Getting Back in the Game

I just discovered an interesting phenomenon on my website. WordPress does a pretty thorough job breaking down the stats.

By far, the biggest source of links, traffics and referrals to my website comes from…my website. I seem to get lots of direct visits and the visitors tend to stay awhile and look around. Given the figure, it looks as though (numerically speaking) almost everyone who comes to my site checks out at least 2 or 3 other pages. Which is an amazing engagement rate. The trick is getting the visitors in the first place. My next five major referrers are Google, a Russian search engine, Twitter, a Chinese search engine and the SF Canada website.

I don’t know if the major omission from the above list is obvious, but it starts with F and ends with Book.

I spend no time, effort or money on Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, Quora or any other social media sites.

But my Facebook author page is chock full of links. It has 96 followers and 96 likes. It gets 4 or 5 new likes per week and I’ve been spending real money (not much, granted) boosting my page, promoting my book, website and blog there. And now I discovered that it accounts for less than 2 per cent of the traffic on my website. Fifteen referrals TOTAL have from Facebook in the past 6 months.

This confirms my opinion that although my Facebook Author page does get some attention – that attention does not directly expand beyond the borders of Facebook. It does not sell books, it doesn’t even draw traffic to my author website. Could it be – in these post Trump days – that Facebook users have grown so leery of their host that they hesitate to click on anything whose direct providence isn’t immediately apparent? Are they so cautious about sharing or divulging their preferences that they copy, paste and go outside of Facebook before visiting any links? I celebrate this behaviour. But it certainly has me rethinking how to allocate my energy and ad budget. I get over 10 times as many visits from Twitter. Perhaps I should be throwing a few bucks their way. And my referrals from Google are 500% higher than those from Facebook. Advertising there would be more expensive, but likely more worthwhile as well.

Another site that doesn’t even register on my referral list sadly is Goodreads – which I would love to believe is relevant and valuable – but is clearly not a useful channel to my audience. This isn’t news to most folks, including me, but I find it disappointing just the same.

I do have to say that the Facebook numbers shock me. I’ve been seeing lots of people leave the site and been hearing lots more grumbling about it on a daily basis. But I still go there every day. A lot of people I know do as well. But what do I do when I get there? I check notifications – 10 to 20 percent of which are from Facebook, telling me I should spend money to boost my posts. 20 per cent are birthday reminders – which I usually follow up on. Another 20 per cent are from writer friends and story markets and another 10 to 20 per cent are from groups I belong to. If I get 15 notifications – it’s a hopping day! I usually scroll through my messages, About half of those are from people I follow, a quarter are promoted and the rest are random funnies and memes from friends. 

A few of the promoted ones are from artists I follow. I read maybe half of the few per day that I have the good fortune to stumble across. All of this generally takes me 10 minutes or less. Half an hour to an hour a day, I spend playing games on Facebook. I mostly do this during my commute, or just before bed. Because of spotty connections, diminishing power and extreme sleepiness, none of these are times when I’m disposed to visiting links or making purchases.

Especially in the computer age, it has become vital to continuously reevaluate how well your social media serves you and review other available options.

The natural human tendencies toward complacency and loyalty can easily bind us to outmoded tech, software, platforms, and media. We are exhausted from trying to keep up with the rate of change and want desperately NOT to have to start again from scratch. And over the years, Facebook has become a pretty ingrained habit. But they have been growing alienated from their audience, less able to deliver on their potential, more prone to sacrificing their credibility in pursuit of the holy dollar, less relevant and entertaining and trustworthy. If media is the opium of the people, Facebook is our oxy – familiar, readily available and really bad for you. I suspect the exodus would be much further along if people weren’t clinging so hard to their networks of social contacts during the pandemic.

I am probably not going to follow in the footsteps of so many of my associates and abandon the platform altogether. But Facebook will have to work much harder in future to get money or information out of me.

It’s clearly time to match my Facebook ad expenditure with a comparable campaign on Twitter. It’s time to see what You Tube and Amazon can contribute. And time to start thinking about how well/poorly my blog is serving me and what I can do about that.

Having an excuse to care about metrics makes me feel more relevant – and that in itself is a good thing. Now, I just need to get back in the game of using them effectively to guide my journey into the future.