Spark Spotlight: How Guinevere de la Mare Nurtures a Community Online and Offline

Spark user, author, and content strategist Guinevere de la Mare knows how to nurture communities. For eight years, she was the voice of the Chronicle Books brand and pioneered social media marketing for the indie book publisher, setting the standard for rich visual media that not only engaged audiences but sold books. So it’s not surprising that when she set out on her own, she didn’t stop creating communities both online and offline around her love of reading. Enter The Silent Book Club.

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Though it’s now a global community 1300 members deep, the original silent book club, was just a few busy women who would get together at a cozy bar or cafe and read their own books, silently. They formed a new kind of book club, one that didn’t have potlucks or rules or homework. The mission was simple: Enjoy each other’s quiet company and read, uninterrupted. At the end of 2015, Guinevere and her cohort decided to bring their favorite pastime to the masses by creating an online community and empowering others to start their own regional chapters. The Silent Book Club (with capital letters) was born.

In six short months, their book club expanded to a dozen cities across the globe and a robust online community that shares book recommendations, interesting articles, and #bookporn between weekly meet-ups. Guinevere’s community of readers is an excellent example of how online community can help establish and nurture offline connection—which is social media at its best!

We met Guinevere at San Francisco’s literary-themed bar Novela and chatted with her about how she grew the community organically through strategic partnerships, robust content, and daily updates she posts in between meet ups. To boot, we also picked her brain about book marketing in the social media age based off her eight years experience marketing thousands of books for Chronicle Books.

The Main Take-Aways:

1. The best social media marketing is about fostering real connection, both online and offline.
If you’re not passionate about it, no one else will be. Pick a topic or theme that makes you crave real connection and camaraderie—social media is about finding your tribe of like-minded individuals. People can smell inauthenticity a mile away.

2. Want to start a community of your own? Get your content stacked.
When Guinevere decided to formalize her book club, she started by writing her club’s origin story, which is an essential story to share no matter what your business or project is. She set up a blog and grabbed social media handles across the platforms and began pushing out her story and inviting other people to share it. She uses a public Facebook group to talk to members on a daily basis and encourages equal participation, by setting parameters in the group and penning blogs like this to help grow and empower the community:

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3. Engaging on a regular basis online will help nurture your offline events.
In between meet-ups, Guinevere keeps the conversation going by posting regular updates to the Facebook group and on Instagram. She doesn’t just post about The Silent Book Club, but rather she shares interesting articles and images that are related but not overtly promotional. Every week she shares updates about The Silent Book Club, using Spark Post because she says it’s an easy way to share a lot of information in a visual way. Guinevere is like a lot of us: she knows visual media is important, but she doesn’t have a design background or a team at her disposal. Spark Post allows her to be her own designer in between her day job, other side projects, and motherhood.

4. Leverage partnerships to gain exposure.
Collaboration is the best way to generate buy-in for your idea and reach new audiences. For instance, Guinevere curates a monthly newsletter for Read it Forward and in return gets access to new readers and potential members.

5. Want a book deal? Start marketing and creating communities now!
“All book publishers are looking at authors that already have a platform,” Guinevere says. “Having a community already in place also makes it that much easier when it gets to the marketing stages as well.” If you’ve always wanted to pen a book, it’s time to start creating content online first. Start a Facebook group around your topic, begin penning visual stories you promote on social media, or simply turn your social media platform of choice into a brand that could become your next ticket to fame.