Inspired Selection at Bookmachine Nights: How to Build a Community



Last night, two of our consultants, Aimee and Helen, made their way to Kings Cross to learn all about ‘How to build a community’ at the Bookmachine Nights event.

What did we learn? Absolutely loads!

The two speakers, Sara Perkins and Will Rycroft, told us all about building communities, maintaining them and bringing authenticity to your work. Sara is currently working for Disney on their social media and community strategies and Will is the Community Manager at Vintage; both people with a lot of experience! So here’s what they taught us:


Sara began the talk with 5 things that define community:

  1. External and internal audiences: Firstly, make good friends in your team and business. Finding the right passions and beliefs to bring your network together will help you understand your audience and respond to a genuine need. Also get your internal audiences and stakeholders in place. You’ll have pressure to deliver; results aren’t tangible and you need to find people that understand and get what you’re trying to achieve. They will champion your approach and grow with you.

  2. Have a purpose: If KPIs are important, then you need to put money into social ads to get the word out. If acquisitions are the objectives, you need to hit those ads to people who are online exactly at the time you need them to be.

  3. Keep it real: Make sure to mirror the real world. When hosting events, find a place that will suit your community. Don’t be overbearing and let them do their own thing.

  4. Look to the future: Look at future trends. Step back, read and research what the future trends will be. This will take time and don’t be too reliant on all the new trends and online avenues – email addresses are still the Holy Grail.

  5. Nurture: to grow anything, you must nurture it. Give it time and attention because your community needs to ‘feel the love.’

Will then continued with this theme, telling us about the three things he thinks are most important when building communities:

  1. Time: It takes time to build a community. Slow growth and sudden accelerations are all a part of building a loyal group of followers. The time you have to invest in your community to make it grow is important. If you’re really there, you will reap the benefits. Think also about the time you post! Make sure to post when people are available; on their commute to work, or watching TV at night. Build up momentum with your posts as well. Over time, build up your regular posting times and people will tune in to make sure they are there when you post it!

  2. Authenticity: People can spot a phony from a mile away. Your passion will show in your writing and posts. Will has always kept a sense of wonder, passion and sense of privilege for working at Vintage and it shows in his posts. Personality will also bring followers – if you enjoy what you’re doing and can convey that authentically, it will show and people will love it.

  3. Collaboration: Collaborate with other communities and find the other brands you have similar interests with. Cross promote with each other; they don’t even have to be in Publishing. People who read books love this culture and will also enjoy watching films. Find links this way to grow your community.

We had a little break after this great advice, and came back to a Q&A session with Sara and Will and again we were given a lot of insider knowledge! Here’s what we found out:

Q. How do you reach out to new people?

A. Sara: By looking at your existing email lists and creating mirrors of those audiences and targeting those to people similar to those you already know.

A. Will: Follow people who are already following your followers! Sounds confusing, but one way to build your community is to get to know the people following your current network. They will be similar to you and have the same interests. Engage with these people. Link to what they’re looking at and make it fun!

Q. How can you do things on a lower budget?

A. Sara: You don’t have to buy expensive stuff, it’s about being a part of something and being involved. Plastic cups as a freebie have also been known to be a successful giveaway, costing no more than £5! Also you can give away an opportunity, it doesn’t always have to be a material gift.

A. Will: Again you don’t have to give loads away. For new books you can tweet about how amazing it is and just give one away. Collaborate with other companies as well and think of ways to budget together.

Q. How do you stop the negative comments and trolls?

A. Sara: Get an escalation policy in place and work closely with publicity and PR to be able to block people who post negative comments. Some controversy may be good though…

And here was our favourite:

Q. So you’ve just opened an independent bookshop. You host an event and 150 people say they’re coming. Only 2 turn up… What’s your next move?

A. Will: You never know what can happen. Events are always a risk regardless of how big your followers are. Remember you’re part of a community! Ask them why they didn’t come? There could have been a tube strike or an event you didn’t know about. Or it could have been pouring down outside. Turn this negative into a positive. They’ll see you’re only human and it shows your authenticity. It’s a community you’re building, so keep them involved.

A. Sara: Ask them – ‘did they know there was a free bar?’

Thank you so much for hosting such an inspiring event, Bookmachine and Laura Summers. We had a great time!