Wednesday is typically a good day of the week to send an email newsletter. You rarely bump into holidays, and you avoid the recurring distractions of Mondays and Fridays.
But once every four years here in the U.S. during the first week in November, Wednesday is the worst possible day of the week to send an email newsletter.
Today is that Wednesday.
Recognizing that, I’m going to keep this week’s issue of Primility short and to the point.
So I just have one idea to stress, and then a few links to reinforce the point.
Build engagement, not numbers
When you are building any online audience — be it a Twitter following, an email list, or even a paid community — it is tempting to want as much attention and as many followers/subscribers/members as possible.
In other words, it’s tempting to want to go wide.
After all, more Twitter followers means more potential email subscribers, right? And more email subscribers means more potential community members, right?
Yes, but with a caveat: they have to be the right followers, the right subscribers, the right members.
- You can have 10,000 Twitter followers, but if only 1,500 of them actually share your values and care deeply about the niche you serve, what good are the other 8,500? They can provide a vanity boost (if such things matter to you), but they can also be a distraction that takes your eye off the ball.
- Similarly, you might want to have 1,000 email subscribers instead of 250, but if the 250 are providing the majority of your opens, clicks, and engagement, what are the other 750 doing besides dragging down your metrics and costing you more money?
- And while you may think launching with 100 paying members is better than launching 50 paying members, it’s also possible that this is a short-term revenue victory with long-term ramifications for the health of the community if those additional 50 members aren’t there to engage in ways that are healthy for the group.
I understand the temptation to want to cast a wide net. I feel it myself. But when it comes to building online engagement — the kind that really matters and cuts through the noise — you’re better off going deep instead going wide. (And, crucially, you’re better of thinking in terms of psychographics rather than demographics.)
And while it can feel scary to pin your hopes for a sustainably profitable online community on a smaller pool of potential members, understand that all it takes is a subtle shift in perspective to move from a feeling of fear to one of empowerment.
With the right mindset:
- Fewer but more engaged paying members can be a blessing because you can build a higher standard for engagement that will lead to a stronger, stickier community in the long run.
- Fewer but more engaged email subscribers can save you money, deliver data that actually tells you something, and give you the space to have meaningful one-on-one exchanges.
- Fewer but more engaged Twitter followers can make your time spent tweeting more enjoyable, educational, and beneficial.
Just to be clear: all else being equal, I’d rather have 100 paying members than 50 paying members. I’m not instructing you to artificially limit your numbers in any way. That would be dumb.
But in real life things are rarely actually equal. Audience members aren’t equal in their engagement and adherence to the values you’re trying to build around. That’s why the race for bigger numbers, simply for the sake of the assumed safety of bigger numbers, is misguided.
You want to build the biggest possible audience and membership you can while going deep with the kind of people you are intentionally trying to attract. Everyone beyond that is at best fluff, or at worst an unwanted cost or distraction.
So think deep, not wide.
And remember that smaller numbers, especially in the beginning, may be a blessing in disguise that helps you do exactly that.
The pride you feel in your project can be a big motivator as you grow. But too much vanity can lead you to care about the wrong things, and too much arrogance can lead you to believe that your message will resonate with a wider net of people than reality will bear out.
Humility can provide the balance you need to stay hyper-focused on the people you can actually serve in a meaningful way. Attract as many of those people as you can, but be humble in recognizing the necessity of not over-extending yourself.
Now here are some additional links on this topic …
Be careful what you build your niche around
Jeff Goins echoes my recent post Think Psychographics, Not Demographics in this post her wrote for Fizzle. And his simple formula for finding a unifying principle to build an audience around is a good one:
- Step 1: Pick a fight with a commonly-held view that you disagree with.
- Step 2: Announce your view to the world.
- Step 3: Connect with other people who share that same view
Why Finding Your Niche Is Just Plain Bad Advice | Jeff Goins for Fizzle
When (and how) to go wide with your content
Whenever I think about the concept of “going deep instead of wide,” I think about Jonny Nastor, by co-host on The Showrunner podcast. He used to always talk about this concept. So, naturally, when I searched for good articles on this topic his piece from Copyblogger came up!
The reality is that there will be times when you do want to think wider. It all depends on your overall goals and strategy. In this post, Jonny explains the difference between content that goes deep and content that goes wide, and how to know what to choose.
How to Decide If You Should Go Wide or Deep with Your Content | Jonny Nastor for Copyblogger
Focus on real engagement, not vanity metrics
If you are focused on racking up impressive vanity metrics, what are you going to do when social media companies start transitioning into hiding like and subscriber counts, as is already happening? Hopefully you’ll focus on what actually matters: authentic engagement. When you do, you can unlock the power of small audiences.
The Power of Small Audiences | MeetEdgar
Thank you for reading this issue of Primility.
Please consider forwarding it to a friend who wants to be a better servant leader and build a strong online community.
Photo by Jakob Boman on Unsplash