How Can Publishers Successfully Use Social Media to Sell Books?
As an author of Internet-marketing books and the former Web editor for Chelsea Green Publishing, Jesse S. McDougall knows a bit about using the Internet—and specifically, social media marketing—to sell books.
McDougall now runs White River Junction, Vt.-based Catalyst Webworks—a Web production and marketing firm—and much of what the “Start Your Own Blogging Business” author teaches clients is what he helped to pioneer at Chelsea Green.
On Thursday, Oct. 29, McDougall will serve as a panelist on the on-demand webinar, “Social Media Strategies That Sell Books,” part of the Publishing Business Virtual Conference & Expo: Digital Content Day @ Your Desk . Here, he gives Book Business Extra a sneak preview of what virtual conference attendees will learn:
Book Business Extra: Many marketers criticize social media as not having proven, measurable sales results. How can publishers track whether their social media efforts are working?
Jesse S. McDougall: ... When I was with Chelsea Green, what we kept an eye on was the Amazon sales rank for the day. So if we had a promotional effort for one of our books on, let's say, Facebook and Twitter, … we would make a note of the sales rank in the morning and then the sales rank after [the] promotion. Obviously, that's not a perfect indicator, because ... people buy books from a wider range of [retailers].
... We also watched our own Web site's traffic. ... If it was a direct link from Facebook or Twitter or YouTube right back to us, and they purchased the book, we could track that. ... When we would send a link out in any of these promotions, ... the strategy that we had was [that] all this content we promote has a link back to a specific page on our site. And so as this content traveled out through these social media networks, we could track that link and where people were finding it. ... We watched all online channels. ... From the time that [Chelsea Green] launched [its] new social media platform strategy to, I think, something like six to eight months later, we'd seen our Web traffic double. And a year later, we'd seen online sales go up by 30 percent. ... We ... attributed the boost in sales largely to this new social media strategy.
Extra: What social media strategies sell books without annoying or alienating consumers?
McDougall: ... This really is an important tip that people coming from a traditional marketing background often get wrong. These social media platforms are not one-way platforms. They are not TV. They are not radio. They are not newspapers. The people who are on these platforms expect a high degree of interactivity. So when companies get into these platforms and launch their various marketing initiatives on these platforms, if they approach it with a top-down, one-way controlled message approach, they'll be turning off customers and annoying people. ... Small or independent book publishers have a real opportunity here, because all of these sites thrive on content and the discussion around content.
... I would say the best strategy for going out and increasing the awareness about your books, your authors, your company and your content is to set up accounts on these various channels, and then go out and just listen. ... So if you're, for example, a cookbook publisher, go out onto Twitter and join the foodie groups out there. Same with Facebook. Listen to the conversation going on. And then, when you get an idea of who's involved, who the major influencers are in this discussion, jump in—not as a marketer, but as another person who's interested in the discussion. This is where you can interject your content, your books, your authors, and say, “Hey, if you're interested in pickling, we have this great book out with wonderful pickling recipes from so-and-so. You might want to check that out.” ...
Extra: What sort of cross-channel marketing is necessary to support social media marketing? Should landing pages be optimized for specific promotions? Should promotional video be involved?
McDougall: ... A publisher's Web site ... should function as the hub of the social media strategy. And all the content produced, excerpted or collected from authors should be published through the publisher's Web site first, just as a means of putting it all out there where Google can find it. ... From that main hub of your Web site, this content can then be placed on Facebook, on Twitter. If you have videos, you probably put them on YouTube first and then embed them in your site. ... In terms of cross-channel marketing, I think you should use all of these multimedia services to bolster one another. For example, your Facebook page will point to your YouTube videos. Your Twitter feed will point to your Facebook page, back to your blog, back to the blog posts from your authors that appear on other blogs. ...
Extra: How should book publishers organize their companies to support social media strategies?
McDougall: ... If you have the resources and the passion in your company to set up a Web department, I would opt for that. Dedicate one, two or three employees to running this and your Web site. ... If a company can find those people who would be interested in spending a few hours a week on Twitter and on Facebook discussing their passion about these books and this content with other people who share that passion, then I think you could see some really great results on these social media networks just from these folks inserting your books, your authors and your company into these discussions in a way that is genuine and organic and adds to the discussion going on. ...