What’s more important? Audience size, or engagement?
I know a lot of you on this list are self-promoters or entrepreneurs of some sort or another. You’ve got something to offer, be it a class or a workshop or a training or even a product or artistic creation.
Somehow I seem to be surrounded by folks like you, and I find myself having conversations fairly often about what works and what doesn’t in today’s saturated social media environment.
I remember what it was like about a decade ago, if you knew how to navigate the backend of Facebook you could serve ads to precisely the right people and build a huge following for literally pennies a day.
Now TikTok is all the rage. People tell breathless tales of their first video getting millions of views. On Instagram so called ‘influencers’ can charge exorbitant sums for a single post simply because they have a vast number of followers.
All of these platforms have one thing in common. They sell you on the idea that big numbers equal big influence. There’s some truth to that, especially when you’re talking about simply having a bigger soapbox or a louder megaphone.
But the flipside to that is the dark underbelly they would rather you not think about. Those big numbers are just vanity metrics. And the Achilles’ heel for those who count on them is the fact that they can be snatched away at a moments notice.
Word comes down from the CEO to prioritize video, and suddenly your reach is cut in half. The software engineers decide to tweak the algorithm and lo-and-behold, no one is seeing your posts. Your audience switches platforms and you’re left high and dry.
There are so many variables beyond your control when you entrust your communications to a faceless tech monolith. How many times has someone you know told you about an event or somewhere they traveled or something unusual in their life and you’re like “Really? I didn’t hear about that!” They’ll reply with “But I posted it on Facebook!” (Cue eye roll)
For me, that’s one of the most perplexing misconceptions that people have about social media. They assume it’s a utility and that what they post will reach the people they care about. Sure, what you had for dessert might not matter so much but that artistic creation you’re selling or workshop you’re offering needs to get in front of the people that count.
Word of mouth, of course, is the holy grail. Nothing beats showing your art to someone in person or having a face-to-face conversation about what your workshop is all about. But word of mouth doesn’t scale, it doesn’t travel well, and it doesn’t stay fresh after the moment.
It’s not like you are going to go buy a billboard or take out ads on television. You want to have the ability to engage with people and not have a big tech platform pull the rug out from underneath you. Until something better comes along, the answer is email.
Wait, what? You’re suggesting that I spam people? No, anything but! Email is a tricky beast, it’s easy to overplay your hand and be ignored, but if you’re clever you can be that one message in their inbox that they look forward to opening.
A small well-maintained list with great engagement beats vast vanity metrics any day of the week. And the most important fact about your email list is that you own it. You can jump from Constant Contact to Mailchimp to Salesforce or wherever and those precious email addresses are still yours. Algorithms are not invited.
Just how do you make emails engaging enough that people can’t wait to read them? Well, that’s a topic for another day. Until then, I encourage you to take the leap and we are here to help if you need it!
Much love till next Monday!
Director of the Dance First Association
Publisher of Conscious Dancer Magazine
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