When you took our survey, one of the areas we really wanted to try to understand better and get some insight into was your use of social media. While it is, and likely will remain, a sore spot with some folks, it is hard to deny that it has an impact on not only what we do here, but also how The GSA can claim a stake to it’s own space on the internet.
One of the hardest things for any entity on the internet to do is get the word out and let people know they exist. Whether it is a blog like The GSA or a message board or a pod cast or just an interesting web page, without some form of social sharing they will remain an obscure, hard to find, and, ultimately, failed enterprise. If no one knows you exist, no one comes looking to see what you have. Relying solely on web searches to let people know about you no longer works as it once did as little as five years ago. You sink or swim based on how well you are shared out into relevant communities.
Gigabytes of information, tactics, methods and detailed approaches exist on the topic of increasing viewers without the use of Social Media. There are those who would have you believe that simply stuffing a web page full of key words is sufficient to make the impact needed and get you noticed. Others will tell you that article size and style have the biggest effect. Linking to and posting on other blogs is frequently sighted as being key in turning the corner from obscurity to internet fame. Pages and pages of people and businesses promise to help you increase your readership and traffic, often at a price just to see what information they have. The majority of it, upwards of 90%, is utter BS.
At this stage, I could launch into a long rant about why that is the case. Instead, I am going to draw it back in and talk about what we think generates good readership and brings people to our pages.
We think… That is to say, I think, what really brings people to us on a day-to-day basis and keeps them coming back over and over, is having the best and most interesting content we can possibly manage. Not having special key words that hit well in searches, not limiting ourselves to a certain number of words because ‘people dislike reading too much, not signing up for link exchanging programs that promise to display our web page links on thousands of sites in return for doing the same for others, not adhering to an arbitrary set of rules that pushes our search results to the top of the list. I think having good content that people want to read and find value in all on it’s own is the big key to having the readership we want and maintaining a steadily growing user base.
Social Media isn’t the means by which that is accomplished. Instead it is one of the yard sticks by which we measure that goal. Your sharing of our articles tells us when we got it right and when we didn’t.
One other aspect of Social Media we have to discuss before we launch into the survey results is what we mean by Social Media and Social Sharing. Facebook , Twitter and Google+ are all very nice Social Sharing sites. They are not the only ways to do it though, much as they would have you believe otherwise. Social Sharing also includes Blogging, Pod Casting, emailing a link to your friends and leaning over to the guy next to you and saying, “Hey, check this out.” In short, any time you take something you’ve read and show it to another person, by any means whatsoever, you are engaged in Social Sharing. The single advantage that Twitter, Facebook and other Social Media sites have, is the ability to share with large numbers of people all at once. That’s it. There is no other practical advantage beyond that.
So, how do you interact with The GSA on Social Media according to our survey results?
We started out by asking how you heard about us. The initial ‘get the info out’ push was made on the d20 Radio forums with some additional announcements made on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Unsurprisingly then, the majority of you said that you first heard about us on the d20 Radio Network in some way. Many of you noted the announcement on the forums , but equally as many of you said that you’d heard about The GSA through the Order 66 pod cast. Traditional Social Media outlets don’t even come close to matching those. In fact, it is so important for us to understand that that I’ve made a chart:
Facebook and Twitter represent less than 8% of our total reader bring in each, according to your responses. If you believe Social Media hype, that is a devastating result. According to them, and, in fact, according to Google’s recent closing announcement for Google Reader, things like Twitter should be driving readers to us. That doesn’t seem to be the case at all.
Remember though, around here, Facebook and it’s ilk are just yard sticks we use to measure how well we are doing. It is an area we need to work on, but our primary focus isn’t on using it to bring in readers, though it helps.
So what Social Media do you guys actually use? It turns out, most of you use either Facebook (35%) or Google+ (32%) with Twitter in third place (27%). Given the sharing stats on some of our posts this is actually fairly surprising. G+ shares are often well behind Twitter and Facebook. In fact, Twitter generally leads the sharing that we can monitor by a significant margin even over Facebook. I’m not sure if this means that G+ users share less in general, Twitter users share more than anyone else, or if we simply aren’t reaching those people that prefer to use G+ as their dominant form of sharing. Again, this is an area we will have to examine closely and figure out how to improve. In terms of actually having shared any of our articles, it is as near a 50-50 split as makes no difference. About half of you have, and half of you haven’t.
Finally, we asked how likely you were to share GSA articles in the future to any type of Social Media. 88% of you said you were at least occasionally likely to share future articles with 32% saying Often or more. 14% said you would never share an article over Social Media which is slightly higher than those who indicated earlier that they don’t use social media at all. Possible reasons for that discrepancy could be that some individuals didn’t answer the first question but did this one or simply that you don’t believe you will find anything worth sharing on our site or maybe you just don’t use Social Media in that way.
The survey results have given us a lot to think about. Perhaps none more so than how you folks use and in turn share us with the Social internet. As a yard stick, it might be a good indicator of how we are doing, but it also shows us that we can do a better job in encouraging you to engage with your friends about our content. One of the things we do encourage folks to do is to get the word out. It is one thing to have one person sharing every article across three social sites, but it is entirely a different matter for an author to see his works spread to others outside the initial release venue. In a way, Social Sharing is another way you, the reader, can tell us, the authors, how well we are doing by ‘voting’ for us out in the wider internet.
The next Survey article will discuss how your responses to our site encouraged us to improve things in the ways you already see around you and what the future might hold as well.
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