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?