Pinterest and Publishing: Engaging Readers through the Last Social Media Platform

As far as social media platforms go, publishing hasn’t quite caught on to Pinterest yet. Pinterest is mainly used for posting standalone images, and is not friendly towards large amounts of text. As Marcello Vena for Future Book points out, just pinning covers is not enough to attract readers’ interest to a new book, and it’s not converting into followers. As a Pinterest user, I would not be interesting in following a publishing house that only flogged their own books. For one thing, Pinterest is not a place I look for new reads. For another, the platform does not offer me an innovative way of interacting with the pinned books – as demonstrated by Maureen Johnson’s coverflip project – covers are not always an accurate portrayal of a book’s contents. This leaves publishers searching for ways to engage Pinterest users with their content.

Publishers have varying levels of success with Pinterest. For example, Harper Perennial’s Pinterest is an example of one which does not attract me as a follower. With only 736 followers, Harper Perennial posts just covers with short summaries, while the clickthrough links don’t even go to the publisher’s book page, but the individual image page. This means possible lost conversions and an inherent misunderstanding of the platform’s potential. Random House, on the other hand, has successfully used Pinterest to post thousands of pins of anything to do with books and reading, not just their own books; providing a diverse mix of fun content has translated into over 1.5 million followers, one of the top Pinterest users, and more than double the number of followers @randomhouse has on Twitter. Still, of the publishers only Random House has achieved this level of success, likely because they are creating a good brand image with this platform. I would consider following Random House because they pin a variety of things without excessively promoting their own titles.

One Italian publishing company, RCS Libri, has done something innovative with their Pinterest. Last week they launched an e-book streaming feature, which allows users to read a sample of over 100 titles in-browser. RCS Libri pins the cover and a blurb about a book, while the clickthrough link leads to an external site called Flipbook, which allows the user to read an excerpt of the book. Currently they have 121 followers.

Stream Pier Bergonzi’s e-book here.
Stream Pier Bergonzi’s e-book here.

I think that RCS Libri has found an exciting way to bring more dimensions of books into Pinterest and an interesting way of promoting e-reading. They have found a way to connect Pinterest, one of the last social medias to be adopted by publishing houses as a marketing channel, to their content in a dynamic way. Used in conjunction with other social media platforms, especially Twitter and Facebook, this concept could both drive traffic to RCS Libri’s Pinterest page and boost their sales (or at least, put more attention on their content).

While I like this idea, I don’t think that this experiment will be successful unless all the major publishers on Pinterest start doing it. For one, a pin with e-book clickthrough looks just like any other pin when I am scrolling through my Pinterest dashboard. Nothing in the picture’s description mentions anything about being an e-book sample and the pinner of a photo is not always immediately obvious. To me, this means that I would probably skip over RCS Libri’s pins without realizing what I am missing. Unless users come to expect e-book samples upon clickthroughs for all books posted on Pinterest, I suspect that RCS Libri’s content will be lost in the mix. Another thing is that there are no links to purchase the book either on the Pinterest page or in the e-book clickthrough page, only an ISBN. Without providing a venue for readers to buy the book after sampling it, the publishing company loses out on potential conversions since there is no call to action.

Do I think that RCS Libri’s model is the best way to unite publishing and Pinterest? No. Random House’s method has proved more effective at earning followers, because it posts more fun content that is not obviously marketing-driven. However, RCS Libri’s concept fills a need in the publishing-Pinterest relationship that I can see other houses adopting. At present, RCS Libri is brand new, and it may be too soon to judge whether their model will succeed.

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