Does Twitter sell books? if it does
With so much excitement and excitement around Twitter, I decided to look for concrete examples of social media success in book publishing. I interviewed two different publishers to get their thoughts on how participating on Twitter has benefited them.
Twitter requires an investment of time and resources, so the first and most obvious question is, does it work? Do you sell books? I asked Michael Taeckens, director of publicity for Algonquin Books, and he responded emphatically, “Yes, absolutely.” I agree, too. At FSB, we’re running tests to judge the impact of Twitter conversations on sales, and the picture is undeniable: Twitter is driving sales (more on that next month).
Algonquin Books (@algonquinbooks) was featured in a recent Huffington Post article on the Top 12 Publishers on Twitter. Another publisher on the list was Alfred A. Knopf, and I asked Mary Buckley and Pamela Cortland if they feel their efforts to manage Twitter feeds sell books. They also said yes. The dynamic duo have been tweeting for Knopf (@aaknopf) for just over a year. Although they were not hired for this role, they seem to be naturals in it. They first took over the Facebook page and then the Twitter feed. “In April 2009, we decided to create a more active presence. Mary and I split tweeting responsibilities because we were both interested in the potential of Twitter to engage with readers,” Cortland said.
The growth in the number of followers of both Algonquin and Knopf has been substantial. In 2009 Knopf had 1,581 followers and today it exceeds 32,000. I asked them what is the secret of their success and if the growth was constant: “Our growth is spurting, where some days we will increase by fifty followers and the next by two hundred. On average, we gain about one hundred followers per day. We see a large increase when our authors with large followings (eg, Anne Rice, Nicholas Kristof) retweet posts they are interested in. Additionally, we see that our tweets about general literary news, such as book festivals across the country or discussions of the world of writing, Today’s book has attracted a wide audience”. Algonquin also has a large following of over 26,000.
The trick to its success may lie in building the community that is so crucial to Twitter. Taeckens explains his three-point plan for engagement: “First, be proactive when interacting with other people—you need to engage in conversations, not just post as if you’re informing a captive audience. Second, show your sense of personality. Be witty, humor, creativity and have fun. Thirdly, post and comment on topics you know and are interested in, not just literature and publications, but all topics of cultural dialogue.”
Building loyal communities and followers is a time-consuming task, especially since none of the Twitter feeds are run by dedicated community managers. Taeckens has the demanding job of being the Director of Advertising and this fall he will assume his new role of Director of Online and Paperback Marketing, while Mary Buckley is the Assistant Director of Advertising and Promotions and Pamela Cortland is the Assistant Director of Marketing. How do they manage to run such successful Twitter feeds? “From the beginning, we created a system of alternating ‘tweet days’, so that we wouldn’t exhaust ourselves with the effort of finding interesting things to say. Hootsuite allows us to queue our daily load of tweets in a small block of hour of the We always hear interesting news about books (on blogs, on industry sites, in the newspaper, on Twitter itself), so it’s never been too difficult to collect stuff to tweet. Also, now that our colleagues are more aware of Twitter’s potential to reach a wide audience of readers, booksellers and media contacts, they’ve been wonderful in providing us with great reviews and author events,” Buckley said.
For Taeckens, Twitter seems like a natural extension of his job: “It depends on how good you are at multitasking. I’m used to, and thrive on, multitasking. I think it’s a skill people will have.” “. to refine, because Twitter and other forms of social networking are becoming more and more important. If you’re not particularly adept at multitasking, you can always set aside certain periods of time throughout the day to check in and engage with Twitter.”
To a simple question, both companies gave inspiring answers. What do you think is the biggest benefit of Twitter for authors and publishers? “It’s very exciting for our company to interact directly with readers, authors and booksellers. Twitter allows publishers like us to be listeners as well as content providers. Being in a virtual room with millions of readers makes us more aware of what people want us, our authors and the literature,” Cortand and Buckley explained. Taeckens eloquently added: “The opportunity to convey your unique and personal sense of identity in real time.”
In both cases, Twitter managers found a place to express their passion for their books, authors, and industry. They did not set out to build a large following. They set out, almost like an experiment, to engage with a community and found it extremely rewarding and successful.