“Authenticity is key,” said Huffington Post Teen Editor Taylor Trudon about engaging with young readers on social platforms, speaking at a conference hosted by Publishing Perspectives in New York City this morning, called “Designing Books for Young Readers.”
Striking a tone that digital natives perceive as authentic doesn’t always come easily to book publishers. Social media marketing is nothing new in publishing (some claim it’s vastly overrated), but establishing a powerful brand identity that resonates with consumers largely is.
According to Trudon and others, though, publishers might not actually need to own the relationship with their customers quite so directly, at least when it comes to their marketing efforts geared to millennial readers.
Here are three alternative approaches experts as today’s event suggested might resonate better with that demographic:
It’s okay to piggyback. Jessica Stockton Bagnulo, Co-owner of Brooklyn’s Greenlight Bookstore, also in attendance, says millennials are uniquely skeptical of advertising and generally more receptive to “things that come from people that they know and trust.”
That means “tapping into existing fandoms” rather than trying to build communities—around an author, a book series, an imprint—from the ground up. The key, instead, is finding the right fit, where existing passions can align with new ones.
Partner with relevant social media influencers. Outside the book world, many consumer brands are working successfully with social media influencers, many of whom are “super savvy” about the brands they choose to work with, according to Raymond Braun, Social Marketing Manager at YouTube, who also spoke on this morning’s panel. That’s because some of the most popular personalities on platforms like YouTube, Instagram and others know that their relationships with followers are based around genuine experiences.
Publishers often give wide latitude to authors in cultivating engagement, but many are less eager to place equal responsibility for marketing their content into the hands of millennial YouTubers. But relinquishing that control over messaging may in some cases lead to more powerful relationships with readers.
As Braun points out, curation is a guiding principle of social media itself. Millennials who’ve grown up on social platforms are constantly making decisions about how much of their own lives to share with others, and they expect the same from the content they receive there. But they’ll tune out if the curators aren’t people they like and trust.
It’s a two-way street. Keep both lanes open and traffic flowing. Digital natives don’t use social media passively. They’re there to share ideas and experiences, and it tends not to matter with whom—peers, brands, authors, publishers—as long as the content of that exchange is meaningful and the entity on the other end is someone they trust and identify with (see above).
Braun summed up the dynamic this way: “There’s expectation that if they tweet you they’ll receive a response.”