You’re Wrong About Your Audience

And they’re wrong about you, too.

I got an email today from one of my newsletter subscribers. This line jumped out at me:

“I’m always so pleasantly surprised when you answer me personally — I assume thousands of people read your blog.”

It got me thinking about assumptions.

The sender of that email is technically correct — I do have thousands of newsletter subscribers, but the tone of his comment shocked me.

His perception of my creation doesn’t match mine.

He thinks my newsletter is so big that he’s “pleasantly surprised” I took the time to respond to his email. He assumes, based on what he’s consumed of my creation, that I’m too big, too busy, too important, or too something to bother with him.

Or maybe his assumptions are more about him than me?

Maybe he assumes he doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter to me? That his status, following, profession, or whatever doesn’t warrant a response?

Whatever the reasons, my actions didn’t match his assumption about our relationship.

The newsletter I write and he consumes created a relationship he didn’t fully understand.

And neither did I. Because his email caught me just as off-guard as my response to his did in the first place.

As the creator of the newsletter I know how many people subscribe, but there are no metrics that tell me how (or if) I impact them. I don’t know how many pay attention or if they care.

Stats about email opens and clicks only tell a partial story. Do people find what I do helpful? Do they connect with it? Enjoy it?

Does my work mean something to them?

I can’t fully know. So I make my own assumptions, just like my subscriber did.

I assume most people don’t feel that connected to it. I assume my audience is small (thousands of subscribers may feel big to some people, but it’s all a matter of perspective — I’m not sure any number will ever feel big to me).

Just like my subscriber assumed he didn’t matter to me, I assumed I didn’t matter to him.

That’s human nature, I guess. But, it turns out, it’s not true.

Just as he was pleasantly surprised to see my response to his email, I was touched to hear from him in the first place.

Having people tell you they value what you create is the most valuable metric.

Our simple email exchange changed our relationship. Or at least our assumptions about this relationship we’ve formed through my newsletter.

It also reminded me that one of the main reasons to create content is to instigate relationships. And often, the people on both sides of those relationships have incorrect assumptions about what’s happening.

What I create means more to my subscribers than I realize. And what they give to me means more than they realize.

Sometimes all it takes are a couple emails to recognize that.

NOTE: As I wrote this post I just got an email from another subscriber who said “I just wanted to take the time to thank you for your inspirational emails and info.”

Needless to say, I’ll reply to her as soon as I hit publish on this post.

Josh Spector is a writer, curator, founder of A Person You Should Know, and a guy who thinks writing about himself in the third person is really awkward.

But, he invites you to subscribe to his personal newsletter anyway.