The Internet and Social Networking Achieve Tipping Point

by Kendra Bonnett on April 9, 2010

Book Business PaperclipPost #35 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Flickr image by Gary Hayes

Flickr image by Gary Hayes

I enjoy writing these Book Business posts because they give me an excuse to wander about the Internet looking at trends, grazing among the pundits, and taking time to consider what it all means…for me, for you, for our beloved world of books and publishing. I also hate it because I can never write these things quickly. For me one website leads me to another and another, and in no time I have seven or eight windows open and several thoughts to conflate into my post.

Since 4 this morning, I’ve been reading about tipping points, disruptive technologies and rates at which we adopt new technology. More about that in a minute. As I started my musing, I got this mental image of myself. If I was in a crime drama, I’d be easy to track because of the incessant blood trail. “Oh look,” the detective shouts, pointing to the trail of crimson stains on the sidewalk, “she’s tucked into the alley.”

Why the blood? I’m addicted to the bleeding edge of technological change and its gadgets. The change brings the promise of greater productivity, expansion into new frontiers and yet unimagined potential–always enticing and all within my control. How can that not be addictive? The high-tech gadgets themselves are sleek, sensuous devices that dazzle me with buttons, blinking LEDs, and sexy interfaces. I love a keyboard with great tactile feedback. I want to hear a little click as I press the keys. And the just-out-of-the-box aroma of each new device is better even than the smell of new pair of shoes (to me at any rate).

While I can’t resist the allure of new technology, I have to admit that not every device, tool or application has lived up to the hype. For example, I once had a ballpoint pen that also scanned bar codes that I could then take home and download to my PC and use to find information on the Internet. Well it seemed like a good idea at the time. The obvious problem was that we usually need the information on the spot so we can make an informed buying decision. The Internet coupled with cell phones and wireless Internet access are finally starting to make this reality. Actually this combination (called mobile computing) is a serious game changer that’s still in its nascent stages but growing very, very quickly.

I’ve been using the Internet since 1993. It was pretty bloody back then. But as of today, I can announce that I’m smack dab in the middle of the mainstream…at least as far as my Internet usage goes.

The Internet is Now Most Essential

It’s official. According to the most recent Arbitron and Edison Research “The Infinite Dial 2010: Digital Platforms and the Future of Radio” survey, the Internet has supplanted television as our preferred medium of communication in the United States.

Recently, surveyors asked 1,753 persons ages 12 and up: “Among Internet, television, radio and

Clearly the Internet has grown at the expense of radio and newspapers.

Clearly the Internet has grown at the expense of radio and newspapers.

newspapers, which one is most essential to your life?” They ceded the top spot to the Internet for the first time since the Internet has been included in the study (2001). Here’s how the numbers break out: 42 percent chose the Internet, 37 percent opted for TV, 14 percent remained loyal to radio and just 5 percent said newspapers. (Personally, I wish books had been included among the options.) As you can see from the chart, TV hasn’t declined as much as the Internet has grown at the expense of radio and newspapers.

They also asked: “Suppose you could never watch television again OR you could never access the Internet again. Which would you be more willing to eliminate from your life?” In 2001, only 26 percent eliminated TV versus 72 percent who Infinite-Dial-2were willing to eliminate the Internet; just nine years later and the scale is imperceptibly (but forever) tipped in favor of the Internet. Today 49 percent would jettison TV while 48 percent would give up the Internet.

I confess, I’m one of them. I gave up DirecTV (and the $80 a month it was costing me) in favor of Hulu and Netflix. And I’m doing just fine. I haven’t had a moment’s regret. Okay, for the first time ever, I didn’t get to see the Macy’s Day Parade or the Rose Bowl Parade live, but I’m not sure that I couldn’t have found it had I looked hard enough.

We shouldn’t be too surprised by all this. After all, the combination of Internet, Wi-Fi, Broadband, portable devices and online advertising (hey we have to pay for all this stuff) has given us almost unlimited, usually free, access to our favorite television shows, radio programming coast-to coast and practically every newspaper still in print. And if that isn’t enough, we have all the websites, blogs, games, shopping sites and applications that are the Internet. We can even download books and watch free videos on almost every subject imaginable.

In the “Things Will Never Be the Same Again” Department

The Infinite Dial 2010 study tells us more, and this next bit of information should cement in your mind for all time the importance of making social networking an important piece of your book marketing and platform building. We’re on the brink of another tipping point.

Infinite-Dial-3Surveyors found that 48 percent of Americans 12 years and older have a personal profile page on Facebook, Linkedin, MySpace or some other social networking site. This percentage has doubled in just two years (24% in 2008), and it’s not just kids making the difference: 51 percent of 35-44 year olds are social networking, 35 percent of 45 to 54 year olds and 31 percent of those 55 to 64 years old.

Furthermore these profiles are not novelties soon abandoned: In 2009, 74 percent reported visiting their profile several times a day (18%), nearly every day (24%), a few times a week (22%), or at least once a week (10%). In 2010, 30 percent (surveyors estimate this to equate to 39 million people) report that they use their social networking site “several times per day.” Do you think you can find a group of active followers within a base of 39 million? I think there’s a good chance.

Final Musings

I believe it’s always interesting when you can mark the day or year when a tipping point is achieved and you just know that the world (or a portion of it) will never quite be the same. The Internet and social networking are perfect examples. But what does this really mean to us as memoir writers, aspiring authors, published memoirists or blogging journalers?

To me, it means that Facebook etc. is for a lot more than playing Farmville and tracking down long-lost friends and high school classmates. It’s a place where significant numbers of people are congregating, and you should be mining this potential marketplace.

You need to be on the lookout for anyone who shares your interests or is a fan of other book/memoir/reading Pages. And whether your platform is single parenting or divorce or 21st century homesteading, Google your topic to find social networks where your crowd is hanging out. You can also search on your keywords on Facebook; you’ll be surprised what/who comes up.

Start a Facebook Fan Page of your own. It’s as easy as creating your Profile Page. Post regularly, and over time you’ll build a following. This is not old-school, in-your-face marketing. Today you need to produce quality content and make it freely available. You are attracting your market rather than brow-beating people into submission. And in the long run, this approach makes for a more loyal customer (reader).

If you’re also blogging, you’ll want to mine the social networking sites for friends, fans and followers that you can gradually lure over to your own site…for it’s only on your blog where you can offer free chapters, newsletters, and other “ethical bribes” that people will willingly agree to receive in exchange for their name and email address. It’s the list that you develop through such transactions that enables you to market directly to readers. But that’s a discussion for another day.

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