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.
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.
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?