Twitter and the Publishing Industry

Posted on October 18, 2010 in Uncategorized

As I sit here at my computer with the internet explorer open in front of me, I absent-mindedly start to type in the familiar addresses I visit everyday – Facebook, Twitter, Hotmail and a news site of choice.


In communication terms, I am presented with a number of options – do I ‘tweet’? Send a DM (direct message)? Maybe I might create an event on Facebook and invite all my friends to attend. Whatever happened to sticking to good old fashioned email? Or going back further than that, talking on the phone?


Social Networking is taking over the world – literally! As of July this year, Facebook reached more than 500 million active users worldwide while Twitter is slowly catching up with 100 million.


With the introduction of fan pages, company sites and advertising on social networks, there has been much debate about the relevance of these platforms as a way of engaging with customers. Tim Weber ( comments that ‘Social media do not work as a direct selling tool. But, carefully used, it allows companies to build passion for their products and services…’ therefore managing the customer relationship from the beginning and providing a platform which will potentially boost sales further along in the selling process.


From self promotion by authors, to fan sites for publishers themselves, everyone is getting in on the act. In my opinion, Twitter seems to be the network of choice for the publishing industry. You’ve only got to look on the websites of major publishing houses – Penguin, Bloomsbury, Simon & Schuster, Orion – to find links to their pages, with Random House tweeting by means of their individual imprints, the unique voice of @VintageBooks, along with @JonathanCape, @PrefaceBooks and @TransworldBooks to name a few.


Let’s look at the good points. It’s a free marketing tool where publishers can engage with their readers on a more personal level than typical marketing outputs, enter competitions, view photos and videos, allowing followers to reply and feed their opinions back to the publisher directly. It gives companies the opportunity to express their personality and customers the opportunity to feel a part of their community, with a consistent stream of thoughts and facts, which – for me ­– Facebook doesn’t quite capture the essence of.


It is an information provider, feeding the latest news items in the form of 140 characters, with links to websites where further information can be sourced and full articles can be read. ‘Retweets’ allow users to repeat a message posted by someone else, and send it out into cyber space for all their followers, where they can choose to make their own comment at the beginning or end of it, or to send it out as it is. Authors can showcase their work not just in 140 characters, but with links to blogs and material they may have written.


You inevitably follow people you have never met and in terms of networking, it even extends to real life in the form of ‘Tweet Ups’ where you can meet up with those followers in person, putting a Twitter name to a face and making new contacts. This can be an extremely valuable way of establishing connections in the industry and meeting people that you – without Twitter – may not have known existed!


But what about the disadvantages? In career terms, you have to beware of the content and how often you tweet, so as not to alarm your current boss or put off potential employers. From an author’s perspective, those 140 characters are a showcase of your work and a key to communicating effectively with your followers. Poor spelling and grammar will not suffice.


From a business or company viewpoint, how confident can the publishing industry feel that followers are actually engaging with what is being written? I know myself that my twitter stream frequently gets ‘clogged’ by the number of tweets from the sheer number of accounts I’m following and unless managed constantly with lists and columns on various applications, at times it is hard to keep up. ‘Twitter offers an unparalleled opportunity to react to customers sounding off in public,’ Guy Clapperton wrote in his book This Is Social Media; therefore you have to be on top of what your followers are saying, providing quick reactions and resolutions to any complaints that may arise and managing the company reputation.


In terms of tips and how to get started – what should your username be? How often should you Tweet? There are so many options to consider but there are no hard and fast rules. It is very much a matter of time and personal preference. Ben Johncock defines Twitter as ‘Human to Human H2H. Where else can an entire industry, from author through agent, publisher, publicist, scout, bookseller, blogger, reader all come together in one, equal place to discuss issues?’ (


And after all the application options, endless follower suggestions, ongoing Twitter streams and endless lists, Twitter has well and truly established itself in the social media community, working alongside other social media and providing an alternative not just in communication terms, but in marketing and customer relationship management. With the new and ongoing developments in digital publishing, Twitter is establishing itself as promotional development for both publishers and individuals.


You can follow me on Twitter