Social Media: Are They Worth Your Time and Effort?
Most authors are active in various social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or others. But keeping up social media is a time investment, and it makes us wonder sometimes: how effective are social media for promoting your books? Is the time we spend there worth it or would we be better off using that time to write or do other things?
I asked myself that same question a while ago, and so I wanted to find out some answers, preferably supported by data and not merely intuition. This was once again whereReaderLinks came in handy. Because I have dedicated core links for all my social media, it’s easy to track and compare clicks.
For each of my books, I use separate links for, amongst others:
- links in the backmatter of my books
- links in the “my books” section on my website
- links in my newsletter
- links on Twitter
- links in Facebook ads
- links in Facebook posts
- links in Facebook giveaways
- links on Instagram
That means that I can see EXACTLY what’s working…and what’s not. I even have subcategories for various posts on Facebook (eg my own reader group, dedicated promo groups, a popular group on my genre called MM Rec where people can ask for or give recommendations, my FB page, and more.
So let’s look at some of my data and see if we can answer the question how effective social media are.
Link Analysis Using ReaderLinks
Let’s look at my link clicks for the last 90 days:
The first thing to notice is that aside from FB ads, backmatter is by far the most effective method to get eyes on your books. Make sure to update your backmatter regularly.
I’ve circled all social media with red, and the numbers speak for themselves. “Nook Link” are links I use in my reader group on FB, which is called Nora’s Nook. I created that core link relatively recently because I wanted to see how effective my group was versus other places on FB, so that’s why it only shows results for my last two releases. But those numbers are impressive.
Twitter is also doing much better than I had expected. The general consensus is that Twitter doesn’t sell books, but I beg to differ.
Obviously, my newsletter (NL) and my website (NP website posts and NP website my books) are effective as well.
Analyzing Links for One Book
Let’s look at it in a different way, by analyzing all links from one single book over time. That will show us what the most effective way was of promoting that particular book. In this case, we’re looking at Slow Hand, my most recent release, which means the data says last 90 days, but it’s only been out six weeks now.
The first thing we see that that backmatter isn’t a big contributor here, and that makes sense because it’s a new release. I haven’t updates the backmatter of all my books yet with this new release.
Based on the link clicks, the most effective ways to promo were:
- My newsletter
- Facebook promo (meaning posting on my timeline)
- My own FB group Nora’s Nook
- My website in the “My Books” section
- My website in the post I wrote to announce release day (and I then posted that link on all social media)
- MM Book rec (that MM romance recommendations group I mentioned earlier)
- Facebook promo groups
- Various places because that’s a standard link
If you counted with me, six of the eleven were social media…and thus free. Obviously, I’m not counting the link for FB ads because that’s paid traffic. And the others were my backmatter (also free) and my website (very low cost). The only ones that were paid were the ads (which weren’t counted in this list) and my newsletter, which is about 10k now, so I do pay a good amount per month for that.
The numbers make it clear that at least for me, social media are incredibly effective in promoting my books. Now of course these are clicks, not sales, but I can see the accompanying boost in sales and page reads as well.
Your numbers may be different, depending on your genre and where your readers hang out, and how effectively you use all these media or others.
Not all social media are created equal and not all posts work well. For MM romance, Facebook is still very effective because it’s where a lot of our readers hang out. The same is true for Twitter, but it’s a completely different type of social medium that requires a different approach. And Instagram is yet another story…
Yet the key approach to each social medium is the same: always keep in mind that it’s a social medium. It’s geared toward interaction, engagement, connections…so engage. Connect. Reply, retweet, like, comment. Be social. For every promo post, do at least nine non-promo posts. Or promote someone else.
Dump and run posts never work, at least not in the long run. If all you do on Twitter is post when you have a new book out, chances are it’s not gonna get much engagement. Twitter, much like Facebook, is moving toward engagement-driven timelines rather than chronological. You’re more likely to see the tweets from people you’ve interacted with in the past. Or Twitter will show you tweets that are popular with others. Like said, much like Facebook.
Never forget what Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram) wants: engagement. They’re not “fair” in that sense, and they never will be. They will show the content that’s most likely to get engagement, and they base that on previous behavior from you and your friends/followers. If you never interact with anyone and merely posts, your posts won’t get much engagement either, unless you’re a super big name. And once a post gets traction, they will show it to more and more people and then you go viral. Hopefully.
Something else social media value is whether a post is recent. So if you only posts once a week, it’s not gonna get much action. However, if you post every day, Facebook sees that as fresh content and will push it. That’s true for groups, pages, and your personal profile, by the way.
So yes, my FB posts and tweets get traction, but that’s because I’m super active, I post multiple times a day, and I mix promotional content with a lot of stuff I know readers love (or that I love myself). In fact, you’ll find that I post relatively little promotional things in my group…but when I do, those posts get seen too because of all the other content that got engagement. Those twitter stats above are based on one or maybe two tweets per book. I’m actually bad at promoting myself on Twitter relatively speaking, as I share way more other content than stuff about my books… Hmm, maybe I should work on that because those tweets are actually effective, haha.
In short: yes, social media works to promote your book. But it will probably work better if you keep a good balance between being social and promoting yourself. It’s more work, yes, and it will take more time. But it’s also far more effective…
We’ll talk more about using social media effectively in future posts.