Now that the week is over, I will call it “the week when people challenged social media”. I had a couple of clients who were pretty unimpressed by the response they got in the social media. Their problem was not with my work (thankfully!), but with the response they got. They thought that social media have created a hype that fails to live up to expectations, in terms of how useful they are, marketing-wise. I can’t really disagree with them; unless they have a substantial marketing budget, the organic reach they get through their promotions is minimal – especially on Facebook.
I have examined their campaign results, and my clients are right: they are not getting the results they would as recently as a year ago. They are posting nice pictures, appetizing photos (one client is in the food business) and smart quotes, and get great engagement, but poor sales. Of course, the counterargument is that they are raising awareness of their brands and people will shop there at some point. Which is fair enough; it just seems that the effort and money that they put into the whole exercise far exceed the expected outcome.
Another name I will give to this week is “the week of all coincidences”. I ran into this blog post by the OutThink Group called “3 myths about social media marketing for authors.” The main points of the post are the following:
The disappointing facts of social media
- A large social media following does not automatically imply that social media work. In general, people will follow you on social media because they have heard/read/listened about you somewhere else. It is a bit of the chicken/egg conundrum. So, you have to become visible through other means as well, since social media feed into the rest of your promotion, but do not instantly make you more noticeable on their own. Combine them with other marketing activities for best effect.
- Don’t try to find out what you are doing wrong, you are probably doing everything right. Many people advertise their social media-based success. However, chances are that their success was partly due to their fame earned with other means, too.
- A big following does not necessarily translate into big sales (unfortunately). The rate at which social media followers click on your links is between 0.25% and 1%. Of these, a similar percentage will buy the books. You probably need the population of China clicking on your links for you to make a decent living from a social media campaign alone.
What you should realistically aim for with social media
- Connect with people you don’t know. You make new friends, keep in touch will old ones, and it is a good technique to reach someone on a 1-to-1 basis.
- Sharing through media. It’s the easiest and most practical way to share content, ideas and posts and to reach people whom you would never reach otherwise. By inviting people to share your content with their people, you expand your scope.
The exceptions to the rule
There is one big exception to the rule: In my experience, blogs work better than other social media. Don’t get me wrong, I like my Facebook page –I happily share all those funny quotes and images about books, while chuckling at the cute photos of puppies- and I particularly enjoy going through Twitter and getting to meet new people. I just believe that my blog best reflects who I really am.
Also, the material on a blog stays online forever (hopefully, thank you WordPress!), while people visit a blog because they expect to read something useful or close to their interests so it’s a more targeted audience than Facebook or Twitter. Plus, the content is specific and relevant to my author persona, so it’s good from an SEO point of view, too.
Speaking of SEO, the other exception is Google+, Facebook’s awkward little brother. I have noticed that lately Google is promoting G+ heavily, in the form of search results. So, you might need ten times as much material posted on Facebook before you reach the same effect as a single post on Google+ (not that Google will ever admit this, of course; this is just my personal feeling). A hint, then: while everyone is out of Facebook posting their a$$ off, don’t forget to post a little something on G+ as well. It will be worth your while!
As always, I value your feedback. What do you think? Are social media overvalued or not?
There’s a lot of very useful stuff here. I can’t add to it because I don’t know anything; but I’m very grateful for the pointers from fellow authors who are obviously clued up about these things. I’ll try and get something organized on Google + for starters!
So glad to hear you found it useful. Thanks! 🙂
I agree with the conclusions here. I have yet to crack the Facebook code. I think G+ is the way to expand. I have been a blogger as a first effort and social media second. I think I’ll keep that priority mix. Interesting post. Thanks
Sounds like you’ve got your priorities set up straight! 🙂
I like Google+ too. Not only that, but it has some great and very friendly supportive communities. I noticed that since I started using Google+ I have had a definite increase in visits to my blog… which I love most of all, thank you WordPress! When I started blogging, it was to support my books. Now I blog because I enjoy it, and have made so many lovely contacts through it.
Id just like to add that I have indeed made some sales on Google+ without trying to sell, simply by posting content and engaging with my commentors.
That’s the best way to sell anything! 🙂
That’s so true! I, too have found out that blogging is great fun regardless of anything else. 🙂
Google+ is definitely the way to better visibility. My website’s ALEXA rating went from over 2 million to under 1 million (where lower is better) in less than 1 month, mostly from my getting very engaged and visible on G+ on HOAs and comments on postings, more friends, etc. So, i agree, Nicholas. FB is killing itself and G+ is going to make FB the MySpace of the 2010’s.
The irony, of course, being that FB did for MySpace what will be done to it by G+… 🙂
Encouraged by your feedback, I think I’ll dedicate this week to finally getting to know G+ a little better.
Fully agree. My blog definitely gets more tangible success in terms of connecting with people and putting my name out. I seem to get lost in the shuffle with Facebook and Twitter is hit or miss. The tough thing with blogging is figuring out a good ‘level’ of activity. I really have no idea if there’s a magic number of posts per week like some people go hunting for. Guess it goes back to my ‘do what makes you feel comfortable’ approach.
If you remember, a couple of weeks ago I ran a poll on this. Most people suggested I tone it down a bit, and relax on the daily post thing. Three times a week seems to be a good level for most – as long as you feel comfortable doing it, of course! 🙂
I’m considering dropping to 3-4 times a week after my next book comes out. Though I prep my posts weeks in advance so I don’t always think about it these days.
I have always been sceptical about Twitter et al affecting sales and my experience shows that a blog has the most value in terms of spreading the word. Again, though, I don’t know how much this translates into sales. Two and a half years ago I broke my hip and the recovery was horrendous – I could no more keep up the blog and Twitter, let alone any other networks, than fly to the moon. However, it was during the same period (about four months) that my sales on Zazzle rose markedly!
Oh, the irony… 😀 What happened when you started engaging with people again; did your sales return to the previous levels?
I think I’d have given up if re-engaging had led to sales going back to previous levels! They stayed at the improved level and, since then, have grown steadily. Not enough for a living but hey, I live in hope!
That’s great, congrats! I hope you make a living out of it in no time! 🙂
I read a great book recently, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned it, Dan Holloway’s Self Publishing With Integrity. He makes an excellent point in there which is that social media is not really about volume but about quality. So he quotes a theory that if you get 1,000 fans who absolutely love your work and buy everything you do that is far more valuable than 20,000 twitter followers who buy at a rate of 2%. I think he does have a point.
Personally, I really enjoy twitter but I have trouble engaging on there. I get the impression that, to make it work, you need to follow your feed 24/7 and unfortunately the only way I can do that is by taking out a second mortgage on our house and using my phone. So for now a quality M T McGuire twitter feed will have to wait.
It also seems that there’s a kind of class system going on in social media. There’s the stuff that goes vial, for whatever reason: fairy dust? Luck? Who knows; the overnight successes that really do happen overnight.Then there’s the rest. I think there are two ways of doing the rest. You can go hell for leather, following everyone you can find and hoping they will follow you. You may well make a lot of noise but I’m not sure how much of it converts into anything. Or you can treat it as slow burn: post quality material and take the time to build up quality contacts who want that material and love it. I have 1,400 twitter followers and I think they lie somewhere between the two. I know some read my stuff but I’m not sure how many of them take any notice of anything I post because a lot of it is, hey check out so and so’s book or hey I’ve posted on my blog. Conversely, I have about 130 blog followers, I think a very much higher proportion of them read what I write and some of them may, very possibly, go on to read my books. Although most of the people who do are from interaction on forums – although I reckon I’ve hit the ceiling with those. I could practically do forum interaction full time and I suspect I probably wouldn’t sell many more books than I do now.
As a social media user, I try to think about what the people who follow me now want rather than what will get me new follows through the search engines. The simple truth is that if I please the people who read my drivel now, they’ll spread the word and any search engine placement activities will be redundant.
I’m probably wrong but that’s just my view.
That’s a great way of looking at it. Like you, I have thousands of followers on Twitter, but their level of engagement/interaction is minimal compared to this blog. I’d much rather have a dozen more quality followers than a hundred indifferent ones (which is why I can’t, for the life of me, understand people who buy followers on FB/Twitter).
I totally agree about the feel you get from your blog. Engagement, appreciation, an enhanced sense of identity. But does this translate into increased sales of your books? I mean, I buy your books because I’m a fan of your writing, so I’m not talking about you necessarily, but I follow and comment on various blogs, appreciating the effort the blogger has put behind her posts, but will I buy the books she writes?
And if I’m to speak about myself, I’ve got a couple of hundred of organic followers of my own blog who frequently Like my (infrequent) platform building posts (through those I get most new followers), but will I count on them buying my romance books when they come out? I think not…
Thank you! I know at least one follower who’s looking forward to your books… 🙂
Seriously though, perhaps the question is, would they have found out about your book had you not blogged about it? At least, a blog is inexpensive, compared to a Facebook campaign.
True, but there’s also the case of (mainly) erotic romance writers who have a crazy FB following, hanging on to their every word. I’m following Whitney Gracia Williams who had mediocre success with her previous chick-lit romance books but then she published the first episode of a serialized erotic romance, “Reasonable Doubt #1”, and she hit #5 of PAID Amazon (the All Category list). Her FB page got crazy popular, the level of engagement amazing, and when she wrote that she published Episode #2, I checked six hours later, and she already had 260 reviews!!! In six hours!! Well, the fact that the books are not over 80 pages and they don’t cost over a dollar does speed things up! Money spent on FB? Zero! Now there’s a successful recipe! 🙂
Blimey! Now, *that’s* what I call a success story, thanks for sharing!
I assume she already had a lot of followers, though? So the “killer app” was the combination of brief, economical material with the progressive publication of her chapters. I just know there’s a moral there… Hmm… 😉