Australian Publishers & Social Media Marketing (Part 2)

Today I’m continuing my post about the Australian Publishers Association seminar on Social Media Marketing.  Part 1 covered the first half of the day led by Jason Dooris, Head of Digital from Razor and you can read my post here about his excellent training on getting your head around the strategy of your social media, how to do a competitive analysis, design your strategy and then report on your results.

LET’S GET REAL, where attendees heard from Australian Publishers, Booksellers and Authors who are using Social Media

This part of the day was very interesting as we were able to hear case studies of those who are using social media and what has worked for them. The afternoon session included two Australian publishers and two Australian booksellers and then the very talented Angela Meyer who is a book reviewer, writer, tweep and blogger.

The Large Publisher: The Penguin Story

Sally Bateman is the Marketing Director at Penguin Group Australia where she originally started in publicity. Prior to that she worked in PR for a number of consultancies and is on the Victorian committee of the Australian Interactive Media Industry Association (AIMIA)

Penguin mainly use Facebook, YouTube, Flickr and Twitter and their objective with their social media is to be:

Funny, irreverent, honest and relevant

(ie, don’t take yourself too seriously!)

Sally emphasised that sometimes you don’t need to spend big bucks to get good results using social media. She gave us two great examples of this that are worth sharing with you.

Where is the Green Sheep?

If you are the parent of toddlers (or even two toddlers as I have) then this book is likely to be one of your favourite titles. Not only is Mem Fox a well-loved writer, but the story teaches children about concepts such as ‘up’, ‘down’, ‘wide’, various colours and activities. It’s been on heavy rotation in our household for a few years. When Penguin came out with a plush toy boxed set they had the challenge of how to market a book that was already popular and was originally published in 2004. What else to do?

Staff started taking photos of the Green Sheep in various locations and posting the pics which went down well. Eventually they created a video of all the photos and this has been very successful.  Watch the video here and I think you’ll agree that simple – yet very appropriate for the product – videos like this can work very well. As always with publisher efforts this video would have been utilised in a variety of ways – not only on YouTube but also on the appropriate page of the Publisher site, of course on Flickr as they were published.

Undoubtedly this campaign breathed new life into a campaign for a well-loved book.

75 New Popular Penguins

The challenge here was how to get the word out about these new Penguins. Admittedly Penguin has THE best (if not only?) brand in Publishing. No one else as a publisher has such great brand recognition. Most publishers will focus on the author and the series as the ‘brand’ for just this reason.

Penguin decided with do a photoshoot of people holding one of the new Popular Penguins. this was publicized via Facebook and Twitter and they picked Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. There were only 75 places in each of those states and they were sold out within 24-48 hours! Then Canberra Times started a campaign saying that Canberra shouldn’t be left out, then Darwin also!  Sally said it was a great opportunity to meet with the readers of their titles and the video results are a great watch. Readers could do what they wanted with the book and then Penguin choose the final photos for the video.

Sally mentioned how Young Adult books in particular suit Social Media. The authors are often great at  communicating with fans as well.

She talked about Vampire Academy and about the forum they set up – with VERY strict rules and moderation. Sally mentioned they were amazed at how much kids wanted to talk about the books and in how much detail! Although others publishers have shied away from forums due to the work involved in moderation and the safety issues Penguin believed the work was worth the interaction with their fans. From my perspective though I would say that this is best done from within an organisation that has the staff and time to monitor the forum. When you are dealing with this age group you need to make sure they aren’t revealing personal details about themselves.

Sally Bateman emphasised that once you launch an element of social media you DO need to keep it moving and as a major publisher they do have the people-power to do this. Different staffers at Penguin may tweet, but they have a common voice. At this stage they find it difficult to assess a correlation between their social media efforts and sales but over time they surely will. I can’t help thinking that as they don’t have online sales from their website or in fact links to any online booksellers of their title that indeed it must be hard to track. Over time I’m sure one or other of these circumstances will change and with the tracking tools available they will be able to see the direct results of their efforts.

Booksellers in Action: The Readings Story

Firstly I have to say how much I thoroughly enjoyed hearing from Andrew McDonald from Readings, and then later in the afternoon Mark Harding from Shearers Bookshop.

Readings Bookshop is an independent Victorian retailer of books, music, films and soon ebooks. They opened their first store in 1969 and now have a total of six stores. Andrew has been the Online Manager for Readings for three years and started their Facebook page two years ago. Not only is he a published author with his kids book “The Greatest Blogger in the World” but he clearly has a love of books and total understanding of the social media landscape and utilises it very well.

I found it interesting that BOTH of the speakers from bookshops really consider that their online efforts must mirror their in-store culture.

Andrew shared that we has some things he will always do on Twitter:

  1. If someone follows @Readingsbooks then they will follow back. He considers this polite and shows they are listening.
  2. If an author is on Twitter then they will ensure they use their ‘twitter name’ when mentioning so can retweet.
  3. They experimented with competitions and quizzes with many failures but eventually found a formula that worked. For them this was posting a small crop of a book cover in #whatsthatbook for a prize pack and that’s worked really well. For the Wikileaks book they changed it to @whatsthatgate with great success!

Readings Books have only 2000 followers on Facebook versus 6,668 followers (as of today) on Twitter. When using Facebook updating more than 2-3 times per day is perceived as spamming and make sure you post some interesting things – it can’t just be ‘selling’ or people will tune out.

On YouTube they have their own channel and have some small clips. Again, like all content online don’t make it boring! He thinks videos where someone has set a tripod up at the back of a launch are just plain boring!

From their social media content perspective they try to ensure it’s not all about the brand, but also about fun book related stuff. It needs to be authentic and they also have guest blog posts. People love book reviews from Readings staff, so they have found these to be very popular.

The Independent Publisher: The Murdoch Story

Karin Pfaff is the  Digital Product Coordinator at Murdoch Books and responsible for all things digital including the website and blog, Facebook and Twitter communities and coordinating their ebook program.  I thought Karin’s story was interesting as suprisingly enough they are very recent in their foray into digital so for those fairly inexperienced in this arena it would give a ‘newbie’ viewpoint. Karin talked about what they have learnt in the 6-8 months they’ve been in this space.

  • Be Yourself, not a brand
  • Be valuable to the community
  • Experiment with what will work
  • Big names draw crowds so start with your strongest (in Murdoch case they are known for food so feature this strongly in their blog)
  • Build clusters or themes for your midlist
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time social media takes
  • Spread responsibility in-house and encourage guest posts. People are absolutely fascinated by publishing and the work behind the scenes so other departments should get involved in blogging too!
  • Spread your content wide to bring back traffic!
  • Curate 3rd party content in your community.
  • Everyone loves a give-away! Use RT (Retweet) or a hashtage # to spread this around.
  • Keep your competitions REALLY simple unless you are highly creative!

Karin talked about their 365 Challenge and how it really was bigger challenge than originally realised! They decided to cook their way through Stéphane Reynaud’s 365 Good Reasons to Sit Down to Eat. Imagine, taking on as well as your other work you had to cook something EVERY DAY, following each day exactly! OH MY! As you can imagine over the last five months this has been a lot of work blogging and photographing so they are now spreading the load with getting their blog readers to participate.

As to where Murdoch is going, Karin said:

  • They intend to build on their success in the food community and leverage it to other parts of the list.
  • Involve more people in-house in content creation (NOTE: This theme came out a lot during the day)
  • Showcase their authors well online and support authors with social media guide that is presented as part of their contract (Great idea there).

Lucky lucky Karin Pfaff went to Digital Book World in NY the other week (yes, I was green with envy at around that point!). From there she learnt some valuable things:

  • Have an online strategy – have a purpose and channel your efforts.
  • Identify and research your audience and what their needs are.
  • Find existing communities to go into (note: reference what Jason Dooris from Razor said about this in my earlier post. Don’t just barge in!)
  • Test different formats and measure the response. Drop what doesn’t work!
  • Help your authors promote their books
  • Partner with your audience creating engaging content.
  • Establish an editorial calendar
  • Work in continuous arc of iteration (refer the SDLC I referred to in previous post)

Murdoch Books have absolutely fantastic content and (second time I’m green with envy) a TEST KITCHEN (drool) so lots of opportunity to photograph food for their social media. I look forward to seeing their future directions as they experiment more in this area.

Booksellers in action: The Shearers Experience

Another great presentation by a bookshop – they seem to have really nailed communication via social media! Mark Harding from Shearers Bookshop is in charge of their social media and online marketing after previously working there are a bookseller.  Shearers are on Facebook, Twitter and have recently started a blog. Only in charge of this area for 18 months he clearly understands the market. They have about 775 followers on Twitter (as of today) and 500 on Facebook.

Mark gave us some great examples of what tweets have worked for them (my favourite? “I hope someone arrives at the Bookers dressed as an egg” . If you don’t understand that then perhaps this link will help!)

As mentioned by Andrew McDonald from Readings, Mark from Shearers also believes using social media to replicate the culture of the store and this is easier to do than on the website.

Mark keeps the Twitter page open all day so he can communicate things as they happen which helps with a sense of ‘current’. He believes the ‘tone’ needs to be very consistent and although other staff do also update he admits he prefers to be the one in control!

He thinks you should use a sense of humour and don’t worry about going off subject.

I loved hearing from Shearers and although I hadn’t been a twitter follower I immediately started so that I could enjoy the great tweets that I’d seen in his presentation.

Industry Commentator: Angela Meyer, Book reviewer, author, tweep and blogger

The last speaker of the day was Angela Meyer and I was really looking forward to seeing her in action having followed her online for a while. Angela is a writer and reviewer based in Melbourne and and runs the Crikey blog LiteraryMinded. She is a published author and ex-acting editor of Bookseller and Publisher magazine.

Angela recommended that you first up get a ‘secret’ account on Twitter and get a feel for what is going on. Find out who bloggers or tweeters are and what they are interested in.

She believes in updating:

  • Blogs 2-3 times per week
  • Facebook 3-5 times per week
  • Twitter 2-10 times per week + replies

The talented @ebookish has done a great blog post on her presentation and I thought I’d link to this as I couldn’t do justice – or frankly do better!  By that stage of the day I was getting tweeters fatigue and my battery was running out! Sad to say that the technology and the human behind it were running low!


This seminar is still to run in Melbourne and happy to hear that the tweeting done by @ebookish and I added another participant to the list!  As @ebookish has mentioned in her blog go onto Twitter and search the #apasmm to follow our tweeting hot off the iPad (@ebookish) and iPhone (@digireado)

I’ll be very interested to follow Melbourne tweets as they have a few different presentations.

I hope that everyone who attended learnt about approaching their social media efforts with a strategy in mind – but also to start if they haven’t already. Focus on what are your strengths, start with your high profile authors and brands (if you have them) and don’t start and then not update. Ok, that last one makes ME feel a bit guilty as my blog is always put behind (1) other work (2) tweeting (3) parenting two rowdy toddlers!

Did you learn something about Social Media from this blog post? Let me know in the comments section!

One thought on “Australian Publishers & Social Media Marketing (Part 2)

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