This blog post will probably get 10 views
Social media sites are obsessed with sharing stats about the number of views a post/video receives.
These were the very first things I saw in my notifications yesterday when I logged into Quora, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
For social media companies, it makes sense to present things in this way to their audience. You want people to stay on the platform. Showcasing the number of views and engagements turns it all into a game and it's one with higher numbers than likes or direct sales. The view counter plays on basic human psychology. It's the same reason we want to beat our top score at a Dave & Buster's. 759 views. Come on 800! Come on 1,000!
Ultimately, it'd be discouraging (and lonely) for someone to log on and have 0 notifications.
If it's a business advertising account, there's even more pressure on the social media companies to show constant results. If there's no visible progress to present to a boss, the business could decide to move their marketing dollars somewhere else.
This approach is nothing new for advertising platforms. It mimics the old models of TV, print media, even billboards.
A few examples:
If you are selling 30-second TV commercial space, you focus on the number of viewers a show has each week. The advertising rep at the TV network tells Kay Jewelers that you could reach the five million people watching Bachelor in Paradise. Sharing the number of viewers who got up to go to the bathroom, went to grab a snack, were texting with their friends, recorded and fast forwarded through the commercials, that doesn't matter. You technically could still reach five million people.
Newspaper advertising teams present their overall circulation numbers (or website visitors). Billboard companies focus on how many cars drive on that specific highway. Everything comes back to the general sales pitch of "this could reach" X amount of people.
So, when you're starting a blog, either personally or as a company, it becomes pretty discouraging to see the Google Analytics or the numbers on Wordpress, Wix, Medium, etc., looking like this:
Zero!? Not even my Mom?
When everything around us on social media is measured in views, and those statistics are in the hundreds or thousands, it's really challenging to stick with the hard-work of writing a daily/weekly/monthly blog and feel like it's making any sort of impact. Imagine as a business doing one blog per week and at the end of the year seeing the total view count under 1,000. Maybe under 500. How do you get the boss's buy-in for a Year 2? Are you out of a job?
But what if we changed the lens on all of those earlier examples from TV and social media. Changed the metrics.
For instance, what if Kay Jewelers measured how many people went into their stores the day after a Bachelor in Paradise episode. Or how many people bought a ring within three months of seeing that particular ad. It definitely wouldn't be five million. Would it be 5,000? 500? Maybe just 5?
Or what if you asked someone to recall what color shirt the main character was wearing in a Pizza Hut commercial. How many people out of the large "could reach" audience number was paying that close of attention?
We'll remember a punchline that Jamie or Flo told in a Progressive ad, because those are awesome, but most commercials don't really stand out. It's all background noise. The TV commercials (or social media ads, newspaper ads, cold calls) "work" because of the overall number of repetitions. There's only so many times we can hear about a $7.99 two-topping pizza before we're walking into that Pizza Hut on Clark Street (#lastnightsdinner)
The blog's main purpose isn't to go viral. It's not about the number of views. Number of impressions. No, I think it's a chance to share what you truly believe. No filters. No 30-second time limit or 140 character limit on Twitter.
A blog is your space to answer common questions your audience/customers have. Or your take on current events. Your rants. Soapboxes. Comedic thoughts. Your personal story that might only connect with a few other people going through that exact thing. A really meaningful post on depression or not getting into med school may not be shared by thousands on social media. But you might get a personal email from someone saying your post made their week. Which result is more fulfilling?
And I don't mean to ignore the financial side of things. If you're paying someone a $50,000+ salary or a few hundred bucks on an individual post, it's hard to justify that investment if the recap sounds like, "I know there weren't many views and we're not sure how many sales tied back to these blog posts, but a couple of people really connected with it and I think it's ultimately good for our brand." That's a tough case to make. I'm not sure I'd have the confidence presenting that to a CEO...
So, to make the content marketing case to a boss, what starts to happen is writers and marketing teams try to either beef up the overall volume of blogs being produced or load their current blogs with a ton of keywords to start ranking higher in Google searches and, in theory, receive more views.
Using this post as an example, if I'm writing for Google rankings or high SEO, I need to get the Bachelor in Paradise stuff in way earlier. Attract those 5 million fans. I need to tag characters from the show. I need to try and guess what people might be searching (example, this person's blog probably did really well by having the title "What happened between Hannah G and Blake before Bachelor in Paradise.")
But I think these keyword cramming strategies miss the point. To me, a blog is like having someone walk into your store. What's that experience like? Keywords are attention grabbers, it's like having a bunch of signs that say, "Act now! Clearance sale! 50% off!" Or having a rep jump out right away. "Can I help you? Are you looking to buy? What are you interested in? Trump. Kanye. Taylor Swift. Please stay. Click here."
What if you go a little bit slower. Post a blog that took you two hours to write. Two weeks to revise. That experience for the reader will end up being different. It'll feel more like walking into a local bookstore or that cool bike shop downtown. If they read your whole post and enjoy it, that's like having a great conversation at the front counter. Will they go out and tell their friends about it? "Hey, you should check out this cool little shop around the corner. Right next to the Pizza Hut."
You don't have to be the one to share it on social media. Readers, customers, subscribers, they're really good at doing that for you if the story connected with them.
Let the blog be more like a whiskey distillery than a soda fountain machine. The more you write from the heart and make it meaningful and block out all of the view counters, the more you'll want to keep writing more posts. If someone asks why do you keep doing the blog, the answer is similar to the person who runs every day or swims laps in the pool. Honestly, you just started to enjoy the writing itself.
As an experiment, I'm not going to share this post anywhere on social media. Not Quora. Not Facebook. Not LinkedIn. And, as a result, it will probably only receive 10 views.
But if this can be helpful to 10 people, hey, that's more than enough for me.
I really appreciate you taking the time to read this long post. I hope it was helpful and if you have interest in starting a blog or ever need help with ideas for blog posts, feel free to send me a note. I try not to share my email address anywhere online because, any time I have in the past, I start getting email spam. But at the end of a post that will only get 10 views, I'm comfortable giving that a try. You can email me at either my personal email (email@example.com) or business email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I don't have the guts quite yet to post my phone number.