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by Mike Essex on 10th August 2012
That’s how many people helped me when all I did was ask. Friends, family, colleagues and even people I had never met all pledged their time to help with a challenge. This speaks volumes about the power of people, and how by asking for help, you can achieve amazing things.
If you’ve been following me online recently you’ll know that I attempted to reach the top 100 books on Amazon for my book Free Stuff Everyday. To help achieve this, I asked people to share a link to the book’s Amazon page via social media and then waited to see what happened.
A simple experiment that before I knew it had taken on a life of its own.
In this blog post I’m going to take an in-depth look at just how the power of people can help a project to succeed. I will also offer an in-depth look at the results that were achieved, further helping new authors, or anyone looking to sell a product online.
As a top level summary here’s what we achieved:
Let’s take a deeper look at those results to understand the affect people had in helping with this project:
The first question to be answered was whether people would click a link that was shared socially. To encourage this, I made sure that the text people would share via social media encouraged a click:
My hope was that the use of “check out” would naturally encourage people, at the very least, to view the Amazon page. This would then help raise awareness of the book and hopefully its appearance in search results. Something that would play an unexpectedly large role in the experiment.
There were 1,302 views of the book’s Amazon page that we could attribute to the experiment, showing that it certainly helped draw a lot of attention in a very short time.
The below graph shows the direct impact that social shares had on clicks. We tracked clicks by using an affiliate code which proved really effective.
You can’t draw a much better correlation than that!
As more people shared the message, more people clicked through to view the book. Considering the message was shared by a mixture of people who had anything from 5 followers to 50,000 followers, it’s interesting that the results stayed constant.
I was also pleased to see that over time, shares continued to produce results. This wasn’t a case of dimished returns
It’s a debate that has been going on since social media began, with many often asking, “what about the ROI?” Even when planning this experiment I did wonder whether social media would lead to a lot of traffic, but that no one would open their wallets.
As I only asked people to share a link, and didn’t go for something blatant like “buy my product please!”, there was a very real possibility that I’d actually get a lot of shares and no sales. But that unknown quantity was just part of the experiment.
In order to get a fair reading, I looked at the number of sales that were made before the 27th July in the UK and the US. I then drew the following baseline:
UK – Typically sold 0.31 books a day (8 books over 26 days)
US – Typically sold 2.6 books a day (68 books over 26 days)
The experiment then ran for 13 days, which allowed me to draw a conclusion that any sales above 4 in the UK, and 34 in the US could be seen as an increase.
The results were stunning, especially in the UK, where the book sold 51 copies over 13 days (compared to 4 in a typical 13 days). In the US, results were also improved, selling 64 copies in 13 days (when usually there would be 34 sold).
Looking at the improvement across both the UK and US, we can see a total of 115 sales. As the book would typically sell 38 copies over that time period, this means that 77 sales were a direct result of the social shares.
That’s a 202.6% increase in sales
I’m going to take a deeper look at how social shares led to that number, but that figure shows the powerful effect that people can have on helping a project.
Conclusions: Social shares can have a direct impact on sales. If you are thinking of pursuing a social strategy to help your product, then you really should think about the impact of social shares.
For those interested in Amazon’s Sales Rank, I was also able to draw the following conclusions:
These numbers proved fairly consistent based on tweets from people when they made a sale. I have read reports that Sales Rank increases quicker the higher you get up the chart, although I don’t think I achieved high enough rankings to experience this.
Although my ultimate goal was to reach the Amazon Top 100, we didn’t make it that far. However, there were very positive ranking improvements in the UK and US as a result of the experiment. As hype for the experiment started to kick in around a week before (which led to some early sales), I chose 17th July as a neutral starting point for rankings.
In the UK the book stated in 77,598th place and rose to 1,839th
In the US the book started in 123,786th place and peaked at 8,501st
That’s a combined increase of 191,044 ranking places
A drastic rise that had me taking screenshots on my phone almost non-stop throughout the 13 days.
To take a deeper look at the impact of sales on Sales Rank, I compiled all of the results in to the below graphs. I recorded the best Sales Rank I saw that day, so there is a possibility that the Sales Rank may have risen higher (especially in the US if it changed while I was asleep), but these are the peaks I saw:
In the UK we can see a very clear correlation between sales and rankings, with an instant rise on the 27th as soon as sales started coming in. Interestingly, although sales didn’t remain constant over the next 2 days, the sale rank continued to improve. This indicates that Amazon considers more than just a single day when calculating results.
The first dip appeared on a day with only one sale, and it was only when sales remained low for a few days that rankings really started to drop. Thankfully it only took one or two sales to boost the ranking back up again. Even on days with no sales, the book ranking didn’t fall below the starting position.
In the US it took far more sales to get results, which makes sense given the larger number of books in the Amazon Kindle store (we were competing with over 1 million books). There was however an instant boost on the 27th when sales came in; the strongest day pushed the rankings to its highest.
Unlike the UK, rankings fell very quickly in periods of no sales, and in one case the rankings actually dropped, despite a good day of sales. This shows less of an impact on rankings for sales in the US, or that it takes far more sales to make a sizeable dent in the rankings.
Conclusions: It certainly seems that in order to get great rankings, it is vital you try and compress the highest number of sales possible into a single day. Whilst it’s possible for a book to hold some rankings without sales, it’s far better to have 100 sales in one day, than 10 sales every day for 10 days.
We’ve already shown the impact that social shares had on traffic. But what extend did social shares contribute directly to sales?
Just like the correlation with traffic and sales, a similar pattern emerged. Social shares were a key driving force in kick-starting sales, and afterwards, a short term boost was experienced.
It didn’t take many shares to keep sales coming in, and the effect lasted for around a week. This is positive as it shows that doing a lot in one day doesn’t mean you will immediately lose sales from other days. Interestingly there were days with no shares that had sales, which could be down to increased awareness of the book on Amazon.
Conclusion: This proves that the social shares on day one did lead to sales. Which gives further evidence on the ROI of Social Media.
So here’s the really interesting twist. Every single link that was shared as part of the experiment included an affiliate code. This meant any sales that were made via the affiliate links could be directly attributed.
However, if we look deeper into the data we can see that 29 sales were tracked via affiliate links and 86 were not tracked. The below chart shows (taken as a percentage of the overall daily sales) that affiliate sales did a great job of kick-starting the most popular days, with a 48 hour boost each time a lot of sales were made via affiliate links:
This ties back into one of the key parts of the study – to simply see that if people viewed a page, would there be a rise in sales? Well that’s exactly what happened. Somewhere along the line, the 1,302 extra views of the book page that were made as a result of the study caused it to appear in “people who viewed this also viewed” results. This led to improved awareness.
Amazon has now changed this section to “people who bought this item also bought”, which could help explain why there were sales on four days in August without any affiliate sales to drive interest.
There’s also the possibility that as the book rose in its rankings, it gained a higher appearance on sub category charts (such as “consumer guides”) and that people found the book in this way.
Conclusion: Social shares are a fantastic way to kick start sales, and if timed right they can lead to other sales that would not have occurred.
I would have loved to have seen the impact of a tweet from a celebrity, but perhaps that’s something for another day.
My (admittedly hastily written) tweets to celebs didn’t result in any shares, but I discovered that you don’t need a mega celebrity in order to get results.
The 31st July was a real anomaly in the data. It was a day of very few shares, and yet it produced the 2nd strongest day of sales and a massive rankings boost that continued to rise.
From tracking results in the day it became pretty clear that results jumped 2 hours after a social share from Mr Paddy Moogan. I call this the Paddy Moogan effect:
This seemed to kick start a rankings boost and fresh sales that continued after the initial tweet for 24 hours. Whilst Paddy probably didn’t lead to every sale, the correlation was very interesting.
Conclusion: A well respected industry person, sharing the message at a time when lots of people are paying attention can be incredibly effective.
Other Channels – Whilst the vast majority of mentions were made via Twitter, people also helped on Facebook and Google+. This was essential in enabling friends and family to help, many of whom don’t use Twitter. One issue I did have was asking them to share a link on Facebook, which resulted in many of them pasting the link with no text, which didn’t look great.
So make sure your instructions are very clear.
Buy – The final day of the experiment I changed the call-to-action in the social shares from “check out” to “buy” to see what effect that would have. Although this was a stronger call-to-action, it didn’t produce a drastic rise in sales. “Check out” performed strongest and also led to the highest number of clicks.
Conclusion: Always give people different options to help share content and make it easy for them to get involved. I used “Click to tweet” links, but also gave people the Amazon links to use as they wished.
I also used the last day to do something good, and donate any royalties made to Christian Lewis Trust Kids Cancer Charity. People were one again amazingly supportive of the experiment and the chance to do something nice as a result.
I donated any commission from affiliate links to the charity throughout the project. I will also donate any affiliate commission made in August to the charity as part of Koozai’s fundraising efforts (http://www.justgiving.com/teams/koozai) – to keep the good work going.
If you’d like to learn more about them you can at http://www.christianlewistrust.org/
Alongside the project itself there was a lot of external coverage courtesy of Econsultancy, SEOteky, Stoked SEO, BOOM Online, Alessio Madeyski, ClearDebt and Ideasbynet that helped to spread the word. A Facebook group was also made to help with the challenge, and we were the top of Inbound for two days. All of these factors working together helped with the challenge.
The blog post that I wrote on Koozai, which promoted the challenge, also received 116 shares. This helped to raise awareness of what had happened. All of this positive coverage provides long term benefits in the form of links, shares and awareness of the book.
Conclusion: Plan guest posts, and media coverage before you attempt to get a lot of social shares. Give exclusive interviews and tap into the established readership of different sites to help.
The following conclusions can be drawn from this experiment:
When I started the experiment one of my goals was to see if I could make people interested in an unknown product. I feel this was certainly proven through such a large set of social shares, and the impact made on purchases.
Despite being dropped by my print publisher before the experiment, I now feel inspired to start work on a new book, a title which has been in my mind for some time, but which I was on the fence about writing. The success of this experiment has driven me to write that title and rekindled my love of writing books.
The book has a rough title of “Tethered” and I’m aiming for a release by November 2012. In a first for me, it will be fiction, and I feel inspired to take on the challenge after everyone’s support in this project. You can follow me on Twitter for future details.
I have 163 people to thank, and as promised I will be writing a dedication to each and everyone one of them in the book’s digital edition very soon. I’d also like to thank the Koozai team for letting me run the experiment through our blog, and their support in general.
A massive thank you to:
Aaron Bennett, Abraham Douek, Adam Mason, Adam Zais, Alessio Madeyski, Alex Moss, Amir Abbas, Amy Fowler, Amy Greenacre, Andrew Isidoro, Andy Heaps, Andy Langdon, Andy Merritt, Andy Williams, Ann Smarty, Anna Cownley, Anna Lewis, Anne Essex, Arwin Adriano, Barrie Smith, Barry Adams, Ben Milleare, Ben Norman, Bibiano Wenceslano, Blue Soda Promo, Charlie Oakham, Chris Barnett, Chris Dyson, Chris Gilchrist, Christopher Angus, Colin McDermott, Colin Skinner, Copify , Craig Hannah, Dan Barker, Dan Bell, Dan Levy, Darren Clasby, Darren Moloney, David Ashworth, David Chesters, David Horris, David Sayce, David Tamplin, David Main, Dean Cruddace, Dolores Steadman, Dominic Howling, Fiona McLellan, Gareth Brown, Gareth Hoyle, Gary Buchan, Gaynor Humphrey, Gaz Copeland, Gianluca Fiorelli, Giuseppe Pastore, Glen Pawson, Graeme Benge, Graham Charlton, Greg Childs, Greg Dickson, Guy Clapperton, Guy Pressault, Helen Elldred, Ian Creek, JMoney, Jackie Hole, James Agate, James Carson, James Newhouse, James Perrin, Jamie Fudge, Jane Rance, Java Davis, Jayson Bagio, Jean-Marie Bonthous, Jeff Ogden, Jenny Cockerill, Jerri Clemons, Jim Seward, Jo Thompson, Joanna Butler, Joanna Ramsey, Joe Griffiths, John Doherty, John Trimble, John-Henry Scherck, Jon Cooper, Jon Hogg, Jon Quinton, Jon-Paul Hawkins, Kamil Stankowski , Katie Salmon, Katie Saxon, Kev Wiles, Kevin Gibbons, Kumail Hemani, Laura Phillips, Lenka Istvanova, Mal Darwen, Manuel Cabrera, Marcin Korecki, Mark Mitchell, Mark Nunney, Martin Roberts, Matt Beswick, Matt Evans, Mikke Lacey, Miranda Miller, Natalia Selby, Ned Poulter, Neil Melia, Nichola Stott, Nick Dawes, Onboardly, Paddy Moogan, Pak Hou Cheung, Pamela Pinski, Patrick Hathaway, Patrizia Galeota, Paul Essex, Paul Gailey, Paul Martin,Paul Rogers, Paul Delaney, Peter Handley, Phil Gerbyshark, PieceWise, Rebekah May, Rich Westerbeek, Richard Roocroft, Rob Arkell, Samantha Noble, Samantha Barker, Sasha Eyre, Save Money Hound , Sean Revell, Sebastian Cowie, Shelli Walsh, Shropshire Life , Sii Cockerill, Simon Barker, Simon Rattray, Simon Talbot, Skint in The City, Ste Roberts, Stephen Joyce, Steve Lock, Temina Moledina, Thomas Hefke, Thomas Orth, Tim Shapcott, Timothy Alcock, Tobias Dokken, Tom Hindley, Trabelsi Hellel, Tracey Drain, Tricia May, Usman Patel, Varun Daahal, Wayne Barker, Web Analytics World , Will Roney, Woj Kwasi,
If I missed you please let me know.
They are all now a part of the book’s legacy, and the help they gave over the last two weeks will have a lasting impact on both me as an author, and the book on Amazon.
Together we helped prove that a new unproven product can do well with the power of social shares. Together we proved that you can achieve a lot simply if you ask for help. We proved the power of people, the power of sharing and the power of community.
So we didn’t quite make it in to the top 100, which would have definitely been a cherry on top of the cake. However, I’m still left with an amazing cake, made with the help of over 160 people.
Who needs cherries, when you have friends?