When last I wrote about social media, I discussed why authors should be using, or plan to be using, social media. If you’re still on the fence about whether or not you should be developing your social media presence, you should click on over and give that post a read through.
Later in the series, I’m going to talk about specific social media platforms, and how they can be incorporated into your marketing strategies to help you sell more books and build your fan base. But today, I’m going to talk about a decision that everyone must make about their social media presence: whether or not to use their real name.
People who use a pen name to write have various reasons. Some use a pen name because they are worried that someone close to them might not like what they’re writing. Some use a pen name because they have personal safety issues. Still others use pen names when they write out of their normal genres. The point here is, it doesn’t really matter why you have a pen name. It’s just something that some people do.
I don’t use a pen name, but I thought long and hard about that decision. I have kids, and this is usually an important factor in pen names for a lot of authors. No one wants their kids to get teased at school because their mom writes “that kind” of book. Ultimately, my decision was based on several factors, one being that while, ultimately, I would love to be able to pay my bills by writing novels, my freelance business, which is what I do use to pay my bills with, will benefit once I am published. Only you can make that decision for yourself.
The biggest concern with choosing a pen name is Facebook. Facebook pages are essential tools for authors. They’re great for keeping your fans updated while you’re in the writing process, or to remind them that the book you released last year would still make a great Christmas gift this year. Plus, with their events feature, they are great for hosting launch and cover reveal parties.
When Facebook first opened to the public, they had a strict policy regarding real name usage. Some people made up Facebook names to allow them to play popular games without spamming their friends feeds with Farmville requests, and Facebook didn’t like that. They wouldn’t let you use certain letter combinations as names, because they knew that those words were made up.I feel sorry for anyone who actually had the last name “ThisIsAMadeUpName,” because they were never able to have a Facebook account. Poor Mrs. T. Sorry. I digress.
For years, Facebook didn’t enforce the real name rule. I suspect that when a bazillion people make fake Farmville accounts, it gets a little difficult to police. However, recently, someone using the twitter name “Real Name Police” began calling out drag queens and LGBQT members of the Facebook community, by reporting them for using fake names. Facebook announced that they would again be enforcing the real name policy, but is changing the definition.
The point of all of this long rambling (I promise, there is one), is this: If you’ve spent years developing a Facebook page that has grown to thousands, or hundreds of thousands, of fans, and Facebook decides to shut down your account because you’re using a pen name, that would be a tremendous blow to your marketing. While you might be able to fight an account suspension in terms of a pen name being a name that you use for work, you might not be. So keep that in mind when you make your decision.
If you do decide to use your real name as your author name, here’s some tips to keep things separate:
- I don’t let the general public have access to my personal account on Facebook. I share that with the people I choose to share it with. People who wish to connect with me there can “like” my author page. This is a change that I’ve made fairly recently, as I’ve become more active on Facebook (there’s a serious love/hate relationship there).
- I don’t mention my kids very often on Twitter.
- I am in the process of building a separate author Twitter account, so that I can have one for work (because a future business venture will involve me as a mother), and one for being an author.
- I don’t put pics of my kids on Instagram anymore. I upload those separately to Facebook, where their access is limited to the “Friends Only” setting.
- Other than specific author related events, I don’t post where I’m going or where I currently am on social media. I post a lot of “I went to…” posts, though. I might say “I’m going shopping,” but I don’t do Foursquare-style check ins if I’m at the Chipotle on Main Street. Even my Instagram posts are more of the “latergram” variety.
- When you make Pinterest boards that might share some personal details, make them Secret. If you’ve already created them and can’t change them without losing pins, check to make sure that the checkboxes aren’t sending your pins to Twitter or Facebook unless you want them to. My daughter and I are using Pinterest to determine dresses for her sisters to wear to her wedding. Those pins don’t get posted to Twitter. However, people who follow me on Pinterest can still see them.
In short, if you’re going to use a pen name, realize that Facebook might not be happy with you at some point in the future. However, for many, that risk is worth it. If you choose to use your real name, there are a number of ways to keep the separation between your personal life and your author life. You just need to define what your personal line is, and then not cross it.
In my next post, we’ll discuss when to mix in some personal on your author social media accounts, to help keep your fans interested in between books, and build a larger fan base!