Yesterday, I discussed my growing doubts about the usefulness of Twitter in selling books. Yet I had little to go on beyond intuition and some anecdotal evidence from my own experiences and those of a few other authors.
So I’ve decided to conduct a test. Starting at about 8:00 a.m. PST this morning, I’ve stopped tweeting book links altogether. I’m going to continue this at least through the weekend. Instead, I’m going to concentrate on tweeting links to my content, both here and my reviews on Christina Harding’s blog.
I decided to start today for a specific reason. Thursdays, for reasons I am still pondering, have been terrible selling days for me. I’ll be cruising along on Tuesday and Wednesday, then bam, Thursday comes and my sales take a nose dive—only to spike up again on Friday and into the weekend. I don’t know why this is so, but the pattern has been pretty clear.
So I figured that if stopping the book links was going to hurt my sales, Thursday would be a good day to test it, since, how much worse could it get?
What’s happened so far? Well, today is my best Thursday ever. It’s just after 5:00 pm here, and I’ve already more than doubled my average Thursday sales figures over the past month. The Wizard’s Daughters has jumped 20 spots in the bestseller lists since this morning, and the usual big dip from Wednesday has disappeared. This is of course only one day—less than one, actually—but it does suggest that book links were not driving my sales.
Another interesting effect is that my Twitter engagement (we discussed this yesterday as well) shot up significantly. My total engagements, link clicks, retweets, replies, and favorites each hit all-time highs. The highs for link clicks almost doubled my previous best day, and the high for replies almost tripled it. And this is despite sending about half as many tweets as I was doing before.
What else has happened? Traffic on my blog has skyrocketed (in fairness, I wasn’t promoting it much before this week). I’ve gotten—by far—more hits today than ever, as well as far more comments. And I can see from my WP stats that many of you are sticking around and exploring. A few of you have even signed up for my newsletter (please?).
All of these things are the sort of engagement you must have if you want to be a successful indie author.
So why in the world would stopping book link tweets increase my sales, and conversely, why should tweeting book links hurt them?
This is, again, mostly instinct, but I suspect it comes with the nature of the medium. I come from a background in publishing and social media, so I really should have known better, but when I got set up on Twitter and saw so many other authors blasting out book links 24/7, I figured there had to be a good reason for it. So many authors couldn’t be wrong, could they?
But it’s axiomatic among social media professionals that Twitter is not well suited for direct sales. It’s just too abbreviated and ephemeral. Twitter is best suited for driving people to richer content where you can engage them and then—only then—start working on a sales pitch. Another axiom is that hitting people with the same pitch over and over is much less effective than using fewer, more carefully crafted messages.
I suspect that what’s going on with the book link Twitter storm is that potential readers are simply tuning out the sales pitches as white noise, and in the process missing the fewer links to good content.
There’s another conclusion that follows from all this, of course. If tweeting Amazon links on your own is a largely a waste of time, then paying other people to tweet them has to be a complete waste of money. I’m sure there are people who will disagree with me on this point—perhaps violently—but it would take some good data to convince me. I’ve done it twice myself, and I can’t say with any confidence that either effort resulted in a single sale. Certainly there was no perceptible bump.
I’ll be updating this experiment throughout the weekend as I have more results to report.
[Update 1/7/15]: I’ve reopened the experiment.