The emergence of digital technologies has had a dramatic impact on the communication industry. In the publishing sector, the adoption of these technologies, which include computers, the internet and software, has transformed the process of production, packaging, distribution and marketing of content, resulting in significant efficiency gains while expanding the size of audience and increasing sale volumes. One relatively new type of digital technologies that has gained much popularity in the world of communication is social media, which are internet-based applications that enable people to create content, edit, organize, share or exchange information, ideas, pictures and videos in virtual communities(IGI). Despite the ‘social’ and less formal nature of these platforms, its application in the publishing field is gaining much currency. This essay seeks to shed some insights on this media and how key stakeholders in the publishing world–authors, editors and publishers–can use the tools offered by social media to enhance their work.
Although a relatively new technology, the birth of social media has revolutionized modern communication. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines social media as “forms of electronic communication (as well as sites for social networking and micro-blogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content (as video)” (Merriam-Webster). Common types of social media include internet forums, social network services, weblogs, social blogs, wikis, micro-blogging, podcast, video and social bookmarking. Some of the popular technologies or tools used in social media-based communication include blogging, photo/music-sharing, vlogs, wall-posting, crowd-sourcing, and voice over IP.
Social media differs from traditional or industrial media such as newspapers, television and film, not least in three ways. First, compared to traditional media, where contents are mediated by professional publishers who often have to maintain some kind of back-and forth interaction with the generators of content before publishing the revised content after meeting certain standards, in social media, content generation is easier, less or unrestricted, and less or unmediated, resulting in high variance in terms of the quality of material produced–that is, from very high to very low quality materials. Second, and relatedly, unlike traditional media, where the time lag between content generation and publication is usually long, social media has immediate effect in the sense that content production and publishing are instantaneous. Lastly, content produced on social media have little or no permanence compared to traditional media, where content cannot be altered once they are published.
The emergence of social media has brought many benefits to users. For example, it has facilitated global exchange of information and ideas, promoting greater, instant and perhaps more intimate social interaction. In addition, many users are using social media for economic reasons. For example, many job searchers and freelancers are increasingly relying on social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter to market themselves and find employment opportunities or contracts, while employers are also turning to such platforms to find and recruit qualified job seekers. Similarly, many companies and institutions are exploiting the advantages offered by social media to market themselves or their products with the view to expanding their reach, while building rewarding relationships with their clients or customers.
However, in spite of these and several other advantages offered by social media, there are limitations that have led to several criticisms against the use of social media. Some of these counter arguments include its shortfalls in privacy; its ability to cause distractions, facilitating laziness as well as its ability to decrease people’s face-to-face communication skills.
Despite these drawbacks, however, social media offers several unique and strategic advantages over traditional media that could be capitalized upon by stakeholders in the publishing industry to enhance their work. In exploring the benefits the use of social media could offer to the publishing industry, this essay examines how the major stakeholders in the publishing field can use social media as a tool to enhance their work. For the purpose of this essay, the definition of social media is limited to social media sites such as LinkedIn and Facebook; Blogs and micro-blogs such as WordPress, Bloggers and Twitter; and content communities like YouTube.
Potential Contributions of Social Media to the Publishing Industry
In examining the potential role social media could play in the publishing industry, this essay will focus on three important stakeholders in the publishing chain, namely, authors, editors and publishers, to improve their work. These stakeholders are of interest because they form the core human elements in the industry.
Authorship is considered very important, and is seen to have some social, academic, and financial implications on a published work (ICMJE). Whilst authorship, particularly book authorship, remains a challenging enterprise that only the already-successful authors appear to excel in, the growth of social media has provided new possibilities that can be leveraged by potential and existing authors to optimize the quality and reach of their content in the following ways.
First, social media can serve as an important research tool for authors and writers. For example, social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, through their news feed, could provide authors and writers such as journalists, columnists and book authors unfettered access to vital information, including (developing or breaking) news, personal stories and other happenings that could lead to content generation and dissemination. Writers such as journalists, columnists and reporters, by way of gathering information for their piece of writing, could be assisted by news and information provided through the various social media sites. Despite the fact that the reliability of these sites as an authentic information source is low or risky, they can provide vital leads on important or interesting topics that authors can further investigate into, with the potential of publishing substantial content such as articles and books from them. In addition, discussions that take place on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc., can give authors an idea of topics and subjects that are (or could be) of interest to their potential or existing audience, serving as basis for generating and publishing contents that can be of great value or appeal to their target audience.
Second, social media platforms allow several authors to connect and interact with each other (Media). One important element authors might need at one point in their writing profession is inspiration from other authors for their writing and blog posts. One way of getting this inspiration is by visiting other authors’ blogs (Leo Babauta). These interactions do not only serve as a source of inspiration for authors, but a knowledge acquisition process to improve their writing skills through the ideas, personal stories, materials and experiences that are shared.
Authors, through their blogs, can also open up for readers’ reviews on their subject, articles, book, etc. Through these discussions with readers and visitors to their blogs, they can revise their publications based on the reviews and suggestions from readers, or consider them for future publications. For instance, some revisions made in The Chicago manual of style, are based on readers’ commentaries, questions and reviews on their blog (CMOS).
Also, authors can assist publishers in book marketing by increasing their visibility and awareness through social media. Through their interaction with followers and friends on sites like Twitter and Facebook respectively, a discussion on a book that is about to be published or has already been published can draw the attention of many potential readers to buy the book. To enhance author’s popularity and visibility on the web, it has been revealed that social media impacts the overall search engine optimization (SEO) strategies (Chandler, 2013). It shows that every blog post that receives a lot of attention is said to be an important factor in Google ranking algorithm, and is more likely to increase its ranking as a result of its popularity on the various social media platforms. Popularity here would mean a number of likes on their Facebook pages and posts, several re-tweets to their posts, etc. With a well-established audience, authors will undoubtedly increase sales when their books are published.
Finally, these social media sites can open employment opportunities for freelance writers. Sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., is a good platform for freelance authors and writers to announce their presence, by way of informing potential employers of their skills and abilities. The search tab in Twitter serves as a great tool for freelance authors in their job search. This search is simply done by typing “freelance_writer_wanted” in the search tab (Hines, 2013). The pop ups after this search could serve as a source of employment for freelance authors. Still, on job opportunities, a freelance author’s profile shared on LinkedIn and Twitter can also be a way of informing other professionals and potential employers about their qualities and experiences.
While we look at the benefit of social media to authors and publishers who are mostly seen at the beginning and end stages of the publishing process, there is the need to also look at its benefits to editors, whose work is to filter, condense and improve upon manuscripts from authors. In this digital world, a critical look at social media for editors would be of great benefit to the digital publishing workflow (Mrva-Montoya, 2012). This workflow is said to be a means of promoting “higher editorial accuracy, higher production standards and greater cost and time efficiencies” (Mrva-Montoya, 2012).
First of all, editors who participate in conversations on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook could inform them on important and interesting topics that would help modify their manuscripts (Elsevier). This could also serve as a good source of reference for them, in their editorial advice to authors, by way of providing interesting information and stories that people would like to know.
Moreover, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, etc. could serve as discussion platforms for some arguable editorial rules on spelling, punctuation and grammar, among others. Editor’s online engagement regarding the appropriate use of language, tenses, grammar etc, can help their numerous views, followers and readers to assess their professionalism and also enhance their social media presence which will enable them to build their brands through their posts and constant interaction with potential audience on the various social media platforms.
As editors build their brand through these sites, employment opportunities for freelance editors could be opened. As mentioned in the case of authors, social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc, would be a good platform for freelance editors to announce their presence as a means of informing people of their skills and abilities.
The trend of online purchases have facilitated the need for publishers to market and sell their products through the use of various social media platforms. It has, therefore, become paramount for publishers to go beyond company websites and reach potential readers on sites where they spend much of their time: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, YouTube, and other social sites. Despite the fact that social media has its downsides, it is a great tool for book and magazine publishers to promote their publications and authors.
Also, publishers are able to engage readers in ways that many traditional avenues of sales and marketing cannot offer. For publishers who sell their products online, social media allows them to respond quickly to comments and complaints from their blogs, Twitter, and Facebook page.
In addition, these social media sites also serve as an online interaction platform with customers, with the purpose of promoting a publisher’s brand. Publishers’ sites like blogs, videos uploaded on their YouTube pages, etc., will enable them to have much time of interaction with their intended audience and already existing users.
To sum it up, Penny Sansevieri, founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., an online book marketing and publicity firm, in his presentation at Digital Book World 2014 on the most and effective social media and marketing tools publishers actually use, said “It used to be that you have to be everywhere, but now you just want to be everywhere that matters to you and your audience because the tools take so much bandwidth” (DBW, 2014). This virtual community social media build for publishers and their readers is a platform that is capable of promoting their publications, which will undoubtedly increase their sales.
The use of social media serves as a great potential in enhancing the publishing process of authorship, editing, marketing and sales of magazine and book titles. Although social media has its drawbacks as mentioned earlier on in the essay, the above discussion has outlined the numerous ways through which authors, editors and publishers can benefit highly from this networking media. Thus, curating ideas for authorship, building online presence, easing the editorial process, marketing and selling of publications to a wider audience and engaging audience on a frequent basis. These are a few but important benefits social media will enhance and add up to the publishing process. Exploring into this media is one means of advancing the publishing industry, to increase productivity as well as meet the growing expectations of audience.
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