(Flight of the Conchords GIF from Buzzfeed.)
DISCLAIMER: I’m not very techy, so these tips may not guarantee 100% success. Please consult someone who knows more than I do.
TOO LONG; DIDN’T READ: Alter how you use Facebook, or use other websites. For feck’s sake, use a blog!
RSS feed: Enables people with a feed-reader to subscribe to the site.
Feed-reader: A site to read all your blog subscriptions in the one place. The layout is like an email inbox.
Facebook Profile: Your personal account, with which you can Friend others, and be Friended. And with which you can Follow, and be Followed.
Facebook Page: Your professional account, which others can Like. (They can Like AND Follow, but NOT just Follow. They MUST Like.)
Okay, so Facebook’s apparently doing something in the New Year where having a Page on Facebook means YOU are a business – looking at you, authors! And because you’re a business to them, Facebook will claim that you can’t build/keep your business without FB…and that means paying money so that your Followers can actually keep up with your updates.
(And no, as a reader I don’t use the “Get Notifications” option. I care about you, but not enough to flood my Inbox. I follow a LOT of authors. My INBOX only needs to know about publication info – NOT what TV shows you watch.)
Let’s review what I guess you want to do with social media:
1. Post updates.
2. Have the website actually make your updates visible to those who Follow you.
You may have other things in mind but these are the basics, and if a website can’t even do that…you need to assess your situation.
PRIORITY: Have a website.
Yes, an actual website. It can be hosted on a blog, if you prefer. In fact, it’s better if your website IS a blog, because then it SHOULD have an RSS feed – and an RSS feed is ESSENTIAL if you actually want people to be updated. (I don’t exactly know what “RSS” means – just that without it, I can’t subscribe to the site.)
Let’s talk feed-readers. Yes, I mourned the loss of Google Reader. I trialled a few readers, but the only one I’ve stuck with since is Feedly. And it’s so bloody frustrating when you can see on the author’s website that they have a blog, but no way to subscribe to it. I’ve noticed this with websites made with Wix or Weebly.
I recommend WordPress. I use the free WordPress.com, but you can pay money to get more control at WordPress.org (note the different suffix). Blogspot is also acceptable. Basically you should pick a site that’ll give you an RSS feed, and multiple pages so that it can operate like your headquarters. (Those pages should include: Bio, Books, Blog, and Contact. You can have a resting home page, or link it to your blog.)
Some people use Tumblr as their HQ/blog, but I strongly do NOT recommend that. Admittedly, Tumblr is geared towards a younger demographic, so possibly I’m too old to “get” it. While it does have an RSS feed, it sends to the feed-readers ALL the posts you ReBlog from other people. Which generally consists of fandoms I have no interest in (TV shows, film, ‘ships), so you fill people’s feed-readers with faff when all we really want is YOUR content. (Yes, I sound like a grumpy old woman here – get used to it.)
ALTERNATIVE/EXTRA PRORITY: Newsletter
As far as I know, newsletters cost money to run, especially if you have a large subscribership. (I see mostly Mailchimp.)
Of course, a newsletter should be used sparingly – only for NEWS. E.g. You’ve just sold a book to a publisher, your cover has been revealed, your publication date confirmed. The more news you have (the more books you have upcoming), the more frequent your newsletters. Once a month is fine. Once every three months is fine. If your newsletters are more frequent than once a month, maybe call it an Updates list, and warn of frequent mailings. (And if they’re Updates, you don’t have to format them like a newsletter – you can be brief and to-the-point, with no graphics or excerpts. I never read excerpts, by the way.)
This isn’t like a website – it’s just for short notes, and doesn’t have to be all business. (Please refrain from live-Tweeting TV shows/films, though.) And you can ReTweet (ReBlog in Tumblr language) as much as you like while Followers can opt-out of seeing them.
As a reader, my Twitter blessing is that there’s always the option to turn OFF ReTweets, so they don’t show up when reading the home feed. It can be labour-intensive – you have to visit every profile you Follow, click the gear next to “Following”, then click on “Turn off Retweets”. There’ll be a confirmation if that works, and you can “Turn on Retweets” from the same menu anytime if you change your mind. Of course, instead of clicking the “Retweet” button, some people actually type “RT @”, so while they’re practically ReTweets, they aren’t TECHNICALLY, which means they show up in your feed even if you’ve turned off ReTweets. Pain in the arse, I know, but we can’t change that.
Twitter tip: If you want your Followers to actually see your images, click “Add photo” and upload them to Twitter. A lot of people just link their Instagram to their Twitter, so their photos don’t actually show up – just links to them. So for the more important photos, such as your book cover reveal, I recommend you upload it to Twitter instead of just putting it on Instagram.
Unlike Twitter, Facebook has an option so you can customise the security of each post: Private, Friends-Only, Custom, or Public. (If you don’t adjust the settings, it’ll default to your most recent post’s setting.)
Facebook Pages may become obsolete for many authors, but just in case…
Facebook tip for READERS: Install FB Purity, check your Pages Feed daily, and arrange your News Feed by “Most Recent” daily. Details here. FB Purity gets rid of ads! It may also get rid of “People you may know”, etc.
Authors may want to consider a Facebook Profile instead. Because it’s personal, not a business, there’s a better chance of your Followers actually being able to see your posts in a timely manner. Profiles have a Friends cap at 5000 (I think?), so make sure you have the “Follow” button enabled – this way, everyone who Follows you (and you can block users) will get to see your Public posts. And enabling the Follow button means you may not feel obliged to accept every Friend Request 😉
Facebook tip for AUTHORS: Always check the security of each post before clicking “Post”. This way, something that you intend to be Friends-Only won’t be Public.
If checking the security setting for each post is getting your goat, consider having two Profiles – one strictly for Friends-Only, and one for Public. If so, perhaps give them different names, and DEFINITELY DIFFERENT AVATARS. This may prevent people accidentally tagging the wrong account.