How Publishers Can Be More Effective With Their Social Media

By Michael Maher of Scribe Inc.

Michael Maher

Published

When I log into Scribe’s social media accounts every day, one of the first things I do is check out what different publishers are up to. I have been doing this for a few years now, and it is amazing how things have changed and how things continue to change. Five years ago, some of the biggest publishing houses in the world would go days or even weeks without updating their Facebook pages. A few did not even have Twitter accounts.

Today, when I looked at the Twitter account of a major publisher—an account that did not exist five years ago—I saw an account with more than two hundred thousand followers. It seems like even the publishers who were the most hesitant to consider social media have now embraced it. However, this is not to say that all publishers are getting it right when it comes to social media.

There are publishers who have done nearly everything right, and in the process, they have created strong social media presences that are now essential pieces of their marketing strategies. Many of the smaller publishers rely on social media marketing and consider it their best way of competing with larger publishing houses. But there are also publishers who still seem to only have social media accounts for the sake of having them. Here are some instructions for how publishers of all sizes can be more effective with their social media accounts.

Be active.

This is probably the most obvious piece of advice, and it is also the easiest to accomplish. It is also the most important aspect of any social media account. Inactive or underactive accounts do not do your brand any good; meanwhile the benefits of active accounts are endless. In some ways, an inactive account can be worse than not having an account at all.

If your social media account exists only to plug and sell your own products, this will be obvious and off-putting to your followers.

If you have an account, it implies to followers and potential followers that you monitor a social media account and that this may be a way to contact you. Many companies, especially start-ups, are encouraging users to contact them via Twitter with issues, questions, bug reports, and feature requests, which makes inactive accounts look bad by comparison. In short, be active and commit to a social media strategy and schedule.

Post relevant and interesting content.

It is perfectly acceptable to occasionally promote your company, a book, a product, or an event, but do not let that be the only thing you use social media for. If your social media account exists only to plug and sell your own products, this will be obvious and off-putting to your followers. Your goal should be to be an active, interesting, and exciting account to follow.

If you read a piece of publishing news online and find it interesting, then send it out for all your followers to see. You can even include a few comments if you want (note: positivity is better here!). The more interesting your account is, the more followers you will see. I can tell you that I personally do not follow some publishers (on my personal account) because they are in “sell mode” all the time, while others I follow simply because they are entertaining and often post articles I like to read or provide information I find useful.

A great way to continuously have content available to post is simply to read what is out there. Monitor other social media accounts and read publishing news in your downtime (more on effective ways to do this later). If you are interesting and not constantly trying to sell to your followers directly, you will gradually develop a loyal following, which can grow exponentially.

Focus on Twitter.

While there are a number of different social networks out there, you should start with Twitter. Twitter is the easiest to create, build, and grow, and your Twitter account can then be used as a tool to grow your following on other social media networks.

While spending more time on your social media accounts can add significant value, a time limitation should not discourage you from utilizing the power of social media.

Unlike Facebook, Twitter does not restrict your posts or (for now) adjust the timeline of its users. Facebook uses its various algorithms to determine “top posts” and then reorganizes user timelines based on those top posts, as opposed to a sequential timeline. Facebook also restricts the “reach” of posts, limiting their exposure (and encouraging you to purchase paid advertisements). Focusing on Twitter allows you to get a head start while attempting to grow your social audience.

Learn and use the available tools.

One of the biggest deterrents to publishers when considering their social media strategy is the potential time it takes to manage various social media accounts. While some time is required, the overall time does not have to be substantial, especially if you do not have the time or manpower to spare.

There are powerful and easy-to-use tools available to anyone planning a social media strategy, and many of those tools are aimed at limiting the amount of time you need to dedicate to social media. While spending more time on your social media accounts can add significant value, a time limitation should not discourage you from utilizing the power of social media. The tools available for social media management are worth their own post, but here are just a few of the useful tools available to make your use of social media more efficient and more effective:

1. Buffer

Admittedly, I have developed a bit of an obsession with Buffer. Their social media tools are priceless, their customer service is unprecedented, and the company as a whole is nothing short of astounding. Buffer is a company aimed at saving you time on social media.

Their app allows you to manage multiple accounts in one place (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram, and even Pinterest), and it lets you publish updates to multiple accounts at once, schedule updates for the future across those accounts, and view the analytics of any update published through Buffer. Buffer is constantly researching and offering new suggested content to publish to your accounts, making it easier for you to accomplish the second piece of advice given earlier. As an added bonus, Buffer employs content crafters who publish well-written blog articles a few times a week on topics such as social media strategies, productivity, team building, and more.

Buffer has won me over, and it has as much to do with their social media activity as it does with their useful app and tools.

2. IFTTT

I only discovered IFTTT (which is short for “If This Then That”) a few weeks ago, but its impact on Scribe’s social media accounts is already immeasurable. IFTTT provides what it calls “recipes” to connect products and apps. “IF” recipes run automatically in the background after you set them up, while “DO” recipes (their other type of recipe) run whenever you tell them to.

In addition to being incredibly useful outside of the world of social media, IFTTT recipes can automate and organize some of your work for you. This past week, IFTTT automatically logged any tweet using the #aaup15 (the hashtag of the annual Association of American University Presses conference) to a Google Drive spreadsheet for Scribe. It also added any user who used that hashtag to an AAUP 2015 Twitter list, which can be reviewed later or followed for the foreseeable future. It took a few minutes to set up both of these recipes, and combined, they logged more than 3,200 tweets and 300 Twitter users.

3. Twellow

A social media following is not of much use if it does not comprise targeted and relevant followers. While all followers are welcome, followers who share mutual interests with your organization are much more helpful. As a publisher, your best followers are readers, authors, editors, freelancers, contractors, other publishers, and others in the publishing industry.

Twellow is a great app to help you find and target new followers. “Twellow” is a play on “Twitter” and “Yellow Pages.” This app lets you search for potential followers based on different categories, including location and industry. It also provides a dashboard for managing followers, but its main value is providing targeted search metrics for followers.

4. Cyfe

Social media management begins with creating your accounts and building a following, but that is not where it ends. The most successful social media strategies include a way to measure past successes and failures. This is where an app like Cyfe comes in.

Cyfe is an all-in-one dashboard for social media analytics, creating a place for you to evaluate all your data all in one place. An app like Cyfe is especially effective for evaluating different social media strategies. On a day-to-day, week-to-week, or month-to-month basis, you can evaluate the results of what you have done recently against what you have done in the past.

Engage.

A common mistake that the managers of social media accounts make is treating their accounts like they are closed doors. Your social media accounts should be a way into your organization and a way to interact with followers, not a platform which exists solely for promotional content. Social media is meant to be social, and more and more companies are beginning to shift some of their customer service efforts to social media.

Engaging your followers on social media and responding to their issues, comments, and questions can do wonders for your brand. Buffer has seemingly perfected this. Buffer considers it a point of pride to be extremely engaging and responsive on social media. Tweet at Buffer during somewhat normal hours, and you will likely get a response in a few minutes. I have personally Tweeted and e-mailed them, both from a personal account and through Scribe, with minor issues. I have never gone more than fifteen minutes before getting a warm, insightful, sincere, and helpful response.

You do not have to be as active and fast to respond as Buffer, but responding to those who take the time to reach out to you goes a long way.


The usefulness of social media is endless and constantly expanding, and it can be one of the most cost-effective ways of branding. Other than paid advertising (unless you are a larger publishing house or an organization with a large amount of resources allocated for marketing, paid advertising is likely not for you) and any personnel time you allocate, social networks are free platforms for you. You should use them to build, engage, and maintain a following and to solidify your brand.