#FridayReads beginnings and endings…

There has been much written about the origins of FridayReads and how it became so popular. More recently there has been a great deal about the fact that Bethanne Patrick and her crew have been making a pretty penny out of the publishers. So here’s a bit of analysis, and information, for you from my perspective. Thus far I’ve kept quiet as I consider the implications of it all but I think it’s time to put my head above the parapet, not least because there is a chunk of the story missing.

Way back, it seems, in the last quarter of 2010 I read a book called Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath it’s all about how we get drawn to ideas and how they stay with us. It really is an excellent read. About the same time I was also looking into getting some new knowledge and skills under my belt, autodidact that I am, and so the idea of learning about Social Media and particularly @Twitter came about.

Mix in a love of books and we’re nearly there.

Digging around in Twitter eventually turned up this idea of weekly sharing of what people are reading, called #FridayReads – conceived by Bethanne Patrick when she was with Book Studio, now defunct I believe. Ping! The lightbulb moment arrived when I discovered that this brilliant idea called FridayReads was dragging along with between 300 and 500 participants weekly. This was in about September/October 2010.

So, as a personal experiment initially, I decided to follow the rules set out by the estimable Heath brothers in their book. My aim was to see if I could get #FridayReads to grow.

And you know what, I was right and the techniques of engagement and publicising of the idea really worked. FridayReads started to grow, and grow. I didn’t stay on my own for long though as certain other great people joined in with me to form a core: @erinfaye, @adamslisa, @littlefluffycat and @shelfmagazine. Naturally this caught Bethanne’s attention as the buzz around FridayReads began to increase. It is undeniably a brilliant idea and perfect for the Social Media (though more Twitter and Facebook than the oddness that is Tumblr).

The participation in FridayReads on Twitter has lately stuck at around 5000-6000 weekly (which is great) though the Facebook page has a little under 10,000 ‘likes’. It’s rather a shame that Bethanne went in to Book Riot as it is a shadow of the potential that FridayReads had and nowhere near as good an idea, ah well, she didn’t ask what I thought and they do seem to be rather well funded.

But where next. Well, data. I quickly saw that there was potential for a Best Read List, a regular listing of the top books mentioned by the participants. To this end I devised some algorithms and wrote some computer programs to analyse the data from the Twitter #FridayReads stream. @erinfaye maintained the list on her blog of FridayReads (initially on blogspot), later this moved to the fridayreads.com website and was still maintained by @erinfaye and myself.

My third child was born in March and as a result I was somewhat distracted from the goings on in FridayReads and apparently this was also around when the monetization started.  I only became aware of the fact that money was being made much later on. This would be totally fine had there been an air of openness around the subject and a clear willingness to share. As it was I had invested a considerable amount of time, ingenuity and some of my own earnings in producing the Best Read Lists and resented the move to own/take over the work I had done.

Negotiations were entered into but I decided that as the relationship had been soured through a loss of trust that I would no longer publish the Best Read Lists on fridayreads.com, they now live at BestReadList.com which is a new site I run with @erinfaye. The Best Read strand was the single most popular item on the FridayReads website so it would be a shame to flush it all away.

So there we are. FridayReads is still a great idea but rather marred  of late by the controversy. I still take part as I believe that the sharing of the knowledge of what we are reading is vital. I also love watching and mapping trends and where better than Twitter.

Other sites:

Bethanne Patrick on FridayReads

Jennifer Weiner Post about FridayReads

 

 

Bookshops. Social engagement starts at the door.

There is an independent bookshop not far from me which has a way to go before they are properly socially engaged. There is the local engagement with the customers, there is Twitter and of course Facebook but let’s not forget Foursquare, Gowalla or any of the other location based services.

One of my gripes is that when walking into the shop they will happily sell you a book, as long as they don’t have to break off their conversation with each other for too long. This isn’t really how to get the best out of your relationship with the customers who support you.

I’ve spent a lot of time, in the past, working in a retail setting where I was taught that you don’t sell anything unless you communicate with the customer. This was my father’s shop where he sold antique furniture (mostly restored Pine, much of it restored by me) to people from all over the world. Engagement with and education of the customer were vital to keeping the money flowing in.

I also used to sell second-hand cookery books in a local cookshop and it was remarkable how the decision to buy is affected by how attentive you are to the customer. Too much attention and you can lose the sale, too little and the customer will just wander away money unspent. You know your subject why not help you customer with that knowledge.

This is my checklist for bookshops that want to fully engage using the social media:

  • Make the link between talking with customers, creating loyalty and the online equivalent of finding new followers/fans.
    You get lots of chances as a local bookshop. People will always be passing by. However, have you created a strong bond with them so they think of you, not Amazon, first. Online you may not be so lucky, once you’re unfollowed that’s usually it, you have to maintain the conversation.
  • Check out what others are up to. An excellent example of an independent making good use of Twitter is @gutterbookshop in Dublin. Lots of chat and they always respond to mentions on Twitter. What are the big guns like @Waterstones up to and check out the smaller chains like @Foyles.
  • Does your literature show your social networking places? Whether it is bookmarks, postcards, posters or flyers you need to tell people in the ‘real’ world about your presence in the virtual marketplace that is the Web.
  • Are you on the map? Can potential visitors get your location and directions easily? This is where your website, or Facebook page can come in very useful.
  • How well do you support local authors? Not all local bookshops do as much as they can for their locally based writers. It may be down to the writer, their publicist or the haughty response you give them which puts them off. Do yourself and your community a favour and promote local writing.
  • Don’t just chat to your colleagues, it’s downright rude. Quite often people will want to talk about what they are buying. You can help validate that decision and ensure repeat business.
  • Unfamiliar face? Say hello, make yourself available to chat. Not very good at that sort of thing then employ someone who is. Remember, first impressions last. If you get the double entendre there then you will know that it works both ways!
  • If you’re on Twitter or Facebook then make sure you are keeping the conversation going. @Foyles have fun competitions running every week and people just adore winning books!
  • There is a distinction between organic growth and SEO based growth so it is worth discovering what they differences are. I’m largely organic myself.

I should run a course on this really.

What is your experience of independent bookshops as a customer and if you run an independent bookshop you can use the comment forms to tell me I’m wrong or that it’s just too difficult and you’ve given up. Success stories to inspire others are encouraged!