Rewarding Noise, Drowning the Signal

You may have noticed a certain lull in my social media presence. A dialing back on the number of tweets. Fewer quips sent to the facebook feed. Maybe even the less regular appearance of my little nuggets of wisdom here on the blog (or bullshit, depends on your perspective).

As I mentioned before, the main reason is my frantic attempt to finish the current Work In Progress. I’m a few months behind a self-imposed schedule, but the good news is that this may very well break into two books. A duology if you will. (‘Cause I seriously can’t do anything normal, like, say, a trilogy.)

The other reason is that after nearly a year of tracking social media stats, I’ve started to re-evaluate how I approach things. Social media is a great way to keep in touch with an existing fanbase. Unfortunately, it is nearly useless for sales or even building a true fanbase.

Why? The signal to noise ratio is VAST.

Despite this, now there are rumblings that many of the major platforms – Twitter, Facebook and even Google+, are going to start looking for ways to monetize posts made by authors.

Honestly, this is absurd. And mostly for the reason listed above: Social Media in itself does not sell books.

Due to that signal to noise ratio, the conversion rates are terrible. If you slap up a post linking to your sales page, you might get a response rate somewhere less than 2% and usually under 1%.

On Facebook, you already have to pay fees to actually serve posts to all of your fans. Your posts show only to a small fraction of those that have “liked” your creative efforts. The rest are kept in the dark until you shell out some cash.

Not only are the response rates low,  in the process of learning the ropes about self-publishing and marketing, I determined that the money I did spend on social media was not even close to recovered in either sales or exposure. I saw in pretty, color-coded detail on my Excel spreadsheet how my activity levels on the various platforms had no correlation to sales figures. There is simply way too much bullshit floating around social media for you to be heard, paid post or no.

Yet, in the near future, simply having a presence on social media may start draining my shoestring pocket book. In 2015, Facebook plans to launch changes that could charge automatically for the following kinds of posts:

  • Updates about a new book release.
  • Updates about a book launch and/or event.
  • Updates about Rafflecopter and other giveaways.

They won’t however, charge for these:

  • Updates about blogging articles that interest you and your connections.
  • Updates that pose questions.
  • Updates that share quotes.
  • Updates that share cartoons and memes.
  • Updates that ask for opinions. (This one may be cloudy, especially if the opinion solicited is in regard to a book cover. I just don’t know.)

(List courtesy The Write Conversation.)

In other words, the more “noise” I have on my page, the less I will pay. Any relevant posts which actual fans might want to see? Well, that’ll cost money. And since I know the conversion rates? I know it’s a waste.

Rumor has it, the other social media platforms are looking at the same.

As much as I love to share cat pictures, videos of guys taking a shot to the groin, and sensationalized comments about whatever Upworthy shocker happens to be making the rounds, I don’t think my pages should exist simply to add to that already lopsided signal to noise ratio. I want people who visit my sites to find exactly what they are looking for: my books.

I may occasionally Tweet, or Like, or Pin or Tumble or +1, but that is entirely secondary to my desire to make shit up and have other people read it. I entertain with pixelated words or ink on dead trees. I sell these for ridiculously reasonable prices and if you feel inclined, you can buy them so I can keep making more.

What I won’t do is pay for the privilege to mention those books to an audience my efforts have cultivated. Especially if those platforms where I built those audiences reward so much pure noise that my message will be instantly lost on their feeds and my fan’s time ultimately wasted.

In the meantime, the absolute best way to find out when my books are released is by signing up here.

7 thoughts on “Rewarding Noise, Drowning the Signal

  1. angeliquejamail

    Social media can be so frustrating. I suppose there’s an element of “get what you pay for” involved, but after a decade or so of being able to reach people in one’s network (for whatever reason with whatever content) more or less for free, I wonder if people will start moving away from using these platforms for the sake of promotion. So tough to predict. Building a fan base is challenging enough, even with really good writing out there, for most people. These changes could really discourage a lot of authors and artists out there who are still trying to establish themselves.

    • Russ Linton

      Well, my plan is to move away. Profits are thin enough, even for big name authors and publishers, that even they’ll bail once the charges start showing up. A well-run mailing list, which the author/publisher controls, is and always has been better than social media for contacting and selling to fans anyway.

      • angeliquejamail

        I suspect you’re right about this. Building up that mailing list becomes the more challenging task at that point. It all still boils down to figuring out how to catch their attention enough to make them sign up. So how to attract readers who don’t yet know about your book? The blog may be the best avenue for that?

  2. Lorie

    You know I’m counting on you to figure this out and I’ll hire you to be my publicist down the road. A very long road at the rate I’m going.

    • Russ Linton

      If anything I jumped in feet first and blind so taking your time isn’t a bad thing, Lorie! Though, not sure you want me to be your publicist – definitely not my forte, though I suppose I’m getting better.

    • Russ Linton

      Yeah, I can’t blame any business for trying to find a way to monetize what they’ve got, but I’m not so sure this will benefit anyone. If anything, only big players with large stashes of marketing dollars will be the ones to stick it out. This of course means the same thing that has happened with most businesses in America today – giant corporations take over.

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