The Pros and Cons of 5000 Friends

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**Updated** I wrote this post well over five years ago, and it’s suddenly popular again. I thought I’d give it an update to reflect more recent and better advice about using Facebook to build an author platform.

The Rules

Facebook’s TOS (terms of service) say that you can’t use your personal profile (where people are asked to friend you) to make money. This means you can’t sell or rent space on your profile, sell your profile, or use it primarily to sell your products — like books. You’re also prohibited from having more than one profile. Any perceived violation of these terms could see you put in Facebook jail or your profile removed.

There are a few people saying to just gather 5000 friends and turn it into a page and voila – you now have 5000 fans on an author page. Which, I suppose is one way to do it, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind before you jump on this idea.

The Facebook Economy

What many people don’t realize about Facebook is that the algorithm is designed to keep the majority of people happy and on the platform.

Rule #1 – Facebook Loves Itself

If you are posting links from other platforms, Facebook won’t show that content to as many people. Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, blogs — all of it. You’re going to get better organic reach if you post the content natively on Facebook instead of cross-posting, auto-posting, etc. Facebook wants people to stay ON Facebook not leave and go hang out on Twitter or wherever.

Rule #2 – Facebook Always Gives You More Of What You Already Have

Have you attracted your ideal reader to your profile or page? If your page is full of family who never read your genre, other writers (because someone convinced you those like-exchanges were going to be helpful for anything other than your ego), they’re actually hurting your page’s reach. If your profile has 5000 friends, but only 250 of them read the kind of fiction you write, the ones who never comment, react, or share will tank your organic reach. Further, even if you do have 250 friends who read what you write, but they don’t actually hang out on Facebook or jump into conversations, they’re not really helping your reach.

Rule #3 – It’s NOT About You

Creating an author page means your growth is going to be very slow – like glacial, if you don’t already have an audience you can port over OR you’re not sitting on a pile of cash to run ads. If you have an enormous email list, then go ahead and start an author page.

When you’re new, no one knows who you are, what you’re about, or why they should give you space in their already crowded newsfeed. You want to post content that makes people look good, feel good, and speaks for them. Not TO them. Questions are the easiest way to start, but you have to keep it simple and make sure it’s a topic your ideal reader would be unable to resist commenting on. The name of your Facebook page should (at a glance) tell potential fans what you’re promising to be about, and who that page is looking to attract.

One Pot Crock Pot – who would that page be for and about?

Writers Helping Writers – who would that page be for and about?

I Love Wiggle-Butts – if you own an Australian Shepherd (a dog) you’d know they call their pups wiggle-butts because many of them are born without tails. They’re not looking to attract any dog owner, they’re looking for people who love Australian Shepherds.

All of these pages SELL things, but they’re looking for people who are enthusiastic about specific things – simple cooking and recipes, writing fiction, australian shepherd rescues.

Consider these two questions:

Good:(this allows people to be passionate and have an opinion without making themselves or anyone they love look bad – and it’s simple) Who was your favorite Lord of the Rings character? (including the made-up ones in The Hobbit)?
Bad: Why do you think Tauriel’s character doesn’t belong in The Hobbit movies? (this question is more complicated, and people are reluctant to be negative on Facebook – most of the time)

The Problem With Converting A Profile To A Page

Facebook only allows you to have 5000 Friends on a Profile (what some refer to as a personal page). Once you hit this limit the Send a Friend Request button disappears and people are only left with the option to Follow your Profile. Some people are recommending you take those 5000 friends and turn your profile into a page.

Sure, you could do that, but remember the rules above. Second, if you convert your profile to a page, you no longer have a profile to connect with family and friends or in groups. Sure, you can join a group as your page – if the group admin allows that – but people in groups prefer to connect with an individual not an expert. Going on a friending spree can land you in Facebook jail pretty quick. Aim for relationships, not contacts or leads.

Transition To A Page

Facebook has a feature that will allow you to turn your Profile into a Page (read how to do that here). You’ll lose all the content (your profile picture and cover photo will migrate but not much else), and all of your Friends and Followers will become Fans. This is irriversible, so be very sure this is what you want to do.

Why You Want A Page

A Page (where you’re asked to Like not friend) comes with many features that you’ll want as a business like demographic data, etc. Pages are designed to sell things, so you won’t technically be penalized for posting links to sales pages constantly, etc. (however, if all you’re posting is links not many people will see your content – see rule #2). With a Page, you can target ads at website visitors or blog subscribers or newsletter subscribers. You can run contests and giveaways. People can recommend you to others, and a Page always ranks well in Google searches. You’re now able to join groups as your Page (if the group owner has that feature turned on).

Organic Reach Is Not Dead

I’ve recently (as of December 2019) launched a page a few months ago where I’m attracting my ideal reader. Not just my ideal reader, but my ideal reader who’s also an enthusiatic Facebook-er. I want my first 1000 fans to be the people who comment, share, react, post pics, post gifs, all of it.

Because Facebook will give me more of what I already have. 

Yes, I’m running ads. But I’m running engagement ads for $1/day and $2/day narrowly targeted at those who are publicly enthustiastic about the genre I write. I used my profile to gather the first 100 fans or so. I did that by posting engaging questions on my profile and in groups, and by adding those friends (and they are friends — not contacts) into a friend list. I then post content to those friends and ask them to like my page.

We have had many posts have an organic reach of 100%-200% (meaning, I have had posts reach as many or twice as many fans as there are on the page). At this baby stage, I want eyeballs on my content.

The first 1000 fans are the hardest to attract, but if you take the time to attract your ideal reader who’s a Facebook enthusiast, your organic reach will spread the word.

Be Patient – Be In It For The Long Game

The problem is indie authors (primarily) come to me for help with Facebook. They have their debut novel coming out in two weeks and they need a page FAST.

*face palm*

Facebook is slow. It takes time. My co-writer and I posted twice a day for five months before we had enough data to really know what our readers wanted to say about themselves. You’re not going to publish just one book – right. So, build an enthusiastic audience instead of just vanity numbers who won’t buy anything.

Bottom Line…

You have to know what you want Facebook to do for you to make the best decision. If it’s a marketing tool, then the marketing capabilities of a Page are some of the best on the web. Ads run well are fairly cheap and effective. If you hate Facebook and just want to post a blog post link or a link to Amazon a few times a day – go to Twitter. I’m not sure that strategy will work any better on Twitter, but it certainly won’t help you on Facebook.

What do you find most frustrating about using Facebook to build author platform?

Been told you should learn Deep Point Of View? Had an editor or critique partner tell you to “go deeper” with the emotions in your fiction? Looking for a community of writers seeking to create emotional connections with readers? Check out the Free Resource Hub and then join the Going Deeper With Emotions In Fiction Facebook group.

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