Bump and grind

WordPress.com, of which I am a very happy user (cost = free, uptime = 100%, functionality = great and always improving) has one interesting limitation – the blog statistics one can easily access are “blog traffic,” meaning the number of site visits you get on your blog.  There’s no direct information about how many RSS subscribers you have or people subscribe to your posts by email (never mind stuff being retweeted, re-Facebooked, re-emailed).

If blogs were magazines, this would be akin to tracking how many copies you sold at the newsstand and ignoring your monthly subscriber base.

The thing is, monkey see, monkey do.  Seeing those on-site stats daily makes you care about their mostly random vacillations.  And while they do matter some – if you’re writing good content, others will link to it, repost it on social media sites, etc. so your onsite traffic will increase – they’re mostly noise compared to getting and keeping loyal readers.  For example, getting 25 new RSS subscribers is obviously more important than getting 5,000 hits on a single day (25 subscribers = ~5,000 impressions /year), but it just doesn’t feel that way.

So when something big hits that gets you visibility, there’s a natural tendency to thirst for the next big bump – the big sale, the big media hit, the big donor, the big something new.  Keeping your true fans insanely happy somehow seems like less of a victory than landing the next big customer, maybe because happy customers are often quiet, meaning there’s not as much feedback there as you’d like or need.

And so we get one big bump, one big new sale, one major new donor, and the moment things go back to normal we thirst for that next bump and the accompanying adrenaline.  It feels exciting to bring in someone new, to make that big pitch, to close the sale.  After all, isn’t big game hunting what this is all about?

Well no, actually.  This game is part hunting and part gathering, and, in the long-term, nurturing and feeding your biggest fans pays off a lot more than that next potential big win…in fact, looking off too far into the distance is a surefire way to make your most enthusiastic supporters feel like chopped liver.

That constant cultivation, the care and feeding, is the real work that makes a lasting impact.

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3 Responses to Bump and grind

  1. sethholloway says:

    Nice post! Keep up the good work.

    (I saw your TED talk and loved it, so I subscribed to your feed.

    In case you don’t know your RSS readership, you can check it using the “show details” feature in Google

    You should also be able to set up Google Analytics and then you can check your incoming traffic using techniques like those described here: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/seven-google-analytics-advance-segments)

  2. Laura Weed says:

    Actually, Sasha, you can find the number of subscribers to your blog. If you scroll to the bottom of your stats page you’ll see a section that says “total subscriptions and shares”. Then you’ll see it says “site subscriptions” with a number, that’s a link. If you click on it it will show your wordpress subscribers and have a link to your email subscribers. Then there’s a separate link for folks who subscribe to your comments. You’ve got the email of every single subscriber right at hand. If you can’t find these stats, log in, view your blog, and click on the tiny gray graph that appears in the dark gray bar at the very top of your browser.

  3. Sasha says:

    Laura and Seth, thanks for these replies. I looked into this a little more and confirmed that there are at least four numbers that seem to represent “subscribers”: the WordPress blog subscribers that Laura mentions; two different numbers from Google Reader depending on the feed URL; and statistics from Feedburner that show RSS and email subscribers.

    If anyone knows how to get these all in one place, I’m all ears.

    And in the meantime, just to emphasize that this was meant to be a metaphor, not the main point of the post!

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