Being An Author On Facebook – 2

As discussed in Part 1, there are many excellent reasons not to publicize yourself as an author through a Facebook Page. Instead, the best option is to use a regular private account, and set up (at least) three tiers of intimacy:

  1. Close friends: These are your family and friends, people you share your private life with, your recipes, cat pictures, cute wobbly videos of your kids, #100happydays, and all that cutesy stuff.
  2. Acquaintances: These are the people you want to connect with on a professional, writing-related level, and people who want to connect with you in relation to your writing.
  3. The world at large: These are all the people who are on Facebook, but are not your friends, whom you still occasionally will want to share writing-related news with, but a bit more targeted than Twitter, and without the 140-character limit.

Fortunately, Facebook actually supports this tiered setup of your social network out of the box, through two bits of standard functionality:

  • The Acquaintances subgroup of your Friends list.
  • The option to post for Public, Friends, or Friends Except Acquaintances.

So how does that work?

Make AcquaintanceIf you Friend someone, or they send you a Friend Request, decide if they belong in your inner circle of friends and family, or in your acquaintainces. If the former, just friend them or accept their friend request. If the latter, do the same, and immediately move them to the built-in Acquaintances list, like I did with Facebook user Jane Close. (The image shows how to do that from their own profile page in the web version of Facebook; the App has a similar option.)

Now, all you need to do is to decide, for each post, whom you want to share it with. Is it a public-service announcement about your latest novel? Make it PublicSharing OptionsIs it a snippet from your private life? Share it with Friends Except Acquaintances. And the inbetween level of sharing with your Friends? You can reserve that for anything you may want to share with your readers and other interested parties only, and not with the rest of the world, as a token of appreciation for taking the trouble to connect with you on Facebook: sneak peeks at your new story, giveaways, announcements, or whatever.

(Of course, you can create your own tiered structure by creating even more groups, and limiting your audiences using those. The advantage to the Acquaintances group, however, is that Facebook’s interface supports it in many ways, including in the Friends Except Acquaintances standard privacy level.)

But does it really work?

As far as I’ve been able to determine, it does. I’ve created two dummy accounts on Facebook: Jane Close and Joe Strange, and added Jane Close to my Acquaintances list, and refused Joe Stranger’s Friend Request (or would have, if he’d sent one).

Signing in as Jane, I was able to determine that indeed, the dear girl could see everything I’d shared with Public or Friends, and nothing of what I’d shared with Friends Except Acquaintances. Signing in as Joe, I saw that he could see only the information and posts I’d made Public.

(There is also a View As feature in your settings that simulates this. Unfortunately, that’s not entirely reliable. For instance, viewing your Life Events as an Acquaintance still shows all info in the Life Event popup, even if you’ve limited the audience to Friends Except Acquaintances. Therefore, the only good way to be sure is to really look at yourself through an acquaintance account.)

So how do I set this up?

Privacy SettingsFirst of all: set your default privacy level to Friends Except Acquaintances. You actually can, and will want to, consciously set the privacy level every time you post anything, but you still need this as a default. Why? Because when someone else tags you, and you want to allow the tag on your Timeline, you cannot change the privacy level of the tagged post. And since it may be, and often is, a friend or family tagging you in something private, you want to err on the side of caution.

Of course, you have no influence on the privacy level the tagger set on his/her own Timeline, but this way, you as the tagged control your side of things.

Then there is some good news, and some bad news.

The good news is: if you’re new to Facebook, just start out this way, and there is no additional effort involved.

The bad news? If you’ve been on Facebook for a while (as I was), and have many posts, pictures, About information, and Life Events shared (as I did), and want to switch to this way of using it (as I did), there is some work to be done. If you’ve been careless in the past, the default you just set (see above) used to be Public. But even if it wasn’t, the default was Friends, which is still one tier more public than you want.

Now if you’re about to start using your Facebook account to publicize yourself, you’re about to allow a lot more people on your Friend list, and in your Timeline, than before. All these people will have the possibility to scroll through your Timeline, call up your About information, read all your Life Events, and view all your Photos. Probably not what you want.

So if you’re going to do this, do it right. Before going public with this, first:

  • Use the Limit Past Posts feature (see last screenshot) to set the privacy level of everything you’ve published so far to Friends. That way, at least nothing is Public anymore.
  • Go through Every Single Thing you’ve posted (posts, photos, About, Life Events, profile information) and decide if you want it displayed for everyone, of if you want it to be shown to your inner circle only. In the latter case, set the privacy level to Friends Except Acquaintances. (It would probably be more efficient to first limit past posts to Friends Except Acquaintances, but that option is not available, unfortunately.) Yes, that’s a huge amount of work. Yes, I did that.
  • Check all Privacy Settings to ensure that nothing is amiss on that end. (In addition to Facebook’s own Privacy Basics, there’s an external website that also supports limiting the use of your Facebook information, but I’m not sure about its value, so I’m omitting that here.)

So what’s the downside?

I’ve found one major downside so far: every single thing you want to share with the world, as author, or with your long, long Friend list, also gets shared with your inner circle of close friends and family. (Though that goes for things you make Public only; things you want to share with Friends, but don’t want to bother your close ones with, you simply share with Acquaintances only.)

And there’s a smaller downside: Facebook remembers your last privacy setting. So if you’ve been posting Public items for a while, and then publish something for Friends except Acquaintances, the next time you want to post Public you have to remember to reset the privacy level for the new post.

The additional upside, and it’s a huge one, is being rid of the MPS effect of sometimes sharing stuff on your Page, sometimes in your private Timeline, and sometimes even in both. This way, you share things only once, and let the privacy level deal with who gets to see it.

Let me know how this works out for ya!

The inspiration for this way of using Facebook as an author, and the basic structure of this approach, were first suggested to me by Mary Robinette Kowal in an excellent blog post entitled Debut Author Lesson: On Facebook.