Transcript: ‘Social Media Audit’ for Authors, Publishers

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Interview with Susan Halligan

For podcast release Wednesday, February 20, 2013

KENNEALLY: In short order and forever, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites have changed the ways that individuals seek and find information about products, people, and organizations. Creating a Facebook or Twitter account is only the start, of course. Real change comes from a long-term vision of content creation and management that is customer-centric and adaptable.

Welcome, everyone, to Copyright Clearance Center’s podcast series. My name is Christopher Kenneally, host of CCC’s Beyond the Book. Social media succeeds best when it engages most, forging a lasting community of enthusiastic fans and followers. Joining me from New York City to share highlights of how to approach a social media audit for publishers and authors is an award-winning digital strategist who’s worked for some of the biggest heritage brands in the world. Susan Halligan, welcome to Beyond the Book.

HALLIGAN: Hi, Chris. Thanks for inviting me on the show.

KENNEALLY: Well, we’re delighted to have you join us today, Susan. We’ll tell people that you are a digital strategy consultant, specializing in integrating social media into traditional marketing and communication channels. And previously, you were the award-winning director of marketing for the New York Public Library. And as I said in the introduction, Susan, you work with some of the biggest heritage brands in the world, from the Nobel Institute to the Olympic Games.

And it seems to me that the single biggest marketing challenge facing these types of organizations in 2013 is the struggle to be heard. There’s a growing communications din out there. How do you help a big organization, or for that matter, an individual author be successful? What lessons have you learned in your work that carry over to publishers and authors particularly?

HALLIGAN: Well, let me just first say that the London Olympics had no trouble being heard. I mean, they were called the social media Olympics, and they broke all kinds of records, five billion tweets. So they’re the exception, and I mention that because I think it’s a good benchmark for everybody else.

And in order to be heard, organizations really need to understand the dynamics and the trends that are currently taking place, especially on the digital side. Just a couple of facts – 58 million people in the United States use social sites. They’re communicating in new and unique ways. One example is something called screen-to-screen. We saw that in the Super Bowl, where 100 million people were watching the game on TV and also on Twitter. I mean, there were 24 million tweets, which set a record for a big event.

So customer behavior is radically changing, and what that means is that marketing, sales, customer service is being utterly transformed. And in fact, marketing now is about customer service, which is really about building and nurturing relationships with existing customers and potential customers. And the companies and organizations that understand this will succeed.

KENNEALLY: You know, Susan, let me just say, I think for our audience of publishers and authors, that’s a very important, crucial point, particularly for publishers. In the past, their customers were the bookstores, were the distributors. And now, with the digital revolution and e-book sales, more often they are coming into direct contact with the reader. And so they really need to start thinking in those kind of customer-focused ways. Have you given some thought to some things that publishers and even authors who are selling directly themselves using a variety of e-book publishing services should be thinking about their own activity on social media?

HALLIGAN: I’ll give you an example of a company that’s doing something in customer service and marketing that I think is a very good benchmark for anybody – authors, publishers, nonprofits, etc. And it’s Zappos, and they’re known for the enormous emphasis that they put on creating relationships with their fans.

And just one little thing that they do, they have something called Fan of the Week, and it’s an engagement strategy. They encourage their fans to send in photos with a Zappos box. The other fans get to vote, and the winner then gets their picture posted on the front page of Zappos’ Facebook page. So who doesn’t want to be on a page with 400,000 fans?

You know, the lesson is that people have to interact with their customers more directly now. And the more you can focus on your fans and followers in these channels, the more you engage with them, the more they’re going to come back for more.

An example of this is Paulo Coelho, the author. He took his marketing into his own hands. He took it out of his publishers’ hands all over the world. He now has 10 million Facebook fans, seven million Twitter followers, he has a blog, and his hallmark is that he constantly interacts with his fans. I think that this is easier for authors, because authors can become brands. That’s much harder for publishers, because there’s been a long-running issue of, is a publisher a brand?

KENNEALLY: Right. Well, when you talk about interaction, of course, that covers a multitude of sins, Susan. So what kind of interaction is best? Is there any particular activity that gets better results?

HALLIGAN: Well, the goal is to interact directly with an existing customer or a potential customer. And that requires people, time, consistency, resources, and money. You know, social’s very immature still. Hard to believe, but we’re really in the dark ages. This is only going to get bigger and more complicated. So the challenge that any person or company has is to find the time to consistently push out content and directly engage.

KENNEALLY: Right. And I think, again, the piece to underline there is the way that content itself drives success in reaching business goals. Publishers and authors are perhaps experienced in creating content, that’s actually the business they’re in, but this is a kind of content that supplements the work that’s being sold. This is content that kind of surrounds it and drives interest and creates community.

HALLIGAN: Absolutely. You know, I think the most important thing that any brand, again, whether a person or a company, has to do is to establish their goals. That informs the content they create, it informs the channels that they’re on. The real question is, who are you? It informs your voice and how you’re going to relate to people in this digital world. For instance, Coke’s about happiness. It’s not about soda.

KENNEALLY: Right, that’s a really good point. And perhaps for an author as a brand, as you say, they’re not about the book itself, but about the world that they create. I’m thinking of J.K. Rowling, for example.

HALLIGAN: Oh, absolutely. But she’s like the London Olympics, the exception to the rule. I mean, she had an offline, as it were, universe of millions of fans across multiple demographics that she was able to very smartly bring on into the online world.

KENNEALLY: Right. Now, in your work with the New York Public Library, you were able to reveal layers of the library that the patrons weren’t aware of in the past. Is that part of the challenge, to kind of make a world that is both broad as well as deep?

HALLIGAN: Absolutely. I think for the library, going back to the issue of goals, for the library we wanted to put a face on that very beautiful but formidable façade. And also educate people that the library was more than that building, that there were in fact 90 other libraries throughout the city that had programming, exhibits that would relate to all kinds of demographics across the city, from young to seniors.

KENNEALLY: Right. And we are talking right now on Beyond the Book with Susan Halligan, a digital strategy consultant. And we’re going to get to our social media audit for Beyond the Book that might kind of give people pointers for a similar such audit for their own sites. But Susan, I want to ask you – you’ve been telling us about the kinds of things we ought to be doing. When it comes to social media, are there some things that publishers and authors should avoid?

HALLIGAN: Well, I’ll use the example of the recent Applebee’s PR disaster, which happened last week. And just very briefly for your listeners who don’t know about this, a server in one of the Applebee restaurants was fired for posting a receipt from a customer online. And that server then posted this, that they’d been fired by Applebee’s, and it went viral. So people sort of took over Applebee’s Facebook page.

Now, things not to do. Don’t answer your fans, don’t delete comments, don’t stifle discussion, and don’t fight with them. All of those things that Applebee’s did. You know, the customer is always right. That cliché was never more, I think, relevant than now in this digital age.

KENNEALLY: Right. And not only is the customer right, but the customer is in charge.

HALLIGAN: Absolutely. You know, I mentioned that customer behavior was radically changing. I mean, you can’t say this too many times. Customers expect to have a voice in the process, and the old way of selling, marketing, advertising of top-down and mast is over. It’s now two-way.

KENNEALLY: Well, that’s what we enjoy about working at Copyright Clearance Center on the podcast series and the other things that we do for CCC. There’s a Website, clearly, and a Facebook presence, and Twitter and so forth. Have you had a chance to look at what we do and think about the kinds of content that Copyright Clearance Center’s creating, and can you give us a bit of a grade?

HALLIGAN: Oh yeah, absolutely. Overall, I think you’re doing a really nice job of integrating your Website, your YouTube channel, and your social streams. I really like your Facebook feed because you’re posting pictures, news, articles, and my sense is that you’re fully engaged in the business of publishing and establishing yourself as a thought leader. You even have fun. A couple of weeks ago, you posted a picture of the Nutella jar to promote the cookbook that had just come out about Nutella.

What you want is, I think, more shares and comments, and you need to ask questions of your fans to inspire comment. And I’d also suggest that you use Twitter to push your Facebook channel. You know, only 16% of fans on Facebook actually see an organization’s posts, so you have to work harder and harder and more consistently, you and everyone else, to post things that people can see. In terms of Twitter, you need to post every day, consistently, and RT, retweet, other people. I definitely give you a B.

KENNEALLY: Well, thank you for that grade, and I appreciate the candid assessment. I will admit, at least on the end for Beyond the Book, it’s a lot of work taking on the social media activity in addition to everything else you have to do, and I know a lot of authors particularly feel that way. It adds a kind of stress to their lives. But the place where I sort of go is to try to have some fun.

HALLIGAN: Oh, and I think that’s clear. I think that’s coming across in your feed. And keep doing it.

KENNEALLY: Well, we’re going to try to do that, and we appreciate having a chance to get a social media audit today from you, Susan Halligan. Susan Halligan is a digital strategy consultant specializing in integrating social media into traditional marketing and communications channels, and we’ll provide information about her on our own Website. And we want to thank Susan for joining us today on Beyond the Book.

HALLIGAN: Thank you, Chris.

KENNEALLY: Beyond the Book is produced by Copyright Clearance Center, a global rights broker for the world’s most sought-after materials, including millions of books and e-books, journals, newspapers, magazines and blogs, as well as images, movies and television shows. You can follow Beyond the Book on Twitter, find us on Facebook, and subscribe to the free podcast series on iTunes, or at the Copyright Clearance Center Website,, just click on Beyond the Book. And when you get to us on Twitter or Facebook, let us know what you think.

Our engineer is Jeremy Brieske of Burst Marketing. My name is Chris Kenneally. For all of us at Copyright Clearance Center, thanks for listening to Beyond the Book.

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