KENNEALLY: I want to offer thanks to Florrie and to Terry Nathan, both, and to all of you at IPBA, particularly for deciding to hold Publishing University this year in San Francisco.
And I have to say, not only is Fisherman’s Wharf a far more pleasant venue than the Javits Center – (laughter) – wait a minute, wait a minute. I can think of only one other place less pleasant than the Javits Center. And that would be Washington when Congress is in session.
What makes setting PubU here in the City by the Bay so perfect is the timing. Like a tremor running through the San Andreas fault, the earth is quaking beneath the traditional epicenter of publishing, and the force is shifting around a great deal more than just the china. IPBA understands this.
San Francisco also makes an apt setting for Publishing University because of its rich literary tradition. Mark Twain, who is a personal hero, established his reputation here. But key to Twain’s importance on this occasion is that he was not only an author, but a publisher. Thanks to his own efforts as editor and mentor, Ulysses Grant penned his memoirs and made back for his family a fortune that was lost to another great economic crisis.
Twain also keenly advocated for the advancement of publishing technology, even sometimes to his own financial detriment. And on the matter of copyright, which at Copyright Clearance Center is obviously near to my own heart, he noted that whenever it came time to reform the laws of copyright, that was when the idiots assembled. It all sounds terribly familiar, doesn’t it?
So these imagination panels Florrie always bills as a glimpse of the near future, though frankly, we are only offering a snapshot of this present moment. Author William Gibson, who coined the term cyberspace, has dryly noted that the future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.
For the next 45 minutes, I hope that distribution of the future should shift more in your favor, and thanks to the assistance of our panel, I think that will happen, and I want to introduce each of them now. First, we’ll turn to Molly Birckhead. Molly, welcome.
KENNEALLY: Molly Birckhead is the – Molly Birckhead is indeed – Molly Birckhead is the Senior Online Marketing Manager at HarperOne, where she has worked since 2009 on increasing the online visibility of HarperOne books. She takes an experimental approach to her work, continually trying to find the right marketing mix to ensure that HarperOne books can be found wherever readers spend time online.
And because we are talking about social media here, I want to remind everybody, we encourage tweeting. The hashtag for the whole conference is ibpau2012, and I’ll give you the Twitter handles for each of our panelists. For Molly, she is @harperonemolly. Again, that’s @harperonemolly.
Beside Molly, to her left, is Allen Noren. Alan, welcome.
NOREN: Thank you very much.
KENNEALLY: Allen is the VP Online at O’Reilly Media. He’s been with the company since 1992, when one of his first jobs was to maintain the O’Reilly Gopher site. I’m sure there’s some good stories there. He was a founding member of the GNN team that built one of the first commercial Web portals, and was part of the group that created Safari Books Online, the O’Reilly e-book program and online events platform.
Allen is in charge of Oreilly.com, the company’s e-commerce news and marketing portal, and for the purposes of this afternoon, Allen’s Twitter handle would be @oreillymedia, and there is no apostrophe.
And then finally, we want to welcome Cynthia Shannon. Cynthia, welcome.
SHANNON: Hi, Chris. Hi, everyone.
KENNEALLY: Cynthia is Publicity Manager at Berrett-Koehler, where she oversees the promotion of business and current affairs titles via traditional and social media. She was previously at Wiley/Jossey-Bass and other press in New York, and her preferred Twitter handle today would be @bkpub, @bkpub.
So with all of that, I want to start with Cynthia, who confessed to me that this is the first time she has done this kind of a presentation. She’s put a lot of other people up to it over the years, but now it’s her turn to be in the hot seat. But really, what I want to do is, I want to welcome her, make her feel like it’s going to be a pleasant experience. And talk first about how you, in your role as Publicity Manager at Berrett-Koehler, get authors comfortable with the notion of social media. I mean, this is all not new, but still, there’s a fair amount of resistance there, and I’m sure reactions range from excitement and commitment to, well, I’d rather not.
SHANNON: Well, that’s a great question. Our authors are pretty good with social media, and they all know that they kind of have to do it, but they’re a little nervous always, because they feel like there’s so much to do, and they don’t really know where to start. So, I try to identify what would come most naturally to them.
So if they’re obviously writers, you know, if they have good ways of being succinct and thinking in 140 characters, they’ll be able to do Twitter really well. If they like to engage more with their community and show more pictures, Facebook works with them. Or if they like videos, they can do YouTube.
So it really matters what the person is most comfortable with, and then starting there, and really getting to know that before moving on to anything else.
KENNEALLY: So it’s important to establish a comfort level.
KENNEALLY: Have you got any tricks of the trade to help them do that? I mean, some of it is bewildering at first, but then you get into it, and you recognize the real value. I know when Twitter became the word of the day back in 2009, I joked that I thought it was the Pet Rock of that particular moment. And now I take that back. And I only recognized its value by working with it myself. And I understand its value, not so much what I have to tweet, but what I take from it, all the news that I take from it. Is that something you try to explain to people, that it’s not only what they do, but what they get?
SHANNON: Oh, yeah. I mean, there’s so many ways that social media can bring news to you and can help you, as the author, help you as the publisher when you’re looking for more information.
You know, I try to sit down with the authors and really spend some time getting them set up. And once they’re set up, I say, now, just go and like try it out. And you really can – you only get – you can only really learn it by doing it. I mean, there’s plenty of books being written on it, you can – you’ll read about one thing, try it out, see how it works, and then move on to the next.
KENNEALLY: But what’s an easy measure of success for all of this, that you try to – you know, sort of reinforce? When you’re working with children, you have to show them success over time, it makes them feel good. For the authors, that’s the same, I’m sure. (laughter) I mean that in the best way, yes? Otherwise, if you don’t see the success, you’re not going to continue. It’s going to become frustrating.
SHANNON: Yes, we support them. We – you know, when – for example, on Twitter, when I set an author up on Twitter, and then I re-tweet something that they tweeted, they’ll be like, hey, look, so-and-so is just – they wrote about me, what do I do? And I’m like, God, it’s me. (laughter) And yeah. But like little steps like that.
KENNEALLY: Well, you need another Twitter handle and do it surreptitiously, then.
I want to turn to Allen Noren, who is no stranger to the online world. In fact, O’Reilly has made its name as a – if not a digital first publisher, a digital primary publisher. And you take us back to a time really before the Worldwide Web. What’s the most important platform for O’Reilly?
NOREN: That’s a great question. I mean –
M: The mike should be closer.
NOREN: Can you hear? Can people hear now? How’s that?
So, it depends on what we’re trying to do. I mean, for a lot of our marketing efforts, e-mail is still the most powerful thing we have. When we send out a compelling e-mail with a great offer, and we, by the way, have a large online direct channel, so that’s different than a lot of publishers.
But we can see, in all of our online dashboards, that our systems are peaking, or at least climbing. And so, e-mail is still very popular. But for the right thing, you know, Twitter is, for example, incredibly viral. Right? If there is a topic of the day, if you have the right person, if you’ve got the tweetable, the big idea that you can get out there, then that stuff can – it’s like skipping rocks, and it can go very far, and it could fragment and get deeper into the Twitterverse.
You know, other ones – we experiment, like everybody does. Facebook has been one that has – our Facebook has grown. It’s a lot bigger than a lot of other publishers’. But it’s still – it’s really hard to figure out what is – what Facebook does, and how to monetize it. You know, Facebook is primarily a place that people go to be – connect with other people, family, classmates, friends. And it’s a little bit awkward, I think, for companies to inject themselves, and to find a way that is relevant to be there.
So, authors, who can build up a community on a topic, that can be a really strong driver. You know, the Coney 2012 thing that everybody knows about that has happened in the last week. It’s an interesting message, very powerful and compelling, and so things like that can take off.
But O’Reilly releases a new book today, it’s going to fall flat. You’ve got to find something else that’s relevant there.
KENNEALLY: Well, I think that’s a great point. Each one of these various services serves their own purpose. And when we were talking in advance of the program, you told me that the tweeting for the things you do starts at the minute you announce something. So if there’s going to be a webinar, or any kind of program, you try to push the tweeting to happen right there and then. So not at the moment of the event, but from the very start.
NOREN: Yeah, and one of the things that we do that works really well for us is that we build in a re-tweet into as many of our interactions online as possible. So we’ve got a large webcast platform, and a lot of events throughout the year. So one of the things that we did, we can drive a lot of people to our events by our own e-mail campaigns and Twitter. But what is even better is that if you go to register for one of the events, and we make it really convenient for you to tweet or Facebook that you’re going to be doing it, so seeing that Molly is going to attend one of our events, then her community sees it, it’s much more powerful than if it’s yet another e-mail from O’Reilly Media. Or maybe we don’t even have you on our list, so we can’t reach you.
KENNEALLY: And what important for this audience, I think, Allen, is that none of these tools are tools that are proprietary to O’Reilly. Anybody here in this room can do virtually the same thing.
NOREN: Yeah, absolutely. The one thing that we all have to be careful of, though, is that there’s a proliferation of social platforms. So even with O’Reilly, where we’ve got a larger staff than a lot of companies do, there’s a fatigue. Because you also need to be experimenting. So there’s Facebook, there’s Twitter, there’s GooglePlus, there’s Goodreads. There’s all these places out there – Pinterest, that – all these places like we feel could be the next greenfield for us. So, being really thoughtful, you know, don’t fatigue your staff, don’t freak out your authors. But try continually experimenting in a way that is going to inform your way forward, and the types of content you put out in which environment is relevant.
KENNEALLY: Right. Well, you know, I was thinking about all this, and one of the mottos of O’Reilly right now is Fail Fast Forward, and the notion, I guess, is that sloppy success is better than, kind of, perfect procrastination, as somebody put it.
So, how do you sort of rationalize what you just said, which is, be careful, but not too careful?
NOREN: Yeah. The Fail Fast Forward thing comes out of the lean and agile world, you know, which is all about being really thoughtful, super smart, and iterating really quick. It gets a lot deeper than that, of course, but that’s my own interpretation of it. So it’s being really thoughtful and measuring what you’re doing, and you know, validating the impact so that you can be thoughtful and intelligent about where you spend your time, because you could spend your life in any one of these platforms, trying to make a go of it.
KENNEALLY: Well, Molly Birckhead, you know, this discussion implies, for a lot of in the room, a kind of junction between the old world and the new world. But this is the only world that you’ve known in your career. It’s a bit like coming along and not really caring much about those horse-drawn carriages. You really worry about engines and all the rest.
Tell us what you think when you hear sometimes that notion of an either/or. Is it like that for you?
BIRCKHEAD: It’s not like that for me. I only really look to the future, or what we have presently to work for our books. So, I mean, I started online marketing doing MySpace campaigns for music, and we would –
KENNEALLY: And everybody remembers MySpace, right?
BIRCKHEAD: And that was my entry into marketing. And so now, when I look at a new platform like Facebook, I compare it back to the beginnings in my career, MySpace, Friendster, and I just think of how measurable everything is now, and how much smarter it is, and how Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest have all taken lessons of these previous platforms and built systems to solve the problems that it had, and built systems to augment what what was already happening with MySpace and – I mean, there just was no social media marketing before. It was all sort of out in the ether, person to person conversations. And then there was e-mail marketing, which wasn’t still really effective.
KENNEALLY: Right. And I think one of the critical moments is the proliferation of smartphone technology, tablet computers now. Everyone can do this wherever they are. That’s been the key difference. At MySpace, you were still stuck at your desk, really, in order to work with it.
BIRCKHEAD: Yeah, absolutely. You were stuck at your desk, you were at the mercy of the platform, and – and they were on the right track, you know? Things just went a little hairy with privacy and such. But my approach since even then was to try and get my clients in front of people wherever they were online, so I mean, YouTube came about at the beginning of the decline for MySpace, and so everybody rushed there, you know?
I think a lot of the times that marketers were sort of going where the people already are, so for the example of Pinterest, it’s been around for a year. But it only really exploded in December, and now there’s a big corporate push at HarperCollins to be on it.
KENNEALLY: Well, then I’m going to have to ask you. I was going to wait for a little longer, but it’s come up so many times already. Let’s talk about Pinterest really quickly, because it’s an example of what you were just talking about – learning from past experience, doing something that supplements, complements what people are already doing. And I suppose I ought to ask, a show of hands, how many people are on Pinterest, or at least have shown the word?
Well, now, by the time this program is over, you’ll know what Pinterest is. Molly –
F: Spell it.
BIRCKHEAD: Interest – like interest with a P. Right.
KENNEALLY: It’s interest with a P, exactly. Pinterest. And you do something called pinning.
KENNEALLY: Tell us what that is.
BIRCKHEAD: You pin content that you find from other sources online, so you pin photos and memes and infographics. You know, it’s very geared towards women. There’s a social shopping experience. But really what you do is, as you’re around the Web, oh, that recipe looks delicious, pin the photo, write up a description, and share it with your network. And it’s highly viral.
And you’re often sharing content with people you’ve never met or been connected with.
So, whereas Facebook you’re working within your friends, and the friends of your friends, Pinterest is expanding you to whosever active online at the time that you’re using it.
KENNEALLY: In a fashion, it’s an online scrapbook.
BIRCKHEAD: Right, yeah.
SHANNON: It’s been – if I could just –
KENNEALLY: Sure, Cynthia – please.
SHANNON: Pinterest has been described as like all the food that you will never make, and all of the hairstyles that you’ll never make either, and all of the clothes you’ll probably never really wear. So it’s a lot of these – like very aspirational, beautiful pictures, you know, lots of pictures of places you’ll never go. (laughter)
BIRCKHEAD: So have fun.
SHANNON: Well, because if you’re stuck at your computer all day, which – I mean, everyone is, it’s a form – it’s another escapism website, in a way, but you’re sharing, too.
KENNEALLY: But what’s the marketing opportunity there for a publisher right now?
BIRCKHEAD: I read this morning that Pinterest now drives more traffic than Twitter.
BIRCKHEAD: And has a higher share of the traffic.
KENNEALLY: Well, how is HarperOne using it right now?
BIRCKHEAD: I mean, we’re really just experimenting with it right now, as with anything. We don’t know how much time or resources to invest in it, because it drives a lot of traffic, but we don’t know what else. So what we’re doing is just creating boards. You organize your content into categories called boards, so you know, we have a Healthy Living board. All our Healthy Living titles go there. We have all of our YouTube videos. We have more topical current event type books – they get their own category. And we’re just putting it there and seeing what happens, at this point.
KENNEALLY: Yes. Allen Noren, not a lot of hairstyles and recipes in O’Reilly content.
NOREN: No, it’s grim. (laughter)
KENNEALLY: It’s databases and programming and maybe a science book once in while and things like that.
NOREN: Yeah, yeah, you know, but for programmers – you know, beautiful code is like beautiful lines of poetry. (laughter) Unfortunately, it’s a lot of guys.
But you know, I think that Pinterest, for a cookbook author, for cookbook publishers, for travel book publishers, anybody with an element of – you know, those kinds of things that people do naturally share anyway, I think that’s a place that I would get. I’d also really want to think about the branding opportunities there, because as we all know, you can go through any number of websites and you remember the picture, but you can’t remember the name of the site that you were on. So you need to think about the thing that is going to make somebody come back to you at some point.
KENNEALLY: Right, and even though it’s not a natural for O’Reilly, there is a line of design and graphic books that you do, and I can imagine some of that material potentially showing up in there. And you are seeing that happen, right?
NOREN: Right, that’s – yeah, yeah. And there are – people are putting up the covers of our books, because some of them are quite distinct with animal woodcuts and stuff on them, so we are seeing that.
KENNEALLY: Right. Molly and Shannon, I was thinking about the kind of books that your publishers put out, and in the case of Molly, it would be – what, spirituality, religion, lifestyle. There’s a similar – not similar, but adjacent kind of notion that’s coming out of Berrett-Koehler, which is kind of current affairs interest focus there. And so all of these points about social media are about serving community. I’d appreciate it if each one of you would tell us how you zero in on that particular community. Cynthia first, with the political aspects of some of these Berrett-Koehler titles, the one that’s just out now on the Occupy Wall Street movement, as one example.
SHANNON: Bad corporations are not people. We have a bunch of political titles right now that are really tying into the news, and we’re getting our community really involved in sharing those messages.
Facebook is – we primarily use Facebook and Twitter for our social media. We also have a BK community website that’s based on an (inaudible) platform. We also have a YouTube channel. And we’re basically just putting a lot of our content out there and then waiting for other people to kind of comment on it, engaging with them. And our different community – like, the Twitter community is a completely different community from Facebook, and I’d be surprised if a lot of the Twitter people, Twitter followers, are also fans of ours on Facebook.
KENNEALLY: Why? Tell us what you mean. Why are they different, and why would you be surprised if you found someone in both sides of things?
SHANNON: Well, you know, on Facebook, they provide amazing insights now. The analytics of who is a fan of yours on Facebook has just gotten so detailed. And so I know on Facebook, our audience is women and men between the ages of 45 and 55. And so, I cater to that audience as much as I can.
KENNEALLY: And Twitter’s?
SHANNON: Twitter, I can’t really – Twitter, I can tell the analytics, I track it via Klout, my Klout score. But that’s telling me more about –
KENNEALLY: And we should spell that for people.
SHANNON: That’s with a K, Klout with a K. But that’s kind of telling me more about what my influence is doing. And I can see who I’m influencing, and who’s influencing me. And the top five or six people, on the people that I influence are men, which is great, but – yeah. And so – and then it also kind of tells me, you know, on Twitter, we talk more about general publishing topics, more general social media tips that appeal to a broader audience than on Facebook, where it’s more about our books, and our events, and things like that.
KENNEALLY: Right. And the critical difference of course, is that with Twitter, you know you have so many followers, but you don’t know much about them at all. Facebook, you can really learn a great deal.
Molly, what about that for you? What – if you can kind of give us a hierarchy of importance for you at HarperOne, Twitter, Facebook?
BIRCKHEAD: I focus more on Twitter. We have a lot of Facebook pages, and we have a big Facebook presence that I feel that Twitter, your information travels more quickly, and you can reach more people. I also feel like on Facebook, I have more of an obligation to stay on topic, which is difficult with the HarperOne brand, because we publish books on all religions, which automatically offends our entire audience every time we have a new book. (laughter)
You know, the chatter and the noise of Twitter actually helps us, because we don’t have such a strong brand identity, and we’re able to talk about Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, healthy living, and you know, new age spirituality, all from the same account, without losing followers.
KENNEALLY: Right. I mean, I was looking at some of the titles, and that is no mean trick that you put out. Just this year, you’ve got the Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, and the Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps. (laughter)
KENNEALLY: So that is a tough assignment, to reconcile all of that.
BIRCKHEAD: It is, it is. And Twitter can contain it, and you know, I think that if people come to us because they saw the Skinny Bitch Book of Vegan Swaps, they’re going to get some content for that, and then they’re going to get an update from what’s going on at the Vatican, and they’re not going to know what to do with that. And I feel like they can let that go by. But then on Facebook, because everything is so brand-centric, and there’s much more of a community element, the HarperOne page stays true to our stalwart topics of new age spirituality and all religions. And then Skinny Bitch has its own page, and if I want to message about Skinny Bitch, that’s where that goes.
We also have another sort of vertical called Elixir, which is an umbrella term that we market all of our healthy living books under. And that way, I can talk about Skinny Bitch, I can talk about the Body Confidence workout, in a way that makes sense to people, because they’re interested in what they can do for their body and for their health.
It’s a big job.
KENNEALLY: Right. Allen Noren, at O’Reilly, you’ve been at e-commerce and online activity since before social media was even a phrase. I mean, when I first heard social media, I thought, well, I’m more interested in antisocial media, you know, the newspaper in front of my face, so I can get some reading done.
But with the case of O’Reilly, there’s a phrase you used with me, which was called content in the service of e-commerce. So everything you’re doing starts with that, with the content you’re creating. And that would then feed all these various channels.
NOREN: Yeah, that’s correct. We – it’s a phrase I started using a couple years ago, content in the service of commerce. So O’Reilly itself is a big news – or, content generation. So, big YouTube channel, big webcast platform, lot of articles from O’Reilly Radar, a lot of book content and sampler content and stuff that we put out.
So, you know, to – and all of it is in support of our people, products and initiatives. That’s the way I break it down. And you know, people, authors or employees, products, that’s obvious, and then initiatives. So O’Reilly is a company, too, that we get behind things. So whether it be the Open Source movement, or you know, when the SOPA protest happened, we shut down our website, the whole thing, for 24 hours when that happened. And nobody was able to access it. The only thing they saw was a protest page.
So we are very participatory with a lot of big ideas that are out there. So even though we may take a hit for those kinds of things sometimes, we feel it’s important as a netizen, which is an old term, to take those kinds of stands.
KENNEALLY: A sense of –
NOREN: One thing about social media, though, don’t think it’s just a recent thing. Before the term was coined a while ago, there were things like IRC and Usenet newsgroups that were – or The Well, things that were deeply, deeply foundational, and still incredibly powerful, that preceded these things.
KENNEALLY: Well, can I get you to tell us honestly about some of the things that you wish you could do better? I understand Facebook, you wish you could get it better. It’s a tough – it’s a challenge for O’Reilly.
NOREN: Yeah, well, my whole life, I guess there is a lot of things I wish I could better, you know? But it’s – so one thing, I guess, let me say something that maybe you’re not asking. We’re talking about Facebook and Twitter and all these places. But remember too, you have your own website. So the most important social place for O’Reilly is our own website. So we have reader reviews on all of our catalog pages. We interact with everybody who leaves a reader review for us.
KENNEALLY: You told me a remarkable thing. If a review gets three stars or less, the reviewer hears from somebody at O’Reilly.
NOREN: Yes, they hear from us immediately. And we let them know that we have a 100% satisfaction guarantee on any product. So just things like that, that you are touching somebody profoundly, and the number of times – I think when we were on the phone, I was telling him that the number of times over all the years that I’ve been at O’Reilly, and we started reader reviews back in 1997 on our website. And the number of times where somebody may write, so upset, they’re venting. The number of times that we didn’t turn somebody around into an evangelist, simply because we listened to them, we heard them, we took the information and passed it along, and we took care of the problem. We gave them their money back. We gave them another free product of their choice. It is incredibly powerful.
So we have our reader reviews. We have a service called Get Satisfaction on our website, which is a third party service, but it’s a very public customer service tool. So people can ask us simple questions like, when is another edition of a book coming out, or they can come to us with a problem that they have. And that’s public. Anybody can go in and see it. So it’s – we believe in transparency, so that stuff is just – we air all that stuff.
And a lot of the time, people have the same questions, so it’s a service that they can go in and find their own solutions.
We have the kind of community that answers – you know, they start answering the question for the other people that are coming in.
Another very powerful tool for us is, we have an after-purchase survey, so at the end of our shopping cart process, we ask people if they want to take a survey, and it’s incredibly powerful information. So we formulated it over the years, and tweaked it, that we’re soliciting information about what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, the kinds of products that people want, and then we also get demographic information out of that.
KENNEALLY: Right, right. Allen – and I think what’s – probably something that’s important to reinforce for the audience is that this is all happening out in the open, and that can be sometimes a bit intimidating. It’s something that O’Reilly has perfected, if you will, because you guys have been writing books in the open for many, many years. And so all of this openness, transparency, letting the customer respond in a place where other customers can read about it, again, it takes a little bit of courage.
NOREN: Yeah, it does, but we really believe in it. And it’s – you know, if you’ve got – if you’re a good business, if you’re an honest business, if you care about your customers, if you can speak to them clearly and civilly, it will come back in spades. And there’s nothing the matter with saying, you’re wrong. You know, it’s incredibly powerful to say, you’re wrong. You get so much credibility by just being honest with people.
KENNEALLY: Molly Birckhead, we were talking about some things that surprise you about all of this, and numbers are clearly important, people constantly measuring it. We were talking about the measurement tools that are available, many of which are part of the tool itself, as in Facebook, or with a URL shortener like Bitly. You can go in and see where – or when, I should say, the link has been clicked on. Pinterest has its own sort of version of Klout now, which they had to rename. I was just reading, it was called PinClout for about two weeks, and Klout got after them for that, so now it’s called PinReach. But that will allow you to see the activity on all of that.
But can you tell us why sometimes the numbers are possibly misleading? I mean, just because somebody has a huge amount of followers doesn’t necessarily translate into the kind of activity you’re after.
BIRCKHEAD: Yeah, that’s true, and I think that’s why Facebook came up – this was about a year ago, but they came up with a new metric that displays on all brand pages called Talking About This, and that shows the number of people who have engaged with your page, next to the number of people who have liked your page over the page’s lifetime.
And I mean, it’s important, as a brand, we all want to know that we’ve touched 10,000 people, and that they were willing to take action online to click the Like button and show their support. But then, the other 2,000 people that are regularly looking at your updates is really important, because it shows that your content and your voice has cut through the clutter. It’s cut in – it’s part of their daily lives, along with updates from their best friends, they might see that HarperOne has a new book coming out, and they might like that, they might comment on it, they might share it.
And that’s – Facebook has its own algorithm that shows, determines what content people are seeing. So if you’re effectively using your status updates to provide content that just – it isn’t directly a sales message, but it’s bringing value that people want, that they haven’t hidden your posts. That’s a really valuable number.
KENNEALLY: Well, you know, I do some Facebook postings for Beyond the Book, and I see it as a news channel. I kind of think about it as my headlines, if you will, and I think that helps me think about what’s an appropriate post.
Cynthia – and we’ll turn to questions from the audience in just a moment. But I want to ask you, finally, about in your role as Publicity Manager, you’re actively focused on not only the social media, but on the old media, the traditional media. But the social media can serve to extend the reach of some of the traditional media. Tell us about that.
SHANNON: Oh, yeah. I – we do weekly publicity updates, where we gather all of the publicity hits that we’ve garnered over the week, and I make sure that those go out to the sales reps and the marketing people. But I also put them online. I put – I schedule them to go out throughout the next week, or that day. If it’s a big national hit, I’ll do it immediately. And I’ll – you know, sometimes I’ll post both on Facebook and on Twitter. Most of the times, I just do it through Twitter. And just, it’s fun to just kind of watch how many people actually click on your Bitly link, and to know that the media hit has had some eyeballs.
KENNEALLY: Right, and it’s extended its life. You’ve really kind of squeezed that lemon again, and gotten more out of it than the first go-round. I think that’s an important point. And since media is so tough to get these days, there are fewer and fewer places for you to go of the kind that report on books, that being able to take the hits you get and make more of it really seems an important point.
I’m guessing there might be a question or two. I see some hands already coming up. I’m going to come around at this – test – yeah, here we go. So, with that – and maybe you want to tell us your name, and the company you’re with.
TUBASING: Yes. My name is Don Tubasing (sp?), and my question has a little background. Twenty five years ago, when I started coming to these IBPA workshops and hearing experts talk about the trade, I’d go home totally wired with great ideas, and then my staff and I would sit down, and we wouldn’t know where to start, and we had to figure out what really to do, that we should do, what we should farm out, hire somebody else to do, what we should just say, it won’t work for us and leave it alone, because we don’t have time.
I want to ask the same question right now. This is all so incredible, opens up a whole another world, but for a small publisher who has limited energy and nobody on staff who focuses entirely like you do on this part of the world, how would you advise us to go about setting our own priorities so that we really pick what works?
KENNEALLY: Well, you know, I’m going to – before we give a chance to the panelists to answer that question, I’m going to guess the people to ask that question of are the people in this room, because everybody here is giving some effort to this in some way, and they can tell you what’s worked for them and what hasn’t, or what’s been worthwhile.
But Molly, is there a way to – I mean, we talked about analytics. I suppose you can try something for a little while, check the numbers, and if it’s not going anywhere, move on to the next thing.
BIRCKHEAD: Yeah. I advise to start small with everything, before you start – you know, if you want to start a YouTube channel for your brand, you could have some of your authors blogging. That means that they’re filming themselves sitting at their computer speaking, instead of investing in maybe a really expensive book trailer. I would just start with content that you’re able to create well, and rather quickly, so you’re not draining your resources before you’ve seen proven success. And then you can get a feel for what works for you.
KENNEALLY: Allen, since your experience goes back to the very early days, you know, and sorting it out is part of what O’Reilly does by trying it, I guess you would concur with what Molly just said.
NOREN: Yeah, definitely. And I guess it depends on, too, I don’t know what you do, but maybe you edit, right? I don’t know. But –
NOREN: OK. So you come in contact with a lot of content, right? So one way that I’ve talked with our editors and content people, that in – in a way that I know works, you know, for Twitter, for example, or Facebook, is when you’re reading through a document or having an interesting conversation with one of your authors, and it’s that thing that jumps off the page. Oh, my gosh, I didn’t know that. Cut and paste that, or transcribe it, and get it out there, because more than likely, somebody else is going to find it, too.
So just little things like that. But it depends on where you are. If it’s a salesperson, what is some interesting sales fact? Oh, wow, this book is popping on Amazon.
So you know, it depends on what the person is doing. But there’s always something in their day that can translate to something that’s going to be of interest to the audience.
KENNEALLY: And the thing I think about Facebook, you know, for all those postings my daughter has done for the last six or seven years, she’s never gotten a bill from Mark Zuckerberg. So you can try it out, and it won’t cost you very much.
I want to see if there’s a question on this side of the room here, if I can get to somebody – I’m going to try.
F: I’m an author, and I write primarily for children. I’ve tried Twitter, and I kind of feel it’s creepy when I get an e-mail saying somebody wants to follow me. (laughter)
So, can you tell me how, as an author primarily for children, I might use Twitter without feeling creepy? (laughter)
KENNEALLY: I think you should congratulate yourself for having followers at all. That’s terrific news. You shouldn’t take it that way.
But you know, we talked about that at the beginning, Cynthia, that working with authors to get them over the concerns they might have is part of your job. What do you say to someone who asks you that question?
SHANNON: You can turn off the settings. You can turn off the settings. There are so many settings that all these platforms provide, and when I started at Berrett-Koehler, I had a couple of lunch and learns that I ran, about – for the employees, to explain how to turn on privacy settings, because everybody was putting everything out for everyone to see, and getting all those e-mails, so-and-so is following you on Twitter. And just learning the general settings of all the applications will help you make it more applicable to your – whatever you feel comfortable with.
KENNEALLY: Right. Everybody has their own level of comfort with follow that. That’s a great point, Cynthia. Yes?
SHELDON: Yes, thank you. Carol Sheldon. I wonder if there’s any consensus in this room, or any stats to indicate which of the social media companies are most effective for fiction writers and small publishers. I don’t want to read about somebody’s bad hair day. I wish there were categories within these, so you could go to books, or whatever. And I’ve heard LinkedIn is the best for literary, but I haven’t heard anybody talk about it.
KENNEALLY: You know, a really great point. We didn’t talk about LinkedIn. I was going to ask about GooglePlus, which I guess sort of tells you a lot about GooglePlus, that we didn’t get to it. But I’ll open that up to anyone on the panel there. What about LinkedIn as a source?
NOREN: You know, LinkedIn is known as a place that – it’s where you put your resume, especially if you’re looking for a job. So, it’s –
NOREN: Huh? People disagree? It’s changed? That’s for what it’s worth. It’s – so just think about who are you, what is your potential audience, and is there a group there that you can connect with? So LinkedIn has incredibly powerful groups, and it’s how you engage.
KENNEALLY: Allen, I’ve just seen the time, and we are a little bit past time, so I don’t want to screw up anyone’s schedule. I want to thank everybody on the panel. Allen Noren from O’Reilly Media, Cynthia Shannon from Berrett-Koehler, Molly Birckhead from HarperOne –