Twitter Isn’t Stupid–But Publishers Need to Be Smart about Using It. Here’s How.

Twitter is really the stupidest thing in the world,” Chris Brogan, blogger and social media expert, said in his Blogging and Social Media panel at the O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishers conference in February. But he didn’t mean it. At first blush, Twitter does seem like a dumb idea. It describes itself as “a service for friends, family, and co-workers to communicate and stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent messages. People write short updates, often called ‘tweets,’ of 140 characters or fewer. These messages are posted to your profile or your blog, sent to your followers, and are searchable on Twitter search.” Your followers are the people who sign up to receive your tweets, and you are following anyone whose tweets you sign up to receive.

A February 2009 Compete.com study found that Twitter is the third largest social-networking site, after Facebook and MySpace. Many people and companies have ventured their ways on in the past year; it was ranked #22 in 2008. It has nearly six million users and 55 million monthly visits. Meanwhile, people are spending less time on MySpace and visiting it less often, as Twitter use surges. It’s easy to imagine it climbing to #2 in 2010. A February Pew Internet & American Life study reported that 11% of online American adults use a service like Twitter, an increase of nearly 50% since May 2008. Anyone who’s read their friends’ mundane Facebook status updates may question the value of a social network devoted solely to status updates.

But Twitter has proven that status updates can go beyond writing about what you had for breakfast. Think of it as digital word of mouth. “I think of Twitter as the new phone,” said Brogan. “I use it to talk to people and get business. I don’t use it to talk about my cat.” Yet in a February Abrams Research Social Media Survey of “over 200 social media leaders” from the U.S. and Canada,” 40% of respondents chose Twitter as the #1 social media service for businesses, with LinkedIn at a distant second. One survey respondent described Twitter as “the quickest way I’ve seen to spread information virally to a wide scope of people attached in a lot of random ways,” while another said it’s the “best way to bridge the personal-professional gap. Once people care about YOU the person, they care about YOU the brand.”

“I pay a lot of attention to what is going on in social media, since publishing as an industry will grow ever more reliant on the tools it develops,” says Richard Nash, formerly of Soft Skull and Counterpoint. “And in order to understand, you must use.” Here’s how and why according to the pros, book publishers should be using Twitter now.

Developing Your Twitter Presence

The number-one tip from people we talked to: Publishers shouldn’t be afraid to get personal on Twitter, and their tweets shouldn’t sound like marketing. “The best people using Twitter are the ones who talk back to people, not just the people who are talking about their dumb stuff,” says Brogan. He recommends looking at companies whose Twitter presence you like and emulating them. Ron Hogan, founder of Beatrice.com and a producer of writers’ workshops and conferences, agrees: “The publishers that use Twitter best are the ones who let the person running the account put a personal spin on their posts, not just announcing every press clipping or YouTube clip that comes down the pike.” In fact, rather than having one company Twitter account with the company’s name, it may be better for employees to have individual accounts. “Publishers should empower and encourage ALL of their employees to Twitter, and to talk about what makes them truly jazzed to work with books. There are huge transparency issues publishers have to work through to become comfortable with this, but I believe it would be worth it.”

“I do not have a separate personal account,” says Heather Adams, Director of Publicity at Thomas Nelson. “I don’t distinguish between my personal and professional tweets. My career is a significant part of my life and intertwining it with my life as a mother, wife, community volunteer, etc. is important. It’s a part of my total makeup. I also believe this allows my followers to learn more about the person behind the updates.”

“I like the [publishers on Twitter] that aren’t sales-y—it’s not just every tweet on ‘what a fab book we just released.’ There’s a transparency online that publishers, if they are going to use social media, need to adhere to,” says Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts. “I like to see posts on stuff they’re working on, industry news, new things going on in their offices. This gives their operation a ‘voice.’ Best of all, it gives me the inside scoop on new titles.”

“We’re still experimenting, but at the moment we’re just using it to connect with readers,” says Anna Rafferty, Digital Marketing Director at Penguin UK. “We want to hear from them, ask them questions, let them know what we’re up to, and generally keep in touch. I hope it will be a tool for inspiration and will prompt unexpected reading, but more than anything it’s about Penguin being a friendly, interesting brand.”

Using Twitter to Connect with Your Audience and Gain Recognition

The Pew social media survey found that Twitter users as a group are much more likely than the general population to use wireless devices like cell phones, laptops, and handhelds for Internet access. They use those devices to get their news. “For many Twitter users, learning about and sharing relevant and recent nuggets of information is a primary utility of the service,” says the report. “While Twitter users are just as likely as others to consume media on any given day, they are more likely to consume it on mobile devices and less likely to engage with news via more traditional outlets.” In addition, publishers trying to spread the word about their books via blogs should take heart in the fact that many of the people using Twitter are the same people reading and writing blogs. Pew found that 21% of Twitter users had read someone else’s blog “yesterday,” 57% had ever read a blog (as compared to 29% of the population who is online but not on Twitter), and 29% had their own blogs.

Making a connection with a Twitter user has an impact far beyond the initial conversation if she goes on to blog about you, or if her followers on Twitter see her interactions with you. If you already have a blog, posting your Twitter handle on it and letting your Twitter followers know when interesting new posts go up increases the ripple effect. Last fall, Thomas Nelson launched Book Review Bloggers, which allows bloggers to receive free copies of Nelson books in exchange for 200-word book reviews (positive or negative) posted on their blogs and on any consumer retail website (like Amazon). “It is amazing how much overlap we find between bloggers and Twitterers,” says Lindsay Nobles, Nelson’s Director of Corporate Communications. “When we share information about new books available, we find a major surge in interest.”

Twitter is also a free research tool for publishers. “Publishers should set up Twitter searches on keywords within the topics or subject areas in which they publish,” says Chris Webb, Associate Publisher of Wiley’s Professional and Trade division and head of its European Technology Publishing Group. “We absolutely should be listening for people talking about our brands, our book series, and our products. Listening provides opportunities for publishers to engage people in conversations where we can provide value—a solution to a problem, a new resource for a reader, or a new book to a new customer.”

And these conversations are a great way to influence the influencers. “At this stage, Twitter’s still small enough that it’s useful for seeding news to influential people, whatever your industry,” says Ryan Chapman, Internet Marketing Coordinator at Macmillan. “I’ve used it informally to give Macmillan books away, as other publishers have, and any conduit between customers and publishers can only help us.”

Oh, Yeah—It Leads to Increased Sales

“Publishers should not think about Twitter initially as a way to drive book sales. Instead, it’s a way for them to connect and communicate with readers in a way that is foreign at first,” says Webb. “If we [are part of the community], the opportunities to introduce people to the books we publish will present themselves naturally. But we have to listen for them as part of the ongoing conversation….Having said that, Twitter can drive sales. It has been widely reported that Dell [computers] drove an additional $1 million in revenues in 18 months via its Twitter account.”

“I’ve gotten a lot of business from Twitter. People follow my tweets, love what I have to say and book a consultation,” says Sansevieri. “It’s a permission-based way to get and stay in front of folks, and if you use it right, it can really be a revenue generator. The key is to offer help first and ask for help (or business) later. Don’t lead with your wallet.”

Nash agrees, saying that people who follow publishers “are likely themselves to be folks who influence others on if and which books to buy. So I do actually see it as part of a customer service paradigm. You’re servicing a community to try to build.”

And remember to keep an eye out for new authors to sign. “I’m counting down the days,” says Chapman, “until someone’s offered a book deal off of his or her Twitter stream.”

Leave a Comment

32 Comments

  1. Jun 2, 20091:01 pm

    Between the drastic changes the publishing world has undergone in just 12 short months, combined with the awesome power of Twitter over the lasst 12 months, it doesn’t “balance out”…it improves everything for everyone. The key is adaptability: If you are willing to change, to improve, and to go with new flows of technology and media direction, you will reap the rewards. To paraphrase William Knudsen Jr., Chairman of Ford Motor Company, “In business, the competition will bite you if you keep running, but if you stand still, they will swallow you!”

  2. Aug 11, 20093:25 pm

    Count no more. I’ve been offered two book deals on the basis of my Twitter… er, well Twitter anyway. I had a number of e-book offers from some WordPress consulting type tweets, but e-books are often glorified PPT presentations, IMHO. But when a real publisher, with a real imprint invited me to submit Getting Real with Twitter as a business title in their 2010 lineup, well, I’m still talking to them.

    I am going to go ahead with a quicker Twitter book called The Twitter Way, using Amazon’s ClearSpace publishing. I’d like to have something out before next summer, and with design and online marketing skills, I’ll probably do okay.

    What I really want is an advance on my forthcoming book on the two years I spent inside Dell, watching the new-guard come in flying high banners (Enfatico, GlobalGlobal Online, etc) only to have the general, Mark Jarvis, and his army executed before the 2nd year had passed.

    @jmacofearth

  3. Aug 26, 20095:37 pm

    This post would benefit from a slight renaming . . . it should be called “Twitter Isn’t Stupid, but Publishers Are.” Anyone who has ever attended or presented a new idea at a Publishing conference knows how closed-minded and resistant to change the larger companies in this industry still are. I’m shocked that Brogan wasn’t laughed out of the room, but at the same time it’s a good sign: the old publishing guard is finally being ushered out.

  4. Sep 9, 201212:17 am

    I liked as much as you’ll obtain performed right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get got an edginess over that you would like be delivering the following. unwell indisputably come further earlier once more as precisely the same nearly very steadily inside case you shield this hike.

  5. Dec 21, 201210:18 pm

    You can of course also apply non-medical treatments if you
    are a man who needs a little assistance. ” Following their stringent tests, the final conclusion was that Korean red ginseng can be are able of treating male men’s. Usually this product can be taken about 60 minutes before sexual activity.

  6. Dec 23, 20128:16 am

    I all the time used to study paragraph in news papers but now as I am a
    user of net thus from now I am using net for content, thanks
    to web.

  7. Feb 4, 20132:09 am

    If some one wants to be updated with hottest technologies afterward he must be
    visit this web site and be up to date all the time.

  8. Mar 18, 20132:03 am

    Your own write-up features proven beneficial to
    us. It’s very informative and you really are obviously very well-informed in
    this region. You possess opened my face in order to varying opinion of this particular subject along with
    intriguing, notable and strong content material.

  9. Apr 4, 20135:07 pm

    You can definitely see your expertise within
    the article you write. The sector hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to
    say how they believe. At all times go after your heart.

  10. Apr 27, 20133:56 pm

    Wow, this paragraph is fastidious, my younger sister is analyzing these kinds of things, so I am going to let know her.

  11. Apr 27, 20136:21 pm

    Hi, i believe that i saw you visited my website
    thus i came to return the want?.I am trying to in finding things to
    enhance my web site!I suppose its ok to make use
    of a few of your ideas!!

  12. Apr 29, 201312:12 pm

    Just want to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity in your put up is just excellent and that i can assume you are knowledgeable on this subject.
    Fine with your permission allow me to grab your feed
    to stay up to date with coming near near post. Thank you 1,000,000 and please continue the gratifying work.

  13. May 6, 20131:27 pm

    I don’t know if it’s just me or if perhaps everyone else encountering issues
    with your blog. It appears as though some of the text
    on your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to
    them too? This could be a problem with my browser because I’ve had this happen previously. Thanks

  14. May 9, 201310:57 am

    I pay a visit daily some web pages and blogs to read articles, however this web site
    presents quality based writing.

  15. May 19, 20132:58 am

    It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of information. I am glad that you just shared this helpful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

  16. Jun 15, 20136:59 am

    Its like you learn my mind! You seem to know so much approximately this, such as you wrote
    the ebook in it or something. I believe that you simply can do
    with some % to drive the message house a bit, but instead of that, this
    is magnificent blog. A great read. I’ll definitely be back.

  17. Jun 16, 20136:24 pm

    Hi there superb blog! Does running a blog like this require
    a lot of work? I have virtually no understanding of coding
    however I was hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways,
    if you have any ideas or tips for new blog owners please share.
    I know this is off topic but I just wanted to ask.
    Appreciate it!

  18. Jun 20, 201312:12 pm

    Hi, i feel that i noticed you visited my site
    so i came to return the favor?.I am trying to in finding issues to enhance
    my site!I guess its adequate to make use of a few of
    your ideas!!

  19. Jun 24, 201312:31 pm

    I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for fantastic information I was looking for this info for my mission.

  20. Jul 8, 20133:40 pm

    Hello there, I found your blog by way of Google while looking for a related subject, your web site got here up, it appears to be like great.
    I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.
    Hi there, simply turned into alert to your blog thru Google, and located that it is truly informative. I’m going to watch out for brussels.
    I’ll be grateful in case you proceed this in future. Numerous other people will likely be benefited out of your writing. Cheers!

  21. Jul 10, 201310:30 am

    I think the admin of this site is genuinely working hard for his website, since here every data is quality
    based information.

  22. Jul 19, 20137:38 am

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about
    this, like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you can do with a few pics to
    drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is great blog.
    An excellent read. I’ll certainly be back.

  23. Jul 23, 201312:53 pm

    all the time i used to read smaller posts that also clear their motive, and that is also happening with this piece of writing which I am reading at this time.

  24. Jul 26, 201312:43 pm

    Hello, i think that i saw you visited my
    website thus i came to “return the favor”.
    I am trying to find things to enhance my site!I suppose its ok to use a few of your ideas!
    !

  25. Jul 27, 201312:47 am

    An outstanding share! I have just forwarded this onto a colleague
    who had been doing a little homework on this.
    And he in fact ordered me breakfast simply because I discovered it for
    him… lol. So let me reword this…. Thanks for
    the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this matter
    here on your web site.

  26. Jul 29, 20139:06 pm

    I blog often and I genuinely thank you for your information.
    This great article has truly peaked my interest.
    I am going to book mark your blog and keep checking for new information about once a week.

    I opted in for your Feed too.

  27. Aug 5, 20135:21 am

    Heya! I know this is kind of off-topic however I had to
    ask. Does running a well-established blog
    like yours take a massive amount work? I’m completely new to running a blog but I do write in my diary every day. I’d like to start a blog
    so I can share my own experience and thoughts online.
    Please let me know if you have any suggestions or tips for new aspiring bloggers.
    Thankyou!

  28. Sep 26, 20132:21 pm

    With a horoscope or a love horoscope, you wouldn’t likely get such detailed information.
    There are twelve zodiac signs that are Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.

    ‘Beyond the spectrum of normall man is the Master Numbers
    11, 22, 33.

  29. Nov 20, 201310:29 pm

    herbalife formula 1 After reading through all off the
    materials and getting my fill, I politely emailed
    Dan and told him I’d be passing on the opportunity.
    They can leave your skin looking like the surface
    of some dead, alien planet. Simethicone drops or Gas X can be very helpful in resolving this issue.

  30. Dec 15, 20138:54 pm

    Thanbks to my father who told me cncerning this blog,
    this web site is in facdt amazing.

  31. Dec 31, 20131:41 pm

    whoah this blog is wonderful i really like studying your articles.

    Keep up the good work! You understand, many people are
    hunting around for this info, you can aid them greatly.

  32. Feb 9, 201411:29 am

    I am sure this article has touched all the internet visitors,
    its really really good article on building up new website.

    michael kors outlet online

5 Trackbacks

  1. [...] Twitter Isn’t Stupid–But Publishers Need to Be Smart about Using It. Here’s How. [...]

  2. [...] Publishing Trends Tells Writers Why/How to Twitter Author: Donna – Categories: Twitter for Writers – Tags: articles, twitter Online magazine, Publishing Trends posted a great article back in March that I re-stumbled upon, “Twitter Isn’t Stupid- but Publishers Need to Be Smart About Using It.  Here’s H… [...]

  3. [...] Twitter Isn’t Stupid–But Publishers Need to Be Smart about Using It. Here’s How. — Publishin… (tags: twitter web2.0 publishing) [...]

  4. By Social Media for Writers on October 12, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    [...] Rules. 12 Social Media Essentials for Writers from Donald Lafferty’s Practical Social Media Twitter Isn’t Stupid from Publishing [...]

  5. [...] April 5, 2010 by grrlbibliophile I have to admit I’ve been very reluctant to join Twitter. It seems silly to post about everything and anything, in short spurts. As this blog shows, I usually have more than a couple sentences worth of whatever to say. But apparently, I’m wrong to doubt the effectiveness of Twitter  - it’s a great way to network according to Publishing Trends’ article “Twitter isn’t Stupid – But Publishers Need to Be Smart About Using It. Here&#8217… [...]

Back to Top