Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Numbers in the age of social media

Just finished looking through the list of 20 people involved with journalism to follow on Twitter, as suggested in an article in the Society for Professional Journalists' Quill magazine. A good number of them I have been following for a while, and I may add many or all of the rest to my list as well.

But as I was clicking through to each individual's profile to learn more about them, I took a peek at how many followers each has, a number the Quill exposure should help to expand. Many are in the 3,000-4,000 follower range, a few top 10,000 and one -- NYU professor Jay Rosen -- has 35,000.

What occurred to me as I looked at the numbers was that the circulation of the first newspaper I worked at was around 20,000. And that was 30 years ago; it's probably smaller now. So even if we take Rosen out of the equation for a moment, about a quarter of the people on Quill's list have single-handedly built a readership base of nearly half what my first paper had as its readership. (And Rosen far surpasses it.)

Of course, your average recent college grad can't be expected to do quite as well as some of the established individuals on Quill's list -- though Quill did include at least two people whom I follow and thus recognized as recent grads: Suzanne Yada and Vadim Lavrusik, both in the 4,000-follower neighborhood. And my friend and former student Craig Kanalley, while he didn't make Quill's cut, has a following of around 3,500 a just a year out of grad school (and just two years after finishing at Fisher.)

But the Quill list offers some great examples of the ability of social media to help people become digital media entrepreneurs. If you're a smart, effective communicator with interesting things to say, the audience will find you. And you will reach them.

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