Well, I made it to one seminar at the London Book Fair this year – and, of course, it was “Harnessing the Power of Social Media“. Will McInnes of Nixon McInnes, and Ros Lawler, Digital Marketing Manager at Random House, gave a useful overview of facts, opportunities and case studies. It was a little taster of the forthcoming 2-day course that the London-based Publishing Training Centre are running in conjunction with the Institute for Direct Marketing, called “Digital Marketing for Publishers”. This is what it boils down to:
- You are no longer in control
- There are no destination websites any more – if you build it, they won’t necessarily come. You need to be where people want you to be.
- People on online communities are not who you think they are (i.e. hoodie-wearing yoof)
- Get the content right and the rest will follow
- The future is niche – i.e. the much mooted and predicted proliferation of niche social networking sites that will provide an alternative to the generic Facebooks and MySpaces.
- Engage existing social networks
- Socialize your existing online marketing
- Create a new, niche community.
So far, so familiar, to regular readers. But Will’s call to action is exactly what the publishing industry needs to hear: start small, start now, beg forgiveness rather than seek permission, don’t let the weeds grow, and don’t miss the boat. You can experiment, measure, and see what works. But, really: don’t ignore it. Authors, readers, and consumers certainly aren’t ignoring it.
Ros had some interesting examples from Random House, who famously terraformed an island in Second Life last year. But the other thing I keep banging on about is that you don’t have to be Random House (or Nature, or Penguin). Small, independent publishers have a real opportunity with social media.
I was fortunate to meet many independents at the Fair this year – and they get it. They’re doing it. As one publisher said to me yesterday:
“Social media offers the publishing industry the opportunity for the kind of direct to consumer dialogue that it has never had before. In addition it also levels the playing field between media giants and independents since the scope and quality of the relationship between publisher and consumers can be the same for both.”
I couldn’t agree more. And it can be easier for smaller publishers, because social media is a personal medium where authenticity matters. That can be harder for corporates – though they can make it work by staying focused on their authors, who can be authentic individuals online. But whether you’re a tiny independent, a multinational conglomerate, academic or trade, social media is a game the whole industry can play.
Just do it. And do it now!