Twitter and publishing: a chance to engage with readers

Gary Smailes, co-owner of BubbleCow, a literary consultancy that helps writers to get published using only social media and on line promotion, shows just why publishers need to consider twitter as part of their overall social media strategy.

Earlier this month Osprey Publishing (@OspreyBooks) ‘tweeted’ out their monthly commissioning meeting. As the editors wrangled over the books to accept and reject, an ‘impartial’ member of staff shared the ups and downs of the meeting. Books were introduced, a moment of twitter silence and then the decision announced. The result was a highly entertaining afternoon for all us followers. So what did Osprey gain? Did they sell any extra books?

The answer to the book sales is probably no. Yet Osprey did achieve three very valuable things that will help to cement their relationship with the community of followers they are collecting. The first and perhaps most important was TRUST. By simply sharing the commissioning process, by giving us a glimpse behind the scenes we felt closer, more likely to trust.

Secondly they ENGAGED. The whole process left followers feeling connected. Comments were exchanged, thoughts passed among those watching. We all engaged.

Finally they achieved the gold standard of twitter, they ADDED VALUE. By opening up the process to readers, by demystifying their company, they added value to reader’s lives. They gave us precious information. The kind of information we could use in the future.

The long and short is that Osprey are breaking new ground. Publishers need to engage and the simplest start point is twitter. This channel offers the best opportunity to build trust, engage with readers and add value. Simply put twitter allows publishers to build loyal communities.

Yet twitter is not easy to get right. There are many blog posts and books written about the best approach. (I would recommend Joel Comm’s Twitter Power as a great place to start.) Yet I would offer three ‘guidelines’ to setting up a twitter channel.

Firstly, have a strategy. Decide what kind of twitterer you will be. Will you tweet a lot or occasionally? Will you tweet out links to resources (blog posts and websites) or focus on, say, book reviews? Will you have just one account or let all members of staff tweet?

Secondly, it is important to be persistent. A twitter community will not build over night. You are looking at months to see some kind of traction. Keep this in mind. Finally, add value. Remember that with each tweet you must add value to your followers. This might be something as obvious as a twitter only competition or a book giveaway. Yet value comes in many forms - information, first-to-know news and links to resources all add value.

To find out more about social media you can read BubbleCow’s blog at www.bubblecow.co.uk/blog or you will find Chris Brogan’s blog informative http://www.chrisbrogan.com/ . You can listen in on twitter using @bubblecow or contact us directly via email gary@bubblecow.co.uk. If you are with the Wave then you might try garysmailes@googlewave.com. Alternatively you can join the mailing list at www.bubblecow.co.uk/consultancy/

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Gary Smailes

Gary Smailes started his working career as a biologist, but gave up a promising career as a researcher in the pharmaceutical industry to follow his passion for history. After obtaining an MA in Military History from Liverpool University, Gary spent a number of years as a historical researcher for...More about Gary Smailes