Social media has allowed anyone with the right access the ability to communicate with others that were previously unreachable: from strangers across the world to the creators of the content they consume, including actors, musicians, authors, and businesses. From a business perspective, social media allows us to bridge the gap between producer and consumer. While this open access allows for a variety of innovative changes and ideas to take shape in the book publishing industry, perhaps the area where it has the most important implications is marketing.
Sites like Facebook and Twitter give marketers what they’ve always wanted: direct access to their customers. One of the marketer’s goals is to learn and understand their market’s preferences, wants and needs. In the past, marketers have used surveys and focus groups to gain insight into the minds of their readers, but social media allows them to read their customers’ opinions, track their interests or even ask them directly how they feel about a product. This doesn’t only benefit the marketers and companies they work for, it also benefits the user. Consumers have an opportunity to be more involved in the way companies create the products they use, an opportunity for their voice to be heard.
In an article for the Huffington Post, Founder and CEO of FSB Associates Fauzia Burke makes an important distinction between social media and social networking, a distinction that’s important to note when approaching how to utilize these tools and concepts to improve any aspect of a business. Burke’s differentiation of the two comes down to basic grammar: social media, a noun, refers to the content users upload (blogs, videos, newsletters, e-books), whereas social networking, a verb, refers to using this media to engage with others. While many can create social media, it takes expertise and knowledge to use social networking effectively.
Burke’s company, FSB Associates, is an Internet marketing firm that specializes in online marketing for books; their website describes their company as “the premier Internet marketing firm specializing in creating online awareness for books and authors.” FSB’s clients include some of the top publishers, such as McGraw-Hill, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster. FSB’s marketing strategy offers insight into how the shift from print-to-digital is affecting the publisher’s role in marketing books; past marketing strategies, tools and trends are being replaced with ones that are more applicable to the digital market in which they’re operating and the digital audience that they’re trying to reach. FSB’s digital marketing innovations include Amplify, launched in 2011, a marketing plan that approaches books and their authors from a more comprehensive and ongoing perspective. FSB’s Founder and President Fauzia Burke explains how Amplify and her company’s approach to marketing is a necessary break from the traditional event marketing model most publishers use. In the interview below, Burke describes Amplify (and social networking) as an opportunity for authors to bond with their readers and create lasting, continued relationships with them, which will benefit all stakeholders in the publishing process.
This direct access that social media allows benefits authors who want to self-publish their books. Authors don’t need a marketing team to translate sales data or trends to understand their markets, they can just ask them over Twitter or other social networking sites. While social media allows authors to bypass the publisher in a lot of the marketing he or she needs, it doesn’t make the publisher’s role in this process completely obsolete.
In an article for BookBusiness.com, independent publishing-writer and analyst Jim Parsons discusses how current publishers are approaching social media in their marketing strategies. CEO of Greenleaf Book Group Tanya Hall; Meredith McGuinnis, director of marketing for several Random House imprints; and Mark Ferguson, associate online marketing director at Harper Books/HarperCollins, speak about the attention they pay to advising their authors on using social networking. As Ferguson explains, “Most publishers, Harper included, are spending a lot of time and energy to help guide authors toward the right social media strategy. Strategy varies depending on the genre and the author’s particular expertise and level of interest.” Parsons concludes that “the publishers’ response [to social marketing] should be one of facilitation, giving each author as much support and strategic advice as possible, and to set expectations based on the author’s skills and available time.”
In his article, Parsons stresses an important philosophy publishers need to adopt when approaching how to use social media to market their books and authors: social media should not be seen as a way to just sell, but as a way to engage with readers. He quotes Meredith McGuinnis: “Social media is a way for authors to engage with a community, not a path to direct sales. In some cases, the fans do purchase but the overall goal of social media is to connect, create a community and establish credibility.” Publishing companies are in the business of creating credibility for themselves, their clients and their products, and it’s their professional experience and knowledge that allows them to do this well; authors need to recognize that while most can use social media on their own, the resources of a publishing company will allow them to transform that media to an organized, effective social networking strategy to maximize their reach.