"This is not the how to, but why" of social media, declared moderator Kirsten Hess from R. J. Julia in Madison, Conn. The session was designed to help booksellers sort out which of the many platforms to tackle in the most efficient way, Hess said, "because let's face it, we'd all rather be reading a book."
|L.-r.: Amy Cox Williams, Ingram Content Group, Lynnette Young, Purple Stripe Productions, Andrew Fitzgerald, Twitter; Amy Stephenson, the Booksmith
Amy Stephenson from the Booksmith in San Francisco--who, aside from maintaining several Facebook pages, also manages seven e-mail accounts, five Twitter feeds, four Tumblr accounts and two blogs--said social media is a "great way to show off our indie bookseller chops."
Hess asked the panelists if the best advice about social media was for people to choose one platform and get good at it.
"Choose Twitter," was the comic and unsurprising response from panelist Andrew Fitzgerald, news manager at Twitter. But he then went on to offer practical advice. When getting started on any platform, he suggested, look for communities that are already participating in the conversation in the area. For example, he mentioned that museums in San Francisco tweet at one another "as if they are going to rumble in the streets like Sharks and Jets," and said it could be fun and productive (in terms of picking up followers) for booksellers to join that conversation.
The great thing about social media, said Stephenson, is that when getting started, one can ask people why they follow you. Platforms have different audiences, Stephenson said, and once you've taken the time to learn how to communicate on your chosen platforms, they become easier to manage more effectively. "It's the difference between meeting [users] where they live versus shouting at them," she said.
Lynnette Young, owner of Purple Strip Productions, which helps companies of all sizes manage their social media communications, offered this distinction: "Social media is where you want to connect with people; e-mail is where you want to keep them."
Amy Cox Williams, director of product marketing at Ingram Content Group, stressed the importance of integrating social media with e-mail. Since social media shows up in streams, reaching customers is not as guaranteed as it is with e-mail, she explained. Facebook, she noted, has an app that allows users to embed an e-newsletter on their page.
Young advised booksellers to use the G.H.O.S.T. approach to social media. G: Have goals set. H: Be holistic about your approach. O: Set objectives; e.g., a certain number of followers by a certain date. S: Be specific. And T: Don't forget the tactical pieces, e.g., write three posts per day, and track them. "We're all in this for business," she said. "If you start with goals, the strategies will fill in."
The good and the bad news about social media is that, as Stephenson said, it "has the memory of a goldfish." But that, Fitzgerald pointed out, makes it great for experimenting. By all means, he said, feel free to delete and redo posts--and then move on. Inertia, the panelists would agree, is never a good business strategy. --Bridget Kinsella