I’ve had a few requests recently for advice and workshops on how to use Facebook in publishing. It’s no surprise that the ubiquity of Facebook has finally reached the publishing world: it’s cheap, it’s effective, it’s easy. So how should you use it?
Most of your staff probably already have their own Facebook profiles. A lot of your authors probably do too. That’s a good thing, because you need to have a presence in the social media space if you want to use it authentically. Being active on Facebook gives you ‘permission’ to be there and promote your wares to interested people. But be careful how you use it. Facebook is a community, not a shopping mall.
Here is my top 10 Facebook checklist:
1. Profiles are for people, not products. There’s no reason why your author shouldn’t use their book jacket as a profile picture, at least around publication. But don’t create a profile for a book or a company. Real profiles, real people, real names are the order of the day. Both publishing staff and authors can – and should – have Facebook profiles in order to start using Facebook marketing.
2. Groups are for communities of interest. Groups are great. People like to join groups. Easy to set up and manage (almost no maintenance time involved), they allow people to have forum discussions, post images, videos and links, write on your wall. Make sure you include your web address, and fulfill a genuine area of interest by providing some useful resources that will draw a community. You might set up a group as a ‘fan club’ for a book, or maybe a blog linked to a book. These things can work well when they’re a few steps removed from the actual product.
3. Pages are for products. Have you become a ‘fan’ of something on Facebook lately? You become a fan of a page (as opposed to a member of a group). Pages can be for people – usually celebrities – or businesses or products. They have similar functionality to groups, such as a ‘wall’ where people can write things, areas to post links, pictures and videos, and discussion forums. But you can also add applications to pages, as you can to profiles. That allows you much more flexibility – such as pulling in postings from your blog using an RSS feed, or adding a ‘reviews’ application.
4. Events bring people together. So much for online networking. Why not meet your fans in real life at an event? Events are easy to organise in Facebook, and are ideal for book launches, mini-conferences, or other real life happenings. Events can be created by people (i.e. profiles), groups or pages.
5. Be findable. In Facebook, people search for things that interest them, so think carefully about the title of your group, page or event. Think keywords and search terms. For example, if you do a search for ‘publishing’, you’re likely to find the Publishing Talk group.
6. Post in other groups. Join groups that are relevant to your book or area of interest. Don’t spam them with a marketing message. Do write on their wall if you have something you think will be of genuine interest to the group – whether it’s a new book, a conference or other event, with a link. If you’re a marketing exec for a publishing company (for example), it’s OK to say so.
7. Don’t be afraid to use your own profile. This depends on how compartmentalised you like your life to be. A friend of mine once tried to set up several Facebook profiles, for work, personal, etc. No, no, no. How on earth would people know which version to connect to? If you must, use (e.g.) MySpace for personal, LinkedIn for work, Facebook for something else. Better yet, recognise that authenticity matters, and well-rounded self-mediated people do well online. Whether you’re an author or publisher, it’s fine to plug your book in Facebook, so long as you do it in an authentic way.
8. Applications help with viral marketing. So long as they’re not too annoying, and you don’t make people invite all their friends before you can use them. Pan Macmillan have launched a few of these this year, including This Application Will Change Your Life (linked to the book This Diary Will Change Your Life 2008).
9. Internal groups engage staff. Some publishers have internal blogs, behind the firewall. This is a good use of blogging to facilitate discussion within a company, especially a large one with many staff and international offices. It is possible to use Facebook groups internally too, by making them private, secret and invite-only. But please be aware that one of the controversies around Facebook is that it legally owns all your content! So probably not so good for anything confidential you want to discuss.
10. Don’t ban Facebook at work. This was a trend earlier in 2008, when many companies issued a blanket ban on Facebook, thinking it a time-wasting website that ate up valuable business hours. Not so. Staff will socialise anyway, and at least Facebook is an efficient way of doing it. But more importantly, you have to have an authentic personal profile on Facebook to be able to use it authentically to market your books. You must have a profile in order to set up groups or pages for your books or authors. Very many of your customers are on Facebook – so you need to be to.
I’m sure there are other, innovative ways to use Facebook too. Let us know how you’ve used it, and how useful (or otherwise) you found it.