Be a Good Listener: The Power of Social Media Monitoring
By Rick Joyce, CMO The Perseus Books Group
Every day billions of people gather online to share information, recommend content and obsess about their interests, engaging in vast amounts of public conversation. Those conversations could be potential signals to publishers – providing valuable insight to inform key decisions about acquisition, positioning, marketing and publicity—except that vast sea of conversations have always been difficult to analyze. In an ideal world, reading these signals well would allow publishers would put exactly the right books in front of consumers and influencers who have demonstrated interest in the topic. But, how do we mine that enormous and constantly growing ocean of information to find and engage with the people who would love a particular book, if they only knew it existed? Google searches are time-consuming and imprecise; the results don’t indicate who is influential, or where most of conversation about a specific topic takes place. As more book purchases move online, and traditional methods of book discovery are increasingly challenged, it’s increasingly important to solve this problem.
For the past few years, the Perseus Books Group has been experimenting with and evaluating tools designed to monitor and analyze social media – i.e. what’s happening on Twitter and on Facebook, on blogs and on traditional media websites, in forums and in reviews, and even through comments on YouTube. Unlike a Google search, these social listening tools have powerful analytic capabilities – they can rank posts by factors like the source’s level of influence, they combine results from different networks, and can slice the data in a myriad of ways, all within a single platform. We have settled on ForSight™, from Crimson Hexagon, as the best tool we have found to efficiently and effectively analyze social media.
Over time, we have discovered that the range of potential uses for this research spans the entire publishing process. At acquisition, social media research helps analyze topic trends, to assess the size and nature of consumer interest in the topic. In the marketing planning phase, this research can help identify the terms consumers use to discuss the topic, and inform jacket copy, catalog descriptions, even titles and subtitles. From a publicity planning perspective, social listening can identify the most influential voices online to reach out to with pre-publication materials, both helping to prioritize and deepen the publicity hit list. The same research on “power words” and terms of consumer conversation can inform and improve metadata. Also, analyzing recent comp titles and how they broke out – in what media, when, where and why—is possible using ForSight™, and can provide valuable ideas about how and where to position and pitch a title. When the title is released, these tools can provide real-time analysis of what is happening, and allow publishers to jump on emerging trends and opportunities to promote the title.
Though social listening has proved valuable, it’s not easy. The tools are expensive, and it takes time to figure out how to effectively integrate this research across the lifecycle of a title and a publishing program. After over two years listening in, we’re still learning. We’re figuring out how to bend tools that weren’t built for publishers. We’re using the data throughout wider parts of the publishing process. But we are confident that social listening tools like ForSight™ are rapidly becoming indispensable, to the point where in the near future we’ll wonder how we ever did without them.
©Rick Joyce, November 2013
Faber Factory is pleased to be participating in this trial with Crimson Hexagon with ten of our client publishers.