Prepare for Holiday Book Sales, Part 1: Marketing & Selling in Social Streams
The holiday book selling season is coming.
As consumers continue to buy books online, having a strong digital sales and marketing strategy has never been more important for holiday success. In this part 1 series, we’ll discuss the important of marketing and selling in social streams, as well as how to run inexpensive and effective Facebook and Instagram ads.
But first, let’s get some context on what’s going on now in the book industry, and how this will affect the upcoming holiday sales season.
The Global Book Market is Rising
Visits to books & literature ecommerce sites at the end of Q1 2020 grew dramatically. The pandemic took hold and the shift to the online channel began. According to SEMrush, between January 2020 and March 2020 website traffic for books & literature went from 1.35 billion searches to 1.51 billion.
Consumer Buying Behavior Has Changed
Search volume hints at the changes in consumer behavior. Google searches for “buy books online” spiked in April and now has a new higher baseline. There was a corresponding rise in ebook and audiobook searches, but they have slowly fallen back to normal - most likely due to the popularity of new subscriptions to platforms like Kindle and Audible.
So, where are these ecommerce book searches leading people to? Based on traffic, they are going to retail stores. Barnes and Noble, Powell’s, and Bookshop just to name a few. The growth of Bookshop.org in the wake of the pandemic appears to be holding and we expect this to grow as the holiday season nears closer.
However, let’s not forget the big players. Most online traffic went to or stayed with the big guns - Amazon, Walmart, Target — as the three major consumer ecommerce players in the US have a sizable physical book presence.
Amazon made the largest overall increase since February 2020, having gained nearly 5.4 billion in website traffic in July alone. As of late, when it comes to Amazon website visitors there has been a slight move away from mobile to desktop, which could be due to the rise of at-home workers. These trends can shine a bit of light on overall consumer trends.
According to Similarweb, Amazon is gathering a great deal of website traffic directly and via search BUT… Look at social, not trailing far behind email traffic.
All Online Activities Are Trending Up
Ecommerce and book commerce are reaching a peak in activity, as are other online activities. Recently, Hootsuite released a digital 2020 report giving a comprehensive look at the state of the internet, mobile devices, social media, and ecommerce. In one section it was reported that internet users aged 16 to 64 spend more time on each of the following activities due to COVID-19:
- 54% watching more shows & films on streaming services
- 43% spending longer using social media (up from an already tremendous amount of time per day)
- 42% spending longer on messenger services
- 37% listening to more music streaming services
- 36% spending more time on mobile apps
- 35% spending more time playing computer or video games
- 16% creating and uploading videos
- 15% listening to more podcasts
Taking an Audience First Approach
Right now, there is an opportunity to capitalize on the increase of online book sales. Specifically, the social media space is a marketing lever with a tremendous number of users and targeting capabilities. Especially, for booksellers.
Understand Your Target Audience
When looking to build your audience, it’s important to consider what targeting factors to consider like demographics, geographics, behaviors and psychographics.
These factors help to cut through the noise and find the right readers, so you’re not wasting resources on:
- Those who are aware of your books but not interested
- Those who are not aware of your books and likely not interested
There are two keys areas to make your mark when it comes to an audience first approach. First, readers who are aware of your book and willing to buy. Second, readers who are not aware of your book but likely to be interested.
- Aware and willing to buy: Fans, subscribers, followers, buyers – people who only need to be made aware of a book’s existence.
- Not aware and likely to be interested: This is the real gold mine of readers that drive bestsellers, cross-over hits, and growth.
Audience Research Tools & Tips
Besides your books, the tools and technology you use to understand your audience and sell your books will be your greatest assets. The following is a list of tools necessary to make the most of your online sales:
- Shows volume and seasonal trends, displays geographic dispersions of searches, lists related searches and more.
- The search bars auto-prompts help you understand audience interests and can inform you on positioning and messaging. Reviews can also help inform your pitch (how do readers describe your book?), as well as give comparisons and related interests (what else are they interested in?).
- Consumer comparisons tell you what else your readers are buying, as well as some not-so-obvious interests like contemporary and YA mysteries, or cross-genre appeal.
- Is useful for informing genre targeting and helps to detail audience size and interests. It’s descriptive lists, shelves, and reader sentiment and semantics are great for what copy to use in social posts and ads.
- Provides content ideas that might engage your audience in social (tips, videos, free pages), and shows differences in interest at retailers (people searching for “near me” and “target” on Google). You can also find related search terms and phrases.
- A great place to identify your customers’ biggest sources of influence, to target and understand which social media networks may be a good fit. You can also find what other websites they visit, podcasts they listen to, YouTube channels they follow, and who they follow across social networks.
- Their content can give you a better sense of what yours might need to look like, including demographic and psychographic info, hashtags and phrases.
Facebook Insights helps you to build an audience, using the same targeting factors mentioned above – demographics, geographics, activity and behaviors, and psychographics. Not all brands on Facebook are big enough to target, but when you find one it will often lead to others. You can also save your audience in Facebook for use in future ads.
Facebook’s targeting factors include:
- Demographics – age and gender breakdown, marital status, education, etc. as compared to the broader Facebook audience.
- Geographics – top cities, countries, and languages. Understand if there is any geographic skew that might inform your targeting. Looking for an international audience? Expand the location beyond the US to see top countries for your audience.
- Activity & Behaviors – what devices and mobile platforms does your audience use? What’s your audience’s likelihood of engaging on Facebook? These factors help to determine the best places to place ads – for example, high iPad/iPhone usage might be a great Apple Books audience.
- Psychographics & Page Likes: what other interests does your audience have? Are there other specific brands or influencers they’re following, that you could target to expand your base? Are there adjacent audience interests like BookBub, Barnes & Noble, DIY, etc?
Tactics for Social Success
There are 3 tactics for social success:
- Organic Posts and Creative Content
- Paid Advertising: Facebook and Instagram
- Selling in Social
Organic Posts & Creative Content
The key to successful organic posts is to optimize your copy, creative and call-to-action (CTA).
- Copy – your audience research should inform your messaging. Use hashtags to reach new audiences, and be sure to tag authors, brands and any other relevant influencers.
- Creative – use engaging images including assets from books. Use lightweight tools to create custom imagery like Canva, Pablo and BookBrush.
- Call-to-Action - what do you want your audience to do (read a blog post, view a book excerpt, click on a retail link, etc.)?
There are also a variety of tools out there to help with optimization, efficiency and tracking. Tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can help schedule when posts are published to reach and grow your audience even when you’re not online. These tools can also work across social networks to help you manage your social presence on multiple platforms. However, it’s important to remember that this should not replace active, real-time engagement.
Tools like Followerwonk can help analyze Twitter analytics. Their free account lets you see when your Twitter followers are most active and allows you to analyze your followers as well as your competitors.
Paid Advertising: Facebook & Instagram
There are several basic pre-requisites you should have in place, before running an ad on Facebook and Instagram:
- Create a Facebook business page – we strongly recommended use of the FaceBook Business Manager.
- Make sure your personal Facebook account has permissions setup for your business page.
- Setup your ad account with business, tax, and billing information. Note, the person who manages your FaceBook page will need to give you advertising privileges for the page.
Now that your accounts are set up, it’s important to know when and why you should advertise. We’ll discuss this in three parts – campaign, ad settings and the ad itself.
Campaign – first you’ll want to understand your objectives and define what your goals/metrics are for success. Examples are:
- Awareness: Building your brand, driving broad awareness (but not necessarily focused on getting people to click).
- Consideration: Driving traffic to a website (including to buy from retailers), or driving engagement with your posts or page.
- Conversion: Selling direct via Facebook Commerce / Product Catalog or if you are sending traffic to your own site where you can place a Facebook pixel.
It can also be a good idea to set your campaign budget, however you can also do this further into the process.
Ad Settings - define your audience by determining who you want to see your ad and where, including audience targeting and refinement. Decide on the placement of the ad (mobile vs desktop, FaceBook vs Instagram). Next, you want to set your budget and how long the ad will run. Be sure to consider your campaign metrics, to best optimize the ads delivery.
Ad Copy and Creative - design what your audience will see, including the format of the ad, the headline text and main call-to-action.
Managing Your Budget
When it comes to managing your ad budget, there are several best practices:
- Start small - you don’t have to spend much! $5 per day can go a long way.
- Learn and adjust as you go.
- Campaign budget optimization – this is a useful tool if you have multiple audiences within the same campaign and want FaceBook to help optimize between them. They will preferentially spend more on better performing audiences.
Choosing Your Audience
Building a custom audience is great if you have an engaged audience on FaceBook or an email list you can pull from. You can also use a saved audience that you previously created in Audience Insights or create a new audience. Pay attention to the estimated reach and suggestions as you build your audience out, to find the best fit. And make sure to save any new audiences so you can easily target the same group again.
Refine your targeting by excluding or narrowing your audience. When you exclude your audience, you’re removing target subgroups. A narrow audience helps you to only reach those who are book-buyers with high interest, so you’re not spending more on an audience that won’t convert.
Placement & Delivery
Placement is deciding where you want your ad to appear. Especially at first, we recommend automatic placements or only limiting by platform (e.g. Facebook vs Instagram). For example, if your audience is much more likely to be on Instagram, focusing there may make good sense.
Manual placement offers lots of control, however unless you know for sure which placements (newsfeed vs stories) will be better for you, Facebook’s auto-placement is likely the best choice.
To optimize your ad’s delivery, it’s important to know what your goals and metrics of success are. Facebook will adjust ad delivery based on these, which will be different depending on your campaign objective. For example, if your ad is linking to retail partners, link clicks are likely the right choice for you
Ad Set Up
Your ad set up includes what images, video, and text your ad will have. A few tips and best practices are:
- Use Audience Research – customize your ad to speak their language and appeal to their interests.
- Recommended Image Size – choose whichever works best for your content: 940 x 780 (standard FaceBook post size, works nicely across all placements), or 1200 x 628 (long rectangle, good for featuring rich imagery)
- FaceBook Preferences – Facebook prefers that less than 20% of an image has text. Use the Text Overlay tool to check if you’re not sure.
When it comes to setting up your ad, first you’ll want to decide if you’re creating a new ad (which will not show up on your page feed) or using an existing post to promote something you published on your page organically.
From there, you’ll want to determine:
- A single image / video, or a carousel ad with multiple images / video.
- Primary text – appears above the image in a Facebook ad; you can use emojis and line breaks, but not rich text formatting (like bold, italics). Users will see a “see more” link if the text is more than 2-3 lines in the newsfeed.
- Headline text - replaces the default page name generated from your website link.
- Description text - replaces the default meta description.
- You can include multiple text options and FaceBook will swap them out dynamically based on what gets a better response from your audience. However, keep in mind you don’t get clear reporting on those variations, and it creates multiple ad units which split any engagement (likes, shares, comments) you might receive.
- Customize ads for each audience when it makes sense. Examples include highlighting different review quotes or aspects of the book, depending on your audience.
- Review your ad as the audience will see it, to make final adjustment. Note, this is also where Facebook’s preferences come into play – for example, politically sensitive content is more subject to getting flagged. You may also have to tweak your image-to-text ratio.
Facebook’s Creative Hub also allows you to create and share mockups outside of the ad manager, which can be useful for approvals.
Monitor & Optimize
There’s nothing we do online that we don’t want to monitor and optimize. The Facebook Ad interface gives you a lot of data on what’s going on and most importantly – impressions, CTR (click-through-rate), and cost-per-result.
In the book industry, we’ve seen successful cost-per-results around 50 cents to $1, but that cost should be driving down as you optimize your ads.
In addition to the Facebook Ad interface data, we’re also monitoring point-of-sale data to make sure that we’re affecting sales of the books, which helps to inform how long an ad runs or if edits should be made.
Selling Books in Facebook & Instagram
When it comes to selling your books directly through Facebook and Instagram, there are several ways to get started, all with varying degrees of complexity:
- Direct traffic to preferred retail partners (Amazon, B&N, Target) via links in ads/posts. These can be added organically via “swipe up” or “link in bio” in Instagram.
- Selling Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) through your own integrated cart or ecommerce solution on your website, or through D2C partners like Aerio.
- Using Facebook’s Product Catalog and an approved third-party ecommerce solution.
No matter which option you choose, you’ll increase consideration and drive more conversions with rich content and offers. A few ideas are:
- Ensure the landing pages you are directing traffic to are optimized (this includes your own website, as well as retail partners).
- Share book excerpts or previews, internal images, or sample pages for more downloads.
- Include retail links pointing to your own site or through a service like Aerio.
- Consider offering consumer-friendly discounts like ebook promos or deals with retail partners.
Also be sure to checkout Part 2 of this blog post series, where we share the top successful holiday book marketing promotions that get readers engaged and more importantly, to buy.