The conversation about how social media is changing publishing has been going on since the dawn of social media. Ten years ago, prognosticators were sure social networks would usher in a new era for publishing. Five years later, social media spelled doom for the industry as a whole.
Yet, instead of transforming publishing into a mass of niche blogs and feeds or bringing about the end of the business, social media has become a set sophisticated tools for matching content to reader interests, growing communities and building brands.
1. Matching content to interests.
It is tempting to think of social media as a generic channel for broadcasting to the world. In actuality, social media enables the formation and maintenance of an almost limitless number of smaller communities, each organized around a relatively narrow theme. It empowers publishers by enabling them to market relevant content to these communities more effectively.
Instead of relying on a single front-page spread, for example, traditional publishers can tune their content for several different Twitter streams. By sharing the right content to thoughtfully selected audiences, publishers can pique their followers' interest and increase traffic.
2. Social means community.
Another common misconception about social media is measuring the impact only by generated traffic. A great social media strategy certainly includes getting more visits, but the goal has to be about creating a vibrant and engaging online community. It is this community that will do the sharing that is critical to success.
Each social channel, from Facebook and Tumblr to Pinterest, has its own style of engagement. By optimizing content that best fits the community on each channel, a publisher can keep readers talking and engaging with content and drawing more attention.
3. A great brand requires great social.
You cannot measure the effectiveness of a brand with a simple cost-per-click metric, and you can’t easily evaluate your social media community this way either. But brands increase reader loyalty, enhance the efficacy of acquisition strategies and keep customers coming back for more. Publishers can leverage social tools to strengthen their brands and increase awareness; this requires consistent messaging and engagement with readers and viewers wherever they may be – exactly what is now possible with social media.
4. Another tool in your toolbox.
Has the death knell been rung for publishing? Far from it. The best distribution channel on the web is still more porous than the content it carries. Social media has led to significant consolidation and increased competition for eyeballs.
Publishers may no longer own both content and distribution, but content is still what matters.