Recently, I was chatting to an author who taught me a neat trick about getting your book to be listed as an “Amazon bestseller”. It’s not about writing a good book, it’s all about manipulating the system (you get all your friends and family to buy your book on one day, and choose a nice niche category, and by the end of the day your book is in the top five best sellers on Amazon in that category. Take a screenshot, and voila – an “Amazon bestseller” forever). I was a little horrified… but then I got over myself. All bestseller charts (for books, music, anything) are manipulated. So, good for him and his team in working that out.

I also recently was chatting to a group of people who were swapping notes on how to grow the number of digital contacts they had (different advice for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). The danger here was that the loudest voice was from a woman who has over 40,000 Twitter followers. She follows nearly 50,000 people, but has sent less than 100 Tweets. In other words, for her, it is about the quantity of connections, not their quality or utility. My instant reaction was: “so what?”. Big deal.

And, then today Seth Godin’s daily thought cemented my thinking. The key is not to generate more digital spectators. You need to work hard to turn spectators into participants. Participants can become fans – and then you’re talking!

Read Seth’s blog, or an extract below. The last line is the most important!

Fans, participants and spectators

A good preacher ought to be able to get 70% of the people who showed up on Sunday to make a donation.

A teeny bop rock group might convert 20% of concert goers to buy a shirt or souvenir.

A great street magician can get 10% of the people who watch his show to throw a dollar in the hat.

Direct marketers used to shoot for 2% conversion from a good list, but now, that’s a long shot.

A blogger might convert 2% of readers to buy a book. (I’m aghast at this).

And a twitter user with a lot of fans will be lucky to get one out of a thousand to click a link and buy something. (.1%)

Likes, friendlies and hits are all fast-growing numbers that require little commitment. And commitment is the essence of conversion. The problem with commitment is that it’s frightening (for both sides). And so it’s easy to avoid. We just click and move on.

I think there’s a transparent wall, an ever bigger one, between digital spectators and direct interaction or transaction. The faster the train is moving, the harder it is to pay attention, open the window and do business. If all you’re doing is increasing the number of digital spectators to your work, you’re unlikely to earn the conversion you deserve.

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