If you're an artist or in marketing, you'll know the vein of every creator's existence: analytics. Or at least it is for me.
In a world where we want to quantify everything and measure its "worth", numbers can be your best friend or enemy. You can be showered with quantifiable attention and feel you've really hit it out of the park, or you can hear crickets and deduce your work as subpar. It's a toxic cycle we've been stuck in since the birth of all these new digital mediums... once you get past the veil of self expression, you run into the wall that is your numbers.
I can't tell you how many creatives I've spoken to who struggle with this. How do I get my stuff out there? How do I get 1 million views? Shit, how do I break 100 likes?! It can make you feel like your work isn't resonating... and you would be wrong.
I too have fallen into the cyclone of measurement. It is an enemy to the creative spirit. If you thought this post was about finding the magical formula or 5 steps that will help you rig the views you've been longing for, you may wanna click off now.
Value is multidimensional
How do you measure value? It's a serious question spanning past the conversation of our creative. In life, so many people get stuck on numbers as their primary measurement of value. However, this would be a pretty one dimensional approach to life. I'll use an example: money as a measurement for your career. The first thing people negotiate for is salary–– and that's important. But too often a positive figure can blind us to the actual worth of that role. What are your coworkers like? How is the company culture? Is the work fulfilling? Is there room for growth? How far is it? Is the company flexible? How many vacation days do you get? And those are just a few questions off the top of my head that all contribute to the bigger picture. A high-paying job may have little to no room for growth with a cruddy work environment and an hour commute to and from the office. Over time, this will leave you so depleted your quality of life suffers. How happy will you be with your paycheck then? I'd be willing to bet not as much.
That's because money is not the true measure of value. Similarly, analytics is not the true measure of creative success.
I'll give you a personal example, I began a blog to escape a 9-5. I wanted to step outside the traditional agency model and explore writing and content marketing. While my blog traffic steadily increases and has a loyal following, it is a far cry from the millions of hits some bloggers enjoy. However, after starting my own blog and basically giving myself a masters in owning, editing and running an online platform, I excelled at a valuable skill set. This afforded me a lot of opportunities and multiple projects to do what I loved working my own schedule.
If I measured the success of this blog in its analytics, I'd be disappointed and caught in a world of comparison. But the moral of the story is: value is multidimensional. It's nearly impossible to measure the success of a creative piece if it all depends on views. In my case, I was able to transform and drastically improve the quality of my life and career. I'm happier, I'm a better writer and I'm getting paid to do what I love. That is pretty valuable for me.
You can do more with less than you think
I recently began to read Money: Master the Game by Tony Robbins. It's an excellent read for anyone looking to take charge of the abyss that is finance. Great how-to guide for us less mathematically inclined creatives. In one of the introductory chapters, he makes you go through an exercise about estimating how much money you'd need to live the lifestyle you want. We're talking baller status: private jet, no job, travel, cars–– the whole nine. And in every single instance that number is significantly less than what's projected... for everyone, myself included.
We can do so much more with less than we think.
For many people this means the life of their dreams is actually much more achievable than they thought... and that can absolutely be applied to analytics.
A small, loyal following is far more valuable than people give credit for. If your goal is to connect with people, giving one-on-one attention to a select number of followers can be more impactful. Fostering these relationships can exponentially grow your reach as a result. There is no more powerful marketing than word of mouth. If you have the opportunity to truly touch someone's life and change it for the better–– even in simple ways–– they will recommend you to their tribe. This slower, organic growth is also a surefire way to attract the right audience, and the right audience is ALWAYS better than a bigger audience. If your measure is just numbers, you could miss out on your niche. These are the people that stay with you because what you offer is relevant to them and makes their lives better.
Businesswomen I wholeheartedly respect, like Marie Forleo, have similar values. While I'm sure her engagement is not tiny by any means, she keeps her company and work smaller on purpose. She has a successful course she teaches once a year and she has never raised the price. Why? Because her values are to make an impact on fellow entrepreneurs and raising her price point would change that. Similarly, she has a really successful Youtube channel and releases weekly episodes interviewing successful people and giving her audience personal insight. Could she host a TV show? Oh yea. Does she? Nope. She recently said in a live webinar interview, "I'd rather a smaller business with higher profits any day of the week."
Rome wasn't built in a day
As a writer, I will be the first to attest that hearing an overnight successful story sucks. When you admire an artist and look to their story for inspiration, it's tough when they seemingly got lucky or reached success in a short period of time. These cases do happen, and I wish dumb luck on all my fellow artists trying to make it. Seriously. However, it's not realistic. For every one person who stumbled upon success, there are 500 who took years to get to the same level.
The truth is slow and steady wins the race. There are so many artists who have been doing their thing for a long time before one of their projects attracted that magical luck factor or deeply resonated with a large audience. Which leads me to the next important reason on why analytics matter to a certain degree...
What's your reason?
If you are trying to gain a following through your work, that simply cannot be your only reason to create. Multiple greats have alluded to this same idea. Artists create because it's inside them. You need to be committed to your craft and thoroughly enjoy what you do for the sake of doing it. If you're writing because you want to be famous, your writing will probably never reach that level because something made from that space would never fully connect with someone. It's usually the work we make out of a purely selfish desire to express ourselves that gets someone to react when they read it. Everyone has read or seen something that just nailed how they felt. You know the type... it makes you immediately text your friend the link because someone just stepped into your head and regurgitated your experience. That is the magic right there, and you can only reach that spark by creating something that came from a real place. Analytics-driven work is not that.
The bottom line: Back to the basics
If you're in an industry where all this is fine and dandy but you need to hit some numbers, I can understand that. And after being on both sides of this dilemma, I have found that usually you have to go back to the basics to see why your work may not be connecting. As I said above, authenticity is huge. If you're not making something from a real place, it's probably not going to create that moment when someone interacting with your work just gets it.
I've often found, for my own work included, if you're lacking in engagement and you've tried researching and applying the practical approaches to growing your following (SEO, social media, consistent content flow, etc), then I'd encourage you to go back to the basics. What is the purpose behind what you're doing and what does achieving those numbers really mean? Most people (again, myself included) get swept up in the need to be huge and they forget what they're doing. Or it could be the opposite case. Maybe you've gone on autopilot and you're just pumping out work without really thinking about it.
I'm willing to bet if you poke enough holes in it, you probably need to switch up your content. I can also tell you capturing people's engagement in an overly saturated world is not easy, and if you're only objective is getting great analytics then you will likely have a rough time succeeding. You can tell a piece of work that brings value to your life and one that lacks heart. You wouldn't waste your time reading something that lacked heart, so why would you expect an audience to?