My social marketing failure

Me, a social marketer

Four months ago I started an experiment in social marketing of SumatraPDF, my free PDF viewer for Windows.

Let me rephrase that without the buzzwords: four months ago I added Google buzz, tweet and Facebook like buttons to Sumatra’s web pages:

This is a reflection on changing habits of how people share what they find on the web. Blogs used to be the medium to write about products and services people found useful. Blogs are still going strong but tweeting/buzzing/liking is much easier than writing a blog post so it became a dominant way of sharing cool finds.

It took me about an hour to add the 3 most popular buttons, so there was no reason not to try it.

A button promotes a given page (as identified by a url). In case of Sumatra, they promote the main (landing) page.

When I installed the buttons on 9-19-2010, I already had 529 Buzz posts (a suspiciously large number), 44 tweets and 16 Facebook likes (those services track number of mentions for a given page even if they originate from other places which gave me a jump start).

Me, a failed social marketer

As far as I can tell, it was a dismal failure.

The purpose of marketing is to make people more aware of your software. The theory is that a tweet or a like shows up on people’s twitter or facebook streams whcih leads them to click on the link and visit your website.

You can track the effectiveness of such marketing by counting how many people come to your website from twitter.com or Facebook.com (I do it with Google Analytics).

The results are terrible. In the last month, I got 82 visits from facebook.com (out of 350.000 pageviews), which makes it 116th referal source. Inexplicably twitter.com doesn’t even show up in the list of first 500 referal sources.

In those four months I got 314 facebook likes (78 per month) and 29 tweets (7 per month).

To give some perspective: before installing those buttons Sumatra averaged around 4.000 downloads a day and getting more than 300.000 page views a month.

That means that insignificant number of the people downloading the software or visiting SumatraPDF website use the tweet or like buttons.

I also know from monitoring twitter for mentions of Sumatra that people tweet about it on their own.

Incremental traffic from Twitter or Facebook to my website is negligible.

Why so failure?

I didn’t expect miracles but I also didn’t expect such a massive failure.

One possibility is that I horribly botched interpretation of the results.

Another possibility is that those things don’t work well for software. Unlike a cute picture or a blog post, software cannot be evaluated by just looking at the website. You need to use it for a while to decide if it’s good or not so it doesn’t lend itself to impulsive tweets of admiration.

On the other hand, I’ve seen web pages for software that I’m pretty sure is less popular than Sumatra and had way more than my measly 44 tweets.