The Social Media Footprint of Wordstock 2017

In a city with dozens of prominent publishing houses—where on any given day you can find a public reading, book release, or an author within ten feet of you at any given time—Wordstock is still Portland’s premier literary event. A massive event organized by Portland’s own Literary Arts organization, Wordstock is just over a decade old, and so the entire timeline of Wordstock events overlaps with the advent and rise of social media. Social media monitoring and outreach is an important part of the marketing machine here at Ooligan Press, and since we and a number of our authors were involved in Wordstock 2017, we did a quick analysis of Wordstock’s social media “footprint” via two platforms: Twitter and Instagram. This isn’t an exhaustive analysis, but having a cursory understanding of the conversation surrounding events like Wordstock can provide information for where the festival is at and how Ooligan Press fits into its narrative as a premier literary event.

  • Twitter: Literary Arts is typically quite active on Twitter, ranging five to seven tweets a day. On November 11, the day of the event, that number was expectedly higher, cresting at over fifty tweets and retweets. Interestingly, the lead-up to Wordstock was business as usual. Content-wise, Literary Arts gave little fanfare to their usual pre-Wordstock literary pub-crawl event this year, and put most of their effort into retweeting positive media coverage of the event as well as promoting their big-ticket authors. This year’s headliner, Ta-Nehisi Coates, followed the Colson Whitehead appearance from last year and allowed for a few posts about the running theme of diversity at Wordstock. However, no matter what themes are trending, the associated hashtag is always the same: #PDXbookfest. This is actually a departure from Wordstock’s usual branding. Last year, it was either #Wordstock or #Wordstock2016, and—predictably—it was #Wordstock2015 before that. This signifies an attempt on Literary Art’s behalf to rebrand Wordstock and bestow it a wider reach and discoverability. PDX is an acronym often used in social media to reference the city of Portland (it’s also the name of our airport), so using it here makes it more searchable and connotes that Wordstock is THE literary event in Portland, Oregon. Going beyond just Literary Art’s official Twitter account, we saw the #Wordstock tag sneak back into a lot of posts. We also saw a wider variety of topics being posted. Naturally, the posts that rated the highest were from authors who presented at the festival, but thanks to Twitter’s lack of organizational structure when displaying hashtag search results, posts by Ooligan students Kristen Lugwigsen and Sadie Moses were also featured at the top.

  • Instagram: A lot of what has been covered for Twitter applies to Instagram, but there is a definite shift in content between the two platforms. While the posts on Twitter from both attendees and Literary Arts were overwhelmingly focused on highlighting the events and authors, many Instagram posts with the #PDXBookfest and #Wordstock tags are also customer and publisher focused. Perhaps due to the more intimate and personal nature of Instagram, tagged posts on the platform were more focused on the personal stories of Wordstock and the interactions people enjoyed while there. This translated to more images of the publisher booths found on the third floor of the art museum, where numerous publishers vied for customer attention while displaying their frontlist titles. This was the best chance for most attendees to interact with the professionals behind the literature.

Wordstock is always a fairly successful event for Ooligan Press and provides us the personalized exposure we need to reach our readers. Knowing the “how” and “why” of social media trends can help us and other small publishers focus our digital marketing efforts and enter the Wordstock narrative in new and exciting ways.