The Bookish Community Is A Passionate Place And Other Lessons From The Twittersphere

This piece, by Kat Meyer, originally appeared on the Follow The Reader blog on 4/13/09. In it, Kat discusses what authors and publishers can learn from the #amazonfail debacle—specifically, how Amazon could have avoided the PR nightmare that ensued by actively engaging with authors, readers and publishers via social media .

Hello Dear Readers:

Happy belated chocolate bunny day. Hope you are all recovering nicely.

And with the pleasantries out of the way, I will now begin my lecture on the importance of understanding and participating in social media. This is a lesson that Amazon learned–or at least, we hope they learned–yesterday via the lovely bookish community on Twitter.

If you missed it, and in a nutshell (for details do a quick Twitter search on the term #AmazonFail and/or check out this post on Storm Grant’s blog or Leah Braemel’s timeline of the event):

  1. Many GBLT and erotic themed titles at Amazon.com recently mysteriously stopped displaying their sales rankings (which are a key factor customers consider in making their buying decisions).
  2. The Bookish Twitterverse POUNCED on this — even though the issue itself started a few months back – Sunday it snowballed — and …
  3. Amazon said NOTHING. Amazon was completely absent in droves.

I am not out to demonize or make a scapegoat of Amazon. Amazon may be completely innocent of causing this “glitch,” and there are plenty of theories (conspiracy/technical glitch-based/and otherwise) being bandied about regarding what actually caused the great de-ranking of Easter Sunday, but Amazon definitely is guilty of one thing:  Ignoring the collective online outrage of their customers and content providers during a critical time — which is just sad when you’re talking about a major player in web commerce.

“So, Kat” (you may be asking yourself — which is a funny thing to ask yourself unless your name is Kat — i so crack myself up): “Monday morning quarterback, much Missy?”

And to this I reply, “No. Absolutely not.” And here’s why: while Amazon was noticeably offline and seemingly unaware of this situation, a whole heckuvalot of their indie competitors were savvy enough to be right there on Twitter’s front lines and engaging with the publishers, authors, readers, and other players who were leading this conversation.

Those indies, and their supporters were helpfully (and quite cleverly) offering a suggestion to the angry and frustrated Amazon customers: “Not happy with Amazon? Try us instead!” (The American Booksellers Association even received a nice nod when their acronym was appropriated for the cause –ABA, “anywhere but Amazon.”

The lesson, my bookish buddies, is this — Amazon can’t afford to ignore social media (Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc.) and neither can you.

Read the rest of the story at the Follow the Reader blog.

Kat Meyer is the founder of The Bookish Dilettante and a regular contributor on the Follow the Reader blog.

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