Book World, and the AWP Conference, and has served on panels with the National Endowment for the Arts and the Creative Work Fund. Find out more.

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64 Comments on "The Pros and Cons of Using a Facebook Profile But Not an Official Page"

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Marquita
I closed my FB page about 6 months ago and started using my profile exclusively. For the record, I haven’t missed the page. I do think the kind of business you’re in may make a difference. My focus is to help others develop emotional resilience and I write about and teach how to do that, so my posts tend to be well received by pretty much everyone. I will say I’m very selective about friend requests and turn down more than I accept. I know Darren Rowse of Problogger fame also uses his profile and has a huge following, so… Read more »
Mitzi Flyte

I like keeping professional and writing FB pages separate.
I have a personal FB page under my married name and an author page under my writing name. The author page has about half the number of followers as my personal page and I’m trying to increase that. Because I write horror/paranormal and mystery, I post articles about that on the author page, along with articles about writing. Unfortunately I seem to do more on my FB author page than my website/blog and I must work on changing that.

Lexa Cain
Timely post for me. My agent told me to get a profile and an author page 3 yrs ago. I didn’t do too much with them except get 500 friends on the profile and announce sales on the author pg. Then I fired my agent, changed my pen name, and self-published. With my new profile I got 4 times the friends as the old profile in only 6 months. Now I was getting 10 times the number of “likes” per post, and good interaction. But I didn’t know what to do with that old Author page I hated so much.… Read more »
Alexis

I have a personal profile and a page and a large active Facebook group so I feel I swim in all of the potential pools within FB. My feeling is that the marketing advantages of a page (having a signup button, ability to run contests, reporting about who sees your content, who likes your page, page growth statistics, ability to run advertising campaigns) all trump the ease of managing a single profile.

Victoria
I have a personal page and two author pages (one for my writing and the other one is specific to a book I’m just starting on that’s a departure from what else I’ve written). My author pages are just that. On one I post about writing, friendship, and grief; the other I only post on that book and the topic. Nothing personal. The analytics are very interesting to me and helpful beyond words (especially since that book won’t be published until late next year). My personal page is personal. I know everyone who friended me. They’re either friends of mine… Read more »
S. J. Pajonas
So, I’d like to point out that even though I follow you, and I constantly set FB to show me Recent Posts, I never see your posts on Facebook. Which sucks because as a follower, I’m only getting stuff the FB algorithm lets me see, much like Pages. So I just went in and told it to let me see your posts first. But that’s another thing to be aware of, that “following” posts act like Page posts in that they get caught up in the algorithm. Regardless, I have a personal profile with following turned on and I friend… Read more »
Diana Urban
Great post, Jane! This is something that I’ve grappled with. Right now I have a public personal profile, where I do get some followers. But I also have my author Facebook page with about 500 likes. I haven’t promoted it much yet since I don’t have anything published (yet). If I publish the same post to my personal profile and my page, the post on my personal profile always gets more engagement. If it were easy to convert the 500 page likes into followers on my personal profile, I’d probably switch to using just my profile, since I don’t like… Read more »
Yvonne Hertzberger

I have both a profile and a business page but am seriously considering closing the bus98iness page. I get very little traffic there and find that my interactions on my profile page garner more interest in my writing. Perhaps that is because they see at least a little more of who I am and what I stand for.

Robin E. Mason
i started a professional page late in 2013, before i published my debut. I am also an artist and interior decorator so it was a bit all over the place. as i have grown in my writing, and published #2 (and working on #3) i do as you mention, and on my author page am more open to who’s there. my personal page is still just that, personal. either way, it’s the INTERNET and i don’t share the most personal and certainly not confidential anything! i am building my blog –> website, too, for greater traffic and interation! thanks for… Read more »
Mona AlvaradoFrazier
Listing the pro’s and con’s of FB personal and FB page made me feel better about closing my FB page. This saved me time better used for my blog and Twitter (both which I enjoy much more than FB). I don’t post personal things (mostly links to WordPress posts, travel photos, quotes) and I found much more engagement that way than through a page. I like the ability to post an item publicly or to the family only. The good thing that happened when I closed my page was that FB put my pen name right under my FB personal… Read more »
Kristine Hall

This was super helpful! I have two FB profile pages – one for all the bookish things and one that’s personal. I keep everything on my bookish profile as public as I can, but I didn’t realize I could enable the Follow function. That helps a bunch! I also didn’t realize FB allows you to convert from profile to page, so I’m glad to know that’s an option for the future. Thanks for posting!

Rachael

Great post — love the detail and the personal perspective. I have a separate page associated with my blog but it’s tough to manage both, so this is an interesting option. However I also tend to like sharing interests & fun stuff with my close friends on my personal page, so there might be a lot that wouldn’t be of interest to those following my writing. My first book will be launching soon, so it’ll be interesting to see how things go when that happens. 🙂

Rebecca Vance
Than you for such a informative post. I wasn’t aware that you could do all that with the following on profile pages. I was on Facebook as a general user prior to getting serious about writing. I used to play a lot of games and have always been a political activist, so my profile page reflects this. I am working on my debut novel, so I am unpublished right now. I did start a page to separate audiences. I also have a review blog for debut authors, so everything writing concerned is on my page. Many of my other friends… Read more »
Chris Syme
Hi Jane- Thanks for your look at how Facebook has evolved over the years for business purposes. This happens to be one of the biggest conundrums authors come to me with. I believe that authors need a business page if they want to use social media to promote your platform & sell books. I also believe that for some, migrating the profile to business page is a good idea. However, I have quite a few clients that I have encouraged to keep their profile and migrate their fan/friends over to the new business page with a number of effective organic… Read more »
Averill Buchanan

The biggest drawback for me of using a personal profile rather than a page is that I can’t schedule posts. I know you can use third-party apps like Hootsuite to schedule to FB, but I believe they get pushed down in FB’s algorithm, so it seems counter-productive. If we had the ability to schedule posts on our profiles, I’d drop the page in a heartbeat.

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[…] Using a Facebook Profile But Not an Official Page (Jane Friedman) One of the first marketing tasks given to authors by agents, publishers, and publicists is: Start an official Facebook page. So far, I have not done this for myself. Instead, I use my Facebook profile with the “following” function turned on. That means I have private friends, but also public followers. I want to discuss the pros and cons of this choice, but first I’ll describe the history of my experience and how I ended up in this situation to begin with. […]

Tony Bulmer
One of my friends is very successful; he regularly has more than 35,000 likes on Farcebook. But when you compare that to the amount of comments he has—less than 2,000 on a good day. that is an engagement rate of less than 5%. Suspicious huh? I have also noticed that some of my other friends have a similar number of likes for their posts. 25K 28k 35k are all common numbers. I understand that these high numbers are gained by paying Farcebook so they can artificially jack the number of likes you have—so you appear more important than you actually… Read more »
Gail Gauthier
I gave up my Facebook author page quite some time ago. As you pointed out in your Final Note, it can be hard to get likes for them, and posts were being seen by only a small percentage of my already small total. I could see that very few people were seeing my posts and I got virtually no engagement. The time I used for that page I now use to concentrate on sharing my blog posts with Google+ and Facebook communities and Twitter. I get some engagement at all those places. I’ve liked a lot of writer friends’ professional… Read more »
Roberta
I’m having a love-hate relationship with Facebook lately. I closed my old page last year and created one for my author website and one for my review blog. I’ve been struggling to get likes and to reach followers: only a handful get to see the posts. So I decided to create a group since, apparently, they have better reach. No luck there either. Not only I can’t seem to be able to get new members in the group, of the 15 members that joined the group only 1 or 2 see the posts, so I don’t bother posting much anymore.… Read more »
Josh Langley
Thank you so much for the article. I find it’s a matter of energy. I have 2 pages plus my personal page which are for my different books / projects and sometimes just trying to keep up with engagement on all 3 can be tiring. I find that I end up getting more response on my personal page because that tends to be my default page and just post stuff related to my books, writing, inspiration and general stuff. So when I announce that a new book has been released I get lots of engagement because Facebook isn’t trying to… Read more »
Jarita

I’m a new author with a forthcoming book. I don’t give out my Facebook info to strangers at talks. My wesite and my Instagram and Twitter handles are on my flyers. Sometimes people friend request me when I post book-related content in other groups. Then I’m side-eyeing them trying to figure out where they know me from. I may just go ahead and add that follow button.

Alex Abaz
Great article Jane…. good of you to share your experience on FB. Like you, I don’t like sharing personal drama and find all the status updates dull – maybe that’s because they are not really my friends. I have both a profile and a page on FB for promoting my books but get little traction even when I post the odd opinion. I haven’t invested much time there and that may explain it. For the moment I’m routing my twitter posts to my FB page and that reaches a few people. I’m always tempted to boost a post but don’t… Read more »
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[…] Jane Friedman points out the pros and cons of maintaining a personal profile versus a professional page on Facebook. […]

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[…] as well? Or would it be better to create a separate “business” page? On her site,  Jane Friedman talks about her experiences and the solution she finally arrived at.  What have you done? I […]

April Yamasaki
Jane, I’ve been following your example of using my personal profile with friends and followers–I like the ease of that, and I don’t have the big numbers or time to warrant starting a separate page. But I’ve recently joined a writers group with a Facebook page, and I notice that when they share my posts on their page, my name doesn’t get highlighted because I only have a personal profile. It’s made me re-think whether I should start a separate page at this time, so their page would link to mine, but reading your article and all the comments have… Read more »
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[…] Friedman outlines “the pros and cons of using a Facebook profile but not an official page.” (Side note: If I were starting my Facebook life anew, I’d probably stick with the Facebook […]

Deyanira

I just switched mine over, from profile to page… let’s see how it goes.

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[…] Marketing is all about author platform, but some people are still confused as to what exactly that entails. Jason Garcia tells you everything you need to know about author platform. Platform often includes blogging and Facebook. Jane Friedman explores effective blogging for writers and whether you need a Facebook Page vs. Profile. […]

Anmarie

I keep a separate page, but I get almost no likes on my business page now, unless I advertise to boost a post or the page. Ive spent a lot of money with FB, and I’m noticing that is costing about a $1/like. Doesn’t seem worth it anymore. I have 1,100 likes and earned everyone of them. Unless you started early, I find it is very difficult to generate likes.

Barb Drozdowich
Hi Jane, Thanks for an interesting article. I think the point that is missed is that using your personal profile for promotion of one’s books is clearly against Facebook’s rules (link is: https://www.facebook.com/terms) Facebook says: You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes. If authors go to the trouble of building a following on their personal profile, all it takes is a jealous fellow author to take it all away – it is clearly against the rules. This has happened to a large number of authors… Read more »
Robert

My understanding is that a ‘page’ is throttled by FB and less than 10% of your followers see your posts. Your personal posts are not throttled in this way.

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[…] Social media is critical to spread the word about our books but do you understand The Pros and Cons of Using a Facebook Profile But Not an Official Page? […]

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[…] The Pros and Cons of Using a Facebook Profile But Not An Official Page from Jane Friedman. Peek: “…a lot of the people I consider friends also work in the industry, but still: I imagine my public posts can be a mix of dull or irrelevant, which means I risk being muted indefinitely by a fair number of friends.” […]

Frances Caballo
Jane, I wish I’d seen this post when it was first published. I recall that you wrote a similar post a year or so ago advising authors to use profiles instead of pages. (Or am I imagining that?) With Facebook’s recent tweaks to its algorithm, further reducing penetration of a page’s posts into fans’ news feeds (I believe it’s down to 2% penetration), I’m no longer recommending that authors start out with a Facebook page. Some romance authors are instead forming groups and I like that option in addition to building a profile with the subscription option. I have a… Read more »
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[…] If you’re on the fence about whether to use profile pages or author pages on Facebook, read Jane Friedman’s “The Pros and Cons of Using a Facebook Profile But Not an Official Page.” […]

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[…] The Pros and Cons of Using a Facebook Profile But Not an Official Page […]

Ricardo Ramos
Hi Jane! I would love to read your oppinion about a question concernig websites, if you do not mind. In my opinion, websites are fundamental for a company. It’s always a place controlled by the owner and a point of contact to the client. However, with users being able to encounter your brand and services through a variety of channels, makes me think if a website is a vital part of a digital strategy. Users have been changing their behaviour towards mobile apps and social media, in prejudice of websites. This behaviour is certainly decreasing the number of clicks/visits on… Read more »
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