Byte the Book | Buzz Words: How Can You Build a Community Around Your Content

Last night I attended Byte the Book’s event on marketing and building a community around your content, sponsored by Bookswarm. As Atwood Tate’s Social Media Coordinator, I found the talk from industry leaders and influencers really interesting.

We gathered in the chapel at the House of St Barnabas (a not-for-profit private members’ club working against homelessness), which was a beautiful if unconventional venue. The wine I’d bought not long before had to be quickly finished off as we couldn’t bring alcohol into the chapel. As I sat on a hard wooden pew, I drafted a tweet with an image of the chapel, which I immediately had to delete upon being told the crucifix hanging over the alter was in fact copyrighted.

the chapel and full audience waiting for the discussion to begin

The chapel sans crucifix

At any other panel talk, the audience being glued to their phones throughout would be considered rude. At a digital marketing discussion, it’s encouraged, with live updates from the #BytetheBook hashtag projected on to the screen behind the speakers.

Digital Marketing Tips from the Panellists

Lysanne Currie, a journalist and digital strategist, chaired the discussion. She began by asking Laura Lindsay, Director of Global Communications at Lonely Planet, about the community of travellers Lonely Planet has built online and offline. Lindsay recounts how Lonely Planet started its online community in the 1990s by sharing letters from their readers. They were one of the first brands on Twitter, and built their following by sharing content from their community of travellers, not just sharing marketing materials. Building an online community, she says, is no different to building a ‘real world’ community.

Children’s author Piers Torday notes the barriers to connecting directly with readers online when those readers are children, so he embeds himself in distinct communities of parents, librarians and teachers. These are the gatekeepers and the people who buy children’s books. He also discusses the differences between content on different platforms. Twitter, he says, is great for conversations. Instagram is best for curated storytelling.

Leena Normington, YouTuber and Social Media Producer at Vintage Books, advises the audience to choose what platform(s) work for you, and not worry about using every platform. She notes the different demographics engaging with different media – for example podcasts tend to have a slightly older and more male audience than YouTube videos. She also emphasises treating your online audience as real people, not only as viewers or subscribers.

The panellists agree that the key to a great social media presence is to be consistent and to be genuine. Have a schedule for uploading content and show who you are as a person, rather than just marketing your book. Try new things and experiment, see what works for you and it’s okay to stop if it’s not working.

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