Why Likes, Retweets and Pluses Don’t Mean Anything

Pic via Pixabay

Recently, UNICEF Sweden released a video geared towards “slacktivists” people who like their page but never cut a check.  UNICEF isn’t the only group to notice the apathy of social media users.  Indie authors as well have complained about people liking them on Facebook or following them on Twitter only to receive no engagement whatsoever.

Vanity Metrics

On Twitter I have around 2,200 followers and 1,300 Facebook likes but did I sell 5,500 books?  Ah, nope.  That’s because these people may have simply stumbled upon my page/account and found me interesting.  Some of them may not even be readers, let alone, fans.  The amount of followers, subscribers or likes a person has is considered vanity metrics and is often confused with social proof.

You can have the biggest following on Twitter, and millions of subscribers on your blog, but if no one isn’t buying your book or helping you promote it, then, it’s pointless.  You win at social media by leveraging your connections, that’s means finding out what can you get from these likes, follows and pluses.  Recently, I was offered a discount on book marketing services just for being a Twitter follower of a particular agency.  Now that’s way better than a like, in my book.

Incest or a Relationship?

It’s been preached for a while that authors shouldn’t follow other authors on social media, in fact, it’s been called incestuous but that’s total nonsense.  Social media is about mingling, sharing news, and asking questions.  For example, this week, an author in one of my Facebook groups asked, about free images she could use for her book.  Immediately, several of us gave our input which ended up saving her big money.  If all you want to do is sell, sell, sell then social media isn’t going to work for you.

Social media can he helpful for promoting, but you have to connect with the right people.  I started networking online almost 5 years ago, without even realizing it.  I started joining groups and asking questions about writing but most importantly, I listened. Many authors are under the impression that they can sell books to a complete stranger.  When in fact, people who don’t know you have no obligation to help you let alone give you their money.  So in closing, if it feels weird asking for help, you may not be as well connected as you thought.  Asking for help only feels weird when you’re asking complete strangers like UNICEF.


  1. I don’t expect to sell through social media, I use it primary to network with other writers, and secondarily for promotion.

    Promotion, in my opinion, is different than sales. I can only sell to people who are actually in the market for my work at this particular time, but I can promote to everyone.

    To give an example of what I mean, Gerber is probably the most well known manufacturer of baby food in the US. Just about everyone knows the name, even people who don’t have babies and have no intention of having a baby. That’s because the brand has done very good promotion for a lot of years. They build their brand name recognition to the general public, and then when someone does have a baby and goes looking for food, Gerber is the name that jumps off the shelf.

    Mass market sales campaigns tend to backfire. We are too used to it, we tune it out. When I get a letter or an e-mail that is trying to get me to buy something right now, odds are I am not in the market for that particular product at that particular time. So I glance at it and then pitch it.

    However, when I get literature from a company that gives me something that I want–a well written article about a subject that interests me, for example, and doesn’t hit me with a hard sell, I’ll remember the article and I’ll remember who sent it to me.

    Then, when I am in the market for a product, what name am I likely to think of first? The one who gave me something I wanted.

    My goal with social marketing is to get people to think fondly of Misha Burnett as a brand name. I want people to like me as a company, as it were. Then, when they are looking for a book to read and they see my name they’ll think, “Oh, yeah, I know that guy. Sure, let’s check this out.”

    That’s the intent, anyway, and that’s why I don’t sweat looking for any direct correlation between twitter or blog followers and sales. I don’t use them to sell right now, I use them to build goodwill in the reading public at large.

    I hope that makes sense.

    • You’re exactly right Misha, social media is about the looong haul. If you can show that you truly care about people, a following is almost certain, even if it’s a small one. Lady Gaga is great example of this. She isn’t the most talented of singers, but she goes out of her way to be genuine and reaches out to her “monsters” (fans) by retweeting them and answering their questions. Even her biggest critic, Madonna, hasn’t gotten this right.

  2. To be quite honest, I haven’t found any social media that I can indisputably say has done much, if anything, for my book sales, but I have enjoyed engaging with a few people on Twitter and Facebook (and sometimes on my website). The only thing I’ve found that can put books in potential readers’ hands is a free giveaway. Free down-loaders may not actually read all of the eBooks they get. They probably won’t post reviews. In my experience, I get maybe one review for every 200 free downloads. Fewer people than that might become fans. It’s a long, hard process to build a fan base. Right now, I am trying to focus more on the creative part (writing more books readers will enjoy) than on the marketing aspect. Once I have ten titles available (working on #5 now), then I may put more attention on marketing.

    • I’ve sold a few books on Twitter, but nothing noteworthy. I did the freebie thing but got nothing out of it outside a few ratings on Goodreads. I think out of the hundreds of downloads my YA novel got, I received a handful of ratings, and no reviews of my book. To me, a Goodreads rating is sort of like a Facebook like or retweet.

      What I’ve done was begin a series of vampire novels that I plan on releasing simultaneously. However, the first book of the series will be priced at .99 cents and within that book, I’ll link to the higher priced ones at the beginning and end of the novel. I’ll be blogging about that in the future.

  3. Thanks for this post, it’s a great look at what social media is really doing for us. I also love the term ‘slacktivist.’

    A few months back I read a blog post on the New Yorker’s book blog that came to essentially the same conclusions, numbers-wise. I don’t use facebook and usually forget about my twitter account. My blog automatically tweets when I write a new post but that’s about it. I found it a dull grind to try and use twitter to activate interest or, to be honest, to get interested in other authors. The best way for me to become interested in what people write is by seeing what they write – for example, on wordpress – and not through a few 140 character snippets. I’m far more likely to buy books from the bloggers I follow than from the twitter people I follow, because I have proof that you can write. Yet so many people push social media as the only way for a self-published author to get out there. It can be a bit depressing sometimes.

    • I just read a book called, “Sell More Books! Book Marketing for Low Profile and Debut Authors” by J. Steve Miller and Cherie K. Miller which pretty much said blogging is pointless for those writing fiction. It’s guest posting on popular reading and review blogs that builds a platform. This requires writing first class posts and pitching, something authors hate more than a root canal. The best marketing is of course writing the next book and the next…

      • That is very interesting indeed. Of course I would first buy a book from someone whose books I had read and liked before, but I would think people would have more faith in authors who proved themselves capable of writing via blogging. I don’t have any numbers though and I guess it makes sense that of the number of blog followers you have, only a very few will shell out for a book, just like twitter. I would only assume that number to be slightly higher since a blog is a bigger investment (both to write and to read) than a couple of twitter posts.

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