06/01/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Social Media From The Trenches

On March 18, 2010, Susannah Greenberg organized a panel for the Women's National Book Association on Book Marketing Online. She invited some of the people in book publishing who are engaged in digital marketing, and it made for an interesting discussion. The panel was open to questions throughout and many of the questions kept coming back to social media. (You can see more information about the event including the live stream here:

After the panel was over, I realized I had some questions of my own for my fellow panel members which they were gracious enough to answer. Here is my interview with Ron Hogan, Director of E-Marketing Strategy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Kate Rados, Director of Digital Initiatives, Chelsea Green Publishing, and Abby Stokes, teacher and author of Is This Thing On?: A Computer Handbook for Late Bloomers, Technophobes, and the Kicking & Screaming

Fauzia Burke: Ron, from a publisher's perspective, you had talked about the importance of having a personal touch when engaging in social media. What does that mean and can you give us an example?

Ron Hogan: People are much more likely to "bond" with other people than they are with a corporation, so as much as possible you should approach and engage them on a personal level. Decades before we had "social media" or even the Internet, Stan Lee understood this, connecting with fans with his monthly "Bullpen Bulletins," a conversationally toned column that gave folks a peek inside the Marvel offices while promoting the newest comics. By introducing readers to the artists responsible for Marvel's comics, Lee cultivated a fan culture that endures to this day.

FB: Kate, you talked about doing "personal PR," why do you think that is important not just for authors but for people in publishing as well?

Kate Rados: Especially in this economy, personal PR is key to any career. Most of your jobs and your relationships (with media, vendors, influencers) come from recommendations and relationship building. Social media is the best place to start making friends within your industry and frankly, that's how people collaborate these days.

FB: Abby, you said you have been active on social media for a year, and I wonder if you had set out with a goal for Facebook and Twitter?

Abby Stokes: I didn't set out with a goal for each medium, but definitely had numbers in my mind at the outset with Twitter. I discovered over time that Twitter followers can be fickle, for good reason, and discovered that the more I posted what was interesting to me and less about self promotion, my numbers increased. By the time that was happening, I was less invested in the numbers and more into the fun of finding interesting things to post. When I stopped thinking about the numbers a slow and steady increase started to happen. I didn't ever think numbers with Facebook, but instead wanted to find people who I hadn't seen or heard from in a long time and had a desire to reconnect with.

FB: Kate, you have been doing social media longer than most people in publishing, what are the biggest lessons you have learned?

KR: Stop selling. Be friendly; be passionate; be genuine. LISTEN.

FB: Ron, do you feel your experience as a blogger helps you with your current publishing job? How?

RH: My background as a blogger definitely comes in handy as an online marketer. One, I have a hands-on understanding of the territory; I haven't read every blog that's out there, but I've been around long enough to find some I admire...and I know effective ways to find more, even in areas I'm unfamiliar with. Two, I've been on the receiving end of marketing pitches long enough that I have a sense of what does and doesn't work when trying to approach bloggers. (I'm not saying my reactions to marketing pitches are universal; I have enough friends in the blogging community who feel differently about various types of pitches than I do to maintain an open perspective.)

FB: Kate, you said you use Twitter to get most of your news, what did you mean and why is it the best way to get news?

KR: It's not necessarily the best way to get news, BUT I use it on a regular basis for two purposes: 1) As I mostly follow publishing people, I hear about the latest news from my tweeps before it hits the mainstream blogs. And, I get people's opinions attached to the news right away, so I can get a temperature of how people are reacting. And 2) I set up lists for my niche blogs so I can get breaking news and re-tweet or add to the conversation. For instance, Chelsea Green is all about sustainable living, so my 'green' list helps me keep in touch with the latest news. And for the record, I still do use Google Reader which in my opinion is the best way to get news--and I use it within an inch of its life.

FB: When I talk to most people about social media they say,"I have no time for it." Abby you said, you have a schedule of 15 minutes in the morning and 15 at night. Did that evolve or did you have that schedule in mind from the start?

AS: I was concerned from the get-go about time management because my schedule is tight. When I teach I don't have access to a computer the same way people do in an office environment. Sometimes I can sneak a peek on my iPhone between appointments or while in transit, but not always. That put a natural limit on when I can communicate. I suspected that if I didn't "water and feed" the people who followed me on both Twitter and Facebook I wouldn't keep them coming back. That's what keeps me disciplined about posting on both twice daily when possible. It is a nice routine now that I catch up and share at the start of the day and at the end.

FB: Kate, what are the three sites you can't live without?

KR: Only three?! Regarding social media, I get some good takeaways from Mashable. I also live on Gizmodo and GetGlue. And about 50 others per day. It's a sickness.

FB: Abby, have you achieved your social media goals?

AS: I really enjoy both Twitter and Facebook now. They are a part of my daily routine as much as e-mailing or calling a friend. Not a goal, but a lovely benefit. From a practical point of view, I have increased the number of people who are aware or me--a definite goal achieved. I had no idea that Twitter would be such a wealth of good information--a bonus.

Social media is growing in importance on a daily basis. Both Facebook and Twitter have been real assets to us in broadcasting publicity features, as well as building relationships with authors, publishers, agents, journalists, Web editors and bloggers. I am finding that it is also a great way to show potential clients our results in real time.

Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, an Internet marketing firm specializing in creating awareness for books and authors on the Web. Founded in 1995, FSB's mission is to give authors an opporutnity to promote their work to an eager, targeted audience online. FSB is based in the NYC area. For more information, please visit FSB Associates, or contact Fauzia on Facebook.