Go scan your timeline on Twitter or your news feed on Facebook. Look at the articles being shared, and more importantly, look at the headlines.
After a while, you’ll begin to notice something. The headlines are written in a way to attract people that are already on Twitter and Facebook. This is important, because the content is created in a way to attract people from social media sites, instead of creating content that appeals to your blog’s current readers and subscribers.
Social media has trained us to chase bigger numbers. We want to go ‘viral’, we want more social shares, we want that flood of visitors from Twitter that gives our analytics a nice hockey stick.
But there’s a trade-off in this approach, and it’s one that a lot of us haven’t really thought about. If you chase new readers, what impact does that have on your current ones? Because when you chase new readers, you change the way you create content. You create content that will be more likely to ‘go viral’ on Twitter and Facebook. When in reality, you should continue to create content that your CURRENT readers love.
We rail on companies for trying to acquire new customers and ignoring their current, loyal customers. But it could be said that we do the same thing with our own content. We chase more shares, more visitors, when we should be delighting the people that are ALREADY reading and enjoying our content.
A few months ago I was listening to Rush Limbaugh, and he said that social media has nothing to do with the success of his radio show. He said he built it before social media, and even now, he’s not on Twitter at all. He does repost show updates on Facebook, but that’s all designed to drive people off Facebook and back to his website. He said if social media went away tomorrow, it wouldn’t affect his show in the least. And he has the most popular radio show in the country.
Seth Godin really doesn’t use social media either. He blogs every day, and every one of his pithy posts gets thousands of social shares. For years he wasn’t even on social media. He now does have a Twitter account for his blog, but all it does is repost his daily blog posts.
Rush and Seth are both great marketers and both highly successful. And neither really uses social media in any meaningful way. Certainly, neither is creating content that’s tailored to sharing on social media. Now you can easily say that both of them built their following BEFORE Twitter and Facebook, and therefore don’t need either of them. And you’d be right. But the point is, neither is altering their content to leverage social media.
I think there’s a lesson in that for the rest of us. I was looking back at my early blogging from 2006 and 2007, before I joined Twitter or Facebook. I blogged in a completely different style, it was almost like every day I was writing a letter to friends. As a result, I had a devoted community of readers, many of which commented on every post I wrote, and we had wonderful discussions in the comments section. Then, I would go and read their blogs and leave comments as well.
When social media sites came along, the conversations for many of us moved from our blogs to those social media sites. We lament how commenting fell off a cliff on our blogs, as it was ‘just easier’ on everyone to comment on Facebook and Twitter.
But along the way, we also changed the way we created content, and that change in the way we create content had an even bigger impact on dampening the number of comments on our blogs. We stopped writing in a way to elicit conversations. We trust people that we understand, and we understand people we can connect with. Those connections start by creating content that helps us be vulnerable and accessible to our readers. Ironically, this is the very type of content that the ‘experts’ have told us not to create. Don’t inject too much ‘personality’ into your posts, you don’t want to offend potential customers or clients. Focus solely on business, don’t blog about your passions, that’s being ‘off-topic’.
The reality is, the only true value you get from your blogging is in the connections that you make. It doesn’t matter if you are a personal blogger or if you blog for business. I can tie about 80% of the business I’ve gotten over the last 10 years of consulting to about 10 people. Those are all people that I made connections with over time, via my blog. Maybe once every 6-12 months do I get someone that I don’t know who comes to my blog from a search engine, and we end up doing business. Almost all of my customers know ME first, then trust me, then decide to do business with me.
What if there were no social media sites? What if you could only create content on your blog, and that was the only way you could connect with potential customers and potential friends?
Would that change the way you created content? Would you go from focusing on increasing social shares, to increasing subscribers and readers?
I bet you would. I know I am.