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Facebook 101

Let’s start with a little statistic: Facebook has over 1 billion active users; Earth has about 7 billion users by last count. Now, I know book dealers are not always known for their math skills, but I’m pretty sure that works out to about 1 in 7 people ON THE PLANET who use this particular social network.

But don’t let the numbers intimidate you. Facebook is as much about fostering smaller communities as it is reaching a wider, even global, audience. But in order to create a sustainable and effective presence on Facebook, it is important to start modestly, set realistic goals, and focus on creating good content and a strong “brand” from the outset. To get you started on the right foot, this week’s post will offer some thoughts about how to develop your page and cultivate followers. I won’t be going over the step-by-step instructions to setting up an account - there are many resources out there that can give you clearer instructions than I ever could. These links topped the list in my Google search:

The above articles will tell you that creating a business page is much easier and has some added benefits if you already have a personal account. Not only will the features be more familiar to you, but you will also have a group of friends that you can encourage to like your business page as you are getting started.

  • Hint: Because many booksellers are the sole owners and operators of their businesses, it might seem like a good idea to just use your personal account for everything. I would not recommend this, and I think the reasons should be pretty clear – your business page will be a reflection of your brand; it is your professional presence on the Book of the Face. Don't post anything on your business page that you wouldn't want potential customers to see.

After setting up a shiny new page, filling in your business info, and picking a few attractive photos to grace your profile, you should feel ready to start moving and shaking. But before charging forth, take the time to fill up your timeline (i.e. what everyone will see when they click on your profile) with some good content. I waited two weeks before I invited anyone to follow B & L Rootenberg’s business page on Facebook, and in the meantime I posted something every day to populate our timeline in order to make it look attractive and engaging from the get-go.

Finally we arrive at the trickiest part of the game: you have a beautiful profile, stellar posts, but no one is watching. How on earth do you persuade people to "follow" your page? Getting someone to click on that follow button is easier said than done, particularly if they are outside your group of friends. I think that garnering and keeping followers is very much about establishing trust, so it should come as no surprise that this part of the process will take some time to develop. You will have to prove that you have something to say, post regularly, and think creatively about the kind of content that will keep people interested. Here are a few tips to get the ball rolling:

  • Start by asking your personal friends (who actually might have an interest in books) to like your business page. Ask your family too. Family members are great because they can’t say no.
  • Seek out other booksellers’ business pages, libraries and special collections that are of interest to you, and organizations (like the ABAA), and go ahead and “like” their pages. You can do this from both your business and personal accounts. Not only will it foster warm fuzzy feelings, but it also increases the chance that someone will take note and like you back. Best of all, it enables you to stay abreast of the news and trends in a community that you care about.
  • Pay particular attention to those pages you admire and that have a good amount of followers. Take notes about what kinds of content they are posting (photos? links? video? haiku?) and how often they post. Don’t be afraid to comment on posts that you enjoy! Social networking is, after all, about networking, believe it or not. The more engaged you are with other people, the more they will want to engage with you.
  • Link your Facebook page to your other online profiles. Namely your website and your ABAA profile to start.

As you start to get the hang of things and attract more followers, don't get lazy! Keep posting engaging content! Status updates about what you had for lunch fall strictly in the realm of Don’t-Do-It. Nobody cares. I promise. In my experience, creating "likable" content involves providing a variety of interesting posts that cater to your target audience. If you look at B & L Rootenberg’s page, I try to provide a good mix of images from our stock (that link back to our website), links to articles about collecting and rare books, news, and some humorous material. Well, humorous to me at any rate.  Also keep in mind that by and large, posts with images will garner more likes (and therefore attention) than those without. You can also diversify the types of posts you put out there by using your specialty to guide you. For example, because we deal in a lot of science books, I will sometimes post links to history of science articles or cool discoveries that I think are worth sharing (#NeildeGrasseTysonWannaBe).

As a final note, I want to reiterate a point that I made in my last post about the importance of consistency. The difference between having a Facebook page and having a great Facebook page is posting regularly and engaging with your followers. A good rule of thumb is to post once a day (perhaps more if there is a special event happening, such as a book fair). Make it a habit to keep your eyes peeled for “post-worthy” material. Whenever I come across a good link or article, I bookmark it in my internet browser for future use. 

  • Pro tip: Though it’s a good idea to be as present as possible, Facebook will allow you to schedule posts should you be particularly short on time or on the road. Here’s a simple way to do it: after you input your post into the status update bar, click on the little grey clock in the left hand corner, and choose the day and time you want it to go live. Presto! Who says you can’t be in two places at once?

Remember, Facebook is anything but an exact science, so keep experimenting with content and tactics to find a rhythm that works for you and makes sense for your brand. In the interest of keeping this blog post to a digestible size, I will have to save my “Advanced Facebook Seminar” for another day. If you’ve ever wondered how Facebook ads work (or don’t work), how to sell stock on your page, or what the heck “analytics” mean, well, you’re in good company. All that and more to come, so stay tuned...and in the meantime, happy networking!