New supporting the old: Using social to set the right course
While I have wholeheartedly embraced the digital revolution in my marketing career; in my "other life" I participate in one of the oldest forms of recorded content generation around; printed books and magazines.
My passion is ocean liners and the history of passenger ships, and I have ten books published on a range of maritime topics (www.chriscunard.com/books) as well as many articles published in magazines. Geographically, Perth is at "the edge of the world" when it comes to the maritime history community. Being the most isolated capital city in the world makes it difficult to connect face to face with others sharing my interest, even those I have met during my travels.
To overcome this, some years ago I set up a small social media network off the back of my website, which had been around since 1999. The website, last redesigned in 2010 (and currently well overdue for a transition to a responsive site - it's a work in progress!) predated any social media channels that are popular today. However even from those early days, passionate and dedicated maritime and shipping fans contacted me via email to discuss and share ideas.
Enter social media:
Twitter was first, followed by Facebook and Instagram. Following advice I received in those early years from Heather Albrecht and other digital gurus (see previous blog entry here) I planned a series of themes and events to post about to my growing network, and set out implementing a plan to connect with other ocean liner enthusiasts, as well as readers of our books.
Numbers wise, this is no Qantas or Apple. About 1,300 Facebook fans and 1,800 Twitter followers. A small digital community when compared to the giants of social media. But this is ok. Ours is a niche interest and my aim is to attract and connect with other maritime enthusiasts who are passionate about maritime history. A small group compared to, say, users of iPhones.
As the community grew, more and more people started sending in reviews of my books and articles. This came with requests for new stories, suggestions for edits to existing stories and a host of photographic contributions. This was a great way to engage with our readers and I felt it presented an opportunity to actively ask our audience what they wanted to read about in future titles.
As such we have been able engage the opinions of numerous maritime enthusiasts in the design of our recent books; gauging our reader's opinion on what topics to cover and even asking them which front cover design they preferred on our most recent title. This open communication in turn ensures the readers are happy with the product when it hits the shelves, as we have had valuable insight at the planning phase as to what they wanted to see and read about in our books and articles.
Last year I was at a marketing awards night. The guest speaker was Lorna Jane, owner of the phenomenally successful sportswear stores. She is also a published author.
She explained her approach to her books. Lorna emphasised that she spoke with her readers via social media before commencing her next book to see what her readers wanted to learn about in her next title.
Her advice brought an instant smile to my face. It is clearly a winning strategy and works across a variety of topics, from maritime history to sportswear.
- Engage with your social network audience.
- Encourage two-way conversations.
- Ask your audience what they want, don't presume to guess.
- Follow through. If you say you are going to listen to their advice, make sure you do!
- Treat the social media users well. Respect their opinions as they are likely representing your target market and advocates of your brand.
And most importantly...
- Not every social media strategy should be about just growing likes and follows. Sometimes a smaller, close-knit group of advocates can really benefit you and your brand. Especially when you listen to them.
Best of luck with your social media endeavours.
Chrise Frame is the General Manager, Marketing & Brand, at Bethanie.
You can connect with Chris below: