Melissa Chadburn is a lover and a fighter, a union rep, a social arsonist, a writer, a lesbian, of color, smart, edgy and fun. Her work has appeared in Guernica, Salon, and the Rumpus, among others.  In Ask a freelancer, Chadburn fields questions about writing, the blogosphere, platform building, and all things scary. She don't presume to know everything but she knows people that know more things than her and if there's one thing she’s learned it’s that there's nothing to be gained from withholding information.  Reach her at fictiongrrrl(at)gmail.com or follow her on Twitter. She loves your whole outfit right now.

Dear Freelancer,

I’m getting some small publications online, have almost completed a novel, and am wondering if now would be a good time to build a Facebook author page. If so, how should this be different from my regular Facebook page?

—Platform Ponderings

***

Dear Platform,

The pressure to be likeable and friend-worthy—to engage in social media—is at an all-time high. But what does this mean exactly? What are some realistic tools and metrics we can work with in developing a platform? And yes—when should you create a Facebook author page, and how should it be different than your regular Facebook page?

What really lies at the heart of this question, and most author’s social media questions, is the fear of over-promoting yourself or your work. So pay attention, babe, especially if you’re a woman, because unfortunately the statistics show women tend to be more shy in this facet of their writing careers. I don’t think there’s a such thing as over-promotion so much as perhaps inconsistent or untimely promotion. Do things like letting your community know about events; keep a reasonable timeline to promote readings and events, such as a month in advance, a reminder two weeks in and then a few days prior to the event; use Facebook invitations; try to collaborate with people that have already established their own platform.

I used to work with the homeless community. There was this frame of thought we employed called “the harm reduction model.” Essentially that meant meeting people where they were at. So to reduce rates of people’s exposure to Hepatitis infected needles I went and delivered clean needles to people on street corners and parks. So if we were to employ this same framework to social media than I’d advocate for an array of different social media platforms. For example, if you’re a visual person, maybe you will use Instagram, Pinterest, or tumblr. These are venues where you can post and shares like social media scrapbooks. A place to play and engage other people. The key to using these sites is consistency. I’ve found the best way to be consistent with something is to dig it.       

Facebook is a great place to connect with and promote yourself, as well as other authors you admire; Twitter, on the other hand, is a great place to connect with publishers, agents, and get in touch people within the market. I think it’s okay to do this using your personal Facebook page—just be alert as to what to share. I find it helpful to maintain a distinction between my private and public identity. It is nice to mention something pseudo-personal, like your pet or a photo of a beautiful place you are vacationing; however, it’s also important to protect the people that are in my personal life, so I don't share anything that is private that includes or would affect people other than myself. If I have an experience that includes someone else and it is not something they would opt to share with other people then it’s likely not the type of information I can relay on Facebook. For example it probably wouldn’t be appropriate for me to share with my Facebook friends if my beloved is cranky, while it would be fine if I were to share that my day is not turning out as I had hoped.

A few simple tips: pictures tend to push your Facebook profile higher on other’s Facebook feed. Also, mornings during the week tend to get the most traffic, and with Facebook you don’t need to post too often—I would say once a day is enough. One of the greatest ways to create buzz is to pose a specific question to your Facebook friends and see what kind of dialogue starts.

Once you’re seeing some roaring success and have up to 5000 friends, I think it does makes sense to develop a separate author/fan page. That would not be a place to be shy; simply another venue to connect with friends and readers in a way that can be shared with others.

—Freelancer

Photo by korosirego/Flickr