Why Social Media is Useless to Promote Books

Let me start with an example of how Facebook is supposed to help you promote your book (or any website for that matter) and next I'll take a look at Twitter.

I just posted this message on the Facebook Boomer Lit page (that I set up and run since 2013), together with the book cover of my Boomer Lit novel, currently under promotion that started on April 1st - yeah, I know, April's Fool day, no doubt a good start for what turned out to be an exceptionally foolish campaign:
Hey, Boomer Peeps, the quintessential Boomer Lit novel, Crimson Clouds is still selling at half price, hurry up to get it and find out why 60 is the new 20! Available in Kindle Store.
Posted by Boomer Lit on Tuesday, May 5, 2015
And Facebook immediately suggested that I "boost" this post for the modest (!) sum of $60 that would let me reach out in "one day" (wow!) "all the people who like [my] page and their friends", and I'm further informed that means reaching out to an estimated 7,700 to 20,000 people. In one day! See here: 


Sounds good? Well, believe me, it's not. Even assuming that my post might reach 20,000 people (highly unlikely - 7,700 sounds more like it), it's plain ridiculous if you consider that your chances that some 20,000 people will click through to your Amazon book page are less than 0,1 percent. If you're lucky, between 8 and 20 people might click through to your site and see your book. Of those, again only 0,1 percent will click the "buy" button. In short, NOBODY!

You've thrown $60 out the window! If you want to learn more about click through rates, this is an excellent site: "Display Advertising Clickthrough Rates" that gives you a breakdown by region - there are some slight variations by country though the world average remains 0,1 percent and it's been this way for five years now (since October 2010).

Yes: a dismal 0,1 percent.

Now let's turn to Twitter. Consider that I have over 4,000 followers but when doing a campaign I rely on the Twitter "retweet" function to reach out to more people and I did this in the campaign I started on April 1st.  Obviously, the effect is similar to a boosted post on Facebook. As your tweets are retweeted every day, you're told by whoever manages your Twitter stream, that your retweeted messages have  "potentially" been seen by well over 200,000 people on Twitter - my case. Why? Because in the course of my book promotion throughout the month of April many of my messages were retweeted over 20 times. So, it's even possible that I reached well over one million people overall through the month - I didn't do an exact tally. And it doesn't really matter: for a comparison with Facebook, the point is that at certain times in the month, I managed to reach out to over 200,000 Twitter users in a single day, and did that repeatedly (at least five times).

As I watched the many retweets, I began to feel really good. This was turning into a success! Had I cracked the mystery and found the solution to effective book promotion? I had done everything on Twitter that is universally considered "right", including:
  • setting up your tweets at the "right" time for your audience given your timezone, 
  • using hashtags that amplify your message and reach particular groups of people interested in that said hashtag (for books there are a whole range of them, well over 20 so you can pick and arrange them at will, constantly varying your messages),
  • including images (like your book cover and variations thereof) that attract more notice than mere messages,
  • picking on "clever", attention-arresting messages, stuff that make people smile...
  • buying into campaigns offered by people with a strong online presence (I used People's Reads but there are a large number of them, all with large followings, well over 100,000 each) etc
After 6 weeks of this activity on Twitter, you'd expect that I would have sold quite a few copies, wouldn't you? Well...I didn't.

Not one copy sold. Even thought some 200,000 people were repeatedly reached within a single day, not one click on the Amazon "buy" button that day. NOT ONE.

The same explanation applies as the one for Facebook: it's that 0,01 percent click through rate that's the problem.

What has been your experience with Twitter and Facebook? I'd be most interested to hear it.
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