A lot of authors (indie and trad) are using their Facebook Profiles to build platform. The friend limit is still 5,000 but if you turn on the Follower option there’s no limit. You’re not violating any rules by doing this as long as you don’t try to sell anything directly from your Profile (as per Facebook’s TOS). You can share blog posts, photos, start conversations, generally be a decent human who makes a living from their writing and likes to connect with readers.
The problem is when authors and writers use their Profiles to sell things (ie. books) by posting book links or blatantly asking people to buy their books. When an author opens more than one Profile (using their pen name for instance), or uses a name they don’t go by in real life (these are both against Facebook’s TOS). Don’t get me wrong, the risks may be minimal if you don’t have a lot of friends and followers, but you are playing Facebook Roulette. If Facebook finds out you’re breaking the rules they will either force you to convert your Profile to a Page or shut down the Profile entirely – without discussion.
When authors come to me and share that they’ve been shut down and isn’t Facebook being a big meanie, I have a hard time sympathizing because these are not new rules and being overly promotional doesn’t actually help you sell more books so it was all for nothing.
Facebook has published Terms of Service (TOS) and shockingly they actually enforce these rules <sarcasm> — eventually. I’ve only quoted 4 points here, but know that infringing on any of the TOS is grounds to have your Profile shut down without opportunity for appeal.
- You will not provide any false personal information on Facebook, or create an account for anyone other than yourself without permission.
- You will not create more than one personal account.
- If we disable your account, you will not create another one without our permission.
- You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.
There are a lot of really valid reasons to use a pen name or pseudonym, and just as many equally valid reasons for keeping real names and pen names completely separate. Facebook updated their rules so that you can use the name you go by in real life (not only your legal name) without being shut down, so if the name you really go by in real life is Downtown Debbie, Facebook’s cool with that.I have no idea how you would prove this…
I have lost count of the authors creating Profiles for pen names, fictional characters, and the cat that authors their blog, etc. Just know that if someone complains or you get popular enough to get noticed by Facebook, they will shut down your Profile without warning or recourse. Remember that you don’t own anything on Facebook. You own your email list and your blog (if you self-host), but if the only way you have to contact readers is this 2nd or 3rd Profile on Facebook, rethink that strategy. Have a backup plan.
Being Too Promotional
I regularly do critiques for author Profiles and Pages. The biggest error I see is being too promotional. There was a time years ago where experts would give out a ratio like for every 10 posts, only 1 can be promotional in nature. Here’s the thing, even that 1 post can get you shut down. I don’t mean to be alarmist. I have no idea what the complaint threshold at Facebook is, whether only one complaint gets your Profile evaluated or if you need to have a few complaints on a single post, but if you’re found to be selling something using your Profile Facebook will force you to convert your Profile to a Page. I’m assuming that if that was OK, you’d have a Page. Pages are not evil. They are slow, and the competition for reach is stiffer than it ever has been, but there’s a valid place in your marketing strategy for a Page.
**Remember – Facebook is a social platform intended to help people connect with and communicate with other people. They do allow businesses to have a presence and they do allow businesses to buy ads — but they have a vested interest in keeping Facebook relevant to regular people who want to connect with friends and acquaintances. When you begin to treat your Profile like a Page, you’re playing roulette and eventually you’re going to get caught.
What Counts As Promotional?
You have to think in terms of value. Posting a link to your blog doesn’t offer any commercial gain. People post links to all kinds of things. Posting a link from Amazon to buy your book is commercial gain. Announcing you have a new book out and posting a pic of the cover is OK. Reminding people twice a week or more that you’re book is perma free on Kindle is commercial gain. Posting the same content over and over on your Profile (usually a cover pic and book blurb), and on other’s Profiles, and repeatedly in every group is commercial gain.
Regardless of whether you’re using a Page, Profile, or both, you must remember that the point of Facebook is connection. The Facebook economy is measured in terms of interest – how interesting are you? Facebook measures this through likes, reactions, comments, link clicks, and shares. The more of those you have, the more interesting Facebook assumes you to be and shows your content to more people.
Ask yourself this: What do my fans want to see from me? What are my fans interested in learning about/seeing/talking about? This should dictate what you post. Always!
Create a page on your website for your new book, post a Facebook pixel code on the backend of your website and let Facebook track who visits your website or that specific page and then target those people with ads. (Check out this post by Jon Loomer on creating Website Custom Audiences WCA)
Facebook is about connecting with people. Your Profile must not be used for commercial gain. Organic reach is not dead on Pages, but the days of reaching every single fan on your Page for free are not just gone, they never existed.
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.