Friday, June 29, 2012

The Law of Rapidly Diminishing Returns: Social Media

(Morguefile photo.)

In social media, at some point the Law of Rapidly Diminishing Returns comes into play.

You make a bunch of friends and get a bunch of followers. You post a few links. No one knows who you are, and they’re curious about what you have. Some will click on the link and have a look. Maybe you sell a few books or widgets, or whatever.

So you click on a few more people, and get a few more friends and followers, and you keep on posting, keep on tweeting, and maybe a few more books or grapple-grommets go out the door.

Now you are convinced this is a good thing, and so you keep on doing it. We must be aware that these are not really personal relationships. That’s not to say that we can’t make some new relationships with people. But it just isn’t that easy, and in fact, plenty of other people are doing the same thing for the same reasons. A spammer will always follow you back, incidentally.

Does it work?

If you post and tweet like crazy, at some point people tune you out. They ignore you. And so you try to build up your list of followers, which takes time.

When you are following a couple of thousand people on Twitter, just try to read all the posts. Try to read a posted link, perhaps some blindingly brilliant article on social media, and then when you go to re-tweet it, you’ve forgotten where it came from. The post has disappeared at the bottom of the page or column. You can’t remember their name.

Now imagine you are someone with a few thousand followers of their own, and they might be trying to read and or re-tweet your posts.

What did I learn today?

I learned today that Twitter hash-tags mean nothing on LinkedIn, where the majority of users do not use Twitter. If you tweet something and cross-post to LinkedIn, people there can re-tweet, but they can’t share it or comment on it in LinkedIn. They hang out on LinkedIn for a very special reason: they don’t like Facebook and Twitter so much…too much spam.

The solution there is to post directly to LinkedIn, right? Unfortunately this easy answer might not work for you. I got a notification that I would no longer be able to cross-post from Twitter to LinkedIn. I wondered if this was a new policy, but the more likely scenario is that someone reported me for spamming, and I have been cut off.

I have a guy who used LinkedIn to send me a message every day for months to my e-mail account inbox. I let it go on for months. Then I went into LinkedIn, and made sure it would not happen again. Maybe he believes that e-mail campaigns work, and some say that they do.

Those who make it work are not in the inbox every stinking day, talking about the same stinking book, every single stinking time.

I’ve always been leery of e-mail campaigns, as I’m not convinced that the small number of sales that you might get will outweigh the badwill (the opposite of goodwill) that you are far more likely to get. Just to clarify, I don’t hate the guy. But my inbox is full enough at the best of times, and at the worst of times I have spent three hours out of a busy day just going through my e-mails. All those Twitter follower notifications, and all those LinkedIn group conversation notifications…I’m spending far too much time checking and deleting crap that I don’t have time for.

On Facebook, you can be friends with someone, and yet how do you know whether or not they have blocked your posts? They haven’t un-friended you. You can comment on one of their posts.

“Oh, yeah,” they say. “I remember that guy.” Then they click like on your comment and you are none the wiser—you just had an ‘interaction’ with them so you don’t know any different.

As an experiment, I am strongly tempted not to post a product link for a solid month, just to see what happens.

Now, a person I was reading earlier says that the less they post, the more they sell. I’m not sure that will be true in my case. They may have books much higher up the rankings than mine are.

They might be figuring prominently in Amazon’s ‘also bought’ and ‘also viewed’ customer presentations. As long as they are selling a lot of books, they will continue to be presented.

Another worthwhile experiment might be to only post my own blog, and to only re-tweet interesting posts, or to actually engage in actual conversations, which is theoretically what Twitter is for. I don’t see too many people who do that, with a few exceptions. The ‘chats’ on Twitter are interactive. I’m a little shy about jumping in there when I don’t know anybody, when I haven’t read the book, et cetera, but it’s better than being blocked or ignored.

It took me a very short time to realize that people re-tweet you because they want you to re-tweet them. This is not possible if you can’t remember the exact configuration of their handle, and if you simply can’t find them again—that’s why the notifications in your inbox are so ‘useful.’

The Law of Rapidly Diminishing Returns applies elsewhere.

The law of rapidly diminishing returns also applies as a site grows. This seems to be true of Smashwords. When I signed up and published my first two e-books, there were only 12,000 authors on there. And I did see a limited number of daily page views for my books. Now there are probably over 44,000 authors on there. And I don’t seem to be getting any page views at all for some books, which maybe haven’t sold a copy in a while, and the sheer number of other books has drowned them out.

My gut instinct tells me that this law of rapidly diminishing returns works in some form or another in any social situation, whether it’s online or for real. People ignore Coke commercials. They ignore any commercial that isn’t relevant to their exact needs at that exact time. In fact, people buy devices that drop commercials when they record something to watch later.

Subliminally, maybe such advertising has an effect, but it’s costly and takes a very long time to have any effect. Even that is subject to, ‘The Law of Rapidly Diminishing Returns.’

Anything else is just a con-job. To a certain extent, we are conning ourselves, and when we’re doing all the talking, it’s easy to convince ourselves. Even that is only going to work for so long.

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, and this article sort of helped as well.

Hints and Tips
Now, if you want the re-tweet, the ‘RT’ as we say, make your posts a little shorter. That’s because I want to put it like this:

RT @JoeSomebody999 and then your post, and it all has to fit in 140 characters. That way Joe knows I RTed him and maybe he will reciprocate.

Do good covers sell bad books?

Do good covers sell bad books? I don’t know, but the book with what I consider to be the best cover seems to sell the fewest books. My best seller has a good cover, but another best seller has a ‘bad’ one. What this should tell us is that the product description, the subject matter, and above all, the genre has a lot to do with it.

Maybe a reader's preference cannot be 'gamed.'

People have loved mystery since its inception about 150 years ago. The Red Baron is a popular character, from WW I history buffs to people who liked Snoopy. What the heck is a weird western? This might be a very tight little sub-genre, with a good number of very loyal readers, but first I have to crack the door open, and there is no guarantee that it is a good book by the standards of those who actually read the genre.

Comments are always welcome.


  1. Glad you got that off your chest (Well written actually) and I agree with pretty much everything you said.

    There is an old saying. "Only 50% of advertising works. The problem is, we never know which 50% it is." But seeing (or receiving via inbox) the same person hawking the same book over and over every single day does just what you said; it makes it a nuisance.

    Now, how does one create something that goes "viral"? That's a study that could be interesting. By the way, the reason I read this article was your post on FB Blogs4u.

    Hope your weekend is great.

  2. A very good post. I'm always being followed by indie authors on Twitter and many of them, although not all, keep sending a barrage of quotes from their own book or links to amazon. Some are only interested in getting more followers, so if you don't follow back right away they unfollow you. Surely someone would work out that if you haven't bought the book after the first twenty tweets, you're not likely to. Just saying.

  3. It's tough to strike a balance between the need to sell a book once in while and the need to provide some actual, relevant, original content that might be of some use or of some interest to our alleged 'audience.' That's why I kind of mix it up with funny stories, reposting good material by the most credible sources I can find, and not tweeting fifty times a day for my own book.


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