As we wrap up 2012 and start to plan for the New Year, I wanted to review the things I got right and the things I didn't. In the past few years, there have been so many changes in the book industry, and in technology, that sometimes my only guide has been my intuition. Fortunately, our missteps can often teach us more than flawless execution. So here are the lessons I have learned in 2012:
Why Press Releases Didn't Work for Us
Working as the president of an online public relations firm, I relied on press releases to get the attention of editors. Over time, however, I noticed that they didn't seem to be working as they once did. One reason is that the "one pitch fits all" approach was not working online. Bloggers are unique and so are their interests. For example I hear people talking about mommy bloggers or book bloggers, but in truth those communities are made up of people with very different interests.
I took a huge leap of faith and decided to stop doing press releases. Instead of taking the time to write them, proof them, wait for approval, print them and stuff them, we took that time to talk to the editors/bloggers and invest time in social media. I thought I would get push-back from clients, but once I explained why I was making the change, they agreed with the approach.
I am happy to report that we got this change right. It was the right decision and we're moving into 2013 with no intention of doing the traditional press releases.
Delegating Social Media
I thought outsourcing social media was always wrong, but I am starting to reconsider this. Although it is best to keep your hands in your own social media, sometimes it is not possible. The only way for social media to be effective is for the engagement to be consistent. A writer's life is not consistent, which means they are sometimes more active on social media than other times. Trying to do it all themselves can be distracting, and may take time from their writing. Also some writers enjoy the interaction and others do not. So maybe outsourcing social media is something to consider. Of course, it is crucial to delegate this responsibility to someone trustworthy, and always be upfront about it. I would also suggest having clear goals and to always monitor activities very closely.
For 2013, we are exploring creating a hybrid system for our clients.
People Like to Follow People, Not Books
I thought book websites and book Facebook pages were a good idea. Remember the days of micro-sites? Today, I believe that the websites, Facebook pages and Twitter handles should all be in the author's name, no matter how diverse their list of books and activities. I would advise against a title or book site because people follow people, not books. Authors are most effective when they work to build their brand, and a loyal following of readers.
In 2013, we will move away from book related digital assets and focus more on the author's brand.
Every single job in publishing should be a social job. Social media is not only a broadcasting tool, it is also one of the best learning and listening tools for you and your business. You can have an open forum to observe and study the readers, their taste and comments. At a time when we need to be learning new skills all the time, social media can be a gateway to that learning.
This one I did get right. We shifted our entire staff to incorporate social media and social networking in everything they do: From searching for influencers, tracking numbers and word-of-mouth, to interacting with bloggers, and supporting our clients. In 2013, we will continue our focus on incorporating social media with our online publicity campaigns.
In the coming year, I only know one thing for sure. We'll need to keep all options open and learn as we go. What have you learned in 2012? Please share your lessons.