Deconstructing Social Media: An Analysis of Twitter and Facebook Use in the Publishing Industry
J. Criswell N. Canty (&) Centre for Publishing, University College London
, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT,
The article analyses the social media activity around two genre fiction titles published in the UK. The research is focused on the platforms Twitter and Facebook as they are the sites currently most used as marketing tools by the publishing industry. Over 10,000 social media posts were collected and categorised to create a timeline of social media activity for two case studies. The findings were then compared to sales data from Nielsen BookScan to give an understanding to the value of social media marketing in the publishing industry. The findings show that social media is most effective as a marketing platform when there is already an established community, allowing publishers to converse with readers. While social media is less effective at marketing new books written by debut authors with no existing readership, it is none the less an important tool in the marketing plan as it provides a platform to engage with readers around significant events.
As the number of readers purchasing and browsing for books online increases, the
established publishing model of selling books to bricks and mortar stores has had to
adapt to access a highly splintered new marketplace. Through their websites and
social media accounts, publishers are engaging more with readers online.
Social media marketing is changing the relationship between publishers and
readers. This connection need no longer be dominated by sales, but by mutually
beneficial conversation and debate. It allows publishers the platform from which to
build the trust of their readers directly, and tailor their output to specific readerships.
This new situation also allows publishers to build their brands, because through
social media readers use the publishers pages to access information on titles and
A contributing factor is the rise of smartphones and tablet computers, with 30.9
million such devices in use in the UK . The UK has the second highest number of
social media users in the EU with 70 % of all UK residents currently use some sort
of Social Media , spending an average of 17 min a day on their smartphones.
The underlying theme of social media marketing is to tap into or begin
conversations on the medium, and use them for commercial benefit. Ideally this
generates hype and word of mouth around the titles being promoted, and encourages
people to purchase the book. There has been extensive analysis on what it is that
influences consumers to spread the word on these sites, and what initiates viral
campaigns  or epidemics which can be more persuasive and targeted than
traditional advertising as it is directed towards an interested audience. This idea of
social epidemics was articulated by Malcolm Gladwell when analysing the exact
moments when products go viral. He identified three rules that cause them: the law
of the few, the stickiness factor and the power of context . The point here is that
in order to achieve social popularity that spreads, a product must be used by socially
adept individuals, be memorable, and be released into the right environment.
These arguments are applicable to social media marketing in the publishing
industry . Given the relationship social media enables between publishing
companies and their readers there is the opportunity to spread word of mouth
(WOM) and identify key individuals who might help promote a title online. By
letting interested readers feel engaged and involved with the publishing process of a
title, they are more likely to spread their excitement to other users.
Despite the advantageous effects of marketing via social media, some caution is
needed. Social media cannot be treated as a conventional medium and arguably does
not have scale built into it despite the assumption that the media side of social media
will work to spread this engagement across the target audience. Companies should
not assume results are guaranteed from using social media and an obsession with
generating likes and followers is a misguided attempt to measure the success of
campaigns. Social media strategies have to be targeted to be successful, and this
success cannot be gauged by the number of likes and tweets alone. However, for the
publishing industry, generating social media activity on a book is undoubtedly
useful in spreading the word of a new title (Table 1).
Both books in this study are adult trade fiction titles in the fantasy genre. Both
titles were published within 8 months of each other, and thus the same websites and
social media opportunities were available to marketers for both titles.
The Song of Achilles by Madeleine Miller, a debut author with no existing fan
base, is a fictional story set in ancient Greece at the time of the Trojan War. The
story follows Patroclus in a first-person narrative and details his loving, physical
relationship with Achilles until his death at Troy. This original approach gives new
Table 1 Key figures for the titles (Noteall figures up to 10 August 2013)
Fig. 1 The Song of Achilles
Hardback, 18.99. 5th
September 2011 (Bloomsbury)
The Song of Achilles
meaning to the great warriors life, and appeals to the many fans of the Trojan War
myth. The book was critically well received and it won the Orange Prize for
Womens Fiction 2012 . The Song of Achilles highlights the effects of social
media marketing on debut titles, and the impact of literary awards on social media
activity and sales (Figs. 1, 2).
The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King is part of his Dark Tower
series, which consists of eight books following the character Roland Deschain and
his Ka-tet. The books are set in the fictional region of Mid-world, in which
Roland is on a quest to discover the dark tower. This novel came out after an
eightyear delay, and fits chronologically in between books four and five of the series. The
Fig. 2 The Song of Achilles
Paperback, 7.99. 12th April
Dark Tower series mixes the western genre with fantasy sagas, and thus appeals to a
wide range of readers who enjoy these genres.
Stephen Kings fans are renowned for their intensity, with even King himself
referring to them as his constant reader. With such an iconic author and with such
an enthusiastic fan base, there was a reliable, passionate community around the
Critically the book was well received, and seen as a gem inserted into the
enchanted series . The Wind Through the Keyhole showed the potential of a
creative social media marketing campaign, and the impact of an established
audience (Figs. 3, 4).
Over 10,000 posts were harvested from Facebook and Twitter and interviews were
conducted with the marketing teams of each book to give context to the data. Sales
data from Nielsen Bookscan was used to show whether social media activity
impacted sales. Although Bookscans timeline was monthly rather than daily it still
allows an interesting progression of data to compare against the social media
Social Media Data
Every tweet and Facebook comment made about the books since the date of their
publication, through to the 10th August 2013 was tracked and catalogued. This
required going back to the very first mentions of the titles on both Facebook and
Twitter, and recording every piece of activity relating to them.
During the research several problems influenced the method. When documenting
the tweets on both titles, some users tweets were hard to categorize. To be
Fig. 4 The Wind Through The
Keyhole Paperback, 7.99. 28th
February 2013 (Hodder &
consistent, all their tweets were documented under the same heading. It was also
often very difficult to tell the difference between bloggers and reviewers, so they
were linked together under the same heading. It was also occasionally difficult to
tell apart an enthusiastic reader from a blogger. This issue was solved on a
case-bycase basis, examining the homepage of the user, and identifying whether or not they
had an established blog page.
Another issue concerned tweets from readers Goodreads pages. Given the sites
popularity there were many Goodreads reviews of the chosen titles on Twitter.
These reviews were documented under reader, rather than under blogger &
reviewer, because Goodreads is a platform built for readers to express their
thoughts, not blog posts.
Twitter generates a higher number of individual interactions than Facebook, and
there were many thousand tweets about each title. The history of tweets on a subject
can be accessed by searching for it under the all search option. Rather than limit
the search to the titles or publishers specific Twitter pages, tweets were instead
gathered from the entire stream of conversation around the titles of these books back
to their very first mention. This method delivered a timeline of Twitter activity
throughout the books lifespans, including information on different users. To
differentiate between users who were tweeting about the titles the tweets were
classified into groups (Table 2).
It was necessary to differentiate between all publishers and individual
publishers because there were often tweets made by the American or Australian
sister publishing companies.
Whilst gathering information from Twitter for both titles no conversations were
expanded. This would have been misleading, because, as with face-to-face
conversations, very few maintained the subject of the titles all the way through. The
number of retweets each comment received was also not recorded as it would have
been impractical to enter each tweet individually to find this information. Instead,
the research details the number of original tweets, and compares it to the number of
sales for each title.
Extracting useful information from Facebook required a different approach.
Facebook is set out in such a way that the activity on the site is far more contained
and there is nothing like Twitters stream of conversation about a subject, and
searches direct the user to specific pages. Facebook is defined by these pages which
users can choose to like and interact with.
This presented a problem, because there was an immense range of Facebook
pages on The Song of Achilles and The Wind Through the Keyhole, from the
publishers own pages to fan-sites dedicated to the books. In order to make the
research as accurate as possible, data was gathered only from the Facebook pages
which were officially run by publishers Hodder & Stoughton and Bloomsbury. This
included the site dedicated to the book by its publisher, and the publishers own site
although the majority of social media activity was on the titles dedicated pages. For
The Wind Through the Keyhole data was gathered from the Hodder & Stoughton
Facebook homepage, and also the publishers page titled Stephen King Books, as
there was no single page dedicated to the title run by Hodder & Stoughton. For The
Song of Achilles, the data was sourced from the Bloomsbury Facebook homepage
Table 2 Categories to define user groups on Twitter
Table 3 Categories to define Facebook users and content types
and the publishers page dedicated to The Song of Achilles. For each comment the
number of likes, re-comments and shares the title had accumulated was recorded.
To distinguish the different users who interacted with the Facebook page their
comments were separated by page, readers, booksellers, publisher and libraries.
Furthermore it was recorded whether each comment was text, an image or video
On Facebook, the context of comments under each post was not analyzed. This
was unnecessary, as the comments were often similar, and investigating each one
did not reveal anything new.
Limitations of the Research
The research did not include comments from any fan-made or authors pages.
Including these pages would have resulted in incomparable data for the titles;
Stephen King has a large number of Facebook pages dedicated to him and his books
while Madeline Miller does not. Also, Madeline Miller has an active presence on
her Facebook page, whereas Stephen Kings social media presence is recent, with
his Twitter account @StephenKing opening after this research was conducted.
Nielsen Bookscan does not record ebook sales and has been criticized for giving
an incomplete view of the market although it claims to cover 90 % of the consumer
market . Nielsen Bookscan was the most reliable source of sales data that was
available and its information on the physical sales of books gave an understanding
of the fluctuations in sales.
The Song of Achilles
Overview of Social Media Marketing Activity
The social media marketing campaign for The Song of Achilles was reactive, rather
than proactive and it was only after the Orange Prize Longlist announcement
Bloomsbury became more active on Facebook and Twitter. Press reviews, images
and highlighted author events were added to maintain the hype caused by the
Orange Prize announcement. Bloomsbury also used Madeline Miller in several
author videos which they posted on Facebook and tweeted about. By establishing
sites for Madeline Millers first book, they hoped to provide a decent platform from
which to launch a campaign should she write a second (Table 4).
Table 4 The Song of Achilles Key dates
Table 5 is a summary table of the accumulated Twitter research for The Song of
Achilles, and tracks all Twitter activity on the title from its first tweet on the 22nd
April 2011, to the 10th August 2013. In the course of the research on this title, 4,373
tweets were recorded.
The two groups who dominated the activity on Twitter were readers, with 2,513
tweets, 57.5 % of total, and the bloggers and reviewers with 1,347 tweets, 30.8 % of
total. The remaining groups contributed 513 tweets, making up 13.0 % of the total
number, including Bloomsburys contribution of 52 tweets. This was 1.2 % of the
total, but shows a lot of activity given the campaign started as reactive. Madeline
Millers 33 tweets show a very active contribution which was immensely valuable
for Bloomsbury. A surprising statistic, given the critical success of the title, is that
only 4.2 % of the Twitter activity was by booksellers, suggesting they are less likely
to gamble and engage with new titles (Fig. 5).
Figure 6 shows there was very little activity on publication date of either
Hardback or Paperback editions, with only 3 and 4 tweets respectively. There is a
spike of activity on the 30th and 31st of May 2012 which was due to the Orange
Prize victory on the 30th May, which resulted in 392 tweets on the 30th May, and
300 on the 31st May. There are other, smaller peaks in the timeline. The first peak
consisted of 47 tweets on the 6th March and 20 tweets on the 7th of March 2012,
caused by the announcement of the Orange Prize Longlist. The second peak shows
57 tweets made on the 30th May 2013, when Amazon made The Song of Achilles its
Kindle deal of the day. The average number of tweets a day over the entire
timeframe was 6.6.
Figure 7 shows the Orange Prize win is the pinnacle for all user groups. In the
early months the bloggers & reviewers were the main contributors to the feed.
Reader activity picked up around February 2012, heightened around the Orange
Prize, and then continued to be strong up until the 10th August 2013 where tweets
were almost exclusively by readers. This is down to the fact that bloggers &
Table 5 Summary table of Twitter activity for The Song of Achilles
Fig. 5 The distribution of tweets by user group for The Song of Achilles
Fig. 6 Timeline of daily Twitter activity for The Song of Achilles
Fig. 7 Timeline of Twitter activity for The Song of Achilles by different user group
Fig. 8 Accumulated number of Tweets over the lifetime of The Song of Achilles
reviewers are often given advanced information and copies of upcoming titles
(Figs. 8, 9).
The Bloomsbury Facebook page (Facebook.com/BloomsburyPublishing) featured
only two comments on The Song of Achilles and Bloomsbury concentrated their
activity for the page devoted The Song of Achilles (Facebook.com/SongofAchilles).
On the 10th August, this page had 1,674 likes, and 151 comments. According to
Fig. 9 Timeline of Twitter and sales activity
Table 6 Breakdown of Facebook comments made on The Song of Achilles page
Facebook, the 23rd September 2012 was the titles most popular week, with
1824 year olds as the most popular age group. The 151 comments were
documented according to which user group had created them. Table 6 shows the
breakdown of the number of comments made by the various users.
The dominant user group on Facebook were readers, who created 100 (66 %) of
the comments suggesting a high level of engagement. The 42 comments by the
page, making up 28 % of the total number, shows that Bloomsbury commented
regularly in order to keep reader activity high. The other figures concerning the
booksellers, libraries and Bloomsbury departments are expectedly a small
percentage of the total, making up only 6 % of comments combined. Clearly these
user groups are less likely to engage with new titles on Facebook (Table 6).
Textual comments (82 %) were the most popular (Table 7). These comments, in
all forms, gathered 1,011 likes, 157 re-comments, and 69 shares (Figs. 10, 11).
There are four major peaks here, the largest of which is on the 30th May, due to
the Orange Prize victory (Fig. 12). The others were down to the release of a video
trailer (9/09/11), the announcement that Madeleine Miller was coming to the UK
(28/08/12) and several comments by readers (13/11/12).
Fig. 10 Breakdown of Facebook comments made on The Song of Achilles
Table 7 The formats of the comments made on Facebook
Fig. 11 Breakdown of the formats used by the groups to comment
Fig. 12 Timeline of Facebook comments made on The Song of Achilles
Fig. 13 Monthly sales of both editions of The Song of Achilles
Nielsen Bookscan Data
The editions of The Song of Achilles sold 98,569 units by the 10th August 2013,
with a total value of 618,796.94. Figure 13 below shows the number of sales each
month for both the paperback and hardback editions.
Figure 14 shows the sales figures of The Song of Achilles Hardback edition.
This edition sold 4,499 copies, accumulating a value of 62,255.29. This began
well, with 1,444 sold in the period ending the 8th October 2011, followed by
3 months of continued good sales of 562, 503 and 877 units respectively.
However, after the period ending the 31st December 2011 the sales decreased.
There is one more flourish of 176 sales in the period ending the 16th June 2012,
due to the Orange Prize victory on the 30th May 2012. The best period of sales,
ending on the 8th October 2011, made up 32.1 % of all sales of this edition
Figure 15 shows the sales figures of The Song of Achilles Paperback edition.
This edition sold 94,070 copies in total, accumulating a value of 556,541.65.
The editions sales started off incredibly well, with 50,298 units sold in only five
months. The particularly impressive periods ending 16th June 2012 and 14th July
2012 recorded 17,519 and 19,503 sales respectively. Clearly the Orange Prize award,
on the 30th May 2012, influenced enormous sales in these periods. The slow decline
of sales over the last 6 months, from the period ending the 23rd March 2013 to that
ending 10th August 2013, highlights how readers are still drawn to this title.
Overview of the Social Media Strategy
Hodder & Stoughtons strategy for this book was to conduct a creative social media
marketing campaign that would both appeal to the loyal fans and generate
excitement. They decided on the StephenKingFaces competition, which offered
fans the chance to be on the cover of The Wind Through the Keyhole. Fans had to
email in headshot images of themselves, and Hodder then selected 8,000 faces to
be included in the back cover of the Hardback version. For the Paperback Hodder &
Stoughton decided to use a similar tactic, and asked fans to send in their reviews to
be included in the edition (Table 8).
Fig. 14 Sales of The Song of Achilles Hardback edition
Fig. 15 Sales of The Song of Achilles Paperback
Table 8 Key dates for Wind through the keyhole
In tandem with these creative methods, Hodder & Stoughton released regular
information about the book many months before its publication. By commenting on
the book so early, Hodder & Stoughton instigated renewed discussion about the
Dark Tower series to generate interest and influence more sales.
The number of tweets for this title surpasses that of The Song of Achilles by 1,667,
showing more engagement from users. The readers were the most active users,
creating 3,166 tweets, 52 % of the total number. This figure was followed by
bloggers & reviewers, who created 2,297 tweets, 38 % of the total number on the
title. The remaining categories are surprising, in that there is a large number of
tweets, 466, by booksellers, and almost none, 40, by libraries. Booksellers evidently
wanted to exploit the sales potential of a new Stephen King book. Another
fascinating statistic is that there are only 13 tweets by Hodder (Fig. 16; Table 9).
Given the early announcement of the publication of this book in November 2009,
there is a long period of Twitter silence at the beginning of the Timeline. There is
then a spike of activity caused by the publication of the Hardback, which reached
330 tweets on the day of release. This spike is protracted, because the frenzied
Twitter activity lasted for many days, from approximately the 10th April 2012 to the
28th of May 2012, thanks to the gradual release of content by Hodder and the fans
anticipation for the books release.
Figure 17 also shows two other significant peaks of activity over 50 tweets. The
first peak of 81 tweets, on the 10th March 2012, was caused by the information that
The Wind Through the Keyhole would be published in 2012. The second peak of 59
tweets, on the 4th of March 2013, was caused both by the publication of the
Paperback on the 28th February 2013, and by Hodder announcing they were giving
away the Dark Tower novels in a competition (Fig. 18).
Fig. 16 Distribution of tweets by user group for The Wind Through the Keyhole
Table 9 Summary of Twitter research for The Wind Through the Keyhole
Fig. 17 Timeline of Twitter activity for The Wind Through the Keyhole
Fig. 18 Timeline of accumulated Twitter activity for The Wind Through the Keyhole
Figure 19 identifies which user groups were active along the timeline of the
book. The activity by readers remained a constant presence throughout the books
life, and the peaks in March 2011 and March 2013 both mainly consisted of reader
engagement. However, the bloggers and reviewers user group saw concentrated
activity before and during the publication of the Hardback, but afterwards their
Timeline of Daily Twi er Ac vity for 'The Wind Through the Keyhole'
Fig. 19 Timeline for The Wind Through the Keyhole by user group
Fig. 20 Comparison of Twitter activity to sales figures for The Wind Through the Keyhole
involvement lessened significantly. Booksellers rarely commented before the
Hardback publication, but became much more active during the hype around it, and
after the event. Clearly they were keen to take advantage of the guaranteed
popularity of the new title (Fig. 20).
Stephen King Facebook
There were no comments on the book on the Hodder & Stoughton Facebook page
(Facebook.com/Hodder-Stoughton) However, Hodder & Stoughton set up a single
Facebook page for all of Stephen Kings books which had 182,546 likes on this
page, though this cannot be seen as being solely because of The Wind Through the
Keyhole. According to Facebook 2534 years old is the most regular age group
visiting the page, which is a reliable representation of Stephen Kings readership
There is no range in users who comment on the books page, only readers and
the page itself. Booksellers and libraries clearly did not see this site as a means of
gathering consumers. Interestingly, the 19 comments made by the page outnumber
the 12 made by readers. One would have expected more reader-based original
activity. The comments were all textual except an image of the audiobook cover.
As Table 11 shows, readers engaged heavily with Hodder & Stoughtons 19
This is huge engagement for only 31 comments made on the entire page.
Figure 21 shows the timeline of likes, re-comments and shares for this book.
Table 10 Facebook comments made on The Wind Through the Keyhole
Table 11 Interactions with the comments on the Facebook page of The Wind Through the Keyhole
Fig. 21 Timeline of Facebook activity
Nielsen Data Research
The Hardback sold 34,236 units, a huge figure for Hardback sales. There is a spike
of immediate activity, selling at its peak 21,083 units in 1 month, in the period
ending the 19th May 2012. This peak is followed by a swift decrease in sales,
Fig. 22 Sales for The Wind Through the Keyhole Hardback edition
Fig. 23 Sales figures for The Wind Through the Keyhole Paperback edition
dropping to 5,549 the next month, and the number continues to trail off with only
one more sales spike around Christmas (Figs. 22, 23).
For the Paperback, there is again one large peak of sales, which reaches a
maximum of 13,112 sales in the period ending the 23rd March 2013. There is again
a swift decline in sales, down to 5,124 and then 1,059 units in the next two months.
Given the 34,236 sales of the Hardback edition, the 21,161 units sold in Paperback
The research provided an insight into the effect of social media activity surrounding
the chosen titles, and also showed the impact of contributing factors such as existing
readerships and literary prize nominations.
The Song of Achilles gained more sales in its lifespan than The Wind Through the
Keyhole, selling 98,569 units (618,796.94) over 55,407 (479,102.02). Even with
the 7 month head-start, this is still a considerable difference. However, The Song of
Achilles generated far less social media activity with its campaigns than The Wind
Through the Keyhole. Bloomsbury amassed 4,737 tweets on Twitter, and 1,011
likes, 157 re-comments and 69 shares on Facebook. This is an impressive tally, but
is insubstantial compared to the 6,040 tweets, 3,482 likes, 1074 re-comments and
327 shares gathered by Hodder & Stoughton. Interestingly, the title that gathered the
most social media interaction did not gain the most sales.
The dominant user group for both titles was readers. This user group created an
average of 54.5 % of all the Twitter statistics for both books, and 52.6 % of all
Facebook comments. On Twitter the Bloggers and Reviewers group also heavily
engaged, especially on The Wind Through the Keyhole as the many fan sites tweeted
Libraries saw more promise in the high quality writing and growing reputation of
The Song of Achilles, and contributed 113 tweets. Booksellers, however, preferred
the quick, guaranteed profits to be gained from The Wind Through the Keyhole and
the Dark Series readership, and created 466 tweets.
The Song of Achilles
The Song of Achilles had no established target audience, so social media marketing
plans werent seen as key to gathering sales and activity was more reactive than
proactive. The team tweeted about the book and tagged Madeline Miller on their
Facebook page, but the level of engagement with readers was very low. By the
release of the Hardback, there were only 45 tweets on the subject of The Song of
Achilles, and only two Facebook comments, both posted by the page. There were
low early sales of the Hardback, with 209 in the period ending the 10th September
2011, though this is unsurprising for a debut novel. There were modest spikes of
1,444 and 877 sales in the periods ending the 8th of October 2011 and 31st
December 2011. In total, The Song of Achilles Hardback edition sold 4,499 units,
far below the equivalent sales of The Wind Through the Keyhole.
This books marketing was content-led, as opposed to being influenced by
established fans. However, once The Song of Achilles was picked on the Orange
Prize longlist on the 7th March 2012, Bloomsbury began to engage more actively
with Facebook and Twitter. Before the longlist announcement there had been steady
activity on social media with 556 tweets and 13 comments on Facebook, but by the
time of the Orange Prize victory, on the 30th May 2012, the number of tweets had
risen to 1,602 and Facebook comments to 43. The link to the Orange Prize allowed
Bloomsbury access to a new, marketable audience who had heard of the prize, and
thus activity on both Twitter and Facebook increased enormously as Bloomsbury
engaged with them. After the prize the marketing team added press reviews, images
and videos of Madeline Miller, along with many posts about the book. The Orange
Prizes influence, combined with the energetic response by Bloomsbury on their
social media sites, dramatically affect the number of Paperbacks sold.
The Paperback edition was published on the 12th April 2012, 5 days before the
Orange Prize shortlist announcement, and went on to sell 94,070 copies. The periods
ending the 21st April 2012 and 19th May 2012 saw good sales of 3,102 and 10,174
respectively. However, the Orange Prize victory gave a further boost to sales, which
rose to 17,519 and 19,503 in the next 2 months. These heavy sales figures, unlike
with The Wind Through the Keyhole, did not instantly fall away, but lasted for
several months, only falling to below 1,000 sales in April 2013. Bloomsburys
reactive social media marketing strategy worked in capitalizing on the Orange
Prize wave of sales and online conversation.
The social media marketing campaign for The Song of Achilles was more natural
in its progression, with readers gathering around the book after recognition of the
books quality, and thus sales and social media activity grew gradually. This steady
growth was not experienced in Hodder & Stoughtons campaign. The Wind Through
the Keyhole was influenced most heavily by Hodder & Stoughtons input which
appealed directly to a specific community of readers. Therefore both the social
media activity and the titles sales figures consist of sharp peaks, as members of the
engaged community bought the book quickly, and werent followed by other
readers. Bloomsbury offered a very interesting observation about Facebook in
The likes grew once the book won the Orange Prize implying that people
engaged with the page once they knew about the book. there isnt really
any strong commercial benefit to having people engage with the page once
they have the bought the book. Having said that this will be a useful tool if
we publish a future book by the same author.
This suggests that social media marketing, and especially Facebook, is not
effective at gathering readers from scratch, and rather the real value to social media
comes through its ability to converse with and exploit established communities.
Bloomsbury added more content onto their social media sites, with 52 tweets to
Hodder & Stoughtons 13, and with 42 Facebook comments to Hodder &
Stoughtons 19. Readers reactions, particularly on Facebook, underline the
difference between having a pre-existing audience and not. Hodder & Stoughtons
comments gained 3,476 likes to Bloomsburys 970, and 1,073 re-comments to
Bloomsburys 145. Clearly there was an avid, active audience for Hodder &
Stoughtons comments, but interestingly this did not result in more individual
comments by readers. There were 31 comments in total, with only 12 written by
readers, which is tiny compared to the 100 reader posts on The Song of Achilless
The Song of Achilles benefited little from social media in its early months, but it
grew into a vital platform around the Orange Prize. Also, once established, this
platform can then offer a starting-point for any future campaigns with the same
The Wind Through the Keyhole
The huge Stephen King fan base was an influential factor in the social media
campaign, and the titles sales. Given the mega fan culture surrounding King and
his Dark Tower series, Hodder & Stoughton had a gift- wrapped target audience
to whom they could tailor a marketing campaign. The StephenKingFaces
campaign, launched from Facebook, played to Kings passionate fans for it allowed
them to not only collect his latest offering, but also appear in it. This masterful
campaigns impact was evident in both the social media reaction of 816 likes and
616 re-comments, and 21,083 sales in the month of publication.
There was considerable activity around the Stephen King Books Facebook
page, but it was very concentrated and focused on what the publisher offered. This
could be due to the many other social media pages and sites which act as forums and
conversation platforms for Stephen Kings novels. Unofficial pages like The Dark
Tower Series on Facebook, which received 6,662 likes and 912 comments when it
released The Wind Through the Keyhole cover art, may be where most of Kings
fans creativity is unleashed.
Hodder & Stoughton also used this new Dark Tower title to remind readers of
the series, and get them talking about it online. The first mention of the books
potential existence was on the 9th November 2009 on Twitter. From this point on
Hodder & Stoughton methodically released pieces of information about the
upcoming title, including extracts and information on the StephenKingFaces
campaign, whetting fans appetites right up to the publication date. This generated
hype on social media, and influenced 2,457 tweets before the release of the
Hardback on the 24th April 2012. This is an incredible achievement for Hodder &
Stoughton, as they resurrected conversation about a finished series, and gathered a
large, active social media audience awaiting the release of the book.
The Hardback sold 34,264 copies (384,568.13), according to Nielsen Bookscan,
with an incredible 29,048 sales in the first 3 months. However, the rate of sales
dropped very quickly, and by its fourth month fewer than 1,000 copies were sold a
month. Clearly the excitement amongst Kings committed fan base was so high that
the vast majority bought books immediately, resulting in the 21,083 sales in
1 month. This highlights how effective the Hodder & Stoughton social media
campaign was at appealing to Kings readership, for 38 % of all sales occurred in
the Hardbacks first month of publication. However, there was a sharp decline in
sales after the peak, suggesting that the hype around the book had not spread
significantly to consumers outside the existing fans of Stephen King. The Paperback
edition sold 21,161 copies, which in comparison to the Hardback seems
disappointing. Within just six months the number of Paperback sales per month
dropped to only 214 units. Clearly the success of the Hardback with the target
audience negatively affected the sales of the Paperback. These results show that the
campaign was not as effective at gaining new readers as it had been at stoking the
excitement of Kings fans. Once this community had purchased the book, the sales
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. However it is much less effective at marketing new books, written by
debut authors, with no existing readership. The Song of Achilles campaign was
reactive because it was a debut novel, and Bloomsbury did not see it as a key,
commercially beneficial avenue for the novel. However, once there was a readership
established who were talking about the book and the Orange Prize award, then
Bloomsburys presence on social media became more valuable. The Wind Through
the Keyhole campaign shows just how effective creative and well-targeted social
media marketing can be, and its impact can be seen in the huge number of early
sales after the StephenKingFaces campaign. However, even in these successful
circumstances social media marketings impact is limited by the size of the specific
audience being targeted. The true strength of social media in these case studies was
in building and spreading hype amongst established audiences.
In these case studies, the title with less engagement from readers on social media
sold more titles, because of the outside influence of the Orange Prize which could
then be utilized. Clearly social media cannot be relied on alone to market books
effectively, especially when such an enormous increase in sales can be influenced
by these external factors. The incredible achievements of Hodder & Stoughtons
campaign in earning 34,236 Hardback sales in its first two periods, show social
media marketings potential. However, the sharp drop in sales and low number of
Paperbacks sold highlight that social media marketings reach is limited by the
communities it is used to access.
Despite the crowded market social media offers a creative platform for publishers
to exploit as they wish and once established, a titles social media presence can be
used as a platform to exploit any future social activity that may occur. Therefore,
though it may not always return a commercial benefit, social media marketing is
If the publishing industry continues to be social, mobile and digital, social
medias ability to exploit niche communities through these platforms will remain
relevant. It is unlikely social media will ever be relied on solely to market books
alone and should be considered as part of a broader strategy but despite this, there
can be no doubt that this medium offers exciting and creative opportunities for
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