So at little old team SaaStr, we historically did not really track social followers as a core metric. We’re B2B folks 🙂 But as SaaStr grew, first we started to build a list. That became our core community metric (list growth). But we also wanted to track engagement on Quora more closely. And then we saw a big pick-up on Twitter. And after that, LinkedIn.
So we decided to do a bit of a conceit and create a “Total Social Followers” metric. We have no idea how much overlap there is in here — probably a lot. But at least we can measure it. So we started measuring it about 30 months ago. And growth in 2018 for both our list and our social followers was pretty flat.
And then in 2019, we went further, and for the first time, set actual goals and KPIs. And then magic happened — our followers and list grew 🙂 To a million.
So the one re-learning is even if you measure it, if you don’t make it a Top 5 goal, it doesn’t happen. And it wasn’t a total 5 goal until 2019. And it wasn’t a goal at all in 2018. The year it didn’t grow at all.
Beyond that, as B2B folks living in a B2C world, here are my top learnings. They aren’t really that new if you’ve read similar posts in the past, but I still thought I’d collect them:
1. Each channel is different — and wants different content. You probably know this already, but if you don’t put in the work for each channel, it doesn’t perform. For us at least:
- on Twitter, folks want micro-blogs and new content (at least for us). 240 characters of new content that helps them. Importantly, recirculating content does NOT work for us on twitter. Promoting yourself works a little, but not a lot.
- on LinkedIn, you can promote yourself and your product a lot more. You probably already know this. Also, recirculated content seems to perform a lot better than on twitter.
- native video really works on Twitter and LinkedIn. there’s a reason you see so many videos there …
- on Quora, the game and algorithm have changed. Quora has grown 100x since we started answering SaaS questions there back in 2012-2013, and on a relative basis, other content is being promoted more. that’s OK, our presence there is still pretty strong, and we added a ton of subscribers to our Cloud Daily! news feed on Quora. But what worked in the past doesn’t work as well today.
- on our blog, all the traffic comes from social + Google search. You probably know this, but destination blogs are dead. What performs best on the blog is data-rich content. In 2019 and 2020, folks want data on our blog. Actionable data. Provide that, and you’ll get the views.
From a direct monetization perspective, for us at least, Twitter and the blog are the only channel that matter in the short-term though. Because they are the only ones that grow our list (see Point 3 below). Quora, LinkedIn, video, etc. are much more of a walled garden. And don’t move the needle for us much on list growth.
(An aside, yes, Insta, Snap, and other channels not listed are irrelevant for us today).
2. Every channel plateaus. We’ve written this before, and we’ve seen it again in 2019. Our Cloud Daily on Quora blew up in 2019, but now that it is at 300,000 subscribers, growth is much slower. Same with LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. More on that here.
3. The list is still gold. Email is still the best way to sell something for us. 50%+ of our event ticket sales come straight from our list. So we doubled-down here in 2019:
One thing I should have realized though is how much your list ages. We tracked unsubscribes, but not folks that moved email addresses (from one company to another). That ended up being about 20% of our list, since we’ve been doing this for a while! We had to work to recapture their contact information.
4. Podcasts remain a powerful mystery. We doubled our podcast to 2x a week in 2019, and that was a good call. We hit a 100,000 download pace on the podcast. But exactly how to grow an audience there, and why it grows, is a mystery. Also, promoting the podcast on the blog and on social don’t really seem to move the needle much. We’re actually not sure how folks discover our podcast. But folks do love it. Which leads to the next obvious learning …
5. Everyone learns differently. I can’t believe it took me so long to learn this, but it did indeed. Different folks learn … differently. I like a good podcast, but I only listen to 1 a week. But for other folks, the SaaStr podcast is the #1 way they learn. We launched SaaStr University just the other day, and it already has 2,300 members in less than 2 weeks! But in many ways, really all it is is a different way to consume our top content. And event content is something I never understood before our events. But some folks really learn the most from attending live events, and really thinking and learning from the speakers. Even though most of our top sessions are right on YouTube, and don’t require any travel time.
6. And perhaps most importantly, everyone needs a mentor. We added 5,000+ mentorship sesssions to our core global events in 2019 and will continue to grow this in 2020 at Annual, Europa, East and Scale. Doing this at scale is hard and complex, but we’re committed to it.
Our goal for 2020? Grow the list 50%, and our social followers 30%. Just going from 1,000,000 to 1,300,000 seems like a lot. But maybe, we can do better. Let’s see. For just our second year, we set a real goal and put it in our Top 5. That can only help.