With 1.86 billion users worldwide and 279 million in the United States alone, chances are you will find an audience of your readers on Facebook.

First, let’s cover a few definitions and an overview before we get into specific tools. The basic account when you sign up is called a profile. You can share some information about yourself, add a picture that will show beside every comment you make, add a bigger cover image across the top like a website banner, and then post text, pictures, links to articles you enjoyed, or even videos on your “wall” to create a unique place all your own. Depending on the privacy setting you choose, whatever you put on your wall can only be seen by your friends (like inside the guest room of your real house), friends of your friends (like if you hosted a party where more people were invited over), or public (like you put a big sign out by the sidewalk).

Speaking of friends, you will then need to find some. One person does the asking and the other does the accepting…and then whatever either of you post, shows up inside your news feed. Facebook’s intention is to create a customized newspaper just for you of the stories you like and about the people you want to know the most about. So they track who you interact with the most and show you more of that and less of the others. Or try to. There are settings to always show a certain person’s posts at the top of your feed and even send you a notification that they posted something new. And settings to hide posts from someone even if you stay friends (just in case you get tired of all those cat videos or pictures of food or political rants).

If Facebook is like a neighborhood of houses where everyone pops in and out to visit each other and catch up on the latest gossip, er news, then this neighborhood likely has a few businesses and social clubs too.

[Tweet “Learn how to navigate the Facebook neighborhood. #BuildAPlatform via @CandeeFick”]

If you have a business, you can create a page where visitors can give their stamp of approval by clicking the “Like” button and become a fan. However, Facebook knows that businesses like to make money and has figured out how to make some money for themselves in the process. Recent changes to Facebook’s algorithm have reduced the number of fans who will actually see content from your page in their news feed. The solution is to create shareable or viral content that gets a lot of visitors interested (so it will likely show up again in their personal news feed) or you will have to buy an ad to get that same content deliberately placed into that virtual newspaper. (More about that later.)

There are also groups inside Facebook, and like any good social club, the privacy settings range from secret up to public that welcomes anyone. Some authors create groups to communicate with their launch or street teams while others writing a continuity series or novella collection use this format to keep everyone on the same page and share research documents. However, the best thing about groups is being able to find potential readers with interests that fit your topic. (And if the group doesn’t exist, you can always start one.) Of course, the purpose of joining a group is to make friends and add value so make sure you follow the group’s rules about what you can post. Remember when we talked about letting an image serve multiple purposes? A public post on your Facebook Page can be shared to a group, or several different groups at various times, making a single post with an eye-catching graphic a valuable asset.

Tool #1: Schedule engaging content ahead. The goal on Facebook is to create opportunities to interact with people and that means posting things that others will like, comment on, or share. Coming up with that level of content takes a different kind of thought than that of your other creative writing, making it ideal for batch scheduling using one of the tools in a previous section. You can also schedule posts on your Page inside Facebook itself. Just start to add an update like you normally would, then instead of clicking the “Publish” button, click that little down arrow beside it to bring up the “Schedule” option and set a time in the future. You can use that same area in the lower right hand corner to find the option to comment on someone else’s post as either yourself or as your business page.

Tool #2: Stalk your favorite author’s page for ideas of things to post and use Page insights to see how you compare when it comes to number of interactions. On your business page, there are plenty of statistics to tell you how many people saw each one of your posts and how many interacted. Experiment with different times of day or different kinds of posts to find what your audience likes the most because that will help you create the best content in the future, especially when you have a book to sell. Lower down the page of insights, you can actually enter in comparable pages and let Facebook do the math for you. You can’t improve what you don’t measure so use those statistics to help grow your audience.

Tool #3: Use the power of video. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is even better. Facebook Live offers you the power to speak directly to your audience “face to face” and offer them a glimpse into your personality. It can be scary for introverted writers to step in front of the camera, but the beauty of live video is that no one expects you to be perfectly put together. Raw, real, and relatable are the keys as you get on, talk a bit, and then get off.
But what to talk about? Some authors have gone on research trips and then done live video “on location” to give a taste of the setting to their readers. Share the news about a contract. Open that box of author copies and show off the new book. Show us around your writing space. If you write non-fiction, share something you learned in your research or a weekly tip to apply the topic of your book in a practical way. If your ideal reader was sitting in front of you, what would you want them to know?

Tool #4: If you have a business page, use that call to action button in the banner to point visitors where you want them. Your website address should already be clickable within your bio, so use the call to action to point people to your email sign up or direct them to a landing page on your website with more information about your newest book or a course you offer.

There are limited options of wording to put on the button itself, but with some creative editing of the cover image using Canva, you could offer the first chapters or a prequel novella for free and then have an arrow pointing to the button that simply says “Sign up.” It may take some trial and error to create an image, upload to Facebook, then edit and repeat until it looks right on multiple devices (computers, tablets like that drawing tablet, and phones), but the effort will pay off by turning the header of your page into a static ad.

Tool #5: If you must, pay to play. For just a few dollars a day, you can use targeted ads to reach more of an audience. If you have an existing post that has attracted a lot of interaction, consider “boosting” it to a larger audience and add more fans of your page in the process. Or you can truly create an advertisement to announce a pre-release special or giveaway. The targeting aspect allows you to show the information to all of the people who already like your page, to their friends, or even a segment of book-buying women who also like musicals. Either way, you will establish both a budget and a time frame for the promotion in addition to selecting the specific audience. Using the ad manager, you can then see how many people saw your boosted post or ad, plus how many clicked through to take action. This allows you to test two different styles of posts or the same post with different target audiences.

As you spend more time on Facebook, you’ll discover new ways to find and interact with the perfect reader for your book. Add value to their lives and build relationships as an investment toward a future payoff when you have a book of your own to announce. Once you’ve mastered this platform, it might be time to move on to Twitter.

(NOTE: If you found this post helpful, you can find the entire blog series in a single book here.)

The Author Toolbox: Navigating the Facebook Neighborhood
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