Social media marketing doesn’t always lead to more book sales. How can you get the most out of marketing your book using social media?
From Facebook and Instagram to Twitter and TikTok, users of all ages use social media platforms to voice their opinions and to engage with people over common interests. In a day and age when social media users spend hours scrolling through different posts, companies have a golden opportunity to use social media to market their products—including books.
In their article “Deconstructing Social Media: An Analysis of Twitter and Facebook Use in the Publishing Industry,” Jamie Criswell and Nick Canty (2014) analyzed two social media campaigns to see how effective social media is for marketing books. Criswell and Canty focused their research on two books that were advertised on both Twitter and Facebook: The Song of Achilles, a debut novel by Madeline Miller, and The Wind Through the Keyhole, the eighth novel in Stephen King’s The Dark Tower series. The researchers studied tweets mentioning the book title and studied engagement with related Facebook posts from the publisher’s official Facebook pages. On Twitter, the study focused on engagement from publishers, readers, bloggers, reviewers, booksellers, the author, and libraries. Criswell and Canty examined only tweets, rather than retweets or likes. On the publisher’s official Facebook pages, the researchers observed engagement from readers, booksellers, the publisher, librarians, and any media (text, image, and video). With Facebook, they collected likes, comments, and shares.
The data showed that with engagement on both Twitter and Facebook, readers dominated the conversation with their social media activity, with bloggers and reviewers engaged the second most frequently. Even though it was a debut novel, The Song of Achilles had more sales than The Wind Through the Keyhole. These high sales were most likely due to a reactive marketing campaign (the content is tailored based on the audience’s reaction) in which social media was used in tandem with The Song of Achilles winning the Orange Prize. Although The Song of Achilles sold more units, The Wind Through the Keyhole had much more engagement on social media. The publisher of The Wind Through the Keyhole was more proactive, engaging with fans about the novel several years before publication. Because King already had an established fanbase, 38% of the sales were within the first month of publication, while Miller’s sales spiked around the Orange Prize.
Criswell and Canty (2014) conclude, “The findings have shown that social media is most effective as a marketing platform when there is already an established community, allowing publishers to converse with readers” (24). As seen through the results, social media was also much more effective when combined with other marketing factors, such as when Miller won the Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles. In contrast, The Wind Through the Keyhole was more focused on just social media marketing instead of a combination of marketing forms, such as social media, awards, and events, which may have resulted in fewer overall sales.
From this study, publishers’ marketing teams can see that, when combined with external factors, social media can be an effective marketing tool. Although this study was focused on Twitter and Facebook, the implications may apply to other social media platforms, if the platforms help publishers reach the author’s or book series’ established community
To discover more about the effects of social media marketing, read the full article:
Criswell, Jamie, and Nick Canty. 2014. “Deconstructing Social Media: An Analysis of Twitter and Facebook Use in the Publishing Industry.” Publishing Research Quarterly 30:352–376. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12109-014-9376-1.
—Kenedie Stewart, Editing Research
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Find more research
Read Sybil Nolan and Alexandra Dane’s (2018) article for a discussion and review of different social media marketing studies: “A sharper conversation: book publishers’ use of social media marketing in the age of the algorithm.” Media International Australia 168 (1): 153–166. https://doi.org/10.1177/1329878X18783008
To learn more about marketing books, read Alison Baverstock and Susannah Bowen’s (2019) book How to Market Books. London: Routledge.