Is Twitter Useless For Marketing?

Nail clipper
Nail clipper in the sky (Photo credit: adrian8_8)
I can't prove it, but circumstantial evidence is in: when you tweet your wares, "buy my book", "grab this while it's free on Kindle", "get the best nail clipper and off with your nails", well...  nobody listens to you! I tried a Twitter campaign last week, just to see whether it would work. After all, I have over 2000 followers, you'd expect some results if I gave them a good deal on my just published book A Hook in the Sky. And a good deal it was: half price (a very modest $2.99 - hey, that's less than a Starbucks' latte!), surely they'd all sit up and grab the book!

Twitter In Real Life Cartoon by HubSpot
Twitter In Real Life Cartoon by HubSpot (Photo credit: HubSpot)
Can I assume there was something wrong with my Twitter campaign? I don't think so. To get around Twitter rules that you can't tweet twice the same message, I devised a fun system with a (hopefully) witty message saying "in 24 hours, the price will DOUBLE on my book...",  "in 23 hours, the price will DOUBLE..." etc. You get the idea, this was repeated every hour down to the last 30 minutes. That message therefore spanned exactly the 24 hours before the price was raised and it was even retweeted by followers (thank you for the RTs!)several times. Which means it covered all time zones. The whole world was inundated by my tweets!

Perhaps not all 2000 followers were reached, but surely a few would buy! In the advertising industry, a CTR or "click through rate" of 0,2% is considered good. It used to be much higher in the 1990s: around 3%. By 2011 it's reportedly come down to between 0,1% and 0,3%. So I should have expected to sell at least 4 copies, right? How many did I sell as a result of the campaign? One. And I'm not sure that sale had anything to do with Twitter, because it was a Goodreads author's purchase, and he emailed me saying he regretted he'd opened his email too late and hadn't caught the offer in time before the price raise (yes, I had sent a message around to my friends on Goodreads as well).

Twitter Addiction
Twitter Addiction (Photo credit: dewaldp)

Could it be that the CTR is even lower than 0,1%? Are we suffering from marketing fatigue? Personally, I think we are. Have you EVER bought a book on the basis of a tweet on Twitter? I know I haven't. I don't even download free books on my Kindle anymore, I have way too many, more than I can ever hope to read over the next five years! No, I should correct that: I still download a very few books, mostly from authors that I'd like to explore. But quite frankly, the ability Amazon gives me of downloading a free sample of a book is plenty good enough for me. I don't need whole free books! 

Yes, I know what you will say, free books populate the box on your Amazon book site which says "customers who bought this also bought..." and a whole string of titles appear, making your book look good in the company of many others. Although they are often not similar books at all - Amazon algorithms can throw up some surprising books! Also allowing the first book in a series to go free helps to sell the others, makes sense. In fact, that's exactly what I plan to do with the first book in my new series, The Phoenix Heritage, the one called Flying in the Past (you can see it in the right margin). I might even let my new short story collection Twisted go free for a couple of days, particularly as it contains two stories that are prequels to The Phoenix Heritage series. 

Christmas Will Never Be The Same Because of Tw...
Christmas Will Never Be The Same Because of Twitter [cartoon] (Photo credit:

But I don't plan to let my new novel A Hook in the Sky go free, don't bank on it! I worked hard at it, it took me two years to polish it to the point where I felt I could publish it. In short, it represents a big slice of my own life, I've invested everything into it (mind you, it's not autobiographical at all, but it's still me, my fictional self). And that is not worth nothing! At $5.99, I still consider it a steal!

Now should I go on Twitter with that sort of message: A HOOK is a steal? Certainly not! I'm through with book promotions on Twitter. What about you? How do you feel about Twitter, do you view it as an effective marketing instrument? Has it worked for you? I'd be curious to know!

To help you to answer (in case you don't feel like commenting), here's a poll: 

Has Twitter Helped You in Selling Your Book(s)? free polls 

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Adrienne Smith said…
There is a right way and a wrong way to promote on Twitter Claude. This is where most people get it wrong.

The way to have success on Twitter is by sharing other people's content first. Don't even think about promoting anything.

Are you making those connections? Are you building those relationships? When you do that and people RT your message, their audience will trust them because they KNOW they won't promote junk. Understand?

Just promoting your product will not bring you any sales but if you promote the right way, you'll make your quota.

Sorry you didn't have much luck with this particular campaign. Perhaps you need to check out my post that I share how to have success on Twitter with affiliate products. I know this would work for you as well.

Carmen DeSousa said…
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Carmen DeSousa said…
It's the connections I make. I follow authors and share information I believe my readers are interested in. People who read authors I follow and retweet are often interested in my books. Because I can only write so many books, I share authors who are similar, and they do the same. Honestly, if it weren't for Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon, I probably would not have two "paid" bestsellers under my belt. And not in an obscure genre either. My first two novels sat right beside Nicholas Sparks current bestseller while it was in the theaters. But...there's only so far Twitter sales will take you. And the only way to keep selling is to keep writing, working on that gem that will one day make it! It's hard competing with the big kids; they have deep pockets. When you find a better avenue to market my books without breaking my wallet, please let me know, as I will be ready to listen. :)
Claude Nougat said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Claude Nougat said…
Thanks Carmen and Adrienne, for thoughtful and useful comments. I do want to clarify: I ALWAYS interact with my followers, indeed, I do nothing but! I enjoy making them discover with me articles that I find interesting, unusual, illuminating! And I get a lot of retweet for all of these.

No, Adrienne, I'm afraid I'm following EXACTLY what you say and have done so for 2 full years (which is why I do have so many followers and most of them stay faithful: I have very few people who unfollow!)

Moreover, I am CONVINCED that Twitter is GREAT to meet people, to connect, to make friends! It's just NOT good for selling. That is really the point of my post.

And Carmen, I'm sure you're right: what works for you is evidently a COMBINATION of SM networks: not just Twitter but all the others, FB, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Digg, Goodreads, Shelfari, The Reading Room, YouTube etc...The choice is vast and quite clearly you need to choose what works best for you! And all of it should be tied to your blog. No question, the combination works, you are the living proof!

That still leaves Twitter as a very minor means for marketing if you take it by itself...

Actually, I do not believe that you can sell books through advertising campaigns anywhere (and not just on Twitter), no matter how subtle or well-prepared they may be. We all know that books are primarily sold by word of mouth. If Twitter can be turned into your "word of mouth" and create the needed buzz for sales, that's great! I'm still waiting for someone on this thread to tell me that it works that way, that he or she has actual proof that it does!

I suspect however that if you're a BIG author (say Paulo Coehlo who has 2 million Twitter followers), then Twitter does work for you: you announce that your latest book is coming on said date and everybody rushes to buy it!
Laura Zera said…
Lots of friends made through Twitter have bought my book in the past nine months, but I never tweet anything saying 'buy my book.' Twitter is fun for a two-way relationship, not good for pushing product. I wish more people would see that, it would improve Twitter and make for a more interesting timeline.
Believe it or not - I still don't get how to even use Twitter. If it weren't for the automation of Triberr and Hootsuite, I wouldn't know what to do.
Dean Mayes said…
Personally, I think that you didn't run your campaign for long enough. A week isn't enough time to penetrate the Twitter atmosphere. I think that you probably needed to do it for a month at a minimum. Did you target your tweets? Did you apply hashtags that would get your tweets a further spread across the sphere?

I tried a targetted campaign via Twitter during the month of September, balancing marketing tweets with cross promotion and personal interaction using a rule of thirds. Not only did my follower numbers increase but my sales jumped 4 fold.

I used to struggle with the notion of marketing on Twitter but I longer concern myself with whether people are annoyed with my Tweets or not. I don't regard Twitter as a portal for 'maintaining relationships'. If you want to foster a relationship with me, sure - let's meet on Twitter and sure let's cross promote on Twitter but let's interact via each others blogs and FB Author pages where the potential for discussion is far greater. When I converse, I prefer to do it in more than 140 characters.

I've met some great people on Twitter and have enjoyed lasting friendships as a result but let's not kid ourselves - Twitter is actually quite an effective marketing tool, if leveraged in the right way.
Claude Nougat said…
Thanks everybody for the insightful comments! I can see that people's approaches to Twitter is incredibly varied and broad.

Some expect to make personal connections and wish more contacts could be made (right Laura?). So marketing efforts are definitely not welcome!

Others want to have fun and get info of use to themselves (through links to interesting material, be them pictures, videos or articles).Sometimes they react and share what they like, but the number of shares even for really good material is incredibly small. That suggests that people actually do NOT read their Twitter stream!Indeed Twitter often looks like an exchange between deaf and blind people!

Others still (right Dean?) use it for savvy marketing based on hashtags and a delicate balancing act between sharing info and promotion - and yes Dean, I use hashtags to direct my tweets, and yes, I apply a rule of thumb: never more than 1/3 of tweets directed at my own stuff. Indeed I believe I do even less than that.

And yes, I agree with you, proper marketing campaigns don't last 24 hours: this was the "crowning touch" to a 3 week marketing campaign (done on several sites, including FB and Linked In and Goodreads). I guess I should have made that clear in my post.

Well now it's clear!

That's why I don't think Twitter works very well for marketing.It should have been the "crowning touch", the cherry on the cake and it wasn't.

Dean are you sure Twitter is the real cause, the one major source for your sales success? Surely you're on FB and other places too?

This is the trouble your see: it's almost impossible to figure out what Twitter's role is exactly, given the fact that everyone who's active on the net uses more than one SM network!
Peter Cook said…
Push marketing to 2000 people, assuming they are all online should reach about 0.01% of them, so you might have expected about 0.2 book sales.

I'm assuming that you had built up a reputation and following, otherwise the test would not be an especially fair one on you or them.

It's a slow burn operation but some things do work.
Claude Nougat said…
Really, Peter, are you sure about your numbers? 0,01%? That seems very little (certainly not the numbers you find on Wikipedia and other sources which are those I quote in the post). But you could very well be right: in that case, having 2,000+ followers on Twitter is next to useless!

And I completely agree here with everyone who's pointed out that Twitter is good for connecting! Personally, I think it's only good in the first few moments - after that, 140 characters aren't enough to keep up a dialogue! FB or Google+ are much better, and a good old-fashioned email is still the best!
Dean Mayes said…
I can't be 100% sure but indeed, the spike came after I revised my strategy with Twitter and became more proactive in sending out advertweets (like that?) September was my biggest month of 2012 and I can only surmise that Twitter had a lot to do with it. Sure, I have a SM presence on other platforms but I'm not as marketing focused on them as I am conversation focused.

I don't have definitive metrics on Twitter.
Claude Nougat said…
Dean, I love that word "advertweets"! Great! Twitter should pay you for that!
Caleb Pirtle said…
I don't know if Twitter works or it doesn't work for marketing. It's just that I'm afraid to quit tweeting. It is an opportunity, and I try to keep after them all.
Beth Trissel said…
I agree with you that Twitter is probably a bust for promoting a book. I'm still there and in a number of triberr tribes but suspect it's like shouting into the wind. Love your blog, btw. Great header. Most impressive. I enjoy meeting new authors on twitter and triberr so that's a plus!
Claude Nougat said…
Thanks Beth, such nice words and so nice to meet you too! And Caleb, I know how you feel: I'm afraid of quitting Twitter too...This said, it has, as Beth suggested, been very useful to connect and make new friends, even if they're only virtual so far!
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Staci Burruel said…
I would like to believe that the opposite is true. In the emergence of social media channels, a lot of people, including users and shoppers, are using these platforms to connect and express themselves. Companies and marketers saw this trend and banked on the advantages of connecting with their target audience. Although there are stories that question the effectiveness of the medium, there are also successful tales that verify the usefulness of social media. Studies indicate that Twitter’s worldwide revenue may reach a stunning $ 807.5 million in the coming years. I think that the key to the successful use of these platforms is a good, catchy content and the convenience of sharing the link.
Claude Nougat said…
Thanks Twitter marketing for your link and yes, Staci, I agree with you: I have no doubts at all that Twitter is extensively used as a marketing instrument. Loads of people and businesses use it. My question is: how effective is it as a promotion tool? You're right, it provides an exceptionally convenient tool for linking relevant information. But do those clicks lead to sales?
Karina Croney said…
Twitter can be a useful marketing tool when used right. One thing is to listen more and talk less. When you tweet or post information, write something that your market will want to know, not something that you want them to know.
Glenn Evans said…
One way to improve your marketing strategy with the use of Twitter is to connect with the right people and tweet with them frequently. It’s not certain that everyone you follow will follow you back, but choosing relevant people to follow gives you higher chances that they will do the same for you. It is also better to follow their conversations, thank them for their compliments and offer some advice regarding their concerns.
Claude Nougat said…
Glenn and Karina, yours is excellent, precious advice, I couldn't agree with you more! One should strive to connect on Twitter and never, ever sell your own stuff, whether it's a book or a song! Let others do that for you! Which means that you have to develop friendships, lasting friendships and that takes time, patience and a lot of giving out to others before you can ever get something back!

All of which goes to show that Twitter is not really a proper medium for marketing! Marketing requires you to reach out to the greatest number of people. Marketing requires that you sell something. Marketing requires that you move fast from one product to the next. None ofthis has anything to do with building up friendships! To become friends takes time, it takes love, it takes trust in one another. Any whiff of money and sales will break down that trust...
Sage said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sage said…
I agree with you Claude that establishing friendship needs time, effort, and of course, love. What’s good about social media, like Twitter, is that it connects people from different points of the world. Aside from selling stuff, the constant exchange of conversation builds trust too. Marketing can also be an exchange of information and not just selling of products.

-Sage Aumick
AllenCarlos said…
Twitter is one of the best social networking sites that can be use as a marketing tool to get a lot of traffic for your site. Just be active and be popular on this site.
Claude Nougat said…
Thanks for dropping in! I believe I'm quite popular on Twitter and that's not really the point of the post...To be active and popular is one thing, to view it as an effective marketing tool is quite another and I'm totally convinced that it doesn't work particularly well for marketing. It works very well for political purposes, to contact friends, to share good news or interesting links and photos...