Why Goodreads Is Becoming the Social Network for Readers

Goodreads social network blog post

Goodreads is quietly becoming my favorite social network for discovering new things to read. It’s a simple, low-key meeting place for readers, reviewers, and non-influencers who are likely to get excited when they find a used bookstore while on vacation.

Influencer culture has changed the essential nature of social media channels. For every new platform, there is an emerging influencer culture. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does tend to create a lot of noise. To be influencers, people have to make noise, so it makes sense.

That said, reading is generally a solitary activity. Sure you can go to a read-your-work-out-loud writer’s groups or to some live poetry jam or even to a theater performance…but to most of us, reading is something we do in our own head. The art of reading requires you to block out noise and just be with the words on the page. You can be sitting with someone or many someones, but in a way, you’re just in your own head.

Finding something good read can be challenging. Even your closest friends and romantic partners may not share your enthusiasm for certain types of fiction or particular authors. You can ask for book recommendations, but finding a great read is a full-contact sport. You won’t know until you’re actually turning the pages.

Why Goodreads?

Goodreads fills an interesting social niche that picks up where Amazon reviews leave off. Both sites allow reader ratings, lists, and reviews. Both sites offer smart referral engines for your next read. If all you want are good recommendations, either will work.

Goodreads, however, goes one step further by specializing in readable things. I read a lot of comics, plenty of crime novels, and entirely too many books on technology and marketing. With an endless list of new and classic titles to read, I find myself becoming more selective in the titles that grace my nightstand. In that way, I trust the wisdom of the crowds.

If I read a book or an ebook and give it 4 stars, I will check out other GoodReads readers who rated it in the same way. I may click through to their profile and check out what else they are reading. I may follow their reviews or add them as a friend, specifically to learn more about titles I should add to my “to read” list. Is that person a social media influencer? Sure. In the classic sense, anyone who posts book reviews — professionally or just to contribute to the community — is a social media influencer.

GoodReads goes one step further by allowing people to create open and closed communities. I subscribe to a few, lurk in others, and actively participate in one. And the one community that I participate in? It’s closed. There is no big “influencer” forming a community around his or her beauty tips. It’s just some like-minded readers who like to talk about comics. It works.

Will Goodreads become the next social media frontier for big-name influencers?

Possibly, but not likely. Current influencer culture isn’t exactly rooted in reading books. Social influencers tend to focus on more popular topics that attract a wider audience. Reading traditional books for pure pleasure has become a niche activity, as compared to activities that are better for sharing on visual platforms.

Plus, there is little emphasis on traditional influencer metrics. There are follower and like counts, but it’s not a prominent feature, like it is on YouTube or Twitter.

One of the rare nods to influencers is an author’s badge. I’m an author, so Goodreads gives me a little star next to my profile that notes my status and ratings on my profile.

Goodreads author badge

But that’s it. You can’t click on it to find other authors. It’s just sort of there. And that makes it kind of special in a non-self-promoting way.

Plus, it’s pretty easy these days to be an author. You type some words, create an ebook, upload it, and you’re an author. You don’t even need to slay trees to be an author these days. The Goodreads author badge is nice, but it doesn’t give anyone an unusual advantage on the platform. It’s just a nice thing that you have on your profile.

Here’s how you get that neat little badge, if you are an author.

Desktop and Mobile Functionality

I use Goodreads primarily on the desktop, but there is a mobile app for iOS and Android. I use the Android version while I shop for books in bookstores and peruse the shelves at the public library. It maintains my “to read” list exactly the way I want it for my frequent purchases.

This mobile/desktop experiece isn’t anything out of the ordinary for most social networks. Goodreads just makes it easy for you to create collections, which also link to reviews. For example, I can create a list of scifi books or crime novels that I want to read. Then, if I see something interesting, I can consult my reading list to see if it’s already on my “want to read” list. If not, I can quickly add it to a list or read a few reviews. I’ve make quite a few impulse buys based on positive user reviews.

Of course, these organic reviews can be gamed by authors and publishers. There are probably reviewers who have some higher level of weight than others. I fully understand how “gaming the system” can impact any social network. As a participant, you still need to read reviews critically and analyze the way reviews are written and rated. Caveat emptor, users.

However, because the Goodreads social network is focused on reading books, comic books, and ebooks, it’s not as attractive for broad-based networks like Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. That could change as social networks — including Goodreads — evolve with the times. For now, it’s just small enough to be ignored by major influencers, yet big enough to be useful to readers.

Still Using Standard Social Networks

So what about my other social networks of choice? I still use them all daily. Twitter for my news. Instagram for my photo perusing. Facebook for my family stuff. LinkedIn for my career stuff. YouTube for videos.

And, of course, Goodreads for my reading stuff. It’s a rich, diverse, and personalized resource for my passion for reading.

Plus, it’s rich, diverse, deep, and personalized, which is a lot like my experience at bookstores and libraries. So, shhhhhh. Be quiet. We’re reading.

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