A while ago, a young martial arts author hired me to coach him to help kick-start his career. At his request he shall remain anonymous but he’s talented and will definitely make it big in the long run, no doubt about it. One of the things we’ve been working on is blogging and social media. He’s relatively new to both and had to battle a steep learning curve when he started but is getting better with leaps and bounds. However, we hit a snag this week. During our weekly Skype call, he sounded a bit down and I asked what was wrong. Turned out he was not happy with the reactions he got on his social media pages. Precious few people were sharing his posts and updates, or so he claimed. At any rate, he had expected a lot more than what he got.
What followed was a long discussion about social media, how it works and how it doesn’t work. Yet afterwards, he was still doubtful. So I proposed an experiment and with the gracious help of all of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter, we got started. This is what I wrote there.
I have a request for all of you: I’m discussing social media with a beginning martial arts author I’m coaching. He’s disappointed in the results from it, despite going about it in what I think is the right way. I think he overestimates social media. He thinks I’m wrong. So I proposed an experiment and would like to ask for your help. Here’s how it goes: I’m going to put a link to one of my blog posts right after I post this update here. It will have a very specific message in it too. I’ll then do the same on Twitter, first linking to this update here so people know what’s going on and then tweeting the blog post. What I ask of you is this: could you please share the Facebook link and/or retweet it? Once is fine, no need to go overboard. The goal is to be realistic in this experiment. I told this author what I expect as a response and how many shares/RTs I’ll get. He thinks I’m nuts (I am, but I don’t think it’s relevant on this topic). I’m not going to give that number to avoid influencing you all. The experiment ends in 24h. Thanks for helping out!
I immediately posted a link to this update on my Twitter account so followers there knew what was going on. Then I posted this on both my Facebook and Twitter accounts:
8 self-defense tips for men. Please share if you like it.
And then I waited.
I picked this specific post for numerous reasons:
- It is old. It’s from April of this year and you have to browse through several pages of blog posts until you find it.
- It is one of my most successful blog posts of this year. When I published it, it went viral for a and received thousands of hit in a few days. So I know it resonated with people.
- It received lots of praise. Both in the blog post comments section and on my social media, a lot of people gave positive feedback on it. So I knew it must have some worthwhile information in it and is generally considered as a quality post.
In other words, this post has a proven track record.
I launched the experiment yesterday and tracked the results both during the day and at the end of that 24h period. Here’s what happened:
On Saturday, that blog post had , 153 unique visitors.
On Sunday morning, after the counter resets at night: 70 unique visitors.
Now at that time this morning, I had about 17 shares on Facebook and 2 re-tweets.
Not exactly stellar performance…
But then something interesting happened: Iain Abernethy re-tweeted and shared my post. Suddenly I saw the unique views jump up and keep going that way all day. People started sharing and re-tweeting him and the effect spread a little with even more people coming in. At the end of the 24h period, the total unique visitors for the article was 767.
This should put things into perspective a bit.
Here’s the final count after 24h:
I have 1142 Likes on my Facebook Page and got 31 shares out of it.
I have 321 followers on Twitter and got 5 retweets out of it.
So my post was “seen” by thousands of people, 22 people commented on it. 2 people hated it so much they hid it from their timeline.
As Iain’s shares seemed to have helped a lot, let’s look at his stats:
Iain has 5466 likes on Facebook and his he got 29 shares there for my post.
Iain has 2725 followers on Twitter and this resulted in 6 re-tweets.
Now this is not a perfect experiment, nor was it meant to be. Also, the numbers on both the unique visitors and shares have gone up after the 24h period of course. So I only gave you a snapshot in time, not a final count. But there are a couple things I wanted to bring forward to the person I’m coaching. Here they are:
- A 20-25% conversion rate on social media isn’t realistic. That’s the percentages he had in mind but it doesn’t work like that. I took a post that I knew people liked in the past and clearly asked them to please share it for this experiment. Out of the 1142 people who like my Facebook Page, only 31 were willing to help me out. 31 out of 1142… I’ll get back to this in a bit.
- Having one key person share your message can mean all the difference. When Iain shared my post, things took off. The increase in visitors was simultaneous. It’s impossible to tell how big exactly this effect was but it sure was there. So I got lucky that he did that. I didn’t ask him to, by the way. Nor do I know if he read about my experiment and decided to help out. Iain’s just a nice guy, maybe he just shared it because he liked the post, I really don’t know.
- No two social media accounts are the same. Some people have followers that are extremely responsive, others don’t. Some followers respond to specific types of updates (mine like videos, I know that) and not so much others. And so on. No two audiences are the same. You really can’t compare them.
- Even big names sometimes get surprisingly low turn out. One of the few people I follow in the internet marketing world is Pat Flynn. He has over 36.000 likes on his Facebook page so you’d guess his stuff gets shared like crazy. Well… His update mentioning his latest podcast got shared 5 times. The one before got 0. Nothing, nada. On the other hand, he sometimes gets over a hundred comments on whatever he posts on Facebook so his audience does interact with him there.
- It’ not an exact science. Despite what many internet marketeers claim, it’s not an exact science. When I published this article on my blog in April, it went viral and brought in thousands of hits. I didn’t ask anybody to share it then, I only announced it on Facebook and Twitter like I always do. This time, I did ask and only got a fraction of the visitors from April. Same blog post, different results. Such is life.
There’s more but I’ll leave it at that.
Now I could have done better than that measly number of shares I got. I could have given people more of an incentive to do so, written better copy, motivated people, etc. There are tons of ways to make your call to action sexy and hot. Here’s the thing. I know my audience, you guys, fairly well. Thanks to the analytics services from Facebook and Google, I know most of you are male and between 25 and 54 with most of you in your early to mid-forties. In other words, like me.
I’ve also seen which kind of posts get more response than others, so if I wanted to, I could write nothing but those kinds of posts, be real slick with my social media announcements and drive in tons of traffic to my blog here.
Cool, then why don’t I?
- That’s not me. I write about what interests me or what’s going through my head at the time. I write about stuff I would talk to you about if we met in real life. I don’t write on spec for a specific audience. It’s the other way around: if you like what I write, you’ll probably stick around. If you don’t, you’ll leave. Just like with listening to music or watching a TV show. There’s nothing wrong with that either. You don’t owe me anything and neither do I. I know I can’t please everybody.
- You’d leave. If I started writing hyper-commercial blog posts that are meant to drive in tons of traffic via some of the tricks I’d use to get you to share them, you’d grow tired of that real soon. People are bombarded with social media and email all day long. They automatically curate the information flow and it doesn’t take much to fall out of their good graces. Also, my writing would be fake and you’d be able to tell. And then you’d also leave.
So all in all, I believe there are better strategies. I’ve mentioned this before but I’ll repeat just one essential point here: Be yourself and write truthfully. Anything else is counterproductive.
The way I see it, most people have more than enough experience to recognize an online bullshitter when they encounter one. Especially if you’re my age, you’ve been on the internet for a long time. That means you’ve had it with all the crappy landing pages and internet hype of products, books and software. That stuff makes me immediately click away. I assume you aren’t that different from me in that regard so I try to avoid that kind of stuff here. I believe it’s counterproductive in the long run. In the short run, not so much. It can make you a lot of money, fast. But you’ll burn your own name or only end up with people who believe anything you say. I’ll pass on both of those.
So I decided a long time ago just to openly share my thoughts here and whoever stuck around would be fine by me. If you think I’m wrong or hate my guts, that’s OK too. You’ll probably never return and find somebody else who’s information fits you better. The internet is a big place, it’s all good.
In closing, I’d like to publicly answer two of the questions I discussed with that author:
- How do I see Facebook and Twitter? As a way to interact with people like you, who read my blog, buy my books and videos, etc. To me, Facebook is a bit like a bar where a bunch of people come together and talk about all sorts of stuff. I’ll share videos and links there. Put pictures up. Talk about my own training, etc. If I have a new book or video out, I’ll announce it there and repeat that message every now and then, but no more. If I would always be like “Buy my stuff! Seriously, buy it dude!” you’d leave in a heart beat. So would I if I were you. So to me, Facebook is all about interacting. Twitter is the same but I see that more as a place to share links, blog updates and talk to specific people in a very practical way: I’m on the road a lot and Twitter is perfect for that: short messages and quick responses. I use the app on my phone and like it a whole lot better than the Facebook app. Check out lines in stores haven’t been boring ever since…
- Why didn’t people share that link more on those two platforms? I said I’d get back to this.
- First of all, Facebook limits the amount of people who see your posts in their feed if you have a page. On average, unless they specifically visit your page every day, only about 16% of the people who like your page will see what you post. Only Facebook knows how they determine who that is. You want more people to see it? Facebook says you have to pay for that. You can do so by advertising your updates but I generally don’t do that. If people are interested in following me, they’ll click on my page and see what’s up. If they don’t, that’s fine too. That means they aren’t that interested so why would I shove my updates in their face? Seems rude.
- A lot of people like a page and then forget about it when it doesn’t show up in their feed anymore (the 16% thing again) or only does so sporadically. So a lot of my followers on my Facebook page will not have seen my request for help.
- I might have pissed somebody off with what I wrote there or I may have updated my page too often in a day and they “hid” my updates from their news feed. Then they forget to “un-hide” and I’m gone for them unless they remember and come back manually. But in the mean time, until they un-like, my counter still adds them to the total tally. I know for sure this happens as I do it myself: like a page and then forget about it or hide it from my feed because they bombarded it at one time.
- Some people just don’t share anything. Many people in fact. Others share every now and then. Very few people share a lot and even fewer of those share a lot of my stuff. So it’s just a numbers game.
That’s about it from me on all this social media stuff. Thanks again to all of you who participated in the experiment. Much appreciated. I’ll get back to my regular writing now.