I’ve been blogging since about 2013 [which makes this one of the longest-lived, and, by the way, most comprehensive independent art and criticism blogs out there], but haven’t really analyzed my audience data until now. I’ve looked at my stats, but other than taking the results at face value — how many views, of what posts, and from where — haven’t tried to cobble the pieces together and retool my strategy based on it.
My stats give me numbers, but not percentages, and I’m a visual guy, so I decided to make pie charts. My years as a long-term-temp-without-benefits working for a private investment bank gave me the skills to make boring-ass charts in Excel. Behold my all-time views, and where they come from:
There’s good news and bad news. Fully 83% of my views come from internet searches. This is great, I think, because I don’t have to do any self-promo to get those views, and I hate self-promo.
The next 11% comes from Facebook, but I don’t know if it’s my Facebook participation (highly unlikely), or that some of the 83% of my audience shared articles on their own Facebook pages, and because it’s such a huge platform, I get those views also with little or no effort on my part.
After that comes Google +, and in that case I think it was my sharing articles there, but that only accounted for less than 3% of my views.
WordPress and its Android app together accounted for a meager, joined 2%. This lets me know that all my followers combined, here, are a tiny fraction of my actual audience, and all the tit-for-tat and backscratching one needs to do to get views from the WordPress community directly aren’t worth the time and effort. Others may get much better results. I notice that a few of the people who always like my posts, sometimes faster than they could possibly have read them, get the most likes on their material. I’m guessing they either use a bot, hire someone to like a bunch of stuff on their behalf, or dedicate significant time to tit-for-tat.
So much of social media is exactly that: you like my shit and I’ll like yours. I don’t like engaging in that at all, and only do it with people who’s content I actually like, but my stats show that in my case it accomplishes next to nothing.
Everything else is less than 1%, and I only showed the top 10 referrers.
There are two ways I can interpret this. One is that I don’t really need to bother much with self-promo because the vast majority of people are discovering my content through search engines. The other is that I’m shit at social media, and the numbers reflect that.
Even if the latter were true, the solution would involve me spending more time on social media, doing more tit-for-tat, and becoming a bit of an annoying presence (as I find artists who self-promote a lot to be). Doing a lot more of that would likely have only a marginal impact on my total views. I think it’s not worth the effort, and largely because I find social media in general to be a rather toxic environment, and an enormous time sump.
Consider reddit accounted for less than 1% of my views, but around 90% of my abuse. Twitter got me more views and I’ve barely used it at all, and gave up early on when I got no views on multiple posts in a row.
My stats for last year show the same sorts of trends:
Now, internet searches account for even more of my views, hitting almost 90%. Facebook has trailed off to a mere 3.5%, and this could be due to me participating at less than an absolute minimum to maintain a presence. I’m quite sure I spend less time on FB in a month than a teen does in one afternoon, and I may be being generous there.
Reddit crept up to a miserable 1.1%, and I mean that in two senses: total views and the cost of them. Feedback from reddit tends to be quite nasty. It’s definitely not worth the effort.
Another thing to consider is quality of views, which I have no way of deciphering. One of the reasons I still bother with Instagram [even though the new algorithms have placed such a bottle-neck on my traffic that I have to put in about ten times the effort to get an equal amount back], is that I engage with real artists and even galleries, and I’m almost exclusively sharing pics of my art. That said, it’s pretty dismal. If I share a new work, I’ll get less than 100 likes. It’s hardly better than an email list, and my growth on that platform is absolutely pathetic. My niece, who is relatively new to Instagram, gets ten times as many views for one of her poses in a bikini.
And here’s a funny thing about my Instagram participation. I have to force myself to do it. I use a timer, set it for 6 minutes, and I’ll use the platform until the buzzer goes off. My average for the day for IG for this year is not even 6 minutes. I’m behind.
My stats here are pretty bad, too, but, at least it’s my own space, and most people who view my content aren’t expecting anything in return.
I have a grand total of 678,720 hits. That’s a lot if one considers even 10% of them spend any time with my content. That’s tens of thousands of people I wouldn’t reach if I didn’t have a blog. I also get a lot of hits from colleges where some of my articles are assigned reading, I’m supposing (though in what context I don’t know). But my total views for all my work is eclipsed by one fart prank video.
My practical goal is to get to where I can scrape by via making art. Another goal is just to reach more people. It’s not really wanting attention — I much, much prefer any attention was on my work rather than me — but needing to reach as many people as possible in order to attract the few who might make it possible for me to survive as an artist.
What I’m doing now isn’t working well enough, so doing more of the same may never pay off. Obviously I need to make some adjustments. I know I should be submitting my work to large venues, and am planning that.
In terms of my blog, what I’ve learned here is that social media is not worth my time or effort. The effort I do dedicate to it gives poor results and isn’t my idea of fun, and doing even more of it looks like a potentially toxic waste of time.
It would be better to improve my site so that the people who come here because of my articles (and I do well in searches because, I like to think, my articles show quality), explore more, and I get more viewers through searches. The time spent fielding personal attacks alone from social media could easily be dedicated to more articles, re-tooling my site (I haven’t updated my indexes in over a year), and making more art.
2 replies on “Where I get my views, and what I can learn from it.”
I was lucky enough to find one of your essays on Reddit before it got downvoted to invisibility. I came to your site and liked the criticism articles, so I keep up with you now with my RSS reader. One of the things on my “to do” list is to sign up for Patreon, and when I do, I’ll send a couple bucks/month your way.
I didn’t even know you had an Instagram until I read this post. It would be a good idea for you to remind people of your different points of contact in the body of your posts. The problem with social media is that you can’t half-ass it. You have to be posting stuff pretty regularly to get people familiar with seeing your name.
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That’s interesting that you discovered me on reddit. That indicates some of the roughly 1% of my views coming from there are quality. It might be worthwhile to share articles there, but not to engage with the negativity. As you noted, my posts get voted down to zero, and this will happen with no attempt to make an argument as to why, especially since I started calling people out on personal attacks being a logical fallacy.
Ah, just got another really nasty comment today, and the moderators let it fly. I’ve now disabled any email notifications from reddit. I may post there, but best if I ignore comments. If anyone really has something intelligent to say to me, they’ll probably say it here. There, they are jockeying for respect in the communities they are part of, or karma points, or whatever. Some, I gather, just want to appear smart (er than they are).
It seems my ideas really piss off a lot of people in the contemporary art world. Some guy in the “contemporaryart” subreddit banned me for sharing one of my articles, even though in the sidebar it says that blog posts about art that excites you are fine.
People seem to not understand what a moderator should do, and that down-voting and banning shouldn’t be for wrong-thought, but for being breaking the rules of civil discourse, and resorting to things like insults.
I kinda’ think the art_theory subreddit loves to hate me. However I try to interpret it, I get overwhelmingly negative feedback from reddit, but a few highly supportive comments.
Your observation about social media strike me as true. One has to be dedicated to constantly being in people’s faces. Not really my style. It might be worth doing more on IG. I currently only post when I finish a new piece. Other artists post everyday. But, come to think of it, one guy who I follow posts multiple things every day and he has hardly any followers as well.
Probably best for me to not invest any more time there than I already do, which is the bare minimum.