Last month’s Banned Books Week celebrations gave the American Booksellers Association the opportunity to demonstrate its ramped up social media strategy on behalf of bookstore members.
Beginning in early fall, ABA social media consultant Billy Connelly, representing American Booksellers for Free Expression (ABFE), worked as part of a social media coalition with other Banned Books Week sponsors, including the American Library Association, the Authors Guild, the Association of American Publishers, and PEN America. The purpose of the coalition was to create and share social content in a coordinated manner — for example, through the online “crowdspeaking” platform Thunderclap — in the hopes of making this year’s Banned Books Week the most buzzed-about ever and raising awareness of the importance of free speech and the ongoing challenges authors continue to face.
From September 25 through October 1, more than 500 bookstores mounted displays of banned and challenged books, hosted #BannedBooksWeek events, and promoted those events in-store and via e-mail and social media. During the week, Connelly and ABA Member Relationship Manager and Social Media Coordinator Catherine Cusick worked to expand the reach of individual store content by resharing, retweeting, and reposting their content via ABA channels while also creating and posting ABA’s own unique content.
The following week, Connelly compiled a data analysis report to measure the impact of ABA’s efforts. By using Twitter and Facebook’s own analytics tools, Connelly was able to measure social engagement on various social media platforms, including the top performing content shared on the @IndieBound and @ABAbook Twitter accounts and the top posts on the IndieBound and ABA Facebook pages. The total number of impressions and engagement rates on each Twitter channel was recorded as well as the number and reach of posts and the number of impressions on both the IndieBound and ABA Facebook pages.
“It was important to develop our goals and processes, so ABA is now in a better position to help boost the signal for members when they share their stories,” said Connelly. “The data in our report shows some of that impact, but it is not the complete story.”
The new information is helpful nonetheless. For example, the Facebook post reach for content ABA shared during Banned Books Week — the total number of people who could have potentially seen social content — was higher during Banned Books Week compared with the data from the week prior: an average of 4,219 people reached versus ABA’s average reach of 2,087 people. While ABA’s tweets average about 925 impressions per week, a single tweet about diverse authors from @ABAbook on Monday, September 26, was retweeted more than 100 times and generated more than 20,000 impressions.
Connelly said that the data collected during Banned Books Week will help ABA understand more about what works and what doesn’t work and how best to help bookstore members bolster their own social media activities to connect with their communities and get the buzz going about their stores.
“The campaign provided ABA with the opportunity to develop some baselines, which will help inform future campaigns,” he added.
The degree of bookseller participation in Banned Books Week via social media prompted praise from ABFE Director Chris Finan. “Social media is playing a major role in Banned Books Week, and it is only going to grow,” he said. "It was great to see so many ABA members involved in pushing our message out to their customers and friends.”
Going forward, ABA will continue to work on its social media strategy. The Membership and Marketing team is working with Connelly to create more ready-made social content for a newly designated section of BookWeb.org. Booksellers visiting the new “Stories to Share” section will find content they can develop, rebrand, and reshare for specific campaigns like Banned Books Week, Indies First, and other promotions.
“ABA is always trying to find ways to help members with social media sharing, so if anyone has questions, thoughts, or ideas, we would love to connect with them and talk about what they are doing, where they are finding some challenges, and what we can do to help,” Connelly said.