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BookTok, Bookstagram, BookTube: literary influence has a new home

At well over 100bn views and counting, #Booktok offers literary enthusiasts of all stripes a place to share their love of books and reading. Global publishing house HarperCollins social media manager (France) Melusine Huguet discusses the challenges of literary influencer marketing on TikTok and why the platform will form a key plank of the company’s social media strategy in 2023.

Melusine Huguet
Melusine Huguet

What is driving influencer marketing in the book sector?

There is a community of influencers that is emerging thanks to BookTube, BookTok, and Bookstagram. Literary communities on social networks are very different to communities in segments like fashion or lifestyle. It’s much more niche. The size of the communities is very different.

There are new platforms emerging. On TikTok especially, the literary communities are growing. They are bigger and being driven by trends. You don’t only have to follow influencers in your own language, you can follow them in any language, so that barrier is no longer there. There has been a shift from blogs to social networks. There are more posts which are centered on photos or staged pieces. It’s ephemeral and less focused on the content of the book.

The challenge is the evolution of the platforms and the emergence of new networks like TikTok or Twitch. On TikTok there are new codes to understand, new communities to build. It can feel like we’re duplicating the work but in fact we have to adapt to each network and to each way of communicating.

Where are the opportunities for literary influence campaigns on TikTok?

Literary content works very well on TikTok. Story-telling about a book’s content interests and appeals to people, but there are lots of other things that work too. Trends adapt well to books. There are people who dance with the book in their hand, but mostly it’s break through sounds which we exploit by adapting the trend or using lip-synch.

#BookTok performs really well. TikTok also recently launched the TikTok Book Club which has been great for us because it’s still pretty much untapped by our competition. It’s a totally different way of communicating. It’s useful for selections, it enables us to show different books in a particular genre and to bring them to life. It’s an opportunity to show books that are not new releases.

Do you adapt TikTok content for other platforms?

I deplore the uniformization that the social networks are getting into. I like each platform for its specificity. For me, Instagram is photos, not videos. TikTok is growing rapidly, and in terms of publishing, it’s still not very well exploited by the competition.

We really differentiate between Reels and TikToks. Reels is a practical format because it allows us to duplicate TikTok content even if Instagram does not like other logos on its platform. We try to have strategies that are adapted to each format.

My impression is that the literary community has turned away from YouTube, and is focused on other networks that are more ephemeral and immediate. That goes hand in hand with literary consumption. It might take time to read a book but there are so many books coming out that people move on to the next one very quickly.

Do you look for influencers who you think will like the book you’re promoting, or for literary influencers with big communities?

We have two ways of doing things that are complementary. We work with a base of influencers all year round, people we partner with according to what they read and who like reading in the broadest sense. For specific books like biographies or even fiction that discusses a particular subject, we use Kolsquare to target influencers who are passionate about the subject of the book we are promoting. In that case, it’s more of a one-shot. If it’s a book on veganism for example, we can look for influencers who talk about food but are not necessarily focused on literature.  

What is the advantage of working with niche influencers?

The difference is that we will have an audience that is extremely qualified. The communities are smaller but they have a  real affinity with the influencers that they follow. It means that initially, we can reach readers much more easily.

Are literary KOLs professionalizing in a similar manner to KOLs in other segments?

There are very few big literary influencers who get paid. We work a lot with micro influencers. The professionalization of influencers is starting to emerge in literature, but it’s still marginal. We get very good results from working with people who are not paid. We’re open to paying KOLs but given that there are not many of them and they are more specialized, we haven’t gotten to that point yet.

I think the professionalization [of literary influence] is going to come, but it’s been delayed because books are still very much associated with entertainment. For literary influencers, there is a fine line between passion and work. They’re reading in their free time, outside of work. I think the reason there are still very few influencers that have launched full-time is because reading is a passion.

What’s your approach to establishing long-term relationships with KOLs?

We have so many requests that we try to vary the profiles and give more people a chance. Every year we try to renew a bit. We don’t eject people who want to stay [in the pool] and we don’t necessarily want to keep people who may not be interested or have the time. We try to make the relationships last because we think that is how we will develop complicity and affection for the brand.

We don’t do random mailings because that’s the best way to send a book to someone who doesn’t want it, while it’s a book that could have been enjoyed by others. And we always follow-up. There are many publishing houses that don’t do a follow-up because it’s very time consuming. In particular genres like romance, we have a small pool of influencers who we ask for feedback and who are really involved in the life of the publishing house. We share covers with them in advance, ask their opinion on a text, organize events for a really small group of VIPs.

How do you evaluate the success of a campaign?

Engagement is the best data point. We quantify the number of people reached in relation to the size of the communities and engagement. Social media gives us very precise and quantifiable measurement tools compared to other marketing campaigns. Kolsquare is very useful for tracking, and evaluating profiles. It’s really handy to have so many statistics and data gathered in one place. It really saves us time.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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