Tim O’Shaughnessy, CEO of LivingSocial, the online social discovery and cataloging utility he founded two years ago, stressed to an audience of 100 BEA attendees Thursday morning the power of social media to efficiently and effectively promote books and authors.

Social networking Web sites like Facebook, LivingSocial and Twitter are “massive online word-of-mouth-on-steroids tools,” he insisted, and “readers are more accessible than ever before” in this “new communication paradigm,” where people with similar interests cluster in structured online communities, thus making it easy to “harness” them in large numbers. There are 100 million Facebook users in the U.S alone, and 200 million users worldwide. Approximately 50% of Facebook users visit the site daily and the average user has 120 friends. Thirty million LivingSocial users share information on books, movies, games, restaurants, TV shows, even ski slopes, with the site logging 250,000 new users in the past two months. Twitter has 20 million users.

Publishers can build buzz for books by doing “all those things they’ve done before,” O’Shaughnessy said, including buying advertising in print media and paying for prime shelf placement in chain bookstores. Or, for very little time and money, they can reach and track target audiences by setting up Facebook pages or buying Facebook ads, opening Twitter accounts, and embarking on campaigns (such as sponsoring contests) that target specific users on LivingSocial. Using the author John Grisham as an example, O’Shaughnessy explained that “the right 50,000 people who’ve read at least three Grisham books before and have given them good reviews” can be identified and tracked, while the other 1.5 million people who use [LiveSocial’s] Visual Bookshelf app don’t have to be bothered with.”

It’s all about engaging the booklover by creating fan pages, tweeting, and “leveraging lost-cost, targeted advertising,” O’Shaughnessy explained, and getting booklovers to “inadvertently act as your publicist” by commenting on an author or book, following authors or publishers on Twitter, or even writing book reviews. “We get more reviews a day than Amazon does,” he said, explaining that, while 1% of Amazon users write reviews, 10% of LivingSocial users write reviews, as “they know their friends will read them.”

“Social media is the new Yellow Pages,” O’Shaughnessy declared, “And Facebook pages are in flight to become a broader Yellow Pages,” as more and more people use Facebook to obtain information on individuals, companies, and organizations.

After his 30-minute presentation, O’Shaughnessy answered questions from the audience for 30 minutes. Not surprisingly, since this was a social media discussion, while some audience members raised their hands during the q&a, others tweeted their queries.

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