The latest Marketing Meetup hosted by the American Booksellers Association covered the different ways booksellers can use Twitter to market their store. The March 14 Marketing Meetup — one of the biweekly online video conferences hosted by ABA on Zoom.us — featured guest speakers Sarah Costello of Politics and Prose and Daniel Weaver of East City Bookshop, both in Washington, D.C.
Weaver shared that although East City Bookshop is relatively new to Twitter, the store has prioritized using Twitter consistently for the past year. “Right now we use it on a daily basis, with a good mix of scheduled tweets and things we’ll do off the cuff,” he said, “which is a little bit harder and a lot less reliable.”
Everything the store tweets can be placed into the categories of store branding, book and event promotion, or fun “voice-building” posts. East City will send out tweets to remind customers about events and preorder campaigns, in addition to anything else happening in-store.
The other posts, Weaver said, “are the more fun side of things.” These include things that Weaver feels give the store more of a personality, such as quirky sideline merchandise and pictures of dogs. “We’re a really dog-friendly store,” he said. “It’s part of our personality in the store as well as on Twitter. As anyone knows, dogs always do well on the Internet.”
Ideally, Weaver said, the perfect Twitter post would combine all three elements: it would be both fun and engaging to followers, while showing off a little bit of the store’s personality, and also promoting a book or event. “I’ve found that the fun side of things tends to drive engagement,” he added, “more than talking about an event. But talking about events is what sells books.”
Weaver said that he’s found it easier to connect with authors on Twitter than on Instagram or Facebook, which helps him to promote events there. He recommended that booksellers follow and interact with the authors they’re hosting. “It’s the kind of thing that varies from author to author depending on how active they are on Twitter,” he said, “YA authors [for example] tend to be a lot more active.” He added that interaction with other bookstores in the community can build engagement as well.
Lastly, Weaver said that Twitter has granted East City the opportunity to participate in genuine and important conversations. “We don’t tend to take an explicit political position or anything like that,” he said, “but if somebody is talking about diversity in publishing, or why people should be buying from indies, that’s definitely a conversation we feel comfortable chiming in on, whether it’s in a humorous or serious sort of way, and that’s something we haven’t tended to do on Instagram or Facebook.”
Costello said that Politics and Prose also prioritizes tweeting regularly and creating a unified voice. To do this, she recommends booksellers use a service such as TweetDeck, which allows for scheduling tweets and searching for mentions (without being directly tagged) of the store on Twitter. For events, Costello shared that the store schedules tweets in advance and posts custom graphics to make an impression on users. Politics and Prose also schedules tweets for quarterly member sales and holidays.
“One of the challenges I find with Twitter is customer service,” Costello said, “because people expect you to be online all the time, so something I’ve done is bring as many customer service issues into private messages as possible. Then I connect them with a phone number or e-mail, so they can get prompt replies.”
The store also live-tweets events being held. “I don’t expect myself to be on Twitter all the time,” Costello said, noting that she schedules out chunks of her day to devote to the platform, “but for certain events, I’ll live tweet or engage with news that our followers care about.” For example, she said, booksellers at Politics and Prose live-tweeted The Great American Read. Twitter is also useful for more political events, as it allows the store to engage in conversations that more visually-oriented platforms, such as Instagram, don’t always allow for.
One of the advantages of Twitter is it can also be seen as a source of entertainment for followers, Costello said, and features like Twitter polls are good tools for booksellers. “If your followers are entertained, that’s good, too,” she said. Costello urged that booksellers try to carry the feel-good atmosphere of a bookstore people love into their daily posts.
Booksellers who would like to participate in the next 30-minute Marketing Meetup, which will be held on March 28 and will cover blog marketing, can send an invite request to ABA’s Phil Davies. All ABA members are invited to join. Meetups are held at 11:00 a.m. EST on two Thursdays a month.