Background

In a world first, Borders, thriller-author James Patterson and his fans collaborated to produce a Chain Thriller through social media. The ebook was available for free and only online.

James Patterson wrote the first and last chapters, while fans competed to write the 28 chapters between. The chapters were released consecutively over 30 days from March 20 to April 19.

Brand: Borders
Agency: Citrus

Objective

  • Bring the James Patterson novel concept to life, creating awareness and participation
  • Boost James Patterson’s profile
  • Generate buzz and increase sales of his soon to be released books
  • Increase Borders’ email subscriber database
  • Demonstrate Borders’ innovation and leadership in book retailing, and
  • Build new relationships through social media to later leverage.

Strategy

Digital marketing agency Citrus created the ‘Chain Thriller’ concept to define the book’s collaborative nature. It then developed a social media strategy to generate conversation before the release of the first chapter. Through Facebook, Twitter and RSS, this strategy was to encourage interaction around the release of each chapter.

Finally, the social media platform was used to generate buzz around the book’s release.

The campaign was a prelude to the launch of James Patterson’s forthcoming books.

Execution

To launch the ‘Chain Thriller’ concept, Citrus executed a three-stage campaign.

First, Citrus developed a personalised email campaign as a call to action for authors and direct users to visit the author submission microsite.

Second, to retain interest while the selected authors were busy writing their chapters, Citrus developed a daily ‘Thrill’ on Twitter. Citrus sent a tweet, setting the scene for a thrilling scenario, designed to inspire followers to get in on the action by creating their own short thriller conclusion. Phase two aimed to keep followers engaged for one month until the chapters were released for download. A ‘Chain Thriller’ Facebook group also allowed authors to collaborate with each other during the writing process to create seamless transitions between chapters.

During the third phase, the completed chapters were released over 30 days through an email campaign, Twitter and RSS notifications and a novella microsite.

Results

The ‘Chain Thriller’ Facebook community generated over 860 members looking for updates on chapters and contributing to the discussion around what would happen next.

Since the launch of the ‘Chain Thriller’ campaign, readers have demonstrated their interest, not only in the online book, but in James Patterson’s back catalogue as well. Since the campaign’s end, sales of James Patterson books have increased dramatically.

Citrus’ daily ‘Thrills’ engaged Borders’ customers and had them interact with the brand in a new way. Readers ran with the concept; 193 followers were gained with many creating daily thrill responses and re-tweets.

James Patterson was also impressed with the collaborative work of the other authors, commenting, “This project was great fun for me, and for the readers and writers alike. The story turned out well, especially given that there were so many writers and that they had to work very quickly. What we have created together is the first draft of a promising suspense novel!”