On crickets, cheerleaders, and curmudgeons: How to know if your perspective resonates

Sharing your perspective with your audience is essential to differentiate yourself from your peers. But how do you know if you are clearly conveying your perspective and if it is resonating with the intended audience?

Building your reputation is a long game, but staying attuned to other people’s reactions to your work can help you determine if you’re on the right path.

What if you share your perspective and no one responds?

Everyone who publishes articles, blog posts, social media posts, or an email newsletter is familiar with the experience of sharing something they believe is particularly important and insightful, eagerly awaiting the crowd’s response, and hearing nothing but silence.

And one lonely cricket in the distance.

What does that mean? Does it mean no one cares what you have to say? Or that your perspective isn’t resonating with your audience? Or does it mean the piece you spent a lot of time crafting wasn’t clear?

Most of the time, you won’t receive any material feedback. Silence is the standard response.

Participation inequality is a well-studied phenomenon. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, user participation in social media and online communities (including blogs) generally follows a 90-9-1 rule where the vast majority of users do not engage with the content — they may read and observe, but they do not like, comment, or post. Approximately 9% of users engage to some extent on occasion. But it’s the 1% who post, like, comment, and stay engaged. And even then, the response they provide may not be valuable.

How can you improve the quality (and quantity) of responses?

Sharing your work on a social media platform or through your email newsletter is unlikely to elicit many responses, and the responses you do get will probably not be terribly valuable. The key to increasing the number of responses is to ask for a response and make it easy for people to respond.

Most people won’t take the time to read your article closely, especially when you share it on social media. To increase engagement, write the post so the reader can comment intelligently even if they don’t read the article. Give them the context they need and ask a specific question that they can answer without further research.

Yes, your goal is to get people to read your work. But that only happens if the right people know about it. When it comes to social media, the only way to get more people to know about your work is to increase engagement on your post. The more comments you get, the more people you reach.

To receive high-quality feedback, you need to make a specific request of specific individuals — and I don’t mean tagging them in a social media post.

If you want someone to put time and energy into responding to what you’ve written, you must put time and energy into crafting your request.

Be clear about the type of feedback you want. Only you know what kind of feedback is valuable to you. A general request, such as “I’d love your thoughts on this piece,” is a big ask. It not only requires the recipient to read the article but forces them to either ignore your request or spend time trying to guess which kinds of “thoughts” you want them to share with you.

If you want good feedback, ask good questions.

In your request, give the recipient a bit of context about the article and why you are asking for their opinion. Then, ask a few specific questions. For example, “This article was inspired by the conversation we had at the conference last month. One of the points you made was that you don’t feel like you have a deep enough understanding of how artificial intelligence works, how it might be deployed in a manufacturing facility, or what red flags you should be aware of as you adopt this technology. I address each of these issues in this article. Did I provide you with the information you need? Does it raise any new questions for you? What do you wish I had addressed but didn’t? I’d be happy to receive your response by email or, if you’d prefer, we could hop on a call.”

Keep in mind that just because their feedback is important to you doesn’t mean it’s important to them. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they have good intentions. Giving meaningful feedback takes effort, so the recipient of your request may not respond immediately. Even with the best intentions, they may forget about your request as they focus on more urgent matters.

Don’t take it personally.

What if the only accolades are from your peers?

It is not uncommon for the article you publish to garner a lot of attention from your peers but absolutely no attention from your intended audience. Your peers know you and have a deep understanding of the topic you wrote about, so it isn’t surprising that they would respond to your writing.

That’s great news!

It means you are adding to the conversation and not to the noise. And it positions you as an expert among experts.

Remember the 90-9-1 rule? Just because your prospective clients aren’t engaging in the conversation doesn’t mean they aren’t listening to it.

Keep that in mind as you respond to your colleagues. Look for opportunities to add more depth to the article and showcase your understanding.

What if prospective clients disagree?

What if a prospective client vehemently (and publicly) disagrees with something you wrote?

Depending on how your client expresses themselves, your reaction can range from defensiveness to anger to curiosity. The most important thing is to remember that even though this one person is the one engaging with you, others are listening.

So, read negative comments carefully. Are you sure you are interpreting them correctly? Might you be misinterpreting something they said? If so, ask a clarifying question. Similarly, if they have a point, acknowledge it. Take this as an opportunity to dig in deeper together.

You can often turn a negative into a positive simply by the way you engage with criticism. Even if you don’t persuade the person you are in conversation with, remember that others are watching, and you may persuade them! Most people online do not engage — they lurk. Sometimes your primary audience isn’t the person engaging with you; it’s the lurkers.

If you’re engaging with someone criticizing your work and they become combative or disrespectful, remember that you don’t have to respond. You don’t owe them anything, and your ability to maintain your composure will be noted by others. An argument requires both people to fuel the fire. You have the right to disengage.

If you are engaging with someone criticizing your work and you decide that they are right — that what you wrote either wasn’t accurate or was missing a bit of nuance, that’s okay. Acknowledge it, and thank your interlocutor for engaging in the conversation with you and sharing their perspective. This will further your relationship with the person engaging with you and show others that you are open to other people’s perspectives and willing to change your mind when warranted.

If the argument stops being productive, simply don’t engage in it. It’s okay to agree to disagree. Again, others will be watching and respect the way you handle it.

Finally, if you lose this prospective client because they disagree with you, they probably weren’t a very good prospect to begin with.

Keep sharing your perspective.

Sharing your perspective with your audience is essential to differentiate yourself from your peers. Your perspective is valuable as long as you add to the conversation and not the noise. Adding to the conversation sometimes means people will voice their agreement. And it sometimes means they will voice their disagreement.

A complete lack of response does not mean that your writing adds to the noise. Most people don’t engage with online content — they read it but don’t necessarily reach out to the author or comment on a social media post. The best way to get a sense of whether your article is valuable is to share it with a specific person and ask that person a specific and relevant question.

Building your reputation is a long game.

Keep going.