For anyone who uses Twitter to stay up on industry goings-on, it’s a tool for communication, entertainment and information delivery. But most people use it for one thing only, in most cases entertainment. Your average user is following a few hundred folks and refreshing their Twitter.com homepage (according to a number of well reasoned anecdotes from social media folk I’ve heard lately). Most of the time, there’s little connection from one Tweet to the next. So when literary magazine Electric Literature serialized an entire short story by Rick Moody (The Ice Storm) in 153 Tweets over three days, a number of astonishing things happened, which you’ll want to know about.
Our guest today is Scott Lindenbaum (full disclosure: Lindenbaum is slated to speak at Mediabistro’s eBook Summit later this month), who is one of the people at Electric Literature behind the electronic publishing experiment. During the three days that the story was published, Lindenbaum says EL’s Twitter feed (@electriclit) grew by some 10,000 followers, marking about 50% growth. His literary magazine sold five times more subscriptions than usual. Electric Lit’s Web site saw a 300% traffic boost and according to Lindenbaum, so far there have been only marginal downsides to the experiment. Not surprisingly, most negative remarks have come from the media.
Responses from readers have largely been positive, says Lindenbaum, who has tracked the feedback from Twitter and found a “10:1 positive to negative comment ratio,” he said. “Positive comments are defined as: overtly positive statements, retweets (which we believe conveys positivity), and expressions of interest (i.e. ‘check this out’).”
However, responses from the media professionals who follow Electric Lit declared the experiment an utter failure. According to Lindenbaum that’s because the story was Tweeted over a number of cooperating feeds (about 20) from book stores, personal users et al, who had agreed to participate in the experiment beforehand. So for media folks following two or more of those feeds, the result was Electric Lit story overload.
And stories in the media reflected that notion. But it appears that casual followers took hold of the concept, for the most part, something Lindenbaum says wouldn’t have been possible if Rick Moody’s story weren’t well written. It was tailored from the get-go for Twitter.
At least one of the cooperating Twitter feeds, Vroman Books of southern California, chose to end its participation in the experiment presumably due to media backlash. Here’s a quick sampling of headlines:
— A quote from the LA Times piece, “And the simultaneous publishing by 20 different Twitterers is perhaps a miscalculation.”
From a marketing perspective it seems to be a total success. In our opinion garnering a bit of bad press amidst positive user feedback is the best possible situation for a brand because when the “media” gang up they tend to come off as oppressive, out of touch, wrong. The net effect is a brand that exudes the same rebellious charm that made figures like James Dean famous. In the relatively stodgy literary world, Electric Literature are the day’s rebels with a cause.
Click play to hear Lindenbaum’s version of the story, and decide for yourself.
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