"When 'words' become 'content,' where do storytelling and storytellers fit into the public forum?" asked Laurie Lico Albanese, author and Shelf Awareness contributor, in response to yesterday's column. "I think the answer--the one you provided--is that storytelling is one of the most human of all impulses, and telling stories about ourselves and others will always be with us. The question? Will writers who provide 'content' be able to make a buck? And how will bookstores remain part of the storytelling equation?"
Good questions. I'm still thinking about my BEA takeaway words--storytelling, authentic, content, listening--but now I want to look at them in relation to bookselling and some of the education sessions I attended.
I mentioned earlier that in a social networking presentation by Erik Qualman and Chris Brogan, Qualman said, "It's all about who's the best listener." What I didn't say was that he prefaced that remark by morphing a classic line from Bill Clinton's presidential campaign: "It's all about a people-driven economy, stupid."
For anyone who feels overwhelmed by all the technology-driven options, Qualman advised, "Just admit that you can't keep up with every tool out there. Choose two or three. It's more about listening first."
"Learn how to be yourself in a different space," added Brogan.
For some booksellers, that storytelling space may be visual. At a session called "Using Multimedia to Market Your Store," Alex Beckstead, the documentary filmmaker behind Paperback Dreams, offered tips for indie booksellers on effective multimedia strategies.
"You should make Web video because it's a way to connect, not to make money," he said. "People's ignore filter is probably going to go up slower if they don't think you're trying to sell them something. . . . Web video is inexpensive and doesn't have to be reprinted. The reality of Web video: You're going to want to put it everywhere."
Because production values mean less than imagination and creativity, Beckstead added that Flip cams--in the right booksellers' hands--can effectively generate buzz-producing multimedia for store websites, e-newsletters and more, including tie-ins with other local businesses.
Hell, you might even go viral and national. Now that would be a story.
Beckstead offered samples of bookstore multimedia efforts, giving high praise to San Francisco booksellers Green Apple Books & Music for its Little Bee commercial and the Booksmith's local authors month promotion.
Ultimately, however, it still comes down to telling stories, and Beckstead highlighted key suggestions: Participate, don't broadcast; have a beginning, middle and end; be short, be funny, be personal; invite feedback/response and get help from staff, friends, customers, partners or pros.
If there is a contemporary patron saint of how to use multimedia effectively, it has to be Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV. Beckstead was not the only person at BEA who invoked his name to show how much can be accomplished with the simplest tools. He outlined what Vaynerchuk brings to the table (or before the camera) to sustain his successful online presence:
- He has deep knowledge about a complex topic that inspires passion.
- He offers consistently fresh daily updates.
- He's in a growth business (which helps).
- He's Gary Vaynerchuk, which means personality, authenticity and accessibility.
"If you send an e-mail to Gary Vaynerchuk, you'll get an e-mail back from Gary Vaynerchuk," said Beckstead.
What does this have to do with indie booksellers? Well, Vaynerchuk tried to answer that question himself at BEA on Saturday and I saw something special happen.
In a Booksellers Blog post this week, Ann Kingman called the video of the session "Mandatory Viewing for Independent Booksellers," observing that "you will not agree with every idea Gary has, and I look forward to a debate of those ideas: but I know that you will find inspiration."
Ann's right. Personally, I'd buy a copy of Vaynerchukisms for Booksellers, if that turns out to be his next book after Crush It! Here's a sampler:
- Technology is going forward. It takes no prisoners.
- I'm really hungry for [indies] to see what I see, which is more opportunity, not less.
- It blows my mind that a very passionate and knowlegable indie bookstore owner would not start a television show for their store.
- I think there's a massive missed opportunity for building a brand around you.
- Content is king, but marketing is queen and she runs the household.
- I cared and I listened.
- When the hell is interacting with clients not your real job?
- I spend only about 25 minutes a day on content. The rest of the time is community.
- The scariest thing about [hiring someone to handle online marketing] is it becomes not authentic. It's not you.
- It's not what you say; it's how you listen . . . Can you send somebody to represent you at a cocktail party? Probably not.
- It's all storytelling. I'm obsessed with storytelling.
- I believe in the details. I believe in the trenches.
When you listen to him, you find yourself wanting to get right to work; and to end every sentence with at least two exclamation points. Maybe I will!!--Robert Gray (column archives available at Fresh Eyes Now)