Internal social networks the smart way book cover

Promo pic. Notice the “Comes with downloads..” sticker. Important detail.

Two years ago I wrote a book. No, nothing fancy. Not a novel. Just a self-published how-to book on how to introduce an enterprise social network (it was about the hands-on change management stuff that goes into rolling out collaboration software). I think it would fall under business, or maybe technology category.

As someone who’s used a lot of drawings in her work I decided to make the concepts easier to understand and explain by turning them into explainer cartoons. I also wanted to test whether cartoons would help sell the book.

Since I know people like to reuse cartoons in their presentations etc I decided to offer all the cartoons in the book as extra downloads. “Buy the book (£20) – get the cartoons for free!”

Not so fast – you can’t have the cartoons unless you email me

However, I didn’t make it easy to get the cartoons. And this was on purpose. I wanted to see how badly people wanted the illustrations.

People who purchased the book would have to email me personally and ask for a download link (with a receipt that they had actually bought the book). Marketers probably know that this step can also be used for list building.

Guess how many people emailed me?

About a third of the people who bought the book actually took the time to write me an email (from the original batch of about 100 people who bought the book in the first month).

A third.

Cartoons were used in training and in pitching ideas to senior management

I also started receiving emails from people telling me how they’ve used them. Some used them in training, others when selling the idea of an enterprise social network to their senior management.

I later put some of the illustrations into a story format and turned them into infographics and PowerPoint presentations (no bullet points, just images with speech bubbles and some copy). Again I offered these to some of the people who had bought the book (as I now had their email addresses).

People would use them in all sorts of way. My favourite example is from a big multinational where a comms person printed out a vertical infographic bit by bit. She then reorganised the pieces horizontally on the wall.

Here’s some of the feedback I received:

“We absolutely love your images! Is there a chance to customize them for our internal network?”

“I wondered if it would be ok to re-use some of your cartoons for internal purposes at my firm?”

“Thanks so much Virpi – I used some of the ppt slides in an internal staff presentation I gave yesterday and found them really helpful to reinforce the importance of having a clear purpose and business focus (the “why”).

“The comics give a clear pictures of the hurdles to overcome when introducing an ESN.”

So what can we learn from this? Help your fans to spread the message

If you want your ideas to spread and you’ve chosen a book or a report as the main vehicle for doing this: remember that you will also have to “arm the converted” so they can spread the message further. Their colleagues, bosses, customers or friends don’t have the time to read the book or the report, but they most definitely will look at a cartoon…

Publishers and marketers take note

I later got in touch with couple of business publishers and asked what they thought about the concept. I told them that a lot of people want to explain the topics they have read in the book to their colleagues, staff or managers. Would it make sense to respond to this need?

Most marketers already know how to turn bigger content into bite sized pieces that can be used in content marketing, but no-one thinks that they can use content to make the book more appealing to certain type of corporate readers. The interesting bite sized visuals and presentations could be used for both content marketing and as extra downloads. If it sells more books it must be a good thing?

I think I received the online equivalent of a blank stare. Downloads? PowerPoints? Cartoons? What an earth are you talking about.

If you work in publishing or marketing feel free to add your views below or tweet me at @voinonen. I’m curious to learn more on how you work.

– Virpi