Campaigns promote read a book, tweet your review


Several campaigns have got many South Africans to get in the habit of reading books and posting their reviews on Twitter.

book campaign tebogo ditshego
Ditshego Media CEO Tebogo Ditshego founded ReadaBookSA in May 2012. The initiative gets people to take up the habit of reading. By January 2017, it had received 14,857 book recommendations from Twitter followers. (Image supplied)

Melissa Javan
Coffee shops, bus terminals, police stations, office complexes, Uber taxis and shopping malls are just a few of the places where free books are dropped off as part of the #PuffnPass campaign.

It is one of two South African initiatives to get people in the habit of reading. With #PuffnPass, bookworms post their recommendations of books distributed by publishers Jacana Media to Twitter, tagging the campaign as well as Jacana (@JacanaMedia) and ReadaBook South Africa (@ReadaBookSA).

In the first week of January this year, Jacana started the #JacanaChallenge encouraging people to read a different book every week this year. Shortly afterwards, it launched its #PuffnPass campaign. The first includes any book a reader picks up; for the second, specific titles are distributed by Jacana.

#PuffnPass rallies people to participate in the challenge: “Find it. Read it. Sign it. Leave it.” Through this initiative, free books are left at spots such as coffee shop tables or shop shelves. Books have already be left in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.

Another South African initiative on readers’ lips online is ReadaBookSA, which began on 1 May 2012. Its first tweet explained that the campaign was not geared at bookworms, but rather at people who needed to get in the habit of reading.

Within its first month, ReadaBookSA exceeded its target of 4,000 followers – on 1 June 2012 there were more than 5,000 Twitter followers. Currently ReadaBookSA has 37,800 Twitter followers.

According to Brand South Africa, when you follow ReadaBookSA on Twitter, you pledge to read at least one book a month.

How #PuffnPass works
Jacana Media spokesperson Tembinkosi Sikupela explains: “When you find one of the books, take a picture, post it on social media and tag #PuffnPass and @JacanaMedia.

“Once you’ve finished reading it, write a short review on the first page, sign your name and leave the book in a public space for someone else to find and read,” Sikupela says.

“Post another picture on social media with the same tags #PuffnPass and @JacanaMedia, so that the next person knows where you left the book. The books continue to travel and exchange hands this way.”

The #PuffnPass and @JacanaMedia tags also help the publisher keep track of the books, says Sikupela, “to see how far the books have travelled and how many people have read them”.

“We started off with 50 books but we have had to add more because of the interest that the campaign has already achieved. As it continues to grow, we will add more titles.”

The aim of the campaign
Sikupela says the idea is to get more South Africans reading. “We are planning on doing this by creating a new community of readers who discover the joy of reading.”

There is not a set number of books Jacana will distribute. “Depending on how well the campaign does, we will then decide on the way forward. But the Jacana team is hoping this becomes such a success that we have to do it again next year and the year after that. In fact, the planning went beyond just this year.”

Achievements of ReadaBookSA
Tebogo Ditshego, CEO of media and communications company Ditshego Media, and his team founded ReadaBookSA. Although they do not keep year-on-year records, he says, they have received 14,857 book recommendations since the start of the initiative.

“We have an average 258 book recommendations per month.” According to Ditshego Media, ReadaBookSA is the most-followed online bookclub in Africa.

The growth of ReadaBookSA is excellent, Ditshego says. “We’re using a user-based content model where our followers have a say in the majority of content driven and we share their thoughts and recommendations.

“We have a legion of dedicated members, which is what ensures the initiative remains sustainable in the long-term.”

Of the highlights Ditshego says: “So many young people have sent us posts saying that they did not have much interest in reading books until they started following ReadabookSA on Twitter.

“Others say we got them back to reading books. This will have a significant impact on society as we are helping to develop tomorrow’s leaders, one book at a time.”

ReadaBookSA will host its fourth annual World Book Day celebration on Monday, 27 April. The venue is still to be confirmed.

Other Twitter handles that promote reading include @BooksOfAfrica of African Flavour Books, @BookWormersGP of Bookwormers, and @ReadABookL of Read A Book L.

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