Perhaps the most exciting and daunting promotional aspect of Ooligan Press’s upcoming title Untangling the Knot is the anthology’s whopping roll call of twenty-six contributors. That’s twenty-six sets of readers and their fans to connect with, and—supposing that most of these writers participate in at least one form of social media—at least twenty-six different social media accounts for Ooligan Press to keep tabs on. Spoiler alert: most of our contributors turned out to use more than one social media platform!
The first step of our Untangling the Knot Social Media Initiative was taking a survey of our contributors to find out which social media platforms they already used and which ones they might be comfortable using to promote the book. The survey also asked contributors to indicate how often they use social media. We used their responses to generate a Social Media Audit for the project team’s private use—a helpful reference tool to show us the confirmed usernames for each contributor on each of their preferred platforms. This allowed us to divide and share the duty of monitoring Untangling the Knot‘s early social media presence as well as boost our contributors’ posts about their involvement with the book.
As the publisher, it is helpful to know how our title is faring in the world of social media—who’s talking about it, where they’re talking about it, what they’re saying, and why. After a full term of monitoring posts from week to week, and writer to writer, across multiple platforms, we learned a lot about what worked and what needed work.
When we began the Social Media Initiative, in October 2014, Untangling the Knot was roughly four months away from publication. For those of us organizing review material, preparing sales and marketing strategies, and planning the launch, four months was the final stretch in the production of the book—and the publishing date felt so close. When we tuned in to our contributors’ social media channels, what we found was surprising: very few of them were talking about Untangling the Knot yet, and though our objective was to follow the online conversations and dialogues about the book, we found we didn’t have many posts to work with. Our number one challenge was a lack of the participation and original content we needed for effective cross promotion.
Everyone uses social media differently, and each of us has a different way of assessing how much time we spend on the internet. We discovered that only a handful of contributors use social media on a daily basis, and that the majority of them are very light social media users. Many of them reported that they planned to use social media to promote their involvement with the book, but they hadn’t started yet.
What we learned: timing the Social Media Initiative to coincide with the distribution of complete marketing kits to the contributors could make a huge difference in participation. The UtK Project Team has developed extensive Marketing Kits and a Social Media Self-Marketing Guide, both of which should help get contributors started with their own promotional activity leading up to publication, reading events, and launch parties.
Though Ooligan Press is active on many of the largest and most popular social media platforms, the UtK Social Media Initiative included only Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. After reviewing the results of the Initiative, we have recommended that future Social Media Initiatives also incorporate Facebook and Instagram. Facebook was difficult for our Initiative because most of our contributors have private accounts; if the participants also built professional Facebook pages for fans and readers to follow in conjunction with their private accounts, Facebook could be a major asset. We did not use Instagram for the Initiative, but we felt that it has great potential for post-publication promotion: Instagram is a great tool for setting up photo-based contests and giveaways, and it would be fun to invite our contributors to post photos of themselves posing with or reading their copies of the book.
Our review of the Social Media Initiative also generated a few ideas about how Ooligan Press might approach a project like this more effectively in the future. Following the accounts of the contributing writers is an essential starting point, but we should also set up Google Alerts to provide Ooligan with reports on any mentions of a book’s title or authors so that we are aware of posts and conversations coming from other sources.
Our review also suggested that Social Media Initiatives could be used in the future as a way to cultivate discussion space around topics and subjects in a book. Instead of just reposting from the author about the book, the Social Media Initiative could also be used to create original content pertaining to author and book, and to repost items that relate more generally to the subject of the upcoming title. This could help to lay a promotional foundation for a book by creating social media discussion spaces and establishing a connection with reader communities who are already talking about these issues.
UtK’s Social Media Initiative was perhaps the first social media project of its kind at Ooligan Press, and it is our hope that it will be used as a foundation for the success of similar initiatives in the future.