I read posts from two different bloggers recently that made me think about the reach and effectiveness of what we do. One article was from a blogger discussing what it felt like to have one of her articles “go viral”. She had written about a particular programming language that may have applications in the insurance industry, and it was picked up and shared by members of the IT community. She spoke of her excitement at watching the read count steadily rise as her article went viral. The second article was from a fellow who has been promoting an unconventional solution for medical care within the workers’ comp space. I detected frustration in this particular post, as I read it to be saying “I have a good idea and no one is responding to me. Why is that? Am I wasting my time?”
I will address the latter first. Yes, you are wasting your time. Unless, of course, you are not. I hope that clarification helps.
Blogging is a radically different way to share information when compared to the virtual dark ages of the 1990’s. It used to be that people needed training, education, skill and experience to eventually warrant a position where their opinions and ideas could be transmitted to the ignorant masses. Today, the ignorant masses have the platform. Any idiot with a keyboard and a 6 year old nephew can have a blog, digitally spewing their agenda into the ether. You are reading proof of that right now.
The concept of “going viral” has thus far eluded me and my musings, although I suppose it also depends on your interpretation of “viral”. It is difficult to gauge overall “performance”, because, as bloggers, we are not overtly competitive in this platform. Still, most people who maintain a blog keep activity numbers fairly close to their chest. This is presumably because we are jealous and petty, if not overtly competitive. We don’t want anyone to know how well or how poorly our content fares in the overall scheme of things.
Not too dissimilar to how the industry handles claim data, actually.
I have been pretty open about my blog activity numbers. This post, if averages hold, will get between 350 and 600 reads in its first 24 hours of life. The average is 500, although those covering more salacious topics get up to 1,500 in that same period. You really are sick people (God, how I love you all)! Many of my articles continue to gain read counts over time, with the most popular one currently at 15,510. Overall, the total reads for all my articles combined over the last 26 months is 1,103,657.
Still, I don’t feel as if anything I’ve written has gone “viral”. I have no idea how my numbers stack up to most, but I suspect they are on the high side of many. I would normally attribute this to my extraordinary intellect, cutting witticism and remarkable wordsmithing capabilities; however, it is likely because I am a nominal dimwit who gets to play under the banner of a killer domain name that already draws excellent traffic. Whichever.
This ultimately takes us back to our second bloggers lament; are we reaching anyone or are we wasting our time? This particular blogger based his complaints and observations both on a lack of direct, personal interaction on his topic, as well as the absence of comments both on the blog and (presumably) the many LinkedIn forums to which he posts his stuff. From the comment perspective, I have learned that overall the industry is not an interactive one. We have many people who read, but relatively few who openly “participate”. You cannot take a lack of comments as a gauge of effectiveness.
By shear happenstance, as I was working on this article Wednesday evening, a friend emailed me a complete thread from a LinkedIn group to which I did not belong. He pasted the entire content of the thread in the email, and it happened to be based on the very article that we are discussing. It turns out our despondent blogger did indeed get a comment. It was from someone I have tangled with in the past; the Simon Cowell of workers' comp, a straight shooting, opinionated man who does not mince words concerning his thoughts on a particular issue. I enjoy a good verbal brawl from time to time, and this particular commenter is one of my favorites in that he is an articulate curmudgeon who presents his case well. He is a worthy adversary whom I can respect; a man I can disagree with without being ultimately disagreeable.
Unfortunately for our blogger du jour, this would not be the case. I read in that email what has to be the most unprofessional exchange I have ever witnessed on LinkedIn (and from me that is saying a LOT, since I’ve been involved in some pretty unprofessional exchanges). Our blogger, while referring to himself as a visionary, called the commenter a moron and told him to “shut your f-ing mouth, dirtbag”. There was more, but you get the gist. I would conjecture that whatever goodwill he had built for his concept in the past year vanished in that instant.
As bloggers, it was not our finest hour.
Ultimately, as a blogger, if you believe in yourself and your ideals, you are not wasting your time sharing those thoughts with a broader audience. You cannot base a lack of attributable action as a barometer of your effectiveness, at least not in the short term. Ideas – even bad ones – take time to simmer and process. If you believe you are right, have the commitment and fortitude to proceed.
But don’t ask for opinions if you are not prepared to get them. Because as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, while your article may never go “viral”, emotional, unprofessional and profanity laced responses to your antagonists will.