Sunday, September 13, 2009

I'm on Facebook...Now What?

Janet here. Perhaps I’m one of the few who isn’t comfortable or savvy when it comes to social networking. I’m on Facebook and in a group of Love Inspired Historical authors at MySpace, but that doesn’t mean I have a clue what I’m doing. Figuring I couldn’t be the only one who might need a little help getting started, I cajoled Shirley Jump, my critique partner and Harlequin romance writer extraordinaire, to give us a barebones look at social networking.

Shirley not only agreed, she’s giving away a copy of A Princess for Christmas, her October 2 release. Leave a comment or share your experiences with social networking, good and bad. Don't forget to give your e-mail address.

With no further ado, here’s Shirley!

First, thank you to Janet for having me back at Seekerville! This is such a great group of writers and it’s always a pleasure to be here!

Today, I’m going to talk about social networking sites. I don’t purport to be an expert, by any stretch of the imagination, on any of this, but can tell you what I’ve done and/or has worked for me.

1. The number one most important thing you can do to promote your books and your brand is WRITE A GREAT BOOK. That’s the first and biggest piece of advice I have, and the one that a lot of people, I’ve found, tend to skip over. While promoting on different websites can help sales, honestly, the thing that really makes readers buy you over and over again isn’t how many Tweets you send, but what a wonderful reading experience they find when they open the pages of your book. Concentrate on the book, because that’s really the best expenditure of your efforts—if you have to choose where to spend a few precious hours each day.

2. Don’t try to be everywhere at once. There are SO many places “demanding” a presence, and new places springing up all the time. You can quickly find yourself spending hours and hours every week trying to balance your time between Facebook, Twitter, MySpace…and the list goes on and on. Never mind your own website and blog, if you have them.

3. Don’t make it all about promotion. These are called SOCIAL networking sites for a reason. People who sign on as your fan or “friend” are there because they want to learn more about you, and not just when your next booksigning is.

4. Be careful, though, not to tell TOO much. Use the privacy settings, and use some common sense, before posting something. These people are essentially strangers and you don’t want to be giving them so much information that they can track you down at home and ring your doorbell during dinner.


Facebook is a massive, growing community that is user-friendly, interactive and one of the easier of the social networking communities to use, IMO. You have two options here—a personal page, or a fan page. The personal page is great for connecting with friends and family you haven’t seen in a long time, and communicating your life’s events with them. A fan page is less interactive, and if you want the least amount of interaction, and less “work” to maintain your page, a fan page is probably the best way to go. The fan pages don’t get all those feeds from everyone who posts, and just basically are there to announce your news and interact with your fans.
Do you need both? IMO, it all depends, again, on how much time you want to spend on Facebook and what your ultimate goal is. You WILL get readers requesting to “friend” you on your personal page; it’s inevitable if your writing name is associated with your real name. You can choose to add them or send them straight to the fan page. In the beginning, I sent all fans to the fan page, then finally gave up because I was getting several requests a week, and just added fans to my personal page as friends. However if you do that, a few things to keep in mind:

1. Tailor your privacy settings. Go to Settings->Privacy->Profile and choose who can see what. I have my friends set into two groups—Friends and Family (which is close friends and my family) and Fans. F&F are allowed to see my address, for example, but Fans can’t. So when you are in your privacy settings and you click on “Personal Info”, you can choose Customize to say who sees what. I simply created the two groups and as I approve friend requests, I choose which group the new “friend” goes into, so they are automatically covered under the privacy rules I set up. To set up the groups, you can go to “All Connections,” and choose “Create New List,” and sort your friends list like that.

2. Be sure to check the privacy settings on photos, too. I keep photos of my kids to friends and family only. You can simply choose those options when you set up the photo album. Just make sure that as you post pictures, you load them to the correct albums, so that they maintain the privacy settings you’ve chosen.

3. Virtually anything you post or add onto Facebook can be customized like this. Just watch some of the things that automatically go on your wall. The wall is the main page of Facebook, the home page. It’s where everything is posted from your friends and from you. Sort of like if you were in middle school and everyone had a real wall to hang notes and photos on. A semi-public bulletin board. You can choose, also, under your privacy settings, who can read postings on your walls from your friends. I have mine set so that the ones from my close friends and family aren’t seen by fans. You just never know what family is going to say, LOL. If you don’t want your readers to know “The Ten Craziest Things You’ve Done” then just don’t take the quiz or answer the questionnaire.


Twitter, thanks to folks like Ashton Kutcher and Oprah, who have made Twitter into a household name, is becoming huge. It’s perfect for people who have little time and want to get quick messages out. Joining is free, and it requires little more input than sending the equivalent of a text message. “Tweets” are limited to 140 characters (which is where the similarity to a text message comes from) and are designed to be quick updates. A few tips on Twitter:

1. Don’t make all your Tweets about promo: When people “follow” you, which is sort of the friend concept of Twitter, they don’t want to read a ton of “yeah-me” posts. They want to hear the same kind of fun, quirky things you might post on Facebook. The “I found a great recipe for burgers” and the “just bought a new puppy” kinds of things are as interesting to fans as “my book is in stores today!”. So mix it up when posting your Tweets.

2. Be nice and reTweet. A reTweet (RT) is when you essentially forward someone else’s Tweet. Say your friend Joe posts a link to a great story on a website. You want to share it with your Twitter friends, so you RT his Tweet.

3. Be smart and conserve your energy. If you are already on Facebook, you can add in the Twitter application and do dual duty. Once it’s added in, you can choose it from the bottom left menu and then post a Tweet that is also your Facebook status—two birds, one stone.

4. Don’t feel compelled to respond to everything. These sites move fast, and you can waste hours and hours following other people, responding to their tweets…etc. Don’t feel the need to write back to everything.

5. Also, in that vein, don’t post a Tweet every five seconds or a Facebook status update every hour, for that matter. People really don’t want to hear EVERY SINGLE SOLITARY mundane detail of your life. Be judicious in how much you post.

MySpace, etc.:

There’s also MySpace, which lots of people are already on. I’ve found that fans in the MySpace world tend to stay in the MySpace world. They really want everything they want/seek to be on your MySpace page. They just don’t go surfing the web outside of that little microcosm of MySpace. Why, I don’t know. If you don’t have time to set up your own MySpace page (and don’t feel compelled to; always come back to Rule Number 1: the writing comes first), then join a group one. Like a group blog, this allows you to spend less time for the same return.
Making appearances at other places like the forums of Romantic Times, the boards at eHarlequin, the forums at CoffeeTime Romance, et. al., can also seem like a great use of your promotional time. And it can be…or it can be a huge time suck. You really have to look at how many hours you are spending on all these spaces and weigh that against the time you need to be investing in the book.

In the end, the book and the writing should always come first. This post is designed to give you a basics overview of social networking, and hopefully get you pointed in the right direction, should you want to add any of the above to your promotional efforts.


Thanks, Shirley, for the detailed explanation on how to customize Facebook settings and all the social networking tips! I'm going to take a look at mine once I'm back from the ACFW conference.

I made blueberry pancakes. I’m serving them with crisp bacon, warm syrup and whipped-cream smiley faces. That’s how happy I am to have Shirley in Seekerville this Monday morning!


  1. Thanks for the great tips, Shirley. I found the info on making groups within Facebook friends quite helpful.

  2. Personally I never got into Myspace...I joined a few years ago but I never got the hang of it. Facebook IMO is the easiest networking site to use and I really like it. I have Twitter too but I'm not so sure I like it as much. I do like that you can customize the background to match your blog, which you can't do on Facebook.

    Thank you for the tips about security...I didn't realize there were so many security settings on Facebook! I had a link to my Facebook on my blog but I just removed it until I can get some things fixed with my security!

    Great post!

    XOXO~ Renee

  3. I'm not on Myspace but I am on Facebook and find it's really fun. I've created The Book Club Network where writers connect with readers and readers to their books.

    Every week I send out a question to everyone about books. Right now I've asked them what five characters they would invite to dinner and what would they do. It's a blast to discover their answers are, some people are so imaginative.

    I'm on twitter. Shelfari, shoutlife and a few others. I really enjoyed your article and you were so write about achieving balance. I don't spend alot of time in anyone thing. It makes me crazy to do so!! But I do enjoy reading peoples status and Twitter is fun to catch once in a while.

    You've brought up some good points.

    Nora St.Laurent

    Finding Hope Through Fiction

  4. I have Myspace, but I don't use it. However, I have friends who love it. I prefer Facebook and have my privacy settings set so that family and close friends can see about anything. However, with the number of friends I have on FB, I'm afraid I may have put the kibbosh on people I know without meaning to. (I really need to go through my list, but never seem to have time.)

  5. Forgot my e-mail address.


  6. I love Twitter and FB and the fact that I can join the two. I have the funniest conversations on Twitter...maybe because it has to be so short. :) I didn't know about grouping friends on FB, so I will definitely be checking in on that! Thanks for the info!


  7. Thanks for posting, Shirley. I knew about fan pages and friend pages, but I didn't realize you could adjust the privacy settings. I don't post pictures of my family because I don't want all my friends to see them. Now I can create an area set aside for friends and family.

  8. Hi Shirley,

    I enjoyed your post. I'm on both Myspace and Facebook. I find both helpful but in different ways.


    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  9. What a great Monday. Pancakes and a great guest. Welcome back to Seekerville, Shirley. Thanks for the very informative post.

  10. Good morning, Keli. I'm learning a lot about social networking. Now if I can just find the time to implement it.


  11. Renee, sounds like you know way more about Facebook than I do. But then, doesn't everybody? :-) Like you, I'm glad to know the info on security.


  12. Nora, the Book Club Network sounds awesome! I'll have to check that out.


  13. Walt, I need to be more disciplined about going out to Facebook on a regular basis. Time is always an issue.


  14. Welcome to Seekerville, Shirley! Thanks for bringing us all the great social networking insight.

    All the networks that have opened up are tremendous opportunities to spread your name and image, but you hit the problem dead on -- they require time. Time, frankly, I don't have.

    I have a Facebook page and a name to use on Twitter (haven't ventured into THAT realm yet). I'm involved in a couple blogs and can barely keep up on email.

    Whew! Oh yeah, AND write the book.

    Thanks for taking the pressure off by saying it's okay to be choosy. I really have no other option and I love hearing it's okay.

    Thanks for the privacy tips, too. Even though my kids are rather grown already and have MySpaces of their own, I don't care for MY public at large to know too much about my family.

    Thanks for stopping by, Shirley!

    Great pancakes, Janet! Keep the bacon coming!!

  15. Oh Shirley, This is GREAT information. I'm trying to limit my social networking to Facebook and Twitter, but I wasn't quite sure how to 'use' that. Your tips have been helpful.

    I think I should like to create a fan page, as well as the personal page on facebook - just to separate the two. Is it easy to do?

    Oh, and I just learned how to feed my blogs into my facebook page, which cuts down on 'update' time too. Kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. (I'm not computer saavy either, so this made me feel brilliant)

  16. Thanks for the info, Shirley! I'm clueless on all things techie. I do have a blog, which I've had for a few years now, and I finally got on Facebook a couple of weeks ago, mainly because I thought it would be fun to find people I haven't seen in a decade or two. But I worry about the privacy thing. I posted pictures of my beautiful daughters on there, but I'm wondering if I should take them down. Although I don't exactly have "fans" yet, I don't want predators looking at my kids. I also don't really want my site to say "Melanie only shares that info with her friends" or whatever it says when you start being selective about what to share.

    So I'm thinking I might leave my daughters' pictures up a little longer and then take them down later, when I get famous, ha. So if you want to see my precious girls, you better go look now!

  17. Hi Shirley (& Janet),

    Thanks for this post. Great information which I will definitely check out. I like the idea of separate sections for close relatives and not-so close acquaintances. I know the privacy issue is a big thing. There's some court case happening up here in Canada about Facebook to do with privacy.

    I'd love a chance to win your book, Shirley. Great cover, btw!

    My email is : sbmason (at) sympatico (dot)ca.

    Thanks again for this helpful info.

    Sue, a self proclaimed techo-fobic!

  18. Thanks for the great info. about separating Facebook groups, Shirley. I was getting a little bugged by having all my darling niece's thoughts posted by writer stuff I'm interested in. I think separating things could help that, too.

    I have read your new "Princess" book and loved it. You are do sweet romances so well. Sigh!

    Well, if I win a copy, I'll give it as a Christmas gift.

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  19. Great information, Shirley! I'm so ignorant when it comes to Facebook and Twitter, although I am on Facebook. Some people must spend have their day on it!

  20. Thanks Shirley and Janet -- this was SUCH a helpful post, especially for an Internet-illiterate like me.

    Unlike you, Janet, I am a Facebook dropout because I was on it three days and decided I didn't need the extra pressure of responding to people over and above the e-mails I get, so I admire you for doing it. I did have a good reader/friend ask if she could set up a fan page for me, and I said yes, so I do have a Facebook presence at least, thanks to Ashli.

    I have so much trouble curtailing my e-mail time, that I think I am just scared to death that social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace will end up eating me alive.

    Shirley, if you had to pick just one social network as a promotional tool, which would it be?


  21. Oh, and Shirley, I'm hoping I'm eligible for the contest, because your new book looks SOOOOO good -- here's my e-mail info:



  22. I finally succumbed to "peer pressure" and joined facebook. Granted it is easy to use but I'm not really a fan. I get frustrated because of the e-mails I get from people saying "gee, you didn't answer my post, are you mad at me?" etc. and that makes me crazy.

    I can see the advantage of them but sometimes they feel like a "tether".

    OK, that's just me.

    Looking forward to signing up to the BIAW challenge.

    Thinking about that a lot!

  23. I suspect I'm a total Facebook/Myspace/Twitter/Blogger abuser. I will now claim that as part of using my time wisely.
    I do my social personal stuff here and on my Petticoats & Pistols blog. Those others are probably ... 90% promotion. And no doubt boring as all get out.
    I do a LOT of it but I suppose I don't do ANY of it well.

    Too bad.
    I have Twitter and Blogger-including my personal blog and Seekerville-post automatically to Facebook...but I can't figure out how to post that to my facebook fan page. So if I want stuff there I have to go in and put it on the wall (or whatever that is I put little links on)
    That's frustrating. But the power I have over my fan page just doesn't seem to exist. When I log in and all the little live links above and below the page are connected to my personal Facebook page, NOT the fan page. I can't seem to get around that. And I suppose, honestly, I haven't tried that hard, though I have TRIED HARD on occasion. But since failure is the result and success seems possible, I guess I haven't tried hard enough.

    Shoutlife I try to use but I wish I could load Twitter and Blogger there automatically. Also Shoutlife just opens too slowly. I try to go in and put the same links to interviews and giveaways there that I put on twitter.

    Again, boring.

  24. So, Shirley do you know what's up with the fanpage? Any thoughts? You're a social network genius, right? :)

  25. Oh, also, I have Seekerville and my personal Blog load to my Amazon Author page. Another one of those social network sites where you can get connected once and it keeps working forever.

  26. Great advice for us newbies!!!

    Shirley, thank you!!!!

    I'm printing this off so I can play next week, post-conference.

    And Princess for Christmas???

    I'm already drawn in by the sheer sweetness of that cover.



  27. Hi Shirley

    I'm a new author in historical romance. And I started promoting my book on Facebook long before it was out. I made so many nice author friends. One in particular put me in contact with a friend who had a webpage filled with other authors and readers.

    Now my book Forever Yours is known and getting good reviews.

    MJ Smith

  28. Hi, Shirley: This is so timely. I think the best advice was the first - to write that book so you have something to FB, twit and tweeter about! How do you find enough hours in the day? I'd love to win a copy of your Oct. release. Thanks for the opportunity.

    nvgrams [at] yahoo [dot] com

  29. Thanks for the tips! I've been cleaning up my privacy settings on Facebook lately, but I'm wondering about pictures or videos that I'm tagged on by other friends. Can I adjust security settings on those since they're technically on someone else's profile? Or maybe just untag myself...does that do the trick? Anyone know?

  30. Great tips re: FB security. I didn't know how to do most of that stuff, and I appreciate knowing that I can share pics of my family with friends if I want, but not the every FB "friend". My husband had a bad experience with a stranger copying and using his profile pic, which unfortunately happened to include our kids. The situation is over, but our stomachs were in knots for a few days.

    Social networking sites have great potential for promoting our work and ministries, but can be probelmatic. I appreciate your suggestions! Thank you!

    I'd love to win a copy of the book: srdietze [at] sbcglobal [dot] net

  31. YouTube, anyone?

    This is good. You have me thinking about boosting my Internet presence. My son is working on a YouTube video but is having trouble loading it (If anyone can help us with that, please e-mail mem privately).

    Anyway, did anyone see the Susan Elizabeth Phillips YouTube? Or was it just a video from her Web Page? It was very down-to-earth, not glitzy at all, and I loved it.

    Anyone doing any videos, and I don't mean book trailers?

  32. Hi all,

    Popping in finally because I have a book due tomorrow that refuses to write itself. LOL.

    Mary--I can do that stuff on my fanpage, so I'm not sure what your question is, honestly. The fanpage has some limitations compared to a regular FB page, but overall, I like having the extra one.

    Glad the info has been helpful everyone! I will try to get back today again, if I can get these darn pages to move faster!

  33. Word of caution about "double-duty". Some folks will get annoyed if they see the same tweet/post coming across FB and Twitter. (Most don't care.)

    And for some reason, I can get tweets to post to FB, but not the reverse, which sucks because I spend more time on FB than on Twitter.

  34. Lisa, I didn't understand the privacy settings either. I had mine set so high no one but friends could find me. But that's hard when I had no least on Facebook. :-)


  35. Audra, I identify with the time thing and I don't have a day job. But the more I do something the more natural it becomes and the less time it takes. Or so I hope.


  36. Sue, you and I must've been separated at birth. :-) I'm scared of this stuff too.

    I love Shirley's cover too!


  37. The info Shirley provided for FB is very helpful, but especially the advice to write the best book you can write. Thank you Shirley and Janet. I'm on ShoutLife and FB, but both sites have seen little activity for awhile. I plan to revive them. I do like SL.Love to win a copy of Shirley's book.

  38. I don't go out to Facebook often enough, Julie. I need to get in a rhythm like I have at Seekerville. Maybe check it once a day or even once a week.


  39. Mary, I love the Amazon author page but I've fallen off writing my blog. Another thing I need to do. I hadn't thought to add Seekerville posts. Great idea.


  40. Great tips! I hadn't thought of adding privacy settings for Facebook, so thank you!

  41. Hi!
    I am about one of the last teens on this planet who DOES NOT have a facebook, myspace, twitter, nothing! My mom doesn't approve very much. However, I follow a few blogs and have a blog of my own(how this is different from the basic concept of social networking on these other places, I don't know!). She doesn't mind Blogger for some reason. Wish I could join the community, it sonuds great!!

  42. Shirley, thanks for the great tips and I especially like that you started with the importance of writing. Unfortunately it so often tends to take the backseat, when it should be first!!!

  43. I have never had any problem with any of the sites that I get on, I have been on "myspace" now on "facebook", "Soutlife" & "twitter" I am 66 and really enjoy the sites where I can sit here at home and talk to people I know, I set my site to where just anyone can not get into my site. So I am not afraid of any of them.


  44. A Princess for Christmas sounds wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.Thanks for the great tips.

  45. I had a facebook blunder. I had the page all set up under my pen name & intended to make it all about writing, but my church friends & family found the page and wanted to friend me... then it became personal. So I deactivated the account and made a new one under my real name and tried to make a new fan page with the pen name, but it just keeps asking me to create the page. It never stays created. I'm not tech savvy enough to figure it out.

    I have a my blog and website... and I talk to people about my writing on a few boards. It is hard enough to keep up with that plus home school, writing, housework and life. lol I don't know how people add Twitter, Shoutlife and so many other things.

    Thank you so much for the tips!

    lee at leesmithwriting dot com

  46. PatriciaW--good point about the double duty. I do add some FB only posts, and Twitter only posts (though admit I am on FB a ton more than Twitter). That keeps it mixed, I think.

    Popping in again between chapters!


  47. good tips im not an author but do have alot on facebook who I dont want knowing my private details so have it set in groups also.
    I also have alot of my info on private or me only.

    Nora's book club is fun and this week is an interesting question.

  48. I love Christmas stories! Thanks for the "socializing" tips. Most of my experiences have been positive. However, I have had a few embarrassing blog responses which were allowed by the moderator. On some blogs, anything goes! gcwhiskas at aol dot com