So there are rules about Facebook. Friending someone on Facebook is not the same as following someone on Twitter. It’s completely appropriate for you to look at other people’s follow lists and follow those people who you deem interesting on Twitter.

Facebook, however, is another matter. Because people are on Facebook to truly connect with friends and family, writers and other professionals out there (movie stars, etc) are often stuck between deciding to friend everyone or only friend those they know. If you’re really popular, you can start a Fan page, which has no limits and is a more public place for your persona.

The first thing you have to do is decide is your Facebook page public or private. You might think you don’t have to decide this but you do. Because the minute you dip outside private page (ie close, known friends and family) those baby pictures you’ve got up there are available for the world to see. I deliberately don’t post pictures of my children on Facebook or my website. I’ll talk about them all day long, but I’ve seen one too many episodes of To Catch A Predator to be comfortable putting my kids out there for the world to see. Because my Facebook page is public. I use it to connect with other readers and other writers. There are a handful of people on there that I actually know and I’m okay with that. I’m using it as part of my platform, not as a way to keep in touch with friends and family. I prefer email and in that, I believe I am soo last decade (sorry, bad joke).

But you have to decide and when you make that decision you also have to consider just what you are putting out there. What is your message? What is your audience? And do you really want to talk about that gastrointestinal episode you had in Iraq last week, unless that’s part of your message (yes, I had dysentery every other week in Iraq and I just had to share because that was part of my and most every other soldiers’s experience in Iraq that most folks don’t think about).

But for writers looking to connect with their readers, Facebook is a must. And – and this might get me in trouble – I see no problem with writers looking to connect with other authors and readers – connecting via other people’s friends lists.

To a point.

As you go through and find people to friend, use the rule of mutual friends. If you have more than 10 friends in common, odds are this person will friend you back. However, if you’re on a NY Times Bestselling author’s friend page and you see that you have 1 friend in common, odds are, that person is a real friend and not a facebook friend. So don’t cross that line and friend them. If they ask who you are, explain yourself politely and leave it at that. And if they get nasty, its best not to respond. Nastiness will be a part of your life as a writer, be it a negative review or a rude ‘fanmail’ letter. Say it with me now, “no matter how fun, do not respond.”

Figuring out your Facebook presence is important for a writer. If you do it deliberately, you’ll be able to work on consolidating your platform and building your public presence, all with the goal of connecting with potential readers.