September 27, 2015 by Paula Reed Nancarrow
In January, as people are wont to do, I set a reach goal for the year.
To spend an average of 20 hours a week in creative work. Right now, if toggl can be trusted (the online time tracking tool I use), which I think it can, I am up to 17 hours. Even if I don’t make 20 hours a week by the end of the year, it’s been a good goal to pursue.
There are some “reach” goals that, paradoxically, are useful whether you “reach” them or not. And then there are what I call “relax” goals. That’s a goal an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist makes so that when he or she reaches it, they can RELAX. You did ENOUGH. It says so RIGHT HERE.
I set a relax goal in March, relative to one aspect of my creative work.
To increase my blog page views. At the end of 2014, this blog had 17,463 page views, or an average of 1455 views a month. I set a modest incremental goal for 2015: 24,000 page views, or an average of 2000 views a month.
If you are not a connoisseur of blog stats, let me explain. There are a number of ways to measure the success of a blog. If you get a lot of interaction and comments, that is one way to measure success. You know people are reading, and are engaged with the material. Another way is the sheer amount of “traffic” your blog posts generates. Most blogging platforms have a stats page, and WordPress, the platform I use, is no exception.
On the stats page you can look at the number of visitors to your blog, and the number of page views. You can find out specific information about which post was the most popular that day, where your visitors are from, etc. True, you can’t know how carefully a post was read. But if your traffic increases over time, you’re generally doing something right.
2014 was my first full year writing a weekly blog.
It was also when I discovered how to use Twitter hashtags to increase my blog traffic. In fact, my most popular post in 2014 was the post I did on how to be popular. Imagine that.
But I wanted a more systematic understanding of how Twitter and blog growth interacted. I also wanted to know what wasn’t effective. Because there’s an awful lot of shoulds out there about social media promotion, and very little hard data to back those shoulds up.
So In February and March of 2015, I did a survey of bloggers on Twitter to see how they used Twitter hashtags to increase traffic to their blog. By the time I was done with the survey, I had 35 pages of feedback from 189 bloggers on Twitter hashtag usage. My analysis of that data, and the survey results, are still available, as are the blog posts I wrote on using Twitter hashtags to grow audience and build community.
And I went to town with what I thought was a sound social media strategy, primarily focused on Twitter.
But somewhere along the line Twitter stopped being fun.
I used to retweet 4-6 posts an hour on hashtag days (and there are more such days than there were when I first took my survey), making sure to have a mix of people who have first retweeted me and new folks I want to discover (and/or vice versa). It was a good system, and when I was a relatively new blogger, it worked pretty well.
But as my posts became more popular, and the reciprocity engine more ferocious, it became very hard to sustain. I put all my retweets into a spreadsheet each week, promising myself I would go back later – ostensibly – to read people I had a deeper relationship with. The idea was to read and comment on five posts a day. In truth, there were many days I could not do that and still tend to Twitter. I was doing more and more “blind retweeting.” And the obligations piled up.
At the end of the week, I often felt tired, cranky and resentful of those posts waiting for me to read them.
Even if they were written by people whose work I enjoy. They were an obligation I had incurred, not a pleasure to anticipate. And come Monday, that obligation would renew itself all over again. When was I supposed to have the quiet time, the reflective time, to do my own creative work? To paraphrase Ecclesiastes, “Of making many blog posts there is no end, and much social media reciprocity is a weariness of the flesh.” Most of the time I just gave up.
What does all this have to do with my March “relief” goal?
Well, I passed it about two weeks ago.
At the end of this week, my total page views for the year were at 25,220. With the exception of July (when, as they say in Minnesota, everyone was “up ta lake”) I have been well over 2000 views monthly. From now through December, then, as an old boyfriend of mine used to say, “it’s all gravy, baby.”
Reaching my page view goal has allowed me the freedom to step back from Twitter for the rest of the year.
To experiment with some new strategies. To try Pinterest, perhaps, which everyone tells me is worth the investment of time. But right now I am focussed on getting back to what seems to me to be the point. To have higher quality interactions with the people I’ve already met, which is about more than promotion. It’s about feeding creativity itself.
This week, I cut the amount of time I normally spend on Twitter by two thirds, and spent that extra time reading posts. Surprisingly, this refocusing of time only reduced my number of retweets by about 10%. (I am Spreadsheet Woman. Hear Me Calculate.)
But reading as I go during the week – at least this week – turned out to be less difficult than I thought it would be. I enjoyed Twitter more than I have in awhile. And the effect on my page views?
Frankly, I did not see any.
How about you? Is your social media strategy dressed for success? When do you know enough is enough? And what do you do when you get there?