I just stumbled upon an interesting article about online audiences. In this article, called I don’t know my online audience and neither do you, Mark Schaefer points out how you only see a very small amount of people who actually are in your audience. Those who comment and those who share or in any other way engage with the web content are the loud few. And that twists the whole thing. Because us bloggers are so obsessed in measurements it has created an illusion that the lack of engagement means a blog has no value.
But as Schaefer says we don't really know our online audience. Even less you know my online audience, since you only judge it based on the measurements you see. While I don't get those loud types coming over to my blog that much, I have a army of silent following. On the top of the ones I can see through Google Analytics I also know there are lots of those who don't like being part of the statistics. They deny the statistics to be collected thus don't show up anywhere. And I don't think this is a problem. It's their choice and I honour it. The "lurkers", as the silent ones are often called, aren't only on your blog. As an example on Twitter there are more visitors who don't log in than us who use it more actively. That means your Twitter account may have much more audience than you have followers and get @mentions and ReTweets.
I'm myself not the most enthusiastic commenter or don't even share posts that much. Well, sometimes I do, but often I don't. So I cannot blame the silent ones, being somewhat quiet myself. I also know that popularity brings popularity. Lots of people don't want to be the first one to comment. A friend of mine once told me she doesn't like to write comments she cannot edit afterwards. She's been known to read my posts, even though she generally keeps on not commenting. Additionally there are those who only comment to gain comments or think commenting is about SEO. For them a blog which doesn't appear to have other comments already isn't just good enough. They don't know about the silent ones and, if they do, they don't value them.
The importance of the silent ones can only be guessed. Because they don't always show up in your statistics you cannot really measure and analyse them. But they aren't without value. They can bring you sales, click the ads and they can even share and talk about your blog to bring in new readers and potential clients. As funny as it sounds offline is important part of your online marketing. There are also those who comment elsewhere, often in private. I get more emails, direct messages and even offline feedback about my blog posts than comments. Of course I wish I would get that feedback in the comments section, because that would be likely help my blog become more popular. But that feedback is valuable to me personally and it's what drives me to blog more.
I'm aware that most of my readers are the silent ones. This may seem like there's no value in my blog for those who don't understand this. Web is not all about engagement and it's not social for everyone. Some like to get the information and move on. Your online audience is mainly silent and it's quite okay.