Building A Niche With Social Media

Today, marketing is all about branding; personal brands, product brands and service brands-virtually everyone and everything you see, hear or touch has a tinge of branding attached to it. Branding your product can be a daunting task like climbing a dune, the higher you climb the more traction you lose while your finely crafted identity slips down the slope and disappears into the sand. When you get to the top an even harder task waits, finding your niche.

Two years ago my school age daughters convinced me to write a book series with them. It was a huge undertaking. After three months of brainstorming we came up with our big idea; two sisters, a science girl and a magic girl, break the globe of Story World, mixing-up all the stories ever created. Faced with some really big world problems to fix they blend their talents to create solutions, very much like you would do in the real world.

We wrote and illustrated the first three Great Story World Mix-Up books and were quickly embraced by teachers and news media even appearing on a half hour segment of the Writer's Dream television show. Schools started to ask us to visit and share our thoughts on getting creative ideas into the world. That first year we spoke to almost 5,000 students.

Yet even with this seeming success were not hitting our mark. Sales flagged outside of school environments and we were finding it tough to write, illustrate, market and make sales calls. We needed a new business model.

The first thing we did was divide the work. My older daughter Kayla, who just turned 11, is a tech wizard that doesn’t like the spotlight, she took control of web-based media. Ava, my 8 year old, who has the charisma to engage large groups of students as well as adults took on the PR and joined me on the performance end. This left me with the marketing.

Marketing a children’s product is a two fold undertaking, you need to first engage the children, who then need to promote the purchase to their parents, who need to like the product enough to buy it. I decided instead to turn to my teacher friends. I talked to the teachers in our local schools, friends and those who I had visited. What I found was they were navigating a sea of new teaching methodology as well as the infusion of technology and a new core curriculum. I began to think about how our books fit into the shifting teaching paradigm and realized the strategies we used to write our books echoed those being embraced by educators. I needed to get the word out and decided to try Twitter.

On Twitter I found there were large pockets of teachers forming personal learning networks, PLNs, and they welcomed me in. In two months I’ve grown a niche following of 2000+ teachers that increases every day who are interested in my books, my ideas and my in-school programs. This is how I did it:

#1 Focus

I was trying to connect with teachers so I took the time to find them using hashtags and chats.

#2 Listen

My programs are good but I am not a teacher. The PLNs I joined have given me an invaluable education, showing me what teachers want and what students are struggling with, which has helped me make my product more relevant.

#3 Be Social

I take the time to talk to educators and their suppliers, to look at their blogs and promote the projects I believe in. In turn those educators have supported me, promoting my ideas to their followers.

#4 Be A Thought Leader

I created a blog for my followers on Twitter that focuses on writing with children. Because of my unique perspective as a writer and speaker who visits students in many parts of the US and electronically throughout the world my ideas have been very well received.

Find Your Niche on Twitter

I was able to find my niche on Twitter because I found a common goal by communicating directly with my market. We are all striving towards the same goal, helping students communicate in an increasingly public, global world where those who can express themselves best, will be heard. My involvement has allowed me to shape my programs to help young people find and use their talents, like the characters in our books do while filling a need for their teachers.

Who knows, maybe the next great thought leader will be inspired by one of our stories or programs and come up with an idea that will in turn change the world. For today, my daughters and I are happy that our books make people smile and are excited about sharing them with teachers, students and parents around the world.

Laura Hill Timpanaro spent 15 years branding fortune 500 companies and creating television programming before writing the Great Story World Mix-Up children's books with her daughters. Follow her on Twitter @candylandcaper or visit

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