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Digital Marketing: A Novel Idea

money in a piggy bank

Marketing has become one of the great, I use that world almost sarcastically, movements of our time. Every university offers an array of marketing degrees, many Millenials are hired at agencies as social media marketers, and a huge portion of our society will now tell you how they are an expert in one marketing area or another due to their analytic knowledge. Analytic knowledge does not inherently make you an expert, it proves you signed up for a free Google Analytics Account.

Recently I finished reading, Chasing String in the Digital Era by Jaffer Ali. If you work in marketing, or consider yourself to be a marketing expert, this is one read you need on your Kindle, Android or iPad. What was interesting about Ali’s book is not that it provides incredible ideas that changed my life, in fact, it made me question everything we as a society do today to market products and events. Ali also gives a harsh dose of reality in how we fix poor results by increasing the marketing effort only to accept smaller conversion rates.

Not opposed to considering everything we do is wrong, I wanted a safe way to test some new ideas that didn’t put any client data at risk. Let’s face it, no client is going to try something you can’t back up with a long list of stats. So, I used my own product as the subject of this marketing test. Using my last novel as the object of study, I began using Facebook, Pinterest and Reddit to promote the book.

I tried both paid and free services. Facebook, a service hungry for my credit card number, as this is one of the main revenue sources for the beast, resulted in a high return of low quality likes to my page. You see, even when I refined the demographics to target the ad, Facebook’s algorithm continued to pull close matches who may not truly be interested. A point from Ali’s book, human behavior is predictably unpredictable. This meant I received a nice boost in followers but they didn’t engage with my page, download books and very few even took the time to like anything posted on the page. Meaning, several hundred dollars went into Facebook’s virtual pocket but resulted in no sales growth.

Disappointed at the charge on my credit card and the low yield, I determined if I can’t promote for free then I won’t promote on that network. Fortunately, you can promote for free, you just need to be the loudest virtual person in the room. By no means am I about to give you a secret resulting in a 100% conversion or thousands upon thousands of book downloads. If that were the case I’d be off on a beach right now enjoying the rewards. What I determined is that through a combination of Reddit, Pinterest and Facebook posts I was able to generate a 3-5% conversion on the number of individuals I could with certainty track. This meant they in some way left a virtual breadcrumb I could follow and show they liked, shared or replied and then downloaded a copy of the book through Amazon.

What I Did

Facbook first. On my page I began sharing viral content that had nothing to do with my book. Memes, videos, cute puppies and to each of them I added a link pointing not to my website, but directly to the Amazon page where one could download the book. Next, I posted promotions for the book on my page, which garnered minor interest. What made this effective was then logging in as my regular, non-Page profile, and sharing the promotional post into Facebook Groups that are dedicated to readers and book promotions.

Then Pinterest. I upgraded to a free business account. I started sharing SomeEcards that I made or found, pinning them to a book board. Every pin had a comment from me and a link back to Amazon. Seeing a pattern?

Finally Reddit. First off, people on Reddit can be harsh. There are trolls out there who want to do nothing but terrorize others, so be prepared for some over the top and sometimes offensive commentary you won’t like. Now that we have our big boy/girl pants on, we post the promotions on a number of book threads, with a clear title, genre and promotion dates. This actually can drive a great amount of traffic to a page.

The book is the content I need to promote, the traditional mode is to have people visit your website and then have them click the book. Knowing people are not going to sign up for a newsletter or explore the site when I promise them a book, it makes more sense to cut out the middle man and send them directly to the place with the book: Amazon. That was a major triumph in increasing the downloads.

The other triumph was the content. People on social networks are more interested in puppies and other funny videos/images than your actual message, especially when it’s a boring old book. Give them what they want, and if it’s truly your viral video, even better. However, there is nothing wrong with adding your link to each and every post shared. It’s a little bit of a bait and hook, but the bait was vapid content and the hook was real meat. If they convert into a sale then it was a success and you both benefit.

So what have I learned? Paid advertising can have minimal results at times unless you are highly strategic, and often you are fine to utilize free services. Though, I am a long way off from following Ali’s lead as I’m in the same cycle as many marketers, there are small areas where we can begin to break the cycle and return to marketing content and not marketing advertising to then market content. We are perpetuating an endless cycle of low conversion and poor performing ads that eat up your budget. It’s time to change and improve how we market.

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