How to get unfriended on Facebook

Are you an author with too many Facebook friends?

Are you worried that your social network is so big that your platform might be getting out of control?

Maybe you’re concerned that fame will ruin you if all of your Facebook friends buy one of your books.

Help is here. I’ve got nine timely tips designed to help you get rid of a large percentage of those pesky online connections. (You can thank me later.)

1. Write something promotional on your new friend’s timeline immediately after you connect.

Here’s the type of message that sends me looking for the “unfriend” option. I’ll bet it will work for you, too.

“Thanks for accepting my friend request! I know you’ll like my book, The Obnoxious Author’s Guide to Success! You can buy it here: amazon.com/toagts.”

2. Include a plug for your book when you offer birthday wishes.

Nothing says “It’s your day!” like “Happy birthday! Here’s a link to my book on Amazon!”

Why don’t more authors do this? It’s a surefire way to get unfriended.

3. Use your book cover as your personal profile photo.

People might tell you that they’re on Facebook to connect with people, but we know that they’re there to connect with book covers, right?

(Besides, if you use your book cover as your profile pic, that Ryan-Gosling-look-alike-ex-boyfriend-from-college who’s been trying to track you down ever since he heard you were single again won’t know that it’s you!)

4. Hijack discussions with random references to your book.

Make certain to include a purchase URL with your off-topic comment. People like to be reminded to buy your book.

5. Make certain that the majority of your status updates are overtly promotional.

Here’s one that I really like. Feel free to personalize it for your use:

“Help my book become an Amazon bestseller! Buy it on Amazon today between 2:35 a.m. and 2:43 a.m. It’s really important that you buy it then!” 

Remember: People appreciate being reminded to buy your book. You cannot remind them too much.

6. Ignore comments on your book’s page.

Everybody knows it’s a page for a book, and they know that books can’t type. They don’t expect to have a conversation with a book — they just want to offer observations when they comment.

7. Use Messenger only for book marketing messages.

Isn’t it funny when people think you’ve sent them a personal message, only to discover that it’s a promotional messages about your book? (LOL!) This works especially well when the person you’re messaging doesn’t read the type of books you write.

8. Avoid sharing helpful information related to your book’s topic on your profile, book page, or in relevant groups.

Let’s be clear. When you share links to useful material on websites, blogs, etc., you start to look like you know something about your book’s topic.

Then people start asking you questions because they think you might be, well, an expert or something!

You can’t always be answering questions, right? You’ve got a book to promote and that takes time!

9. When someone acknowledges that they haven’t bought your book, attack them.

What is up with that? It’s not like they don’t know about it! At least 90 percent of your Facebook posts have been about your book!

With friends like that, who needs enemies?

I’ve seen all of this in action. None of it is fiction.

Perhaps that’s because many authors are challenged to find the right balance on Facebook and other social media platforms. They’re encouraged to promote their books online, but they don’t have a sense of how much is too much or what’s not enough.

The 80/20 rule

Best practice is to make 80 percent of your content helpful, useful, or personal, and just 20 percent promotional. When you do that, your connections will welcome the occasional marketing message, and might even share it on your behalf.

As for me, I have transitioned out of using my profile for Facebook to keeping nearly all of my book marketing tips and advice off my profile and only on my page and book marketing group. For a steady stream of helpful information, please like my page and join my group.

I’m sure you can offer advice, too. What’s your best tip for getting unfriended on Facebook?

(Editor’s note: This article was first published in April 2012. It has been updated and expanded.)

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  1. Thanks, Sandra, for your “eight spring cleaning tips.” I’ll get busy working on them right away. Seriously, though, I wonder if aspiring writers hear too often and too loudly that social networking is the key to their fame and fortune. And since they are writing the masterpieces the world has been waiting for, why not hit the social networks with trumpets blowing? It’s surprising they can’t see how many other would-be best-selling authors are doing the same thing — and getting the same dismal results. I suppose it does no good to advise these folks to slow down, try to help others, practice subtlety, and build worthwhile relationships over time. No, they deserve recognition now, not when they’re living in housing for seniors. (I wonder how many novelists are certain a Pulitzer prize for fiction would’ve been awarded this year if only the judges had taken the time to read their latest book.)

  2. Ron, I think part of the problem is that authors are told that they “have to be on Facebook” or “need to be on Twitter,” so they jump in without first doing any research to learn “how” to be on Facebook or Twitter. They just open an account and start using the networks as advertising vehicles rather than as, well, networking sites.

    I always encourage authors who are just starting out with social networks to lurk and observe for a while. You can learn a lot that way. After you see how the systems work, do some online research to learn a little more. When you think you “get it,” give it a try. When you discover a tactic that works, do more of it.

  3. I think authors are “pushed” to be too visible on social networking, without having anything to say. The most important thing for posting anywhere, Facebook, Twitter, blogs — is to be interesting. Live a little, talk about things you’re doing, not just your book.

    “May you live in interesting times” should be our mantra, and we need to MAKE it interesting.

    1. Great point, Deborah. The good news is that those of us who don’t feel terribly interesting can concentrate on finding interesting information to share, right?

  4. More authors need to read your article. I have one friend who absolutely will not use social media to tell others about her book and another who has made glaring mistakes, much like the ones you joked about. I haven’t started a blog yet, but I’m going to try to navigate between my friends’ extremes using a soft sell/networking/sharing approach. As mentioned, I’ll lurk a little first, plus talk about other things I’m excited about too. This might not totally fit with my “brand” but I think it might attract more people.

    1. Thanks, Kas. You’re doing what I usually recommend — watch how others use social media to figure out what does and doesn’t work for you, and what you think your target audience will respond to. Sounds like you’ll do fine with your blog.

  5. Excellent article, Sandra. Informative and funny. I’m going to share it on my Facebook page 🙂

    What amazes me is if you asked people who do this sort of thing if they ever responded to the tactics they’re using, they’d say no.

    1. Thanks for sharing it, Jacquelyn! I think if you asked people if they responded to those types of (too common) tactics, they would say, “I haven’t really thought about it.” Similarly, they are copying those tactics simply because they’ve seen others use them w/out giving any thought to whether those approaches do or don’t work. They see…they copy. It’s that simple. Do you think that’s what’s happening?

  6. <> Haha!

    Hi, Sandra,

    Your satire made me cringe — so deft! No doubt, the self-“promo-ism” has gone nuts.

    But sometimes I worry I don’t give the social media enough playtime,,,

    On the other hand, I’ve just noticed a significant bump in the number of visitors to my site. Why? The only reason I can think of is that I got into the Yahoo Answers,,, Giving a bit of yourself free compels Yahoo-users to check you out, I guess.

    1. Thanks, Tad. And hey, plugging into Yahoo Answers is a great way to drive traffic to your site! I’m glad it’s working for you — woot!

  7. Love yor sense of humor and delightul way of getting a message across. In fact, you’ve given me a great idea for a post of my own. Thank you!

  8. Excellent advice, especially for techno-timid authors like me who were (strongly) advised to use social media to promote a book. Pushy isn’t my style so I’m still mostly reading & shyly replying to posts about “regular” life. I do, however, send my blog posts out to Facebook & Twitter.

    1. Cheryl, it sounds like you’ve got a smart approach. Also, follow a few authors who are rumored to do it “the right way” and watch what they do. You might get some ideas that way, too. Good luck!

  9. When I read your second advice about the personal profile photo I almost went to change mine. Luckily, I kept reading and realized it was tongue-in-cheek. Funny stuff but so true. About people copying others? Let’s face it, basically we’re all still monkeys. You know…monkey see, monkey do. Thanks for the hilarious advice. Will take it to heart.

  10. OMG, it’s rare that I genuinely laugh out loud at a blog post, but I was in stitches over this one. To be this funny and yet also share vitally helpful information is quite a gift. This is dripping with so much sarcasm that I had to get a towel to wipe down my screen. I’m supposed to be doing my homework for your excellent Book Publicity 101 online course (which I HIGHLY recommend to all authors), and got distracted bookmarking several of your links/ blog pages in my Book Publicity folder. Thanks for the great laugh in the midst of my intense research. I just Tweeted this link!

  11. Congratulations on such a successful engaging post! May I ask you to do a follow up. 8 Things You Should Do After Friending Someone of Facebook.
    Your character and experience would really bring a lot to the table; then you could do an expanded version and make it an ebook!

  12. Sometimes people forget boundaries on Facebook Sandra and attacking people to buy books is not a good sign. I’ve become wary of Facebook Messenger because I’m always being attacked to join a webinar or purchase something. Thank God we can stop the messages!

    I’ve had people post on my Wall to promote their book or course and I’ve adjusted my settings to approve posting or tagging. My Wall is my Wall and like yourself, I was inspired to write not 1 but 3 blog posts on Facebook Etiquette a few years ago as part of my social media etiquette series. It seems not much has changed since.

    1. I’ve had to change my settings to approve content that tags me, too, Vasala. You’re so right about boundaries!


    1. It’s unfortunate, isn’t it, Marla? I think a lot of the time, it’s because they read somewhere that they should be “promoting on Facebook,” but they don’t pause long enough to learn how.


  13. Thanks for the laugh. It is unthinkable that people would be so clueless–the publishing equivalent of standing at the door of a networking event handing business cards to all attendees. Yet we see it all the time.

    Posts like this are much needed and I wish anyone aggressively peddling their wares on FB would read it. Not just authors.

    Here’s a tip for losing friends: market a book and Isagenix products bundle.

  14. A terrific ‘How To’ post Sandra. I have had two DMs of this kind recently after accepting invites on Facebook and one actually asked me to buy her book and review without any salutation or questions about whether it was a genre that might interest me. Practical advice for all authors new and experienced.

    1. Sally, this is kind of depressing, don’t you think? It seems like some see social networks as nothing more than promotional platforms. It’s going to work against them.


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