As a publisher, it’s been fascinating for me to watch the shifts in where and how Offbeat Bride reaches its readers. When Pinterest launched, suddenly a huge portion of our traffic started coming in from a brand new channel that simply hadn’t existed the previous year. As more and more people have shifted from using desktop computers to mobile phones, we watched mobile traffic from Facebook rise steeply — especially in the evenings, when folks are home watching TV browsing their Facebook feeds during ads.
This past year, I’ve been fascinated by the growing influence of Instagram. Of course Offbeat Bride has been on Instagram for years, but it’s always been a relatively small following — we’re talking 17k Instagram followers as compared to 155k on Facebook.
What’s interesting about those 17k followers is that they’re super duper engaged. Not in the wedding sense (although that too) but in the “interacting with our content” sense. An average post on Facebook might reach 10k people out of our 155k followers. A recent post on Instagram had a reach of 4.5k out of 17k followers. Let’s compare reach here — on Facebook we reach roughly 5% of our followers with an average post. On Instagram, we can reach 25% of our followers with a single post. THAT IS FUCKING POWERFUL!
Of course I could always pay to boost our posts on Facebook to reach more of our followers. That is absolutely an acceptable thing to do! I have some measure of pride, however, about how Offbeat Bride’s traffic is organic. All of it! Always has been! That’s just how I do business. I like to believe that consistently producing quality content results in traffic. It doesn’t really work that way any more, sometimes… but I am stubborn. Consistent quality content matters! Hurrumph!
There have been times when the shifts in social media has been depressing for me — we regularly get messages from followers on Facebook who say things that make it clear that they’ve never consciously visited the website, or know how to use its search function. They don’t really know there is an offbeatbride.com.
For these folks (which I’d guess is tens of thousands of people!) their experience of Offbeat Bride is strictly within the blue walls of Facebook. They follow our page, maybe they see content when the algorithm serves it up in their feed, they click the content if it’s interesting, the content is then renders it within Facebook’s built-in browser, they read the content on Facebook, and then they go back to browsing Facebook. They sometimes write and say things like “I’m so glad your page exists — it’s my favorite wedding thing on Facebook!” and and I cringe — I’ve spent a decade building this website! It’s a website! Not a page!
The same is true of Instagram. I see a lot of comments that are like “@madisonjayne You should totally follow this insta!” But… we’re… a website? DOES ANYONE EVEN KNOW WHAT A WEBSITE IS? And then I cry into my dedicated server and self-hosted WordPress install and feel like a dinosaur. (A side note: leave it to me to be crying over Offbeat Bride’s 1.6 million monthly pageviews — the reach of offbeatbride.com is fucking enormous! I just get emo when I feel like folks on social media don’t even know it’s there.)
As the years march on, however, and I watch content shift increasingly to third-party social media platforms, I’ve stopped fighting it. Save those tears for bigger problems. People want to interact with Offbeat Bride on Instagram instead of their web browser? Rad! Let’s post more photos on Instagram!
This is yet another example of something I first wrote about almost five years ago in a post called Changing your tools to meet your online community’s needs.
If I’ve learned anything from a decade of online community management, it’s that you cannot teach people how to use your community “correctly.” Your members will use the tools you make available the ways that suit them, and time spent trying to convince them to use them differently is just a waste of moderator energy. Your tools MUST match the needs of your community — if your members are not using the tools the way you intended, then you need to reassess the tool.
This is just the social media content management version of that concept — trying to convince readers that they should visit a website instead of browsing Facebook or Instagram is an epic waste of time. I mean, I’ve always thought RSS was awesome, but I stopped promoting it as something my readers should use years ago because, you know what? NO ONE USED IT. You gotta go where your readers are.
Here in 2016, it’s become clear that my readers are on Instagram… and you know what? I understand why! I’m on Instagram all day, because I love it! Instagram Stories are my new favorite toy! So why not invest in Instagram as a content management system? We still publish three posts a day, five days a week on offbeatbride.com — but now I post at least once a day on Instagram, too.
It should go without saying that, from a business strategy level, we’re also investing heavily in exploring Instagram as a revenue driver. If you’re a business who wants to learn more about that, you should totally email Tiffany. She’d loooove to talk to you about it.