Why follower counts aren't important.

| Friday, November 18, 2011
Today's Tune: Ain't No Rest For The Wicked

Comic from Inkygirl
I always feel a little awkward writing posts like this, because it's very easy to sit here and say "Follower counts are basically meaningless! Don't worry if you only have two followers! Value them! It's all good!" when I already have a reasonable (not huge, but decent) following. It feels kind of... disingenuous? I don't know. So I'm just throwing it out there that I am aware that having a teeny-tiny follower count still can make you feel kind of lonely and bummed, and being told that it doesn't matter doesn't always help.

That said, seriously, follower counts don't really matter much. Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Google+ ... the numbers are usually just that -- numbers. I mean, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that follower numbers don't have SOME effect on how you're perceived, because that's just not true. There's no arguing that a large following increases someone's appeal at first glance and makes people wonder what they're missing, so they'll often follow as well. It's called "social proof." It gives you more authority in their eyes than someone with fewer followers.

So, with that admission out of the way, I'm going to go into why writers in particular should worry less about their follower count and more about the quality of their interactions.

Focusing on the number can stress you out, depress you, and make you feel inadequate. And frankly, as a pre-published writer, cranking up your numbers isn't where your focus should be. Using social media for marketing purposes is a whole other can of worms, but it's not your concern yet. Maybe it will be someday (I hope so! I'm rooting for you!), but not yet. For now, focus on having fun and making friends. That is where you're going to get the most enjoyment, and when you're acting like yourself and making connections, the followers will come eventually. I promise.

Numbers are easy to get. Quality followers who give a crap are harder to find. I've written about building a quality Twitter following before, and that still stands. I'm going to let you all in on a secret. If you are really and truly desperate to make your number go up, it's actually pretty easy. You can either buy followers (which I do not recommend, ever), or you can go to Follower Wonk and run bio searches for anyone with "followback" or "I follow back" in their bio. Add a few. Bam. Instant numbers. The problem with that method? None of those people care about you or will interact with you or support you or buy your book. They're only interested in increasing their own counts.

Another "trick?" Participate in those blog follower-a-thons. Now, I'm not talking about the genuinely supportive ones that encourage you to actually get to know each other. I mean the ones that are more of an "add as many people as you can and then follow back everyone who adds you" madhouses. Again, this is a great way to boost your number, but not so great for attracting people who will actually, like, READ YOUR BLOG.

I'll let you in on another secret: I never do auto follow backs, I rarely add follow-whores, and I instantly block spammers/bots who follow me. Yeah, those things could pump up my numbers and make them look real nice. But you know what? I don't want a fake following. I want a real following. And I feel reasonably certain that the vast majority of my followers are following because they, you know, think I'm at least moderately interesting and/or like me and want to support me on my writing/publishing journey. AND I LOVE YOU GUYS MWAH MWAH MWAH *kissy faces*.

Here's one last secret: the best way to get followers is to be worth following. This one is HIGHLY subjective and not always fair, and I'm sure there isn't anyone out there who's thinking, "HECK YEAH, I'M TOTALLY BORING, I SHOULD SHARE MY BORINGNESS!" Everyone has a voice and a story to share, and it's really difficult when you aren't finding the audience you were hoping to find. But the process of building a quality following can be really slow going sometimes. You have to find your rhythm, and for some of us, that takes a while.

Some people really get it. They managed to figure out a niche that a lot of people connected with, they have a sense of humor that's instantly engaging, their method of delivery is fresh and unique, or they're just all around cool and everyone wants to be their friend.

Sometimes it's totally random chance. Sometimes it totally makes sense. But again, I repeat that follower count doesn't matter. What you do with the followers you have matters. I know it's hard to hear sometimes, but if you push past that feeling of social media inadequacy and learn how to enjoy yourself, you'll get there. And you'll be awesome.

Have you ever fretted about your follower count? Are you happy with your current count? What have you done to gain followers that you felt was successful?


{ Matthew MacNish } at: November 18, 2011 at 6:27 AM said...

The hard part is that eventually, even when the vast majority of the interactions you make are genuine, there will just be too many people to keep up with.

I remember when I got started I very badly wanted to get to 1000 followers, without ever poaching or doing awards or giveaways on my blog, but now that I'm almost there, it's overwhelming. Or maybe it's underwhelming?

{ Kelley } at: November 18, 2011 at 7:33 AM said...

This is a great post. I had debated doing contests and blog following things to get my numbers up but then I had the same thought as you. I want my followers to be meaningful. I want to build relationships, that's the purpose for my blog.

So I work very hard on following those I admire and hopefully they will feel the same about me, that the relationship will be mutually beneficial and our writing will be better because of it.

{ Amanda Olivieri } at: November 18, 2011 at 7:40 AM said...

GIRL you are speaking to my heart :) Thanks for posting this. I just started a blog last month so I don't really expect to have a ton of followers at this point. But still, sometimes seeing other people's blogs and their follower numbers can make me feel like I'm doing something wrong! But then again, like you said, the numbers don't really matter, and I HAVE met some awesome people so far that I truly appreciate. Which is, you know, awesome.

{ JeffO } at: November 18, 2011 at 8:50 AM said...

Great post. 'Being worth reading' is the most important part, and the most difficult.

{ Amie McCracken } at: November 18, 2011 at 9:03 AM said...

I don't care about my numbers but I'm working pretty hard to get commenters and have real relationships. Like you said, it's slow going.

{ Phoebe North } at: November 18, 2011 at 9:25 AM said...

I am preposterously hung up on this, since 3 years of blogging has netted me just over 100 followers, and it's an easy thing to get hung up on (esp. when you're trying to get galleys for review). Still, my blog traffic has steadily grown and people seem really engaged, so I know it's stupidsauce.

{ Yael } at: November 18, 2011 at 11:38 AM said...

I once received a message through a writer's forum from a girl who claimed to love my blog (with a link to her own blog, of course.) After checking her profile, it not only became apparent that she hadn't read my blog, but that she had sent the same message to several other people. I understand how disappointing it is when you take the time to write a well-thought out post and then no one reads it, but this sort of behavior still shocks me.

Whenever I receive a comment or a follower, I do make an effort to check out that person's blog, but I understand that this really isn't a possibility when you have 100+ followers.

{ Tasha Seegmiller } at: November 18, 2011 at 12:12 PM said...

I like that the people who I follow and who follow me can post and join in conversations. I follow blogs who people seem to be on the same track as me. But I don't write posts to gain followers. I write posts because that is what I'm thinking, feeling, struggling with, etc.

{ Old Kitty } at: November 18, 2011 at 12:30 PM said...

Oh you are so right about quality over quantity! I am so so happy to say that I continue to interact with my first 20 or so followers - the ones who took a chance with me and my silly blog when I first started and we've been having a ball ever since! I have to admit that when I first started I did seek out followers - well you do when you have 0 followers! But I did seek out those I thought would like what I wanted to blog about (trawled lots of kitty sites! LOL!) These days though I don't join blogs as much - maybe one a month.

I think what keeps me blogging is the variety of blogs I come across or are following. I love that I can have kitty blogs, arts and crafts blogs, life blogs and then all you darned amazing serious writers aiming for the stars and the moon to read and enjoy!

Take care

{ LV Cabbie } at: November 18, 2011 at 6:21 PM said...

I've had to think about this.
Is it nice to have followers? Of course.
But, I wonder how many follow my blog via something like Google Reader or with an RSS feed that don't show up as followers.
Also, I have a gut feeling that when one concentrates only on trying to get followers, they miss the real reason for blogging. Speaking one's mind on subjects close to their hearts.
What good is it to go to the time and effort of blogging if it's not something that makes one feel good.
I named mine as A Soldier's Tales simply because I'm a soldier - even though retired - and because anything I might write comes from my mind and heart. I'm appreciative of those who chose to follow, but could not do it if it didn't please ME.

{ K Kenig } at: November 18, 2011 at 11:30 PM said...

I fret about my followers, but I can't complain too much because my updates are sporadic.

It only bothers me because, as a ghost blogger for other people, I know that there's an audience out there for my voice and my words. I want to say "Hey, that post you 9k people just read? ME! LOOK AT ME! I WROTE THAT FOR TWENTY BUCKS!"

Of course, then I just look sad. But it makes it easier to know that people aren't *not* following me because they don't like me, just because they haven't found the authentic me yet. Anyone who frets about it shoudl pick up some freelance ghostblogging gigs. Let me tell you, it strokes the ego fast.

{ We Heart YA } at: November 19, 2011 at 12:41 PM said...

We SO agree! We don't care about numbers -- and we've debated taking off the Google followers widget, except that it's such an easy way for people to keep up with the site. We want to interact with real people in a genuine way. That's what matters.

{ Myrna Foster } at: November 19, 2011 at 10:56 PM said...

Yes. I prefer commenters to followers. I realize that not everyone who reads comments, but it's hard to interact with the ones who don't say anything.

{ Liesl Shurtliff } at: November 21, 2011 at 10:49 AM said...

URSOSMRT! I've basically put blogging and social networking in general at the bottom of my priority list. I do it. I enjoy it. If I ever feel stressed by it I pull back and remind myself that this is not an end in and of itself. Most of my energy must go into the book writing.

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