Malaprop's Bookstore/Cafe general manager Linda Barrett Knopp has a simple way to confirm that her store's social media efforts are reaching customers: “When I go to yoga class, people will saw, 'Oh, I saw that on Twitter or Facebook,'” she said.
Malaprop's launched its Twitter account in January, after three staff members attended the Southern Social Networking Summit, organized by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance (SIBA). Sending enthusiastic young booksellers who came back with plans for the store was “one of those things that was great about the summit,” said Barrett Knopp.
Four booksellers – Alsace Young-Wallentine, Caroline Green, Gina Cole, and John Harrington – share Twitter duties at @Malaprops, so one of the first steps was establishing a tone for the account. “One thing we didn't want to do was be selling all the time,” Barrett Knopp said, but they did want to convey the store's enthusiasm and unique identity.
Of course, selling books is also one of the goals for @Malaprops. The booksellers share new and backlist titles they're excited about, and customers sometimes reply, asking that a copy be set aside or ordered for them.
Discussing favorite books also leads to connections outside the Asheville, North Carolina, community. “A publicist will tweet back appreciating it” when the store mentions one of his or her books, Barrett Knopp said. “A lot of authors are so active,” and their fans join the conversations as well.
But the local connections the store has made have been the most important. “One thing Twitter is really good at for us is the local community,” said Barrett Knopp, adding that it proved especially useful right after the store account was established: It was a hard winter in Asheville, and having a Twitter presence allowed Malaprop's to quickly let customers know when the store was closed – and to offer sympathy to their snowbound neighbors.
With a limited advertising budget, Malaprop's relies on Twitter and Facebook to promote many of its events, and turnout has been strong at events that were primarily promoted online. To raise local awareness, the store links to both accounts from the front page of its website, malaprops.com.
“Twitter has been one of the most fun and creative outlets for us this year,” said Barrett Knopp, who plans to begin sharing @Malaprops tweeting duties soon. “I'd definitely count joining Twitter as one of the most important things we've added to the mix.”