In this age of undead Bennets and robo-Karenina, a different kind of mash-up is on the literary horizon: cross-vertical social media. Startups like GetGlue, LivingSocial, and Blippr are all-in-one social media hubs for a user’s complete entertainment discussion needs: books, films, TV shows, music, even beer and wine. Cross-vertical referrals match books with films or music.
One possible effect of the growing popularity of these sites is an opportunity for book marketers to more easily reach potential readers who aren’t frequent bookstore browsers, an often elusive and expensive crowd to access.
“One of the challenges of buying a table at Barnes & Noble is that you are able to tap into people who are interested in books, but not tap into people who are interested in cinema,” says Ami Greko, GetGlue’s Director of Business Management (and previously Digital Marketing Manager at Macmillan).
GetGlue, which has 500,000 users, allows marketers to cherry-pick the taste profiles of the people they want to reach, said Greko. She cited a recent campaign by Scribner for Chuck Klosterman’s rock chronicle Eating the Dinosaur that targeted people who favorited songs from the band Guns N’ Roses.
“We got these great responses from people who said, ‘I’ve never heard of this writer before, but if he’s writing about Guns N’ Roses, I want to read more,’” she said.
GetGlue currently has partnerships with Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Hachette.
GetGlue is also riffing on FourSquare’s “badges,” offering profile “stickers,” small, branded graphics that users can earn for their devotion to a particular show or author. “There’s an inherent human element in wanting to gain recognition or earn an achievement,” VP of Business Development Fraser Kelton said. “It taps into ego, it taps into pride, and frankly it’s also fun.”
Amazon’s “Customers Also Bought” referral feature doesn’t offer much help to readers looking for their next literary fix, said Greko. “The challenge with Amazon is that you don’t know what this computer knows about you,” Greko said. In contrast, GetGlue’s recommendation engine pulls from what Greko describes as “the full taste profile”—encompassing a user’s favorite movies, books, shows, and music—and provides suggestions that include justifications for why the item was referred to the user. Perhaps in response to this challenge, Amazon recently announced apartnership with Facebook, and can now offer recommendations to users based on information from their Facebook profiles.
But not everyone believes that breaking down verticals is a savvy move. For example, a new entry in vertical social media, Pocket Tales aims to get kids (and parents) involved in sharing reading experiences by making reading into a game, complete with points and quizzes. And Goodreads.com, which has over 3.5 million registered users, isn’t interested in becoming “all things to all people,” according to its Community Manager, Patrick Brown. Brown says Goodreads users enjoy the very specific purpose that the site serves. “They like that it’s a site where they don’t have to deal with anything else,” he said. “They don’t want to have a discussion about what the latest movie is.”
Brown added that all-encompassing social media sites don’t offer the depth of reviews or interactivity that specialized sites do. “Rather than really going deep and having some kind of actual substantial conversation, it’s kind of a surface glossing,” Brown said. In contrast, he said, Goodreads allows for users to find reviews of even obscure books and contact those reviewers for more information and in-depth discussions.
Brown added that previous ideas for expansion that were floated to Goodreads users, like sections on movie adaptations, were not received well. “A lot of people are readers only; those people feel like they have a home with us,” he said. “If we became all things to all people, those people would feel that we were losing them.”