Tuesday 2¢: Minimal Viable Fame

The love-hate relationship many of us have with social media is the topic of this week’s Tuesday 2¢, how famous do we need to be?


This week I am inspired by a conversation with a chum that runs a successful podcast, but the audience (which seemed pretty bloody big to me) has plateaued, and they were pondering what to do next. Something I think we all consider, whether the audience for the thing we do is large or small.

And of course, with the title, I am riffing off the Seth Godin Minimum Viable Audience where he asserts that as marketers we need to “identify the smallest group that could possibly sustain you in your work”.

We dance with the social media devil, exchanging our privacy for reach, but how many followers is enough?

How popular does the thing you do, either for yourself or your company, have to be for you to feel it’s worthwhile?

It’s easy to get sucked into the need for more, but how many is that?

Any of us that create something do that trade between the time it takes to do the thing and the audience it attracts.

Does doing the thing justify the time?

When I talk to teams about vanity metrics, I often quote a lesson that I learned from one of my favorite former clients:

We did a content audit found some content with very few page views, tucked in the corner of their sprawling international B2B website. On the surface, a prime candidate for pruning, but when we interviewed the people in the business unit and looked a little deeper into the behavior, we discovered the content was depended on by a tiny but high-value customer segment that contributed a disproportionately large amount of revenue. The value of this content was not it’s popularity.

And I wonder if it’s like that with social media and these things we do. We are sucked into the hustle, that badge of follower honor, but by chasing quantity over quality, do we miss those high-value relationships?

After all, to get hired, get a client, make a connection that enriches your day doesn’t need you to be followed by the masses, just by the people that dig what you do.

Chasing the crowd means we start making decisions about what might be popular, we publish stuff we don’t care about, accept every connection, we court the popular people, we share stuff we don’t read, we follow too many people, we can’t engage, we broadcast.

To quote Seth Godin, from the same article, “if you aim for mass .. you’ll probably create something average. Which gets you not very far.”

When we start a thing, do we ever consider how many people need to like this for us to put the time in to continue to commit to it regularly, to show up on this social channel, blog or podcast?

Or even, do we ask if the vanity metric of followers is the right way to measure its success?

Rockstar CMO, one of the publications I look after, does not have a vast audience, almost certainly due to the nature of the content, our monthly publishing schedule, and probably my conservative promotion.

On the surface to attract an advertiser, or even some of the writers that approach us, being popular matters, and I’m only human, who doesn’t like to be popular?

But success also comes in the feedback and engagement we have with the audience through engaging content and people. It’s about the community, not that we published some lightweight linkbait listicle that briefly boosted our Google Analytics stats with a bunch of people that bounced right through.

Not thinking about this upfront is probably why so many blogs, podcasts, and social media accounts go dark. They start with the intention of gaining vanity metrics, and when the popular spark doesn’t light in the way they hoped, it became not worth their time, and there is no plan (or metric) B, to justify continuing.

If you are about to start a thing, or have a thing and not sure if you should continue, why are you doing it?

What’s minimum viable fame for you?