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:
- Start by creating content worth sharing.
- 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?