For decades, Barnes & Noble have been a book retail powerhouse: Founded in 1917, the New York City-based chain can be found in almost every major mall throughout the United States. As such, B&N is at the forefront of social media and online marketing for book retailers. There are a number of lessons other book retailers can pick up, so here is a list of 7 cool things Barnes & Noble is doing online:

1. Free eBooks
2. Catering to Many Genres Across Different Social Media Platforms
3. Inspirational Quotes
4. Contests Over Official Sites and Social Media
5. Interviews With Professional Novelists
6. Community Engagement Through Use of Trivia and Topical Topics

1. Free eBooks

With the advent of their ereader, the Nook, B&N found themselves in a position to give away several thousand ebooks spanning a variety of genres. As a retailer, giving away your product for free is one of the most value-generating actions you can take.

What Retailers Can Learn From This:

– Giving away some of your product for free is a great way to give value to your customers.

– Having ample free software for a hardware device like the Nook is a great way to push that product.

– Giving away many ebooks across a variety of genres works as a big net to lure in a number of customers with different tastes.

2.Promotions and Coupons Across Different Social Media Platforms

B&N has a deep presence on both Twitter and Facebook, with multiple pages touching on a number of topics, such as their Nook ereader, their Pubit! epublishing service for independent writers, and for college students. As such, they can use each of these avenues for tailor-made, limited time promotions, exclusively engaging those who interact with B&N’s social media. Doing so creates a vibrant online community.

For New Years Eve, B&N had a “buy two, get one free” sale they launched on their main Facebook page:

On their Nook-centric Facebook page, they featured a joint-promotion where if you buy a Nook with a Mastercard, you received a $30 gift card:

In this promotion featured on their main page, if you buy a book, B&N will donate a book to a child in need:

Creating ecoupons and flash sales online is essentially free, creates buzz, and is a great way to move product.

B&N usually uses their main Facebook page for their ecoupons. In this example, in a joint-promotion with Mastercard, is you use a Mastercard you get $5 when you spend $19.99 or more on any toys or games.

B&N has a dedicated “Deal of the Day” on their official website. For a limited time, customers can benefit from flash sales. Again, this is an excellent way to move product for a short amount of time, especially if it isn’t moving that well.

What Retailers Can Learn From This:
– The cost-effectiveness and popularity of social media has allowed B&N tailor-make promotions for different segments of their customer base.

– The openness of the format allows for cross-promotion with companies like Mastercard.

– Partner up with a non-profit to boost awareness for your brand as a social advocate.

– The rapid flow of content through social media provides a good opportunity for B&N to have brief sales or discounts on a whim.

– Likewise, having a “Deal of the Day” hub on their official website is an effective and cost-efficient way to move product.

– Establishing a “Deal of the Day” routine will drive customers back to your website everyday to see the new deal, making it much more likely that they will buy something on your website.

3. Inspirational Quotes

Why do we read? For some, it’s for knowledge. For others, it’s to escape. For many, reading is an opportunity to become inspired. B&N is well aware of this, and thus uses their social media channels to post inspirational quotes from authors and notable readers for avid readers. It’s usually these inspirational messages that receive the highest number of shares and retweets.

This message features the C.S. Lewis quote, “We read to know we are not alone.” It highly resonated with B&N’s audience on its main Facebook page, as this post accumulated in excess of 2,600 shares, resulting in one of their most widely-shared posts.

On the official Nook Facebook page, actor Colin Firth explains what power a good book has on him, “When I’m really into a novel, I’m seeing the world differently during that time – not just for the hour or so in the day when I get to read. I’m actually walking around in a bit of a haze, spellbound by the book and looking at everything through a different prism.” Obviously this hit home with the Nook’s community members, because despite its low number of fans compared to B&N’s main Facebook page (1.5 million vs Nook’s 696,000), the post reached over 1,100 shares.

What Retailers Can Learn From This:
– Literature is one of the most personal experiences one could have with entertainment. B&N does an excellent job of reminding readers why the love reading.

– While on the surface this appears to be little more than preaching to the choir, these inspirational quotes result in a myriad of shares, reaching a huge number of other potential customers.

– Inspirational quotes are an easy way to engage fans using a well-known personality. Quotes are highly sharable as they are easy for people to identify with. Even if you don’t sell books, movies or physics products, you can still use quotes from their most famous industry professionals in your online marketing.

4. Contests Over The Official Site and Social Media

Creating contests and sweepstakes are one of the absolute best ways to engage your online community. B&N launch both limited time contests to quickly immerse their fanbase over social media, but also yearly organized contests on their official website and in-store.

Every year, B&N hosts their “My Favorite Teacher” contest for middle and high school students. Students are to write a 500-word essay, poem, or letter to or about their favorite teacher. The winning teacher receives $5,000, as does the school.

On their BNCollege Facebook page, B&N have launched the Shorty Awards vote contest for college or university with the best/most presence in the social media universe.

What Retailers Can Learn From This:

– While B&N’s “My Favorite Teacher” contest is established and has been around for a while, the
flexibility of social media allows them to launch innovative contests like The Shorty Awards.

5. Interviews With Professional Novelists

B&N has been using their BNRomance Facebook page as a hub for both romance novel writers and fans alike. As such, they periodically feature interviews from novelists who specialize in the romance genre. These interviews give an in depth look into the author’s creative process and influences, which, in turn, gives inspiration to would-be romance novelists, and new appreciation for fans.

In addition, some interviews are with independent writers who have become successful through B&N’s Pubit! epublishing service. This serves as a good “how to” for aspiriaring romance novelists, providing industry tips and trick.

What Retailers Can Learn From This:
– As many avid readers have a desire to one day write publish a novel, interviews with authors who have become successful using B&N’s Pubit! epublishing serivce is commercially viable and a smart move.

– Interviews with writers can coax readers into buying new product.

– If you’re not in the publishing industry, you can do the same types of interviews to get thought leaders talking about your products, giving them valuable recommendations.

6. Community Engagement Through Use of Trivia and Topical Topics

If you know your brand’s online community well enough, you can easily get them interacting with you by asking their opinion on on-brand topics, and testing their knowledge on your products. Passion is contagious, and will surely spread thus creating buzz and brand awareness.

In this example, B&N asks their fans if they were aware of Roald Dahl’s sequel to the seminal Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, to much success.

In this example, B&N features The Brick Bible, which is the Bible reenacted with Lego pieces. They asked their fans whether this book was offensive or not. The response was overwhelming.

What Retailers Can Learn From This:
– Trivia questions are a fun way for users to show their knowledge and impress their social network, making them highly enticing to answer and share

– It will create a temporary community of like-minded individuals who share the knowledge of the trivia questions, making them feel like a part of a community with your brand as the centerpiece

– Trivia questions on past works by authors is a great way to get users talking about new books that they’ve written.