Discovery Through Social Media

While listening to presentations at Digital Book World's Book Marketing Summit in January about the role of social media venues in book marketing, I got to thinking about how very different Twitter and Facebook are.

One slide I saw showed Twitter a distant third behind Facebook and StumbleUpon as sources of social media traffic to specific websites, but the two I find myself on most as a reader (and author) are Facebook and Twitter. I randomly mused in Notepad about how the two I use most are so different from one another, and how I am learning the language of each – and that despite both being social networks, they function quite differently. 

The use of Twitter and Facebook specifically showed up yet again at Tools of Change in the presentation from Goodreads talking about how readers discover books:

According to the slide, Twitter and Facebook account for 16% (FB) and 9% (TW) of reader discovery of books. Most popular sources: known author or a friend offline recommending.

As Goodreads put it, “Good for engaging with authors, not great for finding new books.”

Then, yesterday, the Romance Writers Report arrived with an article titled “Nine Things You Don't Know About Romance Readers.” I think there's more than nine things that I don't know, so I was very curious.

The facts were culled from the 2011 Romance Book Consumer survey, “a web-based survey of romance book buyers conducted August through September 2011.” They plan another round in spring 2012. (Members of RWA can download the complete report as a PDF from the members-only MyRWA/files section of the website.)

One piece of the article that jumped out at me:

41% of romance buyers report having visited an author website. A proportional 83% do not, and will not, follow an author on Twitter, while 70% say the same for Facebook. (Emphasis mine.)


As I said, that's not true for me. Looking back over the reviews I've written in the past few months, I discovered Truths and Roses from a Facebook ad, Lord and Lady Spy because of a sale alert on Twitter (I buy a lot of $.99-$2.00 books based on sale alerts), and I bought a lot of Marion Lennox's backlist because of people saying how much they liked her entire Banksia Bay series when I said I'd purchased one of them. And I remember buying and reading Wild and Steamy because of Twitter and Facebook conversation about the price of the anthology and how much of a steal it was given the quality of the stories inside.

In addition, Ruthie Knox, Julie Anne Long, Dev Bentham are all authors I discovered via Twitter conversations. I often ask on Facebook about what people are reading or listening to, and invariably I end up adding another handful of books to my reading list. So I am guessing that while there aren't many of us on Twitter and Facebook talking about book recommendations, there are some, because I'm definitely in that group. (My own discovery of books on Twitter and Facebook also clearly indicates to me that I spend a lot of time online – but I knew that). What surprised me about the data presented was how much more I rely on social media than on the sources that were more common among other readers. 

That said, my process of discovery of books is probably different because I review books. Thus I receive pitches from authors and publishers prior to release dates, and I get a good amount of LOOK AT THIS BOOK CONFETTI AND HOORAY! email from publicists (not that I mind – who doesn't want confetti and hooray about a book?). I am alerted to books before they are released. So my perspective is already a poor sampling of anecdata (™ Brett Sandusky) because of those influences. That said, I know there are others who use social media as a major source of book recommendation, and I'm curious how those numbers might change in future years.

I also think it's important to examine how different Facebook and Twitter are from one another – let alone other networks like StumbleUpon, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. To me, Facebook and Twitter are very different, like adjacent neighborhoods in the same town that are very distinct. Different restaurants, stores, styles, and residents – not better or worse, just different. These two communities are distinct from one another in very specific ways, with a little bit of overlap – and that overlap does influence my discovery of books.

One difference I've noticed is in time lag. If I log into Twitter, I'll scroll back about an hour or so, then stop. Beyond an hour, the news is old, unless something is happening that continues to evolve and change, like a conference or the fall of a government in the Middle East.

But on Facebook, I scroll back in my timeline for a day or more. The interactions on Facebook last longer. So if someone is talking about a book they've enjoyed reading on Facebook, and they mentioned it yesterday, I'm more likely to see it than if they mentioned it yesterday on Twitter and I wasn't logged in to see it right then.

I'm not going to argue with data from three sources just because it doesn't fit my own patterns of discovery exactly, but it makes me curious whether there are more of us exchanging book recommendations through social media than are reported in these surveys, and whether that's one more form of discovery that will continue to evolve quickly year to year.

What do you think? Do you use social media to find books? What books have you discovered via social media – or do you prefer other methods of discovery (aside from review blogs, obviously)?

Poll! Do you use social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads) to find books to read? 


Random Musings

Comments are Closed

  1. 1

    I’ve found a book or two on Facebook ads but mostly I find them from Groups or Pages I belong to on Facebook.  They’re either being pimped by the author or recommended by other readers.  If it grabs me I’ll check it out.

  2. 2

    My facebook and twitter communities are quite different – the information that flows through them reflects this and I use them differently. This means I learn and respond to different things from these two social media. I think you are right, we need to not just talk about ‘social media’ but differentiate the type of social media much more clearly when trying to understand data like this. I am also interested in your point about time/temporality being important to discovery; that there is only a short life cycle for information.

  3. 3

    Thanks for this. Just this morning I was intruded on a Fifty Shades of Grey twitter convo and gave my opinion and a follower of mine who I like and follow for her decor tips (not books) asked what I was talking about I gave the link and she said it seemed interesting and her type of book and would check it out. I think Twitter is a great place for book recs if you are a convo voyeur like I am.

  4. 4
    ECSpurlock says:

    Actually this gives me hope. One of the things that turned me off of trying to get published was being required to plunge into the flame pit of social media. Maybe if publishers see this doesn’t necessarily help sales, they won’t demand it as much.

  5. 5

    I absolutely pick up new books from social media—especially Goodreads, where I am an active user. Also, the converse—I SHARE new books all the time out across social media as well, since I post short reviews of everything I read to both Goodreads and my blog. And those prop out to Twitter and Facebook and tumblr and my LJ and Dreamwidth accounts.

    Hi, I’m “Anna the Bookreading and Social Network Nerd Piper”, did I mention? :D

  6. 6

    As soon as I find an author I like, I follow them on Twitter.  In fact, I first discovered Shana Galen because I did a #habo for virgin heroes and she had one, and I found Tessa Dare because Courtney Milan recommended her.  I’m also very likely to catch authors I like based on author recommendations and follow other amateur authors I picked up when I was doing NaNoWriMo.  But then, this isn’t my “personal” Twitter (although I use it a LOT more than my personal one) and I don’t follow non-author celebrities or video games or whatever on this account.  I don’t and will not follow authors on Facebook, because that’s my “personal” Facebook and I dunno.  It kind of feels like stalking to be following them EVERYWHERE you know?  I’ll also make book recommendations to friends via Twitter and I’ll tag the author in it, so I’ve gotten replies from Laura Kinsale because I was recommending her to a friend.  But again, I don’t follow on Facebook because it makes me feel a little bit like a creepster, but if I didn’t follow them on Twitter maybe I’d feel differently.

  7. 7
    LizabethSTucker says:

    As brick & mortar stores disappear, I have to find the books that I simply cannot miss elsewhere.  It isn’t easy to browse through the digital bookstores, although they do their best.  In the past, I would speak to other customers and employees to discover who or what to read. 

    I am on both Twitter and LiveJournal.  I am not and probably never will be on Facebook as I have serious concerns with their security and, frankly, don’t particularly care for it. 

    I do follow some writers and have had the pleasure of interacting with them on occasion.  I also follow/check into some in the book business (editors, publishers, artists, etc.).  Between those individuals and my friends on Twitter, I get the majority of my book recommendations now.

    While I do have friends on Goodreads, I’m afraid I’ve not really gotten into that site.  I’ve never even heard of many of the other social media sites listed in that chart.

  8. 8
    Amanda says:

    I had to click “nope” in the survey.  I used Facebook for about a year and a half.  Then, one day last fall, I got tired of that neighborhood and quit—cold turkey.  My Facebook “friends” all live in my community and I talk to most of them with regularity.  To me, there was no point to the thing when I can stand in my front yard and socialize.  However, I do miss the author’s pages.  I was up on new releases, and some of the discussions led me to new authors and books.  So yeah, it worked for me in the past but not well enough to continue with the social networking thing.  However, I do read a lot of blogs with book reviews.

  9. 9
    LisaA says:

    I answered yup.  I’m not on Twitter, only Facebook, and the place I find recommendations there is from authors I follow who recommend OTHER authors books.  If one of my favorite authors gives something a thumbs up I’ll usually give a new author the benefit of the doubt, at least for one book.  :)

  10. 10
    Rij says:

    I’m not on either facebook or twitter. I don’t follow any of the social media networks mentioned in the poll. I’m on livejournal but I only follow personal friends there.

    I frequent review blogs and fandom blogs and get quite a few recommendations from those. SBTB is also to blame. I suppose blogs count up to about 40% of new authors I try out. About 20% comes from browsing around bookstores, which I don’t get to do as often as I want to since I live in the boonies. But whenever I get to an actual bookstore I buy lots and make even more notes. The remaining 40% comes with the job, I’m a librarian and have access to suck luxuries as publishers’ catalogues.

  11. 11
    Lisa J says:

    Most of my finds come from review sites (DA has been a good place for me, once I figured out the people with taste similar to mine) and author sites.  I don’t have a FB page and I’m not on Twitter.  Can’t say I have much interest in either one of them.  I do feel bad once in a great while when there is some big deal for FB or Twitter people only, but I get over it very quickly.

  12. 12
    Char says:

    Facebook use to be for me a personal communication tool to keep in touch with friends and family. Now I use it to keep track of my favorite authors, publishers and book related sites. I’m always buying a book someone mentions is on sale or recommends on there.

  13. 13
    Bclotildes says:

    I have deliberately kept my Facebook for family and friends, and Twitter anything to do with writing/reading.  I only joined Twitter a month or so ago and am only following around 100, but most of them are authors or have something to do with writing/publishing.  That said, I’ve already discovered Victoria Dahl, Courtney Milan and various other authors directly via Twitter.

  14. 14
    Diane Peters says:

    I answered sometimes because I tend to find more books by reading blogs. I do follow a couple of authors on Facebook & have found a couple of books that way.

  15. 15
    Flo_over says:

    No.  Not just no but HELL NO.  I followed one author’s blog once.  And that was a pain filled affair of telling me how useless I was as a reader and I didn’t know squat.  After that I glance at author blogs occasionally to see about releases but I refuse to follow them.  I won’t do Twitter.  Ever.  And Facebook is for showing off my adorable child and my knitting projects.  If I want to pick up new books or authors I will go to the library or I will browse for samples.

  16. 16
    Sarah Wynde says:

    I think there’s a huge difference between author interaction on social media and reader interaction on social media. If a reader is recommending a book via social media, awesome, I’m definitely likely to check out a book liked by someone in my known network. If an author is promoting their own book via social media, I’m likely to look for the unfollow button.

  17. 17
    ksattler says:

    I answered sometimes, maybe because I don’t use it to query for book recommendations.  However, I have found many new authors and have won many books, been sent to book contests or blog sites, jumped into conversations about a book, read FridayReads tweets, … all via twitter. 

    I am not on facebook and won’t be for as long as I can avoid it.  If I do ever join, I may be like the people who use it only for friends and family.

    I have found twitter to be a wonderful place to engage in conversations with authors and librarians.  (I am also a librarian.) There are 2 collection development librarians that I follow who send out tweets that include either the book cover with a comment or a short summary of a book they are looking at.  Thru them, I have found a book or two. 

    Because I enter a conversation with 1 or 2 people I follow and another of their followers joined the conversation, I followed more people.  These people are usually authors or librarians and has led to me finding new authors to try.  I have bought books that were announced as on sale sometimes even free for downloading because of a tweet.  I agree this is how I became aware of SBTB, Victoria Dahl, Courtney Milan, Dear Author, Tessa Dare, Keri Stevens (bought her book because of twitter interactions), etc.

    Then there is FridayReads where people hashtag their tweet and I see what people are reading.  If I’m interested in that book, I may ask them what they think of it and would they recommend it.  OR if I’ve read it and loved it, I may engage them on that too.

    I have 2 twitter lists that are relevant to this – Romance, which contains romance authors and readers, and Authors/Publishers, which contains authors who I follow and those who followed me even if I wouldn’t necessarily read their books for my pleasure plus people involved in the whole making a book process.  I tend to keep the romance list up in my tweetdeck because that group is highly entertaining most of the time plus I often see tweets where someone is giving away a book.  Sarah does that.  Sometimes it is on a blog. 

    Overall, it has made the authors less of celebrities and more human.  I like that I can talk with them.  I am more likely to read an author I follow on twitter than otherwise.

    I’m also on goodreads and librarything.  I’ll use goodreads to find reviews of a book but I don’t read the reviews as they are posted.  (There are too many things to read and between blogs, email, tweets and links within tweets, I am finding it hard to make time for a book.)

    Well, this has gotten overly long so I’ll stop here except to say, twitter is probably my main feed for new books & authors.

  18. 18
    Liz says:

    “My own discovery of books on Twitter and Facebook also clearly indicates to me that I spend a lot of time online”

    This leads to a which came first, the chicken or the egg type of question. I don’t find recommendations or follow authors on facebook or twitter, because I don’t use twitter, and I’m not very active on facebook anyway.  For readers that do use social media in that way, were they active users before they become engaged in the reading community, or did they join specifically with that purpose? (The question is presumptively answered for GoodReads.)

    And for readers that are not social media users, what are their main online sources of recommendations? For me it is author websites, and a very limited number of review sites (SBTB and DA primarily).

  19. 19
    Kathryn says:

    I’ve used Facebook feeds for SBTS and DA only.  I only look at Listopia and personal recs on Goodreads – I’ve purposely not linked to any friends on Goodreads.  Most of the recs I use come from book blogs, though I occasionally look at Amazon recs based on books I own.

  20. 20
    Virginia E says:

    I subscribe to a few blog feeds, and some yahoo groups, but that’s as social as my media gets.

  21. 21

    Like a lot of others it seems, Facebook is strictly a “friends” (and those scare quotes were totally intentional) and family social network for me. I do however follow tons of people I don’t know in the slightest on Twitter (authors, reviewers, book industry professionals etc.) and have found lots of books that way. I’m probably doing it wrong, but I really don’t use Goodreads like a social media site. I use it mostly to track what I’ve read and secondarily for recommendations. I don’t belong to any Goodreads groups; I use their recommendation algorithm and occasionally the user generated lists.

  22. 22
    LauraN says:

    Want to talk about TOOLS who have changed how I read books?  Get ready for another Penguin rant.  I was already pissed about the whole library thing.  Then I checked out an ebook to read on my computer’s free Kindle app because I’m poor and I don’t have a Kindle but I like ebooks.  Guess what?  I got this message: “Due to publisher restrictions, this book cannot be delivered wirelessly and must be downloaded and transferred via USB. You currently have no devices registered that support transferring via USB.”  That’s right, kids!  If you have a Kindle, you have to download your book to your computer and then transfer it.  It sounds like it shouldn’t be a problem for me—hey, I don’t want to transfer anything, I’m just cutting out a step, right?  Wrong.  You can’t read those library book on your computer or on the Cloud Reader.  Just the Kindle.  (I bitched to someone at Amazon already, it’s true.)  So now, I can’t even check out books that are still available to be checked out, let alone the ones that aren’t available to anyone. 

    Know what? Fuck you, Penguin.  And the iceberg you rode in on.

  23. 23
    Donna says:

    I find author blogs full of stuff I don’t want to know. Actually, I guess I’m just not that interested in the minutia of other people’s lives, just as I’d expect them to give a flying **** about what I do day to day – or the even more annoying minute to minute. I don’t Tweet. I don’t have a Facebook page. I don’t want either. And frankly don’t get the attraction. I prefer real conversations in real time with people I actually know. That being said, I thank my lucky stars everyday for this site and Goodreads, because my friends rarely recommend anything I would want to read.

  24. 24
    DelDryden says:

    I’d be interested to see how the actual poll was written, and also the relative time spent on ANY kind of internet, and ANY kind of social media, by what percentage of responders…in other words, I suspect the results are not that accurate because there are variables unaccounted for. So “41% of romance buyers report having visited an author website…83% do not, and will not, follow an author on Twitter…70% say the same for Facebook.” But those last two statistics aren’t that helpful if those people don’t even have Twitter or Facebook accounts and just don’t spend much or any time on the computer. I’d say a more interesting number would be what percentage of those initial known computer-using 41% are likely to follow on social media.

    But what I’d really like to know is how you “count” something like a review on a group blog or review site, that somebody links to from Twitter, and you go and read the post, realize you’ve already seen it in your RSS feed, then you’re skimming comments and somebody mentions some relevant author/book, and you think “Hey, I’ve thought about buying her stuff before, but that sounds especially good,” and so you go buy it. Is that a rec from Twitter? From the blog? From the commenter? Will you even remember/care when asked about it a month later? I think that for very heavy internet junkies, who may be looking at Twitter, Facebook, IM, email, and an RSS pretty much all the time, there are a lot of “it depends” or “all of the above” answers for this stuff. It really isn’t that easily quantifiable.

    I admit I fall heavily on the “total Twitter whore who gets a crapton of book recs from Twitter” end of whatever spectrum there is for these things.

  25. 25
    Emily says:

    I use Facebook for connecting with friends whom I don’t see on a daily or even monthly basis. I rely on either sites like this or going to my local library and bookstores and looking at physical books.
    It might change if I had friends who read romance or the same stuff I do. for me facebook (no twitter) is about connecting with people. I can find books on my own (my ever-growing TBR is sufficient evidence of that.) I do wish I could find more time and people to discuss books with but that’s a different story.

  26. 26

    I subscribe to various blogs about the Kindle, specifically… which lets me know which books are free or bargains.  It’s had direct links to Amazon where I read the description and/or some of the ratings before I download it.  I’ve gotten a few I’ve enjoyed so much, I purchased the author’s back list.  I’ve also seen books discussed here that I’ve purchased. I do follow some of my favorite authors on Facebook, so I get up to date info on new releases.  I do not like Twitter’s format.

  27. 27
    Maria says:

    I find most of my books on review sites and newsletters (All About Romance, Just Erotic Romance Reviews, Fallen Angels Reviews, Romance Junkies, AllRomance).

  28. 28
    Sofia Harper says:

    I buy books through social media quite a bit. Mainly because it’s the single way I get info about books. I only have a personal page on FB and I follow maybe a handful of authors. I prefer to keep my personal life and writing life separate. Now twitter I have my author hat on 100 percent. I hear about books. I talk about books. The key thing is Twitter is still word of mouth. Yes, it’s a social media, but the books that show up on my radar are ones I hear about more than once. I hear buzz or mini 140 character rants. I’ve never ever bought a book because someone sent promo through their Twitter and it ended up RTd. People are talking about the book and that’s what sells me.

  29. 29
    LG says:

    The new books I find and buy are almost entirely things I spotted on book blogs or ads on book blogs. I might check Goodreads, but I don’t got to Goodreads to find new things, I go to Goodreads to find reviews of things I have found elsewhere and want to know whether they’re worth buying. I also find new stuff via online stores/publisher sites – in my case, mostly ARe and Samhain, because I tend to only use Amazon to order paper books I know I want and can’t find locally. At ARe, I put new-to-me stuff in my wishlist, wait for a sale, and then search the books in Goodreads to figure out which to cull, put off until a future sale, or buy. At Samhain, I just haunt the new releases list, often buying things I can’t necessarily find detailed reviews for, just because I like the excerpt and want the 30% off price. I’d probably haunt other publisher sites I have accounts with the same way if they did something similar with their new releases.

  30. 30
    delphia2000 says:

    I work at a library. I am never without a TBR pile and a list of recs to read. I get them from a variety of places, but mostly from looking at what comes in and what is being checked out a lot. My co-workers are always happy to rec something they’ve read and I do look at Novelist sometimes, mostly to help a patron rather than myself. And of course, I get great recs here.

    I am on Facebook but I really hate it. However, if I dropped it, I’d never have a clue as to what is going on with the family and I’d never see any pics of the grand-nieces/nephews. Occasionally, I use it to message a niece about a good book for her kids, but I rarely hear about any books from my family.

    I do occasionally read a author blog or two, but I feel about them pretty much as I feel about actors…I’d rather not know about their private lives and potentially lose the enjoyment of what they produce.

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