Lighthouse Insights – Wednesday Conversation with Arcopol from

It’s easy to think of social media simply as a competitor for traditional publishers, providing free content and connecting readers and advertisers directly, bypassing print and publisher websites. But many publishers are now realising that they can use the same social media tools to drive value for their own business, using the expertise of their editorial and publishing teams, and their existing community of readers. In this article, I will be outlining the ‘Chat-Session‘ which we had with Arcopol from – – The most trusted online bookstore with 8 million+ titles.

It was a good start initiated by Vijayendra with:

LH: Can you please throw some light on the content strategy at uread, with specific emphasis on – Mix( promotions, feel good msgs etc) , Timing ( when to post) , form ( videos, pics, msgs) etc.?

Arcopol Chaudhuri(AC): To be honest, there’s no defined content strategy engraved in stone. Social media has to be reactive and adaptable to what’s happening around us. To prioritize, it would be in the following order: 1. Feel-good (Like-worthy content) 2. Content (blogs, articles) 3. Promotions

LH: What about timing ? Do you post late nights? Afternoons ?

AC: Pre-lunch and after dinner. And Sundays, after lunch. Always works. 🙂 Btw, I’m equally surprised at the number of likes a good post can get around mid-night! But that’s about MY fan-base. It may, or may not work on other fan-pages.

LH:  What’s your experience been with Facebook Ads ? Have you tried ’em out as yet ?

AC:  We did try Facebook ads, but for only 2-3 weeks. Our experience was that the quality of fans wasn’t exactly very rich. So that was a disappointment. But it helped grow our fan-base nevertheless. A good fan-base, upwards of about 10K comes in handy for consumers and investors. In other words, a customer has a sense of faith in knowing that if 10K people trust uRead and have ‘liked’ the brand, he/she can rely on the brand.

LH: I am very curious to know how did the first sale happened at ?

AC: Ah! I wasn’t a part of when the first sale happened 🙂 But I can tell you how I got introduced to this and bought my first book. I was a journalist when I received a press release announcing uRead’s launch. It was accompanied by a gift certificate worth Rs 300, which I could use to purchase any book of my choice. I used it immediately and shopping experience was very smooth, without any glitches. I thought, here’s a brand which has it’s basics in technology in place! I’m sure you’ll have a similar experience.

LH:  How do you see Timline feature and frictionless sharing making a difference in your Social Media Strategy?

AC: At the outset, I must tell you that I love Facebook Timeline! I’ve already begun seeing the benefits of “frictionless” sharing. To give you an example, posts with standalone photos have good really good interaction levels.

So the change in our social media strategy is at the root of what social media is all about: SHARING. I must ensure that, at all times, my updates on all social media platforms are very share-able, like-able and not necessarily buy-able.

LH: What different strategies is uRead indulged into to track demand on users on uRead. How different and efficient is the method as compared to the competitors in the market?

AC:  I’ve observed some of our competitors and except for the market leader, their generation of demand is largely driven around discounts. I’m extremely worried about this approach.

LH:  How do you tackle the counterattack / refresh zone of strategy ?

AC: It means you’re going in the direction the deal sites have gone. Effectively this means that you’re stooping so low to gain customers, you’re convincing him/her that they will never have to pay a fair price for a book!

Our strategy is driven a bit around being the ‘book specialist’. We recommend good books. Period. And I can do a good job at it, because I’ve surrounded myself with friends whose book recommendations I trust and believe me, I’ve discovered some hidden gems in fiction and non-fiction! I’m an avid reader myself – I read for about 6-8 hours daily, after work. So a brand which gains a reputation of giving of excellent book recommendations, is somewhere that we want to be. It’s still early days, hopefully with time we shall get there, making several adaptations.

LH: Why did you opt for in-house social media? Also, what positives have come out of it for uRead from it?

AC: The first positive is that we saved a LOT of money 🙂 The second positive is that there is nobody pestering us for payments! 🙂 The third positive is that we don’t have sleepless nights about our social media presence at the moment.

Being an e-commerce company where transactions happen online, our customer care is also well-entrenched into our social media. You can tweet to us and our response time is far better, because it’s in-house. An agency SMO executive may need to clarify the appropriate response and make 2-3 calls to his superiors to do the same. Besides, the same executive is not loyal to managing only my brand! He has so much more to do. I’ve worked in an agency myself and was a bit disappointed at the commitment levels. I’m told the scene is similar in most agencies.

LH: How about ‘uRead’ like stuff changing the state of Publishing industry…do we expect to have a book being launched through a Social Media?

AC:  I’m amazed that a lot of young, debutant authors, very active on Facebook and Twitter have successfully marketed and done a sale of their books on social media. I’m appalled that the most well-known publishing houses have made no progress in this regard.

I’ve met the marketing and publicity teams of all the major publishers in the past few months. They have plenty of resources and money, but there is no commitment to spend on social media. Too much talk, no action. For the smaller publishers, the authors have taken centre-stage to promote their books. This is a very healthy sign.

LH: Twitter is the best publishing platform to develop your personal brand or Facebook; what has been your approach?

AC:  Facebook, for now. And our blog. Twitter is more of a customer care outreach tool. But eventually it’s about being social. Too many brands are on Facebook. The phenomenon called ‘Update Blindness’ is a reality, where the consumer is bombarded with so many updates from his friends, fanpages, groups and notifications, that your brand becomes a blind-spot. He misses your update. That’s something to worry about.

LH:  So do you think 4-5 updates a day on page can solve this problem ?

AC:  I doubt, but it depends on what you post about. A brand has to become like your ex-girlfriend whom you miss a little bit. So much so, that every night, you visit your ex-girlfriend’s Facebook page and see what she is up to. 🙂 Social media managers must post compelling content that bring fans to visit the fan page rather than merely see it on their news feed.

LH: Very true, compelling content is something, which is now even more importance with Timelines….as this give a much broader perspective and chance for users to get in touch with their brand…

LH: How do you tests different tactics with your social media readers and have you found new ways to integrate reader input and develop their community further. I mean I personally feel that audiences will get even more involved in the creation of the content they consume in the future…

AC: Good question. And the answer to that, is this ugly truth: TODAY, THERE ARE MORE WRITERS, THAN READERS.

For a plain vanilla bookseller, this is a challenge. But because we have the technology support we can adapt. We will, looking at how things evolve. I cannot create a YouTube kinda model where everyone posts content. That would produce so much crap. We will eventually need to evolve to a publishing platform with relevant filters, appropriate payment gateways and consumer fulfillment.

LH:  I feel that the publishers website needs to become a “social hub” where the authors will be promoted and can execute their own social media marketing. How much do you align yourself to this thought?

AC: The trouble in India, is that the publishers – the major ones – aren’t investing ANYTHING to think or arrive at a model for this. Social media itself is very new to them. I doubt if they’ll make any progress before 2-3 years, which is when physical book sales will slump in India and e-book readers will become quite common. Not as common as mobile phones, but well, let’s see. Interesting times ahead!

LH: Have your authors interviewed on a regular basis and publish the content on internet or their own Social Media pages. My point here is: If Author can pay a heed to people who have bought their books, make lot of sense for people to engage in a community reading…any thoughts on this?

AC: Authors, at the end of the day should be authors. They must write. And write good books, great stories. Community reading, or their social media management, promotions – these must be undertaken by the publisher. Trouble is, an average publisher today produces too many books in a month. Not even 10% of them get the promotion and marketing they deserve.

That’s one reason why uRead now has it’s own publishing setup, titled Fingerprint. The plan is to publish only two books per month and promote them online and offline in an aggressive manner. Being choosy is a good thing.

Closing Notes:

AC: Thank you everyone for making it tonight. Do try out sometime. A little note before I close: We Indians rarely express or blog about good companies and our good experiences. We take good experience for granted. We think social media is for complaints and for settling scores with brands. Don’t fall into that trap. I encourage all of you to also share positive experiences with brands. Because somewhere, deep down, the business owner has worked hard and meticulously to ensure he delivers on what he promises, and that you have a good user experience! Cheers, everyone! Goodnight.