Monday, August 12, 2013

Using Social Media's Marketing Data to Sell Books

"As publishers realize—or perhaps more accurately stated—embrace the fact that they must demonstrate to authors and retail partners that they are the best at connecting books with readers and driving demand, the question becomes how to do so. It is difficult for me to think of any other efforts publishers can employ that will yield the insights and long-lasting audience development of social media. Very Difficult."

Those are the concluding words of Peter McCarthy in an article (Five Reasons Social Media Will Always Sell More Books. . .) that he wrote that was published on Digital Book World's site July 31. McCarthy is a social media pro who used to work for Random House (Marketing Innovation) ad for Penguin Group, USA, Online (VP). He makes a strong case for social media as a book marketer's core. Here are the five reasons he lists:
  1. The Core Book-Buying Audience Uses Social Media (and so do all those other folks who will buy books if they hear about them…)
    This is true unless your audience falls outside of the 85% of the U.S. population that uses social media or isn’t between the ages of 18 and 65+. Check the most recent Pew stats. Perhaps even bump them against some book industry studies. The audience is there. Fish where the fish are.
  2. Real Consumer Data
    The audience data that marketers, publicists, and salespeople can gather about social media followers, fans, and general users should be invaluable to anyone marketing or selling books. Acting on an understanding of the demographics, psychographics, and behavior of an audience with regard to an author, a title, or a site will grow sales and marketing efficiency. If it doesn’t, then something else is very wrong. Gathering and acting on data certainly helped Obama whip Romney. And it can even be predictive (Holy Grail!); in 2010 a couple smart HP researchers predicted opening box office using Twitter volume and sentiment along with number of screens. They did so with 97% accuracy.
  3. Identifying Adjacent Audiences
    Once you’ve analyzed your core audience, it quite straightforward to identify key attributes of that audience and find “look-alikes.” In other words, folks with similar key attributes (hobbies, beliefs, activities, likes, dislikes, locales, marital status, education level, etc.) and place your book in front of those folks who, it happens, will behave much like your core. This is the social graph and it is major.
  4. SEO
    This could be an essay. Short, over-simplified version focusing on two key points: 1) Both the “general” engines such as Google and the more-specific engines (eg. Amazon) use social “signals” to assist them in determining the authority of everything – including authors and books. Authority=rank. So, positioning. If the title holds up (eg. garners clicks and/or more links over time), it will retain that rank or rise… and 2) As a corollary; an author or title’s presence on the major networks will nearly always enter the first page of a Google search for the author, title, and even some of the longer tail terms. Ranking higher in search sells books; ask Google or Amazon.
  5. Making the Next Campaign Easier
    We hear a lot of talk about scaling marketing efforts. Social is often seen as a hurdle to scale. Social is actually scalable using technology. But it doesn’t really matter if the “IT” hurdle is too great; scale is inherent in using social to market. A marketer’s ability to look at the performance indicators and underlying consumer data of past social campaigns will increase her understanding of what works, for what, and how well. Also, what doesn’t work. This will speed and hone her next efforts. Every time. Knowledge, process, and a better “feel for the game” is scale. Lather, rinse, learn, repeat. Scaled marketing sells more books.
This makes good sense to me, and makes me want to know more about how, exactly, to get my hands on this kind of data, or how to ask a publisher if they are doing this (and know from their answer if they are doing it well). Check out the bottom of the article—McCarthy is going to be making a presentation at DBR's upcoming conference in NYC. Could be interesting!


  1. I'll confess I don't totally get SEO. I hope social networking helps you sell books. And I hope my blogging would help me with that some day.

    1. I agree, Natalie. I think SEO is becoming a little less complicated over time, but it's one of those algorithm things, and right now, from what I can tell, that means catchy/pithy words/phrases in your title/tags/metadata that get people's attention and describe your work succinctly. No easy feat!

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  2. This is fascinating. I'm actually hiring someone to attack my social media to help sell my books. Not sure if he has the ability to know the phrases...but I will definitely be involved from the ground floor.
    But boy... this sure shows us how important the title is.

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