Virtual Roundtable Offers Insight Into Using Social Media for Customer Acquisition

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The latest virtual marketing roundtable hosted by the American Booksellers Association featured a group of booksellers who use social media to help recruit potential customers.

The October 5 roundtable — one of the biweekly online video conferences hosted by ABA on Zoom.us — featured tips from Josh Cook of Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Dan Graham of Book Soup in West Hollywood, California; and Taylor Timmons of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia.

During the roundtable, each bookseller discussed the different types of social media platforms they use, what kind of content they post, and how they have increased follower engagement over time.

Porter Square Books

Porter Square Books uses Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as its main social media platforms. In terms of content, Cook believes that the store’s social media should be an extension of the service provided in-store.

“People pay more for books with us than elsewhere because we provide human interaction and relationships when they shop,” he said. “We want to bring that same humanity, that same sense of community, that same [feeling of] ‘we’re all just readers here’ to our social media.”

The store works to achieve this goal, said Cook, by categorizing each post in one of three ways: as a promotion of specific items, a promotion of the store’s ability to provide those items, or a contribution to the ongoing books conversation taking place online.

“Sometimes, we’re just participating in the big, chaotic conversation social media is always having about books,” he said, adding that a bookseller can offer unique, valuable perspective to that discussion.

The content on the store’s profiles can often fit into multiple categories, Cook added. For example, when Porter Square Books posts a picture of a specific title, it also provides a link to where that book can be bought on the store’s website. This promotes a product while also showcasing the store’s ability to fulfill orders online.

Porter Square Books also tries to engage its online audience in different ways. Some posts on Twitter follow a “20 Questions” format, where the store proposes different “yes” or “no” questions to its followers; the store then recommends books based on answers given.

The store plays another game with its Twitter followers called “Libromancy.” Followers are asked questions or prompted with specific tasks, such as to share their last photo that doesn’t have a person in it, and based on those answers the store responds with book recommendations.

Overall, Cook recommends that users post two to three times per day across each of their platforms, but he also reminded booksellers that numbers aren’t everything. Instead, he urged those posting to social media to focus on creating fun posts that will engage their community.

Book Soup

Earlier this year, Dan Graham of Book Soup decided he wanted to focus on increasing customer engagement across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, in addition to utilizing social media as a tool to increase event attendance and participation in pre-order campaigns.

So far, Book Soup has seen a visible increase in event attendance. For each of the five to six events held each week, booksellers create a Facebook event that is then promoted with author interviews as well as reviews of their books. To further increase interest in events, Book Soup invites other authors as co-hosts.

Instead of having a dedicated social media manager, several different employees have access to the store’s log-in information across platforms. Graham asks that his staff post as frequently as possible. While the store’s Facebook and Twitter focuses on events and programming, its Instagram showcases the life of the indie bookstore through photos of its shelves, new arrivals, and favorite titles.

When hosting author events, Graham recommends that booksellers check the author’s Twitter to see if they’ve posted about attending the event. If they have, retweeting the post with a link to the event can increase follower engagement as well as provide more information.

Avid Bookshop

In June, Taylor Timmons took over as Avid Bookshop’s social media manager. In this new role, she creates visual marketing and engages people through images across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. In the past three months, Avid Bookshop has doubled its customer engagement across its platforms and increased its following by 1500 users.

Timmons said she believes that the main reason for this increase in followers and engagement can be attributed to consistent, high-quality posts. She aims to post twice a day on Facebook and Instagram and once a day on Twitter, which makes 14 individual posts each week.

A great way for booksellers to plan and schedule posts in advance is to use a service like Loomly, Timmons suggested. She uses Loomly because it can organize posts across platforms, it allows different users to access the account at the same time, and it allows users to view engagement, comments, and their Facebook layout.

As far as creating engaging content, Timmons recommended creating exciting posts that resonate with the targeted customer base; for bookstores, posts that include pets often do very well.

“Pets are always the highest engagement! We post any photos shared by customers or employees of their pets with our books or in the bookstore,” she said. “We don’t have a cat in the shop, but posts about pets are always successful.”

Booksellers who are interested in trying a 15-day free trial of Loomly can use Timmons’ referral link.

Booksellers who would like to participate in the next 30-minute marketing roundtable video conference, to be held October 25 on the topic of customer loyalty programs, can send an invite request to ABA’s Phil Davies. All ABA members are invited to join. Conferences are held at 11:00 a.m. EDT on two Thursdays a month.