Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mom Always Told Me to Share

I’ve been using Google Analytics to observe traffic on my blog and website. In all honesty, I haven’t been able to figure out how to get it to do much else. There are specific events I want to watch for and I was hoping Analytics could do it. I am still not certain how to specify for G.A. to watch for those events—or even if it can—so all I really use it for is to watch real-time reporting. That in itself is still pretty interesting.
A couple weeks ago, I opened the real-time reporting page and within a second or two of signing on, someone visited my blog. That was a bit of a thrill. Actually catching the moment a visitor came to my page!
The visitor was from Umbertide, Italy. (For you paranoid types, that’s as close as I can get to seeing where someone is coming from: just the name of the city.)
A couple thoughts went through my head. First was what a great name for a city! That—or some variation thereof—will definitely find its way into Aggadeh. Second, what drew someone from Italy to my site? Actually, that was fairly easy to answer. The referring link was included as the point from where they entered my site, and I could see it was a Google search about one of the subjects I had written about. I can only hope that what I wrote was of some use to my visitor.
That did make me think about what drew people to my blog or web site.
A blog is a promotional vehicle for a writer. It promotes the writer’s work. It gives readers an insight to the kind of person the writer is and what goes on in the writer’s mind. And if kept interesting, it draws in readers. The more readers, the more sales later on.
At first glance, that sounds cold and impersonal. It isn’t. Anyone wanting to become a professional writer must come to grips with the fact that your income is going to come from people willing to part with their hard-earned cash in exchange for your book. In order to make a living, you need enough people to not just buy your book, but like it enough so they will buy the next book, too. People who don’t like your book will probably never buy your next book. With people liking your book and people not liking your book, the only way to get enough people who like your book to buy it is to reach out as far and wide as possible to let people know about your book.
A while back, I engaged two friends to assist me in an experiment. That experiment was to find an answer to the question, “What does it take to spread the word using social networks?”
Arguably, the largest and most active social network in the world right now is Facebook. That became my target.
On Facebook, when you post something, your friends and readers can only take three actions relative to that post: they can Like, Comment, or Share. It turns out, only one of these three is really effective when you want to spread the word around.
On that evening, I shared my latest post in my blog and began the experiment. I asked both friends to “Like” my post. For the most part, nothing happened. After about thirty minutes, there were a couple of new visits to the blog, but no more activity.
I signaled to my friends to actually make a comment about my latest post. Both commented at different times, and this step of the experiment had a much stronger effect. After each comment was posted, there was a noticeable increase in traffic visiting my blog. Here was a definite positive reaction to their comments. It was only about a dozen visits, but that was a very good result.
After forty-five minutes had gone by, it was time for the last stage of the experiment. I asked my friends to actually share their thoughts about my post rather than just comment on it.
When you comment on a post, only the people connected to the owner of the post actually see it. But, sharing goes to a whole new level. Sharing allows everyone who is friended to you to actually see the post, as well as people connected to the original owner.
The result was spectacular!
Within ten minutes, I had a massive surge in traffic to my blog that totaled more visits than the last three blog posts combined! To give you an idea of the magnitude of that surge, it took my blog three months before it passed 100 visits total for my site. In ten minutes, that count nearly doubled.
To like someone’s post on Facebook, that is a signal from me to the original poster that I liked what the poster had to say. But liking something on Facebook only results in a small blip on the wall. It’s there and it is gone.
Commenting goes a little farther than that. But as far as the general public goes, all anyone really sees is the realtime stream on the right of the screen.
Sharing your comment about a post puts that post on your wall, and everyone who is friended to you can also see that post. It has a much greater significance than the other two.
The trick to promoting things on Facebook is to get your friends to share your post. That is what gets the greatest reaction. The greater push is to ask your friends to ask their friends in the share to do the same. This way, your post gets two shares, and that spreads the word significantly!
Comments do work, but nowhere near as much as a full sharing does.
When the time comes—and it is coming soon—I will need to lean on my friends and ask them to go the extra mile and share their comments, and at the same time to ask their friends to do the same. And then beg their patience and understanding as I continue to push for a few weeks.
It doesn’t take much beyond that to accomplish the goal I’ve set. Once other people have heard about my book, the curious will step up on their own and continue to check in on my site. At the end of the above experiment, that was when the traffic on my site really began to grow on its own.
Of course, the flip side to this action is to not overdo it! That tunes people out very quickly. It's best to moderate your actions and carefully ration announcements.
Like my mother always said, "Share!"