Social Media Expert to Wi10 Booksellers: Make the Most of the Medium

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Booksellers both experienced and just beginning social media outreach attended “How to Create an Effective Social Media Marketing Strategy and Track the Results,” presented by JB Media Group’s Sarah Benoit at the American Booksellers Association’s Winter Institute 10.

Moderator Suzanne Droppert, owner of Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, Washington, introduced Benoit, the director of training at JB and lead instructor for the group’s Media Institute.

“It’s all about having a plan,” Benoit told the crowd of more than 100 booksellers gathered for the presentation. “It takes away the fear of making mistakes or having something said that is inappropriate. There are lots of concerns that people have about the social piece because you are inviting the rest of the world to talk about you, so that can be nerve-wracking.”

Procrastination is a common barrier to social media success for many small businesses, said Benoit, who observed that, on top of all their other responsibilities, many business owners barely have enough time to update social media even once a week.

A lack of sufficient staff time and an unrealistic view of employee capabilities can also be an issue. If an owner plans to delegate social media to an employee with a full-time job already, Benoit said, that person may not have time to take on another role.

“If we’re not realistic, then we just procrastinate. And in the world of social media, procrastination means you’re stagnant, and when you’re stagnant, you’re done. It’s pointless,” said Benoit. “Literally everything is changing by the minute, so stagnation is a real problem.”

With a detailed strategy in place, however, procrastination becomes less likely.

“In developing a social media strategy, it’s really important to think about how you’re going to create the content, what the content is going to be about, and then also about how you’re going to distribute the content,” Benoit said.

Booksellers don’t have to use every social media platform out there, despite the hype surrounding certain sites, she added. The key is to identify your store’s target audience and figure out how to get in front of that audience.

“If you hate Facebook, don’t do it. If you don’t like Twitter, don’t do it. If you don’t like Pinterest, don’t do it. Find the tools that work for you that you want to use and could potentially get you in front of the people that are qualified audiences for you,” Benoit said. “It’s not about doing everything. It’s about doing one thing or two things that work really well.”

Benoit detailed four phases of creating and executing a successful social media strategy:

  • First, booksellers must decide which social media platforms they want to use and why.
  • Second is to come up with specific goals — whether it is to drive traffic in the door, introduce a product, promote an in-store event, step up marketing efforts,     and/or drive  sales.
  • The third step is to literally write out a detailed plan for one’s own reference and for staff reference, and include a posting schedule and guidelines.
  • The very important fourth step, Benoit said, is tracking the results. There is no excuse not to track, she said, since there are so many online tools available and    many are built into the social platforms themselves, including Google Analytics, Facebook Insights, and Twitter Analytics.

“If you’re going to do social media, it’s pretty much free to track,” Benoit said. “It’s 100 percent so important to track what you’re doing because that’s what’s going to tell you whether or not you’re being effective.”

Benoit called Google Analytics “one of the absolute best tools ever created for Internet marketing.”

The program can track whether a business is reaching its specific goals and can identify where any traffic contributing to those goals is originating, so that owners and managers can see which social media platforms to prioritize, Benoit said. 

If Twitter is producing a lot of action while Facebook is not, the logical thing to do is to focus more energy on Twitter, Benoit said.

“It’s really about understanding the behavior of the people on your website as well as all the different places that they come from. And if you know what content is most popular that tells you what content you should continue to produce,” she said.

Benoit suggested that booksellers adhere to the “30, 30, 30, 10” rule as a guide for producing content: 30 percent of a store’s social media content should be related to the business; 30 should be in the service of establishing a business “personality”; 30 should be reserved for random interesting content unrelated to the business; and 10 percent of content is reserved for creativity and risk-taking.

Social media is more like in-person networking than straight advertising or marketing, Benoit said. It works by building relationships over time via interaction and interesting content so that that bookstore will be in the front of people’s minds when they eventually need a book.

When it comes to dealing with customer comments on social media pages, Benoit said that booksellers should not fear the feedback and just respond professionally as they would in a real-life situation.

“Even if they are criticizing your business on any of these platforms, a lot of times it is legitimate and we should be open to that,” she said. “They’re your customers and they have feedback for you. Don’t be afraid of it.”

A store’s success on Facebook is due to a combination of growth in three areas: engagement, reach, and likes, Benoit said, and these statistics are compiled by Facebook Insights.

“It’s really a quality over quantity thing. I would rather you have 750 likes from people who actually really love what you do, support you, and feed you  money than you have 10,000 random people who don’t do anything,” Benoit said. “It’s not about having the biggest network. It’s about having the most engaged network.”

Twitter, on the other hand, is a uniquely powerful resource to engage with the media as well as for engaging customers, Benoit said.

It is always important, when working with social media platforms, to make sure to direct people to the store site, Benoit said, since a store’s website should be the ultimate hub. Having a Facebook or Twitter Like or Follow button on the site itself is a good idea, as long as it does not send people away.

“Eyeballs are great. Just using Facebook to get eyeballs on your website is awesome, but eyeballs aren’t money,” Benoit said. “They’re awesome, they have value, but eventually we need some of those eyeballs to turn into people that actually became a customer.”

Booksellers can access Benoit’s entire Wi10 slide presentation on the JB Media Group website.