The profound power of five blog readers

At the recent Social Slam conference, there was a ton of inspiring content from some of the greatest marketing minds around. And yet to me, the sentence from the day-long conference that has lingered in my mind came from the least-known speaker of the day.  She is not a marketer. She is not a social media expert. In fact, Social Slam was the first social media conference she had ever attended.

I invited Dr. Alice Ackerman, a pediatrician and college educator from Virginia Tech University, to relate her inspiring story of how she was connecting to her community through social media. She told the audience of her introduction to the social web through The Tao of Twitter and of her struggles to get approval to blog from the university medical community. She persevered and eventually got the go-ahead, but finding an audience for her blog posts was another matter.

Much of her first blogging efforts were aimed at educating the community on the importance of childhood vaccinations. But she had some doubt as to whether she was making an impact.  She displayed a chart displaying the lowly results of her blogging efforts.  For more than a year, her posts limped along.  In fact, she averaged 4.5 readers a day.

And then something magical happened when she received this tweet:

Dr. Ackerman is the person who changed my mind once I read her blog and her links. I had no idea that info existed.

And it was at this point that Dr. Ackerman delivered the line at the conference that received a thunderous applause from all the hard-working bloggers in attendance:

“Yes, I only had 4.5 readers a day on my blog … but I had an impact on one of them.”

I thought this was a profound lesson on many levels.

  • “Citizen Influencers” are using the power of online publishing tools to make a difference in unexpected ways
  • You never know when your words are making an impact
  • Tenacity, commitment, and patience make the difference in social media success

I think this is an inspiring message for any blogger out there. What do you think? Are you making a difference in big and small ways?

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  • It’s inspiring in the same way an inspirational speaker is inspiring, but I don’t think I’m optimistic enough to call it a success. Blogging is much too time consuming to be satisfied with reaching 1 person per year. Not to take anything away from Dr. Ackerman, but it just goes to show that it isn’t a medium for everyone – some people would do much better writing for a local newspaper or hosting a radio show. In fact, I’d presume that she is diverse in her involvement with other forms of media. If not, I’d definitely recommend her to give other channels a try to see if she can increase her reach. If her blog has valuable content, it may be exactly what she needs to reach the people who are looking for her content.

  • Respectfully, I think you missed the point. Her blog is doing fine. But even when it wasn’t in the first year, she had an impact. That’s important for all new bloggers to know. At least I thought it was : )   Thanks Adam.

  • Mark, what a wonderful post! I was just thinking today about how much I needed to tell you thank you for allowing me to tell my story at Social Slam. I am so awed that I have been able to inspire other bloggers, and reminded, as I have been many times in my life, that you never know who you are going to touch by even your most mundane action. And that is  humbling. I once gave a graduation speech to finishing 3rd year pediatric residents, entitled ” the inadvertent role model” In fact, I suspect that would make a great topic for a blog post (or several).

    What I discovered by attending Social Slam is just how nice most folks involved with social media are. That, too is a great lesson. 

    Thanks again.

  • Adam, I appreciate your advice, but as Mark said, that was not really the point of the story. And, yes, I have been active in diversified media within my community. The blog was a specific way for me to connect directly with the community. Let folks know I was there, for them. It is working. People I have never met walk up to me and know my name. Better yet, they know we have a children’s hospital. How many? I can’t tell you exactly. Can I dissect out the impact of the blog from our other marketing techniques? NO. But I can tell you that our marketing folks are using my experience to encourage other docs as well as our CEO to start blogging. Little by little we (docs who blog and are active in social media) are changing the face of medicine and hospitals, as well as medical education. Transparency becomes more important to the consumer of medical care every day, and this is one way to improve it.  

    My local media folks follow me on twitter, and read my blog. They know who to call when things come up that affect kids. I have accomplished much of what I set out to do. But there are still more challenges ahead.

  • Committing to the blogging for a year or so before you really see traction is needed, and it can take time to find your voice/target your niche a bit as well.

  • I liken those early months blogging to shouting into a dark cave, and it’s a great thing to when you find out someone is at the other end listening and being affected. I really enjoyed Dr. Ackerman’s presentation, and I think the message you relayed here is one that many people took away.

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  • On a personal level, I launched a new site earlier this year called Ten to Twenty Parenting. About 2 months after it launched, I received an email from a reader telling me the profound impact that it was having on her life. I saved that email so that when I get discouraged that the site hasn’t exploded like I think it should have, I can look at it and remember that even if it never does one person in the world has found some comfort in their storm and in some way, I was a part of that. That’s what it’s really about.

  • Yes!
    As I reflected upon the day on my drive back to Ohio, I too though about that one sentence that Alice had made. In fact I have taken to writing down the ‘one liners’ that I can recall. When the videos come out I will be mining for more of them.
    As interesting here is Alice’s declaration of the effects she is having in changing how the establishment view social media, and the effect in changing these views that blogging doctors are having.
    Way, way to go Alice.

  • I agree. I have been so humbled by the support, and yes even love, I am shown each day from people throughout the world who have connected with me through social media. What a wonderful time we are living in, the Era of the Citizen Influencers. It is will be exciting to see how far you can take these new tools to spread your word and your impact!  Thanks for being part of Social Slam! 

  • I agree completely. It was about the same for me. Took about a year before I found my “voice” and started to get some traction. Well said, sir.

  • Thanks Adam, it was so amazing to meet you at Social Slam. I’m sorry we didn’t have more 1-1 time but I am so fortunate to have met you! 

  • What a very beautiful story Kristen.  That is blogging all wrapped up right there. There is also an important lesson there in taking the time to let blogger KNOW they are making a difference. It can be thankless work at times. Many thanks for this tremendous comment!

  • Thanks for adding your wisdom today Billy.

  • Rosemary

    What nobody mentioned is that the person she impacted wasn’t just “inspired” generically. That person was a parent who was inspired to get her children vaccinated.  The impact wasn’t just one person at all; it is the pebble in the pond that affects all of the children who now come in contact with those vaccinated children, or who decide to vaccinate their children because this woman shares her own story.

  • Super Story, Mark. That’s been the single most rewarding aspect of my blogging journey… When someone leaves feedback to share that you made a difference in their perspective. That’s why I haven’t transformed into a daily blog yet – I don’t have the resources to write an impactful post every day. I’d rather keep to the 2 or 3 times a week if the material is strong enough to inspire someone.

    Thanks for bringing attention to this, great story.

  • Hello Mark, really sweet post. Congratulations on the sell out of your new book too

  • The thing I’m most impressed with is your dedication and perseverance Dr. Ackerman. Far too many people stop digging right before they find the diamonds. You kept at it, found the gem to keep you going, and now it sounds like you’ll have many more to follow. Next year, when Mark invites me to speak at social slam (:P), I hope I can deliver as strong of a message as you did. Take care and best wishes to you, Alice.

  • Absolutely. Dr. Ackerman’s story reminds me of the “Butterfly Effect” AKA “The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions” (Andy Andrews does an amazing job describing the concept in action). We never can be sure of how big our impact is going to be. When we share our messages with passion, caring, authenticity and effectiveness it will have an impact. We may never know the full extent of the positive impact they will have, but we shouldn’t minimize the value of what we all have to say. Thanks for the reminder on this!

  • I love knowing that I’ve helped someone through the words that I’ve written. I remember when Dr. Ackerman said that during her Social Slam speech — it had a big impact on the room. I think that is our goal when we are writing, that we’ll have some sort of impact on our readers. It’s amazing, however, to see it play out in such a heated topic like vaccinating our children.  I this case, I believe that having her blog completely change the mind of a parent is a HUGE success.

    Remember, it’s a ripple effect. You may only be averaging a few readers each day, but if you impact them, they will talk about your blog and share it to *their* network. Consistent quality posts work.

  • I can only hope to one day have such an impact. Part of why I have been blogging about how hard life has been is because it is all too common now. As I type this comment, I am staring down the barrel of uncertainty in my life yet again. My only hope is that others will realize they too are not alone.

    Kudos to Dr. Alice for keeping up the good work.

  • Great point Rosemary! 

  • Heck, even 2-3 times a week is going some! Wow, that’s impressive.

  • Sounds like a potential guest post! : )  Every blog post is a “flapping wing.”

  • Absolutely Tara. A wonderful comment! Thank you so much!

  • Of course you are having an impact. Sometimes it may not be obvious because people rarely take the time to say so. The business case for the social web is “you just never know.”  : ) 

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  • Billy,

    Great to bump into you here.  I’m originally from Michigan, but living in Ohio — may I ask where from?  

    ~Keri
    Who missed Social Slam, darn it!

  • Mark,

    I think we’ve all been there — Paddling the river with our 4.5 bloggers, wondering if we’re really making a difference.  And then, if we have any driven intention, eventually it comes that we realize.

    My smile is big — Thank you for sharing!

    Looking forward to your SMSS12 session…

    ~Keri

  • Great Keri. See you there! : ) 

  • Heather Meyer

    This is so exciting to read…Alice it has been great following your blog as it grows! I have certainly learned a lot and you are definitely having an impact in your community and beyond.

  • Kaicongroup

    Very encouraging to those who blog that the quality not the quantity is important. Know your audience or those who you feel need to hear your story to encourage them along the way.

  • I am from Belfast Northern Ireland. I currently live in Copley Ohio: which is just west of Akron. What part of Ohio are you living in now?

  •  Billy,

    I am located half-way between Cincinnati & Columbus, Ohio (Wilmington).  Thank you for sharing about yourself.  🙂

    ~Keri

  • Aww, Tony, thanks so much for the kind sentiment. This has been a wonderful journey so far, and its just begun. Can’t wait to hear you, whether at next year’s Social Slam or elsewhere. 

  • Billy, You have to stop being so nice. You are making the rest of us look like veritable ogres next to you. Only kidding–thanks again for the kind words. You know, I had NOT planned that “one liner” it just came out in the heat of the moment. I was truly stunned by the reaction, and the number of folks who live-tweeted it.

  • Oh I’ve yet to speak at a conference or event, yet, just planting a seed and giving Mark a chuckle on a Monday morning!

  • Ah! the audience gets you to give them these jewels. They pull them from you, and then they share them as they will. In your case we all enjoyed this wonderful moment. All the best Alice

  • Anything is possible!

  •  I’d love that! Let me know if you’d like me to put it together and I definitely will 😉

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  • Joyce Paik

    Nancy, even your comment here makes an impact. Mark, what a wonderful article. The confluence of Dr. Alice’s experience, Nancy’s bravery and your creating this supportive community as well as the platform for this type of content to be broadcast is exactly what blogging should be about. Just awesome.

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