Don’t Blame the Algorithm

I attended a conference this summer where I overheard a man explaining that he started every Facebook post with the words “drunk pregnant baby kittens.” His theory was that the Facebook algorithm looks specifically for these words and that posts containing them are rewarded with greater audience reach. The subjects of his posts had nothing to do with anything drunk, pregnant, babies or kittens, but he claimed his audience understood why he included the words and they loved it.

Unless you have a legitimate opportunity to use these trigger words in a post, I do not recommend the practice. Because here’s the thing: The Facebook algorithm is not the reason your content is not being seen. Your content is the reason your content is not being seen.

Harsh? Yes. But true.

likesharecomment_720Unless you’re creating content that elicits likes and shares, Facebook is not going to push your posts to many of your follower’s newsfeeds.

What type of content encourages engagement? For a bookstore, I believe that it’s content featuring you.

Look at your analytics. I’ll bet that posts featuring images of your staff have garnered more likes than posts with just images of book covers. This is because posts showcasing booksellers allow their personalities to shine. And most customers want a peek behind the bookstore curtain. Your staff is most likely the main reason customers shop with you, because your level of expertise and knowledge is not available wherever books are sold.

And do you know what? Videos are even better.

Benjamin Rybeck, marketing manager at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, TX, has peppered the store’s Facebook timeline with several videos lately.

“We’re trying to find ways to put our booksellers front and center in the marketing of our holiday gift list, not just posting images of books and new releases but also including video recommendations geared toward what the staff members are giving to people this season,” he says.

This video at the top of this post features Brazos buyer Keaton sharing some of the gifts he’s excited about giving, but other videos on the timeline embrace silly things, like booksellers dancing to music from The Nutcracker. And that’s okay. In addition to books, you’re selling personality.

You can also use Facebook live to talk about your favorite holiday books, like Book Soup did yesterday afternoon. The video features 7 or 8 booksellers ‘handselling’ their favorite books, allowing customers to learn more the booksellers by hearing their voices, learning their reading sensibilities, and seeing their faces. (Except for Ben 1 in the paper bag.)

One thing about being live is that you sometimes can’t control your surroundings (and as you can see around the 8:20 point, being live should not be what separates customer from book). But a benefit of being live is that you don’t have to worry about production, post-production edits, b-roll, music… you just whip out your smart phone, do it, and it’s done. The video is saved and posted automatically.

Remember to promote ahead of time the fact that you’ll be live at a specific time, like Book Soup did a couple of hours in advance. And remember to include a share request in both the announcement and the live video. Just a simple “share with your favorite book gifter!” will do.

Likes are important. Comments are good. Shares are better. And they all add up to Facebook allowing your content to appear to more followers.

Oh. And I feel like I should confess something. I actually had a legitimate opportunity to test the ‘drunk pregnant baby kitten’ theory with this post for my public radio station. With a little bit of effort, I was able to write a post using all four trigger words in a non-offensive way. It actually performed pretty well, reaching about 10x more users than a typical post.

And I’ll never be able to do it again.

Delete? Don’t Delete?

When you make an error in a Facebook post, you can edit the post. But make an error in Twitter, you’re faced with the delete/don’t delete dilemma.

I tend to ask myself, for whom will it cause the most harm?

If your error will cause confusion, has the wrong date, time, location, amount… it’s better to delete the tweet and start over. But if the only casualty is your ego, it’s best to move forward with some deprecation and take the hit.

Here’s a nice example of an error acknowledgement and recovery from NPR yesterday. Instead of typing ‘leaky bucket,’ some fast-fingers punched in a ‘leaky budket.’ The recovery–‘I will not misspell bucket.’–repeated five times, received exponentially more likes and retweets than the original.

Well done, NPR.

Video: ‘I Am a Story’

From cave drawings to the invention of the printing press to our digital age, I Am a Story by Dan Yaccarino explores how a story has been told in many different ways from the past to today.

Yaccarino is on Twitter @DanYaccarino1, and has a colorful website here.

If you’d like to share this video, here’s the embed code:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Video: Designing Your Life

When I first saw this video, I thought it would be perfect ‘content’ to share with my girls. You see, I officially became an empty nester when I helped my youngest daughter move in with my oldest daughter in their college town this past weekend. [sniff] I don’t want to be the overbearing mom, so I like it when I can stumble upon nice sharable content that allows me to contact them without seeming needy. (Similar to a bookstore/customer relationship.)

So when I started watching this video for Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans, I thought they could glean something from both the video and the book. But the more I watched it I thought, ‘Forget the girls. I think need this book.’

In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans illustrate how design thinking can help create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.

If you want to share this with your daughters, er… customers, here’s the embed code:

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Mixing Business with Pleasure: A Series of Selfies

Mixing Business with Pleasure: A Series of Selfies

I’m friends with a few of you through our personal pages on social media, and I have to say that my book friends are among my favorite posters. And while I enjoy the peek behind the curtain into your personal lives, I really love seeing how some of you tie your book lives into your personal pages; it’s obvious that being a bookseller is more a vocation than a job, and the two worlds cannot be easily separated.

One bookseller who always makes me smile is Cynthia Compton with 4 Kids Books & Toys in Zionsville, Indiana.

In addition to “meeting” her kids (and her bulldog) through social media, I get to see all of the fun activities happening at the store. I especially enjoyed her posts during the week of Halloween, when Cynthia would post a selfie, dressed up to match the theme of a book.

Whether she’s a minion, a witch, a chef or a princess, she usually has a book in frame and a smile on her face. And not only does her clever wit shine through her captions and hashtags, (“Preventing scurvy, one story hour at a time… #4kidsbooks #shop local #zionville”) but so do the services provided through her store (“Wanna play ‘guess the party theme?’ #birthdayparty #4kidsbooks #zionsville #carmel”).


In addition to sharing the images on her personal Facebook page, Cynthia says she also posts them on the store’s Instagram account.

“My kids are (of course) mortified… #momsonsocialmedia,” she says.

(Honestly, I thought that was a prerequisite.)