Do blog tours and extended promotions actually turn followers off?
We’ve done a few events and blog tours here at IB in the past. Blog tours, if you’re not familiar with them, is the digital equivalent of hopping city-to-city to promote one’s book; instead of physically traveling, you’re being promoted/reviewed/guest posting on different blogs. The idea is sound enough: by reaching out to many bloggers for an organized “event,” you’re helping drive traffic to them from the host blog while also making various audiences aware of the author’s work. In theory, it’s a good idea. I’ve found, however, that it doesn’t quite work out in practice . . . which is one of the reasons that our participation in blog tours has tapered somewhat.
What I find about extended events and blog tours is this: after the first couple of days, reader participation drops way off. (That’s not your fault, my loves. Your free time is your free time, and if readership is falling off, we’re the ones doing something wrong.) So what you’ve got after that is a one-sided deal for the blogs filling in the rest of the week: their readership is seeing the promotional post–and possibly not appreciating it if they think it sounds too promotional–but the blogger isn’t getting the promotion or traffic that was sort of the quid-pro-quo. The odds of every blog participant being a passionate fan of the work from the get-go are fairly nil; most of us end up in this sort of event because we’ve been e-mailed by another blogger that we know, because they know that our audience is compatible with the work, or they just need someone to fill a space, etc, etc. We agree to participate because it provides content and maybe traffic.
By now, you might be seeing the problem here–the big, gaping hole in this plot: everyone supposedly benefits in this scenario, except for the blog readers. What’s in it for the readers? Honestly, not a whole fuck of a lot most of the time; the content is largely author- or book-centric, and even reviews are a bit tainted by the fact that they’re included in a promotional tour. I’ve always left the tour graphic off when our leg of the tour has been a review, so that it seems honest and fair (because we don’t write promotional reviews, EVER, not even for a favor, not even for a blog tour), but . . . the stink of promotion was still upon it, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable about it. As soon as all of this dawned on me, I decided not to accept any future invitations for blog tours; I fulfilled our previous obligations and then cut that cord. I answer to you guys, and you guys shrugged your shoulders at blog tours and said, “meh.”
But, this post isn’t just about how the concept of blog tours falls short. It’s about reader fatigue, which can happen even if people are really into your event.
We actually just finished up an event here at le blog: Cunt Week, a celebration of the snatch. Based on the number of “WOOHOOOOOOOO” type comments on Amy’s initial post, I think it’s safe to say that people kind of liked Cunt Week. By the end of the week, though, people weren’t as excited about Cunt Week as they were when it started. We ended the week with another hilarious post from Amy, but it got only a fraction of the traffic and comments as the first post. The same thing happened when we did Stephen King Week last year; after mid-week, readership began to flag. (Flagg? Sorry, TERRIBLE PUN.) People LOVE Stephen King, and we had a variety of content, but the event just . . . . wound down.
I don’t have any statistics on it, but through observation, I’ve gotten the feeling that a week of posts on a topic is too much for many readers. It’s more than they want to process on a topic in a given week, even if it’s something they’re into–I can imagine you can triple the fatigue effect for something that they’re not into. At that point, it probably becomes a bit spammy.
And yes, I’m well well well WELL aware that I have both participated in and organized blog tours in the past. This is not a condemnation of people who participate in blog tours. It’s my assertion that they don’t work like they’re supposed to, and we should re-think the paradigm. It’s an admission that I was doing something and it wasn’t working for my readers. My readers have been kind enough not to tell me directly that it’s not working, but they didn’t have to–I could see the results myself. (Don’t worry guys. I got your back.)
So. Why doesn’t it work?
- Blog tours are rarely blog-reader-centric. They’re not designed around content that readers seek out, they’re designed around supposedly “fun” content meant to promote the book in question. And (some of) we organizers do try our best to make the content fun, but it’s often not the content that readers want. So they don’t click through.
- Blog tours/extended events last way too long/have too much content all in a row. People get fatigued and may even feel spammed.
- Promotional events break what usually works with bloggers and audiences. Bloggers often act as a bridge between authors and readers because bloggers build up trust with their audiences by making good and honest recommendations; therefore, agreeing to help promote something puts that trust relationship in shady territory. Even if I’m good friends with the blogger who organized it, that umbrella of trust doesn’t necessarily extend over them–so why should my readers believe that this work is quality unless I’m saying, “Hey, I read this, and it was BANGIN'” outside being part of a promotional event?
- The bloggers don’t even get the traffic bump, really, especially if they’re at the end of the week. The author’s fans and organizer’s fans don’t know me from Eve; they don’t trust me and have little reason to come visit my blog even if linkage abounds. Linking to a blog is only half the transaction; the other half requires click-through and there’s little incentive to do so. Meanwhile, the blog’s regular readers have already sniffed out “promotion” and are probably skipping right over the post, so nobody’s really reading the content except for the other blog tour participants and the people who are incredibly loyal to the blogger and will comment on everything because they’re the best.
The practice is, at best, flawed.
I think the blog as promotional tool doesn’t really fit well anyway, just because of the nature of blogging, but there definitely are some improvements I can suggest for people who might be planning promotion events:
- Spread content out over a longer period of time (say, one post per week for a month, rather than five posts back to back to back). I think this would work well not just with blog tours and promotional events, but any blog events that center around one topic. Space it out; give people breathing room.
- Focus not on promoting the book but on introducing blog readers to why they will dig the author in question. The author or organizer needs to be putting out content that people want to read on blogs. Something funny, or informative, or whatever. A guest post that someone might write for that blog if they weren’t promoting a book, because many people probably won’t have heard of the book yet and won’t click through to posts specifically related to the book unless the post looks enticing.
- Do a giveaway. Make it easy to enter and don’t force the participation issue. Optimally, I’d say do the giveaway on a blog where the blogger actually reviewed the book; those readers would probably be the most interested to win the book. I wouldn’t do a giveaway on a blog where the blogger didn’t actually read the book.
- Try not to over-saturate your social media with the singular event topic. This will help combat reader fatigue.
Now for the real question: how do you guys feel about blog tours/promotional events? Have any of them ever worked for you? Do you tune them out, or do you enjoy them? Please give me ALL OF YOUR FEELS in the comments!