Social networking sites and their influence on the publishing industry
These points are illustrated through the marketing tools of books on social networking sites and the accessibility of book reviews and summaries of their content. Depending on the positive or negative feedback, this can lead to either difficulty in marketing the books or increased popularity, potentially affecting the number of book copies in the entire market. Readers have the ability to transcend geographical boundaries and communicate within cultural groups, interacting with each other via virtual pages on literature, poetry, history, science, philosophy, and much more.
A study on social media users by Go-Gulf, a leading international and online web application design and development company, clearly shows that the Arab world is becoming more active on social platforms whether for personal use or for business purposes. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts in the region have grown exponentially.
The study shows that Facebook is the most popular social networking site among Arabs, with 58 million users constituting 94%, followed by Twitter with 6.5 million (52%) and LinkedIn, which comes third with 5.8 million users (6%).
With such huge numbers, social media is increasingly influencing publishing in the Arab world. These platforms provide the means and channels to disseminate knowledge, market books and promote authors.
Marketers can now target virtual groups of users who share the same qualities and criteria including age groups, location and interests. To focus on one audience makes it easier to communicate and market products. Once new users join a particular group, they will receive invitations to join other relevant circles of the same nature, as well as friend requests, followers etc.
Photographs are the most prominent element of attraction
Besides creating virtual groups that help activate cultural bonds, social networking sites can use a host of channels to broadcast information, including texts, photographs, animations and videos. This gives publishers and writers an opportunity to showcase their books and announce launches and publications, as well as post presentations and reviews.
Photographs are one of the most popular mediums used by social media users, having a more direct impact on site visitors. Many studies show that posting photographs is the most attractive medium to draw the attention and interaction of followers on Facebook, where photo posts get the highest number of comments and likes. They also enjoy the largest number of shares – 93% of shares on Facebook are for photos.
The impact of images on social media users serves as an excellent tool for publishers, promoters and marketers. Posting the image of the book cover appears more effective than posting passages from the book or even writing about it in traditional media, where the book’s lovers reaction increases with every comment, like or share.
The influence of social media on the popularity of books and expansion of the publishing market should not overlook ‘emotional marketing’, a relatively new economic concept which is increasingly growing in both popularity and effectiveness. Emotional marketing capitalizes on highly influential social media users who post a text or a picture about a book they have read, or recommend a particular book to their followers.
One of the most effective emotional marketing examples is from US Airways, which asked passengers to provide their social media accounts and then connected them with the ‘Klout’ tool to measure their influence. Those passengers with an influence of more than 55% were given free membership of the Admiral Club and enjoy all services provided to the club’s members at airports. The company then asked passengers to share their experience on hashtag #admiralClub.
In just one day, the number of views of US Airlines’ brand jumped to more than 166 million, and the feedback with the brand rose to more than 26,000 positive interactions on the most important social media channels, while the number of subscriptions to Admiral Club increased by 42%.
This example illustrates perfectly the influence of social media on marketing and shows its potential for newly published books, magazines, manuscripts, translations, and other literature.
According to recent marketing studies, the number of ‘likes’ from Facebook users continues to increase. In 2009, the average number of pages ‘liked’ by each user was only 4.5 pages. The figure rose to 30 pages in the following year, and then rose again to 36.7 in October 2012.
Therefore, Facebook pages dedicated to culture, publishing houses, book fairs and writers can be a tangible benefit in promoting books and expanding their circulation. Most social networking sites have official pages for Arab writers and publishers to broadcast their works, new releases and literary knowledge.
In addition, searching for books and knowing their content is no longer limited to libraries, or even computer screens. A recent technology survey shows that 488 million Facebook users logged in using smartphones in May 2012. The figure increased to 543 million in June and 604 million users in September in the same year.
The Director of Facebook in the Middle East, Africa and Pakistan reported that the number of Facebook users reached 62 million in the Arab world, half of which are using Facebook daily through their mobile phones.
So, it is no surprise that social networking sites have become one the most effective means of marketing books and expanding the Arab publishing market. Arab readers are becoming one community and communicate with each other virtually and easily.
Many publishers are racing to create their own web pages on social networking sites, not only as a means for promoting books, but also to know the needs and wants of their followers in order to develop their future publishing plans and strategies.