Having published an interview with the winner of this year’s Unwin Trust UK-Australia Fellowship, Joel Naoum, and details of my own shortlisted proposal, I’m pleased to now be able run a guest post from the third candidate who made it to the interview stage this year.
Agata Mrva-Montoya is Production Coordinator at Sydney University Press. She runs the press’s blog, Facebook page and Twitter profile, @SydneyUniPress. Her proposal was also in the digital sphere …
Can social media sell books?
People love talking about books and these conversations in the 21st century often happen online, in the world of blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking platforms.
Readers use social media to express their opinion, supplementing and replacing reviews published in the traditional way.
They also act as curators for other readers who look to their friends and communities on social networking sites for new book recommendations.
Facebook has more than 500 million active users and 50 per cent of them log on in any given day.
An average user has 130 friends and is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events (out of over 900 million pages, groups, events and community pages that people interact with), according to Facebook.
There are over 175 million accounts on Twitter.
This is where readers and potential book buyers are.
Social media has moved away from being dismissed as a time-wasting fad into the realm of credibility, giving power to individuals to challenge existing hierarchies and traditional institutions.
It is considered by savvy practitioners as an amazing platform used to share important real-time information, thoughts and ideas, collaborate and link to other people.
Social networking is also used to make money.
Dell has been using Twitter since 2007.
In February 2009 the company reported that Twitter ‘drove $1 million in sales between 2007 and 2008’.
Apart from driving sales, Dell has used social media to provide customer service and build brand loyalty.
Dell also uses blogs and forums for crowdsourcing – to solve technology problems, improve existing products, and get ideas for new products and services.
Dell’s social networking example is not unique and there are numerous success stories across a variety of industries.
Many organisations today are engaging social media experts and increasing their social media budgets as it has been predicted that in 2011 companies will be judged on the quality and frequency of their social media engagement.
While many industries are jumping on the social media bandwagon, very little has been written about the publishing industry’s use of this medium.
This was the motivation for my unsuccessful Unwin Trust Fellowship application – to research and answer questions such as, is the publishing industry in Australia and the UK making the most of social media technology?
Are they connecting with the online communities, forums and bloggers consisting of deeply engaged readers and authors?
How are social networking tools used in the publishing industry?
What are the pros and cons of using social networking tools?
What are the company practices, policies and guidelines?
How do we measure return on investment in social media engagement?
What are the implications of using social media for the publishing industry?
And finally, can social media sell books?
Despite the very pragmatic and sales-oriented focus on my research proposal, I am well aware that the implications of social media for the industry go beyond the marketing and distribution of books.
Social media is blurring and redefining the roles within the industry, but this is a topic for another research project …
I became interested in social networking in 2009 as an exciting possibility to promote Sydney University Press’ brand, titles and authors (for more information about SUP’s Twitter adventures see Sydney Publishing Blog).
I remain committed to finding out how social networking tools can be used in the publishing industry in an informed, constructive and effective way.