The Fall of Borders and the Cost of Ignoring Social Media

Yesterday I was showing a friend my whole book-business operation; the entire process from acquisition to inventory to shipping.  His mom is retired and wanted to sell her books for some extra cash, so I gave him the rundown and a few tips and pointers.

While looking at the crammed shelves, we speculated about the future of e-books and how someday these paper volumes could become obsolete.   Sort of like music and the fate of the compact disc.  And then what?  Would these paper versions all be worthless?

Maybe, but I’ve got a lot of odd obscure volumes that likely would not be converted to e-book anytime soon.  First, it would be the “Da Vinci Codes” and other bestsellers of the book world would be electronified, and then it would trickle down from there.  Obscure stuff would be last to go.

But it made me think about yesterday’s post and the lack of social media savvy displayed by the majority of small businesses.  Especially after reading about the fall of Borders in an article entitled “Toward Augmented Experiences.”  The journalist described his common practice of going to Borders, pre-bankruptcy, and using apps to look up a book and buy it elsewhere- cheaper!

He had this to say:

“Let this be a lesson to any retailer in just about any segment. Your customers are talking directly to your competitors in your own aisles.   If you can’t give them a good reason to access your mobile Web site or you brand’s app when they are in your store before all others, you deserve to lose them.”

To sum it up, this is exactly why businesses cannot ignore social media- it is tantamount to suicide.  Borders was once a giant in the industry, and it was paper-cut (haha) to death by the likes of Barnes & Nobles and (especially) Amazon.

I think that companies who are not dialed into the tools of social media are going to be seen as irrelevant as those companies who, a decade ago, declined to create a website presence.

One more note: I’ve always been surprised at the notion that Americans don’t read, or don’t buy books.  Watching the success of Amazon over the past ten years, clearly this is not true.  (According to BookStates, 2.57 billion books were sold in 2010, which equates to about 8 books per American).

So if a giant like Borders can’t afford to ignore social media, why should any other business (of any size) ignore it?  One thing I learned from using Twitter and tools like Pluggio is how truly easy it is to get started and at least be present in that world.

Woody Allen’s old joke was “80% of success is showing up”, which is becoming less of a joke and more of a truism in today’s world.  It took virtually no time for me to Tweet something, or schedule some automated Tweets, or seek out new Twitter friends.  With the investment of just a few minutes a day, surely you could at least get started in building your online presence.

And who knows where that could lead?

I wonder if Borders has any regrets.  I went to see what their Twitter account said, but it’s full of people gleeful about the massive liquidation discounts going on right now.  It resembles a feeding frenzy of sharks around a dead whale.


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