harnessing social media

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:
5 Facts

  1. You are no longer in control
  2. 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.
  3. People on online communities are not who you think they are (i.e. hoodie-wearing yoof)
  4. Get the content right and the rest will follow
  5. 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.

3 Opportunities

  1. Engage existing social networks
  2. Socialize your existing online marketing
  3. 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!

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Jon Reed

Jon Reed is a content writer, author, screenwriter, lecturer, blogger - and the founder of Publishing Talk. He was previously a publisher for 10 years. Publishing Talk aims to help new and emerging authors write, publish and sell books. Advice is available via the blog and our masterclasses and membership programme. More...

4 thoughts on “harnessing social media

  • 13th August 2008 at 9:46 pm
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    Very informative article, Jon. This whole realm of social networking is new to me, but I am having fun going all over the Internet meeting new folks and finding all kinds of useful information. Now if I could just remember it all. 🙂

  • 19th April 2008 at 11:53 am
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    Thanks for the presentation, Will – and welcome aboard!
    It is encouraging that social media seems, at last, to be firmly on the publishing agenda. But what was I thinking? Can’t believe I didn’t sneak off for an hour to the Dr Who exhibition! Maybe next time – I’m back there again in a couple of weeks for Internet World…

  • 17th April 2008 at 8:25 am
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    Jon, thanks for the write up. I found this site last night before you’d written up your notes after doing a quick tweetscan for twitter people at the book fair, and was gutted I hadn’t done so *before* going to the Fair – doh! – as then I could’ve met up with a few of you.
    Loving the site btw, it’s great to see innovation in the real world rather than what we see sometimes in the out-and-out digital world which is innovation for the sake of it. Keep up the good work 🙂

  • 16th April 2008 at 10:35 pm
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    Great post Jon. It is excellent to hear that the publishing world is beginning to take social media seriously…
    I was at the Book Fair in spirit (lurking beneath ground at the Dr Who exhibition…) Thanks for feeding back on behalf of those of us who didn’t make it in person.

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