#3 Blogging

NEIBA Question of the Week #3

The NEIBA Board members are starting a Question of the Week on the NEIBA Group at Yahoo! Groups (our Listserv). The goal is to share everyone’s common knowledge about bookselling or anything related to independent bookstores.  It is our hope that after the Board has run through with their questions other members will continue the asking.

This week’s question is:

We have been attempting to get our act together and blog with some consistency. We’ve found that we get a burst of motivation and post a few things and then it hits the back burner. 
 I’m curious about what other stores are doing and what is working. Are you using a blog site like blogspot or tumblr? Do you incorporate video? Pictures? Do you set a schedule or assign staff?Lisa Sullivan, Bartleby’s Books

Josh Christie, Sherman’s Book and Stationery Store

Tumblr is a great service because it makes it so easy to post content other than just text. You can reblog/repost content (pictures, video, links, audio, etc) from other sources your customers will enjoy, but they’ll continue visiting your site because you curate the content for them.

As someone who does a blog outside of my life at the store – and works with a number of bloggers – my best advice is to create some sort of consistency. People will be more likely to click through to the blog again and again if you post one or two things a week, rather than a burst of posts and then nothing for ages. Most blogging sites (Tumblr, Blogspot and WordPress, for sure) make it simple to schedule posts to go up at a certain time in the future. Rather than post a whole bunch of things when you have inspiration, spread them out over a couple of days to give you time to think of more things. That way, you won’t feel the pressure to post a whole bunch of stuff every day or two.

As for content that works on a blog, I think bestseller lists, event listings and typed versions of shelftalkers are a relatively quick, painless way to create content. I think McNally Jackson and WORD both do a great job of posting content that’s interesting to their customers that’s both store-specific and more generally about books. In terms of staff scheduling, I think McNally has a dedicated group of booksellers for which social media is in their job description, whereas WORD just has the manager and events planner posting when they can.

Ann Kingman, Random House

Blog content is also a great way to keep your Facebook page and twitter feeds fresh. They should all work together — so blog, then post something intriguing on Facebook to get people to click through to the blog, then post something slightly different with a link on twitter. Make sure you have Facebook and twitter buttons on the blog so that people can easily follow you there — as well as an email list signup. I would caution against those apps that allow you to automatically link blog posts and newsletters to FB and twitter — your true fans who follow multiple places find it annoying, and those who aren’t really engaged with your content won’t click through without some kind of “headline”. And “New Blog Post!” is not really intriguing enough to get clickthroughs.

It seems like a lot of work to craft different headlines for FB and twitter, but the traffic it drives can be substantial.

And yes, I agree with what Josh said about consistency. It’s key!

Emily Crowe, Odyssey

Our store has struggled with our blog, too. One store I know that does this very well is Lemuria Bookstore in Jackson, MS. They have one person in charge of the blog, and she assigns a different person to post every, single day. Every employee is required to participate, from the owner down to the slightest part-timer. As long as the content is book related in some way, the staff have free rein to post about whatever they want, and then Lisa (the person who oversees everything) does quick scans for obvious grammar issues and posts them on the blog daily, along with updates on both Facebook and Twitter.

Claire Benedict, Bear Pond

Lisa – We started a blog a couple of years ago. It’s not hard but it’s one more task to get on the staff about. We have since stopped mostly because my feeling with blogs is that there are so many out there that yours better really stand out above all the rest otherwise why will people bother? Even your most loyal customers have a lot of other options in front of them on the internet. Since I couldn’t say ours was that special or unique, we decided to stop. It didn’t help that some of our better staff bloggers left at one point, too. I think Emily’s story of having one person in charge and making every single staff person participate is a good one. If your staff is really into it, it could really work.