toccon-bug.gifWhen it comes to social media, quantity counts, but quality counts a lot more. That’s the word from two popular workshops held during day one at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference.

Twitter—the smart, the ineffective and the annoying ways publishers use it—was the focus of a session run by O’Reilly associate publisher Mike Hendrickson. Speaking to a standing room only crowd, he urged publishers not to fixate on numbers, but to focus on attracting a diverse group of engaged, high-quality followers.

How? By using Twitter not just to broadcast information, but to spark a conversation. And by making sure what they’re saying is worth passing along.

“Give them content that they want to spread on your behalf,” Hendrickson said. “How many of you have re-tweeted a message you thought was boring as toast?”

Hendrickson also said it’s good to be selectivewhen deciding who to follow. “Don’t do it for the numbers,” he said. “Do it because there’s interesting information you’re going after.”

His own boss, Tim O’Reilly, seems to live by that rule. While he has 1.4 million followers, he only follows 622 people.

In another session, Jesse McDougal, co-founder of Catalyst Webworks and Kat Meyer, president of Next Chapter Communications, talked up social media in all it’s forms, including blogs, twitter and tapping into online affinity groups.

Meyer said publishers should look for ways to get employers across departments and their authors involved in social media. The obvious goal is to sell more books, but overworked publicists might find an added benefit.

“Authors can be an incredible help and one of the great things is that if you’re giving them something to do online, they’re not going to be bothering you,” Meyer said.


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