I wrote a blog post for Jane Friedman well over a year ago and I continue to receive comments over there – which is about as awesome as a beaver tail with icing sugar. The post was about whether writers should use a Profile or a Page to build platform (read that post here). Two of the most recent comments said:
I now have 5000 friends and several hundred followers. Do I have to start a Page?
This is actually a great problem to have. I thought I’d walk through the pros and cons of this dilemma and help authors make the right choice for their platform.
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.
Facebook created the Follow option for Profiles in an effort to lure journalists and celebrities away from Twitter. The Follow option allows people to follow your public posts without giving you access to their friends-only content. If you’re using a Profile and don’t have this feature turned on make sure you do this. Turning on the Follow option gives you a Public Profile and then you can be added to user-created Interest Lists. There’s no limit on Followers.
So, you’ve maxed out the friend limit – now what?
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.
Having a Page with more than 5000 fans instantly gives you access to all of the insights features – in terms of marketing this is invaluable demographic data. With a Page you can capture emails to grow your email list. 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.
Converting your Profile to a Page means you’ll no longer have access to groups and you’ll lose the history of the activity on your Profile. Pages with between 1000 and 10,000 fans actually do the best with organic reach, but once you breach that 10,000 fans zone (results may vary) your organic reach will drop. The bigger the Page, typically, the lower the organic rate and the more expensive the ads become.
**There are a million reasons for this, but often the bigger a Page gets the fewer dedicated fans you’ll have proportionately and there’s nothing really you can do about this. It’s the double-edged sword of being popular or going viral.**
For authors who have taken the time to build a platform on their Profile and have reached 5000 friends, the idea of starting all over and watching your organic reach plummet isn’t appealing. (Organic reach doesn’t have to plummet – some of the Pages I manage with certain posts have 50% organic reach, but it takes a lot more work and strategy to be successful with a Page.) The idea of being shut out of groups – a huge source of blog/website traffic, is catastrophic.
You could continue using your Profile. People will follow you if they understand it’s Facebook’s fault you can no longer accept friend requests. Keep in mind that the average Facebook user has about 200 friends, so having 5000 and a few hundred followers will make you stand out from the crowd. Some of the promotional posts you’ve always done may get you in hot water now. Posting links to your blog is OK (assuming you’re not doing it several times a day), but being the all-author-all-the-time channel could (probably will) get you shut down (read Help! Facebook Shut Down My Profile).
Hugh Howey only uses his Profile – so check out how often he posts about writing – asks his friends and fans to buy something. Some people feel that using a Profile violates Facebook’s TOS but if you’re not using it for commercial gain (and I suppose what that looks like is somewhat subjective) then you’re not breaking any rules.
You could transition to a Page and just take the hit on reach. Create a modest ad budget and build in more communication through other channels like email, etc. and take advantage of the marketing capabilities to reach new readers and grow your email list.
You could launch a Page and keep your Profile (you’re allowed to have both). Make it known on the Page that you hang out more often on your Profile. This allows you to run ads and target website visitors, etc. without losing the momentum on your Profile. You still won’t have demographic data on the readers following you on your Profile, but if they’re clicking through to your website you likely already have that data through Google Analytics. **Make sure you use the name you write with for your Page so you can merge the two if necessary at a later date.**
Stereo-typically, I don’t know many traditionally published authors who are using a Profile, and I don’t know a lot of Indie authors who find using a Page exclusively really helpful. 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. If it’s a communication tool then being able to reach as many of your readers as possible is the goal and a Profile may be the better option for you.
Give serious consideration, from a marketing standpoint, about what you want. You can always convert to a Page if you change your mind later, but you can’t revert a Page back to a Profile.
Do you have a plan on next steps if you max out the 5000 friend limit on your Profile?