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Hachette’s Twitter program opens new chapter in digital bookselling

By
December 12, 2014

photo 1[3]_opt-7Hachette Book Group’s plan to sell books on Twitter may pose a challenge to Amazon, the leading bookseller, but it is too early to declare the move a game-changer in the digital bookselling industry.

Hachette, which publishes the works of such best-selling authors as James Patterson and Michael Connelly, said it would join forces with Gumroad, a company that allows creators to sell their products directly to their social media followers without leaving the Twitter platform. The move reflects traditional publishers’ recognition of social media as a vehicle for reaching on-the-go mobile-savvy audiences that still enjoy reading books.

“Facebook Commerce has proven that typically social media and commerce don’t mix,” said Danielle McCormick, senior director of marketing at Skava. “With such a powerful platform with large audiences it is understandable why retailers would try and tap into it.

“But after much fanfare Facebook Commerce quickly died a death with many retailers launching and then quickly pulling their Facebook stores,” she said. “Context is everything. People come to social media platforms to socialize and typically to not buy.”

Pushing back
While social media is a great way for retailers and brands to drive brand awareness and keep their audience engaged, a social bookselling push can have the opposite effect. Consumers could push back against retailers who try to change the channel’s nature, Ms. McCormick said.

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Bringing top authors to Twitter.

“Books are now digital goods which are instantly available to download, which is different from buying apparel or home goods,” Ms. McCormick said. “It will be an interesting experience to watch and if it is successful it will open the doors for many other digital goods to be sold via Twitter.”

A limited number of Hachette titles will be sold on Twitter through its recently launched “buy” button.  A purchase initially could include an exclusive bonus item, such as an original manuscript page from an author, the New York Times reported.

Many social media users still see sites like Twitter, which introduced its “buy” button this fall, as a place to share ideas and experiences, not to sell merchandise.

Early efforts to roll out e-commerce on social media platforms have lagged.

On Black Friday less than 1 percent of retailers’ traffic came from social media platforms.

Although the social nature of book clubs could cause social media-centered book sales to resonate with the target audience, predicting the outcome of programs on emerging technologies has proven challenging.

“Everyone thought Facebook Commerce would be a success and the consumers didn’t react to it the way everyone had anticipated,” Ms. McCormick said. “With any new venture be prepared to try and fail fast.

“The operational costs of trying to set up an initiative like this would not be very great, so it is definitely worth testing,” she said. “If consumers were rewarded with points for sharing this could really help drive sales.”

For Twitter, taking on Hachette’s book sales continues the platform’s serious dive into mobile commerce, a push that included its launching of the “buy” button and its recent acquisition of payment start-up Cardspring.

“Some of the main reasons Amazon has seen such success is both their prices and convenience,” said Esha Shah, manager of mobile strategy at Fetch. “Hachette will need to take this into account if they want to compete with the retail giant, and perhaps consider offering last-minute deals or special offers which include signed or limited edition copies of books.

“They will also need to make sure the checkout process is simple and mobile optimized if they want to be sure consumers carry out purchases directly from the social platform.”

Social activity
Twitter’s commerce mechanism will allow authors and book retailers alike to see a correlation between social activity and book sales.

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Targeting mobile-savvy book lovers.

Many consumers, however, are wary of Twitter’s “buy” button, saying the platform is increasingly becoming a marketplace rather than a place to share ideas.

“Hachette should definitely consider a targeting strategy on Twitter, perhaps targeting offers to people who are discussing specific books or authors, as to not make ads feel too intrusive or spammy,” Ms. Shah said.

Caitlyn Bohannon of Mobile Commerce Daily contributed to this article

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York.

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