The latest marketing roundtable hosted by the American Booksellers Association brought forth a discussion of social media analytics across three different social media platforms, what these analytics mean, and how booksellers can use these analytics to properly target and engage with their audience.
The July 12 roundtable — one of the biweekly online video conferences hosted by ABA on Zoom.us — featured tips from Mary Cate Stevenson and Noah Nofz of Two Cats Communications, the digital media marketing company based in Houston, Texas, that manages ABA’s social media pages. The platforms discussed were Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
“The Cats,” whom booksellers can reach out to at any time via e-mail, reduced the broad topic of social media analytics into three simple points: what analytics are, how to activate them, and whether or not booksellers should consider them a priority.
Analytics are “measurements of audience interaction with social media accounts,” said the Cats, and include such measurements as impressions, reach, engagement, post clicks, profile views, followers, and page actions. Essentially, analytics — called “insights” on Facebook and Instagram — can be used to evaluate a social media post’s performance.
The Cats provided a handout that shows exactly where analytics can be found on each platform. Activating access to analytics on Twitter can be done by visiting the Twitter Analytics website; for Facebook, insights are available in the top navigation bar, no activation needed.
Instagram analytics can only be accessed when a profile has been converted to Instagram for Business, a free option that offers features that booksellers can use to reach their audience more effectively.
“There are a couple of useful features in addition to insights” for Instagram for Business users, said Stevenson. “You can have your contact information in buttons across your profile page. You can put your e-mail address in there, directions, your website, and your phone number.” These options allow customers to contact booksellers directly.
Using analytics can be especially useful for booksellers looking to promote in-store events. The Cats named Facebook as one of the most valuable platforms for marketing different events; creating an events page where users can easily access information about an event can increase engagement, as well as promote page and website clicks.
Posts that feature visuals, such as photos of books or authors, are more likely to gain traction, resulting in post likes, link clicks, and page follows, the Cats added. Additionally, booksellers should consider mentioning authors and publishers in their tweets, as this can result in reaching a wider audience.
“The author will often retweet something that you’ve posted, which is great, because someone who lives in your city and is a fan of the author may follow that author, but not you,” Stevenson said. “It’s beneficial to try to get the author and anyone that you’ve partnered with in the community to repost your content.”
Booksellers should also pay attention to the frequency with which they post. While posting often on Twitter can increase audience engagement, posting multiple times daily on Facebook runs the risk of deprioritizing posts.
When posting to social media, booksellers should always include links to their event page, particularly for ticketed events, as analytics can be used to gauge interest, said the Cats. Links to a store’s website should also be included, which can help gain brand awareness and sales if the option to pre-order a book online is offered.
An important part of navigating social media is ensuring that the content posted is reaching the right audience, according to the Cats; this is where proper hashtag use comes into play. While the Cats do not recommend them for posts on Facebook, hashtags on Twitter and Instagram can help create threads that others can search through to find events in their area.
The Cats named one example, #readhouston, which is used by bookstores and other organizations around Houston to tag literary events. “Reach out to stores and organizations that have literary events and see if you can settle on one hashtag,” said Nofz. “When someone is looking through Twitter and looking for something to do, they can click on that hashtag and see those posts neatly collated in one place.”
For booksellers seeking to avoid the added work of posting to social media daily, there is software available that allows users to schedule posts in advance. The Cats recommended using a software that is native to the platform being used, but if one is not available, users can try a free trial of a program like Hootsuite or Buffer. These programs support basic social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
However, for Instagram posts, scheduling is not always the best option. “Instagram is something we recommend posting in real time because you can tag people in your pictures, and it makes adding a location a lot easier,” said Nofz. Booksellers also cannot schedule stories on Instagram, and these are popular among users.
The Cats also urged booksellers to modify these tips depending on the needs of their specific store. “Analytics and success is usually pretty subjective on the whole,” said Stevenson, reminding booksellers that lower numbers in certain areas does not mean they are doing anything wrong. “Every business is different…the numbers matter less depending on what your goals are and where you are in the social media landscape.”
Nofz suggested that instead of simply focusing on numbers, booksellers should try to come up with a strategy for social media posting. “We try to figure out what some specific goals are for each account or page that we manage, then we choose specific metrics to focus on that we think will help us reach those goals,” said Nofz. “For example, if you’re trying to increase overall brand awareness…pay a lot of attention to your gross following. If you want to be a little bit more strategic, you can look at your engagement rate over time. That can help you decide what kind of content performs best on your pages, and you can use that to tailor your strategy toward higher engagement.”
While building time into a busy schedule for social media posting and checking analytics can feel overwhelming, booksellers should still consider making this a priority, said the Cats, as it can help to improve engagement rates with their audiences both online and in-store.
All ABA members are invited to join these 30-minute marketing roundtable videoconferences, which are held at 11:00 a.m. EST on two Thursdays a month. Booksellers who would like to participate can send an invite request to ABA’s Phil Davies.