The Five Steps to Beginning a Social Media Strategy

Jesse McDougallby Jesse S. McDougall, Catalyst Webworks

The rise of social media presents new and powerful opportunities to book publishers. The millions of discussions taking place on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and across the blogosphere all thrive on the new content. Like in the real-world, the most popular discussions online are based on content that is original, edited, and expert—exactly the content that book publishers produce every day.

If done correctly, a publisher diving into the social media world will find:

  • a vibrant community of readers
  • a valuable word-of-mouth network
  • numerous market research opportunities
  • access to new media outlets for promotion
  • new audiences for books and authors

A strong social media presence takes time and a sustained effort to build. In light of this commitment, it is important that book publishers begin with a clear strategy that has proven results.

Here is a quick list of five steps publishers will need to take to launch a social media strategy:

Step One: Define Your Niche

It is important that you have a clear idea of your niche before you jump into social media. If you publish books spanning several niches, you should consider setting up a social media campaign for each niche in which you publish. For example, if you are a publisher of a wide range of political books, you know all too well already that your conservative audience does not want to learn about your progressive books, and vice versa. Likewise, if you are a cookbook publisher, your cocktail books likely won’t fly too well with your barbecue audience.

Drill down your efforts to a specific audience. Set up your strategies accordingly.

Step Two: Plan Your Content

The content you publish to your web site (see Step Three) and the social media platforms should not be promotional in nature (“Come read our latest book!”)—rather it should provide value to your audience in some way.

However, the content should ALWAYS link back to your book’s page and author’s page. This way, as the content travels around the blogosphere and the social media networks, your links travel with it.

Some quick content tips:

  • mine your author community for videos, op-eds, interviews, etc.
  • sidebars and callouts make great web content
  • numbered lists (i.e. top ten lists) play very well online

Step Three: Your Web Site

Your web site will serve as the hub of this new social media strategy. All the content you produce should flow through a blog on your web site first—unless, of course, you have exclusive deals with other popular blogs. Your web site will become a resource for anybody interested in your niche. If your blog isn’t the main page of your site, feature it prominently.

Make your content portable by integrating it with social media toolbars from Facebook, Twitter, Digg, etc.

Step Four: Find and Listen to Your Audience

Once your blog is up and running, and the content is flowing through it, you should begin exploring the largest social media platforms for conversations related to your niche. Once you find people talking about your topic area, listen. For two weeks. Before jumping into the conversation, get an idea of the people involved, the social etiquette, and the opinion-makers.

When you do jump in, relax your marketing muscles. No one joins these networks for marketing messages. Establish your company the a valuable and friendly expert in the group. Point folks to helpful content from your blog.

Step Five: Go!

When you’ve finally got an idea of how all the various pieces work, you can begin engaging in your new community in earnest. Invite your authors into the discussions. Invite other passionate folks at the company. Stay friendly, and stay passionate about your niche. Your audience and community will grow over time. Good luck!

Jesse S. McDougall is a social media consultant and web programming geek, and co-owner of Catalyst Webworks—a web development and social media consulting firm in White River Junction, VT. Before launching Catalyst Webworks, Jesse was the Web Editor at Chelsea Green Publishing, where he built the company’s web site and online marketing strategies.

6 thoughts on “The Five Steps to Beginning a Social Media Strategy

  1. mdepiere

    Very nice post indeed. I would suggest an addition that a lot of people forget when planning: reporting and adaptation. It’s one thing to start a campaign, it’s a whole other to keep the visitors coming back. My advice would be to implement reporting and see what generates clicks, sharing and discussions. This way you know how to target your audience the next time you do a campaign or even adapt the current campaign to the specific needs of your audience, for that really is what being social is about.

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