What are Facebook Pages and Why Do You Need One?

Having recently gone through the abject torture of setting up a Facebook Page for someone, I see the usefulness in a a rough and ready guide on what a Facebook Page is, whether you need one and how to use it once you have it.

What and Why?

Facebook Pages are used for public figures or business of any kind trying to reach out to people who might be interested in them. That’s the simple answer. They solve the problem inherent in Facebook – that most people are not interested in being ‘friends’ with a business or an author they admire, but they still might like to use Facebook to check up on that person or business. For authors, Facebook Pages allow you to connect with your readers without the slightly creepy idea that you have 10,000 ‘friends’ just because 10,000 people like your book.

So should you start a Page? If you are trying to use the internet to reach out to your audience, customers or readers, then probably yes. Pages are a very easy way to have a social networking presence without the hard work and constant attention involved in setting up a website or blog.

How to Set Up a Page and Use One

Like a lot of things on Facebook, starting a Page is not something that is as straightforward as it could or should be. There’s no direct link from your existing Facebook profile to start a page, but if you search for ‘Pages’ in the help, it will eventually lead you to the Create a Page site (or you could just follow that link). From there it will ask you to specify the type of page (be it for a writer, a business etc etc), and confirm that you are the official representative of that person or business.

If you’re already on Facebook and looking to start a Page, you do not need to sign up with a different email address or login. Just start the process and you’ll become the main ‘administrator’. The good thing about Pages is that you can also sign on other administrators, such as publicists or marketing people from your publishing company, who can sign on temporarily or for good to add information to your page. But for now, just go for it

Once you’ve started a page, you’ll be greeted with a page of options like this:

If you already have a Facebook profile, uploading a photo and filling out this basic information shouldn’t be too difficult for you. From this page you can also advertise your Facebook Page, but for starters that probably isn’t something you need to worry about. You can also suggest that your existing Facebook friends ‘like’ your new Page – let’s face it, if your own friends don’t do it at this point, how can you possibly expect anybody else to?

It’s at this point that I got quite confused about how to use the Page to interact with the rest of Facebook. Pages can’t have ‘friends’. So how can you, for example, instruct your Page to ‘like’ a fellow organisation, writer or business? And how can your page access Facebook applications, in order to sync info between websites like Twitter, Shelfari or Amazon? After all, it’s not really social networking if you can’t actually connect with others.

‘Like’ another Page                                    Install an application on your page

It’s not immediately apparent, but it’s all done by using the text under the logo or profile picture in the top left of the Page or application you’re interested in. Everything you want to add to your Page, you do through that point. If you try to ‘like’ something as you normally would with your Facebook profile, then the ‘like’ will be recorded on your personal profile, not on your Page.

OK, so that’s about it for this getting started guide. If you have any tips or questions about this process, please let me know in the comments.

Writing Super Hero

American PsychoI realise it’s odd that I haven’t blogged about the three sessions at which I saw Bret Easton Ellis at the Byron Bay Writers Festival, especially given that he was one of the primary reasons for me forking out the cash for a ticket and hitting the road. The truth is, I haven’t completely grasped the sessions, much less known what to write.

I went down with the very real fear that the writer to whom I’ve long looked up would not meet my pre- or potentially ill-conceived notions. I mean, he’s only human, but in my obsession with his writing genius I may have built Ellis up to writing super hero status. Certainly the media has painted him as the poster child for, well, lots of culture-slamming, disaffected-youth, violence-promoting stuff. But really, who knew what to expect from the writer who’s built his career skewering the west’s and youths’ empty and ultimately doomed fascination with consumerism?

The first session was an intimate in-conversation set-up with The Book Show’s Ramona Koval. Now, this isn’t a Koval-bashing blog, but I will say that I’m really not a fan. She’s a woman of a certain age and reading taste (and I’d argue that she’s also been doing the job for too long and is completely over it), and Blind Freddy could have seen that she was going to be a complete interviewing mismatch for Ellis.

Just how wrong, though, was pretty shocking to those of us who’d paid good money for this session in addition to our festival tickets. I won’t go into gory details here, but you can podcast or listen to an excerpt of the session on The Book Show. Long story short, Koval opened with a long and literary question and Ellis answered it with the words: ‘Delta Goodrem’.

It seems he’d seen a Goodrem music video here and, knowing nothing else of her history, tweeted that she was hot. He didn’t expect the passionate, mixed response he got to that and waxed lyrical about how Australians have a really warped, love-hate (mostly hate) relationship with Goodrem.

It wasn’t the answer Koval was after and the interview took a kind of train wreck turn for the worse, with Koval getting all school teacher meets grandmother trying to pull Ellis into line and Ellis allowing himself to be anything but.

I came away disliking Koval more than ever before, but also a little less keen on Ellis. Sure, as the author of such titles as American Psycho, he couldn’t have been a completely compliant interviewee—the man’s got an authority-bucking reputation to uphold, after all. But I wanted to like him and I genuinely wanted to hear what he had to say—unfortunately the Delta Goodrem joke was funny in the first instance, but less so as he repeatedly returned to it.

What I came to understand as the festival progressed, however, and what a few weeks of musings have helped me cement, is that despite appearing a seasoned (potentially hardened) industry professional, Ellis is a very humble, quite fallible human at heart. Quite incredibly, in spite of 25-odd years in the business, Byron was his first ever writers’ festival appearance.

And he was nervous.

It’s hard enough speaking about your work to a room full of people when you’re starting out, but potentially doubly so when you’ve already made it and are expected to be all over this stuff. Ellis had 25 years’ weight of expectation on his shoulders when he sat in front of a microphone on a stage in packed tents. Everyone expected him to both know what he was doing and to have something intelligent and articulate and incredibly insightful to say about his writing.

The issue was that he isn’t that type of writer. He’s a guy who is compelled to write and who can’t explain the—as Koval kept asking him—‘whys’ of his work. He doesn’t—and can’t—analyse it academically, and any attempt to do so makes him uncomfortable. Which is why Koval got him offside and ‘off message’ with her eight-questions-in-one literary-focused questions.

But here’s the thing. Ellis did have extraordinarily intelligent and insightful things to say about his work or the industry as a whole—he just needed to be asked straight-up, straightforward, not-too-serious questions. And when he was asked those, he answered with great aplomb and humour.

I laughed out loud when he talked of how the media constructed this mythical writing ‘Brat Pack’, as if they all got in a car and travelled together in a group at all times. I laughed even harder when he said that rather than being upset about the fact that American Psycho is sold in shrink wrap in Australia (as his publishers thought he would be), he thinks it’s ‘cute’.

It was those candid comments, his laughter in the face of trite cling-wrapped censorship, and his real-life anecdotes about the industry and about what it’s like to be a writer (padding about home alone working and occasionally catching up with friends for beers) that I found the most entertaining and memorable.

And that is perhaps what I loved and now love even more about Ellis—he’s a regular guy (which includes being prone to nerves), he’s a real writer, he doesn’t take the industry or himself too seriously, and he has brilliant and witty things to say if we stop trying to put literary, analytical words in his mouth. Upon a second listening of the now-infamous in-conversation session with Koval, I hear all that. And I officially love Ellis, my writing super hero, more than ever before.

The Man Who Stares At Goats And Them

Jon RonsonSome weeks ago I asked about the merit or otherwise of re-reading books, but have since realised that I’ve forgotten one key reason for re-reading: excellent authors who have released few books.

It starts with a book recommendation or a simple stumbling across a writer whose fabulousness you can scarcely believe and whose writing you wonder how you previously existed without. It finishes with a mad dash to find and devour their back catalogue of books. Which is great, until you exhaust the supply.

Then begins the trawling of the internet and the author’s and publisher’s websites to find out if or when the next book will be released. When there isn’t the promise of a forthcoming fix, you’re left with the option of either re-reading the published works or reading nothing (ok, or reading something someone else wrote, but bear with me here).

In spite of my reluctance to revisit books—largely because I worry that re-reading one book means potentially never reading another in this lifetime—after writing the blog about it I found myself lured back to Jon Ronson’s works.

He’s best known for The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was recently made into a film that I haven’t yet seen. But my favourite of his books is the simply titled Them: Adventures with Extremists.

The Men Who Stare At GoatsRonson (whose name I constantly have to check in my head as I can never remember if it’s Jon Ronson or Ron Jonson; and even though it’s the former, it’s the latter that always springs to mind) is a creative non-fiction writer and journalist with a knack for finding the interesting in the apparently ordinary.

I spend half my time marvelling at how and where he finds his subjects and stories and the other half at how powerfully he conveys them through understated writing.

For example, in The Men Who Stare At Goats, Ronson investigates a secret, unacknowledged arm of the American army dedicated to researching how mind power can give them the upper edge.

These are the super-educated, super-intelligent men who try to walk through walls or who stare at goats in an attempt to will them to drop dead (for the record for other animal lovers out there, they weren’t overly successful—one goat fell over once).

In Them, Ronson seeks out and embeds himself in the daily lives of the people we’d label ‘extremists’ and who are, given that he’s Jewish, unlikely to let him in. There’s Omar Bakri Mohammed, who’s living on social welfare in London and who’s both applying for British citizenship and openly plotting to overthrow the UK and turn it into an Islamic country.

There’s the media savvy Ku Klux Klan leader who’s trying to preach love for white people rather than hate for black people, and who discourages his followers from wearing the famed hooded outfits or use the N-word.

There’s the people who believe that the world is controlled by the Bilderberg Group, which comprises of a small, select group of all-powerful people who meet annually in secret locations. Then there’s David Icke, who actively believes that the world is actually being run by extraterrestrial, shape-shifting giant lizards. For real.

Part bumbling Bill Bryson, part David Sedaris, Ronson is a writer and speaker with whom I’ve fallen in love. Which is a problem, because his books take an eternity to research and write. Which means that he doesn’t release them all that regularly. Which means that in the absence of new Ronson releases, I need to revisit his books to get my quota of his writing.