Building A Social Hive
Is all that tweeting, posting and sharing worth the time it takes? We spoke with publishers and marketing experts whose social media strategies have yielded loyal followings of eager book-buyers. Our savvy sources share 25 ways to make your social efforts more effective in 2014.
Founder, We Grow Media
1. Put Quality Over Quantity
How can publishers maximize their social media? Focus on better serving their existing relationships, readers and customers, not on obsessing about growing “followers,” “fans,” “connections,” and “pins” to arbitrary levels.
2. Be Personal
Social media is about the way human beings communicate and establish trust with each other. When you lose that sense of the person behind the social media profile, you miss the entire point of social media. I don’t care if you have a bazillion followers, I care about how well you connect with your audience on a human level
3. Learn About Readers
Often, when I work with an author, we spend a lot of time on audience research—truly understanding who his readers are, gathering qualitative and quantitative info/data on them, and then ensuring that we judge success like this: not how many more followers did we get each week on Twitter, but what one new thing did we learn about the author’s ideal readers this week. When you know this, suddenly, marketing has a clearer strategy. For example: how to engage on social media, and who with; whether to do live events, what type, and where; expectations around book sales; and so much else.
We track all our links, and regularly review to measure what’s proving most effective and what’s merely talking to ourselves. And we’ve found four elements that are generally helpful, if not earth-shatteringly original.
4. Join The Conversation
First, contextual tweets are far more likely to be clicked on, shared and favorited than simply promotional tweets. By contextual, I mean tweets shared while already in conversation with others about a topic or event. The clear lesson here: engagement drives engagement. It is so tempting to just fling thoughts into the ether, but if you don’t engage directly, that’s exactly where they’re going.
5. Use Hashtags
Tweets with hashtags increase the likelihood that you’ll gain new followers from those tweets. Hashtags are basically Twitter SEO. Use them and you’ll have new people finding you more regularly.
6. Be True to Your Brand
Tweets that are closest to your Twitter bio and personality (your Twitter brand, for lack of a better expression) are much more likely to be engaged with. Don’t have a Twitter brand or voice? That’s probably why your follower count isn’t climbing and your tweets aren’t getting shared.
7. Don’t Be Dull
While this may or may not be true for all, it’s true for us: less is more. Unless your Twitter brand is “trusted book reviewer”, constantly promoting your own books or those you’ve worked on is simply ineffective. It’s solipsistic at worst and just plain boring at best. Pick your moments. I have no data for this, but I venture this guess: a follower needs to encounter about 10 or more really interesting tweets from you before your one tweet recommending your book will have any chance of influencing them to buy it. If 9 out of 10 of your tweets are from a marketing posture, you’re likely not driving real engagement—not the kind that sells books. Plus, you’re dull.
8. Fix Your Website First
Let’s step away from social media and fix the one thing that is more important than social, which is your website. Trust me on this one, it’s broken. Here’s how you do this: 1) Optimize it for current SEO best practices and also some publishing-specific things such as “structured data” around your books, and ensuring “authorship” is set up with Google+. 2) Ensure you have a truly responsive website that will drive your business goals on the three major platforms: PC, Tablet, and Smartphone. 3) Integrate social media and email capture into the site itself—not just social sharing, but conversations, reviews and consumer posts, so that the conversation is captured and repurposed to help drive awareness and discovery. And use all of that relevant content to drive email registration, along with a segmented email program that speaks to your customers. (An example of a site that has recently been updated and did most of this is Simon & Schuster).
9. Formulate A Plan
While you’re fixing up your home page, step even further away from social media and create an actual plan for reaching your audiences. This will involve understanding your business goals and strategies, your customers, and how you market and sell in this social world we live in. Then you must ensure that all of your marketing is aligned with those goals, strategies, customers and sales. It’s not about getting on Facebook or Twitter or Vine, or creating a content program using video or imagery, but about how you can appropriately use each of these tools to drive your business forward.
10. Socialize With Authors
The third thing you need to do is to partner with and leverage your authors. Every publisher has at least some authors that are doing some amazing things across the social platforms. Few publishers, however, are effectively concentrating the content these authors are producing for their audiences, and then amplifying that concentrated stream of content across their own social programs. Doing this can truly drive discoverability, engagement and revenue.
Associate Publisher, The Harvard CommonPress (HCP)
11. Use Social Media to Amplify
My feeling about social media (in all its forms, but also when it comes to promoting books) is that any brand has to realize that as much as social media allows for a “me-centric” approach to marketing and messaging, it is less about any one individual brand or identity and more about the network effect that can be used to amplify any marketing message.
12. Be Passionate
When I think about how closely we work with bloggers who are passionate about our books, or engaging our authors who are themselves brands representing their own books, we end up playing the strongest role when we bring all those pieces together via our social media platforms, rather than trying to act as a one-way street pushing out news of our books. Ultimately, consumers want to hear from other individuals and people who are real and not just brand representatives. I also find that we make a strong impact when acting as individuals with the people we reach on social media (HCP president Bruce Shaw’s Facebook and Twitter followings are examples of that).
Literary Community Organizer, Tumblr
13. Be Genuine
First, get on Tumblr, obviously! And, while you’re there or on any social media channel, talk like a real person, not like a robot. The idea is to be genuine and genuinely helpful.
14. Get Plugged In
It’s easier to plug into communities that already exist on social media than start your own community from scratch, so target people and groups you think will be genuinely interested in the books you’re talking about.
15. Be Valuable
In terms of content, make sure it’s something people will be excited to share, something that has a clear voice and point of view. Whoever is posting on your social media channels, give them the keys and let them run with it!
Director of Programs & Strategic Outreach,
Council of Literary Magazines and Presses
16. Tweet From the Heart
This might sound like something of a no-brainer, but the first key thing is that publishers publish work they care deeply about, which most of our publishers do. They’re not publicity assistants at Random House with a bunch of titles to plug on a massive twitter feed—they’re people who are very engaged with every book they publish, and their social media accounts reflect that passion and knowledge.
17. Show Passion, Not Pomp
Take a look at the Graywolf Press Twitter account [to the right]. They’re not bots digesting and spitting out company news, they’re people who spend every single day wading through manuscripts, reading books they love, and facing the challenges unique to the indie publishing community. They have an online identity that carries over into bookstores, and into how readers feel about their work. The National Book Award tweet is notable—it congratulates Mary Szybist first, rather than making immediate mention of the fact that Graywolf is the publisher.
18. Get Everyone Involved
Some concrete examples: Coffee House Press published a book last spring called Submergence, by J.M Ledgard. The book did very well, not in the least because it’s a fabulous book, but also because every single member of Coffee House’s tiny staff read the book, knew it intimately, and advocated for it on a large and small scale. If you were to log in to your Twitter account right now and tweet something about Submergence, I’m willing to bet $10,000 that Chris Fischbach (publisher of CH) would retweet, favorite and probably respond directly to your post. He’d probably follow you as well. There’s almost no chance higher-ups at major houses would have that kind of interaction with their readers.
Founder and President, FSB Associates
19. Seek Out Niches
Publishers can use social media to help authors reach today’s new kind of reader—one who is more tech savvy and resourceful and expects more interaction and community. And social media makes it easier than ever before to find and interact with readers in a specific niche. Publishers can save money by targeting micro-communities already interested in the author’s message, instead of trying to market to the general public and hoping to find the right match.
20. Engage With Journalists
There are two clear benefits for using social media in publicity. First, more and more journalists are getting story ideas from social media feeds, so sharing relevant information about our clients has resulted in features for our books and authors. Second, by monitoring Twitter we can stay ahead of trending stories and pitch our clients for interviews or for guest blogs.
Author, APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur
21. Build Credibility
The key to effective use of social media by authors is to use it to establish themselves as sector experts. If you write science fiction, you should post links about science. The goal is to establish credibility. Think of yourself as NPR: it provides great content 365 days a year in order to earn the right to run a telethon a few weeks a year. In an author’s case promoting his or her book is the telethon. Social media is only effective if you provide value, and your followers feel a need to reciprocate by reading your book.
Founder and Publisher, Publerati
22. Promote Your Story…
Publerati uses social media as an important part of our marketing strategy, especially since our novels are digital only. We are creating a brand with a social purpose, namely to help spread literacy using ebooks and to promote excellent fiction as an enduring form of unique human expression. At the corporate brand level we buy advertising on Facebook to reach socially-minded people around the world, selecting interests that include fiction, literacy, ebooks, novels and social responsibility.
23. …And Look Good While Doing It
We use creative that offers appealing images with type on them (same as what works for effective print advertising: strong unexpected image with brief supporting message), designed to generate hundreds of shares to build our global network. Then we intersperse these with occasional informational content for people interested in literacy and fiction plus our own soft sells, and typically see immediate jumps in ebook sales. We also use LinkedIn and Twitter at the corporate brand level to reach technology media and publishing enthusiasts to help spread the unique Publerati story.
24. Test Out Different Platforms
At the product marketing level, we use Goodreads, NetGalley, Pinterest, Readwave and Wattpad. Among the things we are testing is to see if we can sample one free story, usually the title story, from short story e-collections that we sell for $4.99 and as a result increase those e-collection sales. We also use NetGalley to seed the early adopters with advance e-copies to build buzz at launch.
Director of Community Development,
Crown Publishing Group (Random House)
25. Create A Roadmap
Prepare an audit of your social profiles and consider the value you’re providing the reader in every post, tweet and comment. The content created in the social space should resonate with the reader and compel them to share. We provide training decks for each social platform, so the publicity and marketing teams have full access and understanding of how to maximize social for their titles. These guides are then available to all authors, creating almost a self-serve scalability.