Commentary: Tweet, tweet!
Social media is a powerful tool in our modern 21st Century world, but with the advantages of technology, there are also disadvantages as well. When minds are focused on the excitement and pull of reality shows, it becomes increasingly hard to convince anyone to attend a book fair or festival. Personally, the amount of Facebook posts from the LABBX fan page and Tweets from the Black Book Expo profile reveal the attempt to alert others, but then a lukewarm response. I’ve seen this with other festivals as well. Don’t believe it? Do a search and find out for yourself. As they say, “numbers don’t lie”.
It’s been a year or two since I’ve started to seriously use all avenues of social media. From Facebook to Twitter, Google Plus to Pinterest, these sites have been useful in promoting writers workshops, empowerment luncheons and yes, even the expo itself. Yet, I have also seen and have been discouraged that not too many people have utilized it to help get the word out. For example, if you go to Twitter and type in Book Expo America, you will be amazed that months after that event is over, people are still discussing it and talking about it. (use a count of how many tweets show up) If you do a search on say, the Harlem Book Fair or the Sonoma County Book Festival, there aren’t as many tweets posted by participants or attendees mentioning the time and place.
According to a study, more African Americans are increasingly using Twitter more and more than any ethnicity. The Pew Internet & American Life Project estimates 28% of African Americans use Twitter compared to 12% of Whites and 14% of Latinos. In a two year jump from 2010-2012, the same report notes a fifteen percentile jump for African Americans, from 13% to 28% in comparison to white users whose margins were lower; 5% to 12%. The report as well as CNN and the Huffington Post contend smartphones which make up 44% of users.
By this example, the argument that people don’t know how to use the internet is weak at best. Literary events outside of Book Expo America receive their fair share, but when it comes to community oriented book festivals, the interest doesn’t seem to be there. With the printed word slowly transitioning to digital and e-books fading into the vast distractions of a tablet, the pool to create new readers and book lovers is shrinking fast. Within the next few years as this trend continues, not only bookstores cease to exist, but perhaps community based literary events as well.
For anyone who believes this is an unfair assessment consider this; the ratings for the ABC hit show Scandal weren’t the greatest at first, but somehow, it was a popular trend on Twitter which increased their viewership (over 250,000 followers on Twitter). So if we can take the time to discuss a television show which is beloved by many, why is it a challenge to tweet about the literary events that we complain are lacking in our communities? Why don’t we take that same energy to use a tweet about a book signing, a possible store closing, etc. Why must we spend so much time arguing online about which diva has the nastiest weave but won’t post about an upcoming book fair?
As more and more African Americans lean on Twitter, the literary community must learn to adapt to this change. Let’s look at these numbers for a second for Twitter and Facebook: (as of August 2013)
Book Expo America has approximately over 31,000 followers,/ over 14,000 on Facebook
National Book Club Conference – no Twitter/ FB 3,356
Harlem Book Fair – 213 followers/ 1,387 FB
National Black Book Festival – 290 followers/ 12,104 FB
Los Angeles Black Book Expo – 2,699 followers/ 3,122 FB
Black Writers on Tour – No TW page/ no fan page on FB
Leimert Park Book Fair – 1, 389 TW, FB 116
Tucson Festival of Books – 4, 265 TW, 6,635 FB
LA Times Festival of Books – 5,529 TW, 10, 012 FB
(if there’s any literary festivals missed here with Twitter and Facebook pages, please use the comments section to list them)
I was reminded by someone who has experience in marketing that it takes about eight tweets a day before readers take notice. Perhaps this is what should be done next, since individual authors have already taken that advice to heart. The producers of literary festivals such as yours truly, must take that next step and use this trend to our advantage in getting the word out for our events. One other note; in their ‘down time’, Book Expo America tweets perhaps once a day, and on one particular week, eight to ten times. Something to consider when keeping the word out about your event is crucial, even when it has just passed.
Competition online and off is alive and frequent which distracts from the attention of the audiences organizers need to target and lure them to these festivals, that a heavy dosage of posts on sites like Twitter and others is a must. However, one person or organization cannot do it alone.
This should be an effort and concern to spread the word about our book events for all involved in the literary community. Failure to address this problem will be at our own peril.
Authors N Focus Extra