Audience Doesn’t Matter.

In a bit of a serendipitous moment, Kyle Hamstra — a good friend who works up the road from me — reshared a post that he wrote back in October called #audiencematters.

In it, Kyle wrestles with whether or not we should focus on audience when we are sharing content — whether that sharing happens on blogs, in other social spaces, or in face to face presentations.

Nicholas Green

Let me answer that question for you:  For MOST* of us, audience DOESN’T matter.

Stop talking about it.  Period.  End of conversation.

Here are two reasons why:

(1). Focusing on audience draws attention away from the real reason that people should be blogging and sharing in social spaces.

For the vast majority of us practicing educator types, blogging and participating in social spaces is about reflection, plain and simple.  Every time that you sit down behind the keyboard for any reason — whether that’s to join in a Twitterchat, to read bits that appear in your social streams, or to create a new bit on your own blog, you are an active learner.

Articulation of ideas — whether it comes in the short form of a Tweet or the long form of a blog post — requires you to think carefully about what you THINK you know.  Finding the right words to express your core notions about teaching and learning forces you to wrestle with what you actually believe.

Every time we make the argument that audience matters, we forget that reflection matters more.  Our goal shouldn’t be to #becomepopular.  It should be to #becomebetter.  Blogging and sharing in social spaces can help us to do that whether anyone is listening or not.

(2). Focusing on audience is bound to leave writers discouraged.

Are you ready for an interesting confession:  “Radical Nation” really isn’t all that big!  I average about 120 views a day on my blog.  Yesterday, I had 37.  Today, I’ve got eight.  I have about about 400 subscribers.  When I share content out through Twitter, an average post gets ten clicks, five likes and three retweets.

And that’s for a guy who has been blogging for over a decade, who has written over a thousand posts, who has 25,000 followers in Twitter, and who has pretty strong connections to a bunch of really high-powered influencers in the #eduverse.

Do you see what that all means?

If audience is the metric that I use to judge the value of the time that I spend writing and sharing, I would have quit writing and sharing a long, long time ago.

The fact of the matter is that I spend about five or six hours a week on this stuff — including two or three hours every Saturday morning.  I get up at 5:30 AM and am banging away at the keys in the back of a Brueggers Bagels or a dirty McDonalds by 6 AM.  Every single week.  For over a decade.

All for ten clicks, five likes and three retweets?!

Try selling THAT to people new to blogging and sharing in social spaces.  “Hey!  If you spend five hours a week for a decade, you, too, can have days where you get ten clicks, five likes and three retweets!”

That’s why I hate it when we talk about audience. 

It focuses people who we want to encourage to join us in social spaces on the wrong end goal.  Worse yet, if they don’t get the traffic that they see other people getting, it leaves them convinced that they have nothing important to share.

What rookies in social spaces don’t realize is that “getting traffic” isn’t easy to do.  What us blogging old-timers learned a long time ago is that just because you are writing and sharing doesn’t mean that people are going to see the content that you are creating.

Audience is a function of the content that you create, the consistency of your creation patterns, the length of time that you’ve been creating, the opportunities that you have to be in front of audiences in the real world, the relationships that you have with people who have audiences larger than you do — and, as frustrating as it may seem, serendipity.

Content takes off sometimes because the right person happened to pull out their phone at the right time to see your post in their stream.  Similarly, really great bits are overlooked because they are missed in streams that are filled with thousands of other people who are creating and sharing content, too.

But if you don’t care about audience, none of that matters.

If you believe that the value of the time you spend behind the keyboard is measured in what you know and what you believe and what you can articulate to others instead of in clicks or retweets or likes or followers, you are WAY more likely to keep investing in your blog, in your social spaces, and in yourself.

#nuffsaid

 

(*Read: “Anyone who isn’t trying to build a career supporting schools from beyond the classroom.”)

____________________

Related Radical Reads:

Three Tips for Novice Bloggers

Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

Why Blog?

8 thoughts on “Audience Doesn’t Matter.

  1. Kyle Hamstra

    Very interesting points made here, Bill. I especially like:

    “Finding the right words to express your core notions about teaching and learning forces you to wrestle with what you actually believe.” –It’s these digging deeper adventures that increase meaning, originality, and authenticity in each educator’s voice, and, therefore adds unique value to that respective educator’s team.

    “Our goal shouldn’t be to #becomepopular. It should be to #becomebetter.” –This is striking at the very heart of it all. This is it right here! This is the main idea, the thesis.

    When you say: “‘Radical Nation’ really isn’t all that big!”–That’s kind of like double-discouraging to beginning bloggers. Because to rookies, you really ARE a “BIG-TIME” blogger and educator hero (even if you dislike those labels). You’re right–Millennials need instant gratification, and the long-term ingredients for success of hard work, self-discipline, and undeniable passion seem harder to come by or harder to come across these days.

    Seems like there’s a lot to building a faithful audience. I think the real challenge is finding people who care enough about you and their own time just to engage–let alone the quality of your content.

    “Content takes off sometimes because the right person happened to pull out their phone at the right time to see your post in their stream. Similarly, really great bits are overlooked because they are missed in streams that are filled with thousands of other people who are creating and sharing content, too.”–This speaks volumes. It’s almost like there could be “unsung hero” educators among us who may never make it BIG-TIME because their stories about making education and learning better never got out to the rest of the world.

    Great Post, Bill.
    Looking forward to the next one.
    @KyleHamstra

  2. Pingback: #AudienceMatters Part II: Viewers, Followers, Friends – #HamstraHighlights

  3. Pingback: More on the Role of Audience in Social Spaces. | THE TEMPERED RADICAL

  4. Robert Schuetz

    Merry Christmas Bill,
    I blog for the same reasons you do; to process, reflect, and hopefully, to make contributions to our learning networks. Dean reminds us, sharing is caring.
    Here is why audience matters. In all likelihood, you double-check your spelling, usage, and punctuation. You checked your sources, and I see you provided attribution to your chosen image. You include hyperlinks to deeper dives. You likely proof read once or twice before publishing. Do you moderate the comments? Why go through all of these extra steps?
    Audience causes us to raise our game, take pride in what we share.
    You speak eloquently because an audience is listening. You post and tweet in the hopes it makes a difference to someone besides yourself.
    Normally I dig your riffs, however in this rare case, I can’t agree with your title or premise.
    I am part of your audience, and we do matter.
    Bob

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Bob wrote:

      Audience causes us to raise our game, take pride in what we share.

      You speak eloquently because an audience is listening. You post and tweet in the hopes it makes a difference to someone besides yourself.
      Normally I dig your riffs, however in this rare case, I can’t agree with your title or premise.

      I am part of your audience, and we do matter.

      ————
      Hey Bob,

      First, thanks for being a constant part of my audience and for being a guy who challenges my thinking almost every time that we “connect.” I dig that — and of all people, you are probably the best exception to my “rule” about audiences. Challenge from audience is the one thing that I really dig about writing publicly. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like it to.

      Second, I totally agree with your first statement here — audience does cause me to raise my game. I do proofread more than I would have otherwise and that is a function of an audience. I am also more reasoned — “tempered” — because I am writing for an audience. While the reason for that is I don’t want to seem unreasoned in front of others, the benefit for me is that I generally consider both sides of most arguments when I am writing — and that’s a good thing.

      But I still stand by my argument: When we push audience as a a primary reason to begin writing, we are setting novice writers up for failure. There’s this notion that once you begin blogging, thousands of people will turn up and look at your work. That’s definitely NOT the norm — most writers see page views in the dozens — not in the hundreds or thousands.

      So what I want people to focus on is all the other benefits of writing — which are almost always overlooked when we talk about the reasons for blogging. We’ve become so enamored with the idea of an audience that we forget that audience isn’t a given for anyone.

      Any of this make sense?
      Bill

  5. Ali Collins

    Thanks for this! I have been following for a while and your content really matters to me. Likewise, I have a small but loyal following. I started writing for myself, and every once in a while someone I meet says that’s for a post. I’m glad my work resonates. But most importantly, the writing is for me. It’s a part of my process. It’s self-care. It’s listening to myself. It’s me expressing my creativity. Or, getting it down on “paper”. Thanks for writing for you. And for reminding me, to do the same.

    1. Bill Ferriter Post author

      Ali wrote:

      But most importantly, the writing is for me. It’s a part of my process. It’s self-care. It’s listening to myself. It’s me expressing my creativity. Or, getting it down on “paper”.

      ————-
      Hey Ali,

      I LOVE the notion of writing as a form of “self-care.” It’s totally true, too. If we don’t invest in ourselves — in our own thinking and in our own growth and in our own selves as reflective beings, it’s hard to grow.

      Thanks for this language!

      And thanks for giving a rip about my content! I’m honored.

      Rock on,
      Bill

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