Since I got into this whole online-entrepreneurship game, I’ve been slowly deep diving into every nook and cranny I can think of.
How to write better, how to get more views, how to build an audience, how to SEO, how to get more claps, likes, follows, whistles, and hoot hollers.
Everything — and I’m still not done.
But one idea has been slowly crawling its way into my brain for a while now.
How much do subscribers/fans/followers really matter?
Whatever term you use for these readers, you’ll almost always hear advice on how to get more of them. And that’s what I set out to do initially. I had some decent results but nothing to write home about.
3,000 Twitter followers, 5,000 Facebook friends, 6,300 Medium subscribers all in the last year. Whoopedy doo.
If All You Chase Is a Number, You’ll Never Learn the Math Behind It
One of my off-platform writer friends has a massive email list — 80,000 people.
And yet she struggles to monetize it. She’s tried all sorts of different tactics, giveaways, added extras, and yet her response rate to any given email is really low, somewhere in the 2–10% range.
I asked her how she thinks she got those 80,000 subscribers in the first place. She told me she gave away one of her $10 books for free as a CTA.
It was a very specific non-fiction book that had garnered a lot of traffic over the years because it was incredibly well done. But it was a specific niche with not much carry-over effect.
They came for the book, not the author.
And that sucks.
If the common social influencer guru's advice were to be believed 100% of the time — she should be making upwards of $80,000 a month from that list.
But she’s not. Please don’t feel bad, she still makes a very decent living.
That’s the problem with forever chasing numbers without putting thought, meaning, and feeling behind them.
- My Facebook writing account’s 5,000 friends wouldn’t notice if I deleted my account tomorrow.
- My 3,000 Twitter associates don’t associate with me in real life and would forget I exist in an instant.
- Any follower I have on Medium has less than a 0.5% chance of seeing anything new that I publish on a given day.
Platform followers don’t mean much in 2020 — unless you have an absolute crapload of them.
If I Haven’t Seen It, It’s News to Me
But newsletters, those are different — or they can be anyway.
You may not have 80,000 subscribers yet, but there are countless articles on the internet on how to achieve that.
Most of them revolve around giving the following advice:
- Talk to your newsletter audience as if you’re writing to a friend.
- Consistently show up week after week when you said you would.
- Have a great CTA (call-to-action) in as many of your potential touchpoints as possible (profiles, articles, email signatures, etc.)
- Give away a freebie for signing up.
It’s that last one that can be the devil's fiddle.
You can find plenty of case studies that show that #1–3 are necessary components, for the most part.
Add in a pinch of #4 with something that’s easy to access, free, and useful for someone — then your newsletter subs will start going up more rapidly than ever.
But will those be your true fans as Kevin Kelly coined and Seth Godin always promotes?
I’d wager no, they wouldn’t be. At least not 95% of them.
Fight, for Your Right, to Partake in a Meaningful Conversation
I’ll be honest here. Adding followers, subscribers, and fans can never really hurt. We all know the basic premise of greater volume=greater visibility.
Does this pursuit steal time away from what you’re actually wanting to do?
That idea or thought you initially set out on this road to online entrepreneurship to explore, enrich, and share with the world?
If you can honestly answer no to that question — then great. Keep on pursuing the number goal, you’re probably well on your way already.
But if it is yes — you might want to consider stepping back and sniffing the roses for a minute.
A lot of online ventures today are completely automated.
- A welcome email
- A 5-step salesman-ey enticement to sign up for an online course
- A retargeting email if you never took action in any of the first emails
The list goes on. And there’s nothing wrong with these tactics and automation.
But it’s not why I subscribed to your newsletter. I subscribed to learn something, to see a new angle on a subject I’m familiar with, or maybe even to crack a smile or a laugh.
The newsletters I open every day aren’t the ones I exchanged my email address in order to access a PDF of 100 Ways to Make Peanut Butter Great Again.
I don’t even see those emails — because they’re blocked or unsubscribed right after. That’s what 95% of other people do too.
If you want to earn extra money from your newsletter, you have to earn the respect of your readers. Connect with them. Share with them. Teach them. And ask for feedback from them.
She talks about what they might be experiencing and what they might want to know, and she doesn’t use it as a not-so-indirect way of selling something to them.
So aim for that. Aim for genuineness.
Don’t pretend to be a mindless brand that’s all shiny surface with no substance on the inside. We’ve all had those chocolate gold coins at Easter before.
They work for candy because kids love shiny things and chocolate. But try selling me a gold coin without telling me it's a gooey brown substance inside?
I won’t bother opening it, I’ll just assume it’s crap.