Is there anybody out there? The results of last week's engagement and influence experiment.

A week ago, I asked readers to comment on how they found a post that I had put up on Twitter,, StumbleUpon etc., and to repost where they may.  I wanted to see how many people I could nudge into action and what types of actions they chose.

One of the most interesting results was the fact that most of the people who did anything to participate were people that already knew me.  And, that, above all, should be the most useful piece of information here.  If you want someone to do something for you--spread content, interact, etc., relationships count.

That's why I'm so surprised how many entrepreneurs hole themselves up in a dark room when creating a company.  Sure, putting in the blood, sweat and tears in the wee hours of the morning is important to get things done, but disengaging from your life is completely counterproductive.  How are you ever going to get a core set of initial users if most of the people in your life haven't heard from you in nine months?

In terms of how people found out about the post, it was pretty split between Twitter and their RSS reader--and that also accounted for the vast majority of inbound.  Reblogs or retweets counted for only a handful of inbound, which also isn't surprising, because if my closest contacts are reblogging my stuff, there's a good chance their audiences are following me as well, and there's very high overlap.

Still, not that many people came or participated.  Allen Stern wrote, "you should use your good content instead".  Funny enough, two other posts that day proved Allen right.  While this post was sort an experiment that answered a question for me, two other posts combined to get 10x its traffic in a three day time period.

Between July 7th and 9th, over 3,100 people visited my post about why Paul Graham is wrong about NYC.  The post was over a month old, but somehow it made the front page of Hacker News.

In addition, my note about Twitter buying Summize, one of the first public stories about it, generated about 3x the traffic that my experiment did.

So, the moral of the story according to this very unscientific experiment?

  • Build great relationships with people.
  • Good content even trumps breaking news.
  • "Insider", high quality sites like Hacker News can generate boatloads of traffic for a relevant post--maybe even more so than generalist sites can.
  • Make sure you're RSS enabled, Twitter enabled, but don't expect traffic just because you are--these are just mediums.