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Should we be trying to build an online audience?

Should we be trying to build an online audience?
This week we talk about the phenomenon of 'social media grifting' - trying to build an audience online through deliberate tactics.

This week we talk about the phenomenon of 'social media grifting' - trying to build an audience online through deliberate tactics. Most people think it's cringe, but we try to figure out whether it's objectionable. We also workshop Ali's book proposal.

Here are some of the highlights from our discussion:

Many people continue to downplay the potential benefits that Twitter or blogs could have on their personal growth and or career aspirations. How many people outside your personal and professional circle know who you are or what your passions? The goal should be to reveal and not to artificially create a brand for yourself. Social media is about bringing the real to the surface not a disingenuous version of yourself designed just to build social status.

However, there are very transparent tactics for building a following, especially on Twitter. Threads and listicles, for instance, are often created merely as engagement bait and Taimur argues that this reduces any semblance of authenticity and inhibits opportunities for personal growth. There is an ulterior nature of intentionally doing something for social status.

Part of the issue is that people use platforms such as Twitter in different ways. Twitter exemplifies some of the problems you get when you mix business incentives with personal incentives. Just like a networking event, some people are there to meet new people whilst others are there to make connections and hand out business cards. The problem is that it’s the same networking event or, in Twitter’s case, the same social media platform. Some people are going to see Twitter as a place where you need to be your authentic self whereas others see it as a place to grow your audience and business.

A purely performative mindset can detract from the authenticity of your social media. There are lots of people who don’t have a well-defined audience or business but still create engagement bait. This can be seen as a modern form of influencer theatre where people attempt to put on a performance to try to gain more status and influence and build an audience.

This performance is exposed through live dialogue and conversation. Talking is very different to editing videos, tweeting 280 characters or having to speak on a scripted podcast. You get a far greater picture of who that person is, whether they can speak on a subject with depth, can they ask thought provoking questions. You can only engage properly and deeply through dialogue and dialogue will quickly reveal if you’ve been hiding behind the veneer of posting apparently meaningful tweets that lack any real depth.

The more unique, personal, authentic and non-engagement bait is more likely to lead to meaningful and substantial personal development of your own interests.

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