What I want to build.

Lots of people talk about building an audience, building traffic to their blogs. I struggle with that idea.

Not for others, mind you. In fact, I love the idea of sending you to posts that I find valuable. I have a blogroll to make those connections. I use twitter sometimes, I put links in posts sometimes. I send emails with links. I have no problem driving traffic. (In fact, my next “8 ways Wednesday” post will be full of links…8 of them, in fact.)

My struggle is with establishing for myself the goal of building an audience.

I’ll be honest. I love traffic. I look at my site statistics. I treasure the Brogan Bump (DEF: The traffic spike that comes when Chris Brogan includes your blog in a tweet.). But when I find myself thinking, “What can I do next that will get attention,” I have to stop.

I could build an audience in all kinds of ways, but most of them are, for me, questionable. There are enough people who have enough questions about pastors, of which I am one, that I gotta be careful.

So, what about building relationships? That’s the social part of social media. And relationships are wonderful. We are built for relationship. We are built to connect together. And it takes more effort to build relationships than to build an audience.

The handful of you who are reading this will read that statement and say, “Wait. I have both. And I have built an audience BY building relationships.” And I understand that.


When I focus on getting eyes, I start writing for emotional buzz. I start turning phrases just to see if I can. I start trying to pick topics that will get attention.

I’m much better off, however, if I am focusing on people rather than topics. If I listen and encourage and comment. If I build connections.

Unfortunately, however, I run into a problem that way as well. I mean, I can comment on every comment. I can connect and friend and social.Eventually, however, I run the risk of maintaining networks just for the sake of maintaining the network.

Rather than elaborating, and running the risk of making people say, “What? You mean he’s pretending to care?” I need to move on.

So where do I want to end up? What really matters? Building people. I want to help people grow and deepen. I want to give you tools and understanding and resources and encouragement not for the sake of connecting but for your sake.

For example, I want to tell you stories that help you understand what prayer really is so that you can have conversations with God. I want to help people not be so afraid of church and what it will do to them. I want to help people figure out what they are built to do. I want you to be a better friend, to have meaning and find meaning and make meaning.

I want to help you matter.

And that, for me, takes the most effort of all. Because in order to build people, I need to listen and respond…just like in building relationships. However, I also need to learn, to read, to think, to have resources available so that in the course of conversations, in relationships, I have something to add.

And I can’t do that for everyone, for a huge audience, for the sake of building an audience.

It’s why, by the way, I’m not twittering much. I can’t start conversations that I can’t continue, that I can follow. It’s how I’m built.

I’m not sure this makes sense. I’m not sure I’m clear.

But I’m pretty sure I’m for you.


18 responses to “What I want to build.

  1. great post… can i check what you think are meaningful connections?

  2. Jon, makes perfect sense to me. It’s a very wonderful example of getting clear on your purpose, and working back from that.

    An audience means nothing in and of itself. Though I might say that the more people know about your site, the more people read your material, the more they’ll think, “oh, I see,” and “I wonder”

    So you are helping people to change and grow through your words, even if you’re not having a direct connection or conversation with them.

    Does that make sense? The sharing of our words – words written with the positive intention to make a difference – has that power


  3. The Brogan bump got me to your site.

    I’m running a website that’s into building people up. 🙂

  4. Ming Yeow – good question, one that you are trying to ‘discover’. (sorry. follow the link to understand).

    What I want to do is be simplistic. Interactions that are full of meaning. But meaning for whom?

    And I think it’s too early in the morning for me as I write this, so i’ll come back. (ah. is that wanting to have meaningful connections?)

  5. Great and thoughtful post, thank you for sharing. Also, the Brogan Bump? Best line ever. So true!

  6. Joanna –
    gracious as always. There is, I understand, the potential of audience showing up, of more eyes coming. But for me, that can’t be the focus.

    But i like the idea of collateral hope.

  7. Daniel Richard –
    It’s nice to meet you. We have some things in common.

  8. Lara – welcome back!

  9. Hi Jon,

    That Brogan Bump, as you coined it, got me here. But your thoughtful honesty and sincerity kept me here and had me subscribe.

    For a man unsure he’s clear, you sound clearer than most to me.


  10. I am not very intentional about driving people to my site. Mostly I just write about what interests me and what I find fun.

    But it’s always gratifying when what I blog about hits a (positive) nerve.

  11. Lissa – thanks. The challenge always is whether what seems to make sense in my head makes sense when it comes out. Particularly, of course, when the very process of expression helps me think.

    Paul. I have to smile. Toothpaste, for example, is not a likely blogging topic, let alone a theme for a blog. And yet, it is fun. And it is a picture into you.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  12. Hi Jon, I love that – Simple Interactions that are full of meaning.

    “But meaning for whom?”

    I think today’s social media landscape is too one-sided. Attention often goes to people who are the loudest or the most vocal or the most eloquent. That does nothing for building relationships between people.

    If you survey the evolving social media landscape, it essentially remains the same, with information dissemination still in the hands of a few selected people.

    I have no issue with that at all of course, since that has allowed me to stand out more than once.

    But the crux is that meaningful connections only gets built when it is a 2 way thing, when 2 or more people discover each other and find something meaningful to connect with.

    I hope i am not coming across as a new age yuppie who run around in circles in burning man, but this is something i feel deeply for, and hence trying to build.

    Would love to know what you think!!

  13. Ming Yeow – thanks for reminding me to come back to this. I agree. Meaningful for both is what makes it a meaningful connection. It is possible for me to read something and be moved and have my life changed…and you never know. But that is more like a meaningful observation. Valuable, absolutely, but not a connection.

    I know. We can argue that you were writing to a generic Reader, and there fore we are having a conversation, an interaction. I have done that kind of arguing myself. However, there is not a connection, a multiple turn interaction.

    A post is important. A comment back is nice. A comment on that comment, that’s the beginning of a conversation. A comment on that comment (which is where we are now), that’s making progress.

    When we move to additional modes of interaction and start to interact about life rather than just one post, now we are beginning to build a meaning-full connection.

  14. wonderwebby

    This is a great post about purpose vs popularity, thanks.
    I almost feel stuck with Twitter some days. I wonder whether I should trim back to 100 or so people, to have better conversations. But it would feel so rude to the others.

  15. i made a choice to not follow a lot. On one hand it feels rude. But because I’m consistent (no adds for a long time) I’m rude across the board.

    I just can’t keep up.

    Thanks for coming by!

  16. wonderwebby

    Jon that is how I started. I’m very aware of the voices that I pay attention to. Or not. But then I thought I would experiment and see what would happen if I followed more. Generally not too bad but I think I miss out on special tweets from friends. Thanks again for your blog. Also enjoyed your 8 ways people….post and you pointed to some of my faves!

  17. i appreciate this post ….
    and love that you are trying to help or inspire people …. that’s much more important that what the stat tracker says ….
    i enjoy the insightfulness of your writings …. whether we develop a “relationship” or not ….
    that’s the magic of blogging, i suppose ….

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