Is social media the great lie?

A Twitter page is displayed on a laptop computer in Los Angeles

DOES ANYONE read anymore?

Oh, sure, I know people read books.

I have just returned on an overseas flight, and the airports and airplanes alike were blanketed with Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and any device that would place the words of a novel in front of eyes both glassy and glazed from jet lag or an extra helping of Bloody Mary stew.

But what else do they read?

What else do you read?

Have I simply been shooting in the dark, trying to hit a target that doesn’t exist?

We write books.

But we spend more time on social media.

You need to promote.

That’s what we’re told.

You need to market.

That’s the command of the day.

You need to build a platform.

That was gospel long before digital publishing ever launched the eBook revolution.

So I have done what I was told.

I blog.

I have produced a blog and sometimes two every day on Caleb and Linda Pirtle, without fail, for the past thirty-three months.

That’s right at 990 blogs.

But has anyone read them?

Or am I spitting into the wind?

I tweet.

I have built a Twitter following of almost 13,000.

I am a member of several groups on Triberr, and together, according to statistics, we have the potential to reach millions every day.

But do those millions ever read them?

I don’t simply tweet about my own life and my own books.

Ninety percent of my tweets are showcasing blogs and books and serial chapters we are running for other authors on Caleb and Linda Pirtle.

I’m told paying it forward works.

I’m not so sure anymore.

Does anyone ever read what I tweet?

Does anyone even care?

I religiously work Facebook every day – my personal Facebook as well as Caleb and Linda Pirtle Facebook – and reach hundreds of friends and family members and other authors.

Across the channels of the Facebook kingdom, I spread the good words about authors and books and blogs.

I boost those posts with actual hard cash dollars.

This month, my boosted Facebook posts have reached almost forty thousand souls.

But did anyone read the posts?

The crunch for words and time never ends: LinkedIn, Google Plus, StumbleUpon.

But what does it matter if no one reads what is written.

Social media has become an endless stream of words and pictures that roll past on a fast loop moving so quickly you can never really connect with them.

Blink.

And they’re gone.

Look away a moment.

And they’re lost forever.

So why do we do it?

I thought I knew.

I don’t anymore.

I am beginning to believe what I have always feared.

Social media doesn’t promote.

Social media doesn’t market.

Social media doesn’t sell.

Social media is a lie.

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  • I’m wondering whether it is a matter of connecting with the right subgroup of readers. Each of us, as writers, have a way, a style – and we know there are people out there who read and like the same things we do.

    The question for any writer has to be: what kind of social media do MY readers read and connect with. Some groups of readers are behind the times – they used to get their recommended reads in some way that doesn’t exist any more (a particular newspaper’s review section, or browsing in a long-gone Borders, or picking up a book at the train station). They still read, but they are not accessible on Twitter – they don’t tweet, don’t read tweets.

    I’m about to face that very problem. I think there may be, for example, readers for me on some of the forums on Goodreads – but Goodreads scares me. I’ll have to overcome that fear (what’s one more fear?), and figure out how to connect with those readers – or there won’t be any sales.

    I think there are book club readers for my style of novel – I’ll have to figure out how they share information among themselves, and get into that loop somehow.

    I’m in the wrong demographic for some things – but maybe the ‘also boughts’ on Amazon will help.

    Someone once said that 50% of every advertising dollar was wasted – but the problem was, he couldn’t tell in advance WHICH 50%.

    I just had an epiphany about my blog/website – and I need to take some time to switch some things around because I think I’m hurting my own conversion rate from people who drop by to readers. I have some ideas there – it will just take time (and brainpower, which is sadly lacking). There may be a service I can pay for – but having the questions right will mean I don’t waste too much money.

    Lots of things to figure out.

    But the first one is: who will like this thing I’m writing – and where do those folks get their recommendations?

    BTW, thanks for all your hard work. I’ve enjoyed meeting you and learning from you online.

    Alicia

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You have the answer, Alicia. The question is: how do we connect with our readers when they don’t know about us and we don’t know where they are.

      • I don’t know how to do it any more. Lack of energy does that to you.

        If you still read your own kind of writing, where do YOU get the next one? ‘Random luck’ isn’t a useful answer.

        Readers are like schools of fish (in my mind): they like a particular part of the reef for a reason – marine biologists figure out those reasons.

        It is nice when ‘the universe’ connects you to your readers – and extremely lucky. I wouldn’t depend on luck.

        Right now I’m in learning mode – because I have nothing to market. But even there, I can see I need to clean up my website because I get a lot of folks who visit the first page of my blog (my current landing page), but never come back. I’ll get to it.

        IIRC, I checked out your author page on Amazon a while back – and it didn’t list all your books. Even if those books are not in print and currently for sale new on Amazon, they could be listed (used booksellers have some of them) – you don’t know what will hook a reader who will then look for more books by you. Amazon doesn’t do it automatically. I will work on my author page there – when I have something to put up!

        So many things to do, so little time!

        If social media doesn’t work for you – dump social media. The unrewarding parts at least. For now.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          Alicia, Stephen Woodfin and I are always searching for the answer. I’ve about decided to dump social media and try a whole new approach. If it works, we’ll tell the world about it.

          • 1. Best of luck

            2. I’m dying to hear about it

            3. Don’t forget that SOME social media has a long tail – don’t take anything down, as it might pick up on its own later (so they say)

            Educational efforts are not wasted, even if all they teach you is that a particular way doesn’t work very well for you right now. If you’d known that at the start, you wouldn’t have gone that way.

            As usual, thanks for doing this – it has been appreciated and interesting – but don’t worry about me if you decide to discontinue (just see 3 above and maybe leave a few extra links). Unless it’s costing a lot of money. I’ve learned an amazing amount from you two.

  • Caleb Pirtle

    I am in a quandary. I’m not sure social media works when it comes to promoting, marketing, and selling books. I’m afraid to stop.

  • Caleb,
    You know how I feel your pain. No one works social media harder than you. It is a real conundrum. I know thousands of people read what you write and what others on VG write, but I don’t know how this ever equals sales of books.The sales end of the formula has always been controlled by the big boys, and I fear it still is. Every now and then a Hugh Howey breaks out, but the odds are tilted in favor of celebrity and deep pockets. One thing that characterizes the Indie author movement is that we try to skin the cat on a shoe string budget. Sometimes that feels like we are using a pea shooter to try to sink a battleship.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I don’t mind fighting wih a pea shooter, Stephen, I just want us to find the RIGHT pea shooter. Then I don’t care how big the battleship is.

  • jack43

    Let’s talk. Okay, you have 13,000 followers. How many are you following? If they post an average of 1 Tweet per day, will you read them all? Of course not. Now, what makes you think that they read what you post?

    Then there’s the question of the “quality” of your followers. Who are they? People who buy books or people who are trying to sell you their books? Don’t worry. It’s not that important. I’ve done everything in my power to cultivate a following of anyone but writers. Sure, a few writers have slipped in, but the majority are not writers. Are they readers/book buyers? Apparently not, at least they aren’t buying mine.

    Advertising and PR. That’s how to promote sales. Unfortunately, I can’t afford it and I can’t locate a publisher who can pay for it for me.

    Blogging? That’s another telling of the same tale as social media…

    • Caleb Pirtle

      You nailed my point, Jack. Nobody reads social media, so why bother?

      • jack43

        Why bother? Why do we toss spilled salt over our shoulders? Why don’t we walk under ladders? Why not take the chance that it “might” help some day? Hell, it’s “free” isn’t it (if you don’t value the time you put into it)?

        • Caleb Pirtle

          I am beginning to value my time. Maybe it’s because my time is running out.

          • jack43

            Yes, age does have that affect. That’s why I decided to become politically active this year. I’ve largely ignored it but it hasn’t ignored me. I could say, “What the hell. I’ll be out of here soon”. But, there are the children and grandchildren to consider. Look at the mess I’m leaving them. Then I think about how little time I may have left and I grow impatient to accomplishing something to help before I’m gone. Age. It’s a hard taskmaster…

  • Gae-Lynn Woods

    I know twitter works because when tweets about my books stop, my sales stop. When I remember that I forgot to refresh the tweets and then finally get them running again, my sales pick up. Yes, my sales are small, but from zero to one is 100%…

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Then, Gae-Lynn, make every tweet count.

      • Gae-Lynn Woods

        I try. We all do. But your post is spot on. Is it possible to gauge impact on social media? The most impact I’ve had is through communicating with the readers who contact me. Many of them are now friends, and all of them have asked when the next Cass Elliot book is coming out.

        These numbers are small, but they’re meaningful. To me, at least.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Gae-Lynn: I definitely think it’s person to person marketing. We all hoped social would give us person to masses marketing. But the masses are too busy marketing their own wares to bother about ours.

  • Darlene Jones

    Oh, man, guys this blog is so apropos. Like pretty much everyone else, I tweet, blog, FB etc, but who’s reading? And, like Caleb I’m afraid to stop.

  • Moondustwriter

    The words we write
    should be enough
    were the sky to fall
    media a cloudy puff
    would we still stand tall
    call the world’s bluff
    knowing we had been right

    ~La Luna

    I have backed off of the social media marvel quite a bit. It was becoming an alternate reality that had driven me half mad. Gosh I am not followed as much but my creativity is more fluid than it has been in years. I hope I am not the only one left who things creating is “enough.”

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Leslie: I am on your side of the equation. I have been spending so much time on social media that I have little time to write, and I am changing that focus. Your poem puts it clearly in focus. If you don’t mind, I will feature it on a separate blog to give your words as much exposure as I can. You do have a give to use a few words to get straight to the heart of an emotional subject.

  • Don Newbury

    Wow! Bold and “right on,” Caleb! Much food for thought.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      I’m now preaching against what I used to preach for. I feel like a backslider.

  • Elin Pettersson

    From what I’ve read and heard from other people, those “boosted” Facebook posts or advertised ones only get fake views. And because your exposure is limited the real people might miss your posts because it is sucked up by those fake users. There are even some videos on youtube explaining how this scam works and why you should not pay for exposure on Facebook. Twitter might be a better place but even there it is easy to get drowned in the flow.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Thanks, Elin, for bringing us up to date on another social media scam. It’s not a black and white world out there.

      • Elin Pettersson

        No problem. I’ve been looking for ways to get noticed myself but luckily never spent money on advertising. So far slow and steady growth by communicating with people in groups or just talking to people and let them spread the word seem to be the best way to go.
        Here is a good video explaining really well how that Facebook thing works and why everyone should stay away from it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVfHeWTKjag&list=LLfkf3t3PEGneuaw-AVpV4XQ&index=2

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