Near the end of the spring term, when Ooligan’s veteran managers were wrestling with their portfolios and doing just a little more proofreading on their final papers, incoming managers were preparing to take over our respective departments. For me, this had two components. The first was to make a list of projects that the outgoing marketing manager, Ari, had wanted to complete but hadn’t had time for. The second was to propose to Alan.
In a poetic turn of events, the proposal happened in the streets of downtown Portland as we walked to meet the other Oolies for a drink—the exact circumstances of our first-ever conversation, right after orientation. I took a deep breath, pulled anxiously on the straps of my backpack, and said, “Alan, I think social media and marketing should get married.”
Naturally, he wanted a lot more details before saying “I do,” but by the time we had beers in our hands, we were making plans to restructure Ooligan’s social media strategy to be more temporal and more tactical. The restructuring has largely circled around the creation of social media strategy documents, which outline objectives for using social media to simultaneously reach more readers (garner sales) and build Ooligan’s social media presence. Ideally, these documents help the marketing manager, the project team, and the social media manager come up with cohesive, actionable, and timely messaging about the book to our audience. By identifying a timeline, big ideas (which connect directly to Ooligan’s mission statement), and secondary ideas worth highlighting—specific ways to use each platform, frequency of posting/messaging, metrics for success, how to track those metrics, partner handles/names, targeted media handles/names, sample tweets, and relevant hashtags—we can use these documents for social media that actively markets our books, rather than simply distributing information about our press and our program.
It took me a long time to understand how much work it takes to effectively use social media. In fact, until I was tasked with generating content for an internship last year, I had quite a blasé attitude toward it. Generationally, many Ooligan students are medially “in between:” We are print natives fluent in digital media. We have personally and casually been using social media since we were teenagers, and it’s easy to dismiss the difference between that type of usage, which is so embedded in our lives, and active messaging as part of a marketing or outreach campaign. It takes human power to write tweets and create sharable media artifacts and human minds to strategize about frequency, tone, stickiness, and spreadability.
In a 2011 piece about Ooligan in Publishers Weekly, Dennis Stovall, founder of the program and of Ooligan Press said of the students here, “They are inventing the future of publishing.” That phrase has resonated with me since I came across it last year. As print natives fluent in digital media, we are uniquely positioned to do exactly this, to invent the future of publishing.
Ooligan Press is a high-quality small press because of rather than in spite of the nature of the graduate-student staff. I believe that being active participants in this media shift is in line with the larger project of the book publishing program: to train effective, zealous, and adaptable professionals able to pursue futures that they define. That the press is staffed by professionals-in-training positions it to provide cutting-edge, flexible partnerships with authors, community partners, readers, and the industry itself. That we are graduate students is our strength and weakness as a press. And while I believe wholeheartedly in the strength of it, I think we can tackle it as a weakness by enacting a more open line between the marketing and social media departments. Here’s a hearty thanks to Alyssa Gnall and the A Series of Small Maneuvers project team for being the first to give the social media strategy documents a shot. Here’s perhaps an even heartier thanks to Alan Scott Holley for accepting my proposal. Here’s to the future.
Check out Spreadable Media by Henry Jenkins, Sam Ford, and Joshua Green. Many of the concepts that have informed the restructuring of social media and marketing at Ooligan resonate in these theories. The book is exceptional; the associated website is even more so.