The Plodding, Perilous Quest For Readers: Part One

© Andreiuc88 | ID 64280096

By Chris Hutton


          The quest to be read is a path littered with disappointment. If you are a writer and you are reading this, I probably don’t need to tell you that. If, however, you are just beginning your trek into the world of professional writing, then perhaps this may be of some use to you. Take it as a cautionary tale if you will, not to dissuade you from venturing forth to conquer the written word, but rather to aid you in stepping out that door prepared for the path ahead. As Bilbo once told his nephew, “It’s a dangerous business… going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”


Hello, Is Anyone There?

          Back in the nineties when I was scouring the Internet teaching myself HTML (because how better to spend a Friday night in the prime of your high school years?) there was a common exercise used in teaching. The web tutorial would cover a few basic tags, then instruct the learner to type in the phrase ‘Hello, World!’ Sometimes if the Tutorial was really fancy it would teach you to make the text different colors and blink.

           For me this is a fun little anecdote, a nice stroll down the proverbial Memory Lane, but it is also very relevant. If you write, and you put yourself and your writing out there, you are daily going to feel as if you are shouting this phrase, this blinking ‘Hello, World’ out into the void of an Internet that does not know you exist.

          Sometimes you may get lucky, you may receive a reply, a voice in the darkness letting you know that you have been heard, but more often than not your efforts will meet, at least initially, with nothing more than crickets. Try not to despair. Most writers become acquainted with the deafening silence of the non-response. If you are going to succeed you have to keep moving forward, often not even knowing if anyone is reading at all.


So What Are The Numbers?

          Okay, you’re pretty sure that you are being read, but how many people are reading you? No problem. You’ve got a 1,000 Twitter followers, 100 fans on Facebook, 150 Instagram followers and ten subscribers. So what’s that, 1,260 readers, right?

           Yeah, I didn’t think so. Believe it or not I’ve been in many professional situations where organizations try to calculate their reach this way, but a simple addition just doesn’t account for overlapping followers.

          Oh you’ve already accounted for that and you have 1,174 unique followers so that’s your readership, right. Well, no, not really. How many of those followers are clicking through to your site? Well first off a large chunk isn’t even active that day. You have to sort through a lot of noise to find average stats regarding twitter followers, activity, impressions and engagement. I’ll save you the burden of sailing that sea. We’ll use the following blog as our base for metrics:
https://meetedgar.com/blog/201407this-is-why-nobody-sees-your-tweets-2/

          Assuming the post to be accurate only 46% of your twitter followers are active on a given day, so let’s drop your 1,000 followers to 460. Only 34% check multiple times a day and let’s face it, your tweet isn’t reaching all 340 followers that check multiple times a day. I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt and say your tweet received 200 impressions, or 20% of your audience. That’s a huge benefit of the doubt as I’ve read some analyses that estimate only a 6% average impression or 60 of your 1,000 followers on Twitter. Still, we will go with 200. Great, at least you have 200 readers.

          Wrong. Many of those twitter users saw your post and did nothing about it. Setting overall engagement aside, what is the click-through-rate (CTR) on that tweet? We’ll use the average 1.64% CTR on your full 1,000 followers. That would suggest 16 clicks per tweet. I’m dubious of that average. If we apply that percentage to your impression audience I would imagine that might be more realistic, giving you about three clicks per tweet. Your results may vary of course as the average CTR is actually higher for accounts with fewer followers, decreasing as follower count increases (https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/twitter-increase-clickthrough-rate).

          Blah, blah, blah. Who cares about Twitter click-through-rates and how does that reflect my readership at all? Great point. A click is one factor (of many) that indicates audience engagement. We could go into stats on that as well, but I think we’ll save that for another day (unless you just can’t wait – https://www.google.com/amp/s/sproutsocial.com/insights/twitter-engagement/amp/; warning: this link is from a org with a Twitter analytics service. Great info, but keep in mind they have a product to sell). The point is clicks indicate some engagement and reflect how many persons click through to your site where I am going to guess you have writing available to read. Still even these clicks might bounce right off your site. Let’s assume you have a bounce right of 50%, which is actually not bad. So you have 1.5-8 one time readers from that click on your tweet. I am assuming it is the 1.5 as the numbers are more realistic. Now you just need that one time reader to become a returning visitor and you have earned yourself a reader!

          Depressed yet? This whole conversion can drive a writer to the dumps pretty quickly. Hell, many of us writers are the cliche, anti-social hermits. We barely socialize let alone like to market and this is the return on our invested time. It can be enough to make you walk away and call it quits for your blog.

          What about site analytics you say? Assuming they are functioning correctly you can get some measure of readership. I suggest looking at your monthly returning visitors. Still there is some measure of uncertainty. And that is the whole point even if you are being read, it can be extremely difficult to know if more than a few friends are reading your work. So, brace yourself for that.


Get Them Engaged!

          Yes, engaging your followers, building up a community can get you reads, but that is so much easier said than done. Moreover, everyone seems to have different ways to engage their audience, so what it means to engage can be somewhat unclear.

          Again, I’ll focus on twitter for now, but some of this will be relevant elsewhere. So first off, what does it mean to be engaged? What exactly is engagement? I like to use as many sources as possible, so let’s jump over to SEO Chat and Sprout Social on this one (http://www.seochat.com/c/a/social/twitter-engagement-measure/ & https://sproutsocial.com/insights/twitter-engagement/).

          Engagements on twitter include:

  • Retweets
  • @Mentions
  • Favorites / Likes
  • Follows
  • Replies
  • Profile Clicks
  • Permalink Clicks
  • Tweet Expansion Clicks
  • Link Clicks


          As a writer I’m thinking of the Follows (build an audience), Retweets (expand my reach), LIkes (pique interest), and link clicks (potential conversion to readers).

          Still to get those engagement metrics, I need to first engage the audience. There it gets trickier. There are a few tactics here: http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/twitter-tactics-to-increase-engagement/ and here: https://adespresso.com/academy/blog/23-strategies-increase-twitter-engagement/. I can’t vouch for all of them, but I’ll pull out a few that I’m currently exploring or actively using.

  • Tweet during daytime hours
  • Tweet on Saturday and Sunday
  • Use images in your tweets
  • Ask for retweets
  • Use hashtags
  • Include links
  • Calls to action
  • Engage with your followers and other users
  • Retweet others
  • Respond if someone tweets at you
  • Find out your peak hours
  • Twitter ads
  • Offer quality content
  • Space out your tweets
  • Ask questions


          Some additional ideas include:

  • Poll your audience
  • Know your audience / Target your content
  • Research your hashtags
  • Seek out the right audience


          We’re going to need more time to speak to that last point, because no matter how much you engage, if you aren’t targeting the right audience, you’re not going to convert a meaningful amount of readers. And that is the whole point of this, right? Finding readers. If you haven’t picked up on it, building a following isn’t enough. You have to create engaged followers that will read your writing, and that, that takes a lot more work than it would seem at first glance. Bear with me, because I’m still pushing through on this one.

          And now that I have completely dragged you down, I’ve gotta go. We’ll pick this up again in a couple weeks, after next week’s monthly status update, and I’ll see if I can’t pick you back up. More coming soon…

          Happy Writing, All!

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