I missed it when if first appeared, but #booksthatchangedmyworld, a hashtag created by New Yorker writer Susan Orlean has been getting a fair amount of buzz on Twitter and on blogs over the last week. The rather long hashtag started as a way for Orlean to catalog her own favorite reads, but as happens on Twitter, the community joins in when it wants, deciding whether or not a topic or subject deserves attention and buzz.
One one hand, there’s not much more to this than the fact that lots of people (anyone who reads, for that matter) have been influenced by books and that in an age of social media people like to share.
What’s a little amusing is that it with all the attention that The Shallows, Nicholas Carr’s new book, is getting, the New York Times actually referred to the hashtag in a post suggesting that perhaps Internet addicts aren’t getting stupid as quickly as Nicholas Carr suggests. They actually read books. Or at least they can remember the titles of books they should have read.
Within a day, someone paying attention scoffed up the URL booksthatchangedmyworld.com, recognizing, if not a monetizable idea, at least a subject worth developing further.
But the only folks who should be jumping on this bandwagon – booksellers Barnes and Noble and Amazon – seem conspicuously absent. Search for their Twitter handles and the hashtag, and as you can see, nothing, At least when this was written.
Are they completely unaware of the greatest book and publisher marketing program of all time? Courtesy of Edward L. Bernays. (They sell his books, so you’d think they’d know something about him.)
For the uninitiated, in 1930 Bernays was retained by a consortium of book publishers. His charge was simple: sell more books. Bernays solution: build more bookshelves. Knowing that man hates a void, he figured if he could get architects and builders to include more bookshelves in homes and apartments, they’d fill up with books.
How did he do it? Bernays asked respectable public figures – CEOs, senators, lawyers, doctors – to name the books that influenced and inspired them. He released the findings to the press with a spin: “accomplished people have all been influenced by books.” He then marketed the significant press coverage to home builders with the recommendation that if they wanted to sell to a more desirable clientele, they needed to install built-in bookcases. Ever notice how all homes built in the late 30s, 40s and beyond have built-ins? Needless to say, the sale of books increased significantly.
Barnes and Noble and Amazon were just handed a similar opportunity. The chance to get behind a social media initiative that celebrates books, their impact on people’s lives and the fact that even the Twitterati, those allegedly least inclined to read (according to Carr), willingly share the books that mattered to them is an easy marketing idea waiting to happen.
From the looks of it neither Barnes and Noble nor Amazon bought the URL inspired by Orlean. But they should have.
It’s not too late for them to get more active on Twitter, pick up on discussions like this and turn them into ideas that help sell more books. Whether it’s simply to engage with the community already commenting or to take the idea and turn it into something even bigger.
What do you think? Don’t you wish your brand were handed opportunities like this?
According to Bud’s Kickstarter pledge page, if he manages to solicit $5000 from his social media friends and followers, he’ll have enough cash to take time off to write and pay an editor to help him complete what he promises will be directions for how to profit in the “attention economy.”
It’s my guess that Bud will raise his money in no time. And I hope this post helps in some small way. Bud’s experiment – in his words he’s “trying to prove that there’s more value in our networks than we can even fathom” – is the epitome of what new social media platforms like Kickstarter and Kachingle or old ones like Twitter and Facebook allow us to do.
We live in an age when anyone can publish, broadcast, design a product or start a movement. The only thing stopping us is fear, inertia or lack of a network. If Bud raises his $5000.00 – in $25 and $100 increments – it will be one more reminder of how much power has shifted to the individual.
Bud has 5000 followers on Twitter. That’s a pretty good number, though a far cry from a Chris Brogan. He has a blog that gets between 4,000 and 12,000 visits a month. That’s influence, but it’s not Seth Godin. I point that out as a reminder that you don’t have to be Brogan, or Godin or Gary Vaynerchuk to make things happen.
Erik Proulx, with his blog and his supporters on Twitter, was able to produce Lemonade the movie and get started on Lemonade Detroit. Erik has a similar number of followers and blog readers to Bud.
When you get started in social media – one person among millions, with nothing more than a Twitter account and no clear set of instructions – it seems unlikely that you can actually accomplish all that much. But you can. If you follow the examples of Bud, Sheena and Erik – engage, give, share, create, experiment – you’ll be surprised at what you can do.
Got other really good examples of what individuals have done by gathering a community, building a network and trying something ambitious? Please share here. And as always,thanks for reading.
There are an awful lot of great digital and social gatherings. SxSWi. PSFK. Internet Week. But I’m pretty excited that this year Boston is about to try something new with the launch of FutureM.
Thanks to the inspiration of a bunch of really smart people including folks like Brian Halligan, David Meerman Scott, and the leadership of MITX (one of the country’s premiere Internet business and marketing associations), Boston will host an event that has the potential to define “what’s new and what’s next” as FutureM gathers leading thinkers in marketing, media and technology for five days in October.
There will be keynotes, panels, workshops, tweet-ups and, of course, parties. Plans are still in the early stages but what’s pretty cool is the collaboration and excitement already being generated.
Chris Brogan’s Inbound Marketing Summit at Gillette Stadium is part of the event. Hubspot’s user conference takes place the same week. MIT’s Technology Review will showcase its future view of media. And a lot of other people, including Mike Volpe are working on ideas, panels and presentations as you read this.
I’m thrilled to be a small part of it. I just started collaborating with the super smart Mike Troiano on a panel about change, transformation, and how to specifically overcome obstacles in order to get more digital and social. We’re hoping to avoid the tired old conversation of what’s not working and put some real specific recommendations on the table for both agencies and brands.
Kiki Mills, the executive director of MITX, has asked me to organize a TNGG (nextgreatgeneration.com) session where we get some really bright, social savvy Gen Y marketers to talk about how companies will have to engage with their generation in the future and how they predict marketing tactics and programs will evolve to align with their behavior.
And finally, I’m hoping to moderate, or at least help recruit, a panel of the most forward thinking brands around. What makes them different? How do they get management sign off on ambitious and untested ideas? Do they use a different set of metrics and evaluation criteria? Are their lawyers more open-minded?
It’s still too early to share specifics. And suffice it to say I’m both excited and anxious about it being great. But as I’ve learned from hanging with the digital and social crowd, this community works together. It’s collaborative. And it helps each other experiment, learn and ultimately succeed. It’s why I’ve volunteered to help.
So join us. Plan to attend. Submit events. Comment on this post. Leave suggestions for who and what you’d like to see and hear. And if you have ideas for any of the above panels, please let me know.
We discussed the week’s marketing stories: everything from the plight of independent BP service stations to the likely winners at Cannes. But the topic that I found the most interesting was the question of loyalty. How do we measure it? Can we assign a real dollar value to a Facebook fan? Are the recent findings from Syncapse and Vitrue dependable.
In the case of Syncapse this social media strategy company suggests that a Facebook fan is worth $136.00. The number comes from determining a typical fan’s behavior. Syncapse concluded he’s likely to spend $72.00 a year more on a brand than a non-fan; is 28 more likely to continue using that brand; has a high propensity to recommend products to friends and family; and has a real affinity to the brand he “likes.”
But the real question that no one seems to answer is this: If there were no Facebook or equivalent social network, would that “fan’s” behavior be any different? Does he fan/like a brand on Facebook because he’s already loyal? Or does becoming a fan somehow induce that loyalty?
I’m willing to bet it’s the former. We are loyal to a brand because of its products, service, quality and consistency; we then reflect that loyalty by fanning a brand, not vice versa.
This has real implications for marketers. Research like the above results in more of the idiocy we have seen in the last year or two: brands that have to be on Facebook; success that’s measured in terms of how many “fans” or “likes” that brand acquires; programs that are designed to drive up the numbers.
Granted Vitrue’s approach and valuation are quite different. Their number is less than $4.00 per fan, but they’re actually measuring impressions.
To me, both of these metrics represent a classic case of applying old media thinking to a new media environment. They measure what exists after the fact — customer value and impressions — they don’t tell us whether or how we can actually increase loyalty.
A program that strives to pile up fans will at best simply identify people who are already loyal. At worst, it will convince someone to click a button because it’s effortless, but potentially also meaningless.
The only thing we should be measuring is whether or not we can create content, utility, service and value in the social media space that induces prospects to become customers and customers to become repeat customers, perhaps even willing to pay a premium. Accomplishing that calls for ideas, creativity and experimentation, not another quantitative study.
Smart brands measure (and, for that matter, predict) everything. But before they put their money behind reaching and collecting fans, they invest in behaviors to prove they’re worthy of a customer’s loyalty.
What’s your brand doing to earn loyalty?
“What’s your title?”
“What department are you in?”
Unfortunately, that’s how we are defined. We are a “copywriter” or a “designer” or a “traditional” advertising type versus a “digital” advertising person. We might be a “car” guy; or worse, not a “car” guy. We could be a “client,” maybe even the “client.”
In my career I’ve been a reporter, a PR counsel, a client, an account exec, a copywriter, and a creative director. At least that’s what it said on my business card and how others categorized me.
We seem to need titles for easy categorization. Our title not only declares what we do, it frees us from responsibility for other areas of expertise. It connects us to others with the same title, making us members of a tribe. In some cases, it provides us with a sense of self-importance. It certainly determines what we get paid, though not necessarily our actual value.
For the person on the receiving end of our business cards, our title telegraphs our skill set or talent. It suggests what they can expect from us. And it allows them to place us in the proverbial hierarchy left over from the heyday of the railroad industry.
I’m not a big fan of titles, even though I have a couple of them. To me they seem less and less relevant in an age when we need multiple skills. Don’t we have to be strategists and content creators? Practice traditional and digital? Learn to be creative across all kinds of platforms?
True it’s easier to hold onto legacy systems and practices and, in this case, labels. We’ve grown dependent on them. They’re familiar and comfortable. But eventually we have to break ourselves of the crutches we continue to lean on: how we incent people, the departmentalization of our companies, the processes and systems that in some cases haven’t changed in years. Maybe even get rid of titles.
What if we just had a bunch of check boxes on our business cards: __ ideas, __ copy, __ strategy, __ collaboration, __content, __code, __SEO, __social, __optimism, __funny, __committed. Come up with your own. Whenever we gave our card out, we simply checked the appropriate boxes based on whom we were giving it to and what we might do with and for them?
What do you think? Are titles still necessary? Do they define us too narrowly? What would you put on your card?