Which is better – a Facebook page or a Facebook profile?

Writers these days need to care about more than just words on the page, they have to let the world know that their work exists if they don’t want it to disappear into the ether having been read only by their auntie Marge and their best mate Dave. And that means developing a presence on social media, which inevitably includes Facebook.

When my first book Song of the Sea God was published by Skylight Press I had the same level of presence on social media as a member of a remote, undiscovered tribe in the Amazon jungle – so at least I had he luxury of starting from scratch. I also had a reasonable knowledge of social media since part of my day job is creating and managing accounts for the organisation I work for.

facebookOne of the things I had to decide when I came to open my own accounts was whether my home on Facebook should be based on a profile, the standard Facebook presence everyone starts with, or whether I should set up a page – (what used to be called a ‘fan page.’)

Now, of course, you can have both – nothing stopping you, but I decided that posting to one or the other was the best use of my limited time and in the end I decided to stick with the profile which you can see if you click here and not bother at this stage with a Facebook page. It’s not a decision I’ve regretted in the couple of years since then.

Why did I choose this route? On the face of it, it seems a contrary decision, the pages after all are set up precisely so people can promote goods and services – big corporations have pages, major charities, brands, large and small. And I have a book – soon two books – to promote.

Well – here are seven reasons why I use my profile rather than set up a page:

1. Pages are Facebook’s way of trying to make you pay.

Facebook is a company and, in the end, it will have to make money in order to keep going. One of the main ways it is seeking to do this is through establishing business users, who have pages, and separating them from individual users with profiles. Once you have a page you are targeted for advertising – Facebook offers to ‘boost’ your posts and allow you to reach more people the more you pay. This is great if you are a big company with an advertising budget – I’m sure Facebook advertising can be very effective, I’ve used it in my day job in communications. But I don’t have a budget as an author – I make very little from writing literary fiction, certainly not enough to make it worth advertising.

2. You only ever reach a tiny proportion of your page ‘fans’ for free.

Surprise! Facebook limits the number of people who see each post on your Facebook page – it wants you to pay to reach the people who signed up to get your posts anyway. My experience is that the ‘edge ranking’ for a page post, the number at the bottom which shows how many people it has reached, can be as low as 10 per cent of your fans. So you make all that effort building your ‘fans’ but most don’t see your posts on their newsfeed – unless you pay of course.

3. Pages are a one way street – not mutual sharing.

If you have a profile you become friends with people and effectively share content – they see yours, you see theirs – it’s a mutual experience. With a page you are asking someone to take your content in a one-way stream – fine if you are a big brand and people are interested in you. But if you are just starting out and don’t really have genuine ‘fans’ then what is people’s motivation for liking your page?

twitter4. Set up a page and you will spend your time begging for fans on Twitter.

There’s sometimes a feeling of desperation over Facebook pages on Twitter. I have 20,000 followers on there @ChilledCH and so I get inundated with requests from people to follow their Facebook author pages. Every day there are new appeals in my Direct Message box “Like my page, please like my page – I will like yours if you like mine …”

5. A profile is more personal.

The reason I like the Facebook profile is that it feels more personal – less corporate. I want one presence on Facebook which covers all my needs and I don’t constantly bang on about my book – I ask questions, join in with jokes, communicate with people in a two-way conversation. That, for me, is what social media is all about. I’ve made some great friends on there, not to mention contacts who have been kind enough to help me in all sorts of ways. I’m not sure I could have achieved that through a page.

6. A profile allows up to 4000 friends.

Which is more than enough at my stage. I have less than 1,500 friends on Facebook. Why would I need an uncapped page when I am nowhere near having enough people to reach the limit on my profile? I’m not a famous author, I’m one with a single book out and another on the way (The Pick Up Artist, due out with Magic Oxygen Publishing on February 14!) My writing is important to me, but so is building up friendships and connections.

7. You can set your profile to accept followers as well as friends.

I have my profile set so that people who do not wish to ‘friend’ me, and so share their own posts, can simply ‘like’ my profile, in the same way they would like a page – so they see mine but I don’t see theirs. If they are interested in my writing but don’t want to do the full ‘friends’ thing then they have that option. It’s the best of both worlds surely?

Perhaps in the future – if my reputation as an author grows and I have people flocking to get to know me on Facebook I might start an author page. Until then, in all modesty, I believe the profile option suits where I am as an author.

What do you think? Page, profile or both?

Song of the Sea GodIf you get a moment to take a look at the (ahem) award-winning Song of the Sea God.

You can look inside to read the first few pages free and download a free Kindle sample for UK readers here. And for readers in the USA here.

32 thoughts on “Which is better – a Facebook page or a Facebook profile?”

    1. Thanks Val. I can see why people would want to keep those separate. Because I didn’t have one at all before I was able to have one which did both, though of course I am careful not to share much personal or family stuff.

  1. This is really interesting. I don’t have any presence at all on Facebook (a personal decision as I don’t like/trust them for some instinctive reason). I find Twitter offers me all the benefits of direct communication with people I am interested in and vice versa. This Twitter chit chat is not always about writing – in fact I’d say 90% of the time it’s about everything except writing – but because I have developed social media friendships I have gained a few readers.

    I love this way of communicating. It feels more open and honest and natural rather than the overtly commercial offerings from Facebook. I totally agree that it is the conversation that matters most, though how this would be possible if you were a writer with thousands and thousands of fans I don’t know.

    That said when I see how Ian Rankin or Joanne Harris use Twitter to simply chat and chew the fat, it seems to be possible to interact with readers if you simply be yourself online.

    It will be interesting to see how Facebook develops – what they intend to do with profiles.

    The pages, for an ordinary person sound awful.

    1. I quite like Facebook, I think you can get to know someone better and have more of a conversation than Twitter, though of course both have their place. I think some authors do well with pages – the American self-published ones who are real marketing experts make it work for them of course, but for a lot of little authors I think a page can be a distraction.

      1. I agree Chris – 140 characters is limiting when you want to involve potential friends and readers. I haven’t use my Twitter stream or FB specifically for my writing yet and don’t intend to have a page other than my current personal one which I feel will be sufficient.

      2. Well I can say I’ve never felt the lack of a page – there’s never been a time I’ve felt I couldn’t say or do something or promote my book with what I already have, it’s certainly been sufficient for what I have needed so far.

  2. I agree, Chris. Having a Facebook page is a waste of time, unless you have thousands of followers or are willing to pay. I have a page for my copywriting business and the organic reach is only ever about 15%. I have experimented with paid ads but I am not convinced it is worth the money. I will keep using it, though, for now, but I am not relying on it, as such.

    1. Facebook’s policy seems to have shifted over time – they are making it harder and harder to get anything out of a page without paying. The trouble is, because it’s one size fits all, it only really works for big companies or brands it seems to me.

  3. A few days ago, I had an avid reader post on Facebook about the Cyber Age and how exciting it is to be able to interact more with authors from anywhere in the world, forging online relationships that would have otherwise been impossible. She tagged me, and I have to admit it sort of made my day. I can’t agree more with Chris’s point about mutuality. Isn’t reader interaction one of our top priorities? My online relationships range from Big 6 authors to young, newish readers who show great excitement that an author even communicates with them. A page wouldn’t fully do that. I happen to have both (but a book character page instead of an author page). I’ve noticed how all these “likes” quickly forget about the “page” over time, but online relationships through a personal Facebook account seem to endure more. Great blog piece, Chris. Real nice points made. Enjoyed.

  4. Thanks Jesse:) I think that’s exactly it – the whole point is conversation. Authors aren’t a brand like Heinz Baked Beans we are people first and always. A book is an expression of our personality and it becomes a conversation as readers interact with it and add their thoughts. A Facebook profile is something which allows that interaction I think.

  5. I think it depends whether or not you used Facebook before publishing. I have both, because my non reading Facebook friends (around 260 of them, comprising real life friends, family, online friends and a few authors I’ve met via Twitter) don’t want to read book posts all the time. They then have the option whether or not to ‘like’ my author page, if they are interested in that side of my life. I don’t think either options should be used for marketing in the way Twitter, is, incidentally. And anyone who asks for ‘likes’ on their page via Twitter is a total douche!!!!!

    1. Yes, I do feel I was lucky being able to start from a clean slate – and also I don’t really need to be plugging my book to the exclusion of all else so it works for me to stick to the profile. But I certainly see that other people have a different set of circumstances requiring a different solution. It’s a shame Facebook can’t offer more options with its page rather than treating me and JK Rowling as if were were the same for business purposes.

  6. Very good post, Chris. And certainly food for thought. After reading this I went and checked my author page, which I set up because many of the ‘how to use social networking’ guides suggested it, and discovered that each post only reaches about 5 people. And yet if I don’t update it every three days, Facebook starts harassing me to add content… pff. So, colour me converted. The page is going to the big blue bin in the cloud.

  7. HI Chris! I see much discussion of this lately among author friends. Unfortunately, Facebook ‘rules’ are pretty clear — no business allowed on personal accounts (though obviously, it happens ALL THE TIME). Here’s a helpful article from the Social Media Examiner with more info on how to use one’s personal ‘friend’ account and still stay within guidelines. Hope it helps!

    http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/personal-facebook-profile-for-business/

    1. As usual, Miss Rachel is spot-on and offers a welcomed link just when I was beginning to question myself.
      I agree, the Facebook page is annoying as can be for its money-grubbing demands especially when us little fish aren’t even making money! But I keep that open to the public with my “public” face where I try to be cognizant of the company message.
      My personal page is where I can talk with my friends more personally. PLUS, there I see their posts.
      I wouldn’t mind leaving FB, but for better or worse, my people are there (not even on Twitter). The other set of my people are only in email and nowhere near SoMe. (Gaaa!)
      I do “share” every FB business page post to my personal page, but since I’m also talking on my personal page about making Kombucha, baking bread and Talk Like A Pirate Day… I don’t think they can accuse me of using it only for business! 😉

      1. I suppose I don’t really have a business face right now – only me, which includes me as an author. Who knows, down the line if my books find a home with the big publishing houses rather than the smaller ones who publish me now then maybe I will take a different route 🙂

  8. I just read the post and considered it again, Chris – I can really see how for non FB users it might work best to have a profile. Only problem is, though, that Facebook is very much a non-marketing site, as far as the personal pages go; I think some people who didn’t use it before don’t realise exactly how much. Before I started self-publishing, I remember how people were against the use of personal profiles for promotion, even if the promotion is low-key. Which leads me to wonder if the only people who will add authors as friends are other authors. However, I get that you are far too savvy to overdo it, unlike some. And yes – your point number 2 is very valid indeed. I scarcely use my author page anymore; the only advantage is that you have more than 140 characters for a post, but I usually just stick to Twitter. A more intelligent and interesting site, and a far greater reach.

    1. I think you are right Terry – it really does depend on how you go about it. For me being on Facebook where people can speak to me if they wish, about my book or whatever else, is the important thing, it’s about having a presence there first and foremost.

  9. Hello, my name is Shelley and I’m a Facebook addict. Phew, that felt good to say it. Really enjoyed your post Chris, I have a personal profile plus a page for my books and only recently wished I hadn’t bothered with the latter. I also have a business page and one for my blog (told you I was addicted). Your article has helped me to make a few important streamlining decisions so thank you. I’m also a huge Twitter fan but that’s another story!

    1. Ha – that’s funny 🙂 I’m a bit of an addict myself! I think what you say illustrates that it’s not one size fits all and the solution which might work for one person won’t for another, it depends on what you are doing, what you have to promote and so on.

  10. Hmmm… I’m going to disagree but explain why. It’s true only a few followers see any random post on my author page and they seem to force you to pay. BUT, if you ask the right questions where people will interact more than other comments (asking for help, showing a photo – versus a link), you can generate more conversation and views. For instance, this week I asked for help with a new cover launch. People love to help and now about 600 views have been seen and maybe 40+ comments. That’s pretty decent for a page that I didn’t promote. (did I hit all 1400 followers? No, unfortunately) but I also like the idea that I can wax ad nausea on my author page about my writing, versus annoying my friends and family on my personal page. Of course, this is just me. I don’t know if any of this social media works in the end, but those are my two cents. I also direct people to my author page from my blog, twitter and google+ IF I have something interesting to talk about – when I do that, I get hits and it shows up on other’s feeds too, so it’s a bit of an added hit, again without paying. 🙂

    1. Thanks for that – in the end if it works for you that’s great. I would say it would definitely make sense for someone with more books out, a genuine fan base and so on – I just think some beginner authors are spending a lot of time trying to build these things up when it might be more productive for them to simply use their profile.

  11. Nice timing on this Chris!
    I’ve been grappling with this for a while. Since I use a pen name I have a real name/personal profile, an author name profile and an author name page – and I usually end up sharing posts between accounts anyway because I too get precious few views from my page posts. Your points make a lot of sense, thanks for spelling it all out. Others’ situations might be different but in my case methinks it is time to axe the author page. As it is I don’t post on there enough and it actually makes me look a bit disengaged – as if anyone might notice!
    Best of luck with the new book!
    Kevin

    1. Thanks re the book Kevin! The issue with different names is an interesting one. I understand Facebook expect people to have profiles in their own name rather than in another name, such as a pen name. It’s no problem for me as I use my own name anyway, but I can see it might be an issue for some people.

  12. Be aware that the Terms and Conditions of Facebook prohibit using a personal profile for commercial gain:

    https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms

    4.4 You will not use your personal timeline primarily for your own commercial gain, and will use a Facebook Page for such purposes.

    They will shut-down your profile if they find you using it for business purposes.

    Likewise people using more than one account.

    1. Thanks Steve. I’m aware of the rules of course. I would say about 80 per cent of my posts on Facebook have nothing to do with my writing. I’m a person first and a writer as part of that. My publisher is a business, they have a business page. Rest assured – there is no way my Facebook feed could be considered as being used ‘primarily’ for commercial gain.
      Like most other authors I am on there to socialise with other people, some of whom will be readers, some writers, and some who will have no connection with books at all.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *