Q&A: The marketing team behind @SimonBooks shares tips on creating impactful organic and paid content

By Marissa Window

There are several moving pieces that go into crafting a compelling social strategy. What type of content should you share? How do you plan and manage your marketing campaigns?

One brand that stands out with their strong organic and paid content is publishing company @SimonBooks. We chatted with their marketing team to learn about their Twitter strategy.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

There are actually a few of us behind the curtain of @SimonBooks:

  • Stephen Bedford, Associate Director of Marketing
  • Elizabeth Breeden, Marketing Associate
  • Jessica Breen, Marketing Manager
  • Nicole Hines, Marketing Coordinator
  • Dana Trocker, Associate Director of Marketing

What does a typical work day look like for you?

“Typical work day” is a relative term for us with each day being equal parts routine and surprise. Each of us manages anywhere from four to six campaigns per month, involving paid and earned media strategy, content creation and marketing, social media management and guidance, and partner marketing. However, a big, and unpredictable, part of our work lives is being reactive to the news cycle and understanding how our books and authors might fit into those conversations as they unfold online.

How does Twitter fit into your marketing mix?

It’s a powerful tool to announce our books, celebrate our authors, disseminate content, and raise overall awareness while leading readers somewhere to learn more. We also work with a lot of media outlets, brands, influencers, and organizations, so it’s important for us to do our part to share that content.

Twitter has also led to a lot of chance encounters and introductions that weren’t readily available or possible a few years ago. We have made a lot of great connections just by asking a question. You never know who might slide into your DMs.

We have used a variety of social listening tools over the years to monitor conversations and identify various people and groups who might be interested in a certain title or connecting with our authors.

The author and publishing community is very strong on Twitter. Can you describe it a bit?

It’s certainly a vibrant community and a vital one considering the evolving media landscape. To have an engaged following and be able to speak to it complements the traditional means for book awareness, such as print and broadcast, while ensuring those media hits get some further exposure.

We work closely with our authors in determining the best messages and content to disseminate on the platform. We always want to offer something actionable and enthusiastic that is going to pique someone’s interest to learn more. Understandably, some authors aren’t on Twitter so we are happy to take the initiative on their behalf. S&S is lucky to have great design, creative, and video teams to help give our Tweets a visual, and turn the overall message into more than just text.

One exciting trend we’ve seen during the past year or two is celebrities starting their own book clubs and fostering those discussions online via social media. It’s a truly great way to unite readers, but also help discovery of books and new readers.

Do you have any advice for an author trying to build their personal brand on Twitter?

Sure, we have lots of advice but at the risk of getting carried away, we'll offer up five things for authors to consider:

Make it a (manageable) part of your daily routine. Twitter should never consume a significant part of your day, but daily maintenance will help get your account growing and moving in the right direction.

Interact. Thank readers, engage new ones, compliment your peers, introduce yourself to accounts you like (and might like your book), join the conversation with hashtags, offer an opinion, share something you like. It’s “social media” so be social!

Manage expectations. This is not Field of Dreams where “if you build it, they will come.” You’re going to have to work at it and hustle. Some days, you might pick up 100 new followers or get 50 Retweets. Other days, it might be crickets and tumbleweeds. Channel the excitement when something good happens, don’t get discouraged if you don’t get the initial result you wanted.

Get recognized. Conducting an interview? Have a recurring byline? Speaking at a store? Doing something, anything that’s going to be in the public sphere? Then SHARE YOUR HANDLE. The best way to grow, and grow quickly, is to get @’d by a media outlet, organization, venue, peer, or anyone or anything with its own following.

Have a voice. The platform is an extension of you and should reflect your personality.

How do you plan and create Tweets that will resonate with your target audience?

We regularly schedule Tweets to keep information on various titles, authors, and campaigns circulating during the launch and into the future. Each of us maintains our own content calendars and a keen understanding of what the particular audience segment for a particular title wants to see and how it might react. We are also at the ready to respond to any kind of breaking news, whether that’s a geopolitical event or a prominent personality endorsing/sharing our book. Some authors are sensitive to sharing their favorable reviews so we will happily create a post that heralds them and all they have to do is Retweet.

Does your target audience shift depending on what book you are promoting?

Our imprint publishes widely so at any given time can have us publishing books ranging from murder mystery to presidential history to cooking to financial advice. For example, this September saw us publishing titles from a wildly diverse group of authors: Hillary Clinton, Gucci Mane, Ray Dalio, Tom Brady, and thriller author Nelson DeMille. It helps for us to really know the readers of each book, but also create Tweets – and accompanying visual content – to guide those followers to the author’s account and spur further engagement. We frequently use the book’s and author’s name title as a hashtag, and keep tabs on other trends and happenings to see how we can be included.

The publishing industry is collegial so it’s not uncommon to see another group start a tag and watch it gain steam with other publishing accounts, readers, bloggers, and so on. Some of the more general tags, like #TBRPile (“to-be-read pile”) or “bookclub” are always good for discovery. Specific and timely initiatives, like celebrating National Novel Writing Month (#NanNoWriMo), is a good collaborative effort to support aspiring writers. And then, of course, who can forget what fun all of us book geeks had with #90sABook with such mashups as “Full House on the Prairie” (@BlackEmma07), “Boy Meets Brave New World” (@BourbonReader), and “Master P and Margarita” (@ErinAdairHodges).

 What are a few of your favorite or best performing Tweets you’ve shared from @SimonBooks? 

‘Leonardo da Vinci’ by Walter Isaacson 

We created a trove of video content for this title to use on social. In this Tweet, we use a beautifully produced trailer while also reminding people about author Walter Isaacon’s (@WalterIsaacson) segment on ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ and guiding people to read an excerpt from the book. 

‘International Girls Day’

We capitalized on a trending hashtag directed towards a very active Twitter community, paired it with a simple and popular visual within the online book world, and tagged our authors to steer people to their accounts. In this case, it’s @HillaryClinton@HeleneCooper@XOAmani@RTraister, and @ShondaRhimes.

‘The Rules of Magic’  

We did a sort of ‘flash mob’ for Halloween, inviting readers to meet up with some of us and get a copy of Alice Hoffman’s (@AHoffmanWriter) witch-y bestseller The Rules of Magic. It was spur of the moment and geo-focused, but with a nice incentive. When we showed up to the park there was a crowd waiting to meet us and talk books.

‘The Bright Hour'

For this book published posthumously by the incredible writer Nina Riggs, we created a video of heartfelt tributes from other authors, most of whom had never even met Nina. We were able to bring her gorgeous book into the world by creating a community of advocates to speak about the work on behalf of the author. 

How do you use Twitter Ads to amplify your marketing efforts?

We routinely use Twitter Ads to help generate impressions, but with a goal of leading readers elsewhere to learn more. We tend to run ads most often for books that appeal to the Twitter demographic such as political content, business books, and celebrity-driven titles.

How do you plan and create Twitter Ads that will resonate with your target audience?

It’s a combination of concise messaging, visual element, and an opportunity to learn more. Converting people immediately from discovery to purchase is challenging. Most ads drive the consumer to expanded content, like excerpts or video.

Any final tips for brands on Twitter?

Be gracious. Have fun. Find your voice. Like most things in life, you will get out of it what you put into it.

Ready to advertise on Twitter?