The Good and Bad of the 2012 NEIBA Fall Conference

The Good and Bad of the 2012 NEIBA Fall Conference

By Jason Harris

The New England Independent Booksellers Association 39thAnnual Conference took place from Oct. 3 through 5 at the Rhode Island Convention Center in Providence, Rhode Island.

I will start with the good first. I went to the first day of the conference on Wednesday. I was looking forward to the panel “Social Media 2.0: Beyond the Basics: Using Social Media to Drive Sales and Customer Engagement.” As the NEHW Director of Publicity and Webmaster and Marketing Director and co-owner of Books and Boos, a bookstore, I knew I could learn something from this panel. The panelists were Sarah Rettger, of Newtonville Books in Newton, MA., Mary Allen, of Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, VT., Kirsten Hess, of R.J. Julia in Madison, CT, and Ann Kingman of Random House.

The panelists mentioned there are ups and downs when using social media. One downside is that you have to use it five times a day, Hess mentioned.

One thing I was surprised to hear was the fact that the panelists don’t like Hootsuite, which could help with having to be on social media five times a day. The reason is it’s not genuine and people know it from seeing where the message is from. “Voice is important” when posting in social media, Hess said.

Hess also mentioned that people should be looking at other Facebook business pages, not just look at the book business.

Allen mentioned that people love photographs and live pictures of things with authors. She wasn’t talking about pictures of authors reading from their books either. She’s talking about a picture of them making a funny face or something behind the scenes before they become professional to do their reading.

Hess said customers want to see the people who sell them their books.

If you own a bookstore or any type of business, a good word to keep in mind is “partnerships” with other businesses in your community, Allen said.

Rettger said you should do what’s best for you and not to force it.

The other panel I checked out was “It’s All About Customer Service: Strengthening the Brick and Mortar Advantage.” This one wasn’t has interesting to me as the Social Media one, but it did contain some good ideas. The panelists were Susan Mercier, of Edgartown Books in Edgartown, MA., Ann Carmichael, of Kennebunk, ME, Michael Kanter, owner of Cambridge Naturals in Cambridge, MA., and Karen Corvello, of Baker & Taylor.

Kantor said that customer is all and everything. Stores should be kept cleaned and stocked, he said.

“My goal is for customers to leave the store and say ‘wow’ that was an amazing experience,” Kantor said.

He has noticed that in many bookstores employees are indifferent.

It was mentioned that every customer should be greeted as they come into the store.

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep,” Carmichael said. She also said that customer service begins on the sidewalk before the customer even comes inside. This means that the landscaping to the windows to the building itself has to be in the best shape possible.

Now we come to the bad of NEIBA. I had a couple of assignments on Thursday, which kept me away from the conference. I was able to attend on Friday and I wish I didn’t. The main reason I was going to go on Friday was to attend the panel, “Think Tank Round Tables – New ideas for New Business.” This is how the program guide described the panel: “Whenever booksellers get together the room seems to fill with new ideas. This 45-minute ‘think tank’ is an opportunity to gather – at tables organized by small, mid and larger-sized stores – and talk with each other about what exciting things you’ve done in your store in the past year and what things you’ve learned at the Fall Conference you’re going to do. We hope this will be a useful and focused way to wrap up the educational offerings of the Conference.”

When I got to the convention center, I found out that the trade show exhibit room was already shut down and packed up. It only went on one day this year and that day was Thursday. I didn’t realize this would happen from the program guide. I figured it would go on the entire conference. This was the first year they only had it for one day I was told. NEIBA was trying something new this year. Hopefully, they will go back to having it open all three days next year.

After being disappointed about the trade show, I went to the room where my panel was going to be held. I was about twenty minutes early so I waited outside the room. As it started getting closer to the 11 a.m. start time I wanted to the door. Once it got to 10:55 a.m., I was leaning against the doorway and started to worry. When I heard Steve Fischer, of NEIBA tell Neil Strandberg of the American Booksellers Association to continue talking and that he had plenty of time and it was around 11:10 a.m., I started getting upset. Later on, Fischer said that Strandberg could continue until 11:30 a.m. The last twenty minutes of the supposed panel I went to see was used to continue the discussion of the Kobo e-reading program, which was the subject of the previous panel. I had made a two hour and fifty minute round trip from Connecticut for nothing and I wasn’t happy about this. If NEIBA wasn’t going to have the panel they promoted in its program then they should have gotten the word out. Instead of still promoting it, by having the panel’s name and description listed on the wall outside the convention center’s conference room.

NEIBA Fall Conference Begins Tomorrow

The New England Independent Booksellers Association Fall Conference happens at the Rhode Island Convention Center at 1 Sabin Street in Providence, Rhode Island from Wednesday through Friday.

During the three-day conference, there will be exhibitors, lunch with booksellers, wholesalers and reps, panels, and plenty of other activities. You can check out the entire schedule by clicking here.

Some of the panels taking place during the conference include Best of Both Worlds: Understanding the Young Adult and Adult Crossover Market, Social Media 2.0: Beyond the Basics: Using Social Media to Drive Sales and Customer Engagement, Meeting the Literacy Needs in Your Community and ABA – E-book Solution.

There will also be autograph sessions with a number of authors inlcuding Joe Hill (Heart-Shaped Box), Nancy DiFabbio (Midnight Magic: Be Careful What You Wish For) and Kristy McKay (Undead) throughout the three-day event.

The 2012 Independent Spirit Awards will also be given out on Friday.

If you want to support NEIBA member stores in any of the New England states, click here.

Four Marketing Benefits of Social Media

This acticle originally appeared on the website,

4 Marketing Benefits of Social Media by Nick Stamoulis

Social media marketing is not a fad. If that’s the excuse you’ve been using to avoid developing a social media marketing strategy it’s time to find a new excuse or finally build that Facebook page. Social media marketing can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be (or as you have time for), but you get out what you put in. 90+% of Americans have at least one social profile, meaning your target market is online and engaging in social networking. Marketing 101- fish where the fish are!

What are some of the benefits of social media marketing?

1. Build brand
Social profiles can rank on their own in the search engines, increasing your online presence. Social profiles are also one more place for you to develop your messaging strategy and connect with your target audience. It’s a place to inject some personality into your brand and let your target market engage with you on their terms. Social networks are the perfect place for breeding brand ambassadors and building lasting relationships with repeat customers.

2. Drive targeted visitors to site
You never want to treat your social networking profiles like the final destination of a potential customer. Your social profile is more like a filter, attracting targeted traffic (that identify themselves as you target audience because they are interested in your brand) and them pushing them over to your actual site/blog. The more targeted visitors your site has, the better chance you have of pushing them to act and increasing your conversion rate.

3. Promote content and get more links (social signals)

The more times a piece of content is shared on a social networking or social bookmarking site, the more valuable it becomes in the eyes of the search engines. From an SEO standpoint, these social signals can impact how well your piece of content ranks in the SERPs. From a more general marketing perspective, the more people who share your content the greater potential reach it has. The average Facebook user has 130 friends which means that if just five people post your content to Facebook it has the potential to be seen by 650 of their collective connections!

4. PR
Twitter has become many people’s go-to source for breaking news. Twitter even created this clever commercial demonstrating the power of “real time” sharing. Social networking has practically revolutionized the way news information is shared. So what does this mean for brands? Social networks allow companies to connect with their audience as a situation develops, meaning you have the chance to tell your side of the story as it is happening. Social networks are also a great place to interact with members of the press. You can connect with journalists and local news sources directly, giving them instant access to a story.