Empty Followers: A Problem Plaguing Social Media

A few weeks ago a friend asked how many blog followers I had. I told him I had 776, as that was the number at the time, and he was impressed…until I added that most are inactive and really shouldn’t count. It’s easy to measure one’s followers with that number, but a lot harder to measure engagement. And because I’ve been meaning to do it anyway, I decided to take some time and go through the blogs of my followers who I don’t follow back. I follow about six hundred blogs, but they’re not all my followers. I often get followers who write about things I have no interest in, and as much as I feel a bit guilty for not supporting them the way they support me, I shouldn’t have to put up with things I don’t care about in my Reader. I am under no obligation, and anyone is free to unfollow me if they don’t dig my posts either.

Anyway, I went through probably close to four hundred blogs over two nights. And you would not believe how many of those blogs were inactive. I wish I counted and had an exact number to share, but I did not. Some were straight up deleted, but most were just left abandoned. I’m going to assume that if a blogger hasn’t updated their blog for whatever reason, they’re probably not going through their Reader to read my posts either.

My followers didn't even say goodbye

I have hundreds of followers but on average I get maybe twenty likes on a post and maybe ten comments. I am so grateful to the people who take the time to interact with my posts, especially those who do it regularly (I do try to interact with posts I read too, but I know I kind of suck at it. I will be better.). I think the level of interaction I get is quite low considering the number of followers, but considering how many inactive blogs follow me, it’s really not surprising. But of course, no one can tell. WordPress says I have 776 followers and anyone who sees that number can and will judge based on that because it’s all there is. The same goes for other social media platforms like Twitter. It says I have 231 followers, but how many do I really have?

And then there’s this whole issue about fake followers. I haven’t heard of it being a problem on WordPress, but it definitely is on Twitter and Instagram. If one wanted to buy ‘followers’ so that it makes them appear more popular so others feel like they need to follow them too, they legally can do that if they so choose. I don’t think it’s ethical, and I think most people feel the same, but it is an option out there that some people do use.

Related image

It’s unfortunate that this is a problem for social media. I will admit that I do use one’s follower count to quickly judge their quality. Of course, I’ll read their work and all that, but the first impression is made by whatever number is shown. Imagine if social media instead showed the number of active followers? Imagine if instead of 776 followers, we saw ‘392 active followers’ or ‘103 followers who interact with this person’s work’. Imagine if platforms could just delete all those inactive accounts from our count so we stop celebrating milestones that are completely fake. That one YouTuber, Pewdiepie, has almost 60 million subscribers, making him the leader, but how many subscribers does he really have? Does someone have a lower number of subs but regularly gets more views and thumbs up?

But I guess WordPress has no business going around deleting blogs just so I can be happier with my blog stats. And do I really expect Twitter to get a handle on their spam problem? Yes, but that’s my mistake.

What are your thoughts on empty followers? How many followers do you really think you have?

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42 thoughts on “Empty Followers: A Problem Plaguing Social Media

  1. It’s funny that you are onto something that is so wildly obvious, yet most of the digital world doesn’t acknowledge such a widely known fact. Of my Instagram followers some aren’t even people and my blog has a similar problem. Like you I prefer to focus on those who “actually” read my posts, I honestly don’t care too much regarding followers because I know those that may read my content this year, may not stick around next year. Great post!

    • I think the digital world chooses not the acknowledge it because they know the real numbers aren’t nearly as impressive. And since the majority of us can’t do anything about it, we just ignore it for the most part.
      Thanks!

  2. I have close to 400 followers, but some are not faithful to my blog or some used to be faithful, but than stopped reading and commenting on my blog. I have some rather faithful followers and I appreciate them for staying on my blog. I aim to get 500 wordpress followers by the end of the year, even though the number of faithful followers will be lower than that number

    • Yeah, I’ve noticed some readers stopped interacting a lot but are still active bloggers. That’s their choice, I guess.
      I’m glad the situation doesn’t stop you from setting goals!

  3. When it comes to followers, I don’t get as excited as I used to and it’s exactly for the reason that you wrote. Inactive followers can blow expectations for some out of proportion, you’d think that the amount of followers you have is a sign that you’re doing good work with your social media outlets but at this point, it’s really hard to tell if you’ve truly gained a follower or not.

  4. I just checked, I have faaaaaar fewer followers than you (just under 200) I am pretty chuffed with that though. I’m growing slowly.

    I find people that I engage with are more likely to comment back, and I always get more comments from getting involved in facebook share groups than just writing a post and publishing it.

    I’m similar to you though. I follow blogs because I like them (I don’t mind if people don’t follow me back.) I comment and ‘like’ the ones I like best. Having said that, if I spend time reading a post and writing a comment just for it to be ignored then I am less likely to bother being engaged with that person in the future.

    • I try to engage with Facebook groups too, but either I forget or are too busy! I should really try harder to do better!
      I think most bloggers are really good about replying to comments. It’s pretty common practice for small to regular sized blogs…even if it takes a few days (a habit I’ve gotten myself in).

  5. I only have two followers (Both of which I know are currently active.) But leave that on me for assuming the first site you make on WordPress automatically links to my Gravitar. I really just blog in the hopes that people read and enjoy what I write. Whether they decide to keep track of what I write and when is for them to decide.

    It’s a shame more people don’t visit your blog. I really enjoy it, and I think there are plenty of others that would enjoy your content too! 🙂

  6. I think it’s a kind of unspoken topic here. I reached 1300 followers a month back AND I CELEBRATED and IT WAS GREAT!! But I knew, internally, it wasn’t THAT great. ANd numbers are important when discussing your blog, it makes you sound important, popular, etc.

    And a lot of people when they celebrate milestones like this, they are like “I can’t believe x no. of people read my blog” BUT DO THEY???

    Out of all my followers, I think about 50 are active and read my blog. And even that’s pushing it. Though I probably have silent readers? I’m quite a silent reader of your blog, hardly commenting, sorry about that.

    • I’m not trying to stop anyone from celebrating follower milestones! I celebrate them too! I’m proud of us!
      You don’t need to apologize for being a silent reader. I think we all do it! I know I do, though I’m trying to interact more.

  7. I definetly think I had more empty followers on my first blog. I had 600 followers yet my likes and comments were similar to how mine are now with 400 followers. And the interesting thing was, when I made the post on my old blog explaining that I’ll be switching blogs and left a link for my followers to follow my new one, only 100 of them came over to my new blog! So 100 out of 600 of my followers were actually active, and making that new blog ended up giving me a little or even zero empty followers. That ended up being quite a nice experiment😂
    It’s not really that way now, I dont think anyone can not have any ghost followers/empty followers becuase that’s simply impossible, it’s just when they outweigh the amount of real, active followers it becomes an issue.
    Great post, definitely an interesting one to discuss! And for the record, you deserve much more active followers😊

      • Haha, I understood you! And thank you for taking the time to comment when you should be sleeping!
        Yes, I can see how switching blogs was a great way to weed out empty followers and see who enjoys your writing!

        • Haha it’s ok! Yeah it sure was! Wasn’t my intentions but it ended up being rather nice that ended up happening😄

  8. I know what you mean about the number of inactive bloggers. I check through all the ones I follow too, every six months or so, and am always surprised how many people stop blogging. But many of those bloggers would keep going if they only had more feedback when they posted. Perhaps they don’t read and interact with other people’s posts, or use tags and categories so people can find them. Perhaps they never attached their site to their gravatar. Either way, it’s a sad moment, especially if I enjoyed reading the blogger’s posts.

  9. I am very new to blogging and really am doing it for myself at this point. I hope that at some point it resonates with people but it’s my release valve. That said, I found this post and the comments really interesting! I’ll admit that I am still hesitant about commenting, but I do read the blogs that I follow and like the posts, at least the ones I actually like lol. Learning as I go here. Guess I’ll be keeping an eye out on this now.

    • That’s a great mentality to have! Of course writing for oneself comes first! And in time, as you keep at it and keep sharing your words, people will come and enjoy it!
      Don’t be scared to comment! I guarantee the blogger will love it and it could be the start of a great friendship, or perhaps just a good discussion!

  10. Great insight. (I loved how the post about empty followers ended with “Follow me on…” :D) But, on a serious note, its an upsetting subject both to have empty followers and to be judged by your follower count in general.

  11. I love this post… I was recently contemplating a similar post. I have over 400 followers and a faithful few with whom I love to interact. I don’t worry about the numbers too much, my this is engagement, real interaction you know… That’s the only way I know what you’ve read resonates or means something to you. 🙂 I also agree, not everyone who follows me I follow back and it is for that very reason, it’s about interest.Some sites pique my interest instantly, some is an acquired taste and some just don’t. When I do go through my followers’ pages some of them are great finds and I wonder hey, why aren’t I following you. I definitely don’t follow for a follow.

  12. I think this is a big problem. Honestly, in the last year, I’ve either unfollowed a lot of blogs I simply wasn’t reading anymore (since I was spending more time on writing, and didn’t really have the spare time to try to read 15 blogs a day), but there are others I’ve bookmarked or still follow through Facebook or something, and like to check in now and then. I don’t want to be an inactive follower myself, since I think it’s fair to say about half of my own subscribers are either inactive (maybe they just clicked the follow button hoping I’d do the same and increase their stats?), or are silent readers. I know a fair number of my Twitter “people” are realistically only hoping the “follow for follow” thing will kick in, and I just don’t do that.

    While I don’t have a problem with silent readers who truly enjoy my content, I agree with you that it would be nice to know what the actual difference is.

    And “empty” followers on YouTube and Twitter is I think a real hassle. Spam accounts aren’t a big issue for me in particular, but they still tick me off, and I’d like to see it addressed by the companies.

  13. Yes, it is a hard balance to get more viewers! I was just researching up on that the other night, and found a few tips that could help you out! If you like my article, re-share! I bet it could help promote, as long as we fallow through! caelidotblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/22/social-media-make-me-famous-says-almost-everyone/

  14. I have a lot of fake followers which is disheartening. However, I write about history and some of my writing has reached the families I’ve written about and that’s far more important to me than the number of followers that I have. I do want people to read my stuff, but when people share a personal connection, it’s that much more amazing to me

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