Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Spamming by Numbers

One of my pet hates is people who spam, or just post once in a while only posting their book with a direct link to their book on amazon or smashwords. It’s not that I have a problem with people promoting themselves, as authors we must promote ourselves in order to gain sales. But spamming groups and forums is both a waste of time and not pleasant for the general readers of a group. As normally spammers don’t tend to listen to the “please don’t promote” or “we’ll ban you if you advertise” I thought I would come down to the level everyone understands, numbers.

First of all let’s start with a couple of rules of business.

Direct marketing comes in many forms. Spamming falls into the same category as those companies that carpet bomb your house with leaflets through the post or cold calling or door to door sales people. The reason why these people phone constantly hundreds of people a day is because only 1-2% of their ‘sale pitches’ will result in a sale. Even the good sales people only achieve a 4%, but the average is about 1-2%.

Second, Pareto’s principle dictates that 80% of the traffic of a website or forum or facebook group will be generated by 20% of the members. The number of that can go up and down slightly, but the two numbers always add up to 100 and it is very rarely higher than 25% of the population but often can be as low as 5%.

Thirdly people on forums and facebook tend to only look at the top 5 / most recent posts.

So let’s use three good facebook groups as an example with the two rules applied above on how well your book sells.

1.       BookJunkies – 1,374 members
Book Junkies is a great group to be a member on. They do allow promotions, but only on certain threads with certain criteria but have a sub group which is specifically set up for promotions. Let’s say that you did you post a promotion in this group and it didn’t get noticed so wasn’t deleted. According to Pareto’s law you not really advertising to 1374 members but closer to 275. Book Junkies is very an active group with good topics staying close to the top of the group for long period of times and some discussions that have little community value would quickly lose the top spot.

Personally I would say that 275 regular posters is way off the mark. I would say at most there are 50 people who regularly post on the group. So at most, a post would gain you 2-3 sales (1% of 275). However if only 50 people use the site regularly you are more than likely not to get a sale at all.

2.       The Indie Exchange – 1,092 members
The Indie Exchange is a favourite of mine. It’s not why it is on the post, it is on the blog post because it has a lot of members. At this group they are completely against book promotions and will remove users that do. But let’s assume as before. Those 1092 members come down very quickly to a core audience of 209 people. Now the group is active beyond belief with new topics started at a rate of nearly one an hour. Plus the group is very tight knit – which is one of its main appeals to an author in my opinion.

Honestly, again I think 209 core users is a high value again. Personally I haven’t seen more than 50 people use the group regularly. So although technically you achieve 2 sales, I would argue you are more than likely not to achieve a single sale.

3.       The Indie Author Group – 949 members
This is a great group. They are very community based and the people who run it are very enthusiastic. Conversations often stay close to the top for a long time compared to other groups and there are fewer new topics, but what is said on the group can be worth gold to authors.. This was the first group that I joined when I started writing and to be honest, I probably spend more time on here and the sub groups than any other group. It’s what I call my facebook home! (Although I will admit that I spend a significant amount of time in the two groups above as well). The IAG is very anti promotion on any day except Friday, which they allow one post per member. But often there aren’t any more than 20-30 promotions on any given Friday. But let’s assume as before. Those 949 members become 190 core users and potential sales figure of 2 people.

But as with the other groups I can’t say that I see more than 50 people use the group regularly. So again I would argue again you are unlikely to get a sale.

4.       Authors, Agents, and Aspiring Writers – 2,859 members
This group has no limits on promotion or advertising. New conversations are started at a rate of one per 10 minutes or less. But let’s assume as before.  Those 2859 members become 571 core members with a sales potential of 6 sales.

Great News!

But as always there is a catch. Those conversations are 99% of the time, sales. Most of those topics are from the same 20-30 people. These people don’t want to buy anything they just want to sell. So they aren’t going to even look at your post, they will just simply advertise their own services. This completely devalues the point of posting there.

Here’s another point to make. Those 50 people who post regularly on Book Junkies, about half of them are regular visitors on The Indie Exchange which again half of those 50 people are regulars on the Indie Author Group. Each group offers something unique that the others don’t. Those three groups are good groups which authors can hone their skills and pick up good tips. But marketing to those three groups is a complete waste of time. Even if your post wasn’t deleted, which it most certainly would be, you are really only advertising to about 75 people. And 1% of those 75 isn’t even 1!

These groups frown on spamming and by doing so will get you a bad reputation; which will only make it harder for you in the future to communicate with potential readers. Ask yourself the question; do you really want to spend your time getting a bad reputation with the likely hood of earning nothing?

I welcome comments.

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  1. Great info! Thanks for sharing. I always thought it was this way but didn't have the numbers to back me up. :)

    1. thanks for the great feedback. I'm pretty adamant that for some authors to succeed in the longer term they need to get clued up on marketing. Some authors are already there and those first three groups have some of the best authors (and admins) around to help aspiring authors to achieve their best!

  2. I've always assumed that the numbers were against the spammers, both in places. Where spammers aren't welcomed the active members of the group know the rules and don't look kindly on ads even if the book would otherwise be of some interest. Where advertising is allowed there are too many ads and no content, so everybody posts and nobody reads. I appreciate how you broke this down using the real numbers. It's not my imagination that spamming Facebook groups is a waste of time--the numbers prove it.

    1. Thanks Bonnie for your kind comments. I think a good point is always made more digestible by the masses when there is evidence and it broken down so it is easy to read.

      Plus I can't say it is a shame that the numbers work out this way. Who really wants to have to read all those promotional ads when they could be engaged in intelligent conversation?

  3. This is a good opportunity to post the Badly Behaving Author videos:




    Have fun and carry on!

    1. I have actually seen all these video and I would have to agree they make a great compliment to the post! Thanks for stopping by.

  4. This is such a great post and the numbers make it clear as day: spamming is a waste of time. Not only that but you're absolutely right that it can be damaging. I finished a review for someone quite sure I would read more of their work. Yet days later they stepped up their spamming to such an extent that I removed them from TIE and when they continued on other networks I unfriended them. I'm now sure I won't read or review any more of their work. I'm sure I'm not the only person who thinks like this so it makes me think that even if they do bag a sale or two they probably lose potential sales at just the same rate.

    Thanks so much for this and for the lovely shout out for The Indie Exchange. This is an excellent post!

    1. Thanks Donna. You guys do so much work for authors out there you deserve the extra praise. As does the admins of Book Junkies and the Indie Author Group. I hope you never stop what you are doing because it is great!

  5. These are all groups for authors, right? Why would anyone want to market to writers unless they're writing books about writing? Market to the readers. I know most authors are readers, but if I'm in a group to learn about writing, I don't want to be marketed to. I'm there to learn.

    1. This is an excellent point. And one that is made again and again to people who actually do the spamming. Unfortunately such logic doesn't get through to people. It is a mentality that if you advertise your product people will come and buy it - no matter who they are. If it was that simple we would all be millionaires by now.

  6. Being able to strike a balance between occasional promotion of your book and flooding is a fine one indeed. :)

    1. It certainly is. and I wouldn't say authors should never market their book. Announcing when you book is released or free are great times to post about them. But they have to be done in the right channels on the groups that allow them. Otherwise, as you say, you'll be flooding the market and that will discourage people finding out more about you and your books.

  7. I'd say those numbers are probably pretty accurate. Have done very efficient marketing through my blog but most of those visitors have been in interested in what I'm writing and they're wanting to find out more about me.

    1. Thanks Brian. The numbers collected was done so from my marketing literature left over from my two degree courses. Of course I stress I can't give exact figures on what those figures are, but I can use the averages as a demonstration (and the literature says even the top 1% of sales people only manage a 4% conversation rate).

      In terms of your marketing plan, I think that is one of the best ways forward. By giving people something tangible and "value for money" they will seek out your other works, interested to finding out more.


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