Lessons from creating a social media powered eBook


A social media powered eBook project is simply a collaborative effort conceived and completed with the power of social media. The project is dynamic, participatory and even democratic in nature and takes on its own life as it evolves from an idea to a final product. ”Defiant: Practical Tips for thriving in Tough Times” (a 90-page eBook) is one such attempt on social media.

For those of you who are interested in the day-by-day account of how the book was created, you can read Appendix IV within the eBook or you can get a sneak preview here. More than 50 contributors graciously provided content for the eBook and I am totally thankful to all of them. Collaborating on social media was the fastest way to get the collective wisdom and insights on a topic that is on the mind of many people – how to survive and thrive in these tough times.

In this article, I want to cover two things:
1. 7 Steps to Create a Social Media Powered eBook
2. 9 Building Blocks for a Successful Social Media Powered eBook

7 Steps to Create a Social Media Powered eBook

Creating a social media powered eBook is fun especially because the book can evolve in ways that can (positively) surprise even the creator of the project. So, here are the 7 steps at a high-level:

1. Conceptualize: Way before the eBook becomes real, it is conceptualized in your head. Having a clear vision for the project will help you to speed up the next steps of the project.

2. Create Content Outline
: Your contributors are providing the puzzle pieces but only you know how the completed puzzle will look like. You hold the master-key for the project and should have the content outline at your finger-tips. Just remember that you might have to change this outline (several times) as the contributions start coming in.

3. Identify Contributors: The quality of the project is greatly influenced by the quality of contributions to the project. So you need good contributors to participate in your project. Make a list of who will add the greatest value to the project among the people that you and your network have access to. You may want the “best” to contribute but what is realistic is to get the “best among those you and your network have access to” to contribute.

4. Crowdsource: Effectively use the social media outlets to request contributions. For this project, I used LinkedIn Answers, Facebook and Twitter, a few mailing lists I belong to, my blog and my mailing list to solicit contributions.

5. Curate: Not all contributions are created equal. You have to apply the “ultimate filter” to ensure that the highest quality contributions will make the cut.

6. Collate: The next step is to organize the curated content based on the content outline you created before. This is really where you put the puzzle pieces together.

7. Create a Compelling Design: You can’t judge book by the cover but if the cover is not good, one may not pick up the book. So, invest on the design and packaging of the book. It will be well worth it.

OK, that was about execution. Before you go ahead and start executing on your own social media powered eBook project, please take a moment to think about the following foundational elements that will provide you the power and influence to “execute” on such a project.

9 Building Blocks for a Successful Social Media Powered eBook

Here are the seven building blocks for making your social media powered eBook project successful.

1. Resources: First, you need to dedicate resources (time, energy and mindshare) for this project. Second, you need “good” help from your network (in terms of project management, follow through, editing, design and development) to make this a reality. If you underestimate the resources required, either you will fail in the project or create a product that is below par affecting your identity and subsequently your ability to launch such a project in the future.

2. Relevance: The topic you pick has to be highly relevant – not just for you but for the contributors and the audience.

3. Reach: The total reach you have through all of your networks will greatly influence how quickly you can complete the project.

4. Relationships: Long-term relationships provide a huge competitive advantage on this or any other big project. Your friends will be happy to participate in such a social media project because well… they are friends, right?

5. Reciprocation: Social media is two-way street. You give and you get (and the order is important) Giving does not entitle you for getting anything back but not giving is a sure way of ensuring that you don’t get back anything. Unleash the power of reciprocation by giving first.

6. Results: Your past results will influence the willingness of key contributors to contribute to your project. Everyone is busy and there are so many social media outlets to contribute so your past results (if they are good) will sway the people towards contributing.

7. Resonance: Resonance is a big test. You are passionate about the project for sure. But will this “resonate” with the contributors and the audience that you want this to reach?

8. Remarkable: Make it a remarkable project so that others will feel proud to participate in. Remember that most of the contributors will already have powerful personal brands and they want to

9. ROII: ROI is return on investment for an interaction. Contributions are investing their time and the audiences you are reaching out to are investing their time reading the output.  It is reasonable for both of them to expect a good return on investment for their interaction (ROII) and it is your duty to provide them just that.

If it seems like a LOT of work, it is. But the effort is worth it because of the leverage it provides to everyone that participates to make it successful.

You can see the outcome of the project by downloading the eBook by clicking the button below (no registration required)