In this rant inspired by recent tweets from Alex Kapranos and Dr. Charlotte Rodricks, yours truly will try to grapple with a complex subject that is social media metrics. After all IHN amassed more than 10k followers on Twitter alone, so that must mean something, right?
Maybe to Twitter/social media, but when it comes to people who are barely familiar with that environment…it gets a bit more complicated. I’d like to bring up one particular incident that happened on the flight back home from Big Ears Festival as a proof.
On the said flight I sat next to a gentleman whose name I didn’t catch and our conversation, slow and quiet at first, eventually gained steam and went in all sorts of strange directions. Lets say that some of the topics included inability to sit through events without drinking and…Billy Joel’s performance at Fenway Park. There was also my invite to visit IHN, accompanied by the approximate numbers of followers we got (not the best sales pitch, admittedly).
It was, perhaps, the latter, combined with a demonstration of a t-shirt bearing IHN’s logo, that led to my companion noting that no one will recognize us in the said shirt. This was followed by awkward silence, followed by my assertion that we were, indeed, recognized as a blog at another fest, followed by even more awkward silence. The conversation ended the way it began with much of the fire keeping it alive petering out just as the plane began to land.
Loopy as this whole conversation seemed, it also prompted some soul-searching. What do strangers that barely visit Twitter (or are absent from social media altogether) make of those of us that see the network/social media as being of some importance to our daily lives?
Inevitably, the capital N letter emerges – we want to be big stars. We want to be recognized. We badly want our 15 minutes of fame and we sometimes get them.
This isn’t completely without merit, but also clashes deeply with the idea that interaction is at the core of what we do on social media. Not only that, but also we, as a blog, are deeply invested into spreading the wealth, so to speak, to others – musicians/record labels/visual artists and on and on.
In a similar fashion I find that aforementioned Twitter threads both show how easy it is to misinterpret the social media metrics – this time we’re not talking strangers on the planes, but record labels, venues/clubs and book publishers (i.e. anyone that actually pulls the levers and makes decisions). The consequences of decisions made through blind faith in social media can often be disastrous.
Its not that social media metrics such as likes and followers are utterly useless (they did helped us to run the label, after all), but they’re also poor predictors of book sales or show/concert attendance since its also the engagement that counts. Sure, there’s Needle Drop who have a massive and devoted online following which, over the years, converted into an offline one. More often that not, however, the online following will remain solely online and that is perfectly fine too.
Call me naïve, but I think there’s something incredibly pure about things we cherish in this (relatively) small circle of ours. Whether they reach millions is irrelevant as long as they reach someone and it makes a change in their lives. Its even more exciting to team up with another blog or a Youtube channel and spread that message further.
Sure, there will always be doubters and haters, but that goes for nearly anyone that ever tried their hand any kind of creative work. The question we should ask ourselves when it comes to music/books/writing is not “how many copies sold” (which streaming mostly rendered irrelevant anyway), but “do I personally like it?” and asking the latter is a way to ensure that we’re on a better path to understanding just what social media and accompanying metrics should be about instead of what they’re often (and often erroneously) perceived to be.