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Social Media Makes the Pages of a Book Come to Life, Literally

Using social media to engage consumers, even (or may be especially!) critical consumers, has revolutionized marketing and encouraged consumers to be more involved with hard copy books.
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When my book Red Thread Thinking was published, writer friends cautioned me to brace myself for critical reviews. Not to worry I told them: I'll be happy if my book just attracts attention. Live and learn. As a first-time author I was delighted when I read positive reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, and was thrilled that the vast majority of notices were favorable, but inevitably there were a few that were not so approbatory. All of my years in business, though, taught me to give criticism its due, by accepting the helpful and moving quickly on from the mean-spirted. With the powerful social media tools available to them, today's writers can engage their critics and use the lump of coal a bad review represents into a shiny diamond.

One recent review of my book had legitimate critical comments, but also got some factual points wrong. I tweeted the reviewer to point out his mistakes. I was polite and respectful of his views, but I also made my point. In turn, the reviewer was quite flattered that I truly cared about what he said and revised his review to correct the errors he had made. In the aftermath, I felt good that a review with erroneous information about my book had been fixed, and the reviewer felt good that one author, at least, had taken his comments to heart.

It's time for a second revolution that reminds consumers of the joys of the leisurely pastime of reading.

I had this social media exchange in mind when I saw a brief video about a bookmark that Penguin Companhia has created but yet to market. What makes so mundane an object as a bookmark interesting is that this new product, which embeds a nanocomputer, light sensor, and timer into a relatively traditional-looking marker, uses tweets to bring readers back to the printed page. Not just any tweet, either but the author's own words, in the form of a relevant quotation, or a message written in the author's style. This tweet is sent to the reader after the bookmark has remained in an unopened book for a set amount of time.

The idea behind Penguin's bookmark is that readers have so many opportunities to acquire and consume content that it's all too easy for them to set aside a book they have every intention of finishing. The tweet is a user-friendly reminder to bring the reader back to the text.

As a writer, I think this innovation is terrific, and as a brand consultant I see its potential as a marketing and educational tool. Imagine, if you will, a bookmark that in addition to tweeting reminders to the readers also offers them "exclusive content," of the kind one often finds on DVD's of movies and television shows. Or a bookmark that will give the reader a quick explanation or elaboration of an author's difficult concept.

The tweet and the book are complementary.

It's been pointed out that practically nobody has finished Thomas Piketty's 2014 700-page tome Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Why this is true is anybody's guess, but suppose the bookmark could tweet definitions or illustrative examples of economic abstractions on readers' demand? Sometimes a little light shed on a difficult idea is all it takes to propel a reader forward.

Or suppose a reader really has flung aside a text in disgust or boredom. A tweet that solicits feedback would be helpful to writers and editors alike. A reader who finds one book is not to his taste might, like my critic, welcome the opportunity to share his view.

Last updated: Aug 5, 2014

DEBRA KAYE | Columnist | partner, Lucule

Debra Kaye is a Partner at the innovation consultancy Lucule and a former CEO of TBWAItaly. Her book, Red Thread Thinking: Weaving Together Connections that Lead to Brilliant Ideas and Profitable Innovation, was The Washington Post's Leadership Book of the Week. A frequent commentator on American Public Radio's "Marketplace," she also writes for Fast Company and is a sought after speaker at venues such as SXSW.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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