Of all the social media platforms, Facebook seems to cause authors the most consternation. The generally accepted wisdom is that every author (some say every book title) needs her own Facebook page -- a business page, not simply a personal profile. Meanwhile, most authors I speak to simply dread the idea, and are looking for a clear explanation.
So right up front I will tell you the simple answer: No. Authors do not need a Facebook page. To explain why, first I'll talk about Facebook pages, and then about Facebook itself as it relates to authors.
Facebook pages became popular when authors and public figures realized that they could only be "friends" with 5,000 people through their personal profile. They wanted to reach more people, and rather than starting a second personal account (which some did), requiring them to double-post everything in order to reach a maximum of 10,000 people, it was easier to start a business page.
This meant maintaining a professional presence on their page, and keeping their profile for more personal relationships. Many veteran authors with fairly large followings and multiple titles do this. I would recommend it ONLY if you fall into that camp, really like being on Facebook, want to keep your friends and fans completely separate, and need the analytics that a Facebook page provides.
The only constant in Facebook is that Facebook constantly changes the rules, and last year people with business pages noticed that suddenly their posts were being viewed by only a small fraction of the people who "Liked" their page. Sure enough, with a change in their algorithm Facebook had made those posts show up in far fewer news feeds. The solution that Facebook preferred was for page owners to pay to "Promote" their posts to ensure that they showed up in more followers' news feeds.
Fortunately, around that same time Facebook also initiated "Subscriptions" to your personal profile. What this means is that while each person can still only have 5,000 "friends" on a personal profile, an unlimited number of people can "subscribe" to your public posts there.
This is a much more sane way to build a following on Facebook, particularly if you're just starting out there. You only need to "friend" people who you actually know, and only need to posts updates in one place. So long as your friends don't mind seeing the occasional post about your book and events, you can just make those updates "public" and all your subscribers will see them.
Facebook has a huge number of active users worldwide. Many of them may be readers you want to reach. But if you are thinking about starting a Facebook page for your new book, please reconsider. There is an easier and more effective way of reaching those people, and it is through "Facebook Ads".
Facebook Ads are great for targeting narrow demographic and geographic groups, for short publicity blasts or longer book campaigns. You can set it up so that people who click on your book cover go right to your website, or to an online retailer.
There you have it, my current advice for authors on using Facebook. Do you agree or disagree?
Anne Hill helps authors with wisdom to share create effective platforms and messaging strategies. She will lead a one-day author platforms intensive in Chicago on March 23, 2013.
This was originally published at Creative Content Coaching.