Cover Story: 41 Tips for Building Online Communities
Traditional marketing has taken a beating in the distressed economy, but many book publishers are relying on social media efforts to reach new, targeted audiences. While some publishers are unsure about the impact of social networking on book sales—and whether any time or monetary investment is worthwhile—other publishers who are actively engaging in social networking and building online communities around content and authors believe its impact is significant.
There may be nearly as many solutions for managing online social networks as there are publishers trying them, but a few major themes are apparent: Successful online efforts require facilitation, engaging tools and, above all, knowing your audience.
Here are 41 tips from those who have built online communities, and seen results.
Tips from … Tina McIntyre, director of marketing, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Little Brown, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, manages its online social networking base, keeping under its umbrella a large portion of the Internet fan activity surrounding Stephenie Meyer’s blockbuster “Twilight” series.
1. Be exclusive.
“With various social networking sites online, it is important to create one exclusive destination for an author or book/series,” she says. “Having an exclusive site will give your community credibility and make it a destination site for fans.”
2. Reward your members.
“It is easy to reward members in a virtual world by creating various cost-effective online applications [such as avatars, wallpapers, badges, etc.], which fans can use to enhance their online profile. Sweepstakes and contests are also great ways to drive traffic (and require minimal staff and resources),” says McIntyre.
3. Know your audience and who you are reaching.
There are a lot of good studies being done on different social networking sites, McIntyre notes. “Research each network’s main demographic to make sure it matches the audience you are hoping to reach,” she says.
4. Remember that teens and tweens are different (for now).
“Teens and tweens tend to get lumped together, but their online patterns are very different,” she says. “In our experience, we have found that the tween market is still fairly innocent in their use of online communities. They tend to prefer that their social interactions revolve around online gaming and simple message boards rather than having full-on profiles and member pages. High-score boards still rule!”
Tips from … Karen Moehr, author and marketing consultant, Moehr and Associates
Moehr works with writers and self-publishers to build “brand credibility” within existing online communities.
5. Find groups that would be a good fit for your book and offer free content.
Moehr recommends offering to do teleseminars and blog articles for groups interested in a particular title. “For example, if you write about holistic pet care, find groups that would be a good fit, and offer your book and services,” she says. “The visitors of these types of sites would be interested in your products, services and, ultimately, your books. Give good information or advice, write columns, etc., and your online presence will grow and be strengthened.”