My Twitter ads verdict: a waste of time and money

Update: The excellent comments on this post have made me realise that I proved exactly nothing in this experiment due to the poor way I set it up. Thanks all! Will try to do better next time.


I mentioned on Friday that I was going to experiment with Twitter ads for my book The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies. I said I’d report back on my findings.

Well, it’s a pretty stark message: either I’m doing something fundamentally wrong, or they’re a complete waste of time and money.

Here’s my results after spending $50 on three promoted tweets:

Twitter campaign overview

As you can see, not exactly stellar results.

So how did that translate to sales? Remember, I said that, “After Gumroad’s commission and the 10% discount, I need less than 10 additional people to buy my ebook to break even.”

According to my Gumroad statistics, I didn’t even sell one additional copy:

Gumroad customers

As the person who bought my book yesterday bought it at the undiscounted rate, I’m chalking that up as an ‘organic’ sale (i.e. they didn’t purchase it as a result of the advertising).

Happily, sales are going reasonably well anyway. They fluctuate each week, but are never zero. I think I’ll just let things continue as they are and not throw good money after bad. 😉

10 Comments

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  1. I wonder if you might have had more impact if you had not done it at the weekend. The core audience for the book are probably more likely to use Twitter during the week than at weekends perhaps?

    • Yes, here was me thinking Bank Holiday weekend would be a good time. Probably the worst time ever, in fact!

  2. While I’ve always wondered about Twitter ads (I’ve rarely bought things off them), I suspect you’ve garnered too much of the wrong interest – you want to be getting fewer clicks but more likely to buy based off it. That 10% discount one doesn’t have enough information – people see a discount, click through, and then decide it’s not for them. Even the others assume people know what the book is.

    Were you to run it again, I’d suggest an option of making a custom landing page hidden from google and directing people to that – then getting the gumroad code from there. That way you could spend the time honing the text to just be for people interested in digital literacy and then do the hard yards of explaining on the site. It’d also mean that you can make the twitter card a lot more useful and customised.

    Still, who knows. I do think FB ads probably offer more value than Twitter ones.

    • Hi Vicky, you’re probably right – I guess I was still thinking of advertising to my existing network rather than those who haven’t heard of the book before. Good advice about the landing page!

  3. It all depends. You were advertising late in that particular product life cycle. As you surmised people were probably going to stumble on your book in other ways so I would think those that saw your ad either had your book already or were pleasantly surprised to be reminded/made aware of your existence and that you were experimenting with this new fangled tech.

    Traditional advertising for foreign holiday places on TV are going to usually miss their target audience but they’re there, in my personal experience, to tip those on the edge of a decision – I would never have thought of going to Canada if it had been for such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZLfFsgiadp4

  4. Stephen Lockyer

    May 6, 2015 — 2:15 pm

    I used conventional tweets to sell my book Hands Up at a discounted price over the Easter week I’d identified as being most likely for teachers to be off. Much larger sales than normal, based on 9 tweets. I’d be interested in seeing if you also experiment with Google Ads; I’m inclined to, and will also A-B Test a discount code versus a cheaper price. (PS If you haven’t read “The $100 Startup” I’d hugely recommend it – utterly fascinating insights and examples).

    • Cheers, Stephen! I actually bought ‘The $100 Startup’ for my wife when she was thinking of setting up a business. Have only dipped into it myself, so will get back to it. 🙂

  5. I experimented with Twitter Ads and got the same result. Even creepier was the fact the Google Analytics and my mobile site stats blatantly suggested that Twitter was telling falsehoods about the click through rate. So much so that I am contemplating reporting them to the FTC. Trust your instincts. Twitter ads are bad news.

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