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Are People Who Share Better to Have Around than Subscribers?

by Mark Goren  |  
August 6, 2009

When you first start playing in the social media sandbox, you feel compelled to collect. Subscribers. Followers. Friends. The more the merrier–at least that's what it feels like at first.
But what's the point of all those "subscribers" if they're not really connecting with your content?

Some are asking, "RSS Subscribers or Twitter Followers: Which Are Worth More?" To my mind, though, while one kind of subscriber may be more powerful than another, the real win is when you entice people to share, no matter the network they're sharing on or the method used.
Why are "sharers" better to have around than subscribers? Here are some things to think about:

  • How do you really know how many of your blog's subscribers are reading your content? Consider how many unread items you have in your own newsreader.

  • Unless a "follower" is reading their Twitter stream at the exact time you're Tweeting, or actively searching for you, are they really benefiting from your thoughts? It's the old "If a tree falls?" question. If nobody is around to read your Tweet, did you really Tweet?

  • How many people come back to your Facebook group or fan page after they subscribe? Again, having a page isn't enough if nobody's around to make it a vibrant community.

It's the traditional marketing problem all over again. It doesn't matter how many people subscribe to your magazine if they skip over your ad or never open the publication. Nor does it matter how many people Nielsen says are watching if they're in the kitchen when your spot airs.
Same thing with social media. Don't fool yourself by counting people if you're not connecting with them.
The real trick is to activate others–getting people to share your content. But to get that far, there are two things you have to do for yourself:

  1. Start by creating content worth sharing.

  2. Be the type of person who is worthy of having content shared.

The next step is to enable and encourage sharing. ShareThis, AddThis, Tweet This Post, Email to a friend–these are all viable techniques and tools to help others spread your words.
The other part of this equation is to keep an eye on your content once it's posted. Conversations move and to track the ones you initiate will require setting up a listening post. Doing so is easy, just start with some simple RSS tracking using Google Reader and sites such as BackTweets, BackType and one or two different search engines. The time will be well worth it.
Really, there's no better feeling than discovering that your content is being shared and connecting to someone new because of it.
How do you feel about subscribers vs. sharers?

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After 10 years working in marketing as a copywriter at several traditional advertising agencies, enough was enough. Fed up with writing at people, I turned my attention and creative thinking to the field of social network marketing, all so I can talk to people – and help businesses do the same.

Since going out on my own, I’ve helped launch a makeup brand at a national department store, been retained to develop, plan and brand a careers website for the Canadian trucking industry, and formed strategic partnerships with a few local agencies.

Clients I’ve worked with include: Air Canada, Air Canada Technical Services, Michelin North America (Canada) + BFGoodrich Tires, Aeroplan, Alcatel, and The Gazette (Montreal’s English language daily newspaper). My non-profit work includes an award-winning campaign for The Youville Centre (Ottawa), Home Hospice (Toronto), The Old Brewery Mission (Montreal) and The Gazette Christmas Fund.

Like so many other MP Daily Fix bloggers, I’m also particularly proud to have contributed to the groundbreaking “The Age of Conversation”, the unprecedented book project that saw over 100 bloggers contribute one-page chapters related to conversation marketing. Proceeds from the book, which launched July 16, 2007, are earmarked for Variety, the children’s charity. To date, over US$11,000 has been raised.

Many thanks to Ann for inviting me to post alongside some of the brightest minds in the biz.

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  • by Shonali Burke, ABC Thu Aug 6, 2009 via blog

    It's a bit of the chicken and the egg, isn't it? If you don't have subscribers, folks are going to think "you aren't worth it," and you're probably going to shut down. If you don't have sharers, you're not going to get more subscribers, in which case you might have to shut down... or at least, change the way you do business. IMHO, they're both important, so you need to cultivate them both. The silver bullet, it seems, is when you have active enough sharers who encourage more subscribers... and the cycle continues. Just my $0.02.

  • by eskimon Fri Aug 7, 2009 via blog

    Seems obvious, but 'social media' are defined the interactive element. It's only social if it's sharing; otherwise it's just the same old 'mass media'.

  • by Ann Handley Mon Aug 10, 2009 via blog

    Subscribers or sharers? My short answer would be, "Yes." You need both, in other words, and the cornerstone of both relationships is good content. As you say, "Don't fool yourself by counting people if you're not connecting with them." Nice post, Mark! (And great to see you back here!)

  • by Mark Goren Mon Aug 10, 2009 via blog

    Agree with all of you that you need both. No question about it. My central point, though, is that you're better off with "subscribers" who are also "sharers" because those are the people who help you in so many other tangible ways. For one, they help you get discovered as the "plant seeds" on your behalf. And, secondly, you have a better idea of just how much your message (content) has hit home when it's shared. Sorry for replying so late. And, Ann, it's nice to be back!

  • by Philip Roestamadji Thu Sep 17, 2009 via blog

    I would definitely agree that it is important to gain "subscribers" that double as "sharers" to help distribute your content. I, myself, have found that I tend to share when I feel strongly about the content presented, but simply subscribe when I enjoy the read. This also brings up the idea of getting subscribers to participate in the conversation as well as reading/sharing. Compelling content is certainly important, but the reason to share seems even greater if there is an active discussion of that content. In my case, I have a lot of very compelling content I read everyday, but the content I find myself sharing tends to be post/articles/etc. with an active discussion to follow. This is because (1) I find even more compelling messages/arguments in the comments that add value to the original content, and (2) the discussion makes the content feel more relevant and maybe interesting enough that a friend or colleague might also be interested. Of course, this is all my opinion, so I leave it at that.

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