It’s getting harder and harder to find examples where social media does, actually, sell stuff. One area where it is NOT hard to find examples is in publishing. Now I’m a bit biased here, as I landed a book deal with Crown Publishing specifically because I sold a few thousands books on my own using nothing but social media (so this is a simultaneous full & open disclosure, combined with a shameless self-promoting plug — the best of both sides of social media in one fell swoop).
Now right off the bat, our example blurs the lines, because the example is RULE THE WEB by Mark Frauenfelder, published by St. Martin’s Press. If you haven’t heard of this guy, he’s a co-founder and regular blogger for BoingBoing.net. If you haven’t heard of BoingBoing.net, put down your abacus and stable the horse, it’s time for you to get caught up. BoingBoing.net is arguably the most-read blog on the planet (and since we only know of blogs on this planet, that makes it the most-read blog in the universe … nice work, Mark!).
“We built a dedicated Web site for it,” said David Moldawer, editor of RULE THE WEB. “We used a blog to offer the same advice as the book, as well as a live podcast with interviews and a traditional, short, regular podcast with Web tips.”
“We did extensive blogger outreach, both to people in our personal networks as well as to bloggers in the lifehack/Web tip arena,” Moldawer said.
RULE THE WEB peaked at #2 on Amazon’s “Computers & Internet” list, and hit #51 overall.
When it comes to these results, it’s impossible to tell if social media links happened because of the book’s content, or because of Frauenfelder’s status as internet royalty.
And, of course, Fraunfelder posted about the book on BoingBoing.net, but the big sales peaks came when other heavyweight sites talked about the book.
“While Mark’s own posting about the book on Boing Boing certainly also boosted sales on Amazon, the mentions on the other Top 100 lifehack sites definitely had a sharper effect,” Moldawer said. “The lesson, which many of us already know, is that having other people talk about you is always more effective than talking about yourself.”
And don’t forget the obligatory video book promo on YouTube. The one listed here generated some 13,000+ views.
JUDGEMENT: DOES IT SELL BOOKS? Hard to say. Frauenfelder would have sold a boat-load of books with or without the extra efforts by St. Martin’s Press. The spike charting on Amazon that coincided with online media mentions in Lifehacker and 43Folders, however, does point to a strong correlation.
Those mentions, though, are more PR than social media initiatives – if you count Lifehacker as an established media outlet, which I do. Getting a post in Lifehacker is not a “social media initiative,” – it’s the same things as a New York Times book review, an established media source talking about a product.