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Where Is Everybody?
Rethinking social engagement
How are you? I hope you’re enjoying spring with a nice combo of work and play activities.
As you know, us visual storytellers, when we’re not looking for stories we focus on sharing them with our audiences, right?
These days - and for the past 20 years now - we’ve been sharing our stories on social media to drive network-effect awareness.
And yep, as soon as people start to respond to our content with likes, comments, and re-shares, we also fall into that “Pavlovian” sweet, yet fleeting Dopamine rush.
This conditioned engagement or public approval - mediated by ever-changing algorithms - either refuels our motivation to keep chasing likes on this “ever-running wheel” - or often demoralizes us if there is no feedback.
The deal on social has always been simple.
We offer our free content for free brand awareness, while social media networks use algorithms to prioritize and monetize popular content for ad dollars.
This value exchange is still going on to this day.
Even though to a lesser extent, as networks have lowered awareness for organic content in order to push people toward Pay-to-Play ad buys to reach more eyeballs.
Why do I tell you all this?
I recently had a chat with another writer who complained he hardly ever gets any feedback to his stories on social.
Are you sometimes getting crickets for your content, wondering “where is everybody?”
To amplify the "Crickets Symptom" I couldn't think of anything stronger than Rod Serling's timeless Twilight Zone TV series, season 1, episode 1 & winning pilot, that aired on October 2, 1959. A guy finds himself in a deserted town and in this climactic scene shouting “Where is everybody?”
First off, some facts
Regardless if your content is liked or not so much, here is what I think.
With the staggering information overload (180 zettabytes by 2025) and audiences’ shrinking attention spans (47 secs), your chances of getting feedback are very slim to begin with.
Since our focus here is business, let’s take LinkedIn as an example.
Founded in 2002 the network by now attracts 930 million users worldwide with $14 billion in revenue.
Having said that, in 2023 the average post engagement rate (likes, comments, and shares) on LinkedIn is only 0.09%!
Posts with videos fair a bit better with an average engagement rate of 0.16%.
Back in 2019, I wrote that as a storyteller, even after managing to pass through the gatekeeping algorithms, what you’re really up against is a quite tall Social Signal Wall.
Against this wall, the whole world and his sister are throwing a staggering 2.5 quintillion worth of data at every day.
The common logic is the higher social signal you get in the above Social Signal Wall, the stronger social feedback you’re getting and the happier you should be, right?
This naturally depends on your goals.
Everybody likes likes. Sorry couldn’t resist :)
It’s our natural inclination to be seen and have others empathize with our perspectives.
Likes, and more so visits sure make sense if you’re looking to generate conversions to your e-commerce site or appointment calendar.
But what about when you are simply sharing a fresh new idea stemming from an article that somehow moved you or an article you actually published?
Which tends to be most of the time; in the words of Gary Vaynerchuk:
“Give, Give, Give, Ask!”
When crickets first showed up for me, I used to think “how come they don’t see what I see?” Could it be cultural, grammatical, technical (blame it on the algorithm) issues?
First off, relax! Getting crickets is common on any social platform.
Long ago I stopped caring.
It’s really the silent traffic (views) that is important (AKA “Dark Traffic”).
If you continue posting your stories, not caring about feedback, people will be more exposed to your content, get to know your voice over time and that will help you build your thought leadership authority.
Regardless, be sure to apply to your copy Aristotle’s Top 3 Persuasion Drivers:
Despite getting crickets, how will you know your content does stick?
It often happens to me while attending events.
Since we were all wearing name tags, someone may approach me, introduce her/himself and say s/he always enjoys reading my posts.
I never met this person before so it’s always a pleasant surprise.
Another signal to pay attention to, say on LinkedIn, is if your thought leadership content is getting a steady stream of new quality followers and connection requests outside the biz dev crowd.
Other times it’s not users who will notice your unique ideas, but what I call the “LinkedIn’s Editor Helicopter!”
A LinkedIn editor will spot your post, find it super interesting for the larger community and “whisk you up” in visibility either in a solo featured post or group featured posts.
It happened to me several times. Last week, I started the day by finding out that I “got whisked up” by LinkedIn News Europe :)
When this happens, you know this “helicopter” arrives with a very friendly algorithm, unlike your daily shots in the dark, so expect to receive a watershed of love signals.
The right way to think about it
At the end of the day, if you ask me, the whole notion of social likes is quite ridiculous. It’s seriously the lazy way to express reactions.
Can you imagine social media experience in real life?
Here is a fresh example.
Last Friday morning, I had a nice cortadito and spinach empanadas with my wife sitting outdoors.
On our way out, I noticed there were 3 people having a lively Friday breakfast. I could only see the face of one, but I couldn’t escape the velocity and richness of emotions, body language, and vocal variety.
Can you imagine replacing all of that with just a measly 👍?
Humans are much more uniquely emotional in their expressions than a commodity emoji. I’d say this also holds true for large gatherings in public spaces.
True! Online vs. offline has its differences, but after 20+ years of chasing the “Likes Rainbow” and getting unnecessarily stressed over it, I’d say it’s about time to redefine our thinking, don’t you agree?
So, keep leading with value-first, sharing your meaningful stories on social while carrying a vivid image of a real life ideal customer you know.
BTW focusing on an audience of one friendly face in the crowd is also a common best practice in public speaking.
Once you start getting feedback, attempt to move relevant conversations online en route to offline’s richer interactions.
Think of it as just a handy outlet for you to spread your ideas far and wide as you continue to build your brand narrative.