nobody-is-listening

F. Bickerton doesn’t mind being alone, and neither should you.

Finding an audience online can be an arduous task, but one of my favourite suggestions is to write like nobody is reading. I often talk with people who are either new to social media or own a budding business and the conversation invariably ends up at something along the lines of “why would I say something if nobody is listening?”. While I can totally understand the position, in my opinion it’s one of the biggest obstacles keeping people from attracting a quality audience online.

Sharing is caring

We will start off and use Twitter as an example because it seems particularly easy to abandon early on. One of the first big oversights that new Twitter users make is that many grossly underestimate the power of the retweet. While at times it may feel like the things you say are just a single snowflake in a blizzard, the retweet can snowball your tweet into a rolling ball of ice and greatness.

For example, Calgary recently held the Calgary Comic Expo. Kevin and I decided to take our boys downtown to watch the kickoff parade. The event was, as you might expect, full of the typical nerd accoutrements. People dressed as Darth Vader, superheroes, fantasy characters, and everything in between marched themselves through the centre of the city.

One special side-note about Calgary is how much better our Mayor is than yours. When the 2010 mayoral race kicked off, Naheed Nenshi was shaking very few hands and kissing very few babies in 3rd place. However, his mix of intelligence and ability to communicate as an engaging person and not a boring politician (as well as many other strong skills) helped take him over the top and win the mayoral race. One particular skill that endears him to the online community especially is that he often has no issue responding in an unfiltered and witty manner to people on Twitter. Pro tip:  if you lose your dog and alert him of it, there’s more than a decent chance he’ll mention it to his followers.

He’s an awesome guy, so on the day of the parade it wasn’t exactly shocking to see Mayor Nenshi hanging out the side of a replica ‘Back to the Future’ Delorean with a hover board like Marty McFly. I took a picture and decided to fire out a quick tweet to let my followers know that while mayors from other cities were trying to keep their jobs together amidst scandal and head-butting members of the press, ours was holding down the fort and refusing to stop kicking ass.

This is perhaps a good time to talk about the importance of spell-checking your tweets, but that’s another post altogether. What’s important is how many people I got my message to. I have a modest number of followers (469), but that’s really beside the point. At the time of this post it was retweeted 62 times, which I believe is a personal best so you should definitely congratulate me or something. Those 45 people who were nice enough to share my picture combined for a total of 29,196 followers (an average of 470 followers per person). In the spirit of fairness, we should note that the majority of people’s followers are often fake, so you can probably cut that number in half. That being said, I also didn’t count the number of people who retweeted me using methods other than the standard retweet, or count people who just flat out copied the photo and shared it without attributing it to me (I know, the world is FULL of monsters).

Prepare for the Creeping

I know what you’re thinking: “but Russ, my mayor is lame and I have nothing of particular value to say.” First off, you have a horrible attitude. You have plenty of interesting things to say, you just need to loosen the seatbelt on your life and live a little. Very few want to talk to a dark void of nothingness, but the sooner you get over that hump the sooner you can start succeeding.

So why talk to nobody? Much like the regrettable tattoo you received when you turned 18, Twitter is forever. One day you’re going to say something and gather some attention. Maybe it’ll be a witty retort on the local sports team or perhaps a hilarious jab at the weather. When people see it, they’re going to wonder if you are “follow material”. They’ll click your profile and check out the last few tweets you made to see if you’re going to be someone of value to their twitter stream. If they see 6 tweets spread out over 2 years and one of them consists of “just trying to figure this twitter thing out! #yolo”, you might want to prepare yourself for a bumpy road. If on the other hand they see some tweets that link to things you enjoy, they may find that you are smashing and somebody they’d like to hang out with (in a totally non-social digital sort of way).

But I Hate Twitter

These points are no different for Facebook or blogs. Blogs are a different sort of beast in that benefits can be even greater. They let you speak your mind a little more and give you an opportunity to flex your expertise to your users. Perhaps you will spend your first 3 months, 6 months, or year writing to absolutely nobody. Some of my favourite blogs were discovered when I was searching out a solution to a problem and happened upon something written years ago.

We recently began work with a local Wheel company, and in the process of moving over their old blog entries to the new site, I realized the goldmine of knowledge they had. The process took the better part of an afternoon to accomplish because I read most of the posts. By the time I moved every post over, not only did I realize these folks were true professionals in their industry, but it is also feeling we want all our users to have when they reach our sites.

This can extend beyond blogs into the realm of Facebook of course, but I usually recommend people don’t solely rely on Facebook. Using it as a satellite to your blog is a fantastic idea, but existing solely on Facebook is a recipe for keeping your information from getting into the hands of those who need it most. A good practice would be to make sure your message is getting out to everybody. Existing on just one platform will make everything a little bit harder.

Let’s Review

While writing to nobody may feel like a fools errand, it is actually an essential step to getting yourself into the game. Always remember, even with very few active followers, your content can still find its way in front of tons of people, and when those people check you out further, you’re going to want them to see a solid representation of what you’re all about.