Smart social strategies: A Novel Idea Bookstore

A small used bookstore makes a big impression on local social media

**Editors note: “Smart social strategies” is a new column I’m using to explore how companies young and old use social media to their advantage. If you know of a company that has established a great social campaign, I want to know about it. Send any info to al@the42.com

In December 2011, Cinnamon Dokken, owner of A Novel Idea Bookstore in Lincoln, Neb. found an interesting book about Frank Lloyd Wright in the store’s stacks. She really wanted to share it, so she had a co-worker take a photo of it and post it to the store’s Facebook page.

“Within five minutes, someone commented, saying ‘I’d like to have that,’” Dokken said.

They put up another book they thought was interesting. Within eight minutes, someone asked if they could buy it.

Computers had yet to catch on when A Novel Idea Bookstore was founded back in 1991. Originally founded by two college seniors, the shop has been located in its current location in downtown Lincoln, Neb. for 20 years. It’s a great place to grab a cheap used book, find rare out-of-print volumes or hang out with the official bookstore cats, Padric and Eddy.

The posts on the store’s page are simple portraits of the books, with a brief description and a price. Pretty soon, the store’s Facebook friends began snatching up any and every book posted. Watching A Novel Idea’s Facebook feed is exciting. In many cases, someone comments on the post in less than a minute, claiming the book for themselves.

Dokken said she wasn’t considering even making a Facebook page for the store. She said the store has always prided itself on its face-to-face interactions with customers.

“It almost seemed like a soulless thing,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if it would feel like the shop feels. I was surprised and delighted to find that interactions on Facebook are a lot like in the store.”

She said customers are quick to comment on posts, usually typing “MINE MINE MINE!” and then, with common courtesy, posting again using proper English and saying “please.” Sometimes, she said, a friend who commented first on a book will yield to another if they plead their case.

One time they posted a book on knitting that generated 25 posts from people who didn’t know each other in real life. Someone at the bottom said, “this is really fun, we should start a club.”

Dokken said there isn’t a real strategy to choosing which book gets posted. On an average day, she said the store will post 4-6 photos of books with information. On good days, they’ll post a dozen or so photos.

“There’s some books that I’ll look at and say ‘this wont sell in a hundred years,’ and then it will sell fast,” she said. “People will ask when I got it and I’ll say ‘oh, three years ago.’”

She said the store has always had a leg up on the larger corporate sellers like Barnes & Noble because of the interaction the store’s employees have with its customers. Employees are always ready to talk about books or to help a customer find something. It also helps that, in Lincoln, there’s a big push for buying local and supporting local businesses downtown.

“Our first attention always goes to our in-store customers,” she said. Even though sales were up 40 percent in December 2011, she said she still sees Facebook as a tool to educate and interact with the store’s 3,600 Facebook friends.

“We post our events on Facebook, too,” she said. ” Even if someone can’t make it, they’ll still post about it and encourage people to go. I think people like that our bookstore is so active in the community, so we get a lot of support.”

She said the store had a nice first quarter gain and is looking to continue that through the summer.

“It’s been a wonderful project for us.”

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