When much of the internet seems dedicated to earnest posts detailing ’10 ways to double your blog traffic in five minutes’, it’s refreshing to hear an example of someone whose online popularity was completely accidental.
Gregory Levey’s article on The Nervous Breakdown (thanks to Big C for this) explains how he created a Facebook group to promote his book “Shut Up, I’m Talking”, a memoir about his time as a speechwriter for the Israeli government.
Levey saw his Facebook fans grow from about a hundred friends and family to over 750,000 – significantly more than better known authors such as JK Rowling (95,000) and Dan Brown (499,000).
The source of this new found popularity? Unfortunately for Levey, it wasn’t an explosion of interest in his book. Rather, it was his choice of title:
Even though the fan page shows the book’s cover and its synopsis, and informs visitors that it was published by Simon & Schuster, the vast majority of these supposed “fans” were somehow totally unaware that it was referring to a book at all. They had simply joined because they were fans of the phrase “Shut Up, I’m Talking.”
They were the sort of people, I soon discovered, who were also fans of such inane but popular Facebook fan pages as “Punching Things” and “I hate it when I get fingerprints all over my phone.” But each time one of them would become a fan of Shut Up, I’m Talking, their circle of Facebook friends would blindly do the same – causing its frighteningly viral spread.
If Levey were to message his 750,000 fans via Facebook, he’d surely pick up some extra sales. However, given that few expressed any interest in middle eastern politics, his conversion rate would probably be fairly low.
Levey’s experience is a great example of how, contrary to the claims of viral agencies and e-book peddlers, building a following can be a pretty unpredictable affair. Furthermore, a successful online community has more to do with quality than quantity.
On the plus side, the popularity of Levey’s Facebook group highlights how readily people identify with an insight that rings true – however trivial it might seem. In fact, maybe we’re all missing a trick – sounds like the smart money’s in fingerprint-resistant mobile phone covers…