Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Birthed in a simple conversation among friends, #AudienceMatters has grown into a fascinating investigation of social media’s effect on genuine learning, educator authenticity, and the learner’s WHY. Here’s the #AudienceMatters journey so far:

October 5, 2017–Kyle Hamstra writes: #AudienceMatters

December 24, 2017–Bill Ferriter writes: Audience Doesn’t Matter

January 6, 2018–Bill Ferriter writes: More on the Role of Audiences in Social Spaces

Who knew the term audience could mean several different things, to so many different people, and for all kinds of reasons? Who knew audience could also invoke topics of purpose, relationships, learning communities, digital citizenship, blogging, branding, the writing process, reflection, assessment versus feedback, and even teaching philosophies? Well, I did NOT–At first. But these reflections have really opened up my eyes to seeing #AudienceMatters applications in everyday life.

Striking at the heart of #AudienceMatters, Bill Ferriter is right. His Radical Nation would have easily understood his most central argument, summed up in my favorite Bill Ferriter #AudienceMatters quote so far:

If our educator WHY for reflecting is to genuinely #becomebetter (which it should be), then HOW do we go about becoming better?

  • How do we archive, share, and tell our learning journeys?
  • Does becoming better involve learning from others?
  • Should we learn in silos or proactively seek feedback from others?
  • What kinds of interactions do we expect from others?
  • What kinds of interactions with others will help us learn, grow, gain perspective, and drive change?

This quote captured by George Couros in his 3 Ideas to Help You Blog got me thinking…


The Conversation Continues

Nearly by definition, educators are a passionate people. As a result, debates on meaningful topics have a way of organically happening. However, sometimes (especially in twitter chats), topics are not clearly defined prior to sharing perspectives. Those specific definitions are fundamental in communicating our learning and rationalizing our views and vantage points. Without these clarifications, misunderstanding looms.

Upon reflection, #HamstraHighlights sees–at least–three different kinds of audience in the professional realm:

1–Viewers: People who consume your content, possibly ❤-ing it or leaving a brief reply, and moving on quickly. With few to no interactions, names and memories aren’t mutually retained.

In More on the Role of Audience in Social Spaces, Bill notes how social spaces have changed over time, especially transforming from one-time meaningful learning through substantial interaction, to now very surface-level exchanges, mostly consisting of brand-building and recognition-seeking, marketing strategies.

I never realized how much people cared about views–or other interactions–until I heard it directly from students in our STEM space:

Unbeknownst to the students here, about twenty other STEM classes had already viewed their videos prior to this moment. Also, when creating this topic as the flipgrid administrator, I chose to leave this option checked:


Little did I know how much checking this box in the topic settings would influence learners checking boxes in their own self-worth settings. Altering just one setting can be very unsettling. While the educator part of me initially wanted to be data-informed as to which topics and videos reeled in the most interest (and to also inform future instruction), the personal part of me was shocked that kids as young as seven-years-old used this metric to measure their popularity, self-esteem, and relationship status with peers.

Now I have to wrestle with another thought: Would those students whose videos weren’t widely viewed feel shunned, left out, disliked, under-valued, or overlooked?

2–Followers: People who consume your content consistently, often interacting with more than a one-liner. You may frequently see them online or face-to-face, and you remember each other’s names.

3–Friends: People who consume your content daily or multiple times a week, interact with you online, through media, or face-to-face, and not only do you remember each other’s names–you may even have nicknames resulting from fond memories.

Friends are priceless. What sets professional friends apart from followers, is that friends will speak the truth in love. They will tell you when you’re wrong–from a place of love. They truly want you to genuinely #becomebetter. They have your back.

What About You?

As a lifelong learner, you can be all three–but you generally fall into one category with the same people, and maybe different categories with others. As the world, technology, and society changes, our roles in the audience of others changes, too.

Where’s the Value?

All three forms of audience have value. Even the viewers who just catch a glimpse, snapshot, or one tweet might learn something from you and apply it later, completely unbeknownst to you. Although your influence on lurkers in social spaces is immeasurable, it can be equally priceless, separate from interaction. To at least some extent–#AudienceMatters, even to viewers and even as viewers ourselves.

The REAL Question Behind #AudienceMatters

Are we consuming and selling information, or are we seeking and creating interactive relationships to help us learn and grow?

3 Replies to “#AudienceMatters Part II: Viewers, Followers, Friends”

  • I do believe that #audiencematters but not for popularity. I think it is possible to become better even if your audience is merely a lurker and they take something you said and ponder it….you made them think and you, therefore, reached one more person. Kind of like the starfish. Every ONE matters. We are better if we have inspired one or made even one think. Even that matters. And even better, you might gain a follower. And from there, who knows where your impact will go!? I think every interaction had is a step into learning how we can #becomebetter. And the question is…#audiencematters to #becomebetter at what?

    • Thank you for taking time to read this, Tanya. I really appreciate it. I like how you say that “every interaction had is a step into learning how we can #becomebetter.” So true! And using the word “interaction” implies that conversations are a two-way street. Perhaps it’s the kind of relationships established between educators that determines the depth of meaning in our mutual learning and interactions.

      I like how you reframed the question at the end. I think it truly matters which one comes first: If you want to #becomebetter as an educator, then your topics will naturally flow and your audience metrics won’t factor into play as much; On the flip-side, if you’re more passionate about the audience, then you will choose your topics and how you say your message very carefully.

      Either way, I agree with you that there is still value in viewing (only) and also in being viewed. The thing about education is that it’s an art. When we strive to measure influence and apply scientific metrics to human elements of relationships and serving others thru education, unforeseen expectations and unintended consequences are generated and translated in so many ways–and not all of them are healthy and good. Some of the best comments I’ve ever received on tweets and blogs were never put into writing. They were face-to-face. And I definitely never planned for, expected, or saw those interactions coming.

      Thanks again, Tanya! Can’t wait to see your next reflection.

  • Hey Kyle,

    I liked your distinction between viewers, followers and friends. That gives definition to the term audience that is much needed. When I think “audience”, I tend to think mostly of viewers and followers. But friends are who I care the most about.

    I wonder if that’s the same distinction other people have.

    Easily the most important part of your entire piece though was this quote:

    “Little did I know how much checking this box in the topic settings would influence learners checking boxes in their own self-worth settings.”

    We always try to sell “building an audience” as a reason that kids should be participating in public spaces — but to me, that can be just as damaging as it is rewarding. You captured that here.

    Looking forward to your next bit reflecting on how you are going to address that in the work you do with your students.

    Rock on,

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