Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Platform Building for Writers: Are You Chasing Numbers or Readers?

One of the real benefits of online marketing for any business, including those of the freelance variety, is the ability to track results in real time. Online marketers can track click throughs, conversions and more. However, these numbers can sometimes create misleading pictures without context.

Numbers without context
For instance, I work on a weekly (and free) WritersMarket.com newsletter that covers developments in the publishing industry, submission tips, career advice, etc., in addition to promoting helpful Writer's Digest products and services. There are times when certain targeted newsletters produce huge results in sales, but they produce less than stellar open rates. If we just chased the money, the strategy might work in the short-term, but our newsletter audience would shrink significantly over time.

On the other end of the spectrum, the newsletter needs to remain profitable. So while I want the newsletter to appeal to (and help) as many writers as possible, I know that I have to convert buyers. Complicating things is the fact that I want the newsletter to be useful for both writers who subscribe to WritersMarket.com and those who do not.

Anyway, I love to analyze the numbers, but I always try to view them as part of the bigger picture.

Are you chasing numbers?
If you don't make profits off online sales conversions, you may be wondering what all this numbers talk has to do with you. If you're trying to build an online platform through social networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you may already know.

The strength of your online platform is not the number of friends you have on Facebook, the number of connections you have on LinkedIn, or even the number of followers you have on Twitter. Instead, the strength of your online platform is the number of people paying attention to you AND the number of people spreading your message (through RTs, recommendations, etc.).

Anyone can follow 2,000 people on Twitter and hope to receive 1,500-1,800 "follow backs," but is that audience engaged with that Tweep? Probably not.

Conversely, a writer on Facebook could wield a really big stick with only 200 friends if most of those friends are engaged in that writer's message. If 20 people out of 200 are consistenly spreading the word about you, that's much better numbers than one or two out of 5,000.

Are you chasing readers?
Readers want real-time solutions, but they can turn into career-long advocates. Writers who chase readers need to realize they're not in a short-term business of tricking people into friending them or buying their books. No, writers who chase readers should be in the long-term business of helping and developing relationships. They should also be in the business of working on their craft.

Many writers get discouraged when they start a blog, and they only receive comments from one or two people. Don't be. Those one or two people are the beginning of your audience. Use them as the foundation of great things to come.


Earlier this year, @JaneFriedman shared the evolution of how she uses Twitter (click her to read her post). While it is specific to her use of Twitter, this evolution is also natural for any writer building a readership. Jane used a consistent strategy that involved communicating with her top advocates and delivering helpful information. She didn't get into the business of chasing friend numbers or pushing products and services (without delivering truly helpful information).


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer


This is the perfect opportunity to mention Christina Katz's excellent Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform. It's the best book on this subject; Christina has more than enough engaged advocates to prove it.


Annette Gendler said...

Thanks for the reminder, Robert, that one or two comments are a great thing. And thanks also for the book tip!

Alexis Grant said...

Yes, yes. So important. A good measure of this on Twitter is how many lists you're on, looking that number as a percentage of your total followers.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Definitely, Annette. I know this is one thing I have to remind myself constantly. So I'm definitely speaking from experience.

Yes, those lists are definitely a helpful gauge, Alexis. Btw, I noticed you have a pretty healthy ratio.