Monday, December 31, 2007

Does (audience) size matter?? (or is it how we touch each other?)

For awhile, I'd been thinking of writing something on how influence can be more important to a blogger than huge audience numbers--today Scoble raised the issue of the importance of audience size for any of us who produces content. Scoble brings up a number of things beyond huge traffic numbers that might make advertisers want to advertise on a blog, pointing out things like causing conversations to happen or getting noticed in your niche. These are, unfortunately, what lots of folks consider "intangibles"--mostly because they don't generate immediately and in the first quarter huge tangible income returns...

Mark Rizzi at Mashable! makes an important point about Scoble: ". . .I don’t think he has ever been in a position where he’s had to build a significant mainstream audience from the ground up. Scoble, from the time he entered blogging, seems to have been fairly well connected within the industry, and had essentially a built-in audience of influencers."

And this is very true. But I think Mark and Robert may be talking an apples vs. oranges thing here. Mark's talking about blogging as a main part of a business. Robert, on the other hand, started blogging (if I recall correctly) not as a direct part of a business, so his perspective is going to be a bit different from Mark's. (Robert also brought his audience with him when he went to PodTech, which, I'm sure, helped him create his PodTech deal.)

However, if I'm looking at blogging as something that's not my primary business, but as a way of building personal brand, the idea of influence over audience--something Robert alludes to--becomes extremely important. Influence, as in who's linking to you and who's reading you, can help someone build a certain cachet or "personal brand."

The whole thing reminds me of something Susan Mernit said to me a couple of years ago when I was fretting over lack of high blog traffic: that it may not be how many people are reading you, but who is reading you.

If a blogger or blog-related business is looking for ad dollars, then yes, size (as in traffic as in audience) does matter. CMP rates and all that. But, if you--as a small business or as an individual blogger are looking to grow a reputation, and perhaps a certain audience from that reputation, then the traffic numbers don't count as much.

What does matter is who you meet and who calls you, and what kinds of projects you're offered. Who is it that makes deals with you. Who gives you a contract, who gives you a nice check at the end of said contract, and if whomever will hire you again for another contract.

Which relates to another aspect of the whole social media landscape: how we define our contacts--who we really "know" By "know" I don't necessarily mean who we "friend" on Facebook inasmuch as who we meet f2f, who we call and email. Scott Karp alluded to this yesterday in his post on email and cellphone contacts as the real "social graph." What I have found through real life tactile experience is that the people whom I know, who I resonate with on a personality level, and whom I converse with regularly even if I don't see them (as I live out in the equivalent of West Jabip) are the people that are likely to hire me to work with them. When being someone's Facebook "friend" is a click away (as Scott notes), those "old-fashioned" social networking paradigms like phone and email and *gasp* Face to face interaction become the stuff that ends up making the deal for us..

Don't get me wrong--social media is great fun. I love being able to keep track of people I've met at cons maybe only a couple of times--and I know from being online for over 10 years now that those relationships can be nurtured and grow. But it's the folks I talk to, the ones I've made huge bang-up impressions on at some point, who read my blogs on occasion and who I bother with comments now and then are the ones that make things *happen* for me.

So, if it's all about size--well, maybe it's more about what you're trying to get from your blogging, vlogging, podcasting, social network, etc. If it's ad revenue, then yes, size means everything. If it's influence and other kinds of work, quality and direct contact trump click-through, 1 second pageviews.

Think about what you want--and what you're trying to create. Is it quick money? or is it influence? Is it pageviews or personal impressions?

It's really up to you...


agahran said...

Hey Tish

I tend to think that, generally, quality yields more value than quantity. That can even be true in advertising or targeted marketing.

For instance, ads in high-level energy business publications can be quite expensive, even though those publications and sites don't have a huge circulation, because of who reads them.

But I agree -- if you're trying to build your career or brand, getting engaged in public conversations is a winning strategy

- Amy Gahran

Tish Grier said...

Hi Amy,

Well, I got a perspective on quantity vs. quality with my two blogs. Before I stopped publishing it, my personal blog had very few incoming or outgoing links, but I was getting between 750-1000 "readers" (as in click-throughs) per week. I could have easily carried advertising on it and made some money.

But because of the lack of links, the community was *very* small, and the influence didn't go very far. In fact, the personal nature of the content worked *against* my creating influence with certain people (although it did work to create influence with one key source...)

I've created more links, influence, and rank (as in "x"-List) through this blog, with its low, low readership, than I could with my other blog that had a decent number of click-throughs....

hmm...perhaps I should write more on that :-)

Anonymous said...

The personal brand vs. audience is a good way of looking at it. For a lot of people, the answer would be both.

Scoble's right in that the primary focus has to be on the content in either the brand or audience equation.

You don't think he posted a controversial topic about audience size doesn't matter on a slow holiday weekend to get audience? Nah, couldn't happen.

Tish Grier said...

Scoble raise an issue just to get audience??? nah...kind of like Rubel claiming that social media's dead...;-)

But yes, you have to be saying *something* that makes sense to the audience (logic) or that the audience can relate to (emotion.) Expecting to build an audience "just because" doesn't really cut it.

Anonymous said...

Well said, Tish. I think your attitude toward blogging is a healthy one, and I work to keep that idea foremost when I blog.

It is too easy to pander, or to totally sell out by using the tricks to attract lots of hits. I see that as similar to the people on social networks desperately pandering for "friends."