Publishing in particular helps highlight the power of the recommendation engine that is social media.
My Kindle helps illustrate this point. Like a lot of other people, Amazon’s wildly successful e-reader has boosted my consumption of books. A lot of it has to do with convenience; my latest download, the next volume in Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, weighs in at 736 pages. But my Kindle sure didn’t feel any heavier after the book wirelessly arrived on its hard drive last week, so it and other books-slash-doorstops on my reading list all fit neatly into my backpack.
Yet Amazon also knows only too well that reading is now a solitary and social activity. When you finish a book on a Kindle, its software gives you a chance to tweet/share your thoughts on it. And a lot has already been written about Amazon.com’s user-generated reviews, which can be interesting reading on their own. (The comments on Caro’s new book, as of this writing, are split: half love the book, the other half are giving it one star because they believe LBJ was behind John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Caro apparently refuses to address that in the book. As I said, interesting.)
Goodreads.com is the latest example of real-world book clubs morphing into powerful online communities. Goodreads, which launched in 2006 and bills itself as the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations, has received a lot of publicity in recent weeks for its part in discovering “Fifty Shades of Grey,” E.L. James’ soft-core S&M fantasy that is the latest bookselling sensation.
According to Goodreads features editor Jessica Donaghy, that ability to influence the overall discussion on books is due to the online discussions happening between bookworms. “One of the top pieces of feedback that we hear from our members is how much they trust the book reviews on Goodreads,” Donaghy told Splash Media in an email. ” Because they are written by fellow book lovers, there is this sense that the reviews are written by people you can relate to.”
Indeed, Goodreads (with 8 million members who have added 280 million books on the site) was founded on the belief that some of the best book recommendations come from friends: when you check out a book on the site, reviews from your friends are shown first. When you first sign up at Goodreads, rating books on a five-star scale gets you recommendations from the site’s algorithms. Adding friends puts the human touch into the mix.
The social touch comes with the ability to follow those whose reviews are trusted. This has expanded the Goodreads universe Donaghy said. “Members have connected all over the US and also internationally as a result. All of this was not possible before the existence of Goodreads, which offers the chance to find book recommendations from readers outside your immediate social circle.”
And of course, you can sign in to Goodreads with your Facebook, Twitter or Google+ accounts. “We designed Goodreads to be social from the start. You can share your reviews (and reading status updates, books you are adding to read and book ratings) with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. We were also one of the companies invited to create an app for the launch of Facebook Timeline. All of this increases the conversation about books.”
Donaghy says she and her editorial staff always see an increase in those conversations at this time of the year, as the buzz starts to build for the summer reading season. Generating early interest on Goodreads’ communities: Tana French’s “Broken Harbor,” Chris Cleave’s “Gold” and Robert Goolrick’s “Heading Out To Wonderful.”
People buy from people they trust. Whether it’s books or your business’ products/services, social media is writing a new chapter in the Big Book of Recommendations.