Monday, May 04, 2009

Social Networking - Fun vs. Business

At what point do we differentiate between social network fun and business? Are we always to be our "business" selves on sites like MySpace and Facebook? Do all of our Tweets need to be carefully constructed for ROI?

Is there a happy medium? And could being ourselves in a more personal way actually be a business strategy?

I've always mixed the COS MySpace with fun and business. Our MySpace blog get tens of thousands of views and is one of our strongest promo tools. I noticed that there's always a spike in views through when I write about two particular topics: Marketing is always well read on our blog, but even more popular are my rants about conventions and attendee behavior. I'm still on topic, sort of, by talking about the conventions, but I lean heavily into a more personal arena by giving my own insight to it (usually done with exasperation and/or humor).

60 days ago I decided to try a case study on Facebook. I hadn't been doing a lot with our Facebook profile, so this was a great opportunity to see what would happen if we tried something more "social". I started playing a popular Facebook game that had over 1 million players. The game is Mafia Wars.

I'm not a game player really. I used to play Tetris years ago, but that is about the extent of my game playing. My husband helped me get set up with Mafia Wars and soon I got the hang of it and learned to really enjoy it. Building my mafia meant finding other players, so I signed up for the Mafia Wars group site on Facebook. Once there I found over 150 people who wanted to be in my mafia.

These people didn't know who I was or what I did. They didn't care. They only cared that I was a good player. But, once they became a friend, in order to get on my mafia, it gave me access to communicating other things with them.

What surprised me was the number of these people who would comment on my Facebook profile when I posted something. At first I would post little things like "What are you doing this weekend?" People love to be able to share things about themselves so these type of questions were popular with everyone.

Then, I started posting our book video or comments on our clients books. Surprising me again, my mafia friends commented here too. Sometimes I got more comments from these people than from people I befriended because they are in the book community.

There is no doubt that some of my mafia friends bought books I recommended or talked about. I know because they emailed me. I never told them I was in the industry. I never went out of my way to say anything about what I did. What they saw was someone who loves to read making recommendations.

Could it be that because these people didn't see me as "selling" books that it instilled more trust for my recommendations? Traditional readers go to reviewers and others who are in the book world in order to get recommendations. But, these people were not traditional readers. They were "occasional" readers. They are part of that group who will read if inspired to do so.

Preaching to the choir does not build a bigger choir. We want to give traditional readers all the information they want in order to make purchasing decisions, but those people are going to read something regardless. It is the occasional reader that needs the extra nurturing so that we can encourage them to become traditional readers.

Mixing fun with the business of book promotion in a way that makes book promotion seem less like selling can be successful if done right. No matter whether you're playing online games or promoting a novel, you need to practice proper etiquette and remember that the way you conduct yourself follows you everywhere you go in the online world. Be thoughtful, considerate and honest and mixing fun with business gets easier to do.

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