What Brands Can Learn From Bookseller Campaigns

The promotion of a new book online is like a product launch. It might be an author’s first or 15th (likewise a new product or the latest in a long line of related ones), but even with an existing audience the objective remains the same: increase awareness of the goods, engagement with the party responsible for creating them, and, ultimately, interest in a purchase.

Like all manner of brands, booksellers have a good many obstacles to overcome in order to successfully recruit buyers (e-books, which put a drain on brick-and-mortar stores, come to mind; so do audiobooks, which 61 percent of those who use them prefer to borrow). All of that said, we can glean a lot of insight from Internet-based book promotion and apply it to our own launch campaigns. Here’s how.

Virtual Readings

If you’ve ever been to a book reading, I’d venture to say you probably remember the post-reading Q&A period best. This is the time when readers can satisfy their curiosities about the author, the writing process, upcoming projects, and everything else that’s been gnawing at these dedicated fans.

Today, authors have a new platform for delivering such information: Facebook. Not only does it provide access to a much larger audience, but it also creates a channel through which readers and writers can maintain ongoing communication. Take Louise Penny, a Canadian mystery novelist and a heck of a nice lady. Oh, I don’t know her personally, but I’m a long-time reader of her Facebook updates and Penny is more forthcoming than you could imagine. She posts daily about her progress with her latest manuscript, literary award wins and nominations, her travels, even photographs of her small-town yard that evoke the imagery of her novels. If her fans loved her for her writing, they are sure to love her more for her own candor, wit, and grace.

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Annotation for brands. Capitalize on the engagement opportunities provided by social media to offer loyal product fans an exclusive view into your brand. Invite them behind the scenes and encourage their questions and comments with regular replies. Consider what your customers would want to know if they found themselves sitting face to face with the personification of your brand. Then tell all.

Put In Context

If you’re in the beauty business, you advertise on style sites. If you market canned soup, you place your banners next to online recipes. This tried-and-true tactic is all about transferring associations: users are drawn to a site’s content, and if that content is also relevant to your products, then users will likely be drawn to you.

One of the more desirable opportunities for garnering this kind of category-specific consumer attention is the contextual sponsorship – a site sponsorship that’s purchased on the merit of the content within which it lives. Book publishers do a great job of demonstrating the value of this type of buy. Consider a campaign on a site like Goodreads, a virtual bookshelf and resource for book recommendations that’s become something of a reader-centric social network. Right off the bat the site is a winning choice for advertisers because of its highly specific subject matter and functionality. Consumers visit the site because they are thinking, searching, or talking about books. This commodity is very much top of mind for an audience to which it’s very important. If a bookseller can manage to mobilize a passionate consumer set, it can make its latest title a hit.

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Annotation for brands. Look for product-specific sites that attract die-hard users; they already love the product category, so they may just love your product, too. Use targeting features when possible to segment your message by location and age (or in the case of books, genre), and seek out the opportunity to participate in additional site sponsorship options like contests and polls. When consumers are in the right state of mind to accept your product they’ll be far more receptive to your ads.

English writer Arthur Helps once said, “Reading is sometimes an ingenious device for avoiding thought.” Reading up on bookseller campaigns, however, can produce some very useful thoughts indeed.

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