The Truth Behind A Massive Audience

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The numbers are important.

This may come as a shock to many people who have been playing along at home with this Blog for over half a decade, but it’s true. Having a massive audience is important. This is coming from the person who continually insists that it’s not about "how many" people you connect your brand to, but rather "who." There is still a semblance of truth in that concept: having a massive amount of people connected to you, but with little engagement is of little value when compared to a smaller more active and caring audience. But, if you push that concept further: great ideas spread (as Seth Godin always says). Great ideas get traction and people tell other people about whatever it is that you are doing to the point where there is a massive audience for your thoughts and ideas. Pushing that further, it’s not so easy to find the right "who" if you’re not getting your message out to as many people as you can (unless all of those people are truly self-identifying themselves in a way that makes them easy to find and connect to).

What’s with the sudden change?

I was recently watching an episode of Spectacle with Elvis Costello featuring James Taylor. Taylor was regaling the audience with stories from the days of Jimi Hendrix and Carole King as he talked about how lucky he was to have made it through, been successful and still be around to create music. A lot of his reflection seemed to deal with the fact that the life of musician can go in many directions (some positive, but most negative) primarily because of their drive and passion to get their music heard by as many people as possible. That was (and still is) the main purpose in Taylor’s life: get many more people to listen to his words and music.

It’s an important lesson.

Do I want more followers on Twitter? Do I want more friends on Facebook? Do I wish that more people would buy my book, Six Pixels of Separation? Do I wish that more people would listen to my weekly Podcast? Do I want more comments and readership on this Blog? The answer is yes. Not to compare myself to James Taylor, but that is the main (and primary) reason that I Blog, Podcast, tweet, communicate and connect. I want as many people as possible to read, hear and share the thoughts that I am trying so desperately to share.

There’s no shame in that.

Back when I was in the music industry, Metallica used to joke around and say, "are we sell-outs?" when people would ask them if it’s at all strange that this band with such street cred grew to such popular heights, "yes, we sell-out every single night that we play!" While that might have been a tongue in cheek deflection of a question, it was the perfect answer. We tend to throw rocks at those who gain mass acceptance as if it’s an indicator that they are no longer authentic or credible. I’m just not buying it anymore. James Taylor is authentic (he’s looking for a bigger audience). I’m trying to be authentic here (I’m looking for a bigger audience), and your brand or the brands you work for should be trying to do the same.

Don’t you think that you’re trying to do the same thing?


  1. Thank you Mitch. It felt like a Jerry Maguire moment: “Finally, somebody said it”. Good thing is that by owning your own space, you’re not bound to run the same luck of getting fired at Cronin’s. See you soon! ~Paul

  2. Hi Mitch. Fully agree with you, as long it is not an ego trip. Too many people want to raise the number of followers to raise their ego. What’s important is to spread your ideas for the sake of others, not for your sake.

  3. I love what Jeremie said, and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s a challenge to keep the ego in check, but asking the question “why” we want followers is a significant one. Is it to feel important, validated, relevant, or is it because we want to help make this world a better place? My thought is that if we focus on making the world a better place in our own unique, authentic way, we will feel important, validated and relevant as a bi-product. And Mitch, I truly believe that that’s what you’re doing. You’re a great role model and a unique voice.

  4. A parallel might be advertising on Search as opposed to Content. Search allows you to more easily reach the cream of a market while Content does not it can still be worked profitably. And if it can why in the world would you not invest in it? Those who can’t profit think your just being vain, promoting your brand or adding likes and that’s ok.

  5. Thanks for the post. I think deep down we all seek recognition by the masses for our “brand.” As a new Creative Designer on the scene, I know I’m constantly looking for ways to expand my reach. It takes people (Followers, Friends, Website Visitors and Viewers) to do that…especially in this Social age.
    That said, like many, I do not want to be labeled a “sell-out.” I want to find that mix of gaining attention (and clients), while staying 100% true to who I am and the brand I am trying to build. In many ways this is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do. Well, other than trying to raise 5 kids of course.
    Again, thank you for the post. I look forward to many more!
    Always CREATIVE!
    J.M. Waters
    CREATIVE Designer

  6. Great post and a great example of holding up a mirror to one’s self to get at the truth. The danger, and I think you imply this, is that one can become too diluted in message in the hopes to reach a larger audience. I think that’s where some of the “inauthentic” criticism comes from. To use music as an example, I stopped liking Blues Traveler when they started pandering more to the MTV audience because it didn’t seem aligned with who they were in their salad days. And I saw the shift in the music they were making as well. On a friend’s FB page, there was a back and forth about Lady Gaga’s deal with Starbucks and her deal with Words with Friends. For someone who celebrates being an outsider, she’s doing a lot of mainstream things to promote her brand further.
    I guess this is a long winded way of saying that everything has a natural limit or perhaps better put, a natural boundary.

  7. Showing you some love and commenting on this post. I know the feeling of sometimes feeling like I’m working in a void. Great post, my friend! Now, if someone could just tell me how long it takes to build a 20k following if you blog 3x a week, tweet multiple times daily, and facebook all the time…. 😉

  8. I would say that in the case of an author or a musician, this is 100% true. However, I think that if you are in a business that caters to a specific crowd, the “more is better” can be misleading. I think that’s why a lot of people end up grumbling that Social Media “doesn’t work.”
    For a musician, it’s entirely possible that someone will hear a snippet of music thanks to someone else, check it out, and then buy. That’s great. But let’s say you sell, I don’t know, wound care products for a very specific demographic. People may hear about you if you get lots of followers, but are they going to buy that product “just in case”? Probably not.
    Now I guess you could argue that if you drill into peoples’ heads that you have a product, by the time they’re ready to use it your brand could be embedded in their head. But that could take months/years. Right now, people aren’t looking that far down the road.
    As with many things in Social Media, I think for some people the more is more could be perfect, and for other people, less is more could be perfect. The real thing everyone needs to remember is that your number of followers, fans, subscribers, comments, etc., is not your ROI. That would be sales. If you’re not getting sales in whatever you do, you have a problem.
    And I’m glad to see another Elvis Costello fan – I adore him 🙂

  9. Great post! Going after a “massive audience” right away can turn potential customers/clients/listeners away; starting small and earning your followers seems to garner more respect in many industries

  10. Agree with you… and Margie. I want more. Quality, quantity, more links, followers of the non-spammy variety, referrals, want to get out there with a chance to meet more people; helps them, helps me. Yet I want smart growth.. bigger numbers with the ‘right’ audiences. Not throwing spaghetti at the wall, seeing what sticks but growth with target demographics. Not every music lover will like every artist; some may like but won’t buy or pay for concerts, etc. So I want to find my larger audience of those who will read, share, refer and be part of my chance to ‘sellout every night.’ FWIW.

  11. Amen! Clear, concise and correct.
    P.S. I read, though this is my first comment. And I want you to know that many of us in the field are listening and appreciating!

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