The term ‘silent majority’ has existed for many years, but is probably best known for being related to President Richard Nixon calling for national solidarity on the Vietnam War effort. Of course, that whole historical connection is not what I intend here. Instead, I very much appreciate the ‘silent majority’ for an entirely different reason.
My application of the term ‘silent majority’ is much closer to how it was used during the Presidential Campaign for Calvin Coolidge, referring to him as the “everyman” candidate; this strategy worked as he would ultimately get into office. It’s become popularized again recently by the Donald himself, and while he’s certainly right about its existence, as with so many things he likes to quote for his own embellishment, he rather missed the point, and probably just was trying to copy Coolidge, a fellow Republican candidate on his own 2016 trip to the White House.
The definition I choose for this essay is the one that’s available from Cambridge Dictionaries Online in regards to this term: “a large number of people who have not expressed an opinion about something.” My issue with social media is that those who actually speak up on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, are not the majority view of any given topic. My realization of just how toxic the social media atmosphere of 2022 has become led to me completely ditching social media in exchange for a “silent majority” approach. This essay will delve into why I chose this route, and perhaps, why you might consider a similar approach in your own life.
This morning, I revised a piece called “The Struggle With Stats – Views Aren’t Everything.” While it needed quite a bit of editing, the main crux of the article was still sound. I still kept in most of my initial social media advice, but with the disclaimer that social media platform algorithm changes can torpedo that avenue in a hurry if you’re not in very particular niches. Of course, this was yet another way to link to my September 2022 post about why I chose SEO over social media to boost my online presence, and why I ultimately deleted my social media accounts permanently.
To replace what were initially the other articles in the Struggle with Stats series, which were about followers and interactions, is going to be this new article discussing how my relationship with followers and interactions has changed drastically since my initial writing of the series in 2018. My focus here is what lead me to instead focus on what I have come to call the “silent majority” as my intended audience.
My Decade-Plus Career as a Content Marketing Specialist
Starting in 2009, I delved full time into understanding social media marketing as part of my marketing assistant job for an independent regional building materials dealer. I was purely self-taught; my college courses to that point were purely meant as a poor excuse of a liberal arts education with no applicable training to anything outside of academia. So, I read a lot of articles from Neil Patel (who ended up being one of the leaders in the field) and websites like Content Marketing Institute to better understand the role of social media and SEO in digital marketing.
Applying these skills gave me a decade-plus career in content marketing, mostly freelancing with article writing and social media management. It wasn’t a glorious career, and without the degree prerequisite for a full-time position in these fields, it didn’t pay that well, either. This isn’t to say I was against the idea of getting a degree; on the contrary, I simply no longer had the financial resources to do so, as I was forced into paying my student loan debt because of an issue I had with class scheduling, Yes, that’s the real reason I quit college; I had no choice but to start paying back my loans.
My theory that the work experience was much more important than paying for a subpar state college education proved correct. Unfortunately for me, eventually masters degrees became the ground floor to get into the better paying social media and SEO jobs, so I was forced to take the scraps the bigger firms didn’t want. You might ask what all this has to do with the ‘silent majority,’ and this is where I drop the big one.
The most important thing I learned from my experience over twelve years as an article writer, SEO specialist, and social media manager is that the majority of your interactions are invisible. That’s right. For all the likes, shares, and comments you may or may not get, the vast majority of your views will come from people who actually find your content entirely useful, but simply and silently let it rattle around in their brains, leaving you mostly unaware of their existence. But, the web based analytics like Google Analytics let you know, yes, they were on your page for long enough to peruse your work. So, the ‘silent majority’ believe it or not, is mostly what I wrote for, and my approach worked for every client I ever had.
My troubles didn’t come until I decided to succumb to the vocal minority, dumping far more of my time and effort into building presences on social media platforms, dumbing down my content into bite-sized pieces, and chasing keyword phrases that were just a bit too competitive for me to rank. Between the years of 2013 and 2020, I found myself saying lots of things that sounded good in theory, but weren’t actually working for me behind the scenes.
My clients, few and far between as they truly were, however, seemed to still benefit. It seems that if you have a niche business venture, all you need to do is a bit of keyword research, write up a few articles to bridge the content gap, and you’re golden. The same is true if you’re pushing corporate products through an affiliate program, but the pickings got slim by 2019 and I let those go.
But, if your only aim is to actually educate people, with no expectation of receiving monetary compensation outside of maybe support on Patreon, good luck with that. As someone who is completely uninterested in producing video content – I tried that and it went fairly poorly – it’s become very hard to make it as an independent writer with very much indie perspectives. You’re not going to benefit from your typical keyword and data driven approach, unless you do what few are going, and go all-in on the long tail approach. This is what I finally did, starting in 2022.
Sure, I’ve gotten lucky with The Phoenix Desertsong, as about three-quarters of my views come to my Pokemon analysis articles. Despite all of these views, however, and the generous time visitors spend on these pages, I get no comments and very few likes or shares. But, searchers on Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ecosia, Baidu, and others all can’t get enough of my content. Occasionally, I’ll get a contact about how much they enjoy my content and even share it with their Pokemon obsessed children. While I never wanted my personal website to be predominantly a Pokemon blog, that’s sort of what it’s become since 2021.
This is why I branched out into Substack, where it seems a great many ‘silent majority’ readers have flocked. There many writers have taken a similar approach to me; taking a conversational approach with their audience, eschewing the overly polished and very business-like approach that’s become so common in online content. I still have plenty of articles that need to be altered into a more conversational tone, and as they are, they suddenly get a few random views daily. Finding Substack, which was actually a fortunate accident, was the best thing that ever happened to me as a writer.
What’s Really Wrong with Social Media
It may seem bizarre that someone who dedicated nearly a decade of her existence touting the benefits of social media could so suddenly ditch it entirely. But, this decision was a long time coming. Between becoming a full-time freelancer in 2013 and just this year, I still hadn’t entirely given up on it. But, my first victim was Facebook, in mid-2020, for a variety of personal and professional reasons. I don’t miss it at all, but mainly because of my extremely mixed bag of interactions between 2013 and 2020.
One of my primary outlets for article promotion was Facebook Groups. While there are many good groups out there I’m sure, I kept running into the ones who had extremely strict participation requirements; I’d follow them to the letter and still get banned. Other times I’d simply not fit into a certain niche or clique. Perhaps my “worst” quality when it comes to social media is that I refuse to pigeonhole myself into any sort of niche; hence why I wrote articles, but also did SEO and social media. I like to diversify, which is what any truly good entrepreneurial mind should ponder.
Twitter was always my favorite platform, and it always got me a ton of interaction. I’ve had many thousands of followers on various accounts over the years. My most recent had nearly 6,000 followers, but after a heated exchange with a particularly nasty “Karen” in late 2020, my interactions pretty much evaporated.
In 2021, my clicks from Twitter rebounded a bit, providing about 10 percent of my overall views through little more than automatic posts from WordPress. But, the regular retweets and comments had pretty much disappeared, and my account’s growth stalled. In 2022, the interactions and clicks evaporated almost entirely, finally leading me to cut ties with my favorite social media platform, the very one on which I met my partner Tom Slatin, which probably led me to keeping it longer than I should have. LinkedIn and Pinterest followed suit on the purge list, as they got me single-digit views for the entirety of the first eight months of 2022.
This isn’t to say that social media is an absolute toxic wasteland, but that’s what it proved to be for me. Deleting my accounts was a huge weight off of my shoulders, and I’ve been more productive as a writer since early September 2022 than I’ve been in my entire life. Dedicating myself entirely to SEO as my promotion technique has worked wonders, boosting my organic search traffic by 30 to 40 percent within a month. I now have a workflow which entirely revolves around reading good Substack newsletters, high quality curated articles, taking copious notes, and dropping my ideas into several buckets that I have designated days to work on almost exclusively.
Social media did nothing but throw a wrench in everything. Even when I took time off from it, social media lurked in the background like a predator constantly on the prowl. I’d post something, let it auto post to Twitter and LinkedIn and forget about it. Now, because SEO is my primary focus, I constantly go back and tweak and tinker as I discover where the organic search traffic is coming from. I’m chasing the long-tail, just as I did in my early freelancing days, and now I’m finally reaping the benefits of my work experience, just as all of us inevitably should.
What Followers and Subscribers Mean to Me Now
When I first authored my Struggle With Stats series back in 2018, I was still focused on my Twitter following and my WordPress subscribers. While I still do care about people following me through WordPress Jetpack, very few of my views come from that avenue any more. Now that my Twitter feed is gone, my new focus is my own website views and whatever I’m getting out of Substack. I amassed 14 subscribers almost immediately, a number which didn’t change for three weeks, although my overall views increased.
But, because everything on Substack is something I’ve either written previously or have scheduled for the future, it’s only ten extra minutes of work every week to schedule out a post or two for Wednesdays and Sundays. Any growth I get on that platform is purely a bonus, and meanwhile, it gives me an idea of what the Substack audience prefers. For example, I don’t post my Pokemon content there, focusing more on my essays about mental health for creatives, writing about writing, and definition essays like this one.
I now get fewer interactions and comments than I ever did, even after opening a 14-day window to comment on my newer articles. I just get the occasional spam bot and contact forms about guest posting or SEO services, despite the disclaimer that those contacts will be automatically marked as spam.
However, my views are actually stronger than they’ve been in several years, and while they’re much lower than my peak (I used to get 1500 to 2000 daily views consistently on my primary websites), they’re not bad for a two-year old website that’s still finding itself. Just like your typical business, a website often takes three to five years to actually gain traction, sometimes as many as seven to ten. This isn’t to say you can’t succeed within a year with a website, but it’s highly unlikely.
Still, The Phoenix Desertsong isn’t meant to be anything but free; Substack is my potential avenue for offering paid content, and if that doesn’t work out I may choose Patreon instead. Since I’m now in a position where I no longer need to work online for my primary income, this is all just a very time-consuming hobby for me.
My entire writing life is now focused on writing for the ‘silent majority’ that has long supported me, and indeed the vast majority of content creators since the beginning of the Internet. Honestly, if you’re feeling down about your social media accounts and blogs being ignored, forget about the stats for a moment and ask yourself what the world needs to hear most from you, then write about that.
Even if you’re not a writer by trade or hobby, you still should start a blog, even if it’s a free one on Blogger, WordPress, or even LiveJournal. Get your thoughts out there, and say what needs to be said. We all need an outlet to express ourselves, and you might be surprised that over time, even the “worst” writers can become effective communicators.
Today, I only care about quality views, those who actually remain on my site long enough to fully digest an article, even if it’s only 100 a day; I typically have more overall views, but those are my long-tail keyword seeking friends who appreciate my content the most. When it comes to followers, subscribers, comments, or shares, they’re all just icing on the cake. If I get them, great, but I’d rather people instead link back to my work if they find it helpful, preferably on their own blogs.
What do you feel the ‘silent majority’ needs to hear from you today? Just keep in mind that leaning on those who are still undecided on certain topics has won entire presidential campaigns. So, in the grand scheme of things, you’ll find an audience much more quietly, yet effectively than you may realize by taking this approach.