Social Media, as wonderful as it is, is not a content platform. Every social media service out there is an ad platform — a distribution platform at absolute best. You, as a user, have very little control over it. Nor, quite frankly, can it do you a terrible amount of good.
For instance, what is the value of a “Like” on a Facebook post? How long will that post be visible in the newsfeed and how many will see it? How about a tweet? An update on Google+? SnapChat?
Yet, despite this, so many authors use Social Media as a substitute for posting to their website. That’s a lot like cleaning the restaurant down the street, but never maintaining your own house.
Over the last year, I’ve been paying a fair amount of attention to the interaction between social media, author site traffic, and book sales.
Here’s what we’ve learned and some rules for how you can use social media in 2016.
The Limitations of Social Media
H.M. Ward says Facebook transformed her sales. But, she said that in 2011. Things are different now (though that link is still a great read, just keep in mind that Facebook requires a lot more effort and interaction now than it did in the past).
There are still Facebook power users from the earlier era that get decent returns from Facebook, but they are very active and have a following large enough that the small engagement still yields a lot of eyeballs. Are you one of these people? I don’t know. If you already have upwards of 80,000 followers on your Facebook page, then you probably are. If you’re just getting started, you might want to re-think Facebook as a marketing strategy.
Since Facebook’s IPO in 2012, they have focused on monetizing — and part of how they do that is to get businesses (including authors) to buy ads. Creating a Facebook Group, while easy, and even fun, probably won’t help you very much in 2015 when it comes to sales, because Facebook intentionally throttles your reach to members of your Facebook Groups and Pages. Facebook makes its ads worthwhile by limiting your exposure without an ad. Same with twitter.
Not sure what all of this talk about “reach” means?
“Reach” is the number of people who saw what you posted somewhere. Every platform has it’s own “reach”. The more tight knit you are with your followers on a platform, generally the better reach. Sharing improves reach, as does promoting the post.
A few things have come to light about social media, specifically Facebook since it gets the most attention. Much like our earlier data on Kindle, or our chart for Newsletters, here is one for Facebook “organic” reach (i.e. non-paying), courtesy of the exceptional crew at Convince and Convert:
This chart tells us that, despite what spokespeople may say, Facebook’s value is directly tied to keeping you from your intended audience.
All of those Facebook followers you have for your Facebook Author Page? Well, most likely, they don’t see much of what you are posting. Only the true die-hards who stay constantly engaged with you will see your updates. That means about 5-6%. Obviously, this rate varies from person to person, but it’s pretty low. And, you still have to convert them from that post to a sale — hard to do from a facebook post, which, according to Salesforce’s Social Advertising Benchmark Report, only yields an average click-through-rate of 0.14% — that’s 1.4 clicks per thousand views!
There are a few ways to make Facebook (and other social platforms) work better for you in 2016, though. It takes some effort, but the payoff can make a big difference.
Post From Your Website Outward
If you look at the social activity of most major media and news sites, one thing becomes apparent almost immediately: the links they are sharing are their own, from their sites. Even if it’s a video — even a YouTube video! — they embed it in a post on their website and share that post, not the raw video. Why? Because sending traffic to YouTube doesn’t help them.
It’s great to share links from other sources, but remember that if it coming from you, post on your website first, then share it. The best use of social media is to use posts and updates to drive traffic to your website, not to another aspect of social media (page, group, YouTube, etc).
Be Mobile Friendly
The web is now consumed on mobile devices more than desktops and laptops — we are crossing 50% viewership on mobile as we speak (ThirdScribe data shows 52% of its viewers are on mobile, up from 38% last year). Social media is already prepared for mobile, but the links you share, especially links from your own website, also need to be mobile ready.
Posts and updates, regardless of where they are — Facebook, Twitter, your website — should provide some kind of value. Maybe that value is simple entertainment, or some interesting piece of information. However, and whatever, you choose to share, make sure it has some kind of intrinsic value — that is how you get interaction.
Good Graphics Count
Social media is extremely visual. Posts with good graphics are not only liked and shared more, they are clicked more. Take the time to create a meaningful graphic that is in the proper shape for your platform. This is important not only for Pinterest and Instagram, but also for Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, all of which are heavily influenced by images.
As “organic” reach continues to decline, paid ads and promoted posts are going to be necessary. The trick is to find out which kind of ad, and on what platform, make the best sense for you. While ad click through rate is very low, ads themselves are pretty cheap — about 75 cents/1000 views. Even at the low rate of 1.0% click rate, that means 10 possible sales out of every 75 cents spent. Even if there is only one sale per thousand, that would be a profit of $1.30 per sale (if the list price of your book is $2.99), or doubling your money.
Try and be a little more “platform neutral” — meaning, don’t put all of your eggs in one social media basket. Pick 2-3 that you can easily maintain, hopefully that compliment each other. For example, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. All of these can be inter-connected (minimizing how much you have to post to each), but each has their own unique audience.
Social media is an exceptionally powerful method to deliver your message. While not as direct and sure as email, it does allow for the opportunity for content to go viral if it touches the right nerve in the zeitgeist.
Sharing content across social media should be a part of your marketing strategy, but it shouldn’t be the only part. And it is essential that authors remember that social media is a method for distribution, not content generation. But, even as a distribution system, it’s not the only one, or even the best one. When used the right way, however, it can be a potentially powerful one.
This is the third part of a multi-part series on trends and advice in Book Marketing as we move into 2016. This series is the summation of research, data, observations, and insights taken throughout the last year from a variety of sources, including data from ThirdScribe.