Why Do Some Social Media Posts Fly While Others Flop?

Why Do Some Social Media Posts Fly While Others Flop?

Content creation is the ultimate version of building in public. I have been on social media for over 8 years. Some posts work, and others don’t. No matter how big my audience has gotten, that truth has remained. I used to get frustrated, but that did more harm than good.

A post that takes off and gets tons of engagement is validating and keeps creators going. A post that flops and gets no engagement is demoralizing and drives many creators to give up. Engagement and follower count are vanity metrics that eventually lead to a toxic relationship between content creators and social media.

Like the follower count inmy last post, figuring out why some content flies while others flop is an area of interest. I will explain how the game works and point you toward something far more essential to focus on.

The first rule of content creation is, “Creators must have a purpose beyond engagement.” I explain how data science makes money. I have worked to be the field’s chief revenue officer on social media. My purpose is aligned with what I believe. The connection is how I stay consistent and on message.

I know data science can make companies a lot of money. That thesis launched V squared, and my career transition into the field. It helped me land my first clients and deliver my earliest projects. Even today, that thesis unifies my value proposition across consulting services, content, and courses.

A creator’s purpose must be big enough to match their community-size ambitions. A 1M person community needs an equally significant purpose statement. Mine creates a big tent and attracts a range of follower segments.

It’s essential to see how a purpose statement expands or limits our communities’ size. Every purpose statement creates a central theme that’s uniform across all the creator’s content. Those constraints must allow for a breadth of topics and focus areas for a long-running stretch like mine.

Topics heat up and cool off. Each segment’s interest waxes and wanes. A giant purpose lets me follow my community’s interests from trend to trend and hold to a common theme. Consistent purpose keeps a community together over a long time span where topics and trends cannot.

The connection between community and creator purpose is central to figuring out why some content flies while others flop. I strung together 3 hugely successful memes over 3 weeks. My fourth should have been equally successful, and it absolutely flopped. So did my fifth.

In the last post, I explained my plan to leverage these memes for 3 more weeks to accelerate my follower growth by exploiting diverse network segments. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Something’s broken, and we’d better fix it, right?

That line of reasoning leads creators to analyze my post’s central question. Was it my hashtags?

Follower analysis for each hashtag isn’t very informative. If the follower count per hashtag influenced views, Meme 3 would have lagged behind Meme 4, and Meme 1 would have equaled Meme 3.

Early engagement rates were identical across all 5. I kept an eye on the trajectories; the only difference was the number of people who saw the post. The percentage of people who liked or commented was the same.

Was it dwell time or the amount of time a viewer stopped to look at each post? They were all similar lengths, and 3 of the 5 images took seconds to read. 2 of the memes had more text in the image, so if dwell time were a big deal, Memes 1 and 4 would have been outperformers.

The posts LinkedIn showed to more people did better. Why did LinkedIn’s recommender not promote Memes 4 and 5 as well? I have no idea, and I don’t care. Neither should any other creator.

What am I going to change? Nothing. Meme Friday continues, and this Friday’s meme is going to slay. 50K views or 5M; those people will laugh.

I’ll use the hashtags Data, Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, and Data Science. Is that because I’m gaming LinkedIn’s recommender? No. I think those most accurately capture the content.

Memes worked exceptionally well, and they will start working again. I am still teaching and achieving my purpose. Meme 2 taught the dangers of trusting the business’s assessment of its data maturity level. Meme 3 taught the need for data engineering and upfront investment before bringing data scientists in. Meme 4 covered some red flags to avoid when choosing a new job. Meme 5 introduced a critical data product adoption metric.

Out of the set, I think Meme 5 had the most valuable information, and many people saw it. Mission accomplished.

What worked in the past will start working again soon. There are always peaks and troughs. Staying true to my original purpose is the only way I have lasted 8 years.

I focus on actionable content. I want people to take something away that they can try immediately and see results from. Reading my posts from the last 3 months, I have been diving into complex concepts. Those posts are information-dense but are not as actionable as my posts used to be.

Readers must do a lot more thinking and evaluation before acting. For blog posts and courses, that’s excellent. I have the space to explore a topic more completely and give readers more to take away. LinkedIn is a much shorter format, so those posts should be designed to match.

Reading my older posts, they were shorter, more concise, and more actionable than my recent posts. Staying true to my purpose requires a change. I’m not responding to random fluctuations in post-performance, but I should respond to posts that perform poorly because the content isn’t as good.

It’s essential to differentiate those from each other. A post that flops doesn’t always require a change. A post that flies doesn’t indicate I should shift all my posts to match. Creators must make changes when their posts stray from their purpose. If they don’t, the community leaves. The same happens when they make changes that move them away from their purpose.

I listen to my community’s feedback to tell one from the other. The posts that flopped got more constructive and positive feedback than the ones that flew (those were mostly positive as well). From a community perspective, the quality was uniform or slightly better.

My deeper dive posts got lower engagement to view rates. The comment rate and relevance were also lower. That tells me my posts were not clear and interesting enough. I should change in response.

I’ve done the same when too many people started agreeing with me on every post. I was no longer teaching people something new. New concepts get questions and pushback sprinkled into the comments that agree and support them.

These engagement metrics align with my purpose and give me deeper insights into their preferences. I ask for feedback here as well for the same reason.

The short answer to the original question is sometimes it’s random, and other times it’s a sign of a bigger problem. The only way to know the difference is to have a purpose statement, keep content aligned with it, and find metrics that help differentiate the two. Make changes when it’s an alignment problem. Ignore it when something outside of your control causes it.

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