Laying Seeds and Making Friends: Using Facebook to Create a Platform and Brand Yourself

Writers are passionate people: expressive, intelligent, witty, creative and empathetic. So, how can we use that on social media to attract a fan base and develop a brand? Today we’ll take a look at Facebook and how it can be used by writers to build a platform and create a following.

There are over two billion Facebook users. Chances are, nearly all your potential readers are on it. With all the other writers out there and such fierce competition, how can you effectively use it to build a platform for your writing career? The most basic way is simply making friends, each of whom I see as a seed, with the potential of growing and blossoming and spreading the word about you and your work.

I’ve found that Facebook is not about your timeline or author page, but the many, many groups that have been created for every book genre and interest out there. Most likely you have strong feelings about the themes of your book and are well read in your particular genre. So, join these groups. If your book involves mountain climbers, join mountain-climbing groups. If it’s a cozy mystery, join cozy-mystery groups. Interact. Talk. Discuss. Make friends.

Now, don’t just join a group and go down the list of members clicking “add friend.” That’s a little creepy. And don't just ask people to buy your book. You need to engage people. If the group is centered on your favorite book, this should be easy. Be smart, be charming, be witty, and most of all, be funny. If you can make someone laugh, you’re halfway to their heart. And remember, this is real, you are really making friends, some of whom you may come quite close to. It’s no different than being in a real-life social setting. After you’ve developed a rapport, then send a friend request. Do not immediately send an invite to your author page, though, this will appear spammy. Wait at least a week.

Be yourself, don’t force it. If you’re discussing your favorite books and genres with fellow fans, it should be fun and easy. I’m a huge horror fan. I love horror in all its many shapes and forms, so I have no problem going to any of the many horror sites and talking about my passion for the genre. If you happen to meet someone you think would really love your book, offer them a free copy. Once I ran into a fan of best-selling author Ania Ahlborn. Now, not only am I also a fan, but I also took an online creative-writing class taught by Ania. I mentioned this and offered her a free copy of my book. She loved it, and not only recommended it to all her friends and mentioned it numerous times on social media, but even set up a 'Question and Answer' with me on a horror book page with thousands of followers. That one person I reached out to was huge for me.

One mistake writers make is only friending other authors and spending all their time in writer’s groups. There’s nothing wrong with having a lot of writer friends. You can cross promote, be guests at each other’s events, share posts. But you need to really reach out to fans of your genre. Those are the ones who are going to tell all their friends about you and give you lots of free promotion.

Something that should be noted here is that author pages are not what they used to be. Facebook may be a great place to see cat memes and show off pictures of your grandchildren, but it is set up as an advertising platform. Don’t fool yourself, it’s all about money and ads. I spent countless hours culminating likes for my author page, sending invites, finding likeminded fans, until I had thousands of followers. Now when I post on my author page, Facebook sends it out to a hundred to two-hundred people, three-hundred at most. Why? Because they want me to pay to have it sent out to more. Author pages have basically become just a place to put out paid ads. And paid ads can work, tremendously. But that is a whole other can of worms and we’re not going to go there in this blog. What I want to concentrate on is your personal page. (For paid Facebook ad help, reference Mark Dawson's SPF formula)

First off, never ever ever get into politics. This is a sure way to lose a huge chunk of the friends you’ve spent so much time making. If you want to express your views on politics, or want to share intimate details of your life that you are uncomfortable sharing with strangers—like pictures of your children and where you work—it’s probably a good idea to make a separate page for family and close friends. I’ve noticed my fans run the gamut from caring liberals, to rights-obsessed libertarians, to crazy anarchists, to diehard Trump supporters. I don’t want to risk pissing off and losing any of them. The truth is, they’re all good people whom I like very much. They’re just very different ideologically.

Also, make your profile completely public. You want people to see your posts. You want strangers to discover you. Welcome friend requests from random strangers: you’re going to start getting them. Of course, look over their profile and make sure they are real people, not advertising bots. It’s pretty easy to tell the difference. If you get a request from someone with only three friends who has no interest in books or what you write about, and no posts, they’re fake. If they have links to strange advertising sites, especially either sunglasses of pornography, they’re fake. Deny their request and report them as spam.

When I get a random request, I go through and comment and like their posts, engage with them a little. Nearly all of them are either fans, fellow writers, or just curious. When you start getting a lot of random requests from real people, you know you’re on the right track. You’re getting noticed, you’re out there.

Okay, so, you’ve used Facebook build this platform. Now what?

Branding.

You need to brand yourself.

What makes you special? What makes you unique and different from all the other writers out there? For me, it’s pretty easy. I’m a homesteader and small farmer. I live in a notoriously wild and crazy place. And I’m a horror fanatic. I’ve even gone so far as to identify myself as a werewolf with my own nickname: The Humboldt Lycanthrope (also a pseudonym I used to use when writing extreme horror stories on the internet). I try to include each of these attributes in every post I make. People also just love dogs and children, so I often try to include my dog and kids in posts (though if you are uncomfortable exploiting your children to gain fans, just use your dog, lol.)

All right, I guess now’s the time to talk about the new Facebook algorithm.

Used to be if you posted something on Facebook it would go out to all of your friends. Not anymore. If you don’t get immediate likes and comments that post isn’t going anywhere. Facebook wants a community. They want engagement. They want conversations. So, don’t just throw multiple posts up every day without thinking about it. Try to discover what is going to entice your followers, get them both liking and replying. Memes can work, but they have got to be the best memes ever and speak directly to your audience. Stupid cat memes would never work for me. My friends are intelligent, avid readers and lovers of horror. They want something witty and off the wall. So, I post memes about books or horror movies or pop culture that I feel are truly hilarious and special.

You have to cater to your followers. And when they comment, make sure to comment back, and engage in a way that’s going to get a conversation started. That’s what’s going to get you picked up by the algorithm. And don’t be spammy and post too many links to your books! No more than once a week, or even once every two weeks. If you can find posts that will cause conversations, get hundreds of likes, Facebook will start sending out your posts to more and more people. So, wait for that perfect opportunity to advertise your book. After you’ve posted that perfect picture of you and your dog, that got hundreds of likes and tons of comments, bam, then put a link to your book up.

And remember these are real people you are talking to. Don’t be snide. Don’t be rude. Don’t be too controversial. You are making friends. Some for life. I’ve met people on the internet that I’ve become quite close to and had the pleasure of meeting and vacationing with in real life.

Okay, that’s it for now. I hope you found this blog useful and good luck!!

  Matthew V. Brockmeyer is the author of the bestselling horror novel,   KIND NEPENTHE ,  which will be featured by BookBub on July 15, 2018. He lives in an off-grid cabin, deep in the forest of Northern California, with his wife and two children. He enjoys howling at the moon and drenching his fangs in human blood.

Matthew V. Brockmeyer is the author of the bestselling horror novel, KIND NEPENTHEwhich will be featured by BookBub on July 15, 2018. He lives in an off-grid cabin, deep in the forest of Northern California, with his wife and two children. He enjoys howling at the moon and drenching his fangs in human blood.