Literature vs. Social Media: Part II, Marketing

Books are vehicles of culture, art, social activism and discourse. At least, the kinds of books we read in lit classes, right?

On the other hand, social media represents opportunities to share news and trends, chat with friends, and, increasingly … advertise. The line between good writing and sales pitches are blurred online, and intentionally so. It can be difficult to tell when you are just participating in an online community or implicitly being recommended various products or brands at the same time.

A mentor of mine once told me that as a marketer, 90 percent of your writing should be good, quality stuff that anyone would be interested in, and only 10 percent should be given over to your sales pitch.

I still think that’s really solid advice if you’re out to sell something online—whether it’s a brand image, a single product, or an organization’s mission.

But isn’t that a good guiding principle for any kind of persuasive writing? Your main job is to be convincing and entertaining, taking only a quick jab here or there to sell your idea.

I also tend to believe that the things we buy and the trends various brands tap into through social media say something about our culture, art, and social discourse. The lines are truly blurry in our consumer culture … and growing blurrier.

Let’s take Pinterest for an example. The site is powerful because it represents a community of people who express themselves and connect with others based on images of things they “want, identify with, and recommend.” This is a marketer’s dream, especially if an influential pinner adds one of their organization’s products to a board.

Even some publisher’s are getting in on the Pinterest excitement, including one of my favorite small non-profit publishing houses, Graywolf Press.

Still, I think the key to using Pinterest well as a brand, and what Graywolf and others are doing right, is to be upfront about their goals: to foster a community around their brand and sell some stuff too.

After all, 90 percent of what brands write and post about online should just be good, interesting stuff. The kinds of things that would spark your interest in a book.

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