Friday, April 19, 2013

How to be social (media)

So I've been thinking about this Youtube video for the last couple of days and I've reached the following non-conclusions: generations matter. Mediums matter. Content matters. And we, as content consumers, are pretty integral to this whole thing*. Sanne (the vlogger in this video) makes the strong point that social media is not only important, it's critical. The way she stresses the fact that many publishers are trying to use social media but failing... it's an interesting argument.

There's a lot in the video that I find striking. Maybe it's because I've been writing about books for so long (writing versus any other form of media) and maybe it's because I was just thinking about social media and the reviewer-publisher relationship the other day, but it seems to me like Sanne is viewing things differently from me, even though we should be coming from the same place.

And so I'm wondering. Do social media sites really influence the way people read (or the way we consume any content, for the matter)? My instinct would be to say "no". Book blogs, I could argue, are much more in the way of traditional print media. Except that's obviously not true. Some book blogs, yes, mostly eschew the notion of social media, but many (I'd even say by now most) book blogs have integrated their blogging with Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, Pintrest, etc. Bloggers tweet publishers to let them know that they just reviewed one of their books. Bloggers host giveaways and contests through Facebook. They display every one of their books-read on Goodreads. And, of course, the blogging itself. Is blogging really akin to a print, critical review? Or is it something, as Sanne notes, more personal? And more believable as a result?

Obviously there are generalizations at hand here. While I would agree with Sanne that I personally would be more inclined to take advice from a reviewer I know (even if only superficially, anonymously, through the internet), it's not always true. Simply put, there are bloggers I've followed for years that I don't trust (different tastes, rating inflation, etc.). The personal, social aspect isn't what convinces me; I'm certain of most reviewers' sincerity. What convinces me is a good track record. You can tweet as much as you like, but it won't change the quality of your reviews.

Generations matter. I belong to a generation that was raised on the internet. We have been encouraged from an early age to share - share content, share our opinions, share our statuses... share everything. This is a concept my parents find foreign (and somewhat appalling). This is a concept even I find somewhat jarring at times (hence my anonymity and lack of serious social media interaction**). But the fact that a generation of readers has been raised expecting information to flow freely influences how that generation will behave as consumers. John Green's popularity is a perfect example of this. He is a rock-star writer for many, many, many readers, in large part because of his prolific and open online persona. He has made his personality and his life part of his author profile. At the end of the day, it's so much easier to enjoy and appreciate a novel when you like and understand its author. I understand John Green after having watched hundreds of his videos - it colors how I read his books and how I view his characters. How can it not?

Mediums matter. Reading a long post about my thoughts on social media and book reviewing might be boring to some people, but if I used my (crappy) webcam and did cool jump-cuts, it could be more accessible to them. Reading a book review on a blog could be more engaging than a review in the NYT Book Review. Getting a recommendation from a Facebook friend could mean more than Goodread's recommendation algorithm. It's entirely subjective, but mediums do matter. Otherwise we wouldn't distinguish.

Which leaves me with one last thought: publishers.

I'll probably be discussing this more in depth over the next few weeks***, but Sanne tosses out a small reference to the reviewer-publisher relationship near the midpoint of the video. She reminds reviewers that they can just ask for review copies - they don't necessarily need to be offered by the publishers. This is something I've known about and seen over the years, but I'll be honest that I never really made the connection between asking the publishers for review copies and social media. Except it's sort of the same thing, isn't it? It's all about sharing - sharing with the publisher that you want to read a book and sharing with your blog followers (or Youtube subscribers) that you liked (or disliked) a book. Publishers give out books for review because reviews benefit them. Why shouldn't they want reviewers approaching them, essentially guaranteeing them publicity and attention? Why shouldn't they use social media to determine who best to review their books?

I'm curious to hear from those who use social media about how it influences their book buying and/or their book reviewing. I'm curious to hear from people who avoid social media to understand why they don't use it. I'm curious about how publishers view the social media aspect and I'm curious about how an older generation - one that didn't grow up with the instant gratification and constant sharing we know today - views this growing reliance on social media. Thoughts?

* My subconscious is clearly trying to remind me to finish my math homework, yes thank you I noticed the word integral, now go away.
** Also my early aversion to use of the words "I" and "me". I've gotten over it since I first started this blog.
*** Or months. Or years, since my track record is not very good in this area...


  1. I can't watch the video because I am work (shhh!) but going off your thoughts, I'd say I do think social media influences a good many people in their book choices and how they read. I am GenX and the internet didn't take off until I was in college already (I still remember the sound of a dial-up modem) so being online is pretty natural though I am always cautious because I do value my privacy. But I agree that generations matter but they aren't hard and fast indicators. Mediums matter too. I think people who like to read, however, don't have a bias against lots of text like people who don't read much often seem to. I would much prefer to read a long article than watch a 15 minute video of the same thing.

    Since I have been blogging I have read more variety and than I ever have and that is mainly from reading blogs. I've discovered a few books through GoodReads follows and a few through Twitter but blogs is where it is at for me. I also read formal print book reviews and essays, but I'd say that 30-40% of what I read I learned about on someone's blog at some time.

  2. Frankly, I am amazed how many books I buy based on social media...probably Goodreads most of all, but Twitter has it's place, as does FB and blogs. I rarely purchase a book from a formal book review (ie, NYT) unless bloggers confirm they like it.

  3. Great video. I've taken the initiative a couple of times to ask for an ARC (once emailed an author who was looking for reviewers, and another time - admittedly a few years ago when I wasn't blogging so much - a publisher) but never got a reply so haven't really attempted it since. I didn't actually know there were "book tubers", I thought it was bloggers who also vlogged, but that's pretty cool and must take guts! I'm influenced on occasion by Twitter, but mostly my reading through recommendations stems from blogs themselves.

  4. I haven't had a chance to watch the video yet, but great post. I'm another GenX blogger/reader - and like Stefanie I remember dial-up modems and a time when I didn't even have (or really need) a computer or cell phone. So I always take with a grain of salt the suggestion that social media is so necessary that everyone has to be on it.

    It is an efficient way to get information.

    In addition to the blog I have Twitter and Goodreads account associated with the blog. The Goodreads account is mainly just to track my books, though I do try to repost reviews there. I subscribe to about 10 different podcasts. I’ve known about vlogs for some time, but have never had much of an interest in them. I find myself primarily using most forms of social media, Twitter and podcasts for example, as resources. They're great places to learn about upcoming books, small presses that publish the kinds of books I'm interested in reading/reviewing, and authors who haven't necessarily come to America yet. Twitter is also a way to connect with other like-minded bloggers and book "professionals" and exchange information in real time. But I view Twitter as raw information, not necessarily something I do because I love doing it. Podcasts have slightly more entertainment value, but more on the scale of an NPR radio show.

    On the other hand, I’ve always read book reviews (and blogs) for pleasure. I enjoy a book review as I would an essay, regardless of whether or not I go on to read the book being discussed. In my mind a good review introduces ideas and is more than a plot synopsis. It creates/provides a larger context in which to read, if that makes sense? I don’t see social media as doing that yet.


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